Roxburgh Castle

Roxburgh Castle

Roxburgh Castle Details

  • Access: Public Access
  • Condition: ruin
  • First build century: 12th
  • Closest To: Kelso
  • Grid Ref: NT713337
  • Last use century: 16th

Roxburgh Castle occupies a long steep sided ridge in the angle of the Rivers Teviot and Tweed a short distance to the west of Kelso in the Borders. Dating to the 12th century, fragments of curtain wall are scattered around the perimeter of the castle hill, but the most obvious remains are the massive earthworks of the castle and a later fort erected in the 16th century.

Roxburgh was a new foundation of King David I of Scotland, who was the deputy of King Henry of England in the north of his country, as well as Earl of Huntingdon. When he succeeded his brother, it was important for him to have a strong castle in the borders, even more so when civil war broke out in England. Seizing his opportunity, David seized control of Northumberland, Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire, and ruled them as part of his realm from Roxburgh for about 20 years. The castle he chose was centrally placed in the border area, and very strongly positioned, being defended on two sides by rivers, and by massive earthworks to the north and west. On the highest part of the hill he built a strongly defended courtyard castle with towers at the angles, and outer defences of timber, later to be replaced in stone.

Shortly after the death of King David, King Henry II of England forced the young Malcolm IV of Scotland to hand back his northern shires, which made Roxburgh a border fortress without parallel. The castle was too powerful for subsequent Kings of England or Scotland to allow the other to possess peacefully, and its subsequent history was one of near constant conflict. The castle was taken for the last time by the Scots in the 1460s after the death of James II (his leg was blown off by an exploding cannon when besieging Roxburgh, and he died of blood loss) and demolished. Even so, it was refortified by the Duke of Somerset in the 1540s during the Rough Wooing as the site was still very strong and strategically placed. Once the fort was ordered to be destroyed in 1550, Roxburgh Castle was never re-used again. It passed into the possession of the Kerr family, who built the tower house at Floors across the river, and remains within the grounds of the Floors estate today. Access by foot is possible, but the site is overgrown and sometimes slippery.

HES Canmore database entry

A little while ago I wrote a blog post describing my visit to Roxburgh Castle here