Inventory Battlefield

Battle of Dunbar IBTL31

Date of Battle: 27 April 1296

Status: Designated


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Designation Record and Full Report Contents

  • Name
  • Summary Information
  • Overview and Statement of Significance
  • Inventory Boundary
  • Historical Background to the Battle
    • The Armies
    • Numbers
    • Losses
    • Action
    • Aftermath and Consequences
  • Events and Participants
    • Context
  • Battlefield Landscape
    • Location
    • Terrain
    • Condition
  • Archaeological and Physical Remains and Potential
  • Cultural Association
    • Commemoration and Interpretation
  • References


Date Added
Local Authority
East Lothian
NT 67720 75411
367720, 675411

Overview and Statement of Significance

The first Battle of Dunbar is significant as the first major battle of the First Scottish War of Independence. The decisive English victory effectively destroys any organised resistance within Scotland to Edward I, although the Scots would not remain peaceful for long, and gives him effective control of the country, albeit briefly. It is also the only major battle fought on behalf of John Balliol as King, prior to his capture and forced abdication by Edward, although his supporters continued the fight in his name for many years after this.

Dunbar I was the first battle of the First Scottish Wars of Independence, in which Scotland and England engaged in a frequently violent struggle for control of the country over a period of over 30 years. Hostilities commenced in March 1296 when Edward I captured the Scottish border town of Berwick and then commenced the siege of Dunbar Castle in order to expand his footprint further north. This English incursion was itself a response to an attack on Carlisle Castle by the Scots under John Comyn. The siege at Dunbar was over-seen by John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, who also took command on the field during the battle.

The battle took place several miles to the south west of the castle when a Scottish force, under Comyn, was intercepted by the English before they could intervene on the siege. The well-equipped English army secured a decisive victory over the Scots, the mounted knights in particular proving themselves to be more than a match to their Scottish counterparts. A large number of leading Scottish nobles were taken prisoner and their absence in coming encounters was to be keenly felt by the Scots.

Inventory Boundary

The Inventory boundary defines the area in which the main events of the battle are considered to have taken place (landscape context) and where associated physical remains and archaeological evidence occur or may be expected (specific qualities). The landscape context is described under battlefield landscape: it encompasses areas of fighting, key movements of troops across the landscape and other important locations, such as the positions of camps or vantage points. Although the landscape has changed since the time of the battle, key characteristics of the terrain at the time of the battle can normally still be identified, enabling events to be more fully understood and interpreted in their landscape context. Specific qualities are described under physical remains and potential: these include landscape features that played a significant role in the battle, other physical remains, such as enclosures or built structures, and areas of known or potential archaeological evidence.

The Inventory boundary for the Battle of Dunbar I is defined on the accompanying map and includes the following areas:

  • The area to the north of the Spott Burn, the Spott Burn to the south of Spott village and the defile through which it runs, where some of the fighting may have taken place.
  • The area of flat ground to the south of the Spott Burn, a likely location for fighting.
  • The summit of Brunt Hill where the Scots may have arrayed prior to their advance onto the low ground.
  • The gentle slope of the addle to the west of Brunt Hill summit, the likely location of the Scots descent onto the low ground.
  • The area around Highside Hill, through which the Scots army advanced into position on Brunt Hill.

Historical Background

Attempting to catch the English army off-guard, John Balliol sent a relief force under John Comyn, the Earl of Buchan, to Dunbar to lift the siege of the castle. The Scots initially positioned themselves on the brow of the Lammermuir Hills, which is where they may have been sighted prior to the English advance from their siege works. The location seems to have been in the vicinity of the northern slope of Brunt Hill which rose to 600-700 ft behind Spott Burn. Surrey's advance was halted on the north side of the burn prior to a redeployment, which the Scots misinterpreted as a retreat. In response Balliol's force moved down off the high ground with the intention of taking advantage of disorder among the English ranks. It seems however that the English were advancing and not retreating, and had dropped down into the defile which accommodates the Spott Burn in order to cross it. Any disorder on the English side had been rectified by the time they came into view of the charging Scots. The ensuing encounter saw the breaking of the Scottish force, which was quickly put to flight by the more experienced English mounted troops. A number sought sanctuary at the castle but were handed over to the English by the warden, who surrendered the following day.

