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Hermitage Castle

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Hermitage Castle is situated 17 miles south of Hawick in the Borders area of Scotland via the B6399 hill road, or 17 miles via the A7 road, then 7 miles across on a scenic hill road. The Castle is 9 miles north of the Border with England.

Hermitage Castle is open with a small entrance fee 1 Apr to 30 Sept: 9.30am to 5.30pm, last entry 5pm. 1 Oct to 31 Mar: Closed. Postcode: TD9 0LU

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Hermitage Castle, as seen today, was built for Clan Douglas in 1371. This was one of the most powerful Clans in the south of Scotland, used by the Royals to protect southern Scotland from English attacks. Their great rivals on the English side were the Percy family, Earls of Northumberland, of Warkworth and Alnwick Castles.

The Image top is of the Hill Road leading across to Hermitage Castle from the A7, a real interesting drive through a scenic, remote area.

There is a small Visitor Centre by the Castle with notice boards around giving the History of the Castle. If you arrive after closing time, you can view the exterior of the Castle, although you are not supposed to hop over the low gates.

There are two large Archways, one on the west side, and one on the east side. These may have been to look like main entrances for attackers to try and gain entrance. There are no entrances at the Arches, so probably used as traps for any attackers.

The main small entrance is on the south side.

A few hundred yards west of the Castle are the remains of the small Chapel of Hermitage, thought to have been built in 1240 for the De Sules family.

Hermitage Castle History

1240 - Nicholas de Soules, butler to the King, gained these lands. It is believed he built a hunting lodge a few hundred yards west of the present Castle, next to the ruins of the Chapel of Hermitage.

1320 - the lands were owned by William de Soules, said to have plotted against Robert the Bruce, leading to him being imprisoned in Dumbarton Castle, with the lands of Hermitage being forfeited to the Crown.

Being just 9 miles north of the Border with England, Hermitage Lands changed hands many times over the years. The first Castle was a Moat and Bailey building constructed from timber. Nothing remains above ground of this building.

1338 - the Castle was captured by Sir William Douglas, known for imprisoning Alexander Ramsay, Sheriff of Teviotdale, in Hermitage Castle until he starved to death.

Instead of punishing Douglas, King David II made Douglas the new Sheriff of Teviotdale.

1360 - the first stone Castle was built at Hermitage for the Cumbrian nobleman Lord Dacre, who gained the lands through marriage.

1371 - Hermitage Castle was under the control of William, 1st Earl of Douglas, who rebuilt the Castle into a large Tower House.

1390s - William's illegitimate son, George, 1st Earl of Angus, added four Towers to the corners of the Tower House, leading to the Castle seen today.

1492 - King James IV forced Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus, to exchange Hermitage Castle for Bothwell Castle by Glasgow. Douglas was accused of dealing with King Henry VII in plots against Scotland.

Patrick Hepburn, 1st Earl of Bothwell, was then in control of Hermitage Castle.

1566 October - James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was injured in a fight with Border Reivers. Mary Queen of Scots was visiting Jedburgh at the time, 23 miles north of Hermitage Castle. The Queen then rode with a small party to visit Hepburn. Mary was still married to Lord Darnley at that time, so after just two hours, returned to Jedburgh.

1567 February - the Earl of Bothwell was one of those accused of murdering Mary Queen of Scots husband, Lord Darnley.

1567 April - Mary was traveling from Linlithgow Palace to Edinburgh when Bothwell and 800 of his followers took her to his Castle at Dunbar, claiming they were trying to protect her.

1567 May - Mary and Bothwell were married in the Great Hall at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. Rumours soon spread Bothwell had raped Mary and forced her to marry him.

1567 June - the Battle of Carberry Hill took place between supporters of Mary and forces of Scots Lords who wanted to overthrow her, accusing Mary and Bothwell of being involved in the murder of Lord Darnley.

Mary surrendered to the Lords while Bothwell fled to Dunbar Castle. Bothwell then fled to Europe where he was imprisoned in Dragsholm Castle in Denmark until he died in 1578.

Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Loch Leven Castle, before escaping to England. She was then accused of plotting to overthrow her cousin Elizabeth I of England. Mary was beheaded for treason at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587.

1600s - Hermitage Castle was abandoned.

1800s - Sir Walter Scott had a painting done of himself with Hermitage Castle in the background, leading to great interest in the building.

This led to the 5th Duke of Buccleuch carrying out repairs to the Castle, so the outer walls could be preserved forever.

1930s - the Castle was gifted to Historic Environment Scotland to serve as a tourist attraction.

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