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Abbeys, Churches and Cathedrals of Scotland

Whithorn in Galloway is regarded as the site of the earliest stone church in Scotland, though the island of Iona, where an abbey still stands today, is also regarded as ‘The Cradle of Christianity’ in Scotland. A number of early churches and monuments survive across Scotland, including round towers at Abernethy and Brechin, and the famous 12th-century St Margaret’s Chapel in Edinburgh Castle.

There are also substantial parts of other churches and religious buildings of very early date, such as the 12th-century Romanesque parts of Leuchars Church or the equally ancient tower at the ruined Restenneth Priory near Forfar.

Being in important towns or cities and thus better-known are important Pre-Reformation churches such as Glasgow Cathedral, The High Kirk of St Giles in Edinburgh, the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling and the especially impressive St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.

The Reformation in Scotland had great implications for Scotland’s churches and abbeys, with much damage wrought on fixtures and decorations. The four great Border abbeys were all reduced to various states of ruin. Scotland’s best preserved abbey is Inchcolm, its island position helping in its preservation. Likewise, the story of cathedrals such as at St Andrews (once the largest in Scotland) and Elgin ‘The Lantern of the North’ is one that ends with their use as a source of ready-dressed stone for local buildings. However, others, such as Dunkeld and Dunblane, have been at least restored in part to serve today as parish churches, while other religious centres, such as Rosslyn Chapel, continue to fascinate visitors.


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Whithorn Priory

Scottish Abbeys, Churches & Cathedrals »

From simple Norman chapels to splendid abbeys and handsome parish churches with fascinating graveyards - Scotland's Christian heritage covers over a thousand years.

Castles & Stately Homes in Scotland »

Ancient strongholds, royal palaces, grand tower houses and great mansions all have played a part in Scotland's story.

Historic Buildings in Scotland »

Thatched blackhouses, buried ice houses, dovecots, mort houses and waterworks – modest buildings with a fascinating past.

Historic Sites & Monuments »

Great stone circles, elaborate burial cairns, rock faces carved with abstract designs and Pictish symbol stones - a permanent reminder of Scotland's past.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery Edinburgh Museums & Galleries in Scotland »

With rich and varied collections imaginatively presented, Scotland’s museums and galleries play a key role on Scotland’s cultural life.