The Armies

The English army was commanded by John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, on behalf of Edward. This force was made up of troops engaged with the siege of Dunbar Castle, the taking of which was essential if Edward was to progress further north without risk of flanking attacks. The force consisted of knights under the Bishop of Durham, probably accompanied by infantry. In addition, several Scottish nobles appear to have been present in the English army, including .

The sources offer very little information about the nature of the Scottish force under John Balliol, King of Scots, other than to state that some of the men were provided by the garrison at Dunbar, that knights were involved and that the Scots were armed with bows, spears and axes.


The total number of combatants is uncertain, particularly for the Scottish side.

English: c. 2,300. This number includes 100 of the Bishop of Durham's knights, c. 300 cavalry and 2,000 infantry. The Documents Illustrative of the History of Scotland suggests 30,000 foot and 5,000 armed horses. Brooks (2007) points out that, although payroll records show 11,000 soldiers in Edward's army including 1,000 cavalry, it is unlikely all of them would have been on the field at Dunbar; a more reasonable estimate would be around a fifth of the total English force.

Scots: English accounts (Worcester Annals) put the figure at over 40,000 Scots, consisting of 1,000 cavalry (500 of which were on horses protected by mail) and 40,000 foot. However, this is clearly a case of the English overplaying the size of the Scottish army in order to increase the prestige of their victory. A more reasonable number would appear to be in the region of around 2,000-3,000. What is known is that among Comyn's army were, Nicholas (son of Thomas Randolph); Alexander, Henry and Reginald Sinclair; Malcolm of Haddington; Herbert of Morham (son of Sir Thomas of Morham); Walter of Edington; Andrew of Synton; Matthew of Ayton; Richard of Perisby; John of Fortune and William of Nenthorn.


Accurate figures on losses are again difficult to ascertain via the sources. Fordun put the figure of Scottish dead at 10,052, including Sir Patrick Graham, Earl of Dunbar, and 'many other nobles'. The Chronicle of Bury St Edmund quotes 8000 and Historia Anglicana mentions that Balliol's standard was carried into battle by Thomas, son of William Sinclair, who was among the slain. The Worcester Annals put the figure at c.3,000; however, at the same time, this source quotes the injury of just two English knights and no deaths, a most unrealistic figure. A more likely figure for the Scottish dead would be in the region of several hundred rather than several thousand.


The action took place at the foot of the Lammermuir hills, some 3 km to the south of Dunbar Castle. Attempting to catch the English army off-guard, the Scottish forces were rather ungraciously described by Peter of Langtoft (later translated into English by Robert Mannyng of Brunne in 1328 then edited by Thomas Wright in 1866-68) as 'al route de raskayle' [a rabble of rascals].

The Scottish army advanced over the brow of the Lammermuir Hills shortly after noon, moving down the gentle slope to the west of the precipitous crag which fronts Brunt Hill to the north. Surrey, having advanced out of Dunbar, paused on the northern side of the Spott Burn, which is contained within a narrow defile or valley. As the English dropped down into the valley, in order to cross the burn, the Scots began to move down the slopes, apparently misreading the English move as a retreat (an assumption by the Scottish leadership which appears rash in the extreme). By the time the Scots regained visual contact with the English the latter were in good order and ready to receive the assault. The Scots were quickly routed and pursued along the valley with the English calling out 'They flee! They flee!'.

According to the Ordnance Survey Name Book, the battle commenced in the valley between Broomhouse Mill (NT 6827 7638) and Oswald Dean (NT 6895 7652) and spread out over a wide area, though the Documents Illustrative of the History of Scotland suggests that:

''when the Englishmen saw the Scotchmen, they fell upon them and discomfited the Scotchmen, and the chase continued more than five leagues of way, and until the hour of the vespers.'

