HISTORY: Mary’s Escape from Lochleven Castle (Student Age 10-11)

Following Mary’s arrest, after the death of Lord Darnley, she was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle and forced to sign her abdication under threat of death. With the help of Willie and George Douglas she escaped during a masque May Day celebration from her third floor room. Children study the events surrounding her imprisonment and escape, looking at sources of evidence and completing a recount of her diary entry.

Simon Luxford-Moore
Junior School Teacher


Following the lesson and prior to beginning Mary’s diary entry, which details the plan of her escape, children experience the Lochleven Castle footage. Taken in the rain, it is incredibly atmospheric, and shows the outside of the castle walls down to the shore from which Mary escaped in a rowing boat. Back in 1568, the loch had a higher water level and reached the edge of the castle walls on one side. The extent of the water receding is highlighted beautifully in this footage which could, in itself, promote discussion about climate change. There is also still and video footage of inside the bailey of the castle showing the extent of Mary’s freedom to walk the grounds. The pivotal footage is on the inside of the castle. Textbooks and websites often depict Lochleven Castle as quite grand and the idea of being able to hold a masque ball implies a large banquet hall. In reality, Lochleven Castle is very small and this makes Mary’s escape all the more incredible and daring. Children are always impressed and amazed at the difference in size of what they imagine from printed textbooks to seeing, for themselves, the smaller reality. Best used as part of the plenary of a lesson to highlight the stark contrast of the site to the learners.


Children experience the place of Mary’s imprisonment and, due to the weather at the time of filming, develop an understanding of the ‘feel’ to her conditions on a tiny little island in Lochleven, Perthshire. This can be used beyond a historical context and is ideal for developing a piece of writing surrounding Mary’s imprisonment. The playlist allows for the development of first-person emotional vocabulary to be discussed and used in written work.

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Learning Aims:

  • To describe the events surrounding Mary, Queen of Scots’ imprisonment in Scotland and the support that led to her escape from Lochleven Castle.

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