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Excavations at historic Borestone site at Bannockburn

7 December 2011

Archaeologists are continuing preliminary investigations at the site of the new visitor centre for the Battle of Bannockburn.

                                    Trench at Borestone

Following earlier excavations in October, the team are digging for the position of the Borestone where Robert the Bruce raised his banner before the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 where the Rotunda now stands.

The Rotunda, built in 1964 to mark the 650th anniversary of the battle, is badly in need of repair and structural engineers are assessing the work required. As part of the project a full Conservation Plan was completed for the rotunda by the conservation architect Andrew Wright.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:

“The work to create a new visitor centre at the site of the Battle of Bannockburn is continuing well with this second round of archaeology ensuring that nothing of importance is lost during the building work.

“We may still be some way off the opening in time for the 700th anniversary in 2014 but it is vital that we push ahead with this work to preserve any remaining archaeology and use these findings to add to our understanding and reflect it in the state of the art interpretation that will make this centre a world-class attraction.

“The new centre will just be the latest commemoration of this incredible site and this particular series of excavations is hugely interesting because it is looking at the legacy of the site as a memorial and the way that people have memorialised and interacted with it throughout the centuries. ”

The new centre has been designed by award-winning architects Reiach and Hall as part of the project to enhance the presentation of the battle and its significance to our history in time for the 700th anniversary of the battle in 2014.

In addition to the Rotunda, the site is also the focus for other memorials to the battle: the famous Pilkington-Jackson statue of Bruce, a cairn built in 1957, and the flagpole erected in 1870.

Derek Alexander, Head of Archaeological Services for the National Trust for Scotland, said: “The first memorial to the battle was in fact the Borestone itself: a flat stone with a circular hole 4 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep. Tradition has it that the Borestone was the socket in which Robert Bruce, King of Scots, raised his standard prior to the battle and marks the site of the Scots camp. The site has been visited by tourists since the 18th century, including Robert Burns, and an engraving of 1826 shows it beside the road in an open rural landscape.

“We are hoping that in addition to the position of the Borestone we may find objects dropped or even deliberately placed and left by visitors to the site over the last couple of hundred years – it certainly worth investigating.”

Over the years numerous visitors chipped off parts of the Borestone, to take home as souvenirs, and by the middle of the 19th century the fragments had to be protected by an iron grille set into a low stone wall and the site was staffed by a custodian.

During the building of the rotunda in the 1960s the precise location of the original Borestone was cleared and re-surfaced and the last two fragments transferred into the new visitor centre for safe-keeping.

The current archaeological investigations are looking for the site of the original Borestone itself, which may be marked by a bed of mortar. Another trench will also be excavated over one end of the 19th century custodian’s hut. In both trenches it is hoped there may be artefacts dropped by visitors to the site over the last 300 years.

The proposal for the new visitor centre was announced in 2009 with £5m funding from the Scottish Government. An application for £3.8m has received a stage one pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund with a final decision hoped for early in 2012.

2014 will be a huge year for events in Scotland – as well as the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, Scotland will also play host to the Commonwealth Games and The Ryder Cup.

Notes for editors:

  • The Battle of Bannockburn Project is a joint venture by the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government, to provide a new visitor centre and experience for one of the most significant battles in Scotland’s history for the 700th anniversary in the 2014.

  • The design team include:
              Architectural Team – Reiach and Hall with Sinclair Knight Merz (Engineer), Turner and Townsend (QS) and KJ Tait (M&E Engineers)
 Interpretation consultant – BrightWhite
 Landscape Architects – Ian White Associates
 Digital Design - Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation (CDDV)
  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

  • The National Trust for Scotland is one of Scotland’s leading conservation charities, which relies on the financial support of its members to fund its important work of caring for the natural and cultural heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy

Lesley Brown
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07920 768096

Sarah Cuthbert-Kerr, NTS, 0844 493 2483 / 07713 786277