Other than calling out threats to cut off English tails, the contingent inside the castle is said to have provided no assistance, while the Scottish knights are recorded as having offered little resistance to the English cavalry and broke ranks at the initial clash, described by Langtoft as 'like quails or straw in the wind'. Their infantry was thereafter cut to pieces and:

'Many nobles fell wounded, while a great many other knights and barons, in the hope of saving their lives, fled to Dunbar Castle, and were there readily welcomed. But they were all to the number of seventy knights, besides famous squires, together with William Earl of Ross, made over, like sheep offered to the slaughter, by Richard Steward, warden of the said castle, to the King of England' (Fordun 319).

While Richard Steward may be a fabrication rather than a real figure, it is clear that the Scots who sought shelter in Dunbar Castle after the battle, along with many already inside, were subsequently betrayed by the warden and surrendered to the English, with more than 100 knights and squires taken to England in chains, including:

''the counte of Menteth, the counte of Athele, the counte of Ros, and 6 barons; John Comyn the young, William Saintclere, Richard Siuard the elder, John de Yochemartine, Alexander de Murref, Edmund Comyn de Kilbride. And besides 29 knightes and 80 esquier' (Scalacronica, 284).

Langtoft states that he could not recall another battle where such high numbers had fled or been killed so suddenly.

Aftermath & Consequences

The Battle of Dunbar is the first major battle of the Wars of Scottish Independence, but it was not an auspicious beginning for Scotland, being a decisive defeat for the army of John Balliol. Comyn and the king were forced to withdraw northwards after the defeat. Dunbar Castle itself surrendered the following day, and allowed Edward easy access into Scotland, where homage was paid to him as far north as Elgin and Aberdeen:

'Thus ended the reign of King John of Balliol '' The estates of Scotland do homage to the king of England. That same year, after the seizure of the king of Scotland, the estates of Scotland did homage and swore fealty to the king of England, surrendering to him their castles and fortified towns' (Fordun 319).

The castles of Edinburgh and Stirling were given up to Edward and he subsequently followed Balliol to the castle of Forfar:

'He was there met by John of Comyn, Lord of Strathbogy, who made his submission unto him. According to the account given by some, this Comyn immediately afterwards brought back the aforesaid King John, stripped of his kingly ornaments, and holding a white wand in his hand, surrendered up, with staff and baton, and resigned into the hands of the king of England, all right which he himself had, or might have, to the kingdom of Scotland' (Fordun, 319).

Thus, John Balliol abdicated on 12 July 1296 at Stracathro, near Brechin, an act which earned him the nickname 'Toom Tabard' (empty shirt) in reference to his plain surcoat when the Scottish Royal Arms were unceremoniously ripped from it, although this nickname may not have appeared until later. Despite having now acquired the estates of Scotland, Fordum (320-1) states that:

'He [Edward I], however, made no change at all - except in a few cases - in any of the wardens of castles, the balies of towns, and the king's ministers, who had been wont to minister unto the kings of Scotland, either by ancient custom, or by hereditary right, but, having taken from them an oath of fealty, he allowed them all, except the wardens of the castles of the chief boroughs, to stay in the same position and offices they had formerly served in.'

While initially Edward made very few changes, he soon installed English justices and sheriffs, including John de Warenne as his warden, Hugh de Cressingham as Treasurer at a new exchequer in Berwick-upon-Tweed and Walter de Amersham as Chancellor.

Edward also confiscated the Stone of Destiny and had John Balliol taken south along with the Golden Crown and Seal of the Kingdom of Scotland and records. The deposed King was imprisoned in the Tower of London until July 1299, when he was released to journey to France. On his departure, the Royal Golden Crown, the Seal, many silver and gold vessels and a large sum of money were found during a search of his luggage. King Edward ordered the Crown to be offered to St Thomas the Martyre, kept the Seal himself and returned the money to Balliol. He was thereafter released into the custody of Pope Boniface VIII and ordered to remain in the papal residency until his release in 1301 to his family's estates at Hélicourt, Picardy.

