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Duns Town Trail
Historical Background


The Square

Throughout history, many armies have passed through Duns, either on their way to or from England. Around 24 June 1315, one year after the Scots' victory at Bannockburn, news was sent to King Edward II of England that King Robert I - The Bruce - was in the "Park of Duns" which must have caused him some concern. On 20 July 1333, Sir Archibald Douglas mustered an army at Duns Park before marching to Berwick in an attempt to raise the English siege. The army marched from Duns to be defeated by the English army on Halidon Hill.

Percy, the Earl of Northumberland, invaded Scotland in 1377 and seemingly met little opposition. Upon reaching Duns, he relaxed his vigilance. The townspeople saw that the English were off their guard. The Scots made "a kind of rattle, made of dried skins distended round ribs of wood that were bended into a semi-circular form and fixed at the end of long poles". When shaken, they produced a horrendous racket that frightened the English horses, causing them to bolt. The Earl's men fled and were subsequently routed by local people. It may be from this episode that the town takes its design for the Burgh Arms and motto "Duns Dings A'".

The English razed duns to the ground in 1544, 1545 and 1558. The first two burnings were part of the Earl of Hertford's brutal rampage across the Borders during the 'Rough Wooing'. Hertford was carrying out the orders of Henry VIII who wanted Queen Mary to marry his son - Prince Edward - but his efforts proved unsuccessful.

In 1639 and 1640 Covenanting Armies under General Leslie were encamped on Duns Law although the defences they built were not used. In 1650, after the Battle of Dunbar, Cromwell placed a garrison in Duns.

With relative peace in Scotland during the 18th century, the population of the town doubled. The industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century did not bring a great deal of industry to Duns as it did in so many other Border towns, consequently, there are no large mill buildings in the town. In the 19th century, Duns expanded, a change that is reflected in the number of buildings from this time.

Today, Duns is a fine example of an old Scottish Burgh. The architecture is varied and the town retains much of its original dignity and charm. There are of course many buildings that are not mentioned in the text but as you walk the Trail, they too will add to your enjoyment.


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Duns Scotland, Scottish Borders UK