The Bruce’s Stone is at the top of the hill on the north side of Loch Trool.
This massive granite boulder commemorates Robert the Bruce’s first victory over an English army in 1307 during the Scottish Wars of Independence.
Robert I, better known as Robert the Bruce, was King of Scots from 1306 to his death in 1329. One of the most renowned warriors of his generation, he eventually led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England. He fought successfully during his reign to regain Scotland’s place as an independent kingdom and is now revered in Scotland as a national hero.
It’s hard to imagine, looking at this peaceful landscape, that such a bitter battle took place here 700 years ago.
From the site of the stone you would have seen the drama unfold, as English soldiers were ambushed as they walked along the far shore of Loch Trool.
The Battle of Glen Trool, a narrow glen in the Southern Uplands of Galloway, Scotland, was a minor engagement in the First War of Scottish Independence, fought in April 1307.
Loch Trool is aligned on an east-west axis and is flanked on both sides by steep rising hills, making it ideal for an ambush.
In short, Robert the Bruce had been crowned King of Scots after being involved in the murder of John “the Red” Comyn, a leading rival, and one of the most powerful men in Scotland, the previous year 1306, and this led to a war between King Robert and King Edward I as well as with the Comyns and their allies.
After his defeat at the Battle of Methven and subsequently, at the Battle of Dalrigh in the summer of 1306 the recently crowned King Robert was little better than a fugitive, disappearing altogether from the historical record for a number of months.
It wasn’t until the spring of 1307 that he made a reappearance, landing in the south-west of Scotland with soldiers recruited, for the most part, from the Western Isles.
And It was an understandable move, as he came ashore in his own earldom of Carrick, where he could expect to command a large degree of local support. Perhaps even more important the countryside itself was well known to Robert the Bruce, and there were plenty of remote and difficult areas to allow cover and protection for his band of guerillas.
Moreover, the English border was not far distant.
All of the local castles were strongly held by Edward’s forces and, perhaps most important of all, the Lordship of Galloway, the old Balliol patrimony, was adjacent to Carrick, and many of the local families were hostile to King Robert the Bruce and his cause. When his brothers Thomas and Alexander attempted a landing on the shores of Loch Ryan, they met with disaster at the hands of Dungal MacDougall, the leading Balliol supporter in the area.
King Robert managed to establish a firm base in the area, but it was vital that he made progress against the enemy. An early success came with a raid on an English camp on the eastern shores of the Clatteringshaws Loch, and It also alerted the enemy to his presence.
Aymer de Valence, King Robert’s second cousin and opponent at Methven, received intelligence that his enemy was encamped at the head of Glen Trool.
This was a difficult position to approach, because the loch takes up much of the glen, with only a narrow track bordered by a steep slope.
Valence sent a raiding party ahead, perhaps hoping to catch the enemy off-guard in much the same fashion as at Methven.
However, this time King Robert made effective use of the terrain: he sent some of his men up the slope with orders to loosen with levers and crow-bars as many of the detached blocks of granite as they could.
As the English approached up the defile, called by the locals the “Steps of Trool”, they were forced to proceed single file.
King Robert observed their progress from across the loch and, when a bugle was sounded, his men pushed the wall of boulders down the slope.
This may have been followed by arrows and hand-to-hand combat as King Robert’s men charged down the slope, however, some question the likelihood of being able to charge down an extremely steep 700-meter slope.
Either way, the narrowness of the path prevented support from either the front or the rear and, without room to maneuver, many of the English below were killed, and the rest withdrew.
The English soldiers killed in the skirmish were buried in flat ground at the head of the loch, known as Soldier’s Holm.
King Robert not only survived but went on the following month to win his first important engagement at the Battle of Loudoun Hill, but this is another story. Robert the Bruce also went on to win the Battle of Bannockburn near Stirling in 1314, securing independence for Scotland.
Images from web – Google Research