Melrose Abbey

Now part-ruined, lavish Melrose Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Scotland, founded in 1136.

TravelCurious Tip

Look out for the famous bagpipe playing pig gargoyle in the stonework

Melrose Abbey is a partly ruined monastery of the Cistercian order in Melrose, in the Scottish Borders. It’s proximity to England has resulted in it being sacked numerous times over the centuries by unscrupulous Englishmen. However, being in the Gothic style, the ruins really just add to its effect.

This red-sandstone abbey was founded in 1136 at the request of David I of Scotland and was a key religious institution until the Scottish Reformation. Alexander II and may other Scottish kings and nobles are buried there. An inscription in the abbey reads, “Be halde to ye hende” ("Keep in mind, the end, your salvation”), which has since become the dour motto of Melrose.

The good, the bad, the ugly

During the famine of 1148, Waltehof, step son of David I and the abbot of Melrose, miraculously fed 4,000 peasants for three months. For such acts he was revered as a saint. He was buried at Melrose and you can still see fragment of his tomb.

But, according to legend, Melrose has some more sinister associations too. The 13th century wizard Michael Scott is said to be buried here, along with his books of magick. He allegedly prophesied his own death (a small stone fell on his head) and also split the Eildon Hills from one peak into the three we see today.

My heart is in the highlands

When Robert the Bruce died, his heart was sent on a crusade with ‘Good Sir James Douglas’. When confronted with a huge Moorish army while travelling through Spain, Sir James led the charge into battle, holding Bruce’s heart before him and crying, “Lead on brave heart, I’ll follow thee!” Another Scottish knight found the heart among the bodies the next day and sent it back to Melrose — it was since discovered during an 1998 excavation.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Edinburgh
Rosslyn Chapel
Scotland's medieval masterpiece is among its most beautiful heritage attractions.
Roslin Castle
A grand semi-ruined castle overlooking the River Esk.
Scott's View
One of the favourite views of Sir Walter Scott, overlooking the valley of the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders.
William Wallace Statue
A huge monument to the ‘Guardian of Scotland,’ with a great view over the Lowlands.
Glenkinchie Distillery
A wonderful whisky distillery offering tours for a unique taste of Scotland's 'water of life.'
Nicolson's Cafe / Spoon
Claimed to be the birthplace of Harry Potter, Nicolson's Cafe has now been replaced by Spoons.

Related Tours

Day Trip from Edinburgh to Rosslyn Chapel, Melrose & the Borders
Scotland is a nation renowned for its natural beauty. On this full-day excursion to the Scottish Borders, discover the stunning architecture of Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin Castle, and Melrose Abbey.

  • Enjoy a scenic drive to Roslin
  • Hear about the bloody battles and interesting discoveries at the village of Rosslyn 
  • Explore the mysterious interiors of Rosslyn Chapel and Roslin Castle
  • Head into the heart of the Scottish Borders, towards the natural beauty of Melrose
  • Discover the beautiful architecture of Melrose Abbey 
  • Stop for a traditional Scottish lunch at Melrose (not included in price) 
  • Visit spectacular Scott's View 
  • Pay your respects at Sir William Wallace's memorial 
  • Round your day off at Glenkinchie Distillery, learning and sampling some of Glenkinchie's finest malts (samples not included in price) 
  • Enjoy a drive back to Edinburgh 
Mysterious Roslin

You will begin your tour with a short scenic drive to Roslin, a small village just 7 miles from Edinburgh. The tiny village of Roslin, is home to an amazing legacy of Templar knights, medieval conspiracies, and bloody battles.

Heralded as the eventual reliquary of the Holy Grail, the mysterious Rosslyn Chapel is full of exquisite medieval carvings depicting intriguing biblical, masonic, pagan and Templar themes, not found anywhere in the world. You will also have a chance to visit Roslin Castle, which remains an imposing shadow of its former glory.

The Scottish Borders and Beyond

You will then head into the heart of the Scottish Borders, to the town of Melrose, an area rich in hills, valleys and rivers - and birthplace of the game of Rugby Sevens. Home to the lavish Melrose Abbey, founded in 660, you will explore the beautiful architecture and the fascinating lives of the medieval monks who lived and died here. In Melrose, your guide will recommend a spot for enjoying some traditional Scottish fare before you continue your tour. 

After lunch, you will head to Scott’s View, one of the most spectacular vistas of Scotland. You will also have the opportunity to pay your respects to the huge monument of Scotland’s greatest warrior hero- Sir William Wallace. Intriguingly this massive monument was lost for eighty years, with no-one apparently remembering where it was. Rounding the day to warm your insides, visit to the charming Glenkinchie Distillery, one of few Lowland distilleries left in Scotland. Here you will learn about, and sample some of Glenkinchie's finest malts.

 Enjoy Scotland's treasured lowlands and enjoy the beauty of Scotland's natural landscapes, while marvelling at several of its most world-renown sites. 


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