Follow the River Tweed to Melrose, a town 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, and 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 so 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 and with the demise of many British manufacturing industries in the 1960's, New Lanark suffered greatly. However, today it is a World Heritage Site and attracts visitors interested in the industrial and social history of the last 200 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, and in 1307 Sir James Douglas burned the castle while the English garrisons 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, however due to mining subsidence in the 1940s, 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 1300s. 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.