The army then moved through Dumfries to Kirkcudbright and the River Cree where there was a battle with the Scots in August. Edward returned via Sweetheart Abbey at New Abbey where he was given the bad news that the Pope had ruled his occupation of Scotland illegal.
In the summer and autumn of the following year Edward sent the Prince of Wales on a campaign which saw the army leave Carlisle for Annan and Dumfries where it turned north via Dalswinton Castle, up the valley of the River Nith past Thornhill, Sanquhar and Kirkconnel and over the hills to Ayr. There the route switched south hugging the coast to Loch Ryan and on to Whithorn before heading back to Dumfries and Carlisle.
The Bruces had held the lands of Annandale for almost 200 years when Robert crossed his personal Rubicon with the murder of his cousin, John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, at the Church of the Greyfriars in Dumfries on Thursday, February 10, 1306.
The first Robert Bruce, probably a grandson of a member of Duke William of Normandy's army which was successful at Hastings, in 1066, was created Lord of Cleveland by the English king Henry I and became a close friend of Scotland's King David I during his years in England. When David returned to Scotland Bruce went with him and was granted the Lordship of Annandale circa 1124.
The area was of strategic importance to Scotland as it held the western of the two principle routes into the country from England. Any invading army on the west would almost inevitably choose to cross the Solway to the town of Annan. The road today travels north from Carlisle to Gretna but 700 years ago that area was a nightmare of sodden, boggy ground, so travellers waited until low tide to cross the flats of the Firth. They could then choose to head north through Annandale or go farther west to Dumfries and north through Nithsdale.
The Bruces ruled Annandale from motte and bailey castles at Lochmaben and Annan. Annan was initially their main stronghold until it ended up the apparent victim of a curse. The Irish churchman, Malachy O'Moore (St Malachy) passed through the town on his way to Rome probably about 1140. He stayed with Robert the Bruce II, as his guest. During the stay he overhead servants talking about a robber who was awaiting sentence, probably death. Malachy, asked Bruce to spare the life of the man. Bruce said he would and Malachy blessed the Bruce household. Later when he was leaving he saw the robber hanging from gallows in Annan and in his anger at the deceipt, put a curse on the household. The story goes that soon after a flood swept away a large section of the motte bringing down part of the castle and that resulted in the Bruces transferring their headquarters to Lochmaben. Robert the Bruce II did not suffer personally from the curse, living for another 30 years, until his death in 1171.
Robert Bruce V was named successor to the throne in 1238 when King Alexander II's wife died. However, Alexander married again and produced an heir, Alexander III. The untimely death of Alexander III, without a successor, created the scramble for the Scottish throne with Edward I as judge and jury. Bruce, an elderly but exceptionally energetic man, lodged his bid. He reached a short leet of two but lost out to John Balliol who had a more direct claim, according to Edward. Bruce, sometimes known as the "Competitor", lived until 1295 when he died at the age of 85 a tremendously long life for the times.
He gave his son, Robert Bruce VI a fright by marrying again when in his sixties. But there was no issue. In 1273, Robert Bruce VI returned from the crusades and one of his first acts was to visit Marjorie, countess of Carrick, to break the news that her husband had died in the Holy Land. Marjorie was countess in her own right as her father Neil, Earl of Carrick, had died in 1256. The father and daughter were descended from Fergus, Lord of Galloway. Marjorie's dead husband was Adam of Kilconquhar from a cadet branch of the family of the earls of Fife. Marjorie is said to have taken the initiative in a whirlwind romance with Bruce. He remained at her castle at Turnberry in Ayrshire for fifteen days, during which they were secretly married, without royal consent. Alexander III fined Bruce before allowing him to take up the title of earl of Carrick.
Robert, the future king, was their first son. Although there is a claim that he was born at Lochmaben, most historians think it more likely that Turnberry Castle would have been the place of his birth. A claim he was born at Writtle in Essex is given little credence.
The Bruces connections with the south west of Scotland stretched right across the region. It is likely he spent much of his time on the run in the mountains and forests of Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire. After all they were his lands by 1306 and he could count on his friends and subjects for help and information.
