remained of Bunkle Castle in 1915. It was in a similar condition in
1834, though the NSA adds that 'it seems to have been a place of
considerable strength, surrounded by a moat, now greatly filled up.
It was once the residence of the Stewarts'.
Account (NSA, A M'Conechy: written 1834)
The remains of
Bunkle Castle occupy a natural knoll which has been artificially
scarped and levelled and has a ditch on the N, W and S sides. All
that survives of the castle is a stretch of curtain wall running
N-S, 20m long by 1.2m high and up to 1.6m thick, and to the NW a
large portion of masonry 4.0m long by 4.0m high and 1.0m thick. The
interior is irregular and overgrown and no buildings or walling can
be identified. The castle is approached on the NW by a causeway and
there is also a possible entrance in the S, indicated by a distinct
break in the steep scarp.
The fragmentary remains of a stone
curtain wall stand in the NW quadrant of a roughly circular
earthwork measuring up to 57m in diameter over a much spread inner
bank. The earthwork has been fashioned from a natural knoll, around
the base of which there is a broad ditch accompanied on the NW by
slight traces of an outer bank. An entrance on the SE side may be
RCAHMS 1980, visited 1979; E Talbot 1975.
Although only a few yards from the road from Duns to Reston it is
very easy, particularly in summer time, to drive past the not
exactly inspiring remains of Bunkle Castle without even noticing
although at one time the building must have been quite an imposing
structure. Built on what has been described as a natural knoll but
perhaps a Norman motte the Castle has a long history as borne out by
the well known Berwickshire rhyme;
'Bunkle, Billie and
Three castles strong as airn
Built when Davie was
They'll all gang doon,
W' Scotland's Croon
ilka ane shall be a cairn'.
The Davie referred to would
be King David 1 of Scotland (1084 to 1153). More or less all trace
has been lost of both Billie and Blanairne and even their exact
location is in dispute.
The earliest records show the Castle
as belonging to Sir Alexander de Bonkle and there is a legend
concerning how the original owner refused to pay the builder who in
revenge gained access to the Castle by subterfuge while the Lord was
absent and slew his wife and their baby.
However in 1298
through marriage the property came into the possession of Sir John
Stewart second son of Alexander, the Steward of Scotland who was
created Earl of Angus by Robert the Bruce. Later again through
marriage it passed into the hands of the Douglases.
the Sixth Earl of Angus in 1514 married Margaret sister of Henry
V111 of England and widow of King James 1V of Scotland who had died
at Flodden the previous year. This was a highly unpopular marriage
and the marriage itself soon ran into difficulty so much so that
Angus fled to England for safety. In 1524 he returned to Bonkyl and
wrote a letter to his wife trying to effect a reconciliation.
The letter (State Papers, Record Series Vol 1V p.217) commences;
"In my most humble and lowly manner I commend my
service to your Grace.
It will please your Grace to know that I
have been with the King your brother the which is one of the most
cristened (Christian) Princes and his Grace has entreated me so
marvellous well that he hath addebted me to do his Grace service and
honour so far as lies in my power - mine allegiance accepted to the
King (James V of Scotland) and your Grace...." and finishes "At
Bonkle the first day of November by the hand of your humble servant.
Dunbars Vs Douglas
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