Monday, 9 September 2013

SKINBURNESS



Looking at the sleepy village of Skinburness on the Solway coast today, it is hard to believe that during King Edward I's campaign against the Scots it was a key naval port.  During the 13th century the King had granted a charter to establish a market town there, which was to provide the army with supplies for its Scottish expeditions.  At the end of the century Edward gathered together a fleet of around 50 ships from all over the country as well as from Ireland.  The fleet lay in wait at Skinburness until an opportunity arose for a confrontation with the Scots, led by William Wallace, with the purpose of seizing the land around the Solway for England.  However, the town's prominence was soon to come to an abrupt end when much of it was destroyed by a storm.  The monks of Holm Cultran Abbey, who owned the land, moved the population away and built Newton Arlosh as a replacement for Skinburness.  The monks are also thought to have been responsible for the building of a sea dyke which still protects the village from high tides today.  After all this upheaval Skinburness reverted to a quiet fishing village. 

There used to be a ferry service from Skinburness to Scotland operating from a building known as The Longhouse.  The service was advertised in the Cumberland Pacquet in 1787 as a "large and commodious ferry boat", with the promise that it would "ply constantly and on reasonable terms".  The ferry carried people, cattle and goods across the Solway.  The Longhouse is believed to have been the model for Joe Crakenthorpe's tavern in Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott, from where Bonnie Prince Charlie bade farewell to his supporters before going into exile.  The Longhouse was a pub called The Greyhound in the late 1700s, and Scott is reputed to have stayed there while writing Redgauntlet.  It later became a hotel and has now been converted into private residences.  Skinburness Marsh is of interest to birdwatchers, being a magnet for large numbers of geese in the winter.  There are also wading birds, and peregrines can sometimes be seen hunting them.  To the northeast of Skinburness is Grune Point, which offers wide views of the estuary.

Map of the area. 

File:Sea Dyke at Skinburnness - geograph.org.uk - 126335.jpg
View across the marshes towards the sea dyke. Photo by Phil Williams, via Wikimedia Commons

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