Some of the principle locations and their connections with the campaign are detailed in this section and a wealth of information is contained in the books featured on the site library.
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Some reports said that Edward in his rage had all the defenders, believed to be about sixty, hanged. However, records show at least twenty one including the constable were imprisoned at Newcastle and Appleby. Caerlaverock was held by the English, under the command, at one stage, of Sir Ingram de Umfraville, until it was recaptured by Bruce in 1313.
The current building was built later. The castle at the time of Bruce stood closer to the river.
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Scene of a massacre in 1308 when Sir James Douglas raided the south west. The town was under the command of Clifford. Douglas killed most defenders and destroyed the fortifications.
The Loch on the Newton Stewart to New Galloway road has a stone commemorating the Battle of Raploch of which little is known except that it happened in 1307. A huge boulder is marked as the 'Bruce Stone' which points it out as a site where the king rested after the battle.
Pictured is a wild goat at Clatteringshaws.Closeburn
The next head of the family was Stephen of Closeburn, one of the first to declare for Bruce in 1306 which cost him forfeiture of the lands in favour of John Cromwell. Stephen is said to have had two sons, Roger who was with Bruce at the murder of the Comyn in Dumfries and gave rise to the "I'll mak siccar" legend, and Duncan.
Closeburn Castle, with its amazingly thick walls, is owned by the Spanish branch of the family and still used as a family residence.
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Soon after the Scottish Army lined up on the banks of the river near Creetown and a battle ensued in which the Scottish cavalry fled, many abandoning their horses in their haste to find safety in the hills.Dalswinton
In one of his final acts of defiance against King John Balliol, Robert Bruce "The competitor" (grandfather of King Robert) ensured that Dalton, his clerk and protege, was appointed Bishop of Galloway. Dalton, based at Whithorn, did homage to King Edward. His name appears on the Ragman Rolls. He was at one time a suffragan of the archbishop of York and, despite being a Bruce protege, was pro-English. He tried to mediate between Edward I and the Scots in 1300.
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King Edward was at Dumfries on October 30, 1300, when he granted the Scots a truce until the end of May the following year. Towards the end of 1314 the town was also the venue for peace talks between the two sides which collapsed before Christmas.
The castle was a principle fortress in the south west and King Edward's justiciars were meeting there on the morning of Thursday, February 10, 1306, when Robert Bruce and John Comyn met in the Church of the Greyfriars and Comyn was subsequently killed. After a sword fight in the town between the supporters of both parties, Bruce's band, no doubt aided by townsfolk who were fully behind what he had done, rode the two miles or so to the castle which quickly surrendered when Bruce threatened to burn it down. The castle, of course, was soon recaptured and remained in the hands of the English until February 7, 1313, when it was surrendered to King Robert by his old enemy Dungal Macdouall.
Dumfries was also the scene of the horrific execution of Bruce's favourite brother in law and friend, the Yorkshire knight Sir Christopher Seton. Seton was captured at Doon Castle and brought to the town where he was condemned for his part in the killing of the Comyn. He had killed Comyn's uncle, defending Bruce. Seton, with two of his brothers, was drawn, hung and quartered on the small execution hill just outside the town.
The Grey Friars Kirk of the time has long since disappeared. It's site is bounded by Friars Vennel, Castle Street and Buccleuch Street. The grounds stretched down to the banks of the River Nith. A plaque on a shop wall on Castle Street is all there is to signify the location of the Comyn murder, such a crucial event in the history of Scotland. In 1902 local archaeologists dug up the site and found what they took to be the foundation stone of the high altar. Several skeletons, their heads against the stone and buried in an east west direction, were uncovered and judged to have been senior clerics at the church. Two other skeletons buried nearby were thought to have been the bodies of the two Comyns.
Dumfries Castle stood in what is Castledykes park. Sadly only the mound remains. The site where Seton was killed is now consecrated ground in the shape of St Mary's church. Seton's widow, Christian, King Robert's sister, had a chapel built on the site and the king set in place an annual payment of £5 for its upkeep.