Events & Participants

John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey, was an efficient military commander, and had served in Edward's Welsh campaigns in 1277, 1282 and 1283, for which he was well rewarded with estates and titles in Wales. He was also an able diplomat and had served as a negotiator for the treaties of Salisbury and of Bigham in 1298 and 1290 respectively, both of which ensured independent status for Scotland on the death of Alexander III, with the proviso that his heir, Margaret, the Maid of Norway, marry Edward's son (later to be Edward II). Following his success at both the battle and siege of Dunbar he was appointed Warden of the Kingdom and Land of Scotland by Edward. Alas, the Scottish climate did not agree with him and he returned to England just a few months later citing ill health caused by the damp climate. Much against his will, even to the point of initially defying the king's orders, he was back in early 1297 at the head of an army tasked with putting down Wallace's rebellion. He suffered defeat at Stirling Bridge on 11 September 1297 and fled to York. He was re-appointed for the next Scottish campaign in early 1298 and had better luck raising the siege of Roxburgh and retaking Berwick Castle. Edward joined the campaign and Warenne's return to form was further underscored by his role as a commander in the victorious English army at the Battle of Falkirk on 22 July 1298. He finally died in Kent in 1304, at the age of around 73.

John Comyn, 3rd Earl of Buchan, was a cousin of the Red Comyn. He was Constable of Scotland in 1293 under John Balliol, and after Balliol's removal by Edward I, became one of the leaders of the Scottish resistance to Edward. Following the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, Comyn was required to submit to the English Crown and was dispatched home to deal with Andrew Moray in the north-east, but showed little enthusiasm for the task. With the murder of his cousin in 1306, Buchan became one of the leading representatives of the pro-English party in Scotland. After his rout by Robert the Bruce at Barra in spring 1308, Comyn fled south and died in England before the end of the year.

Andrew Moray was from a baronial family in Morayshire, who fought against Edward I at Dunbar alongside his father. Both were captured in the battle, although the elder Sir Andrew was sent to the Tower of London where he eventually died. The younger Andrew was held at Chester Castle, but was able to escape in the winter of 1296. He made his way home to north-east Scotland, where he proclaimed his defiance of Edward at Avoch. He quickly gained support and brought open warfare to the north-east, taking control of many major castles in the area around his homeland. John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, was released from captivity to suppress Moray; when they encountered one another, Buchan made no attempt to attack him and allowed Moray to march away. His efforts soon brought Moray into contact with William Wallace, and Moray and Wallace would fight together at Stirling Bridge in September 1297. Moray was badly wounded in the battle however, and he appears to have died of these wounds before the end of the year.


Scotland's history in the late 13th and 14th century was one of turmoil and conflict. Following the accidental death of King Alexander III in 1286, the heir to the throne was his three-year-old granddaughter, Margaret of Norway (the Maid of Norway). King Edward I of England proposed that she should marry his son and a treaty of marriage was signed in 1290. A ship was sent to fetch Margaret that same year, but she died in Orkney while on her way to Scotland for her inauguration, thereby scuppering Edward's plans.

,Many of the Scottish nobility had some claim to the throne in the absence of a clear successor. The two candidates with the strongest claim were John Balliol and Robert Bruce the Competitor. To settle the position, Edward I of England was asked to decide who should succeed. This process was known as the Great Cause and resulted in a total of 14 claimants competing for the Scottish crown, including Balliol and Bruce.

This situation provided Edward I with a new opportunity to bring Scotland within Plantagenet control. He was asked to preside over the court of inquiry to the dispute, but first insisted on recognition of his overlordship. The Scottish nobility would not agree to his overlordship of the country, unwilling to compromise the rights of the Scottish crown, but they were prepared to accept him as overlord on a personal basis. This was sufficient for Edward, together with control of several royal castles, and he led the court that finally decided on 17 November 1292 in favour of John Balliol.

John's inauguration as king was the start of his downfall. Edward clearly saw the election process as a way to bring Scotland under his control. He behaved towards John like a feudal overlord, repeatedly humiliating John and refusing to treat him as a fellow monarch.

