A Douglas Itinerary

As supplied by VisitScotland

See also an itinerary arranged by Select Travel service

and the one we followed for the 2014 Douglas Clan Gathering

A guide to Douglas Landmarks in Scotland; Castles, Abbeys and battles, compiled by John O.A. Douglas is a useful handbook.

Clan Douglas is the oldest and most famous of the Scottish Border Clans. Much of their homeland was in the area to the south of Edinburgh and as such witnessed many battles and skirmishes as the English and Scottish fought for the border lands.

This itinerary takes you into the story of the Red and Black Douglases and offers you a chance to see the rolling hills, forests and countryside of the Borders, the rugged cliff tops and beautiful beaches of Berwickshire and the distant Scottish mountains.


Day one

Arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland's magnificent historic capital. You'll be spoilt for things to do and places to visit. A good starting point is the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street. Here, you'll find the history of Scotland from early geological times through to the present day.


At the nearby Scottish Genealogical Society library in Victoria Terrace you'll find plenty of fellow travellers and enthusiastic researchers, as well as a wealth of genealogical information and guidance. No appointment is necessary but there is a small charge for non-members.


Editor: We also recommend a visit to the Queen Street museum, where you can see the guillotine used for the execution of the earl of Morton - who was also responsible for introducing it! Grizzly, but interesting!


Day two

James, Earl of Morton, brother of the seventh Earl of Angus, one of the Red Douglases was a bitter enemy of Mary, Queen of Scots. He was one of the murderers of her secretary, David Rizzio, and was implicated in the assassination of her husband Lord Darnley. You can visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the end of the Royal Mile to see the place where Lord Darnley married Queen Mary. The new Scottish Parliament lies nearby.


At the other end of the Royal Mile is Edinburgh Castle *, from the battlements of which you can enjoy commanding views out over both the New and Old towns of Edinburgh. In 1400 the third Earl of Douglas, Archibald 'the Grim', successfully defended the castle against Henry IV of England. But the power of the Douglas Clan was perceived to be a threat to the Scottish throne and in 1440 the young sixth Earl and his brother were invited to Edinburgh Castle where they were beheaded.

Spend a second night in this fine historic city.


Day three

Leave Edinburgh and travel east on the A1 to Haddington. The town has seen a thousand years of history as the gateway to Edinburgh and has been in the path of many marauding armies. The High Street and Market Street are a warren of wynds and lanes and contrast greatly with the grand buildings of Court Street. St Mary's is Scotland?s largest parish church and is well worth exploring. Just south of Haddington is Lennoxlove House, which welcomes visitors (please check opening times in advance). The house was built in the fourteenth century but it wasn't until 1946 that it became the home of the Douglas-Hamiltons, the heirs of the house of Douglas. The fifteenth Duke, Angus Douglas-Hamilton lives there now. The house is the splendid setting for the famous Hamilton Palace collection of furniture and paintings and mementoes of Mary, Queen of Scots.


To the north of Haddington on a cliff edge is the dramatic and impressive Tantallon Castle *. William, the first Earl of Douglas built this edifice in 1358, In the late 1300s the House of Douglas split into the Red Douglases of Angus, Fife and Lothian and the Black Douglases in the southwest. The Red Douglases used Tantallon Castle as a base to persue their vendetta against the Black Douglases. Centuries later, in 1651 Oliver Cromwell was responsible for much of the damage to the castle wall and towers, but it still is a very impressive place to visit.


Continue down the coast to the walled town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, now in England. As an important military town on the border between Scotland and England, Berwick has changed hands many times over its long history. William Douglas 'The Hardy' was governor of Berwick when the town was besieged by the English; he later joined Sir William Wallace in the struggle for Scottish independence. Berwick is a very picturesque town and at the Berwick Barracks you can see how life here has had a military influence, including the history of the King's Own Scottish Borderers.


Day four

Travel west following the River Tweed to Melrose. The town is overlooked by the beautiful and imposing Melrose Abbey *. 'The Good Sir James' founder of the Black Douglases was killed in battle in Spain, where he was carrying a casket containing King Robert the Bruce's heart, to be buried in the Holy Land. Both the body of James and Robert the Bruce's heart were recovered and it is here in Melrose Abbey that the heart is interred.


