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 famous for its association with the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, believed to have been drafted by Abbot Bernard, who was the Chancellor of Scotland under King Robert I.

The last Abbot was Cardinal David Beaton, who in 1522 succeeded his uncle James to become Archbishop of St Andrews. The Abbey is cared for by Historic Scotland and is open to the public throughout the year.

The Abbey was built over some 60 years using local red sandstone, but it gives the impression of a single coherent, mainly 'Early English', architectural design, but the round-arched processional doorway in the western front looks back to late Norman or transitional work. The triforium (open arcade) above the door is unique in Scottish medieval architecture. It is flanked by twin towers decorated with blind arcading.

What remains of it today are the sacristy, added by Abbot Paniter in the 15th century; the southern transept, which features Scotland's largest lancet windows; part of the choir and presbytery; the southern half of the nave; parts of the western towers; and the western doorway. The church originally had a central tower and (probably) a spire, which would once have been visible for many miles over the surrounding countryside and certainly acted as a sea-mark for ships.

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Founded: 1178
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Em G (2 years ago)
A nice, interesting piece of history - not sure if the entrance price justifies what's on display, but I suppose it goes towards maintaining the Abbey too. Not a bad way to spend an hour or two!
Paul Robertson (2 years ago)
Extensive and impressive ruins to explore. Excellent visitors' centre with informative history of the abbey and exhibition about the Declaration of Arbroath. Definitely worth the entrance fee if the weather is good.
Kevin Stewart (2 years ago)
Arbroath Abbey is must for anyone who is interested in Scottish history. Although a ruin, the site is steeped in history and was where the famous Declaration of Arbroath was drafted which affirmed Scotland’s independence from the English crown. The abbey takes about 1-2 hours to go around if you take time read all the exhibits.
Jacquie Dougan (2 years ago)
Beautiful building unfortunately we didn't go in....just like many the cost of an entrance ticket is becoming a little to expensive. A few quid cheaper and we wouldn't have hesitated. I understand money is needed to fund the project but over pricing also makes people walk away.
Louis Leow (3 years ago)
Interesting part of Scottish history. A must-stop point in your understanding of Scotland's history and heritage. Not much left to see among the ruins of the Abbey, but much to feel here.
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