The breaking point for the Scots came in 1294 when Edward summoned John and the Scottish lords to join his army in France as his feudal vassals. This rejection of the sovereignty of the Scottish nation was unacceptable to king and nobility alike. In 1295, the Scottish nobility concluded that John was totally compromised and they elected a council of twelve to run the affairs of the kingdom. In an attempt to counter Edward's power, the council made an alliance with Philip the Fair of France (this was the start of the 'Auld Alliance'). This was effectively a declaration of war against Edward and a rejection of his claim to overlordship, which Edward could claim as an act of rebellion. In support of their new allies, the Scots launched an attack against Carlisle in March 1296.

Edward responded by invading Scotland in 1296, razing Berwick and massacring its inhabitants. His army, under John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, went on to defeat the Scots army at Dunbar, effectively ending organised resistance. It is important to note that, although the armies were nominally serving the respective English and Scottish Kings, many of the Scots nobility served within the English army in this campaign, including Robert the Bruce, and in other campaigns throughout the Wars of Independence. This reflected both the shifting balance of power between various factions within Scotland, and the fact that the English King compelled some Scottish lords to serve him. After the Battle of Dunbar, Edward advanced through Scotland with almost no opposition. John Balliol was forced to surrender, abdicate his throne and renounce his alliance with France, and was stripped of the royal insignia. Edward also removed the Stone of Destiny from Scone to England, together with the Holy Rood of St Margaret and other symbols of the Scottish crown.

With Balliol removed and his own position strengthened by his victory, Edward again requested Scottish support for his ongoing war with France, but the outcome was not as he hoped. Resistance to his rule remained, but Edward's delegates in Scotland believed the Scots were no longer in a position to oppose him. Consequently they were taken largely by surprise when the Scots rose against English authority in earnest, in spring 1297. Among the notable figures leading the cause this time were William Douglas, Andrew Moray and William Wallace. William Douglas was soon captured following the Capitulation of Irvine, when a number of Scots nobles negotiated a peace with the English king. Wallace and Moray, however, continued the fight against Edward and resisted quite effectively, particularly with the victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297. Moray died in November 1297, but Wallace was knighted and made Guardian of the Realm, and led a punitive raid south into England in early 1298.

These successes came to nought as Philip of France provided no assistance and instead made peace with Edward, leaving the English king free to concentrate on suppressing Scotland. Edward's view was that the Scots were rebels against his authority; this was the terminology he used throughout. He personally led a force to Scotland later that year, inflicting a catastrophic defeat on Wallace's force at Falkirk. Wallace then resigned his position as Guardian, but continued to resist Edward's rule. He sailed to France in 1299 to petition Philip for support, who introduced him to Pope Boniface VII, who had been given custody of John Balliol by Edward. Balliol was released to Philip's custody in 1301, but he was never to return to Scotland - unlike Wallace.

Meanwhile, the debacle of the Scottish defeat at Falkirk had given Edward I the opportunity to conduct several leisurely campaigns over the next few seasons. He consolidated his control over central and southern Scotland by taking numerous strongholds, including Caerlaverock (1300) and Bothwell (1301). By 1302, most of the successes of Wallace and Moray's uprising had been reversed. The majority of strongholds (such as Edinburgh, Berwick and Roxburgh) had remained in English hands, while Stirling was retaken by the English directly after their victory at Falkirk. With central and southern Scotland being pacified, Edward I returned to England leaving garrisons, sheriffs and a lord lieutenant of Scotland in the person of John Segrave to maintain his authority.

The Scots were still unwilling to bow to Edward's authority. John Comyn was chosen as Guardian in 1302 and began a guerrilla campaign against the English king's forces in Scotland. In 1303, a Scottish army under Comyn destroyed a much larger English force at Roslin. However, the war remained in Edward's favour, and Comyn and his supporters negotiated terms with Edward in 1304. After Comyn's submission, Edward adopted a more pragmatic approach to Scotland, realising he needed support within the country if he was to retain his grasp. He restored dispossessed lands to many nobles and placed Scots in positions of authority, but he exiled many others whose loyalty could not be guaranteed. Finally, in 1305, Edward's bitter enemy Wallace was captured by John Stewart of Mentieth, the Keeper of Dumbarton Castle, and surrendered to Edward. Wallace was tried and brutally executed in London ' and Edward's control of Scotland seemed assured.

