Hermitage Castle

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Hermitage Castle, a ruined stronghold in Castleton parish, Liddesdale, S Roxburghshire, on the left bank of Hermitage Water, 3¼ miles NW of Steele Road station, and 5½ N by E of Newcastleton. ' About the oldest baronial building in Scotland,' says Dr Hill Burton, ' it has scarcely any flanking works-nothing but abutments at the corners, like the Norman towers; but in this instance they meet in a wide Gothic arch overhead.' Its position is one of great natural strength, and was further secured by extensive earthworks and by a deep fosse, which enclosed it on the E, W, and N. Morasses and mountains surround it; and the grim towers, with their few, narrow windows and massive, loopholed walls, add gloom to the desolate and cheerless region. The interior is now a complete ruin. Hermitage Castle was founded in 1244 or a little earlier by Walter Comyn, fourth Earl of Menteith, Liddesdale having been held by the Soulis family from the first half of the preceding century. On the Soulises' forfeiture in 1320, Liddesdale was granted by Robert the Bruce to Sir John Graham of Abercorn, whose heiress, Mary Graham, conveyed it to her husband, Sir William Douglas, ' the Knight of Liddesdale ' or ' Flower of Chivalry.' He it was who, on 20 June 1342, at Hawick Seized the brave Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie, and carried him captive to Hermitage Castle, where he shut him up in a dungeon, and left him to die of starvation. It is told that above the place of his confinement was a granary, and that with grains of corn which dropped down through the crevices of the roof Ramsay protracted a miserable existence for seventeen days. In 1492 Archibald Douglas, fifth Earl of Angus, exchanged Liddesdale and the Hermitage with Patrick Hepburn, first Earl of Bothwell, for Bothwell Castle on the Clyde. Thus, in October 1566, the fourth and infamous Earl of Bothwell was lying sore wounded by ' little Jock Elliot ' at the Hermitage, whither Queen Mary rode madly over from Jedburgh (a stiff 20 miles), remained two hours ' to his great pleasure and content,' and then galloped back-a feat that she paid for by a ten days' fever. In 1594, shortly after the forfeiture of Francis Stuart, last Earl of Bothwell, the lordship of Liddesdale was acquired by Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, whose ancestor David had in 1470 received a gift of the governorship of the Hermitage; and the castle has since remained in the possession of the Buccleuch family.—Ord. Sur., sh. 11, 1863. See Castleton, Dalkeith, and Dr William Fraser's Scotts of Buccleuch (2 vols., Edinb., 1878).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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