Battle site of Roslin (1303) ***

Region: Edinburgh

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This was one of the largest battles (1303) within Scotland during the First Scottish War of Independence and strangely almost unknown.

The English host had arrived in Melrose, and there was divided into three equal divisions which were commanded by Sir John Segrave, Ralph Manton and Sir Robert Neville.

Sir Robert Neville was to attack Borthwick Castle, near Feshiebridge, which was being held by Sir Gilbert Hay. A force under Sir Ralph Confrey was sent to secure Dalhousie Castle, while the remaining army, under Sir John, assisted by Ralph de Manton, the English paymaster, marched on Rosslyn Castle. Their timing could not have been worse. First, Sir John’s men were surrounded by the advancing Scots, who charged into them in the darkness. On the far side of the castle promontory, the Scots then formed a battle line and the English division approaching from the north was met with a volley of arrows forcing it to swerve towards a steep ravine with the river below. The conclusion that followed was fast and violent. The Scots, who knew their territory well, took up a position at the top of the ravine and pushed the English into the gorge where their ranks were rapidly decimated.

Although the battle of Roslin is not nearly as well known as Wallace’s victory at Stirling Bridge six years earlier or Bruce’s triumph at Bannockburn eleven years later, it was equally as bloody as both, if not more so, as names around the village testify: Shinbones Field, where bones of the dead continue to be unearthed; the Hewan, where a burial mound remains; and the Stinking Rig, where the smell of decomposing corpses lingered on for decades. Tradition has it that the Kilburn, a rivulet which runs off the North Esk, ran red with blood for three days following the carnage.

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