Clan Bruce itinerary

Clan Bruce is famous throughout the world for Robert the Bruce's victory against the English at Bannockburn, establishing Scotland's independence once and for all. However, the Bruce family are also an ancient and regal family, with their roots in 11th century France.

This itinerary takes you around Scotland to find the stories, artefacts and landscapes on which the Bruce Clan have left their marks.

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  • Looking across Pittencrieff Park towards Dunfermline Abbey
    Dunfermline Abbey
  • Melrose Abbey through trees
    Melrose Abbey through trees
  • Robert the Bruce statue at The Battle of Bannockburn Centre
    Robert the Bruce statue at The Battle of Bannockburn Centre

Arrive in the cosmopolitan city of Glasgow, Scotland's largest urban centre and a popular destination for a short break. Glasgow's fine museums and galleries are complemented by the Mitchell Library, one of the largest public reference libraries in Europe and home of the city archives.

Travel south on the M74. Between Moffat and Annan is Annandale, with lands belonging to the Bruce family in the early 12th century. During the civil war in England in 1138, conflicts arose within the Bruce household, with father and son having different loyalties to England and Scotland respectively. These conflicts drove the son to establish the family in Scotland and to give up his father’s arms.

South of Annandale, near Kirkpatrick Flemming and up a steep path above Kirtle Water, you will find the cave where it is claimed that Robert the Bruce, hiding from the English armies, is said to have watched the spider attempting to spin a web. This inspired Bruce to continue the struggle for Scottish independence.

Travel west towards Dumfries, where on the shore of the Solway Firth is Caerlaverock Castle. One of the most attractive and interesting castles in Scotland, it is the epitome of a medieval stronghold. In 1314 Robert the Bruce ordered that it should be destroyed to prevent it being used by invading English armies; however it has been rebuilt several times since then.

The ancient town of Dumfries has had a long and turbulent history. On the death of Alexander III in the late 13th century, two Comyns, the Earl of Buchan and Lord of Badenoch, were involved in the struggles to win the throne, leading to their deaths at the hands of Robert the Bruce in 1306. This took place in the Church of the Minorite Friars in Dumfries. A plaque marks the location of the original site in Castle Street.

At Dumfries Museum, which is centered round a windmill, you can learn about the ancient and more recent history of this border town. There are also splendid panoramic views of the town and surrounding landscapes from the museum’s camera obscura.

To the east is Lochmaben, reputed to be the birthplace of Robert the Bruce. The town has an impressive hall sited behind a striking statue of Bruce, and to the south of the town are the remains of the two Lochmaben castles. Set in a nature reserve, the oldest remains were built by the Bruce Clan and the second was built by Edward I of England after he captured and dismantled the first castle.

Travel back towards Moffat and take the north east road to Selkirk and on to Melrose, graced by the beautiful and imposing Melrose Abbey. ‘The Good Sir James’ founder of the Black Douglases was killed in battle in Spain, while he was on a mission to take 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.

Journey north west to arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland's magnificent historic capital. You'll be spoilt for things to do and places to visit, including the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street where you can learn about Scotland’s fascinating history. Other attractions in Edinburgh worth visiting include the Scottish Genealogical Society library, the Palace of Holyrood House and Scottish Parliament building.

Edinburgh Castle was captured by the English during the Wars of Independence. Robert the Bruce's nephew, Thomas Randolph, daringly recaptured it by climbing its steep and craggy sides under the cover of darkness. In 1329 the city was given a Royal Charter by Robert the Bruce.

Travel to Stirling and visit the very impressive Stirling Castle, a favoured royal retreat and the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots. Journey a mile or so south west of the city to visit the very poignant site of the Battle of Bannockburn. Following the vanquishing of his rivals in Dumfries, Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland and began a long and arduous campaign to secure his title, finally achieving success at this battle in 1314. He then set about rebuilding the Scottish nation.

A few miles to the east of Stirling is Clackmannan, where Crown lands were given to Thomas Bruce by King Robert II in recognition of his rising against the English in 1334. Clackmannan is a historical town home to the Mercat Cross, Tollbooth and Clackmannan Tower, a magnificent five storey building dating back to the 1300s.

Kincardine is a few miles to the south. In 1647 Sir George Bruce of Carnock was created Earl of Kincardine, and although now mainly known for the Kincardine Bridge crossing the River Forth, this attractive village boasts a long history as a trading port.

A few miles east is Dunfermline, where the body of Robert the Bruce was buried in 1329 and his bones were re-interred under a magnificent brass plate in the new abbey church in 1819. Dunfermline Palace & Abbey date back to the 11th century and the abbey was the last resting place for many Scottish monarchs.

Travel north through the spectacular Highlands, along the A9 towards Inverness, passing through the village of Newtonmore with its fascinating folk museum.

You may want to relax and enjoy the Highland hospitality of Inverness after a busy few days, and there is plenty to see. For a truly atmospheric experience, make the short journey to the battleground of Culloden where, in April 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite Rebellion was crushed by government forces. Members of the Bruce Clan came to live in this more northern part of Scotland and made a significant contribution to its history.

In 1597, Sir Edward Bruce was made Commendator of Kinloss Abbey, located 3 miles east of Forres and founded in 1150 by King David I. It went on to become one of the largest and wealthiest religious houses in Scotland, and in 1312 it received salmon fishing rights on the River Findhorn from Robert the Bruce. Later, in 1633, the Bruce Clan acquired the Earldom of Elgin, a few miles on to the east. Elgin Museum tells of 1,000 years of Scottish history, including the story of the preservation of the Elgin Marbles by a more recent Earl of Elgin.