As part of Angus Open Doors Days we welcome you to discover Arbroath Abbey through a unique guided digital tour. Learn about the building’s significance and meaning and hear stories of how the Abbey shaped the town through the voices of young people of Arbroath.
Arbroath Abbey in the Scottish town of Arbroath, was founded in 1178 from King William the Lion in memory of martyr Thomas Becket, for a group of Benedictine monks from Kelso Abbey. It was built over the duration of 60 years using local red sandstone and remained on of the nations grandest monasteries for almost 400 years.
The power of Arbroath Abbey at this time was second to none; the vast decorated sandstone building was the showpiece of the highly influential Benedictine order of monks. Abbott Bernard whose vision powered the vast Abbey was also the exchequer of Scotland. The town of Arbroath grew up around the Abbey and was a vital seafaring community and a coastal location that dominated the politics of the day. The Abbey which was the richest in Scotland, is most famous for its association with the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath believed to have been drafted by Abbot Bernard, who was the Chancellor of Scotland under King Robert I.
The distinctive round window high in the south transept was originally lit up at night as a beacon for mariners. It is known locally as the ‘Round O’, and from this tradition inhabitants of Arbroath are collectively known as ‘Reid Lichties’ (Scots reid= red).
The Abbey fell into ruin after the Reformation. From 1590 onward, its stones were raided for buildings in the town. This continued until 1815 when steps were taken to preserve the remaining ruins. Little remains of the claustral buildings of the Abbey except for the impressive gatehouse, which stretches between the south-west corner of the church and a defensive tower on the High Street, and still complete Abbot’s house, a building of the 13th, 15thand 16thcenturies, which is the best-preserved of its type in Scotland.
The Arbroath Abbey is an inspiring historic site under the care and management of Historic Environment Scotland.