Scotlands History

Robert the Bruce and the spider

The legend of Bruce and spider is world famous.

It is said that in the early days of Bruce’s reign he was defeated by the English and driven into exile. He was on the run - a hunted man. He sought refuge in a small dark cave and sat and watched a little spider trying to make a web.

Time and time again the spider would fall and then climb slowly back up to try again.

If at first you don't succeed - try, try again.

Finally, as the Bruce looked on, the spider managed to stick a strand of silk to the cave wall and began to weave a web. Robert the Bruce was inspired by the spider and went on to defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn.

The legend as it is now told was first published by Sir Walter Scott in ‘Tales of a Grandfather’ in 1828, more than 500 years after the Battle of Bannockburn. It is thought that Scott may have adapted a story told about Sir James Douglas.

Caves across Scotland and Ireland are said to be legendary cave of Bruce and the spider: the King's Cave at Drumadoon on Arran; King Robert the Bruce's Cave in Kirkpatrick Fleming near Lockerbie; Bruce’s Cave - Uamh-an-Righ, Balquhidder Glen; Bruce's Cave on Rathlin Island.

  • Close-up photo of a spider in the middle of a web

Click on the image to view a larger version.