Saturday, 16 August 2014

Kings Cave, Drumadoon Bay

You know the legend of Bruce and the Spider? It was the fag end of 1306 and Bruce was at his lowest ebb, his ambitions forced prematurely into the open after his murder of John Comyn in the Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, his hurried coronation followed by excommunication by the pope and a couple of swift defeats by Comyn sympathisers, his wife a prisoner of Edward I of England. He was skulking in a cave in the west, hidden by one of his few remaining friends, Angus Og Macdonald of Islay, when he saw a spider spinning a web. Spitefully he swiped the web away, only for the spider to patiently begin again. "That spider inspires me not to give up!" thought the Bruce, and the rest was history. The story is not history though: it is fiction, first appearing in Walter Scott's Tales of a Grandfather.

The cave exists though.

Kings Cave:

It is an interesting cave, obviously in use for a long time, with Pictish carvings if you know where to look. There are a number of sandstone caves in the raised beach at this point, Kings Cave merely the most prominent. In others, guillemots nest, flying back to their chicks to trigger squawking and a fishy odour.

At the caves:

The walk to the caves is interesting, past the prehistoric coastal fort of The Doon. A path through the golf course leads past the Doon on its inland side. On its coastal side, you have to pick your way over cyclopean columns of fallen basalt.

The Doon from Kings Cave shore:

It is a tranquil family walk, improved by visiting the beach at Drumadoon Bay before returning to Blackwaterfoot. This beach is littered with beautiful pebbles from all of Arran's varied geology, with a view out to Ailsa Craig, Sanda, and Kintyre. You can get an ice cream in the village shop. A perfect place to while away an afternoon with a family.

Kintyre from the walk to the caves:

I hope you don't mind but I lied earlier when I told you about the cave. It is not the cave from Scott's apocrypha. It is thought Bruce spent the winter of 1306/7 in Rathlin, an island between Islay and Antrim. Here instead is a true story about Kings Cave. It hosted Bruce the day before he returned to the Scottish mainland to continue his campaign for the throne. From Kingscross Point, he saw the signal fire lit by his brother, who had landed secretly at Turnberry tasked with discovering if Scotland was ready to rise for the Bruce. In fact Scotland was not ready - Bruce's brother was captured and killed. It was sheer chance that someone lit a fire at the right spot that night. So Bruce crossed to Carrick anyway on this misunderstanding - and history was made.

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