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Edward took his army to Kirkcudbright during the 1300 summer campaign in the south west. For two days the English King and the Scots leaders, the Comyn Lords of Buchan and Badenoch, were locked in diplomatic talks, aimed at securing a truce. The Scots demanded the reinstatement of King John Balliol, right of succession for his son John and the right of Scottish nobles to get their English lands back from those Edward had handed them over to. Edward was indignant and rejected the demands. But his campaign was also in trouble with desertions of English foot soldiers. So much so he issued orders from the town to the commissioners of Dumfries to arrest deserters and to the sheriffs of York and Lancaster to raise more men.
Edward left the town on July 31. The town's port was also used by English supply ships during invasions from the south.
Alexander Bruce was one of the most intelligent men of his day. He had been a brilliant student at Cambridge where he became an MA in the spring of 1303. By 1306 he was dean of Glasgow.
The seat of the Bruces for around 150 years before the murder of the Comyn. Their original motte and bailey is now part of the golf course. The magnificent stone ruins on a peninsula in Castle Loch are the remains of the Castle built by Edward I circa 1298 which was possibly used by the Bruces at some later stage. King Robert's grandfather, Robert Bruce, the competitior, died at Lochmaben on Maundy Thursday, 1295 at the incredible age, for the time, of 85.
The Bruce castle was captured by Edward I in October 1298 after the Battle of Falkirk. Edward was back at Lochmaben to relieve the, presumably under pressure, English garrison at the castle in 1300 before besieging Caerlaverock. The following year on September 7 and 8, a Scottish army under the leadership of Soules and Umphraville attacked the castle without success. It was from Lochmaben that Bruce sent two of his brothers, Thomas and Nigel, to Dalswinton to arrange the fateful meeting with John Comyn at the Greyfriars Kirk in February 1306. And it was from Lochmaben that Bruce and his supporters set out for the meeting on Thursday the 10th. It was also from Lochmaben that three weeks or so later the Bruce entourage set out for Scone and Robert's coronation.
After the Comyn murder, Lochmaben and Annandale, were handed over to the earl of Hereford by Edward I and Lochmaben castle was still in English hands in 1308 and probably remained so until 1311 or 1312.
Bruce and Sir Andrew Harcla, earl of Carlisle, met at Lochmaben for peace talks on January 3, 1323. There was also private business, of which Edward II did not know, on the agenda. Harcla was accused of treason and executed.
One story suggests Robert the future king was born at Lochmaben. He may well have spent his childhood with his grandfather who would have sown the seeds of family ambitions for the throne in the young boy's mind.
A magnificent Victorian statue of Bruce stands in the town and the impressive stained glass windows of the town hall commemorate the man.
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Staging point between Scotland and Ulster. Edward 1's son, Prince Edward, headed an army along Loch Ryan on September 28, 1301, towards the end of a round trip through Nithsdale and Ayr.
After the dark days of 1306 and the winter spent on Rathlin Island, Bruce divided his forces for a return to the mainland early in 1307. His brothers Thomas and Alexander headed one force along with Malcolm McQuillan, Lord of Kintyre, and an Irish sub king and Reginald de Crawford.
The band landed at Loch Ryan from 18 galleys and immediately suffered a disaster. Edward supporter Dungal Macdouall and his men of Galloway routed the Bruce party. Only two galleys escaped. Macdouall executed McQuillan and the Irishman on the spot sending their heads to the dying Edward who was at Lannercost near Carlisle. The Bruce brothers and Crawford were taken to Edward who had them drawn at the tails of horses the eight miles to Carlisle where they were hung and beheaded.
In 1306 at a place a mile or so north of the town known as the Arrickstone, Bruce had a historic meeting. Waiting for him and his entourage as they made their way to the coronation at Scone was an olive skinned, dark haired young man called James Douglas. Douglas, out to recover his lands and avenge the death of his father, Sir William, paid homage to Bruce and went on from there to become one of his most trusted lieutenants and foremost knights in Europe at that time.
He was known as “the guid Sir James” in Scotland the ‘the Black Douglas’ south of the Border.
A tiny coastal settlement on the west of the Machars in Wigtownshire. Bruce stayed there on his final pilgirmage to St Ninian's shrine at Whithorn in March, 1329.
