Carrick Community Heritage Trail

Turnberry - Birthplace of a King

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Son of Turnberry, Earl of Carrick, King of Scots

Where Wallace was to fail in the struggle against English domination, Bruce was to succeed.  Robert I, known as Robert the Bruce, was the king of Scots who secured Scotland's independence from England, and his life’s journey began at Turnberry.

Turnberry Castle was owned by the Earls of Carrick and prior to Roberts’s birth it was inhabited by Marjorie, the widow countess of Carrick.

It is said, that Marjorie held a visiting knight Robert de Brus of Annadale captive until he agreed to marry her. Their first born child was Robert.

Born 11 July 1274 into a noble Scottish family Robert the Bruce gained distant Scottish royal lineage through his father’s side while his mother’s Gaelic ancestry bestowed upon him the earldom of Carrick. Bruce spent much of his early life at Turnberry Castle and it is believed that he was baptised at Kirkoswald. The baptismal font can still be found to this day in the graveyard at Kirkoswald Parish Church.

In the late 13th century, Robert’s grandfather and John Balliol both laid claim to Scotland’s throne. Edward I king of England ruled against Bruce in favour of John Balliol, only to invade Scotland a few years later. Refusing to back Balliol as king The Bruce and his father supported Edward I’s invasion and helped to force Balliol to leave the crown and let Edward rule over Scotland as another province of England.

Bruce then supported William Wallace’s uprising, yet the Bruce’s lands were not seized when Wallace was defeated. Then in 1298 Bruce became a guardian of Scotland along with John Comyn, Balliol’s nephew.

This rivalry was to come to a head when Comyn and Bruce met in 1306 at a church in Dumfries to discuss the throne. An intense argument ensued that resulted in The Bruce stabbing Comyn.

Outlawed by Edward and excommunicated by the Pope, Bruce was crowned King of Scots on the 27th March at Scone.

A year later Bruce was thrown out by Edward’s army and forced to flee. With his wife and daughters imprisoned and brothers executed the Bruce spent the winter in hiding in Ireland and  on the islands off the west coast of Scotland.

When Bruce returned from exile he chose to land just North of his childhood home at nearby Maidens. From here, he began a very successful guerrilla war against the English. His most famous victory came at the Battle of Bannockburn in June 1314 where he defeated and sent homeward Edward II’s army, a much larger force than his own. From this victory, The Bruce re-established an independent Scottish monarch. Even after this and the Scottish capture of Berwick in 1318, Edward II refused to give up the claim of England being the overlord of Scotland.

In 1327, the English removed Edward II in favour of his son and peace was made with Scotland. This included a total renunciation of all English claims to ownership over Scotland. Robert died on 7 June 1329 and was buried at Dunfermline. He requested that his heart be taken to the Holy Land, but it only got as far as Spain. It was returned to Scotland and buried in Melrose Abbey.

Turnberry Castle was the childhood home and starting point for Robert the Bruce’s remarkable life. Its stony remains are still visible today and can be spotted near the iconic white Turnberry Lighthouse, built in 1869 by engineers David and Thomas Stevenson.

Turnberry Golf Course

While golf in the area dates back to 1751, without public transportation or a settlement to support it, Turnberry would not see a golf course created here for another 150 years.

It wasn't until 1896 that Lord Ailsa, a keen golfer and an active member of the South-Western Railway board, saw the financial opportunity of building a course at Turnberry and a train line from Ayr to Maidens, Turnberry and Girvan.

Willie Fernie was brought in to design the links and on 6 July 1901, Turnberry Golf Course was opened. As the longest in the west of Scotland at 6,248 yards, Turnberry was so well regarded that after just seven years, it held its first professional tournament followed by other significant tournaments including the Ladies' British Open Amateur Championship of 1912. 

At first Golf at Turnberry was a treasure enjoyed by the locals until the South-Western Railway built its line from Ayr to Girvan, and the Station Hotel at Turnberry. This made the course much more accessible to those from further a field including city dwellers that used to take day, weekend and week long trips to escape the hustle and bustle of the cities.

War Time Turnberry

Due to its strategic coastal location, Turnberry became a base for the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. The golf was put on hold and Turnberry's waving greens and dunes were levelled to make way for airstrips, hangers and huts. Pilots were trained where the course had been while the wounded recovered in the Turnberry Hotel.

After the First World War ended, the course was repaired, redesigned and reopened for golfing. Nevertheless, when war was declared against Germany in 1939, it was quickly transformed back into an airfield as was the hotel into a hospital. This time the base was the home of the Royal Air Force flying school. It is thought that as many as 200 died at Turnberry.

Turnberry’s Fame

Turnberry Golf Course and Resort’s global reputation is highlighted by some of the many famous clientele who have visited, including: Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, President Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Rod Stewart, Jack Nicholson and Luciano Pavarotti, to name but a few.

Early Ayrshire Potato’s

Another notable success from the area is the “Early Ayrshires” epicure potatoes.  These were introduced to this stretch of coastline in 1875 when some enterprising local farmers identified the growing conditions around Maidens and Turnberry were the same as Jersey in the Channel Islands. They introduced the epicure potato to Ayrshire’s naturally salty air and sandy soil arising from its coastal position. In addition to this, using a seaweed-based fertiliser brought ashore during heavy weather combined to give the Early Ayrshire that distinctive rich earthy taste that is adored all over the country.

Epicure potatoes flourished into a commercial success just as traditional fishing industries began to decline. With the arrival of new railway lines at the beginning of the 20th century, the “Early Ayrshires” were being shipped to larger markets at home and abroad. They continue to be a commercial success today.

The potatoes themselves are floury, knobbly shaped with white skin and flesh and are great boiled, mashed or chipped. Depending on the weather conditions, the Early Ayrshire’s are normally distributed across the country to the eagerly awaiting shops and supermarkets between April and June each year.


Top: Robert the Bruce, King of Scots,

© The National Trust for Scotland

Bottom: 'Early Ayrshires'

Courtesy of Taste Ayrshire