Rosslyn Chapel

Scotland's medieval masterpiece is among its most beautiful heritage attractions.

TravelCurious Tip

Rosslyn Chapel remains a working church — pay a visit on Sunday morning for a magical service

Found on the eastern edge of Roslin, seven miles south of Edinburgh, Rosslyn Chapel is a beautiful enigma. Made famous by Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’, the chapel was built in the 15th century for William St Clair, third early of Orkney. It remains privately owned: the current owner is Peter St Clair-Erskine, seventh earl of Roslyn.

The chapel is stunning, and unique. It’s ornate, carved stone interior went against the architectural fashion of the time and has fuelled dozens of conspiracy theories. In addition to the usual flowers, vines and angels, it also contains over a hundred representations of the pagan ‘Green Man’. Among other figures associated with Freemasonry and the Knights Templar, there also appear to be carvings of plants from the Americas — even though the chapel predates Columbus’ voyage.

Such clues have led some to suggest the chapel is a secret Templar repository, and that hidden vaults beneath it could contain the Holy Grail, or even Jesus Christ’s mummified head.

A tall tale

The Apprentice Pillar, one of the three pillars at the east end of the chapel, bears a grisly legend. Supposedly, the master mason of the chapel did not believe his apprentice could carve the pillar without seeing the original which inspired the design. He went to see the original himself, but on his return found that his upstart apprentice had completed the column. Enraged, he clocked the apprentice on the head with his mallet, killing him. As punishment for his crime the master’s face was carved into the opposite corner to look upon his apprentice’s pillar for eternity.

Square dance

Among the intricate carvings is a sequence of 213 protruding cubes with mysterious patterns on them. They have recently been interpreted as a musical score, since the motifs on the boxes slightly resemble the patterns formed when powder is placed on a flat surface that is vibrated at certain frequencies. By matching these carved patterns to the musical notes of the same frequencies, Thomas and Stuart Mitchell produced the tune ‘Rosslyn Motet’.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Edinburgh
George Heriot's School
An outstanding example of Scots Renaissance architecture, now known worldwide as a mecca for Harry Potter fans.
Roslin Castle
A grand semi-ruined castle overlooking the River Esk.
Nicolson's Cafe / Spoon
Claimed to be the birthplace of Harry Potter, Nicolson's Cafe has now been replaced by Spoons.
Elephant House
Go inside and sit at Rowling's favourite table!
Greyfriars Kirkyard
For over five centuries, Greyfriars Kirkyard has been home to hauntings and wizards. Look out for McGonagall or something more spine-chilling, like one Tom Riddle.
George Heriot’s School / Hogwarts
Spot as many similarities as you can between George Heriot’s School and Hogwarts!

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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