Some believe that Robert the Bruce was born at Writtle in southern England. Now this was one of the Bruce manors, inherited from his grandmother, Lady Isabel de Clare. However, most Scots would opt for Turnberry Castle which belonged to Robert’s mother, heiress to the ancient Celtic earldom of Carrick. And it is said that the more likely person born at Writtle was Robert’s father. I tend to favour the latter because of Robert’s grandmother’s stronger connection with England; perhaps a need to oversee the running of her inheritance might have taken the family to Writtle as well as her other property in the area, Hatfield Broad Oak. Needless to say the fact that most of the males in the Scottish line of Bruces were called Robert leads to considerable confusion.
Writtle was once a royal manor. All that remains is a big oak barn which is still in use and the grounds now house an extensive educational facility. I came across this picture in a museum at nearby Guilford which reflects the manor during its time as a royal hunting lodge. Forgive the flash, but the artist’s impression offers an idea of the possible style and layout of the buildings
The small village of Writtle is a pretty place of old buildings set around a traditional central park. Most of the buildings would seem to date from a later period.
There is of course an old flint and stone church with the obligatory Yew trees set amongst the gravestones, to ward off evil spirits I expect.
Turnberry Castle, as many of you would know, lies in ruins. The land surrounding it which would have held the immediate castle is taken up with Turnberry Lighthouse and the surrounding grounds which would have supported outbuildings and probably a village, are now the site of the famous Turnberry Golf Course.
I think it is a travesty that such an important heritage site lies largely ignored. Having been to the amazing facility at Urqhart Castle, something similar could be done close to the site of the castle at Turnberry. Perhaps the owners of Turnberry Golf Course could act as co- sponsors or at least offer the donation of a small corner of the land for such a worthwhile national project.
Another fascinating aspect at Turnberry relates to its use in WWII where the area was used as an airfield. Current access from the main road to the castle ruins crosses the old runway. Here are some photos of Turnberry Castle and a walk I took along the coast from Maidens Bay. This route would have been followed by the Bruce and his men in their fateful attempt to recapture Turnberry Castle in early 1307.