NATIONAL FLAG HERITAGE CENTRE Athelstaneford - Birthplace of Scotland's Flag. The St Andrew's Cross or Saltire is Scotland's national flag.
Tradition has it that the flag, the oldest in Europe and the Commonwealth, originated in a battle fought close by the East Lothian village of Athelstaneford in the dark ages, believed to have been 832AD.
An army of Picts under King Angus, and aided by a contingent of Scots, was invading Lothians (at that time still Northumbrian territory), and found itself surrounded by a larger force of Saxons led by Athelstan.
Fearing the outcome, Angus led prayers for deliverance and was rewarded by seeing a cloud formation of a white saltire (the diagonal cross on which St Andrew had been martyred) against the blue sky.
The king vowed that if, with the saints help, he gained the victory, then Andrew would thereafter be the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots did win, and the Saltire became the flag of Scotland.
How to Get There
Athelstaneford lies 20 miles to the east of Edinburgh and is easily accessed and signposted from the A1 exits at Haddington and Dunbar.
What to See
The Flag Heritage Centre lies to the rear of Athelstaneford Church and occupies a lectern doocot built in 1583 and restored in 1996. Visitors can enjoy a short audio-visual dramatisation of the traditional origins of Scotlands flag.
Within the churchyard is the Saltire Memorial, erected in 1965, which incorporates a granite panel showing the two armed hosts facing each other beneath the St Andrews Cross in the sky. Attached is a tall flagpole on which the Saltire is flown permanently, floodlit at night.
When to Visit
The Flag Heritage Centre is open daily between 9.00am and 6.00pm from April to October, and on St Andrews Day. Admission is free.