4th October 1944 - Edinburgh

Up very late.  To Food Office.  Lunch at Prestonfields again.  Then to Craig Millar Castle – the most weird awful and terrifying ruin.  Felt it as soon as I got inside the inner court, where the yew trees wave on the other side of the gate.

The dreadful dungeons, Earl of Marr etc.  The Pole’s interesting descriptions.  This is the only place I have ever felt in this way.  Pole’s horror of deep dungeon.

Tea in basement room.  Janet looking v. charming back from the theatre.  Saw peacocks and peahens.  Left these delightful people with great reluctance.

Tonight to theatre with all the Miss Biggams.  Fine theatre, v. full.  Gielgud and Yvonne Cernand, who had a terrible cold.  Leslie Banks.  First time I have ever seen really good players.

Back in moonlight and mist.  Found cycle had been badly bent while chained to foot of stairs.

NB Edinburgh sweepers use old birch brooms in the streets.
Edinburgh markets closed for foot and mouth 4/10/44.

After making the above diary notes for this day, Rudsdale wrote a more detailed account of his visit to Craigmillar Castle as follows:

We walked through the fields divided from Duddingston Loch by a railway yard, through the yard of a brewery, up a steep hill through a new housing estate, filled with blocks of tenement type, ugly, and rather badly built.  This is the very edge of Edinburgh, with the farms beginning, and little woods on the hill tops.  At the top of the hill is a farm, with extensive stone buildings and a cottage by the gate.  There was a strong smell of manure.

Behind the farm stood Craigmillar Castle, very tall, very gaunt, and looking somehow very quiet.  Nicolas went to the cottage to get a key, and we walked across the grassy forecourt to the main door.  For no obvious reason I began to feel strangely alarmed, and when the door creaked open, showing a quiet, empty courtyard with two loathsome yew trees just inside the door, the sudden thought came into my head – “I wouldn’t go in that place alone.”

As we went in a pigeon rose up with a great flutter and sailed over the battlements out of sight.  We were now in front of the grey keep, and on either side were blocks of roofless buildings, with blank, blind windows, very silent.  N. led me round to the door of the keep, above which is a panel showing what he said was the arms of the Prestons.  I believe the main motif is supposed to be a unicorn’s head, but on this panel weather and age had changed it to a horrible obscene shape of the most terrifying appearance.

We went in the doorway, into intense blackness, N. talking away like a gramophone, but little could I understand.  I gathered though that the building is generally dated as 15th century, but that in his opinion is in part considerably earlier.  I think I rather incline to agree with him, as the construction of the keep certainly looks to be very early work.

We had no torch, and the only light to illuminate the dark cavernous chambers and narrow winding stairs was provided by N’s petrol lighter.  All this time I had the most extraordinary sensations.  I felt that in every room Something was waiting, and that up each stairway Something was following us closely.  Sometimes, through open windows I could hear the sound of men loading muck in the farm yard, and the rattle of machinery in a quarry about half mile away, but these sounds only seemed to emphasise the uncanny silence of the Castle itself.  N’s voice, with his weird pronunciation, echoed in each chamber, the great hall, with its huge fireplace, the little chamber off it, hung with loathsome looking goat skins, the Queen’s room above.

Next he led me all over the roofs, one of which is still largely covered with the original stone tiles.  We had (for me) a most unpleasant walk along the battlements, skipping over large openings in the parapet walk through which you could see the grass far below.  The view was magnificent, but I was too busy preventing myself from slipping through holes or being blown off altogether to take very much notice of it.  N. was shouting cheerfully “Me! I do not mind this!  I am airborne commando in Polish Army!”

At last we got down to the ground again, and went through endless passages, rooms, kitchens, bedrooms etc. all dank and dark, till at last we went down to the lowest passage of all, with two frightful vaults, one on either side.  The darkness was like sheets of stifling black velvet, and the silence was intense.  Even N. spoke more quietly when he casually remarked “Now this is the room where I always expect something to happen to me,” and then said “A man’s body was found here some years ago.”  I did not bother to ask whose body or how long it had been there.  I was concentrating on remembering where the stairs were.  It was down here the man was said to have been murdered.  At last we got out and walked across the courtyard, between the two horrible yews with their low sweeping clutching branches, and the door banged hollow in the silence.  I looked up to one of the windows on the E. wing, and my flesh crept gently as there seemed to be a head level with the sill.  It was so lifelike that I was about to mention it when it turned into a pigeon and flew out.

N. was not finished yet, but led me through another court, on the W. side of the keep, and climbed down a rock face on the S. side.  From there we saw the full height of the vast keep, towering up floor after floor, so grey, so silent and sinister.  N. pointed out an arrowslot window, almost level with the top of the rock face, which he said led into a room for which he could not account – apparently, according to his measurements there is a discrepancy of 8 feet, which must be taken up by a small room at this point, as all other chambers on that side are accessible and accounted for.  Somehow even the idea of a secret room containing God knows what did not add very much to the general discomfort and uncanniness of the place.

Back to Prestonfield for tea, which we had in a big light room in the basement.  Mentioned my impression of Craigmillar and found that both Mrs D-C and Janet agreed.  Talk about ghosts at Prestonfields, where Lady Janet is sometimes seen on the stairs, and on other occasions footsteps are heard going up a stairway destroyed in the fire.  But these stories seemed mild and harmless in the firelight.

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