Clan Douglas is an ancient family from the Scottish Lowlands and was once one of the most powerful families in Scotland. The name itself is said to come from the Gaelic dubhghlais meaning ‘black water’. The clan’s traditional heartlands are mainly in Lowland Scotland – Lanarkshire and Dumfries & Galloway – as well as Angus further north. The clan does not currently have a chief, therefore it is considered an armigerous clan. The Lanarkshire Douglases came to be known as the ‘Black Douglases’ whereas those from Angus became known as the ‘Red Douglases’.
View our trip planner featuring some of the main Clan Douglas sites
While there also therefore no official clan seat, Drumlanrig Castle has a wealth of Douglas memorabilia and icons, and is therefore well worth visiting by anybody bearing this proud name. Currently the home of Montagu Douglas Scott, the present Duke of Buccleuch, visit to the Castle allows you to travel through 600 years of Douglas history.
One of the best known members of Clan Douglas was James Douglas, who became known as ‘The Good Sir James’. This celebrated hero was the greatest captain of Robert the Bruce in the Scottish Wars of Independence and is held as the third of Scotland’s finest patriots after Bruce and Sir William Wallace. South of the Border, he was known as ‘The Black Douglas’ by the English for his dark deeds – at least in English eyes!
Legend has it that James and his loyal group of Douglases were confronted by the Moors of Spain in 1300 while transporting the heart of King Robert the Bruce to be buried in the Holy Land in accordance with the King’s wishes. James is said to have uttered the rallying call ‘Forward Braveheart’ as he led a full frontal assault on the Moors but sadly James and his followers are said to have all been killed. The story goes that the King’s heart was subsequently returned to Scotland to be buried at Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders, where it still lies today.
The Douglases subsequently benefitted from strong relationships with other monarchs, with one Earl of Douglas marrying a princess of the Royal House of Stuart.
Home of the Duke of Hamilton and dating from the 14th century, Lennoxlove lies just 25 minutes drive from Edinburgh. And houses the Hamilton Palace collection of paintings and furniture as well as Mary Queen of Scots memorabilia.
The Dumfriesshire home of the Duke of Buccleuch, Drumlanrig Castle with its magnificent rooms and spectacular collections of silver, porcelain, French furniture and art is perhaps one of the most rewarding and romantic of Scotland's great houses. There are many items of Douglas memorabilia on display.
Castle Douglas / Threave Castle and Gardens
The market town of Castle Douglas dates from the 18th Century. On an island in the nearby River Dee stands 14th century Threave Castle, the great fortress of the Douglases, which can be reached by ferry.
Tantallon Castle, East Lothian
One of Scotland’s most photographed ruined castles due to its stunning coastal location, Tantallon was built after 1350 by William 1st Earl of Douglas. Having spent his youth in France, he subsequently decided to base the design of Tantallon on the French chateaux he saw there. The spectacular view from the castle includes the famous Bass Rock, home to the world’s largest Northern Gannet colony.
View our trip planner featuring some of the main Clan Douglas sites.