Hermitage Castle, in the Scottish Borders, is a lonely spot, and the sight of the awesome castle ruin only heightens the sense of foreboding. The castle has inspired local legends but its history of torture, treason and romantic trysts is more than colourful enough.
Scott visited Hermitage many times, excavating part of the castle, and having his portrait painted with it behind him.
Scott worked with Dr John Leyden - a writer, linguist and naturalist from Liddesdale - to collect local songs and stories for his book 'The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border'.
Listen to 'Where Weeps the Birch'
Learn about the Cout of Kielder’s death in the swirling pool at Hermitage Castle from 'The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border'. Leyden contributed these lines, based on traditional tales of the Cout of Kielder - a giant knight, with an impenetrable suit of armour. The knight is said to have drowned in the burn at Hermitage, lured to the castle by the evil Lord Soulis.
Read 'Where Weeps the Birch'
This is the bonny brae, the green,
Yet sacred to the brave,
Where still, of ancient size, is seen
Gigantic Keeldar’s grave.
The lonely shepherd loves to mark
The daisy springing fair,
Where weeps the birch of silver bark,
With long dishevelled hair.
The grave is green, and round is spread
The curling lady-fern;
That fatal day the mould was red,
No moss was on the cairn.
And next they passed the chapel there;
The holy ground was by,
Where many a stone is sculptured fair,
To mark where warriors lie.
And here, beside the mountain flood,
A massy castle frown’d,
Since first the Pictish race in blood,
The haunted pile did found.
The restless stream its rocky base
Assails with ceaseless din;
And many a troubled spirit strays
The dungeon’s dark within.
Sir Walter Scott - Celebrating 250 Years
In 2021-22, Scotland celebrates the 250th anniversary of one of its most famous sons, Sir Walter Scott. This online exhibition and audio trail of his legacies is part of the celebrations.
'Where Weeps the Birch' has been performed by Edinburgh actor Gavin Paul, who is looking forward to visiting some of these important historical sights.