Glen Trool in the Galloway Forest Park; an unikely battlefield.
The Battle of Glen Trool was a minor engagement in the Scottish Wars of Independence, fought in April 1307. Glen Trool is a narrow glen in the Southern Uplands of Galloway, Scotland. Loch Trool is aligned on an East-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 Edward I.
Descent of a KingAfter his defeat at the Battle of Methven 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.
Glen Trool todayBut 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.
Battle in the GlenAgainst all the odds 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. This would have brought in fresh blood; it also alerted the enemy to his presence. Aymer de Valence, Bruce's old opponent at Methven, received intelligence that his enemy was encamped in at the head of Glen Trool. This was a difficult position to approach, for the Loch takes up much of the glen, and only a narrow track led directly to Bruce's camp. It was arguably best not to attempt anything too dramatic, but Valence sent a small raiding party ahead, perhaps hoping to catch the enemy offguard, in much the same fashion as Methven. Things were otherwise this time; making effective use of the terrain, and the knights lack of mobility, Bruce drove them back with seemingly no loss-apart from some horses-but much humiliation. Bruce not only survived but went on the following month to win his first important engagement at the Battle of Loudon Hill.
July 17th, 2011
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