The Declaration of Arbroath is arguably the most important document in Scottish history. It came in the form of a letter from Scottish nobles to Pope John XXII and proclaimed Scotland’s status as an independent sovereign state, asserting King Robert the Bruce as the King of Scots.
The letter was drawn up at Arbroath Abbey during the Wars of Independence between Scotland and England. On 6 April 1320 the Declaration was signed and sealed in the grounds of the abbey by 39 Scottish nobles.
The declaration is the first written concept of nationhood and is considered by many to be the founding document of the Scottish nation. This medieval document was also hugely influential overseas. The American Declaration of Independence is based on the Declaration of Arbroath and Tartan Day is celebrated on 6 April in the United States.
Learn more about this turning point in Scottish history for yourself with a visit to the fishing town of Arbroath in Angus. You can learn more about the Declaration of Arbroath at Arbroath Abbey. This medieval abbey was founded by King William the Lyon in 1178 and was home to Benedictine monks. It was constructed using local red sandstone, the ruins of which can still be seen from around the town. Look out for the distinctive round window which remains a local landmark, known as the ‘round O’. It was originally lit up at night as beacon for mariners, giving the townspeople the nickname ‘Reid Lichties’.
Throughout the town you will find references to the Declaration including a large mural depicting the signing at Arbroath Station and a statue close to the beach front.
Sadly, the original copy of the declaration was lost. The only surviving copy is held at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh.