Elibank Castle

Elibank Castle, Selkirkshire

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~ History ~

1511 ~ King James IV grants a charter to Catherine Douglas, widow of John Liddale, and their son, the lands and forest of Aleburne. A condition in this charter is to build a stone dwelling.

1594 ~ Sir Gideon Murray acquires the lands for himself and begings building Elibank castle

1596 ~ Auld Wat joins forces with Walter Scott in the raid on Carlisle castle to rescue Willaim Armstrong who has been imprisoned illegally by the English. This daring raid by the Harden Scotts is one of mary such raids that brings them into conflict with both the English and decades of feuds with their neighbour the Murray's of Elibank.

1611 ~ The eldest son of ‘Auld’ Wat of Harden is William Scott who will succeed his father as Baron of Harden and be knighted by King James V1. The influential Border Clan, the Scotts primary seat is Harden House being situated in a deep glen on the troublesome Scottish Borders, where Auld Wat hides the cattle he steels from the English and his neighbours the Murray's in his many forays.

Both Scotts and Murray's suffer from the endless reprisals and cattle rustling.

Muckle Mouthed Meg is the daughter of Sir Gideon Murray of Elibank castle. Whilst her sisters are beautiful, Meg was ugly. Her most notable feature is her mouth which is large, angular and protruding from her jaw. Meg is a however a happy lass and is unable to refrain from smiling at any given opportunity. When she smiles or laughs her mouth seems to cover her face from ear to ear.  The Eligible young men of the district of Elibank are uneasy in her presence and give its walls a wide berth.

It seems that Meg will remain unmarried much to the concern of her parents.

William Scott is a handsome young man, well versed in the trade of stealing cattle, and has his eyes on the prized herds of Sir Gideon Murray of Elibank.

To emulate his father's renown, he sets off with a raiding party intent on stealing Murray’s cattle. The foray goes badly awry and young William soon finds himself held at Sir Gideon’s pleasure. The dungeons of Elibank Castle are dark, damp and inhospitable.

Sir Gideon is intent on making a great show of the punishment he intends to give to his troublsome neighbour and advertises to neighbours and friends far and wide that there is to be a hanging. They are all cordially invited to attend.

Lady Murray has other ideas. She is well taken by the appearance of the handsome young man and opportunity to unite their two fueding families and so proposes to her husband that his life should be spared if he agrees to marry their daughter Meg.

Initially Sir Gideon will have none of it, but on reflection he agrees.

The handsome William knows well of Muckle Mouthed Meg; her ugliness is renowned throughout the valley of the Ettrick water. When he is approached by Sir Gideon and offered marriage to Meg as an alternative to standing the drop that would end his life, he asks for time to consider the proposal. Eventually, though he loves life to the full, he declines the offer and resigns himself to the noose. Hanging would be quick: the thought of a life-time with Meg a far greater punishment.

On the next day he is taken up from the dungeons and out into the woods beyond Elibank Castle. As he approaches the tree from which hangs the rope that would end his life he sees that Meg is standing there, tearful. He is much taken by her solicitude and woeful appearance. As he approaches the tree, the rope swinging lazily in the slight breeze, he stops dead in his tracks. The burly men, who stand at each side of him as escorts to his death, grapple with him and try to force him forwards. William resists and looks at the pitiful face of the young woman, ugly as she is. She is clearly tormented by the events that are unfolding. His heart melts at the sight of her distress. He throws off his warders with a mighty and determined show of strength and runs to her open arms.

Meg and young Wat are married within a short space of time. Their warring families, so long at each others’ throats, are now united.

1722 ~ The castle is abandoned and left to decay.


Elibank, near Caddonfoot


B road off A72


Nr EH43 6DA

Elibank castle, the ruins of which can still be seen, stands on the banks of the river Tweed with tremendous views along the river and rolling hills.

This late 16th century house occupies a commanding position upon a small plateau enclosed by stone dykes and terraced on all four sides.

Finding this castle is easier said than done, and certainly tested our castle-finding skills.

Parking with consideration on the B-road a few hundred feet away from Elibank Estates, there is a steep path up through the trees that takes you to a gated field, where upon opening it you see Elibank come into view. The walk is quite a climb, but well worth the effort as the ruin has much more to explore than first impressions, with stunning views.

A terrific border castle.