South of Airth
Castle View off A905
Airth Castle is a much-changed tower house extended and greatly remodelled into a stately home, that today earns its living as a luxury hotel.
Although there appears little to explore in terms of the castle itself, its history is altogether something quite different.
~ History ~
1128 ~ The lands in the Airth vicinity are gifted by King David I to Holyrood Abbey upon its foundation.
1190's ~ The settlement at Airth is raised to the status of a Royal Burgh by King William the Lion.
1248 ~ The Erth family are the owners of Airth. Adam de Erth holds considerable lands in Stirlingshire and is listed in the Ragman’s Roll swearing allegiance to King Edward I of England.
1297 ~ Following William Wallace’s victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, the English soon recover and there is a renewed occupation of Scotland with an emphasis on garrisons at strategic strongpoints. Airth Castle is occupied by an English force of about a hundred men under their commander, Thomlyn of Ware.
Wallace with about fifty of his men, among whom are Jop, Kerlie and Steven of Ireland, are in the area of Perth but his presence is sorely needed in the west, in Dumbarton. The English garrison at Stirling deny Wallace a direct route and so after traversing the Ochil Hills he approaches the north bank of the River Forth near Airth.
There Jop captures a fisherman and a lad who are from Airth and the fisherman explains that he had been forced to swear loyalty to Thomlyn of Ware and had been compelled to work for him. With Jop’s grip on his collar and a knife at his throat the fisherman quickly answers questions and offers to help Wallace. The fisherman then ferries Wallace and his men over to the southern shore and the vessel is destroyed so that it can no longer be used for English benefit.
After moving through the Moss, Wallace and his men with the fisherman find refuge in the Torwood. There a widow relates to Wallace that his uncle, the Priest of Dunipace, is a captive in Airth Tower. Wallace swears to release his uncle by noon the following day and after a meal he and his men rest until evening. The fisherman informs Wallace that the tower is protected by ditches full of stagnant water. Again, he acts as a guide and being well known to the English garrison is able to lead Wallace and his men by familiar ways, by the ditches, round the back of the Tower, and over a bridge right into the hall of the Tower.
Wallace leads the rush into the hall where the surprised English are just rising from supper. Wallace himself dispatches Thomlyn de Ware, cleaving him through his head and neck. The doorway into the hall is held by the Scots blocking the exit, in desperation some English try to flee by way of the windows but to no avail, and so the entire garison perish.
The Priest of Dunipace bound in iron chains in a cave, with its floor covered in water, beneath the Tower, hears the commotion above, not realising that he is the cause of the turmoil. He lives the happiest moment of his life when his nephew bursts in and frees him from his oppression.
The bodies of the English dead are disposed of in the ditches outside the Tower, the womenfolk and children of the dead garrison are put into the prison cave and the Scots settle in and set watch until dawn the following day. They gather all weapons, goods and gear of value and as the day progresses dispose of unsuspecting patrols of English soldiers, who return to the Tower unknowing of the fate which had befallen their comrades and was about to befall themselves. Wallace and his men remain a second night in Airth Tower with Steven of Ireland and Kerlie on guard and, before light the next morning, retire to Torwood with the Priest of Dunipace and their spoils. After fulfilling his oath to rescue his uncle and resting for a night within Torwood, Wallace and his men resume their interrupted journey to Dumbarton.
1460 ~ Agnes, daughter of William Airth, through her second marriage to John Livingston of Manerston, the property comes into the hands of the Livingston family. However, it does not remain with them for long. The Bruce's of Stenhouse have been acquiring land in the vicinity for several decades and have their eye on Airth.
1470 ~ Airth castle is taken over by Alexander Bruce.
1488 ~ The timber castle is set ablaze. A stone square tower is built to replace it.
1513 ~ During the disastrous Battle at Flodden Robert Bruce of Airth is killed. He is succeeded by his son of the same name.
1540 ~ Airth tower is extensively extended.
