The spring was now at hand, and Douglas, with Archie Forbes and a few followers, left in a boat, and landed on the Isle of Arran. In the bay of Brodick was a castle occupied by Sir John Hastings and an English garrison. The Scots concealed themselves near the castle, awaiting an opportunity for an attack. A day or two after their arrival several vessels arrived with provisions and arms for the garrison. As these were being landed Douglas and his followers sallied out and captured the vessels and stores. The garrison of the castle made a sortie to assist their friends, but were driven in with slaughter, and the whole of the supplies remained in the hands of the Scots, causing great rejoicing to the king and the rest of the party when a few days later they arrived from Rathlin.
Bruce now proposed an immediate descent upon Carrick, there, in the midst of his family possessions, to set up his banner in Scotland. The lands had been forfeited by Edward and bestowed upon some of his own nobles. Annandale had been given to the Earl of Hereford, Carrick to Earl Percy, Selkirk to Aymer de Valence. The castle of Turnberry was occupied by Percy with three hundred men. Bruce sent on his cousin Cuthbert to reconnoitre and see whether the people would be ready to rise, but Cuthbert found the Scots sunk in despair. All who had taken up arms had perished in the field or on the scaffold. The country swarmed with the English, and further resistance seemed hopeless. Cuthbert had arranged to light a beacon on a point at Turnberry visible at Lamlash Bay in Arran, where the king, with his two hundred men and eighty-three boats, awaited the sight of the smoke which should tell them that circumstances were favourable for their landing.
Cuthbert, finding that there was no chance of a rising, did not light the bonfire; but as if fortune was determined that Bruce should continue a struggle which was to end finally in the freedom of Scotland, some other person lit a fire on the very spot where Cuthbert had arranged to show the signal. On seeing the smoke the king and his party at once got into their boats and rowed across to the mainland, a distance of seventeen miles. On reaching land they were met by Cuthbert, who reported that the fire was not of his kindling, and that the circumstances were altogether unfavourable. Bruce consulted with his brother Edward, Douglas, Archie, and his principal friends as to what course had better be pursued. Edward declared at once that he for one would not take to sea again; and this decision settled the matter.
The king without delay led his followers against the village outside the castle, where a considerable portion of the garrison were housed. These were assailed so suddenly that all save one were slain. Those in the castle heard the sounds of the conflict, but being unaware of the smallness of the assailant’s force, did not venture to sally out to their assistance.