After a few days in Edinburgh, Scotland, we decided to take a quick train ride to a nearby town of Dunbar, Scotland. Dunbar is located on the sea and about 30 minutes by car (20 minutes by train) from Edinburgh. It’s a sleepy Scottish fishing town that offers beautiful views lying west of the North Sea.
Dunbar boasts being the birthplace of the Father of the US National Parks system, John Muir , some great surfing, fishing port, and home of Dunbar Castle.
How and why did we find ourselves in this small city you may ask?
Paul’s surname is Dunbar and we wanted to find out more about the place his family originally came from almost 500 years ago.
Historically, the “Dunbars” lived in this town near Edinburgh, Scotland. The chiefs of the Clan Dunbar are of ancient Celtic origin. The town and port of Dunbar have been featured prominently in Scottish history on various occasions. It was home to many kings, and other nobility including “Black Agnes”, and Mary Queen of Scots.
The first stone to build this castle was placed in 1070. Many significant moments from Scottish history have taken place in and around the castle. During the War for Scottish Independence, Edward II sought shelter here after escaping the Scottish, then the Scots damaged it so he couldn’t be safe there. It’s interesting to see the castle close up. You can see the bricks that were built right against the stone cliffs. You can see the many layers of bricks from centuries past. Colors are red, black, sandstone and covered in moss. It’s odd to think this castle still stands after countless rebuilds and destructions.
“Black Agnes” was a woman of great fortitude and savvy-ness, if I do say so myself. During the winter of 1337, Black Agnes, the Countess of Dunbar, defended the castle while it was under siege from the Earl of Salisbury. He had combined English armies against her. All she had was a garrison of archers and servants. Agnes eventually got help from Alexander Ramsay and they were able to starve out the English and defeat them. The siege on the castle lasted five months. She is said to have ordered her ladies-in-waiting to dust the castle battlements after the fight, to mock the Earl’s loss in front of his face. Another notable woman of history, Mary Queen of Scots, also spent time in Dunbar Castle during times of hiding out from the English.
The Privy Council of Scotland recognized the Dunbars as a clan in 1579, but according to Scottish history the House of Dunbar was more than a clan. As a famous 17th century historian remarked, “Second only to the Cummings, of course, the Royal Family, the Dunbars are the greatest family of Scotland.” Sir Robert Douglas noted, “No name in Scotland can boast of a more noble name than Dunbar”.
The Dunbar clan was closely associated with the Church. The clan funded and promoted the building of monasteries, abbeys, and chapels throughout Scotland.
After the death of an heirless king – King Alexander – The 8th Earl of Dunbar, Patrick was one of the ten competitors for the throne of Scotland in 1291. The history of their family includes many nobles from 1066 to 1457.
But in 1457 a jealous King James I appropriated the entire Dunbar inheritance of the richest man in the kingdom, George Dunbar. Supposedly George was of the weaker sort and retired quietly to a country home.
After James took all their money and land, the Dunbar clan never recovered and descendants scattered across the world. Paul’s Dunbar family left the town of Dunbar in the late 1500s and came to Savannah, Georgia.
After visiting Dunbar Castle, we roamed around the small fishing port, got some lunch and went to the “John Muir” museum housed across the street from his childhood home. All and all it was a cozy visit through a sleepy seaside town with lots of history.