Blackness Castle stands on a rocky outcrop on the southern shore of the River Forth near Linlithgow in West Lothian.
The tall tower that dominates the site was built in 1449 by George Crichton, Admiral of Scotland. Four years later the castle changed hands when Crichton's son unwisely sided with the Earl of Douglas in his quarrel with King James II. That energetic monarch soon appeared before Blackness and within two weeks his artillery had battered it into submission. Blackness became a royal castle and the king transformed it into one of the strongest fortresses in Scotland.
In 1650 the Scottish garrison at Blackness presented an obstacle to Cromwell, hindering his crossing of the Forth. He attacked it by land and sea and the garrison capitulated. The extensive damage caused by his cannon is still visible on the walls today.
Blackness was repaired to serve as a State Prison. Under the Act of Union of 1707 it was nominated as one of the four fortresses in Scotland to be perpetually maintained and garrisoned – along with Edinburgh, Stirling and Dumbarton.
By the 19th century Blackness was redundant but found a new lease of life as an ammunition depot. The castle was mutilated, walls were cut down and the courtyard roofed over. In 1874 the military decamped and the redundant depot passed into the care of the Office of Works who embarked upon a 'heavy handed' restoration.
A popular venue for films, Hamlet, Outlander and Mary Queen of Scots have been shot at Blackness Castle. It is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland .
Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.