The Covenanters and William Wallace’s Cave at Cleland

Cleland Wallace Cave

William Wallace, Alexander Peden and the Covenanters are commonly associated with caves in Scotland, but it is rare to find one in which both the Covenanters and Wallace allegedly hid.

One such cave is Wallace’s Cave on the South Calder Water in Bothwell parish, Lanarkshire. It lies, or lay, to the west of Cleland and near the former site of the Ravenscraig Steelworks.

Map of the Wallace Cave                 Aerial View of Wallace Cave

In 1795, the Old Statistical Account recorded that:

‘Upon the north bank of the Calder, in the middle of the steep rock upon which the house of Cleland stands, is a large natural cave which has been partly improved by art, capable of holding 40-50 men, and of difficult access. The entry was secured by a door and an iron gate. The fireplace and part of chimney and floor still remain. The tradition is that it was used as a place of concealment in the troublesome times of the country as far back as Sir William Wallace, perhaps by the hero himself, and his trusty band: Also during the violent feud, between the house of Cleland and Lauchope; and especially in the convulsions of this country [in the seventeenth century] under the Charles’s [I & II].’ (OSA, XVI, 325-6.)

The same text is found in the Imperial Gazetter of Scotland of 1854. (John M. Wilson (ed), Imperial Gazetter of Scotland, I, 188.)

In 1841, the New Statistical Account recorded an edited version of the earlier account: ‘At Cleland …A little above the house in a rock on the bank of the [South] Calder is a cave which is said to have been a hiding place for the persecuted [Covenanters], in the “troublous times”.’ (NSA, VI, 784.)

According to the Canmore website, when the cave was visited in 1953 the cave was much reduced and the connection to the Covenanters forgotten:

‘The remains of this cave are located in the centre of a cliff-face, making approach quite arduous. Rock-falls have reduced it simply to its back wall and a narrow ledge for its floor. It cannot now be described as a cave. No information, other than the traditional association with Sir William Wallace, was obtained relating to this cave.’

It is not clear if anything of the cave remains. It is no longer marked on the OS map. If anyone knows, please let me know.

Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on May 23, 2013.

5 Responses to “The Covenanters and William Wallace’s Cave at Cleland”

  1. I went down to this cave as a boy with friends very scary climb down to the entrance this would be early 80’s we all came from carfin

  2. I’m traveling to Scotland to research my Cleland ancestry. If you can give me a specific idea of where to look, I would hapily email pictures to you. There’s other bits I read about “Wallace Cave” on the Cleland lands. This could be it. My family tree goes back to Kneeland, the uncle of Wm. Wallace who helped raise him and fought beside him.

    • I have a family chart that goes back to the same time period (Alexander Cleland/Kneeland, uncle of William Wallace). I hope to travel to Scotland in 2022 and would love to know anything you have learned about the family history.

  3. I remember as a young boy in 1968 till 74 being told that the cave we played in up the cleland Rd was called Wallace’s cave it was near another landmark called course dam

  4. I remember as a young boy in 1968 till 74 being told that the cave we played in up the cleland Rd was called Wallace’s cave it was near another landmark called course dam

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