Hartley was singled out for criticism by Wales coach Warren Gatland, who questioned his temperament and lineout ability.
The Northampton captain felt under enormous pressure but responded with one of his best international performances as England launched their title campaign with a 26-19 victory.
Hartley was part of a young England squad on Saturday who had to collectively prove they could cut it at Test level after interim coach Stuart Lancaster selected eight uncapped players.
It was ugly but England's young guns did just that, battling to their country's first win at Murrayfield since 2004.
"That result is up there with the start of last year's Six Nations when Warren Gatland had a pop at me," Hartley said.
"There was a lot of personal pressure on myself in that game. This year, because of the fresh start and all the talk, there was a lot of pressure built on the team.
"It is no easy feat going away from home and winning a game. The feeling is one of relief. I felt quite emotional after the game.
"Everyone else was high-fiving and laughing. I just sat in the changing room and reflected. I just caught my breath.
"We had come through. We didn't have enough ball to show what we can do in attack but the character came through in defence. To get the result was an unbelievable feeling."
Owen Farrell kicked eight points on his debut while fellow centre Brad Barritt and number eight Phil Dowson produced lung-bursting defensive performances.
Fellow newcomers Ben Morgan, Mike Brown, Lee Dickson, Geoff Parling and Jordan Turner-Hall all contributed off the bench at a crucial time in the game, when Scotland were building up a head of steam.
But the theme of England's preparation was the creation of a new culture within the squad, a new sense of pride in their jersey and pride in their performance.
"People talk about experience," Hartley added. "Experienced teams don't give away penalties; we had a lack of experience and our discipline was superb. Experience is what you make it.
"Defence is an attitude and it sure as hell came through. It shows great character in the side.
"You are screaming at each other to get off the line, hunting a team down and working hard for each other. It is a great test of character.
"I am sure Scotland would like to have finished a few of their opportunities, they made a few line breaks and we have to look at that.
"But the result is very important and the attitude towards the way we played was probably the biggest thing for us and we came through with flying colours."
England will reconvene at Pennyhill Park on Monday and begin their preparations to face Italy in the new surroundings of Rome's Olympic Stadium.
"We know there is room to improve. There is hard work that starts Monday morning when we turn up to prepare for Italy," Hartley said.
"Every pack we come across will be tough, a new challenge every week.
"We are building. We can take confidence from this and hopefully bring a more attacking side of things into our game in Italy."
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