Kingscauseway - What’s in a name?


icon Back to all articles

Kingscauseway is now merely a name on a map of Tain parish. In this article, Liz Sutherland looks at who the King was and why a causeway was named after him.

James IV of Scotland reigned from 1488 to 1513. He came to the throne at fifteen following the murder of his father James III after the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488. He felt responsible for his father’s death as he had led the nobles against him. Thereafter he always wore an iron chain belt next to his skin to which a link was added every year as penance and throughout his reign, he made frequent pilgrimages, some to Whitehorn in Galloway and a number to the shrine of Saint Duthac at Tain.

The Causeway is assumed to have been named after the King because to reach Tain the track led in one part not far from the town across marshy ground. The townsfolk had heard that their king was to walk the last part of the way barefoot. Something had to be done and the causeway was built.

In the 1970s pupils from Tain Academy uncovered a small part of it which had been by-passed when a bend in the original route was straightened, leaving undisturbed the great stones of which the causeway was made. Today you would have to search for it to find it as grass and heather has covered it up once more. (Pictured)

From his Treasurer’s records quoted in the Rev. W. Taylor’s short History of Tain, we can trace James’ visits. His first was in 1493 but there are no details of this visit. In 1495 he came three times, during Lent, at Whitsun and again in July. On each occasion, he spent money on clothes and twice on relics which he offered to saint Duthac. In March 1496 James rode from Brechin on pilgrimage to Tain. He paid eighteen shillings for ferries to cross the Spey, again at Ardersier and finally Cromarty.

When he reached Tain he lodged with the vicar. In October he travelled via “the ferryar of Dee” which cost eleven shillings and sixpence and a further eighteen shillings “to the Piparis of Aberdeen”. There are no records for the next three years but by November 1501 James was once more in Ross-shire. He paid fourteen shillings for a ferry from Inverness to Chanonry and the next day he gave five shillings to the hermit of Saint Duthac’s Chapel.

Two years later James was at Perth when he sent to Edinburgh for a relic to be brought to him on his journey north. He reached Aberdeen ON October 6, crossed thew Spey on the seventh, was at Elgin on the eighth, Beauly on the ninth, Tain on the eleventh, and paid two shillings and twopence for shoeing his horse. The next day he dispensed alms on several occasions both in the Chapel and in the churchyard.

However, along the way on this journey, the King enjoyed himself! Nine shillings were paid to the “madinnis of Forres that dansit to the King”, nine and sixpence for the” madinnis that dansit at Elgin “and a further fourteen shillings to the madinnis that dansit at Darnaway”. The next day he completed his journey and pilgrimage to Saint Duthac’s shrine. However, the tone of his pilgrimage in 1507 seems to have been made in a much more sober way. The King rode alone from Stirling to Perth, Aberdeen to Elgin, spent part of the night on a hard bed for part of the night at the home of the vicar of Kingussie and went on to Tain the next day where he attended mass but returned to Stirling to tourney with the local nobility.

In August 1513 James withdrew to a monastery in Stirling for eight days where he considered a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. However, instead, he made another visit to Saint Duthac’s Shrine at Tain. He spent £66 but on what we have no record. It was to be his last visit as he fell at the Battle of Flodden early in September, a battle to be long remembered as a terrible disaster commemorated in the beautiful song “The Flowers of the Forest”.

From Ronald Hamilton’s book “A Holiday History of Scotland” this is how he sums up James IV: “Chivalrous and enquiring, devout and pleasure-loving, this immensely lively monarch and great leader was a transitional character from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.”