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The dark history of Wedderburn Castle

Updated: May 17

Just outside of Duns, in the Scottish Borders, there is a beautiful stately home known as Wedderburn Castle. The current building was mostly created in the 1700s and now provides a luxurious venue for weddings, corporate hospitality and holidays. But in the time of the reivers, it was a simpler, bleaker tower (now marked by a plaque in the courtyard) and the home of the Humes of Wedderburn.

This family had the dubious distinction of having every first son between 1413 and 1576 die at the hands of the English. Not that we need to feel too sorry for the inhabitants: the Wedderburn who appears in The Trail of Blood was responsible for several killings of his own, including the murder of the real-life Antoine de la Bastie.

After stabbing the Frenchman to death, as he tried to escape across the Whiteadder river, the Humes hacked off Antoine’s head and brought it back for display on the Mercat Cross in Duns – and subsequently to Wedderburn Castle. Incredibly, the skull remained there for another 300 years, until Miss Jean Hume had it burnt in 1810. But don’t let that spook you as you enjoy the sumptuous facilities on offer today…

Woodcut of human skull

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