Have archaeologists found the remains of the site where William Wallace was made Guardian of Scotland?

By Culture24 Reporter | 03 May 2016

A little-known church site in Scotland could cover the spot where William Wallace once stood, experts say

A photo of the ancient grey Auld Kirk site in Selkirk, on the Scottish Borders
A geophysics study of Selkirk's Auld Kirk has uncovered what appears to be the underground remains of a medieval church. William Wallace was likely to have been made Guardian of Scotland there in 1297© Scottish Borders Council
Archaeologists believe they can “almost pinpoint” the Scottish Borders spot where William Wallace, the knight whose marauders in the medieval Wars of Scottish Independence inspired the film Braveheart, was made Guardian of Scotland.

A geophysics study of a ruinous, ivy-covered church at the Auld Kirk, in Selkirk, has revealed a chapel which could date from the Norman period.

“It has been widely acknowledged that this was the site of the Kirk of the Forest where Wallace was made Guardian of Scotland following his and Andrew Moray’s defeat of the English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297,” says Dr Chris Bowles, the archaeologist for the Scottish Borders Council.

A photo of the ancient grey Auld Kirk site in Selkirk, on the Scottish Borders
The study was carried out by a Durham University team© Scottish Borders Council
“Ruins of the Auld Kirk date from the 18th century, but we knew this had replaced earlier churches on site from the 12th and 16th centuries.

“We had been expecting the geophysics survey to uncover a 16th century church that we know to have existed and which was a replacement to the medieval church, but the only evidence in the survey is in relation to the medieval church.

“The association between Wallace and the local area is quite well documented, with Wallace using guerilla tactics to fight the English from the Ettrick Forest. The Scottish nobles made Wallace Guardian of Scotland in recognition of his military successes.”

A photo of the ancient grey Auld Kirk site in Selkirk, on the Scottish Borders
Dr Chris Bowles (left) and Colin Gilmour, the Selkirk Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme Project Manager© Scottish Borders Council
Dr Bowles admits experts’ knowledge of the history of the area is not extensive. “There has been little archaeological work carried out to date,” he says.

“We are very restricted by the burials in the area to allow any excavation. But in the future it may be possible to conduct limited investigations in areas where there is no evidence of burial.”

The project managers and the council hope to make the site more visible to visitors through signposts and interpretation boards as part of the regeneration of the centre of the town.

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A photo of the ancient grey Auld Kirk site in Selkirk, on the Scottish Borders
© Scottish Borders Council
Three church sites to see in Scotland

Elgin Cathedral
The superb ruin of what many think was Scotland’s most beautiful cathedral. Much of the work is in a rich late 13th-century style, much modified after the burning of the church by the Wolf of Badenoch in 1390.

Melrose Abbey
One of Scotland's most famous ruins, the abbey was founded by David I in 1136 for the Cistercian Order. It was largely destroyed by Richard II’s English army in 1385. The surviving remains of the church are largely of the early 15th century.

Holyrood Abbey And Abbey Strand
The ruined nave of the 12th and 13th century abbey church, built for Augustinian canons. The three-storey building on Abbey Strand has its origins in the late 15th or early 16th century. It was partly rebuilt in 1544 and was heavily restored in 1916.
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