While planning our trip to Scotland, Marty and I knew that we wanted to do a couple of things. We not only wanted to stay in a beautiful castle, but we also see the abbeys in Scotland. Luckily we were able to do both. (I also wanted to do some Spa Breaks in Scotland, but Marty didn’t seem so keen on that. LOL! ) So, to help with your planning, we have put together a list of our 3 favorite abbeys in Scotland that are worth your vacation time!
Money Saving Tip- If you’re a history lover like we are, then we highly suggest you looking buying a Historic Scotland Explorer Pass. This pass saved us so much money! We were able to visit all of the abbeys in Scotland listed in this article as well as many others fabulous sites in Scotland, including Edinburgh Castle during our 2 days in Edinburgh.
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Our 3 Favorite Abbeys in Scotland
1. Jedburgh Abbey
Brief History of Jedburgh Abbey
Don’t worry, I’ll keep the history lesson to an overview for you. 🙂
Established in the 1100s in the Scottish Borders region, Jedburgh Abbey carries quite a history. David I founded a priory here in 1138 that was later raised to the state of an abbey. Although none of the building from this early time period survived, archaeologists have found artifacts giving away the history of the abbey.
Although monastic life was usually peaceful for the priests, this abbeys strategic border location meant it was often caught in the turmoil between Scotland and England. The abbey not only served as a church and home for the priests, it was also the wedding venue and castle home to royalty. King Alexander III married his wife, Yolande de Dreux, on the beautiful property and the two used it as their royal castle.
They demise of monastic life on this site came with the Protestant Reformation of 1560.
Why Visit Jedburgh Abbey
Today is Jedburgh Abbey is set smack in the middle of the town of Jedburgh. Despite being surrounded by city life, Jedburgh is a beautiful site. After much love from architects and historians, Jedburgh is one of the best-preserved abbeys in Scotland. The beautiful mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles makes it a photographers dream. There is beauty at every angle and around every corner.
While you’re in the area be sure and explore the town of Jedburgh and the other fun sites located here.
2. Melrose Abbey
Brief History of Melrose Abbey
The first Cistercian monastery in Scotland, Melrose Abbey was founded by David I in 1136. Surrounded by fertile soil and the River Tweed, Melrose Abbey was a great spot to showcase the power of David I.
The beautiful abbey dedicated to St Mary the Virgin was admired and loved by many, and it showed in her lavishly decorated adornments. Probably the biggest compliment of all to this abbey is that several powerful people chose it as their final resting place, including Alexander II. It is also noted that although the bodily remains of Robert the Bruce are housed at Dunfermline Abbey, his heart is buried here at Melrose.
The remains you see today have survived attacks from Edward I and II, Richard II, and the War of the Rough Wooing. These remains are still some of the best examples of medieval church architecture to date. Take particular notice of the elegant piers, the window tracery, and of course the fabulous carvings on the exterior. My personal favorite is the bagpipe-playing pig.
Why Visit Melrose Abbey
Melrose was my favorite abbey. Standing tall and majestic, her beauty just seemed to beckon us in from the moment we saw her. While all of the views are magnificent, I especially loved the view while standing in the graveyard. Breathtaking!
Be sure to walk to the top of the top to get a bird’s eye view of the remains and the grounds while visiting. You’ll be glad you did! Visit the chapter house where the remains of Robert the Bruce’s heart is said to be buried. Overall, this is a fabulous historic site that is deserving of your time while in Scotland.
Oh yeah, and there is a great little ice cream shop on the corner by the grounds. I mean, everyone loves ice cream!!
3. Dunfermline Abbey
Brief History of Dunfermline Abbey
This is one of the abbeys in Scotland that hold a special place in the country’s heart. Founded by Margaret in 1070 as a priory in Dunfermline, this is where she married Malcolm III. Margaret invited over Benedictine monks from Canterbury, making this the first Benedictine house in Scotland.
Made an abbey in 1128 by David I, Dunfermline began to take on a new shape. David I built a new grand church with Romanesque pillars and a magnificent nave. Although the church suffered damage in 1303, it was later rebuilt and is still today used as an active Church of Scotland congregation.
Why Visit Dunfermline Abbey
Like many abbeys in Scotland, Dunfermline also served as a home to many people. The fabulous Dunfermline Palace remains are right on site, and give you an insight to the grandeur of the once fabulous palace. Serving as a royal residence, to James VI’s queen, Anna of Denmark, the palace is full of history. The last monarch to be born in Scotland, Charles I, was born here in 1600.
The abbey itself is gorgeous with its beautiful architecture and incredible stained glass windows. While visiting, be sure and walk through the fabulous Pittencrieff Park and feed the squirrels. They seemed to be smitten with Marty.
Are the abbeys in Scotland worth your vacation time?
Well, that’s up to you to decide. We actually visited a few more abbeys during our time in Scotland, we these three were our favorites. Given the fact that we love old churches, photography, and history, we felt that these three abbeys were well worth the time we spent visiting them. We would also explore the towns and find a fun place to eat or see other attractions while we were there, so this made visiting the abbeys even better.
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