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Scotland’s Most Beautiful Abbeys image header

2nd May 2017 | Regional News

Scotland’s Most Beautiful Abbeys

Scotland is home to some beautiful abbeys, that all have a fascinating story to tell. These were once bustling places where people lived, worshipped and worked. At one time, there were around 900 religious houses, including abbeys and monasteries across Britain, and these were the wealthiest institutions around.

Under the orders of King Henry VIII, a period of change and upheaval began in the late 1530s. Henry established his own church, and ordered the closure of religious houses across Britain. Abbeys were sold on, dismantled and destroyed – or left to fall into ruin, and the crown seized anything of value. This period of change was called The Reformation, and the destruction of these places became known of as the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Although many great abbeys and monasteries were lost, remarkably some of them are still standing, and their ruins provide an insight into one of the most revolutionary periods in history. Over time, these places have been transformed into popular attractions – and last year saw a record number of visitors coming to discover Scotland’s abbeys for themselves.

Here at Parkdean Holidays, we’ve put together a list of some of the most majestic abbeys for you to explore on your next holiday to Scotland.

Dundrennan Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway

Built in the 12th century, Dundrennan Abbey stands in a secluded valley, surrounded by breathtaking views and scenic countryside. Just 40 minutes from Southerness Holiday Park, Dundrennan is one of the most impressive examples of Scotland’s Cistercian monasteries, and many of the abbey’s original features still exist today.

For over 400 years, the abbey was home to a community of Cistercian monks – who came from Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire. When Dundrennan was first established, the monks were required to live in strict isolation from the outside world, so this peaceful location was ideal.

One of the abbey’s most famous visitors was Mary Queen of Scots, who sheltered at Dundrennan during her last few hours in Scotland. She spent the night here in 1568, before travelling to England where she was arrested.

Explore the ruins of the abbey, and soak up the peaceful beauty of this popular attraction. Imagine what life would have been like for the monks who came here all those years ago, and learn about the history of Dundrennan under the orders of King Henry VIII. There are also lots of scenic walking routes to enjoy in the surrounding countryside, especially around Castramont Wood and Barrahill Wood, which boasts stunning views across the Solway Firth.


Video sourced from bankieland

Crossraguel Abbey, Ayreshire

The remains of Crossraguel Abbey are some of the most complete of all of Scotland’s abbeys, and much of the original structure can still be seen today. Crossraguel is a few miles south of Scotland’s West Coast, and is just under 30 minutes from Sundrum Castle Holiday Park. Surrounded by picturesque countryside, the area boasts breathtaking views and endless walking opportunities.

The abbey was founded in the early 13th century by the Earl of Carrick – who invited monks from Paisley Abbey, near Glasgow, to build their new monastery in this secluded setting. Today, you can still see the original monks’ church, the cloister, a covered walk that runs around the walls of the building, and the dovecot; where the monks once kept pigeons for eggs and food.

Even though Crossraguel Abbey was a place of quiet worship, the monastery had its fair share of conflict. The monks’ loyalty to Robert the Bruce, leader of Scotland during the Scottish Wars of Independence, meant the abbey was damaged by enemies during the combat. The abbey was restored during the 15th century, and most of this work can still be seen today.

On a visit, marvel at the abbey’s excellent condition. Take a look inside some of the buildings, including the chapter house and the tiny two-roomed dwellings where the older monks would have lived. After exploring the abbey, it’s well worth heading back down towards the coast, where you can discover the fascinating Culzean Castle.


Video sourced from HazelAgnes48

Sweetheart Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway

Built in sandstone, the red-coloured ruins of Sweetheart Abbey are sure to inspire wonder. The abbey is set in an idyllic location, nestled between the towering peak of Criffel Hill and the peaceful waters of the Solway Firth. The name of this atmospheric abbey hints at its history, as it was created not only as a monument to religious devotion but to true love.

The abbey was founded in 1275 by Lady Devorgilla, in memory of her late husband, John Balliol, who passed away in 1268. She was so devoted to him that she was even said to have carried his heart in a box with her everywhere she went. After her death in 1290, she was buried within the abbey’s church and instructed that her husband’s heart was to be buried with her.

The monks called the abbey Dulce Cor, or Sweetheart Abbey, in honour of Lady Devorgilla. For over 250 years after her death monks continued to live and worship at Sweetheart Abbey, until the monastery was dissolved during The Reformation in around 1560.

Now cared by for Historic Scotland, the romantic ruins provide a dramatic view against the scenic backdrop. Only 15 minutes away from Southerness Holiday Park, wander around the towering remains, and discover the abbey’s fascinating history. Look out for the stone monument of Lady Devorgilla, who is shown holding her husband’s heart casket close to her chest. Admire the abbey church, which still looks almost the same as it did all those years ago. Close to the estuary of the River Nith, and bordered by rolling hills to the South West, there’s lots to enjoy in the surrounding countryside too.


Video sourced from GothicGman

Cambuskenneth Abbey, Stirling

The village of Cambuskenneth is enclosed within a loop of the River Forth, and even though it’s close to the nearby city of Stirling, it feels like a peaceful island. The abbey was founded around 1140 when it was created by King David I to serve the royal castle of Stirling.

Most of the abbey was built in the 1200’s, and almost all of the surviving structure dates back to this period. The free-standing bell tower, that still stands today, is one of the finest examples of 13th century architecture in Scotland.

In 1488, the Battle of Sauchieburn between King James III and his son took place close to Cambuskenneth Abbey. James III’s forces were defeated and the King was killed. He was buried in front of the altar at the abbey, next to his wife, Queen Margaret. During The Reformation, the abbey was destroyed and most of the stone was quarried away. Remarkably, the tower survived, probably because it served as a useful lookout over Stirling.

Whilst it’s only the Bell Tower that still stands today, the remains of the abbey still make a fascinating and interesting place to visit. Just over an hour away from Wemyss Bay Holiday Park, explore the abbey’s foundations and enjoy a relaxing walk in the surrounding landscape – and with the bustling town of Stirling only 15 minutes away, you won’t be stuck for something to do.


Sourced from Patrick MacRitchie

Have you explored any of Scotland’s historic abbeys? We’d love to hear about it on our Twitter or Facebook page.

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