In 1306, Robert the Bruce, grandson of the Competitor and previously a supporter of Edward against the Balliol loyalists, began to move against Edward. Bruce murdered John 'the Red' Comyn in Greyfriars Kirk, Dumfries, and had himself inaugurated as King Robert I of Scotland at Scone in March 1306. Edward was enraged, again treating it as a rebellion, and declared that there would be no quarter for Bruce or his supporters. He despatched Aymer de Valence with an army to deal with Bruce. Valence, who was a brother-in-law of the murdered Comyn, inflicted a heavy but largely bloodless defeat on Bruce at Methven in June 1306. Bruce was then defeated a second time at Dail Righ by a force of Macdougalls, losing most of his men. Following this, the remainder of Bruce's army was dispersed and many of his family members were captured, each facing execution or long periods of imprisonment for their part. Bruce himself was forced to flee the mainland and went into hiding, possibly on Rathlin Island or in the Western Isles. This is the point at which the legend of the spider spinning a web is said to have inspired him to continue his efforts.

Bruce returned to the Scottish mainland in early 1307 at Turnberry. He now switched to a guerrilla campaign, engaging English forces at Glen Trool and, finally, in the Battle of Loudoun Hill, where he put Valence's army to flight in April 1307. Edward then mounted another invasion, but the English king died at Burgh-by-Sands in Cumbria in July, before crossing the border. Although his son, Edward II, continued the campaign briefly, it soon came to an end. Edward was too distracted by internal difficulties in England to deal effectively with Bruce, including problems at home caused by the hostility of the English barons to Edward's favourite, Piers Gaveston.

Edward's domestic problems provided an opportunity for Bruce to solidify his position in Scotland. He began a campaign to remove his internal enemies, taking control of castles at Inverlochy, Urquhart, Inverness and Nairn, and defeating the forces of the Comyns at the Battle of Barra and the MacDougalls at the Pass of Brander, at the same time as he was building his own support and strength. Once he had secured his own position among the Scots, he turned his attention again to the English. Most Scottish castles remained in English hands and Bruce began to seize these one by one, before destroying them to prevent their reoccupation by his enemies. By the end of 1309, Bruce was in control of much of Scotland, and was finally able to hold his first parliament at St Andrews. Edward launched a retaliatory expedition to Scotland in 1310, but it achieved nothing of note before he withdrew.

Over the next few years, Bruce continued a 'scorched earth' campaign to strengthen his position and weaken the English forces within Scotland. By 1313, only a few Scottish castles remained in English hands. This included Stirling, which was besieged by Bruce's brother Edward in June 1313. Edward Bruce came to an agreement with the governor of the Castle, Philip de Mowbray, by which Mowbray would surrender the castle if not relieved before 24 June 1314.

Meanwhile, King Edward II's political problems had been partially resolved by the killing of Gaveston in 1312 and the submission of the earls of Lancaster, Arundel, Warwick and Hereford in September 1312. The agreement made by de Mowbray made it politically unacceptable for Edward to leave the castle to its fate, while Bruce had also added Roxburgh and Edinburgh to the re-captured castles. The English King raised a large army and marched north to relieve the siege, although many of those present in the army had recently been his enemies.

Edward's army met Bruce's at Bannockburn, just outside Stirling. The Scottish scored a famous victory, which effectively gave Bruce complete control of Scotland while crippling Edward's authority in England. This in turn allowed Bruce to begin raiding into England in an attempt to force Edward to accept Scotland's status as a nation, and he recaptured Berwick in 1318. He appealed to the Pope for support with the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, and gained papal recognition as king in 1324. However, the English king did not relinquish his claim to Scotland, despite his defeat at Bannockburn and his ongoing struggles in England.. Edward II was deposed by his queen in 1327 and replaced by his 14 year old son Edward III. Finally, in 1328, with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, which recognised Scotland as an independent nation and relinquished any English claim to the throne, the First Scottish War of Independence came to a close.

