Robert the Bruce and the Scottish Wars of Independence
Robert the Bruce, the great Scottish King, who fought for an independent Scotland, has very strong connections with Dumfries and Galloway. His family were Lords of Annandale and their lands were situated around Lochmaben. The Scottish Wars of Independence were a bloody time in Scottish history and our region played a vital role. Although not always factually correct, to capture your imagination think “Brave Heart.”
Hospitality Plus Scotland can arrange four tours to give you some insight into this troubled time in Scottish history.
The Toun Trail is located in the town of Dumfries and visitors will be able to see the spot where Robert the Bruce stabbed the Red Comyn in Greyfriars Monastery. For a bit of interest, when a distraught Bruce fled the monastery confessing to what he had done, one of Jock’s ancestors Sir Roger Kirkpatrick went into the monastery and stabbed the Comyn and said,” Aye Mak Siccar” (I’ll make sure) which is the Kirkpatrick’s motto to this day. Unfortunately there is only a plaque to commemorate the spot. St Mary’s Church is where Sir Christopher Seton, a supporter of Bruce, was hung, drawn and quartered in 1307. We then go on to the lovely Castledykes Park, where Dumfries Castle was once situated. An information plaque marks the original spot. This is where Bruce raised his standard in 1306 and was the first castle captured from occupying forces by Bruce.
The Central Trail starts at Sweet Heart Abbey situated in the picturesque village of New Abbey and then winds through the Stewartry. Sweet Heart Abbey was built by Lady Devorgilla for her husband John Balliol. Her son, also John Balliol, was the ‘puppet’ King of Scotland put on the throne and continually humiliated by King Edward 1 of England, the ‘Hammer of the Scots.’ Buittle Castle, the stronghold of the Lords of Galloway, stood on the grounds alongside the 16th century Tower House, Buittle Tower which is still occupied. Buittle Castle was one of the most important in south-west and was under siege by Bruce’s brother Edward for several months before finally surrendering.
Castle Douglas was occupied by the English in 1308 when Sir James Douglas attacked. The town was to witness tremendous slaughter as Douglas killed most of the defenders and destroyed the castle fortifications.
The Eastern Trail stretches from the magnificent medieval castle of Caerlaverock in the south to the ruins of Sanquar Castle in the north. The trail takes you to the motte near the River Annan that housed the first castle of the Bruce Family when they first came to Scotland around 1124. The motte at Lochmaben is on the town’s golf course but the spectacular ruins of the castle can be located on the southern side of the Castle Loch on the outskirts of Lochmaben.
From Moffat, Bruce headed north in March 1306 to be crowned at Scone Palace, near Perth.
The Western Trail starts at stunning Glentrool in Galloway Forest Park and is one of the key parts of the trails. An impressive Bruce’s Stone marks the spot where Bruce had his first victory over occupying forces. After his coronation Bruce spent the winter hiding before returning to Dumfries and Galloway. With around 300 men he managed to lure the English cavalry along the narrow track on the north side of Glentrool in April 1307. Bruce’s men bombarded the 1500 strong enemy forces with boulders before attacking them. The enemy fled back to Carlisle and Bruce’s reputation as a master of guerrilla warfare grew.
Whithorn, the home of St Ninian, and some say the cradle of Christianity in Scotland, is another must for visitors. Bruce’s health was failing after many years of fighting and in April 1329 he made a pilgrimage to Whithorn. He died soon after his visit.
Hospitality Plus Scotland would be happy to arrange any of these tours and share their local knowledge with you. For our visitors, the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn takes place in 2014. Bruce defeated the English army in a decisive battle at Bannockburn near Stirling in 1314 and Scotland finally became an independent nation.