While travelling along and around the Anglo-Scottish border can unearth many points of interest for tourists, eerie, isolated locations don’t immediately spring to mind, when you think of tourist traps. But visitors have long been attracted to the lonely Liddesdale, and the ruins of Hermitage Castle.
The original castle was built around 1240, and has been transformed several times during its 400 year history, firstly by Englishman, Sir Hugh De Dacre, and later by a powerful Scot, William, the 1st Earl of Douglas. The present castle is an imposing sight, and a not altogether surprising one, as its primary use has always been to defend and control the Middle March, or middle part of the Scottish border.
Built more for practicality than luxury, many stories associated with Hermitage involve torture, treason, and the ongoing threat posed during battles from gunpowdered artillery. There is however, one romantic tale in the Hermitage story, which involves a romantic tryst or meeting, between Mary Queen of Scots, and her secret lover the 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was staying at the castle after being injured during a battle with reivers (or raiders). Mary’s difficult 25 mile ride to visit the Earl is one of the most talked about stories associated with the castle.
In 1603 Hermitage was no longer an important location and was left to decay, though recent nostalgia in Scotland has seen the ruins preserved for the enjoyment of visitors. The castle is now managed by Historic Scotland, and is open between 1st April and 30th September. There is a picnic area and shop on-site, although the terrain and castle are not suitable for disabled people. Hermitage is however, a castle with a formidable presence in the area, and one that is worth a visit.