Bruce's Cave

Useful Information

Location: Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland. Beneath the East Lighthouse.
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: Speleologysea cave
Light: none.
Guided tours: boat trips.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1306 King Robert the Bruce I. was probably hiding in this cave after a lost battle against the English at Perth.


Bruce's Cave is located beneath the East Lighthouse, in the northeastern corner of Rathlin island. The 60 m high vertical cliffs of Rathlin are home to tens of thousands of seabirds. Most of the caves in the cliffs can only be reached by boat.

There are four caves in Scotland and Ireland which are said to be the cave where King Robert the Bruce met the spider. This is the one favoured by the Bruce family, because in the 14th century this area was owned by his Irish mother. So it is plausible he knew about the cave.

But if you have a look at the pages of Andy McInroy (see link below), who visited all caves on Rathlin by boat and took astonishing pictures, Bruce's Cave is not Bruce's Cave. The cave which is named Bruce's Cave is marked in the topographic map, the locals also know this cave as Bruce's Cave, and old postcards show the same cave, which has an characteristic entrance portal. But as E.S. Dallas wrote already in 1861: "..this story is highly improbable, from the extreme difficulty of obtaining access to the cave, which can only be entered in the calmest weather, the most trifling breeze from the east or north raising a tremendous surf, which breaks into the narrow passage with great fury." Andy McInroy also had numerous futile attempts, until he was able to enter the cave. It is unlikely, Robert the Bruce had the luck of several weeks of calm weather, to stay there "...for a considerable time, supplied with food by a few faithful followers who knew his place of retreat, and visited him as often as they could..." (E.S. Dallas).

Nevertheless Rathlin might be the right place, like the Bruce family believes. Uaigh na gColman (Oweynagolman Cave) is located only a short distance, about 200 m to the south. This cave is accessible from the top of the cliff, there is a grass trail leading down, the cave can be entered by wading or a short swim. Many people who visited Rathlin and searched for Bruce's Cave mixed the two of them up, see Christopher E. Brennens description for an example.