Born into the House of Wessex, Margaret was forced to flee to Scotland with her family following the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror. She became of the wife of Malcolm III and dedicated much of her subsequent life to religious meditation and devotion.
The route begins in Edinburgh at St Margaret’s Chapel, located within Edinburgh Castle, which was built by her son David as a memorial to her. From here you can follow the Royal Pilgrim Way to the ruined Holyrood Abbey which takes in a number of the city’s major churches including St Giles Cathedral and the Kirk of the Canongate.
The River Forth plays an important part in the story of St Margaret. The spot where she and her family are said to have landed after fleeing England is known today as St Margaret's Hope, near the village of North Queensferry. She later founded Queen’s Ferry to provide pilgrims safe passage to the shrine of St Andrews. The Priory Church of St Mary of Mount Carmel now stands on this spot. You can catch a boat from Queensferry to Inchcolm Island and Abbey or cross the river by road or rail to North Queensferry and then on to Dunfermline, a former capital of Scotland and Margaret’s first residence in Scotland.
See the Benedictine Abbey she founded, where she was later buried alongside her husband, and visit St Margaret’s Cave, a natural space where she engaged in private solitude and contemplation. After exploring Dunfermline, head to the coastal town of St Andrews, passing various Christian sites along the way including a healing well at Scotlandwell and a beautifully restored Roman Catholic chapel at Falkland Palace. Continue onwards through the farmland, villages, town and churches of north east Fife which Margaret often travelled around performing charitable acts, before arriving in St Andrews.
Instead of heading straight to St Andrews, you can take a boat to Inchkeith Island where Saint Adomnan, Abbot of Iona, founded a monastery. Continue along the coast of Fife, pausing to visit the various historic churches located along the way to Dysart where the ruined Church of St Serf sits by the harbour. On the way to St Andrews, you can travel along the East Neuk of Fife, home to one of Scotland’s oldest medieval parish churches. From Anstruther, you can sail out to the Isle of May, home to the Celtic monastery of St Ethernan and the Pilgrim’s Well, the water of which is said to have special healing properties.
Bring your journey to an end in St Andrews which has been an important centre of prayer and pilgrimage throughout the ages. Learn more about the life of Margaret and other medieval pilgrims at the St Andrews Museum, and explore the atmospheric ruins of the St Andrews Cathedral and its incredible artefacts which include the St Andrews Sarcophagus, a masterpiece of Pictish masonry from the eighth century.
Make your final stop St Mary’s Chapel by the sea which offers a peaceful setting in which to contemplate the journey you have just undertaken and the remarkable life and legacy of Saint Margaret.
You can find information and maps of the full route below.