A very impressive, and oppressive fortress, Hermitage Castle consists of a 13th century courtyard and a large 14th century keep of four stories, around which a huge castle was eventually built. Small rectangular towers were added to each corner and the entrance was guarded by two portcullis (portcullises? Portcullii?). The walls have tiny windows and many splayed gun loops.
Holes on the outside of the towers show that a timber gallery projected from the entire structure. The southeast tower contains a well and a postern gate. The basements of each tower had no contact with the other towers until doors were knocked through the stone in 1540.
The property on which Hermitage is built once belonged to the D’Acres, but passed to the deSoulis family. One of that family was a man of ill repute and who was accused of dabbling in witchcraft. Many children disappeared during the time he lived in the castle, and the town eventually rebelled, wrapping deSoulis in lead and boiling him to death in a cauldron (eep! What a way to go! I wonder if the children stopped disappearing?). The family was forfeited in 1320.
The castle passed to the Grahams then to the Douglases. William Douglas imprisoned Alexander Ramsey of Dalhousie here and starved him to death in the prison pit. Predictably, Douglas was murdered by his godson in 1353.
Archibald, 5th Earl of Douglas, exchanged Hermitage with Bothwell. It was here that Bothwell lay wounded, prompting the wild ride by Mary, Queen of Scots, across the moors from Jedburgh and back in a day to see him on his sickbed. This was the ride that very nearly killed her.
The castle is reputed to be haunted. Screams can sometimes be heard from the victims of Lord Soulis, and the ghost of Alexander Ramsey has also been seen. Some have also seen Mary, Queen of Scots here.
It’s easy to see the original corner towers that were joined to make this single, block-like tower. From the back, the towers are a bit more obvious, but the caretaker painted a clear picture of this fortress, bristling with a wooden walkway, and guarded from all sides