With fantastically colourful histories that date back centuries, Scotland’s abbeys have seen many life-changing events play out.
In south Scotland, the four famous Borders Abbeys have played a crucial role in the tumultuous history of the Scottish Borders. Made up of Melrose Abbey, Dryburgh Abbey, Kelso Abbey and Jedburgh Abbey, the four structures were built around the 1100s.
Hidden spots to look out for include the place where Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried at Melrose, Sir Walter Scott’s final resting place at Dryburgh, the beautiful architecture of the great western door at Kelso and the 12th century 'Jedburgh comb' which was excavated at Jedburgh.
Travelling west, to Dumfries & Galloway, Sweetheart Abbey was founded in the 1200s by Lady Devorgilla as a tribute to her beloved husband. Look out for her stone effigy, as well as the high alter where she was buried. It’s said she was laid to rest holding her husband’s embalmed heart to her chest.
In Fife, Dunfermline Abbey was founded in the 1000s by Queen Margaret, now St Margaret. It’s the final resting place of many Scottish monarchs, including Robert the Bruce, who’s body is buried here while his heart is interred at Melrose. Look out for King Robert’s name built into the architecture high above the abbey.
Further north, in Dundee & Angus, Arbroath Abbey was the setting for one of the most pivotal moments in Scottish history – the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath. In 1320 Scotland’s nobles gathered to assert their independence from England in this letter to the Pope. On your visit gaze up at the famous ‘O’ shaped window. In times gone by this was lit up to help guide ships to safety.
Find more churches, cathedrals and abbeys to visit.