Travel onwards to Lanark on your way west to the heart of the Douglas homelands. Lanark was the place where William Wallace began his fight for Scottish independence in 1297, this story was dramatised in the film 'Braveheart'. The Good Sir James was the greatest captain under Robert the Bruce and is held as the third of Scotland?s finest patriots after Bruce and Wallace . Lanark Castle was a timber construction and so of course no longer exists but Lanark itself grew as an important livestock market. Cattle bred in Scotland would have been taken by drovers to the English markets via Lanark. New Lanark was built in a narrow gorge on the River Clyde to harness the hydro power to run cotton mills in 1785. With the demise of many British manufacturing industries in the 1960?s New Lanark suffered greatly but is now a World Heritage Village and attracts visitors interested in the industrial and social history of the last two hundred years.


A few miles to the south of Lanark is an area encompassing Douglas Water, Douglas Castle, Douglas West and the town of Douglas, which grew to serve Black Douglas in his castle on Douglas Water. From here he controlled the southwest approaches to the Clyde Valley. The castle was established by 1300 but was occupied by the English during the Wars of Independence. In 1307 Sir James Douglas burned the castle while the English garrison were there. Following this the castle was rebuilt but was sacked by King James II in 1455 to suppress the Black Douglases. The Red Douglas Earls of Angus lived here in princely style in the 1630s.


Unfortunately mining subsidence in the 1940s undermined the castle and all that remains is a ruined stump, (signposted as 'Castle Dangerous' from a Sir Walter Scott novel). Also in Douglas is St Brides Church * parts of which date back to the 1300's. This is the final resting place for the Black Douglases in a mausoleum and three canopied monuments including one to Good Sir James can be seen. The Douglas Heritage Museum in the castle dower house and exhibits include six stained glass windows showing the coats of arms of the Douglas Earls, (opening times are restricted).


Day five

Travel down the M74 to Lockerbie and turn off to the west to find Castle Douglas . The town was planned and built by Sir William Douglas in 1789 as a cotton town and it prospered as an important regional centre for the large area of rural Galloway. Today it is marketed as a 'Food Town' offering the best of Scottish food. To the west of the town is Threave Castle *, built on an island in the River Dee and accessible by way of a footpath then a ferry. It was built by Archibald the third Earl of Douglas who succeeded to the Lordship of Galloway, to secure his hold on Galloway and to resist the marauding English.


Now we need to travel north to Stirling, bypassing Glasgow to find out about the stories of Robert the Bruce, William Wallace and the important part played by the Douglases in the Wars of Independence.


Day six

Travel a mile or so southwest of the historic city of Stirling to visit the very poignant site of the Battle of Bannockburn+ (1314) Sir James Douglas commanded the left wing of the Scottish army at the battle.


Time should also be made for a visit to the impressive Stirling Castle *, a favoured royal retreat for the Stuart dynasty and the childhood home of Mary, Queen of Scots. It was also the setting for another young Douglas murder. Following the murders at Edinburgh Castle in 1440, King James II who being only ten years old himself at the time, was horrified at the murder of the two boys. In 1452 however, it was he who invited their cousin the eighth Earl to Stirling Castle with the promise of safe conduct. And it was he who struck the first blow at his murder. (The ninth Earl spent much of his life in England but died in 1491, the last of his line.)


Day seven

Return to Edinburgh to embark on your journey home. Take with you some souvenirs of Scotland and lots of memories of a place steeped in the myths, legends and heritage of your ancestors.



* Purchase a Historic Scotland Explorer Pass and save on admission to Historic Scotland's properties

+ Great value Discovery Tickets give you free admission to National Trust for Scotland attractions for 3, 7 or 14 days.

To search over 8,000 quality assured accommodation, from bed and breakfast to castles log on to www.visitscotland.com.

The information contained in this itinerary is as supplied to VisitScotland and to the best of VisitScotland's knowledge was correct at the time of publication. VisitScotland can accept no responsibility for any errors or omissions. June 2004.

VisitScotland is committed to ensuring that our natural environment and built heritage, upon which tourism is so dependent, is safeguarded for future generations to enjoy.




See also:
•  Map of Douglas locations (work in progress)

•  Itinerary arranged by Select Travel service


This page was last updated on 20 April 2024

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