1558 ~ Robert Bruce is appointed as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland which is called to prepare defences against a possible invasion by the Spanish. In October the following year he is appointed by King James VI as a Privy Councillor and when the king unexpectedly goes to Norway to bring home his bride, Anne of Denmark, Robert is one of the principal leaders placed in charge of the country. Upon his return to Scotland King James VI writes to Robert Bruce declaring that “he was “worth the quarter of his kingdom.”
1590 ~ Robert Bruce crowns the Queen on 17 March.
1596 ~ Robert Bruce is banished from Edinburgh for opposing the King’s religious policy.
1600 ~ At the time of the infamous Gowrie Conspiracy, Bruce is one of those who doubted there is a real threat, so he does not offer prayers of thanksgiving for the King’s safe delivery. For this, he is banished from Edinburgh and forbidden to preach publicly anywhere in Scotland under pain of death. He leaves Airth Castle and after a period abroad he settles first in Inverness and then at his home at Kinnaird. He restores the church at Larbert and preaches from there where he attracts huge crowds.
Meanwhile his father dies, and the estates are inherited by his grandson, John Bruce
1619 ~ The Bruce family are forced to sell the lands in Airth due to John’s financial debts causing a crisis. His debts are bought by the Earl of Linlithgow.
1632 ~ Bruce's debts are sold on to the Earl of Menteith and Strathearn. The following year he has Airth erected into a free earldom, taking the title of Earl of Airth. However, he too overstretches his resources, and the lands are soon sold again.
1648 ~ John Bruce’s eldest son, Alexander Bruce, is forced to make a living as a soldier and serves under Prince Rupert in Germany. He is commissioned as a captain in Holland. Whilst there he meets and marries a wealthy heiress called Anna van Eck. Using part of her fortune he is able to buy back the lands and barony of Airth and receives a charter in May of that year.
1665 ~ Alexander Bruce finally returns home, only to die that September, the last of the Bruce's of Airth.
1673 ~ Alexander Bruce’s wife dies in leaving only a daughter, Jean to succeed. Jean Bruce marries Richard Elphinstone of Calderhall.
1683 ~ Charles Elphinstone succeeds his father, Richard, in the lands and Barony of Airth. Charles is killed in a duel with his relative, Captain William Bruce of Auchenbowie, at Torwood. He is succeeded by his sister, Elizabeth, Lady Airth, and she marries Sir William Dundas of Blair who assumes the surname of Elphinstone upon his marriage.
1715 ~ Sir William Dundas backs the Jacobite cause but is captured and imprisoned in London. Upon the Jacobite rising being crushed he is released but being in reduced circumstances, is obliged to sell Airth and two years later it is purchased by James Graham. Upon buying the castle Judge Graham spends a large amount of money turning it into a stately home.
1745 ~ Upon the next Jacobite uprising Highland forces led by Bonnie Prince Charlie march through Torwood on their way to Callendar House. That night James Graham, the son of the Judge, visits Callendar House with the intention of joining the cause. He is advised to bide his time. The Jacobite's march on to Edinburgh and victory at the Battle of Prestonpans and so he decides his time has come. The elderly Judge appears to have been sympathetic to the cause, but not to the extent that he is going to take an active part in the uprising.
1746 ~ Jacobite cavalry are stationed at nearby Dunmore, and whilst they forage for food in the areas, their officers dine at Airth Castle. The Hanoverian government try to stop the Jacobite's from transporting cannon across the Forth at Airth. They burn a couple of ships being built on the stocks at Airth. The cannon are eventually successfully got across and taken to the siege of Stirling Castle. Shortly thereafter the Battle of Falkirk takes place resulting in a Jacobite victory. Judge Graham still does not declare for them though he celebrates the success with his son.
However, this victory is to no avail and inevitably the cause is lost at the Jacobite disaster at the Battle of Culloden. James Graham junior is forced to flee abroad. He dies at the Scots College in Paris where he holds the rank of colonel.