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The Redcap of Hermitage Castle

With its massive curtain walls with virtually no openings, Hermitage Castle is both an impressive and an intimidating sight.

The castle lies close to the border between Scotland and England, an area heavily fought over for centuries resulting in the heavy fortifications being an important part of the initial construction. It changed hands numerous times during the battles for the disputed lands, and it was not until the Union of the Crowns in 1603 that the risk of attack started to decline.

The present castle was constructed in the 14th century, but a castle previously stood on the site built for Lord De Soules in the mid 13th century. It is Lord De Soules who is central in a gruesome myth surrounding the castle. Referred to as ‘Bad Lord De Soulis’ in the folklore, he was described as being a giant of a man with immense physical strength who was involved in black magic, having been taught by a local warlock. In order to use his magic, it is said he kidnapped, imprisoned, and murdered local children.

According to the legend, Bad Lord De Soulis was protected by Redcap, a form of particularly malicious Faerie or Goblin who would perform dark deeds on behalf of its master, soaking it's cloth cap in the blood of its victims. His Redcap had reputedly cast a spell which made it impossible for De Soulis to be harmed by steel or rope, making it virtually impossible for the locals to restrain or kill him.

Eventually, however, they did finally fight back against De Soulis and, having overpowered him, they wrapped him in a sheet of lead to bind and restrain him. They then carried him to a large waiting cauldron at a stone circle in an area named Ninestane Rig that they had set up earlier, and they threw him in.

The raging fire below caused the lead to melt, and De Soulis was boiled in the molten metal.

The fate of the Bad Lord was part of a ballad written by Dr John Leyden (1775 – 1811);

On a circle of stone they placed the pot,

On a circle of stones but barely nine,

They heated it up red and fiery hot,

Till the burnished brass did glimmer and shine.

They rolled him up in a sheet of lead,

A sheet of lead for a funeral pall,

They plunged him in the cauldron red,

and melted him, lead, bones and all.’

De Soulis is said to still haunt the area around the castle with a large figure being seen on occasion both in the castle grounds and inside the curtain walls of the castle. It is claimed that workmen carrying out restoration work to the castle witnessed the figure looking out from a window on an inaccessible upper floor, and while many conclude this was De Soulis, it also raises questions as to who this figure may be given that the current castle did not exist during his times. It is disputed whether his spirit would follow the layout which he did not know in life. Off course if this phantom seen walking the castle and grounds is not De Soulis, we must explore who it could be. Perhaps it is the phantom of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was taken to the castle after being injured in a fight with cattle thieves in October 1566. It is said his secret lover, Mary, Queen of Scots, made the dangerous journey to be with him, following which she herself fell seriously ill and nearly passed away at her house in Jedburgh, leaving a strong energetic imprint on the castle for them both.

There are reports of children's cries being heard within the walls of the castle, which are believed to be the spirits of those imprisoned by De Soulis still tied to the land. Disembodied screams of agony are also said to echo from the direction of Ninestane Rig, which are believed to be the evil lord reliving the agonies of his final moments.

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