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Accessing Scotland's Past Project

Event ID 562567

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Accessing Scotland's Past Project


Roxburgh Castle, also later known as Marchmont, occupied a triangular hill flanked to the north and south by the Rivers Tweed and Teviot. Throughout its occupation the castle changed hands many times, reflecting the troubled history of the Borders as a whole. In the sixteenth century the Scots utterly destroyed Roxburgh Castle to prevent it being used again by the English.

The castle first appears on record in 1125, and from its earliest days it was an important centre of power at regional and national level and was often involved in key events in Scotland's history. In the Wars of Independence, the castle changed hands more than once, and in 1313 was famously taken by Sir James Douglas for the Scots who, with only 60 men, scaled the castle mount and put many of the unsuspecting garrison to the sword. By 1356, however, the castle had once more fallen to the English, who held both castle and town until 1460 when James II laid siege to the fortress with an impressive army drawn from across Scotland. The Scots, fearful that English forces might occupy it, finally destroyed the fortress in the sixteenth century. In the 1550s, English forces briefly re-occupied the site with the intention of rebuilding a fortress there.

Aerial photographs show that two ditches defended the approach to the castle between the Rivers Teviot and Tweed. Some fragmentary sections of curtain walling can be seen along the southern side of the promontory, facing the Teviot. These would have enclosed the whole area. Throughout its long history, the castle was increasingly fortified, especially during the century of English occupation. Two charters survive, describing in great detail the work that was done to the castle, giving a good account of how it looked by the fifteenth century when James II besieged it.

Text prepared by RCAHMS as part of the Accessing Scotland's Past project

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