Craigcrook Castle in its present form dates back to 1542, when the main tower was built by the Adamson family. Additions were made over the following centuries, giving the castle a mismatched appearance of various styles.
The castle stands on a slightly raised eminence within a hollow at the foot of Corstorphine Hill, and was originally surrounded by marshland. It seems likely that it was built on the site of, or incorporates part of, an older castle, as the lands of Craigcrook are mentioned in a charter of 1362.
At this point they were owned by the Graham family, and the charter describes how Patrick de Graham, Lord of Kinpunt, and David de Graham, Lord of Dundaff, granted the lands of Craigcrook to John de Allyncrum (Ancrum), a burgess of Edinburgh. He is possibly the same John de Ancrum who was later the Archdeacon of Teviotdale from 1364 to 1393, and he immediately gave the property to the church of St. Giles.
The church let Craigcrook to Patrick and John Leper, and it was subsequently let to various tenants until 1540, when William Adamson, burgess of Edinburgh, was granted the perpetual feu-farm of the lands (a perpetual lease for a fixed rent).
Around 1542 Adamson either rebuilt or added to the existing tower, creating a Z-plan castle with a round tower at the south-west corner and a square tower at the north east corner. The main block joining them is around 9.0m by around 7.0m, aligned approximately east-north-east to west-south-west.
Originally the main block consisted of three storeys over a vaulted basement, with a main hall on the first floor, and apartments above. A round stair turret is corbelled out from the south-east corner at first floor level to give access to the upper floors.
The round tower is around 6.0m in diameter, and rises above the neighbouring main block to a height of three storeys over a basement. The upper floor of the tower is vaulted. The square tower is around 5.2m square, and has a vaulted basement, with three further storeys above. The main entrance was in this tower, with a staircase up to the first and second floors.
In 1570 or 1571 Craigcrook Castle was one of several castles, including Merchiston and Lauriston, which was strengthened in the interest of the infant James VI, while Kirkcaldy of Grange was holding Edinburgh Castle in the name of Queen Mary.
The aforementioned stair turret at the south east corner of the main block is actually now in the middle of the castle’s main block, as in 1626 it was extended to the east, more than doubling its length. A second round stair turret was also corbelled out from the new south-east corner at slightly higher than first floor level, presumably giving access to the upper floor and a garret. A wall around the garden features an archway pediment dated 1626.
In 1659 Robert Adamson sold Craigcrook to an Edinburgh merchant named John Mein, whose son Patrick then sold it to Sir John Hall, a merchant and later Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1689. After Hall bought the estate of Dunglass in 1680, he sold Craigcrook to Sir Walter Pringle in 1682. Pringle became an Advocate in 1687, and was later made Lord Newhall in 1718.
Pringle’s son John sold Craigcrook to John Strachan, Writer to the Signet, who left the castle to a Mortification Trust upon his death in 1719, with the stipulation that the rent from the castle and lands was to be given to the poor.
In 1736 Craigcrook Castle was let on a ninety year lease, and during that lease period was rented to the publisher Archibald Constable at the start of the 19th century. Constable was followed by the lawyer and literary critic Lord Francis Jeffrey, who lived at Craigcrook from from 1815 to 1850, having moved from Hatton House. Walter Scott was a regular visitor, being closely connected to both Constable and Jeffrey.
When Jeffrey took up residence the castle was said to have been in quite a run-down state, and he set about improving it. Later, in 1835, he commissioned the architect William Playfair who designed extensive additions.
A new wing was added, projecting approximately north-north-west from the re-entrant angle between the main block and the north-east square tower. The north end of the new wing has slightly corbelled-out square battlements, perhaps to give the appearance of a medieval keep. To the east of this, and projecting partly from the old north-east square tower, Playfair added a new entrance tower with spiral staircase, a corbelled-out square “caphouse” and crow-stepped gables.
During Jeffrey’s residence Craigcrook became a centre of cultural meetings, with publishers, writers, politicians, judges and newspaper editors visiting, including such notable figures as Charles Dickens, Hans Christian Andersen and Lord Tennyson. Jeffrey died in 1850, and it is said by some that his ghost haunts the castle. However he actually died in Edinburgh.
Robert Croall took on the lease in 1875, and in 1891 he commissioned Thomas Leadbetter to extend the castle even further east, with the addition of another rectangular wing. This new wing has a basement level, one main floor and an attic, with the upper rooms lit by pedimented dormer windows, and the east end of the wing finished off with crow-stepped gables.
The castle seems to have existed without any further alterations for the first half of the 20th century, but in 1968 it became the headquarters for an architectural practice, and early in the 1970s a massive single storey L-plan office was added in the grounds, connected to the castle at the south-east corner.
From 1986 to 2004 Craigcrook served as the Scottish headquarters of Marine Harvest, a fish farming company, and it has been home to various businesses including Scottish Field Magazine. In 2010 it became the home of Richard Demarco’s extensive archive.
Craigcrook Castle’s leasehold was put up for sale in January 2013.