Listen to an Introduction:
ardlaw is a British hill fort of uncertain date. It has never been excavated. The name means ‘Sentry Hill’. At over 300 feet above sea level, the oval fort guards the Nith estuary, a strategic position that the Romans recognised when they built a camp alongside. A stone and earth rampart once had an 18 foot wide trench in front of it, with a 5 foot wide entrance on the west side.
Around 950AD the site was recorded as Karlaurock (now Caerlaverock). Caer means fort or stronghold. Laverock is more difficult to translate. The geographical spread of Rheged is not well documented. In 597AD the High Chiefship passed to Llywarch who is believed to have ruled until Rheged was finally absorbed by the Angles in around 630AD. Was Caerlaverock = Caer Llywarch (Llywarch’s Stronghold)?
In 575AD the battle of Ardefrydd (Arthuret) saw the genocide of Merlin’s clan who ruled an area north of the Solway. The Welsh Triads, of which the earliest surviving manuscripts date from the 14th century, describe the battle as a futile squabble over ‘a lark’s nest’. Because there is an Old English word Lawrec, which means a lark, this has been applied to Caerlaverock. But perhaps it is more likely that somewhere along the way from centuries of repeated copying, Llywarch became transcribed as Lawrec?
If Merlin’s clan had seriously tried to annex Wardlaw and its control of the Nith Estuary, it would certainly have been seen as a major offensive by Rydderch Hael, the High Chief of Strathclyde. With the Rheged colonies firmly established in Galloway, the Nith provided an important corridor for Strathclyde to access the maritime trade routes from the Solway. A land grab here would have been a cause for a full blown war but Rydderch appears to have only sent a token force to Arfdefrydd, under the command of his eldest son, to give him a chance to win his spurs in his first battle. The main instigators of the attack were from south of Hadrian’s Wall and this seems to suggest the ‘larks nest’ which causes the squabble may more likely have been in Yorkshire, perhaps around Catterick.
How to get here
Wardlaw is about 7 miles south of Dumfries on the B725, following the River Nith towards the Solway Estuary. Caerlaverock Castle and the Wildfowl and Wetland Centre (WWT Caerlaverock) are on the south side of the road. You may park in the small car park, signposted to Caerlaverock Castle, on the corner of the lane leading to the castle. About a mile above the Castle, on the east side, you will see a circle of trees on a hilltop at the head of a field. This is Wardlaw. It is an easy walk up the hill and there is a style over the stone dyke encircling the fort. The views are superb all round, and you can see over to the hills of the Lake District on a clear day.
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Wardlaw from above
Click to play our video of aerial views over Wardlaw.
Places to Visit and Things to Do
Unique, moated, triangular shaped fairy-tale castle a few miles to the South of Dumfries. Lovely walks through the woods and into the National Nature Reserve.
Famed for the winter spectacle of Svalbaard Barnacle geese, Whooper Swans and other migrants, WWT Caerlaverock provides a brilliant opportunity to watch wildlife at close quarters.
Two miles north of Wardlaw Hill lies Isle Tower – an early 17th Century stone, 3 storey tower house, now only the northern aspect survives at some height. As the Lochar Water floods in winter, the Isle Tower becomes an Island once more.
Have a look at this wonderful community website for a wealth of information, ideas of places to go, things to see and do, fabulous local photography, and what’s going on locally…
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Buy the Book by Robin Crichton
The History behind the Legend
This is the true story behind the legend of Merlin. Born of a royal family to a life of privilege and luxury, his place in society was ordained until he lost everything in a bloodbath of pillage and genocide. Forced to live on the run he survived as an outlaw hiding out in a cave, living off what the forest could provide.
It is the story of the clash between Christianity and traditional belief – a duel between St Mungo the priest and Merlin the pagan, played out against a webs of late 6th century political intrigue and the strife of a land tearing itself apart.
Until now, our Early Dark Age heritage has been largely ignored by historians because of the lack of cross-checkable written data. This book combines history, archaeology, etymology, topography, botany and folk memory in a giant jigsaw. With nearly 150 colour illustrations and maps, the book is accompanied by a gazetteer of 28 Dark Age sites. It presents the evidence, suggests various interpretations and invites the reader to be the historical detective.
For further information: contact Robin Crichton – Email firstname.lastname@example.org