Loch Leven Castle is steeped in tragic history, namely surrounding that of Mary, Queen of Scots. The Scottish monarch spent a year of her life imprisoned there in 1567, before being forced to abdicate and escaping the island on which the castle still stands. The King, Robert the Bruce, is also known to have visited the castle earlier than this, in the 14th century. Subject to many invasions by the English, Loch Leven Castle has withstood a tremendous amount over the years, and its walls have seen many dark and unforgiving things.
By the 18th century, the castle had fallen mostly to ruins, after changing hands many times over hundreds of years. It is now managed by Historic Environment Scotland, and can be visited by the public by a small boat that ferries people over.
We headed up to Kinross on a grey afternoon to see the loch and the castle. At the visitor centre, tickets cost £9 per adult and £5.40 per child, and the attraction is open from 26 March 2019 to 31 October 2019 (though this is weather dependent each year). Whilst we waited for our boat, we decided to head into the cafe on site for a light lunch. I am as honest as I can be when writing reviews, so I’m going to have to say, personally, I would avoid the cafe and bring your own lunch when visiting. The food wasn’t great, and was on the expensive side for what you got. Service also took an incredibly long time so Riley ended up having to run round and ask at the information desk if we could get a later boat time – that’s when they got us on the last boat of the day, thankfully!
With our unfortunate cafe experience over, we headed out to the boat and boarded on. We were told it could be a wet ride, and life jackets were available but optional. It was a wet ride indeed, rather like being on a white water raft ride at Alton Towers, and I found myself clutching rather tightly onto Riley the whole way whilst trying to take some snaps without losing my phone! A short ride across the loch, and we arrived at the island, our captain informing us he would be back in 45 minutes to pick us up again.
We had a fabulous time on the island, there was just enough to see in the time we were given, and the sun broke through just as we docked.
There are noticeboards around providing you with all the information you need, and you can explore not only the castle grounds but up into the tower where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned. Shortly after arriving at the castle to begin her sentence, Mary fell ill due to suspected poisoning, and sadly miscarried the twins she was carrying, who were apparently buried in the grounds. It was only a few days after that tragic ordeal, that Mary was forced to abdicate as the Queen of Scots.
After exploring the castle grounds, our boat came back to collect us, and even took us on a slight detour to get a closer look at some swans and herons swimming around the island. The American tourists who were with us on the boat greatly appreciated this for the opportunity to take some holiday snaps of the local wildlife. We made it back to the mainland just as the weather started to turn again, satisfied with our little trip to Kinross to see one of Scotland’s most famous castles – we’d been meaning to visit for a long time!
If you’d like to find out more about Mary Queen of Scots, history fan or not, I’d highly recommend this insanely good podcast called Half-Arsed History – and not just because my other half, Riley, makes it. If you’d like the link to the specific episode about Mary Queen of Scots, you can find that here!