Battle site of the Pass of Brander (1308) *
Region: Argyll & The Isles
In August 1308 Sir James Douglas met up with the king for a joint attack on the Macdougalls of Lorn, kinsmen of the Comyns, the climax to Bruce's campaign in the north. Two years before the Macdougalls had intercepted and mauled the royal army at the Battle of Dalrigh.
Alexander Macdougall, too old and sick to take part in the fighting, lay in his castle at Dunstaffnage. John Bacach was left with the task of dealing with the expected onslaught. His army took up position in the narrow Pass of Brander, where the River Awe slices through the southern slope of Ben Cruachan on its way down from Loch Awe. However, only Barbour's poem "The Brus" (late 14th century) places the battle; it does not mention the pass by name but the description fits. The large number of cairns around Bridge of Awe may give some support to the location.
John, who was recovering from an illness, observed his dispositions from a galley on Loch Awe. His men were hidden in the hillside, overlooking the narrow path through the pass. If they looked for a repetition of the Battle of Dalrigh they were to be disappointed, for Bruce had now learned enough of guerrilla warfare to sidestep so simple a trap. A party of loyal Highlanders, commanded by Sir James Douglas, climbed even higher up Ben Cruachan and – completely unobserved – positioned themselves in the enemy's rear. As the Macdougalls attacked they were caught in a vice, with King Robert coming from below and the Black Douglas from above. The men of Argyll wavered and then broke. They were chased westwards across the River Awe all the way back to Dunstaffnage, while John escaped down the Loch in his galley, eventually taking refuge in England, like the earl of Buchan. The Lord of Argyll surrendered and did homage to Robert Bruce, but the following year he joined his son in exile, dying in 1310 in the service of Edward II.
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