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Newark Castle, Bowhill Estate

Newark Castle Today



Newark Castle is located in the grounds of Bowhill House, the home of the Duke of Buccleuch and his family, about three miles west of Selkirk high above the south bank of the Yarrow Water. It is easily visible from the main A708 road and sits on a high mound above the steep banks of the river, providing a strong defensive position. It was initially a royal hunting lodge for the Ettrick Forest and was a popular location with Scottish Kings, despite the lawless reputation of the local reivers - The royal arms are visible on the west gable. (see graphic). The castle is accessed from within the Bowhill Estate by means of a steep, winding track.

Early History

Newark Castle was granted to Archibald Douglas, at that time Earl of Wigtown around 1423. It was incomplete at this time and work continued until about 1475. The surrounding barmkin (defensive boundary wall) was added around 1550, and the present battlements and two square caphouses date from about 1600. The main hall was on the first floor and the main entrance was at first floor level, reached by an exterior stair.


In the 18th century much of the dressed stone was stripped from the castle walls to build nearby homes.


Despite having lost its roof, the thick walls (ten feet wide in places) it is still fairly complete.


After the fall of the Black Douglases the castle was held by the crown, but in 1473 it was given to Margaret of Denmark, wife of James III.


Newark was unsuccessfully besieged by an English army in 1547, but was burnt the following year. In 1645, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, 100 royalist followers of the Marquis of Montrose were shot in the barmkin of Newark after the Battle of Philiphaugh.


The castle was later granted to the Scotts of Buccleuch, the hereditary keepers of Ettrick Forest


Newark Castle2

Anne Scott, 1st Duchess of Buccleuch

Despite that earlier violent history, perhaps the most colourful story associated with Newark concerns Anne Scott, 1st Duchess of Buccleuch (pictured on the right with her two sons).


Her father, Francis, 2nd Earl of Buccleuch, died in 1651 without male issue, and his title and estates passed to his daughter Mary, who at once became the greatest heiress of her day in Scotland. At the early age of eleven this unfortunate child was married to a kinsman, one Walter Scott of Highchester, a boy of fourteen. Mary was a delicate child. Her premature marriage cannot have had a beneficial effect on her health. Having been taken up to London by her mother she died there, and was succeeded by her sister Anne, in 1661.


Anne thus inherited her sister, Mary Scott's, titles as 4th Countess of Buccleuch, 5th Baroness Scott of Buccleuch and 5th Baroness Scott of Whitchester and Eskdaill. She had been born in the year 1651 at Dundee. She was, of course, as great a potential heiress as her sister had been, and providing her with a suitable husband  immediately occupied her mother's mind. She fixed upon James, Duke of Monmouth , the natural son of Charles II and Lucy Walters. The King offered no objection and on 20th April 1663, when little Anne was in her twelfth year, and Monmouth only slightly older, the marriage between the two children took place at Wemyss Castle. Monmouth at once assumed his wife's name of Scott. On the day of their wedding he was elevated to the higher rank of Duke of Buccleuch.


John Evelyn, the diarist, calls Anne "one of the wisest and craftiest of her sex", telling us that her mind possessed all those perfections in which the handsome Monmouth was deficient. The duchess, by steering clear of the sea of conspiracies in which her husband was always plunging with such utter recklessness, managed to preserve the favour of James II (and later of William III) to the end of her life. Indeed, if she ever interfered at all in politics, it was either to save her husband from the consequences of his numerous indiscretions or to contribute towards his advancement.




In 1679, owing to suspected complicity in the Rye House Plot, Monmouth (pictured on left) had been banished, a punishment which would doubtless have taken a more severe form but for the duchess's influence in high places. And on the death of Charles II, on attempting to establish his claim to the throne, Monmouth led a futile rebellion, with the Duke of Argyll, against the Catholic James II, but was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor in 1685 and then beheaded for treason. The widowed duchess then married Charles Cornwallis, 3rd Baron Cornwallis in May 1688, with whom she had three children. Anne died in 1732, aged 80 and her titles passed to her grandson, Francis - and on down the hereditary chain to the present day.


In her later years Anne returned to Newark Castle - and Sir Walter Scott the novelist and poet wrote about the "Sorrowing Duchess" and Newark in his "Lay of the Last Minstrel":


He passed where Newark's Stately tower,

Looked out from Yarrow's birchen bower;

The minstrel gazed with wishful eye

No humbler resting place was nigh.

With hesitating step at last,

The embattled portal arch he passed

The Duchess marked his weary pace

His timid mien and reverent face

And bade her page the menials tell

That they should tend the old man well

For she had known adversity

Though born in such high degree

In pride and power, in beauty's bloom

Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb!

Later Visitors

Newark Castle was later visited by Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth (pictured on the right) and his wife Dorothy in 1831. In recent times, The Duke of Buccleuch has undertaken the stabilisation of the stonework in order to preserve it for future generations.

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