What’s With the Spider?
In the southwest region of Scotland sits a farming village of just 800 people called Kirkpatrick-Fleming. This near thousand-year-old village does not only claim unhindered views of the Cumbrian Hills and starry sky, but believes itself to be the site of King Robert the Bruce’s famous cave hideout. For just £1, visitors can set off along a path through a caravan and camping site called Bruce’s Cave, following hand-painted signs down an overgrown stairway. At the end of the wooded path lies the entrance to a hidden cave, set high into the cliffs above the River Kirtle. Along the red sandstone walls are the engraved initials of those who’ve gone before, some dating as far back as the late 1800s. An inscribed stone over the cave’s entrance reads:
“Within this cave King Robert the Bruce
from Foes pursuant sought a truce
like my forebears who for him fell
I Irving G and do guard it well”
*This damp cave is said to be the the location of King Robert the Bruce’s fabled encounter with a spider; the same spider pictured on the neck of every Scottish Kings bottle, dangling by its web. The warrior King sought refuge in the cave in the winter of 1306, while outrunning Edward I of England. The perilous war for Scotland’s independence was looking bleak, and England set a price on Bruce’s head in an attempt to squash the rebellion. The story goes that while in hiding, Bruce watched a spider spin its silk web, trying desperately to connect its thread to the cave wall. Bruce looked on as the spider tried and failed six times, and he thought of the six brutal defeats he led against the English. On the seventh try, the spider swung and successfully connected its web to the cave wall. It was in this very moment that King Robert the Bruce decided to come out of hiding and continue the fight for Scotland’s independence. It is written that because of his encounter with this persistent spider, he said to his troops,
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Every Scottish Kings bottle bares a spider, dangling from its web in celebration of the strength, perseverance and bravery that made Scotland the country it is today.
*The true location of this fabled cave is highly disputed. While Bruce’s Cave in Kirkpatrick-Fleming is a strong contender, living descendants of Robert the Bruce favor the Irish Cave on Rathlin Island as the true site of his spider encounter.