Thomas Randolph was rewarded for his services to Bruce with the lordship of Nithsdale to go with his ancestral barony of Morton. The Douglases later took control and Morton Castle, just outside Thornhill, is a magnificent example of a middle ages stone castle.
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New Abbey Village south west of Dumfries dominated by Sweetheart Abbey, built by Lady Devorgilla, mother of King John Balliol, who died in 1290. Sweetheart Abbey was not just a centre of worship but also one of legal business. Charters were granted there. It was also the backdrop to a serious setback for Edward 1. During his campaign in the south west of Scotland in 1300, he was camped at Sweetheart Abbey when he was presented with the Papal Bull issued by Boniface on June 27, 1299, known as Scimus, fili (We know, my son). It was not the news Edward had been waiting for. Pope Boniface VIII ruled his occupation of Scotland was illegal and urged him to give up his aggression. For some reason it took Robert Winchelsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, more than a year to deliver the bull to Edward. Winchelsey had been waiting for weeks at Carlisle as Edward progressed through what is now Dumfries and Galloway. Hearing he was just a few miles away at Sweetheart Abbey, Winchelsey, travelled there. Edward, probably suspecting bad news, refused to interrupt his dinner. Winchelsey had to wait until the following day to read the bull to Edward who was incandescent with rage.
Royal Four Towns
The hamlets of Hightae, Heck, Smallholm and Greenhill were so named by Bruce as they were the first to declare for him after the murder of the Comyn. They lie between Lochmaben and Lockerbie.
At the northern end of Nithsdale, it had a strategic castle owned in the 1290s by Robert Ross. It was captured from the English by Wallace and also has associations with Bruce. It is now a ruin but some of the stonework dates back to the 13th century.
Almost nothing but earthworks and some stone walling remains of Tibbers Castle which sits on a curve of the River Nith a mile or so downstream from Drumlanrig Castle north of Thornhill.
Garrisoned by Edward's troops in 1306, it was captured by Bruce and his followers in the weeks after the Comyn murder. In fact, Sir Richard Siward, commander of the garrison, was captured by Bruce at Dumfries castle. He had been present at the justiciary court sitting there on the day of the murder. The victory, as with all others at that stage, was short lived. John of Seton was captured at the fall of Tibbers and drawn and hanged at Newcastle on August 4, 1306. It was not recaptured until about 1312.
Site of a smaller but important castle. The family of Torthorwald were not Bruce supporters and it is possible the castle was not part of the lands of Annandale. In the mid 1200s the Bruces apparently presented it to the Soules family.
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Edward's army camped there for several days on the invasion of south west Scotland in the summer of 1300. Walter of Twynholm was a clerk and one of the leaders of the Scottish peace negotiations delegation at Newcastle around Christmas, 1319. Walter went on to become Bruce's chancellor by 1326.
The area around the present village was a rich source of lead, gold and silver. It was seen by some as "the jewel" in Scotland`s resources at the time of Bruce.
The king's body was dressed in a lead surcoat with a lead crown, when he was buried and the materials very likely came from the Wanlockhead area. Bruce was also reputed to have kept his herd of palfreys in that area.
Wanlockhead museum of lead mining has an interesting collection of lead artefacts, many dating back to the Middle Ages.
A Dumfriesshire estate owned by John de Soulis in 1301.
Home of St Ninian who introduced Christianity to Scotland about a hundred years before St Columba. His church was known as Candida Casa.
Whithorn was a centre of pilgrimage for Bruce and he made the long and painful trip from Cardross, while very ill, weeks before his death in 1329. It contained the cathedral church to the diocese.
A major archaeological exploration of the church site has been carried out in recent years.
The castle was seized by King Robert's grandfather and father in a revolt in 1286. There was great uncertainty in the area over the next four years and accounts from the sheriffdom speak of fields uncultivated because of the ravages of war.
The Comyn family handed the castle over to Edward in a symbolic act of overlordship in June 1291 and it was under English control in 1296.
Wigtown was probably about the furthest point west in Edward's foray into the south west in 1300.