Posted 19th Jan 2016
In the 18th Century smuggling was rife along many parts of Scotland's coastline, particularly in Eyemouth, as we discover...
With the port hosting many coves and deserted stretches, this made ideal cover for smugglers, and Gunsgreen House is offering the chance to walk in the footsteps of smugglers for yourself.
Following the 1707 union with England, Scotland had to embrace the English customs and excise regime, leading to certain items being taxed nearly seven times more than pre-union. This led Scots to believe 'free-trading' was their patriotic right, with many Jacobite factions and even the church turning a blind eye.
With the Government-employed body – the 'revenue men' – in charge of this proving to be highly unpopular, they found communities actively working against them. Their one ace was being able to call on the local militia, while the Smugglers Act 1736 introduced the death penalty for smugglers who wounded or threatened an employee of Customs and Excise.
The smugglers they came up against were often well-connected, such as John Nisbet of Gunsgreen House in Eyemouth. His connections across the whole of Europe included locals who were ever ready to unload and disperse the cargo. Gunsgreen House hosted comprehensive smuggling, with Nisbit's men being caught smuggling brandy and Madeira in 1773. You can re-walk the famous smugglers' trail, heading east towards Burnmouth, yourself and find the fishing community tucked into the craggy coastline.
The Smugglers' Trail also runs in the other direction, towards St Abbs, passing through Linkim Shore. Once upon a time ships would wait here for the tide before entering Eyemouth Harbour. You can walk the Trail here to view many of the bays and coves where, in days gone by, a small boat would row out to a waiting cargo to begin unloading.
Gunsgreen House is open from 29th March until 1st November 2016 daily, from 11am to 5pm. For more information visit www.gunsgreenhouse.org/smugglers-trail.html.