Enjoy a great day out in the rural village of Douglas on the south bank of the Douglas Water, set in rolling hills and moorland. It is well worth exploring the beauty of the historical buildings and the narrow winding streets of Douglas.
New Lanark World Heritage Site is close to Douglas and offers plenty to do for the whole family. Why not walk part of the Clyde Walkway, which runs from Glasgow City Centre right through to the World Heritage Site at New Lanark.
A Brief History of Douglas
The largely 18th century winding Main Street retains much of its medieval character and is dominated by Old St Bride’s Church where lie the remains of the Earls of Douglas. The Douglas Townscape Heritage Initiative has now restored the historic buildings within the heart of the village to their former glory.
As well as its castle remains and churches, there is a heritage museum in the village, and a collection of monuments and statues including one commemorating a Covenanter, James Gavin, who had his ears cut off for his faith.
The Douglas Heritage Museum first opened its doors to the public in August 1993 in one of the village’s oldest buildings, the former Dower House of the Douglas-Home family. The museum aims to present the significant moments in the history of Douglas by creating exhibitions each year which reflect the life and heritage of Douglas and the Douglasians.
Although Douglas is an old village, most of its buildings are younger than 200 years old. The village grew to service nearby Douglas Castle, seat of the Douglas family.
The first mention of Douglas Castle in historical documents is 1288 when Duncan, Earl of Fife's murderer was incarcerated there. The castle was fought over many times by the Scots and the English as well as by feuding Scottish nobility. Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed overnight at Douglas Castle on his way to defeat at Culloden.
The castle was destroyed by fire in 1758 leaving nothing but one tower. A replacement, designed by Robert Adam was started but abandoned and later demolished. The remaining tower was immortalised by Sir Walter Scott in his novel Castle Dangerous and the grounds are open to the public. The Douglas family married into the Home family and the late earl, Alex Douglas-Home was prime minister from 1959-1964.
St Brides church was built in the 14th century, although it was probably a religious site in the previous 300 years. In the 1600s part of the building was converted to a court house and jail and proceedings were held there until the new St Brides church was built in 1781. The Earl of Home ordered renovations in 1880 and the clock tower today houses the oldest working clock in Scotland.
Douglas also has strong miltary connections. In 1689 a team of men was enrolled to support the new King William and as the men came mainly from the Douglas estates they were given the name the Angus Regiment, after the Earl of Angus, one of the sons of the Marquis of Douglas.
The name was later changed in memory of the Covenanter Richard Cameron, to the Cameronian Regiment. The Lanarkshire Imperial Yeomanry regularly set up camp near Douglas at the turn of the 20th century, for training and as a recruitment drive. The site, with all the tents, stables and horses took on the feel a country fair and people would visit from miles around.
Douglas started life as a mainly agricultural village, along with a little weaving. With the discovery of a major coal seam in the Douglas valley in the latter part of the 19th century came an influx of workers, new housing and schools. Many of the mines worked well into the 1940s but have now closed.