Bruce's Cave

King Robert the Bruce's Cave


Useful Information

Location: Kirkpatrick Fleming, Dumfriesshire.
Just west of the A74 Carlisle-Abington at Kirkpatrick Fleming. Follow road North through village, turn left at London House Inn. Inside King Robert the Bruce's Cave Camping Site. Well sign-posted.
(55.021933, -3.152002)
Open: summer season only.
Fee: Adults 35p, parking 20p.
Classification: SubterraneaGewölbe
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=4 m.
Guided tours: L=4 m, D=5 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Bruce’s Cave Caravan Park & Camping Site, Cove Estate, Kirkpatrick Fleming, Dumfriesshire DG11 3AT, Tel: +44-146-1800-285. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

12th cty Dunskellie Castle built.
1306 King Robert the Bruce I. was probably hiding in this cave after a lost battle.
1725 Cove house built in the centre of Cove Estate Park.
1927 the council built a footpath to the cave.

Description

This cave may be the most likely place, as some versions of the legends talk of Sir William Irving, who was hiding Robert the Bruce for three months in his secret cave. In the 12th and early 13th century Dunskellie Castle was the home of William Irving of Dunskellie. William was a great friend of Robert Bruce, Lord of Annandale. He supported Bruce and his claim to the Scottish throne throughout the Scottish Wars of Independence including the bleakest times. It is likely that Bruce sought refuge with his friend William Irving after he fled the battlefield in 1306. During the battle at Bannockburn on 24-JUN-1314, William was holding the standard for his King, while he was defeating the English army. Dunskellie Castle does not exist any more, on its foundations Cove House was built in 1725, and the surrounding Cove Estate Park created. What still exists is the secret cave high in the cliff above the River Kirtle, which was used as a vault for keeping the valuables. It was hard to reach, in the middle of the cliff face, so it was also a good hideout.

This cave consists of a small chamber 12 feet in diameter, in which Robert Bruce is reputed to have hidden from the English. As all schoolboys know, Robert Bruce had his life changed by a spider as he watched it try time and time again to weave its web across the cave entrance. This inspired him to return again to his fight against the English. Today the cave is still populated by spiders, perhaps the descendants of the original one seen by Robert Bruce.

The cave is carved out of a red sandstone cliff, about 30 feet above the river, Kirtle Water, and until 1927 could only be reached by being lowered on a rope over the overhang, and swinging into the cave. Because of the many accidents the council decided to build the present footpath so that the cave might be inspected in comfort.


Text from: Tony and Anne Oldham (1972): Discovering Caves - A guide to the Show Caves of Britain. With kind permission by Tony Oldham.