Scottish fact of the week: Rathlin Island

Rathlin Island is reputed to be the place where Robert the Bruce was inspired to struggle on against the English after apparently watching a spider trying over and over to spin a web.

Robert the Bruce is thought to have been inspired on Rathlin Island. Picture: Neil Hanna
Robert the Bruce is thought to have been inspired on Rathlin Island. Picture: Neil Hanna

Located off the North west coast of Northern Ireland, Bruce is said to have fled there after a series of defeats in 1306.

While some cast doubt on the legends, it is thought likely that Bruce did go to Rathlin, and two featres on the island, Bruce’s Castle, and Bruce’s Cave, are said to be named after the man himself.

The Earl of Elgin, 37th Chief of the Bruce Family and a direct descendant of the King himself, believes that Rathlin is the place which inspired him.

Speaking to The Scotsman in 2006, The Earl said: “We think his cave is on Rathlin Island. I have been over there and it is pretty fantastic.

“I was very intrigued by Rathlin. It seemed to me to be absolutely perfect because he (Bruce) knew the waters between Ayrshire and Northern Ireland very well because that was where he was brought up.

“He was very much a seafaring man. There are currents at Rathlin and in the days of sailing you wouldn’t have been able to approach it swiftly. He would have seen anybody and been able to defend himself.”


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According to legend Bruce was defeated in battle, going on the run and hiding in a cave. Reaching a low point, he considered giving up his fight for Scottish Independence, until he saw a spider trying to build a web.

However, despite the web failing time after time, it persevered and eventually finished its web.

the tale says that Bruce was so inspired by the spider’s struggle that he took up arms once more and eventually drove the English out of Scotland in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn.