Arbroath Abbey



Arbroath Abbey

Arbroath Abbey

Arbroath Abbey Image © Anne Burgess

The Arbroath Abbey visitor centre is a lovely place to visit when you come to Arbroath. As well as a great timeline showing the history of the abbey, there are dress up outfits, interactive displays, and really helpful staff who are friendly and willing to answer any questions you may have. There is also a nice gift shop with all manner of books and gifts with something for everyone’s budget.

Current prices and opening hours can be viewed here.

The Arbroath Abbey has a lovely little chapel hidden away in the grounds. The acoustics are wonderful, and perfect if you have a few singers with you to sing a bit of harmony or hymns.

Some of the best photos around Arbroath can be taken at the abbey, with wonderful light shining through the “Round O” of the abbey, old gravestones and beautiful red stone of Arbroath forming arches and towering views. Why not send us some of your photos of the abbey, and we’ll add them to our photo gallery!

Arbroath Abbey

Arbroath Abbey

Located in the immediate north of the centre of Arbroath, the Arbroath Abbey enjoyed the status of being one the grandest monasteries in Scotland for over 400 years. Arbroath town is situated about 17 miles east of Dundee on the coast.

Arbroath Abbey stands as a proud testament of the integration of piety and politics by Scotland’s medieval monarchs. Founded in 1178 by King William I, this outstanding beautiful legacy building is most famously associated with the Scottish Declaration of Arbroath of 1320, also known as the “oath of Arbroath”, an assertion of independence of Scotland from England. King William I had originally built ‘the Lion’ to commemorate the memory of the martyr Thomas Becket.

Today, even though the building has suffered much damage, it still stands proud as an important symbol and landmark. The first glimpse of the site takes any visitor by surprise owing to its urban setting. One almost forgets that eight centuries exist between the abbey and the town developed on the harbour. While any modern tourists can readily miss Arbroath Abbey, despite numerous tourist signs, it certainly cannot be overlooked.

A captivating abbey ruins in Arbroath Scotland, it offers ample sightseeing and things to do. It has a superb visitor centre which takes you through the entire story of the abbey along with new display, relating how the Stone of Destiny landed in abbey in 1951. It’s a worthwhile cultural experience for any tourist to feel and enjoy. 

There is a lovely gallery of photos of Arbroath abbey on this page.

Arbroath Abbey Timeline

1178 – Arbroath Abbey founded by King William the Lion of Scotland.

1272 – Famine hits Scotland. A large storm hits the abbey, and the bells slightly melt!

1320 – The Declaration of Arbroath was written by Robert the Bruce and the nobles of Scotland.

1350 – The abbey is attacked by English sea-raiders.

1380 – ‘The Devil’s Fire’ damaged the abbey. This was the name given to this horrific fire.

1446 – A battle between those loyal to the Ogilvy and Crawford families for the right to be the judge of the abbey’s court was fought outside the abbey gates. Six hundred people were killed.

1561 – The abbey falls into decline and disrepair after The Reformation of 1560.

1815 – Steps to preserve the abbey are taken, asking the exchequer for funds.

1924 – The state takes ownership of the abbey, and further steps are taken to preserve the abbey.

2008 – The public campaign begins to have the abbey recognised as a World Heritage site.

The Declaration of Arbroath Text – 1320

declaration-of-arbroathTO THE most Holy Father and Lord in Christ, the Lord John, by divine providence Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Roman and Universal Church, his humble and devout sons Duncan, Earl of Fife, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, Lord of Man and of Annandale, Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March, Malise, Earl of Strathearn, Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, William, Earl of Ross, Magnus, Earl of Caithness and Orkney, and William, Earl of Sutherland; Walter, Steward of Scotland, William Soules, Butler of Scotland, James, Lor

Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown.

They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous.

Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today.

The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts; and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since.

In their kingdom there have reigned one hundred and thirteen kings of their own royal stock, the line unbroken a single foreigner.

The high qualities and deserts of these people, were they not otherwise manifest, gain glory enough from this: that the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, called them, even though settled in the uttermost parts of the earth, almost the first to His most holy faith.

Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles – by calling, though second or third in rank – the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter’s brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron forever.

