Activities: Blackness Castle

Activities: Blackness Castle

It makes sense for my first post to be something of my ordinary life.

With three children to entertain over a weekend an obvious choice for a quick afternoon activity was Blackness castle, a Historic Scotland property. A particular favourite of ours given it was originally built by the Crichtons (our surname!).

It’s only about 20 minutes or so from our house which is obviously good in terms of travelling time as no one likes long car journeys – especially not with a crying baby Thomas! But as the road follows the coastline there’s also lots to look at on the way.

Once there the castle is situated right on the banks of the Forth of Forth. As the Historic Scotland site explains:

“Blackness is often referred to as ‘the ship that never sailed’. This is because of its appearance, for from the seaward side it looks just like a great stone ship that has run aground. The pointed stem projects into the water, while the square stern stands beached on dry land. The castle’s three towers add to the effect – the small ‘stem’ tower at the prow, the tall ‘main mast’ tower at the centre, and the solid ‘stern’ tower at the rear.”

There is a large jetty so you can go right out over the water. The kids love to run to the end which is nicely railed in so it doesn’t cause too much panic!

Looking back from the jetty at Blackness castle Looking back from the jetty

Even on a slight murky day like today, there are clear views of the bridges – one fellow visitor today even brought binoculars to survey the building progress of the new bridge!

Inside is something of a maze. The castle was not built to be a stately home but rather a war stronghold. It very much sits on the rocks so the kids get to enjoy a scramble up. This obviously isn’t buggy friendly but easy to negotiate with a baby in a sling.

Scrambling on rocks at Blackness castle

We enjoyed a big game of hide and seek through the rooms of the castle. The many nooks and crannies mean there was ample opportunity for jumping out and scaring each other! Given there was only a couple of other groups of people there it meant we really had parts to ourselves so there was no fear of disturbing people looking for peace!

There are large drops over the sides of various walls and although there are barriers and railings in place, I wasn’t overly keen on Katie’s tendency to want to climb! Some areas do feel a lot safer than others but she was generally kept close whilst exploring. Again, there are super views from the top and lots to point out to the kids.

Outside the walls of the castle there is a large grassy area with several picnic benches. Katie said she wanted to go to a cafe for ‘sandwiches, crisps and chocolate.’ This was despite there being no cafe and having had lunch shortly before we had left the house!

The small gift shop did thankfully have some offerings to satisfy Katie, although we decided it really was too cold for ice cream. Following our pick me up, Mike embarked on a rather exaggerated game of ‘tig’ which provided amusement for the kids and onlookers alike.

'Tig' at Blackness castleI’ve recently watched the new series ‘Outlander’ and realised that the castle had been used as Fort William for filming. It certainly felt even more ‘Scottish’ when the Historic Scotland guide walked out to play his bagpipes for a while – there was also a random walking round in his kilt just to complete the cliche!

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We have Historic Scotland membership, so today our visit was free. Membership is well worthwhile if you go to properties as frequently as we do, but also goes towards the maintenance required for such buildings to survive – so not a waste even if we don’t manage to go as much as we’d like sometimes. For non-members it would’ve cost Adults £5.50, Children £3.30 and Concessions £4.40.

The car park is just by the castle so there is no arduous walking involved. There are clean toilets for visitors just by the ticket office – a must for people with small children!

Overall, both Ben (10) and Katie (3) enjoyed the visit, Thomas (2 months) slept the whole time after a quick initial feed in the car and Mike and I got to enjoy some fresh air, nice views and the kids being occupied for a couple of hours or so. All in all, a good day out!

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