Robert the Bruce - Scotland's Outlaw King

With Nathaniel Lamb Robert the Bruce was King of Scotland from 1306 until his death in 1329. The famous warrior king led Scotland to victory in the Scottish Wars of Independence and is now considered a national hero. The life of Robert the Bruce is a story of persistence. And it’s clear whom he took after. Legend has it that his mother, Marjorie, held his father captive, refusing to release him until he married her. It is from Marjorie that the Bruce inherited deep Gaelic roots; from his father, he inherited a claim on Scotland’s throne that, from his moment of birth in 1274, set the course of the rest of his life. Jump forwards 32 years. In a careful negotiation turned argument, Bruce murders John Comyn. The kingdom crumbles into civil war. Those who had backed Comyn rise in uproar and many of Bruce’s friends and family are imprisoned, sent to the gallows- or worse! Robert rode for Scone and was crowned. He gathered a ragtag army and set out to quell the rebellion, but a series of defeats sent them fleeing into the West Highlands. His forces decimated, he spent a year in hiding. All the while, his English antagonists worked to soil his reputation, branding him ‘King Hob'. In 1307, as King Edward I breathed his last, Bruce emerged with new allies and moved through Scotland in a whirlwind, vanquishing his enemies. With Scotland unified behind him, the next task was to force Edward II to recognise its independence. In 1314, the two kings met in the fateful battle of Bannockburn, where Edward suffered a crushing defeat. For the next fourteen years, Robert harried the English, until, in 1328, Edward III was forced to surrender his claim to Scottish overlordship. A year later, with his ambitions nobly met, Robert the Bruce passed away, a Scottish hero. It’s easy to follow in the footsteps of Robert the Bruce! From the Highlands to the Borders, you can visit major and off-the-beaten-path locations associated with Scotland’s most celebrated king. Here are just a few of our favourites…

Robert the Bruce statue, Stirling Castle. Image courtesy of VisitScotland Bannockburn The site of Bruce’s most famous victory over the English, The National Trust for Scotland’s award-wining Battle of Bannockburn experience is the first heritage centre in the world that uses Hollywood-calibre motion capture to immerse visitors in a realistic and historically accurate 3D medieval battle. Visitors can see life size warriors train for medieval battle, then try their hand at the tactics for themselves as they lead their own troops in the Battle Game. The Centre has a café with views to the monuments and surrounding countryside. Dunfermline Abbey ‘The Bruce’ was buried in the choir of Dunfermline Abbey and his grave marked by an impressive gilded white marble tomb imported from Paris. The tomb was lost in the turmoil of the Reformation era, but a grave and fragments of carved and gilded stone, believed to be those of the vanished tomb, were found in 1818 and later given to The Hunterian and to the National Museums of Scotland. A further fragment has recently been found in the collections at Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott. Dalrigh, Tyndrum On these rolling hills, south-east of Tyndrum, Bruce suffered his last great defeat against the MacDougalls. Tread the field where ancient mountains watched more than a thousand men clash swords, some 700 years ago. The weapons of Robert’s army - dumped during retreat - may still be buried beneath one of the nearby lochs. Dunollie Castle, Oban

Pictured right Here, at the historic home of Clan MacDougall, wonder at an exact replica of the Brooch of Lorn, ripped from Bruce’s cloak at Dalrigh. The museum houses 5,000 objects, and the castle, standing since the Iron Age, offers stunning views of Kerrera. Ardchattan Priory, Oban Now an expansive and vibrant garden, Ardchattan Priory hosted the last Scottish ‘parliament’ conducted in Gaelic, presided over by King Robert. After exploring the ruins where Bruce received council, ramble through the gardens that grew the sacred yews, cut by Bruce to supply longbows to his men at Bannockburn. St. Conan’s Kirk, Lochawe Tucked amongst spectacular feats of masonry, the Bruce’s effigy rests eternally inside the architectural masterpiece of St. Conan’s Kirk. Below, encased in glass, is a fragment of his royal bones. The Kirk is a feast for the eyes, with guided tours available. Robert the Bruce Heritage Centre Run by a group of dedicated volunteers and historians, The Robert the Bruce Heritage Centre is in the village of Renton near the ancient capital of Strathclyde in Dumbarton, historical site of the Bruce’s manor house, where the spent the last years of his life. You can sit on a royal throne adorned with a replica wooden carving of the king’s Great Seal of Scotland. Stirling Castle A visit to Stirling Castle truly is like stepping back in time. One of Scotland’s grandest castles, it is also one of its most popular attractions, looming an imposing 250 above the plain below on an extinct volcano. Learn how the castle was of vital military importance during the time of Robert the Bruce, and see artefacts from the many Stuart Monarchs who enjoyed it as their favourite royal residence. Get your photo taken with the statue celebrating Scotland’s favourite hero. Dumfries and Galloway Hard core Robert the Bruce fans won’t want to miss Dumfries and Galloway, long an area of strategic importance during the Wars of Independence. You can follow a trail of locations that played a part in the king’s rise to power, from Applegarth to Wigtown.

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