Carberry Woodland

Has it been three years already ! So it appears. Daisy is as sprightly as a puppy still & I’ve got at least another 6 walks planned for 2021, so lets do some more Walking East Lothian.

The first walk of this year was way out west in the most sluchiest conditions, but I’m sure the ground will dry out as the year progressess. It begins by parking the car a few miles west of Elphinstone in the area marked on the map.

The traffic is queit enough, & you must head west about 100 metres towards the trees. There’s a horsefeeding area just before the trees, which has a chest-hair-stripping aroma, believe me.

Just after the woods start there is an archway in the wall, made in 2004 by the Mary Stuart Society. Now that feisty monarch caused a lot of bother in 16th century Scotland; but eventually the dust settl’d & her son, James VI, would go on to unite the crowns & lead to the day in 1890 when Burnley could field ten Scottish players in their side – without work visas!

Carberry Woods are named after Carberry Tower, where we’ll get to one day, but for now we’ll just be having a wander through the impressive woodlands. These are basically a hill, & I always find its better to start a walk going down a hill, rather than up, it just feels better for me. So starting at the top of the hill, you soon come to an old monolith which marks a very famous spot in the history of the Scottish monarchy.

The inscription on the monument reads: “M.R. 1567 At this spot Mary Queen of Scots after the escape of Bothwell mounted her horse and surrendered herself to the Confederate Lords 15 June 1567”. So it was on this very spot that Mary breathed her last ever free air, surrendering herself to the captivity that would see her head removed by Queen Elizabeth of England. The events that led up to the surrender began in February 1567 when her old husband, Darney, was bumped off. Suspicion fell on Lord Bothwell, who was charged with Darnley’s 10 February 1567 murder in April, and was to be prosecuted by Lord Lennox, the dead Darnley’s father.

Lord Lennox never showed up despite being summoned, and Bothwell was acquitted. On 19 April, several Lords of Parliament and other notable men signed the Ainslie Tavern Bond. The Bond declared that the twice-widowed Mary should marry a Scottish subject; this document was then handed to Bothwell. Six days later, Bothwell and an escort of eight hundred armed men intercepted Mary on her way to Linlithgow Palace in Edinburgh. Mary, convinced by Bothwell that danger awaited her in Edinburgh, went with Bothwell to Dunbar. That night, he either sexually assaulted her or Mary consented willingly to Bothwell’s advances. Only Mary and Bothwell know what truly happened. Either way, Mary and Bothwell were quickly married, and Bothwell was expediently elevated to the position of Duke of Orkney.

Most of the Lords of Scotland would not accept this state of affairs & basically a civil war shimmering with religious and political intrigue broke out, leading to a stand off at Carberry in June, 1567. At the top of the hill was the 24-year-old Mary, Bothwell & their soldiers, & at the bottom were the confederate forces of powerful men such as Maitland, Morton, Balfour and Murray of Tullibardine & all led by led by Kirkaldy of Grange. Before them they held up a banner depicting the murdered Darnley with the legend: “Judge and avenge my cause, O Lord”.

The 15 day being sonneday, the armies came within view. The one stood upone Carberry Hills, with 4 regiments of shouldiours, and six field-pieces of brasse: the uther armey stoode over against it, messingers going betwixt them all day till neir night; dureing which parley the Duke fled secretly to Dunbar, and the Queine came and randred herself prisoner to ye Lordis, quho convoyed her to Edinburghe to the Provost’s Lodgeing for yat night; Sr. Symeon Prestone of Craigmillar being Provost for ye time. From the diary of Birrel

Mary and Bothwell, who had spent their last night together at Fa’Side Castle (my first ever Walking East Lothian post) , took up position with their supporters on the higher ground of Carberry Hill. On a very hot & sunny day the two sides faced each other according to time-honoured chivalry, sending messengers across to each side with challenges to combat. There was much hesitation. Monsieur du Croc, the French ambassador, rode out from Edinburgh to mediate. He was deputed by the rebels to implore Mary to abandon Bothwell, and if she did so they would back down and submit to her. She resolutely refused. Challenges to personal combat were issued though none took place. Bothwell challenged Morton who delegated to Lindsay who girded his waist with his great sword called Archibald-the-Cat, handed down from his ancestors. But it all came to nothing. Mary’s supporters began to drift away and by evening she realised that her cause was lost. She decided she would trust the rebels with the safe conduct of Bothwell if she gave herself up to them. She and Bothwell parted and he scarpered to Dunbar & then Denmark.

When she rode into the rebel camp, she was shocked to find that they jeered at her, such had her popularity declined. She was led to Edinburgh and installed in the house of the provost, Simon Preston of Craigmillar, under guard.  Mary’s dress for the day was recorded by William Drury, Marshall of Berwick, who said of her clothing,

The Queen’s apparel in the field was after the fashion of the women of Edinburgh, in a red petticoat, sleeves tied with points a “partlyte,” a velvet hat and muffler. She used great persuasions and encouragements to her people to have tried it by battle. For welcome the Lords showed her the banner with the dead body, which seeing they say that she wished she had never seen him. The banner was hanged out before her window at the Provost’s house, wherewith she seemed much offended.

Thus began her captivity, first in Scotland, then in England, which was only to end with her execution 20 years later.


Stay left to start


At Carberry Woodland you can pretty much choose your own adventure, but I’ll still describe what me, the missus & Daisy did. We basically kept left, keeping open fields beyond, until we kinda turned right & crossed another path. Here we kepy going down something of a slippery slalom, following wee blue arrows nailed into the tree,  & found ourselves keeping right, with open fields beyond.

The slalom section

Cross over the path & keep going downhill

The path then reaches a carpark area, which is out of use. Here, turn sharp left & make your way up the long stretch of track.

This track then bends to the left, crosses the slalom area from before, then arrives a viewpoint. You will find here some interesting boards which point out historical features in the landscape before us.

Carrying on up the hill you’ll come to some more boards which tell the story of the irona hill age fort you’ll be standing amidst. Carberry suggest the Caer of Berry, or Berig, or even a Brych who appears in Y Gododdin.

I glanced on gather’d hosts from Hyddwyn high,
Conflagaration’s ghostly sacrifice,
I saw two leaders from their stations fall,
Gore spills thro’ Nwython’s orders under sword,
Men marching on harmonious… a shout,
When the heads of Brych & Dyvynwal raven-gnaw’d!

From this area you’ll soon be back at the Mary monolith for the short scamper back to the main road & the car. So yeah, this is a multi-puposes walk – genuinely nice woods & views plus a witche’s ladle’s worth of history to boot!

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