ROSLIN, or ROSSLYN, a village seven miles south of Edinburgh, stands on a bank about a mile east of the turnpike road from Edinburgh to Peebles and Dumfries. Roslin-castle is replete with historical reminiscence, and possesses some interesting features in its site and vestiges; Roslin-chapel is one of the most elegantly designed, the most elaborately and exquisitely adorned, and the least damaged, the most proximately entire specimens of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture in Scotland; the vale of Roslin constitutes one of the richest links in the concatenation of scenic beauty and romance which lies along the North Esk; and these three attractions, singly great and aggregately conquering, draw, during all the sunny parts of the year, numerous visitors from the brilliant and tasteful metropolis. About the year 1440, the village or town was next in importance, in the east, to Edinburgh and Haddington; and enjoying the fostering protection of William St. Clair, who lived in its castle in the style of a prince, and threw over it an importance second only to that of the seat of a royal court, it became very populous by the great concourse to it of all ranks and degrees of visitors. In 1456, it received, from James II., a charter erecting it into a burgh-of-barony, with the rights of a market-cross, a weekly market on Saturday, and an annual fair on the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, and respectively in 1622 and 1650, it obtained confirmations of its charter from James VI. and Charles I. In modern times it had subsided into the retreat of rural and unpretending quietness, – the home of cultivators of the soil, and of workmen in establishments for bleaching linen and manufacturing gunpowder. An inn at the village – in rather close and inappropriate juxtaposition with the chapel – receives visitors, and furnishes them with a cicerone to point out the admired or the storied features of castle, chapel, and landscape. – The battle of Roslin, in 1303, which gave to Scottish arms ‘three triumphs in a day,’ forms a glorious feature in the annals of the country.
Roslin-castle stands on an almost insulated rock, overhanging the picturesque glen of the Esk. A path winds down to it from the village, and speedily conducts the visitor among deep thickets and precipitous rocks, tangling or walling up the margin of the river. The original and only access to the castle was along a one-arched bridge, across a deep gulley – now nearly filled up – which quite insulated the rocky site. The entrance was defended by a gate of great strength. The site, though in the highest degree pleasant and romantic, is very ill chosen for a fortalice; and while it finely overlooks the playful meanderings of the sylvan stream below, is itself commanded by heights which press closely on its precincts, and look almost right down upon the tops of its chimneys. The structure must, in early times, have been large and massive; but it has lost nearly all its antique appearance and more ancient parts; and it now consists principally of a tremendous triple tier of vaults, some huge fragments of walls and battlements, and a comparatively modern mansion reared on the under-vaulted stories of extinct parts of the ancient edifice. A descent of a great number of stone-stairs conducts through part of the existing structure to the bottom, and leads into a large kitchen, whence a door opens into a once famous garden. The comparatively modern part seems to have been erected in 1563; and in its lower apartments it is ill-lighted and confined, and possesses far more of the coldness and inconvenience and dungeon-properties of a prison than the cheering and comfortable characteristics of a modern residence. Such fragments of the more ancient castle as remain stand opposite this erection on the right hand of the entrance to the rock, and consist of some arches, buttresses, and pieces of walls. A view of the whole, as they appeared in 1788, is given by Grose; – haggard, and utterly dilapidated, – the mere wreck of a great pile riding on a little sea of forest, and not far from contact with commanding rocks. – a rueful apology for the once grand fabric, whose name of ‘Roslin-castle’ is so intimately associated with melody and song.
Our present illustration presents a view of those magnificent remains as seen from the bed of the Esk.