King Robert the Bruce Heritage Centre

Last month whilst in Scotland, I was very fortunate to be able to visit the King Robert the Bruce Heritage Centre in Renton, West Dunbartonshire and meet with members of the Strathleven Artizans. Their quest, as I understand it, is to educate people about Robert the Bruce and to promote the links between Scotland’s hero king and the village of Renton. If you would like to know more about this fascinating group and their projects, please visit their website – strathlevenartizans.com. The group has the sincere patronage of Andrew Bruce, Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, chief of the international Bruce family.
After a warm welcome from some of the members, I was treated to a vigorous display of sword fighting and was shown a replica of the king’s sword. There was much discussion about one of the group’s projects: the carving of the king’s throne as depicted on a royal seal, using a mix of timber from across Scotland, including a piece of ancient oak. This tree grew on the Strathleven Estate, and was known locally as the Bruce Oak. It was one of the largest and oldest oak trees in Scotland until falling in 2005 after a fire. I am now the proud owner of a carved acorn from this tree, a gift from Duncan Thomson, the chairman of the group, who was also kind enough to show me around the area.
I was intrigued to learn that King Robert had arranged for three burials of his body: his heart we know was taken on crusade by Sir James Douglas; his body, buried at Dunfermline Abbey but his entrails and breast bone were buried locally at Saint Serf’s Chapel in what is now Levengrove Park in Dumbarton. The hairs on the back of my neck rose as we approached the ruined church and the brass plaque which marks the little-known site. I wondered whether the closeness of this chapel might add some credence to the importance of Renton, or medieval Cardross, in the Bruce story.
A further treat was in store as we drove along the banks of the Leven River, thought to be the site of the king’s manor house, an old hunting lodge originally owned by the earl of Lennox which the Bruce had purchased and extended.
The river was quite broad here and fast flowing. It would be easy to imagine the king’s galley moored by these banks, within sight, strategically, of the great castle of Dumbarton on its rocky mound, to the south, on the Clyde. The Artizans hope to obtain archeological support and funding to investigate this site and verify these important links.
Pailleanflath, a lovely Gaelic word which means both Tent of the King and Pavilion of the Great Hero, is the name of the manor.
Another diversion, and our journey took a different twist. Duncan called in to visit one of the master carvers hard at work in her workshop constructing one of the dragon heads for the king’s throne – one of the the aforementioned projects celebrating the 700 year anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.
If you find yourself just north of Glasgow make time to visit the centre. Not only will you receive a warm welcome from these generous-hearted, dedicated folk but you’ll learn so much as well. I certainly did!

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2 thoughts on “King Robert the Bruce Heritage Centre

  1. Elspeth says:

    Looking forward to seeing the carved acorn sometime. I enjoyed reading about such an interesting enterprise and place to visit.

  2. diaspora52 says:

    Thanks Elspeth. The acorn is one of my most precious possessions!

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