Language and cultural programmes for foreign students throughout the UK and Ireland

ETS-UK staff took Harris on a day trip to see a famous Scottish battle site. With Scotland celebrating the 2014 - Year of Homecoming. We thought it would be a good time to take Harris to Bannockburn, a place where 700 years ago, in 1314, Robert the Bruce (King of the Scots) routed a larger English army under the command of Edward II.

‘The Bruce’ was the king who in the end united the nation.

Some historians might portray King Robert the Bruce as a usurper or murderer and of course some will glorify his memory but the simple fact remains that no royal family ever made their position stable without a little political intrigue.

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Packed with hi-tech equipment that displays an incredible array of information about the battle, Harris was amazed by the newly rebuilt centre at Bannockburn. Inside you can interact with computer-generated representations of the famous characters from the day of the battle. Harris had trouble lifting the heavy swords and shields in the museum area, they appear to be made in the authentic ways of old, of solid metals and hard wearing hide.

There are fabulous 3D films that help to explain the historical context of the battle. Once you are inside the battle room there is all to play for! A battle master will assign you to your team, explain the rules of the game and take you back in time via a 3D map of the area, all centred around the days leading up to the big fight. Once you have consulted with your team-mates, your actions over the next 5 to 45 mins could change the course of history.

Back in 1314 - The Scottish army made an agreement with the small number of English soldiers occupying Stirling Castle, that if they were not relieved by the 24th of June, they would hand over the castle to the Scots. King Edward II rode north with an army of between 15 and 20 thousand men, estimated to be 2 to 3 times larger than the Scots army. The English arrived near the castle with only hours to spare, an area the Scots had months to prepare!

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The resulting battle took place over two days – on the first day The Bruce gave his men a spectacular display of horsemanship and a massive boost to their moral when he outwitted a gallous Knight who tried to kill the king of Scots by riding straight at Robert the Bruce. The Bruce saw this overly enthusiastic knight and rode out to meet him, using his horse to side step around the larger armoured horse of the knight, he rose up in his stirrups and kleaved the gallous knight with the pointed end of his axe probably killing him instantly.

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A master tactician – Robert the Bruce was thought to be the greatest knight in all of Christiandom – he had his men dig spike filled pits in the area in front of the castle. On the first day many of the English leaders were a little too keen to enguage the Scottish troops and as a result they lost a lot of their men and horses to the shiltron’s who drove the English into the spike filled pits. The Scots had been ordered to show no mercy to their enemy.

After the first day of the battle the English King made a poor choice of location for his overnight resting place. On that fateful night one of the English knights defected and told ‘The Bruce’ that if he struck early and hard, he could win the battle. On the second day of that glorious summer, the Scots army simply charged down the hill towards the encampment of the English troops, taking them by surprise in the early morning before they had had the chance to form up or organise.

Recent archaeological evidence has helped to pinpoint the site of the battle to between the Pell Stream and the Bannockburn. Neither of these water-courses sound very big but they are both in fact deep and wide in places. In all the wrong places for the English army to escape in a hurry and as a result the English troops were routed by the oncoming shiltrons of the Scottish army.

By winning this great battle Robert the Bruce forced Europe to acknowledge Scotland as a sovereign nation and eventually after a long and protracted process he gained papal recognition for his kingship and the right of Scotland to be an independent nation.

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Harris was proud to learn about his Scottish Heritage. PJK

ETS-UK is a member of:   mid lothian coc visit-midlothian British Educational Travel Association