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Hermitage Castle.

Sir William Douglas, the Scottish patriot who had won so many battles in the Scottish cause that he was known as ‘the Flower of Chivalry’, was to bind himself to serve the English king in war, except against his own nation. In 1352, Douglas accepted the terms and received the territory of Liddesdale with Hermitage Castle and part of Moffatdale from Edward. He did not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his betrayal. In August 1353, he was hunting in Ettrick Forest in defiance of the Warden, another Lord William Douglas, when he was shot by a ‘stray’ arrow on the heights above the Peel at a spot now marked as William’s Cross on early maps. His body lay in Lindean church overnight and was carried to Melrose Abbey where it was laid in the family tomb.

The fact that the other Lord William Douglas, as well as being the Warden of Selkirk Forest, was also nominally Lord of Liddesdale and Keeper of Hermitage Castle on behalf of King David of Scotland, might have caused some suspicions about the accident.

Hermitage Castle (her-mi’-eej-kaw-sul) n.

One of the best preserved strongholds in the Borders, located on the Hermitage Water north of Newcastleton. Replacing an earlier castle at Castleton, it was probably originally built by Sir Nicholas de Soulis around 1240 (the first record of it is 1244), and was held by that family until about 1320. However, during the invasion of Scotland by Edward I the castle was held by Sir Simon Lindsay, who was directed to repair ‘the walls, houses, and others in said castle’. It has also been suggested that it was first built by the

Comyns, or even by the earlier Bolbeck family, but this is less clear. The oldest surviving parts date from the early-to-mid 14th century. There were 4 main building periods, the current shape taking form in the 3rd period, around 1400, with the final major phase being the oblong wing on the south-west corner, and a continuous wooden hoarding below the battlements. The blocking up of all but the southern entrance happened later. It was retaken from the English by Sir William Douglas (the Knight of Liddesdale) in 1338, and probably had the corner towers built soon after. Douglas had Ramsay tarved to death there in 1342 after capturing him in Hawick. The Castle was taken by the English after the Battle of Durham in 1346, but was recovered in the late 1350s. It was further extended by the Douglases in the 14th and 15th centuries. The large 13 × 22 m keep has been in esistence since about 1388. Small square toweres may have been added about 1400 and the extra wing and wooden superstructure about a century later. The Castle also has extensive fortified earthworks, including a large enclosure to the west and north, which may be the remains of a settlement. To the west the defences are bounded by Lady’s Sike and to the east by Castle Sike (streams that have been partly diverted). An old wall further out called the White Dyke was probably the boundary of the deer park. The castle passed from the Black Douglases to the Red Douglases, although with complications because the Lord of Liddesdale sometimes appointed a separate Keeper of Hermitage. It was later given to the Hepburns of Bothwell (exchanged by Patrick Hepburn in 1492 for Bothwell Castle on the Clyde). The castle appears to have played little role during the troubling times of the early 16th century, but Boswell continued to govern it. Hence Mary Queen of Scots famous ride there to visit the wounded Earl of Bothwell in 1566. Bothwell’s estates were forfeited to the

Crown in 1567, although granted to his nephew Franci s Stewart i n 1587, from whom they passed to his stepson, Walter Scott of Buccleuch, and remained with the Scotts of Buccleuch for more than 3 centuries. It is last referred to as an active castle in 1612, when ‘Roger Scott, captaine of the Airmitage’ is recorded in A Hawick court case. Abandoned in the middle of the 17th century, it is shown in an 1802 sketch by Williams, another by H. Weber and a third by William Scott from Newcastleton. In order to preserve the stonework, it was much restored around 1820 by the Duke of Buccleuch, although it is uncertain how much this changed the castle’s appearance.

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