ON Turnberry-point, in the parish of Kirk-Oswald, Ayrshire, a rock projecting into the sea, the top of which is about eighteen feet above high-water mark, are seen the venerable ruins of the ancient seat of the Bruces. In height, towards the sea, about twenty-five feet of the wall are still standing; but only about four feet on the land-side. It had extended sixty feet in length, and forty-five in breadth. The summit of the ruin still presents a majestic appearance from the sea. The site of the castle includes about three-fourths of a Scotch acre. It appears to have been reared on two principal sections of the rock, between which a cave intervenes, the one half being naturally formed by the rock itself, while the other has been the effect of art. At high water, this was filled by the sea to the depth of several feet. At the northern extremity, there has been another cave, the sides of which were formed by the rocks and overarched by them, to the height of forty feet, extending eighteen in breadth. This has been used for entrance or egress by sea; as, by this opening, a boat could, at high water, make its way into the centre of the castle. It has been defended, on the land-side, by a moat, which is now nearly filled up. As the rocks, which form the site of this fortress, are very bold and rugged, the general appearance of the coast is in unison: immense masses of rock, extending a great way into the sea, and in rough weather causing such a swell that the angry waves seem to menace destruction to the cliffs against which they lash, and, rushing into their hollow caverns, produce a noise resembling the loudest thunder.
Carrick castle has been built of hewn stone, and is remarkable for the very strong cement that has been used in building it. The situation is most delightful, having a full prospect of the whole frith of Clyde, “landlocked,” as it were, on all sides, by the coast of Cunningham, island of Bute, island of Arran, Kintyre, the coast of Ireland, and the coast in the parishes of Kirkum, Ballantrae, Colmonel, and Girvan. The castle, on the land-side, looks over a rich plain of above six hundred acres, bounded by the hills, which rise in a beautiful amphitheatre. This plain formed the castle-park. Nearly four hundred and sixty acres of it were enclosed with stone, about the beginning of the eighteenth century, and denominated the Park of Turnberry.
This ancient fortress is sometimes called the Palace of Carrick, and, at other times, that of Turnberry. It seems to have received the former name, from its being the residence of Duncan, the son of Gilbert, to whom William the Lion, A. 1186, had confirmed the grant of the district of Carrick, (one of the three divisions of this extensive county,) who was also created earl under this designation. Turnberry appears to have been more strictly the local name. This, according to Fordun, was in use as early as the year 1270. The origin of the name Turnberry is equally uncertain with that of the district. The orthography of Fordun is Turnbiri. There is considerable plausibility, however, in Chalmers’s conjecture, that Turnberry-head, on the coast of Carrick, is a corruption of Truyn-berry; as the British trwyn denotes a point, nose, or snout, and is used, in composition, in the names given to different points of land in Wales. Thus we have the truyn, or redundantly the Troon-point, on the coast of Kyle, Ayrshire.
According to Dugdale, it was at “Turnebyrie, in Carryk,” 20th September, 1286, that a solemn compact was entered into between “Robert, the competitor with Baliol, for the throne of Scotland, designed Robert Brus, Lord of Annandale, with his son Robert Brus, Earl of Carryk, and his brother-in-law Thomas de Clare, Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, James Stuard of Scotland, with several other Scottish nobles, to stand by each other, saving their allegiance to the King of England, and fidelity to him, who should gain the kingdom of Scotland by right of blood from King Alexander, then lately deceased.”
It would seem, from Henry the Minstrel’s narration, that there was a general belief, in his time, that Wallace had assaulted and carried the castle of Turnberry. But we know nothing further of this interesting place till the year 1306, when King Robert made an attempt to make himself master of it. After repeated defeats, and almost unparalleled hardships, he, with a few of his adherents, concealed himself, during several months, in the small island of Rauchrin, or Rachlin, on the north-east of Ireland. Having landed in Arran, he got possession of the castle of Brodick. It being thought by some that he was dead; and lest his friends should be completely overpowered or dispirited, it became necessary for him to make an exertion, however inadequate his present means were, for the overthrow of his enemies. He determined, therefore, to send a trusty messenger across the frith, towards Turnberry, to learn the state of his friends, of those especially whom he might consider as his feudal vassals. It was agreed between him and his deputy, that if there was any reasonable prospect of success, the latter should, on a certain day, kindle a beacon on the shore, near the castle, as this would be distinctly seen from the coast of Arran. The light was seen at the time appointed; and Bruce, had been kindled without any agency on the part of his messenger, who earnestly entreated that the king would return, because his castle was in possession of the Lord Percy, who, with about three hundred men under him, kept the surrounding country in complete subjection.
The king having asked the advice of his friends, his brother, the impetuous Edward, so firmly declared his own resolution, that there was no further hesitation as to the only course that remained for them.
Schyr Edward fryst answert thar to,
Hys brodyr that wes swa hardy,
And said, “I say yow sekyrly
Thar sal na perell, that may be,
Dryve me eftsonys to the se.
Myne auentur her tak will I,
Quhethir it be esfull or angry.”
The answer of the king follows, expressing his resolution on no account whatsoever to separate from Edward.
“Brothyr,” he said, “sen thou will sua
It is gud that we samyn ta
Dissese or ese, or payne or play,
Eftyr as God will ws purway.”
THE BRUCE, B. iv. ver. 64.
In the neighbourhood of the castle, and, as would appear, for the accommodation of some of the numerous retainers of this powerful family, a pretty large village had been built. It was now appropriated to a very different purpose, – that of affording cantonments to those of the English troops who did not reside in the fortress. It appears, from Barbour, that nearly two hundred men were lodged here. These the king determined immediately to attack, ere any intelligence of his arrival should be communicated. Having done so, they were all put to the sword, except one named Makdowell,
That eschapyt, throw gret slycht,
And throw the myrknes of the nycht.
It might be supposed, that after the success of his assault on the village of Turnberry, especially as the English showed no inclination to attack him, King Robert would attempt to reduce his patrimonial castle. But, as we learn from Barbour, – the most authentic voucher for the events of this period, – that he did not make the attempt, we may conclude that, although he had forseen the probability of success, in consequence of the garrison being reduced to one-third of their former number, he deemed it unadvisable to hazard the lives of those well-tried adherents whose place he could not hope to supply. Percy, however, was so much overawed by the prowess of the king, that although resolved to desert this charge, that promised so little ease or honour, he lay “lurking” in the castle, “as in a den,” till he was assured that a thousand men were on their way, from the garrison at Ayr, for the defence of Turnberry.
“Some years after this,” it has been said, “we find that King Robert Bruce stormed the castle, still in possession of the English, routed and expelled the garrison, but at the expense of the destruction of the building.” This can apply only to his brother Edward, who, in 1308, assailed the various fastnesses of Galloway, expelled the English garrisons, and at length subdued the whole country.