Robert the Bruce 1st of Scotland – part 4

At the end of Part 3, Robert the Bruce arrived at Turnberry Castle in Ayrshire, where the group met up with James Douglas, just south of the Castle area, who gave news of the English occupation. Robert rallied his troops and with his knowledge of the area and of the strengths and weaknesses of the Castle, sought his revenge on the English by mounting a raid on the area surrounding it. In the last of the series, Jim Henderson tells of King Robert’s success against the English which led to Scotland’s independence in 1320.

Claiming Independence and being King of Scotland

The Scots surprised and swiftly overcame the English troops billeted in adjoining homes surrounding Turnberry Castle. No quarter was given and dawn found all the English slain, apart from a few who managed to escape and those holed up in the Castle.

The garrison in the Castle was led by Henry de Percy, 1st Baron of Percy (1273-1314), who, not knowing the strength of the Scots, remained in the Castle and made no attempt to save his troops. Later in the day he surrendered to King Robert, who re-claimed his place of birth.

Despite the success of this raid, Scots were slow to rally for Robert and his cause, their patriotism dented by earlier exploits of the English army. Eventually Robert won over the Scots by proving to be a strong courageous leader in battle, being prepared to stand alone to face the enemy.

The Scots went on to defeat the English at Glen Trool in April and Loudon in May enhancing his reputation by gaining revenge on the Earl of Pembroke. In 1308 Robert defeated the Comyns at Inverurie and many other successes followed. In 1310 King Robert ordered the destruction of Turnberry Castle to prevent the English from ever occupying it again, because of its strategic position. His greatest achievement was the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and the signing of the declaration of Arbroath in 1320.


Battle of Bannockburn. Image credit:

When King Robert later returned to Arran on a hunting expedition, Fergus McLouis or Foulerton was gifted lands now named ‘Kilmichael’ and the farmhouse for services rendered by sheltering Sir Boyd’s troops. The charter was signed at Arnele on November 26th 1307. [This became the only part of Arran not under the control of the Hamiltons.]

After securing the independence of Scotland, the King settled in ‘Cardross’ and returned to the island on hunting trips with his family, on at least two occasions. There is a record of a Saltcoats man being engaged to transport King Robert I to the Island.

Further records show that Robert the Bruce and his descendants returned to the Island of Arran on several occasions, participating in hunting trips, making use of Brodick and Kildonan Castles.

King Robert 1st died at the age of 54, latterly plagued with a form of leprosy. He often made use of spring water in Ayr and Prestwick to ease his symptoms in his feet and lower legs.

The well in Prestwick where Bruce used to bathe. Image credit: Jim Henderson

In 1371 Robert II of the house of Stewart became King of Scotland. His mother was Marjorie, daughter of Robert the Bruce. He too used the Island for hunting trips.

Kildonan Castle

Kildonan castle was built by MacDonald, Lord of the Isles in the 13th century, the Castle or keep was also used by King Robert III, when he took over ownership in 1406, just a short time before he died in Rothesay Castle. In 1564 Kildonan Castle was signed over to the Earl of Arran, John Hamilton who was made 1st Marquis of Hamilton in 1599, and therefore to the Arran Estate.


Kildonan Castle. Image credit:

Brodick Castle

The site of Brodick castle has been in use since the 5th century, in earlier times constructed mainly of timber in the form of a stockade. In 1406 English forces damaged the construction and it was raised to the ground by John of Islay the Lord of the Isles in 1455. In or around 1510 the 2nd Earl of Arran, James Hamilton (1475-1529 ) who was married to the daughter of King James II, had the first stone construction built in the style of a tower house.

Jottings of interest:

The Scots ‘Birlin’ – The comunn birlin- derived from the Norse byroingr [a ship of burden]. The Birlin was a clinker-built craft designed by Somerled, Lord of the Isles (1113-1164), which was based on the Viking Long Ship. The Scottish design was a small craft with 12 to 16 oars with a central mast supporting a sail. Each craft had the innovative design of a rudder located at the centre of the stern, held by a metal pin, a design still much in use to this day. The craft was widely in use in Scotland for over 400 years.

A descendant of the Foulertons who lived in Corrie in the late 1700’s (over four hundred years after the time of Robert I) married a cousin of Rabbie Burns and emigrated to Canada. The account of the Dalrigh Battle, relates that Robert spent some time in Dunaverty Castle. Other information to be found on the internet confirms that the “spider story” took place in ‘Bruce’s’ cave- Rathlin island.

The DNA of the Bruce and Stewart line includes Winston Churchill, Lady Diana, David Cameron ex-Prime Minister, and our present Queen.

The Kilmichael lands remained in the ownership of the Fullerton family until around 1960 when the last of the line, Mrs Brown-Fullerton, passed on. She was married to a Mr Brown, but kept the family name by being known as Brown-Fullerton. However, the couple had no children and the Fullerton connection ended with her death. Latterly the Brown-Fullertons lived in the gatehouse. The land is still separated from Arran Estate and is now rented or leased, for many years run as a very successful accommodation provider and restaurant.

In the year 1350 when Princess Margaret, daughter of Robert I married John of Islay- Lord of the Isles, 108 Longships and ‘Birlins’ loaded with kinsfolk, Chiefs of the Clans and clansmen sailed from all parts of the Western Isles to attend the wedding. It attracted many sightseers to what was the biggest gathering of ‘Birlins’ to be seen together in peacetime.