Monasteries in Scotland

Fearn Abbey

Fearn Abbey has its origins in one of Scotland"s oldest pre-Reformation church buildings. The original Fearn Abbey was established in either 1221 or 1227 by Premonstratensian canons from Whithorn Priory. Originally founded at 'Old Fearn' near Edderton, it was moved by 1238 to 'New Fearn' further east, perhaps to take advantage of better agricultural lands. The Abbey was rebuilt between 1338 and 13 ...
Founded: 1238 | Location: Fearn, United Kingdom

Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey is one of the oldest and most important religious centres in Western Europe. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland and marks the foundation of a monastic community by St. Columba, when Iona was part of the Kingdom of Dál Riata. In 563, Columba came to Iona from Ireland with twelve companions, and founded a monastery. It developed as an influential centre for the ...
Founded: 563 AD | Location: Isle of Iona, United Kingdom

Arbroath Abbey

Arbroath Abbey was founded in 1178 by King William the Lion for a group of Tironensian Benedictine monks from Kelso Abbey. It was consecrated in 1197 with a dedication to the deceased Saint Thomas Becket, whom the king had met at the English court. It was William"s only personal foundation — he was buried before the high altar of the church in 1214. The Abbey, which was the richest in Scotland, is most fa ...
Founded: 1178 | Location: Arbroath, United Kingdom

Deer Abbey

Deer Abbey was a Cistercian monastery in Buchan. It was founded in 1219 by the patronage William Comyn, Earl of Buchan, who is also buried there. There was an earlier community of Scottish monks or priests. The notitiae on the margins of the Book of Deer record grants made to the Scottish religious community in the 12th century and a claim that it was founded by Saint Columba and Saint Drostan. The old relig ...
Founded: 1219 | Location: Buchan, United Kingdom

Holyrood Abbey Ruins

Holyrood Abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I. The original abbey church of Holyrood was largely reconstructed between 1195 and 1230. The completed building consisted of a six-bay aisled choir, three-bay transepts with a central tower above, and an eight-bay aisled nave with twin towers at its west front. During the 15th century, the abbey guesthouse was developed into a royal residence, and after the Scottish Reform ...
Founded: 1128 | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent p ...
Founded: 1273 | Location: Dumfries, United Kingdom

Saddell Abbey Ruins

Saddell Abbey was a Cistercian monastery founded in 1207 by Ragnall, son of Somairle mac Gille Brigte. It was established by monks from Mellifont Abbey in Ireland. Very little is known about the abbey and its history. It probably enjoyed several centuries of good monastic life, but by the reign of James IV of Scotland monastic life had apparently disappeared. It was proposed to the Pope that the bishopric of Argyll should ...
Founded: 1207 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Cambuskenneth Abbey Ruins

Cambuskenneth Abbey is a ruined Augustinian monastery founded of David I around the year 1140. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was initially known as the Abbey of St Mary of Stirling and sometimes simply as Stirling Abbey. The major street leading down the castle hill from the royal residences in Stirling Castle to the abbey was called St. Mary"s Wynd, a name it retains. Cambuskenneth was one of the more important ...
Founded: 1140 | Location: Stirling, United Kingdom

Beauly Priory Ruins

Beauly Priory was a Valliscaulian monastic community. It was probably founded in 1230. It is not known for certain who the founder was, different sources giving Alexander II of Scotland, John Byset, and both. The French monks, along with Bisset (a nearby, recently settled landowner), had a strong enough French-speaking presence to give the location and the river the name beau lieu ('beautiful place') and have it pass into ...
Founded: 1230 | Location: Beauly, United Kingdom

Ardchattan Priory

Ardchattan Priory was established in 1230 or 1231 by an obscure order of monks from France, the Valliscaulians. They followed a strict form of monastic rule, with emphasis more on the ascetic religious life than on manual work. Houses were limited to no more than 20 brothers, and the monks’ livelihood depended on rents and teinds (tithes) from endowments. Their church, in common with all Valliscaulian houses, was de ...
Founded: 1230-1231 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Oronsay Priory Ruins

Oronsay Priory was a monastery of canons regular on the island of Oronsay. It was in existence by 1353, perhaps founded by John of Islay, Lord of the Isles. It was dedicated to St. Columba, and perhaps was a continuation or a re-activation of an older foundation. Very little is known about it because of the absence of records and its remoteness from the Scottish Lowlands, but on occasions some of the Priors of Oronsay com ...
Founded: 1353 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Goseck Circle

The Goseck circle is a Neolithic circle structure. It may be the oldest and best known of the Circular Enclosures associated with the Central European Neolithic. It also may be one of the oldest Solar observatories in the world. It consists of a set of concentric ditches 75 metres across and two palisade rings containing gates in places aligned with sunrise and sunset on the solstice days.

Its construction is dated to c. 4900 BC, and it seems to have remained in use until 4600 BC. This corresponds to the transitional phase between the Neolithic Linear Pottery and Stroke-ornamented ware cultures. It is one of a larger group of so-called Circular Enclosures in the Elbe and Danube region, most of which show similar alignments.

Excavators also found the remains of what may have been ritual fires, animal and human bones, and a headless skeleton near the southeastern gate, that could be interpreted as traces of human sacrifice or specific burial ritual. There is no sign of fire or of other destruction, so why the site was abandoned is unknown. Later villagers built a defensive moat following the ditches of the old enclosure.

The Goseck ring is one of the best preserved and extensively investigated of the many similar structures built at around the same time. Traces of the original configuration reveal that the Goseck ring consisted of four concentric circles, a mound, a ditch, and two wooden palisades. The palisades had three sets of gates facing southeast, southwest, and north. At the winter solstice, observers at the center would have seen the sun rise and set through the southeast and southwest gates.

Archaeologists generally agree that Goseck circle was used for observation of the course of the Sun in the course of the solar year. Together with calendar calculations, it allowed coordinating an easily judged lunar calendar with the more demanding measurements of a solar calendar.