Dundrennan Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway
Built in the latter half of the 12th century, the abbey was home to a community of Cistercian monks.
Places to stay near here
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- Historic Property
- Free car parking (on site)
No one could fail to be charmed by the peaceful beauty of Dundrennan’s ruins. Its church and cloister lie in secluded woods below the little village. Together, they hold some of the best early Gothic architecture in Scotland.
The abbey‘s most famous visitor was Mary Queen of Scots. On 15 May 1568, she was welcomed at the gates following her escape from Lochleven Castle, near Kinross, and her defeat at Langside, beside Glasgow. Mary was making for England and the comparative safety, so she thought, of her cousin, Elizabeth I of England. On the following morning she boarded a boat bound for the Cumberland coast. She never returned to her native land.
History to the present day
Dundrennan Abbey was founded in 1142 by Fergus, Lord of Galloway, with the help of King David I of Scotland. The white-robed Cistercian monks came from Rievaulx Abbey, in North Yorkshire. After establishing the abbey at Dundrennan, monks went forth to found two more Cistercian abbeys in Galloway – Glenluce, near Stranraer, around 1190, and Sweetheart, in the village of New Abbey, south of Dumfries, in 1273. All three are now in the care of Historic Scotland.
For 400 years, the monks worshipped at Dundrennan. However, we know little about them. The names of abbots and other officials are known from grave-markers, charters and other legal documents. A hint of the abbey’s economy comes from papers dealing with the wool trade. But for the most part we have only its physical remains to tell its history
The church is certainly the most impressive one to survive from the 13 Cistercian monasteries set up in Scotland. It is laid out on the usual Cistercian cross plan, but by the time the transepts were being built in the later 12th century, the Cistercians’ legendary austerity was becoming diluted. As a result, the visitor sees an unusual three-storeyed design graced by blind and open arcades. This complements the simple details of the presbytery, notably the ‘bundled-shaft’ piers with their plain, bell-shaped caps.
The cloister, although much ruined, is still largely traceable on the ground. The chapter house in the east range dates from the early 13th century and must have been a chamber of exceptional beauty, judging by what remains. The entrance façade is a delightful composition, and the six finely moulded piers inside once supported a handsome, stone-vaulted ceiling. Grave-slabs of four abbots can still be seen set into the floor, together with a slab of blue marble, once highly polished and mounted with a Flemish brass depicting a knight and lady.
Arrival information and how to find us
Address: Dundrennan Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, , United Kingdom
1 April - 30 September: Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun 9.30am - 5.30pm
1 October - 31 March: Sat Sun Open Weekends Only 9.30am to 4.30pm
Closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day & 1-2 January.
Adult £3.20, Child £1.90, Concession £2.70
Directions: The Abbey is located 10km south east of Kirkcudbright on the A711.
Public Transport: Regular trains to Dumfries from Edinburgh and Glasgow. From outside the railway station, take MacEwans coaches no 501 (Castle Douglas) to Dalbeattie Maxwell Arms Pub (30 min). Take Stagecoach Western bus no 505 (Kirkcudbright) to Auchencairn Village opposite Balcary Bay Road end (18 min). Walk 2 mins to Dundrennan Abbey.