Hermitage Castle
Castle Hawick Scotland

Hermitage Castle

Castle In Hawick, Scotland

A ruined border fortress built in the 13th century and associated with battles and Mary, Queen of Scots.

The mighty and imposing Hermitage Castle is nestled away in the Liddesdale Valley, once known as "the bloodiest valley in Britain". It is located around 6 miles north of Newcastleton in the Hawick area. It's no surprise that it was at the centre of tales of murder, revenge, treason, Border Reivers, the wars of Scottish independence and even a myth about a lord who was so hated he was boiled alive by his own servants!

Hermitage Castle was first built around 1240 for the de Soules family, their first residence though may not have been on the current site. Instead, it is more likely that it was a hunting lodge upstream. The de Soules family probably moved to the current and more defensive site between 1327 and 1332, and this was orignally a timber structure. Around 1360, the castle was replaced by a stone house built for Lord Dacre. In the 1360s, under the Douglas family, it was remodelled into the fortress we see today. The work probably wasn't complete until around 1400, by which point it included a wooden fighting platform below the roof.

In 1566, Mary Queen of Scots rode 25 miles to Hermitage Castle after receiving word the Earl of Bothwell might been killed. In fact, Bothwell was only wounded while making arrests among the notorious Border Reiving family, the Elliots. It has often been described as a lover's tryst between Mary and Bothwell, but realistically, the visit to her lieutenant of the Borders was probably purely business. On her return journey Mary fell from her horse in a bog. When she returned to Jedburgh, she contracted a fever that brought her close to death.

It is with the de Soules family that we get the myth of Lord William de Soules being boiled alive. He was accused of witchcraft and regicide of King Robert I of Scotland (Robert the Bruce). De Soules servants are said to have suffered unbearable depredations under him, so they arrested him and boiled him to death in molten lead. The other story, which is slightly less dramatic, goes that he died a prisoner in Dumbarton Castle. Which do you believe?

Hermitage Castle has had many more owners, including Edward I who captured it in 1296 after his invasion of Scotland. It came back into de Soules family control in the 1310s. In 1594 James VI of Scotland and I of England handed Hermitage castle over to Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch. Scott was an infamous Border Reiver, Warden of the Scottish West Marches and was the leader of the infamous attack on Carlisle Castle to free Willie Armstrong of Kinmont. Hermitage castle remained with the Scott family until 1930.

You can visit today and learn more of its history and follow the footsteps of Lords, Kings, Queen's and even Border Reivers. Now under the care of Historic Scotland, Hermitage Castle is in a state of semi ruin, but is still as imposing as the day it was built. There is much of it left to see, but it's best to bring a jacket just in case, the roof has long since gone!

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How To Find Hermitage Castle

Where Is Hermitage Castle?

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Lat / Long

55.256051, -2.793348

What three words

conga.intervene.barrel

Where To Park For Hermitage Castle?

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Lat / Long

55.255269, 55.255269

What three words

commuted.commended.pursue

There is a dedicated car park for the castle just a short walk away.

Contributed by Jonny Fraser

I enjoy getting out as much as I can, mainly to visit historical sites, this includes getting as much use as possible out of my English Heritage membership. I'm extremely passionate about history, especially anything to do with local history. Although I visit anywhere with history, I enjoy visiting lesser known sites and getting their histories told.

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Jonny Fraser

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Hermitage Castle was listed in Castle // Scotland // Hawick