Battlefield Landscape

The battle took place at the foot of the Lammermuir Hills south of Dunbar. The Scottish forces advanced at speed down the northern slope of Brunt Hill which rises behind Spott Burn then fought the English troops in what appears to have quickly become a running battle along the valley in front of the hill onto the lower ground below. The site of the battle remains largely undeveloped and it is possible that a rich body of material evidence from the battle remain in-situ.


According to the Ordnance Survey Name Book, the battle commenced in the valley between Broomhouse Mill and Oswald Dean and spread out over a wide area. Historians, primary sources and map sources, such as the First Edition and subsequent Ordnance Survey maps, place the battle location firmly at this position, but do not record the precise limits of the battle.


The ground over which the battle was fought has survived without much in the way of modern development, with most of it occupied by agricultural land, grazing and arable. The Scottish move onto the low ground most probably took place down the side of the gently sloping saddle to the south of the village of Spott ' to the east the slope is far too steep and any further to the west would have put the Scots too far away from Dunbar to have been spotted by the English. At this point the Spott burn runs along the bottom of a wide defile, which may have concealed English moves from the Scots above, their disappearance giving the impression of retreat. The battle, at least in part, may have taken place in this defile but the large area of flat ground to the south, between the defile and the base of the high ground would also provide an ideal location for the encounter.


No further information.

Archaeological & Physical Remains and Potential

No discoveries of human remains or battle-related archaeological material have been reported from the vicinity. However, given the nature of the fighting it is likely that metal objects dropped during the battle, including weaponry and personal equipment, will survive in the topsoil.

CFA Archaeology undertook a metal detecting survey on the site of Brandsmill, thought to be situated within the boundaries of the battle-field, to the south-east of Dunbar in 2007 in advance of the construction of an indoor horse-riding arena. The survey did not produce any finds relating to the battle and seven trial trenches revealed only reveal modern silo pits.

Cultural Association

There is no on-site commemoration or interpretation relating to the battle. There are some songs and ballads which make mention of the battle but none of them shed any light on its details.

Commemoration & Interpretation

No further information.



Barrow, G. W. S. 1976. Lothian in the First War of Independence, 1296-1328. Scottish Historical Review. Vol. 55, 151-171

Beam, A. 2008. The Balliol Dynasty, 1210-1364. Edinburgh: John Donald

Sadler, J. 2004. Border Fury: England and Scotland at War, 1296 - 1568. Harlow: Longman/Pearson

Information on Sources & Publication

The Battle of Dunbar I is documented in both primary and secondary sources, though the reliability of details such as the unfeasibly high numbers of combatants mentioned in the primary sources obviously casts some doubt on their overall quality. The background to the conflict is well illustrated by contemporary sources. As to reports of the battle action, there are letters and songs written by interested parties including John of Fordun. These particularly deal with the events immediately prior to and after the battle. French poems were written about the engagement, passed on through oral tradition and transcribed by later antiquarians and scholars. These, however, have been embellished with details and speeches of dubious veracity (e.g. The Chronicles of Peter Langtoft and Lanercost).

Primary Sources

Alexander, W. 1685-1704. Medulla historiae Scoticae being a comprehensive history of the lives and reigns of the kings of Scotland, from Fergus the First, to Our Gracious Sovereign Charles the Second.

Allen, W. 1595.A conference about the next succession to the crowne of Ingland diuided into tvvo parte.

Ashmore, E. 1672. The institution, laws & ceremonies of the most noble Order of the Garter collected and digested into one body by Elias Ashmole.

