Old Photograph Glen Trool Galloway Scotland
Old photograph of Glen Trool in the Southern Uplands of Galloway, Scotland. This was the location, in 1307, of the Battle of Glen Trool. Loch Trool is aligned on an east to west axis and is flanked on both sides by steep rising hills, making it ideal for an ambush. Robert Bruce had been 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. This led to a bitter civil war between the Bruce's faction and the Comyns and their allies, notably King Edward I. After his defeat at the Battle of Methven in Perthshire and subsequently at the Battle of Dalry 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. It was an understandable move; for 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 Bruce, and there were plenty of remote and difficult areas to allow cover and protection for his band of guerillas. But it was also a move bold to the point of foolhardiness. The English border was not far distant; many 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 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. Bruce managed to establish a firm base in the area; but it was vital that he made progress against the enemy if his cause was to attract the additional support that was so clearly needed. An early success came with a raid on an English camp on the eastern shores of the Clatteringshaws Loch. It also alerted the enemy to his presence. Aymer de Valence, Bruce's old opponent at Methven, received intelligence that his enemy was encamped at the head of Glen Trool. This was a difficult position to approach, for the Loch takes up much of the glen, with only a narrow track bordered by a steep slope. At about the middle, the hill pushes forward in a precipitous abutment. Valence sent a small raiding party ahead, perhaps hoping to catch the enemy offguard, in much the same fashion as Methven. This time, however, Bruce made effective use of the terrain. During the night Bruce sent some of his men up the slope with orders to loosen with levers and crowbars 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. Bruce observed their progress from across the loch, and at a given signal, pushed the wall of boulders down the slope. This was followed by arrows and hand to hand combat, as Bruce's men charged down the slope. The narrowness of the path prevented support from either the front or the rear. Without room to manoeuvre, many of the English below were killed, and the rest withdrew. Bruce not only survived but went on the following month to win his first important engagement at the Battle of Loudon Hill. The English soldiers killed in the skirmish were buried at flat ground at the head of the loch, known as Soldier's Holm.
All photographs are copyright of Sandy Stevenson, Tour Scotland, and may not be used without permission.
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