Skirmish Hill recognised as a nationally-important battlefield

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A DARNICK battlesite has been officially recognised by Historic Scotland as one of the nation’s 39 iconic battlefields beside Culloden, Stirling Bridge and Killiecrankie.

At the Battle of Skirmish Hill, which was fought between the Tweed and Darnick Tower almost 500 years ago, Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, was challenged by Walter Scott of Buccleuch over the custody of the 14-year-old King James V in July 1526.

Inclusion in Historic Scotland’s Inventory of Scottish Battlefields means that the local authority must take the site’s significance into consideration when making planning decisions. In March 2011, two other Border battlesites, the Battle of Ancrum Moor (1545) and Battle of Philiphaugh (1645), were added to the list.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said: “It is a real achievement that we have managed to research so many of Scotland’s most famous battles to the extent that we can provide a level of protection to 39 battlefield sites. This will ensure that their history and significance is considered in any planning application within an Inventory site.

“Introducing this first Inventory of Historic Battlefields acknowledged this high level of public interest and support for giving lasting recognition to places where lives have been lost, even where no other commemoration has existed. Our historic battlefields draw tourists from all over the world and also represent a huge educational resource. Through them we can understand the evolution of Scotland.”

In October 2010 an interpretation board commemorating the battle of Skirmish Hill was unveiled by Melrose Historical Association, beside the Southern Upland Way footpath between Lowood Bridge and the Waverley Castle Hotel.

Speaking at the time, Melrose Historical Association president Ian Skinner described how the battle unfolded: “While the initial confrontation between the forces of Douglas and Buccleuch took place on Skirmish Hill, the site now occupied by the Waverley Castle Hotel, the subsequent action was widely scattered as groups of horsemen would have broken away to chase each other around the countryside.

“Douglas, who was supported by the Kers and Homes, outnumbered the 600 Buccleuch followers so eventually the challenger was forced to withdraw from the field. The final episode took place about a mile away when a group of retreating Buccleuch riders turned again to face their pursuers and Ker of Cessford was killed at a spot marked by the ‘Turn Again Stone’. The boy King James V is said to have watched proceedings from the battlements of nearby Darnick Tower.”

Dr Christopher Bowles, archaeology officer at Scottish Borders Council, welcomed the listing with caution: “This is a designation, not a protection. It’s their best guess from the historical evidence where the battlefield may be found. It means people should be respectful: it’s a solemn place, where men died. Anyone metal detecting should do so responsibly, by marking exactly where they found an object, bagging it individually, and sending it up to Treasure Trove.”