Avity, P. 1615. The estates, empires, & principallities of the world Represented by ye description of countries, maners of inhabitants, riches of prouinces, forces, gouernment, religion; and the princes that haue gouerned in euery estate. With the begin[n]ing of all militarie and religious orders. Translated out of French by Edw: Grimstone, sargeant at armes. London: Adam Islip

Bartholomaei de Cotton, monachi Norwicensis, Historia Anglicana.1859. (ed) H. R. Luard. London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts

Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland preserved in Her Majesty's Public Record Office, London. J. Bain (ed). Edinburgh: HMSO, p. 317-47, 742, 960, 1114, 1156

The Chronicle of Bury St. Edmunds, 1212-1303. 1964. (ed) A. Gransden. London: Nelson

The chronicle of Florence of Worcester with the two continuations; comprising annals of English history, from the departure of the Romans to the reign of Edward I. 1854. (Trans) T. Forester. London: Henry G. Bohn

The Chronicle of Lanercost, 1272-1346.1913 (Trans) Sir H. Maxwell. Glasgow: James Maclehose& Sons

Chronicle of Walter of Guisborough.1957. (Trans) T. Russell, (ed) H. Rothwell. London: Camden Society

Documents Illustrative of the History of Scotland from the death of King Alexander the third to the accession of Robert Bruce. 1870. (Trans) J. Stevenson. Edinburgh: HMSO

Jaffray, J. 1845. Dunbar, County of Haddington. The New Statistical Account of Scotland.

John of Fordun's Chronicle of the Scottish Nation: The Historians of Scotland. Vol. IV. 1872. (Trans) F. J. H. Skene. (ed) W. F. Skene. Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas

Langtoft, P. Langtoft's Chronicle. 295, 297, 301, 305, 307, 309

Robert of Brunne. 1725. Peter Langtoft's Chronicle (as illustrated and improv'd by Robert of Brunne). London: Samuel Bagster

Scalacronica, by Sir Thomas Gray of Heton, Knight: A history of England and Scotland from 1272 - 1363. 1836. Edinburgh: The Maitland Club

Cartographic & Illustrative Sources

Ordnance Survey.1875. First edition county series 1:10560.

Secondary Sources

Barron, E. M. 1879. The Scottish War of Independence. New York: Barnes & Noble Books

Barrow, G. W. S. 1976. Lothian in the First War of Independence, 1296-1328. Scottish Historical Review. Vol. 55, 151-171

Beam, A. 2008. The Balliol Dynasty, 1210-1364. Edinburgh: John Donald

Brooks, R. 2007. Cassell's Battlefields of Britain and Ireland, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

Dunbar, A. H.1899, Scottish Kings - A Revised Chronology of Scottish History 1005 ' 1625, Edinburgh

Gray, H. 2007. Proposed Horse Arena, Brandsmill, Dunbar East Lothian (Dunbar parish), archive assessment, metal detecting survey and evaluation. DES 8, 70

Sadler, J. 2004. Border Fury: England and Scotland at War, 1296 - 1568. Harlow: Longman/Pearson

Stones, E. L.G. 1970. Anglo-Scottish Relations 1174'1328. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Stones, E. L. G. and Grant, G. G. 1979. Edward I and the Throne of Scotland: An Edition of the Record Sources for the Great Cause. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Founders of Balliol College and their Families. Available digitally at [Last accessed: 05/09/2011]

RCAHMS. Battle of Dunbar (1650) site. Available digitally at [Last accessed: 09/09/2011]

RCAHMS. Spott, Battle of Dunbar site. Available digitally at [Last accessed: 09/09/2011]

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Doon Hill

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Related Designations

  1. Doon Hill, hall, InnerwickSM90098

    Designation Type
    Scheduled Monument
  2. Battle of Dunbar IIBTL7

    Designation Type

About the Inventory of Historic Battlefields

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

The inventory is a list of Scotland's most important historic battlefields. Battlefields are landscapes over which a battle was fought. We maintain the inventory under the terms of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We add sites of national importance to the inventory using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

The information in the inventory record gives an indication of the national importance of the site(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the site(s).

Enquiries about development proposals requiring planning permission on or around inventory sites should be made to the planning authority. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications of this type.

Find out more about the inventory of historic battlefields and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


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