Historic Cairn Lodge

We’ve been redeveloping our site here at Cairn Lodge in Scotland. At the start of 2018 we opened a new Farmshop, foyer and toilets and our new Kitchen and Filling Station re-open again this December. Although we’ve been updating our building, one feature remains dominant within our site, rooting us to the rich history of the area. The impressive lodge building marks the north lodge and the gateway to Douglas Castle, 2 miles away. With such a prominent historical building right on our doorstep, we were inspired to delve into the history of the castle.

Cairn Gatehouse SummerThe Lodge at Cairn Lodge Services

The Castle and the Wars of Scottish Independence

The castle was the stronghold of the Douglas family from the early medieval period right up until the 19th century. The family played an important part in the Wars of Scottish Independence that raged between Scotland and England and the castle was the site of many brutal historical events.

In 1296, the English invaded Scotland following Edward I’s decision to place himself as Lord Paramount of Scotland. During the wars of independence that followed, Douglas Castle was taken by the English and used as a garrison due to its strategically important, geographical position.

Sir James Douglas, born in 1286, was therefore left without his ancestral home and lands. Consumed with a desire for revenge he was among the first to pledge his allegiance to Robert the Bruce when he was crowned King of Scots in 1306 in direct opposition to Edward I.

‘Douglas’ Larder’

Sir James Douglas quickly became Robert’s right hand man and proved himself as a fierce warrior and tactician. In 1307 when the Bruce’s forces were but a day’s ride from Douglas Castle, James persuaded Robert to let him launch an attack on his own family home, still under English control.

James hatched a plan to attack on Palm Sunday 1307. While the garrison were attending a church service, James and his men attacked and killed or imprisoned every English soldier based there. James did not plan to stay and defend the castle but return to continue fighting with Robert the Bruce. He therefore burned the castle and left nothing the returning English forces could make use of. The bloody episode became known as ‘Douglas’ larder’.

‘The Black Douglas’ or ‘Good Sir James’?

James returned to attack English forces at the rebuilt castle twice more, each time he and his men overwhelmed the larger English force defending the castle and on the third attack he finally raised his own castle to the ground. Feared by the English and known for his sudden and deadly attacks, James become infamous among the English and was given the name ‘The Black Douglas’. In contrast by the Scots he was known as ‘Good Sir James’.

James continued to fight alongside Robert for Scotland’s independence and was by his side at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, which effectively ended the English presence in Scotland.

James was rewarded by Robert the Bruce for his loyalty and his heirs were made Earls of Douglas. The castle was rebuilt. Although James died in 1330, the castle remained the stronghold of the Douglas family for generations to come.

Sir James Douglas’ final resting place is St Bride’s Church in the village of Douglas, where you can still see his tomb today.

Cairn 25 June-4 (2)The Lodge at Cairn Lodge Services

Decline of Douglas Castle

The Lodge and gateway to the castle which can still be seen today at Cairn Lodge Services was to be the gate house for an enormous mansion planned by the Duke of Douglas in the 1700s but never fully completed and later demolished. Today only a ruined corner tower of the penultimate castle, built in the late 17th Century, remains as a sign of the rich historical importance of the site.