The Most Holy Fathers your predecessors gave careful heed to these things and bestowed many favours and numerous privileges on this same kingdom and people, as being the special charge of the Blessed Peter’s brother.

Thus our nation under their protection did indeed live in freedom and peace up to the time when that mighty prince the King of the English, Edward, the father of the one who reigns today, when our kingdom had no head and our people harboured no malice or treachery and were then unused to wars or invasions, came in the guise of a friend and ally to harass them as an enemy.

The deeds of cruelty, massacre, violence, pillage, arson, imprisoning prelates, burning down monasteries, robbing and killing monks and nuns, and yet other outrages without number which he committed against our people, sparing neither age nor sex, religion nor rank, no one could describe nor fully imagine unless he had seen them with his own eyes.

But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him Who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless Prince, King and Lord, the Lord Robert.

He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Macabaeus or Joshua and bore them cheerfully.

Him, too, divine providence, his right of succession according to or laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King.

To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand.

Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

Therefore it is, Reverend Father and Lord, that we beseech your Holiness with our most earnest prayers and suppliant hearts, inasmuch as you will in your sincerity and goodness consider all this, that, since with Him Whose Vice-Regent on earth you are there is neither weighing nor distinction of Jew and Greek, Scotsman or Englishman, you will look with the eyes of a father on the troubles and privation brought by the English upon us and upon the Church of God.

May it please you to admonish and exhort the King of the English, who ought to be satisfied with what belongs to him since England used once to be enough for seven kings or more, to leave us Scots in peace, who live in this poor little Scotland, beyond which there is no dwelling-place at all, and covet nothing but our own.

We are sincerely willing to do anything for him, having regard to our condition, that we can, to win peace for ourselves.

This truly concerns you, Holy Father, since you see the savagery of the heathen raging against the Christians, as the sins of Christians have indeed deserved, and the frontiers of Christendom being pressed inward every day; and how much it will tarnish your Holiness’s memory if (which God forbid) the Church suffers eclipse or scandal in any branch of it during your time, you must perceive.

Then rouse the Christian princes who for false reasons pretend that they cannot go to help of the Holy Land because of wars they have on hand with their neighbours.

The real reason that prevents them is that in making war on their smaller neighbours they find quicker profit and weaker resistance.

Declaration of Arbroath text

The reenactment of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 during Tartan Week in Arbroath

But how cheerfully our Lord the King and we too would go there if the King of the English would leave us in peace, He from Whom nothing is hidden well knows; and we profess and declare it to you as the Vicar of Christ and to all Christendom.

But if your Holiness puts too much faith in the tales the English tell and will not give sincere belief to all this, nor refrain from favouring them to our prejudice, then the slaughter of bodies, the perdition of souls, and all the other misfortunes that will follow, inflicted by them on us and by us on them, will, we believe, be surely laid by the Most High to your charge.

To conclude, we are and shall ever be, as far as duty calls us, ready to do your will in all things, as obedient sons to you as His Vicar; and to Him as the Supreme King and Judge we commit the maintenance of our cause, casting our cares upon Him and firmly trusting that He will inspire us with courage and bring our enemies to nought.

May the Most High preserve you to his Holy Church in holiness and health and grant you length of days.

Given at the monastery of Arbroath in Scotland on the sixth day of the month of April in the year of grace thirteen hundred and twenty and the fifteenth year of the reign of our King aforesaid.

Come see for yourself!

Arbroath Abbey is a treasure of Scottish history, well worth a visit. Harbour Nights Guest House is located less than half a mile from the abbey, in fact you can see the abbey from the rooms located at the rear of this Arbroath guest house. 🙂 Contact Harbour Nights on 01241 434343 to book YOUR next visit to Arbroath, and make sure you give yourself enough time to visit the Arbroath Abbey!





Just along from the Harbour, the Arbroath Signal Tower Museum shows the local history. Onshore, the Signal Tower Museum exhibitions tell all the tales of the lighthouse, and of the lives of the lighthouse keepers and their families, using models, audio-visual and computer displays and historic objects.

The Signal Tower museum is free to visit, and is open all year round. You can find out more information about the Arbroath Signal Tower by visiting the Museums and Galleries website.

Harbour Nights Guest House is very closely located to the Arbroath Signal Tower. Call 01241 434343 to make a booking enquiry.