The secret history of Closeburn Castle, one of the oldest continually inhabited houses in Scotland~4 min read
Closeburn Castle is a tower house and one of the oldest continually inhabited buildings in Scotland.
It is located 1 km east of the village of Closeburn, in the historical county of Dumfriesshire.
The lands were granted to the Kirkpatrick family back in 1232, with the likelihood that the ancient fortalice was built thereafter.
The tower house was probably built in the late 14th century, although some sources give a date as early as 1180 or as late as 1420.
In any case, everything about the building was designed for defence purposes: situated on a rise near a flooded plain, its walls are 3 meters thick and access was originally by ladder to a first floor door.
The Kirkpatrick family was confirmed in their lands of Closeburn already in 1232 by Alexander II, the King of Scotland who concluded the Treaty of York (1237) which defined the boundary between England and Scotland, virtually unchanged today.
Sir Roger de Kirkpatrick was with Robert the Bruce (one of the most famous warriors of his generation and the man who eventually led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England, now revered in Scotland as a national hero) at Dumfries, and assisted in the murder of John “the Red” Comyn, baron and magnate who played an important role in the First War of Scottish Independence.
It was February 10th 1306: Sir Roger Kirkpatrick joined his ally Robert the Bruce when he met John ‘The Red’ Comyn. The pair were discussing which of them would become the next King of Scotland, but the day ended disastrously for Comyn when Bruce stabbed him. However, it was Kirkpatrick who is believed to have dealt the final death blows after proclaiming the famous words “I Mak Siccar” (I’ll make sure) when Bruce doubted if he’d killed his rival.
His son, also Sir Roger, commanded a force which recaptured Caerlaverock and Dalswinton castles from the English in 1355. He was then murdered by Sir James Lindsay at Caerlaverock in 1357.
History apart, in the Kirkpatrick family the tradition was that when a death was about to take place in the family, a swan invariably made its appearance on the loch that surrounded the castle.
Apparently, swans were two and they would come to the Closeburn every summer for a number of years, bringing with them good fortunes.
However, for some reason, one of the Kirkpatricks shot and killed one.
The last omen of this nature on record saddened the nuptials of Sir Thomas, the first baronet, when marrying for the third time.
On the wedding-day his son, Roger, went out of the castle, and, happening to turn his eyes towards the loch, descried the fatal bird.
Returning, overwhelmed with sadness, his father rallied him on his desponding appearance, alleging a stepmother to be the cause of his melancholy, when the young man only answered “Perhaps ere long you may also be sorrowful,” expiring suddenly that very night.
Historically, Sir Thomas did indeed marry three times and the third marriage took place in 1686 when he married Grizel, daughter of Gavin Hamilton.
Roger was the son of his second wife, Sarah Ferguson, whom he had married on 7 December 1672. Therefore, Roger would still have been fairly young at the time of the third marriage.
Roger however is thought to have survived to long enough to inherit Alisland from his father who died around 1695.
In another version of the story, the historic version, he eventually died himself a bachelor at a later date.
In any case, the massive strong house has survived through the centuries relatively intact and remains with a branch of the Kirkpatrick family, on the Spanish side, whose ancestor married Napoleon III and become the last Empress of France.
There is no need to worry about the Swan appearing these days since the loch has been drained in the 19th century.
Images from web – Google Research