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Scotland: Castles, Abbeys, Palaces & Cathedrals

Scotland: Castles, Abbeys, Palaces & Cathedrals

on Aug 13, 2013 in Blog

After spending nearly three weeks in Scotland, we had an opportunity to visit a significant number of castles, abbeys, palaces and cathedrals. Nearly every city has at least one of the four, if not more. Visiting all of the castles, abbeys, palaces and castles of Scotland would take a lifetime. We found each one we visited had its own place in history. However, we observed some common themes in the history behind many of the historical sites that we visited in Scotland.


Each castle, abbey, palace and cathedral has some tie to Scottish royalty. A Scottish King and/or Queen either:

  1. was born at the site
  2. died or was buried at the site,
  3. lived at the site,
  4. built or re-built the site,
  5. visited or stayed at the site
  6. or, multiple of the above

In the history of each there is always mention of one or more members of the Scottish Royal family and their association to the location.


A significant amount of conflict existed between Scotland & England throughout the early years. In a quest for power and land many of these sites were either the site under siege or destroyed as a result of a siege. Castles were built to defend the land and sieges on these were frequent. Many times (especially on the boarder towns) the Abbeys and Cathedrals were burned or destroyed during an attack.


The state and religion was co-mingled in Scottish history. Abbeys and cathedrals were built to demonstrate wealth and was a way for the wealthy (such as the Kings & Queens) to “purchase” their ticket to heaven. The monks that inhabited these abbeys, lived a life for God, and spent most of their day praying. Monks were paid to pray for the wealthy and their sins during their daily services, thus helping to pave the way for royalty and wealthy people to heaven.

In the mid 1500s there was the Reformation movement which focused on reforming the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformation was responsible for establishing the Protestant Church. As a result, practicing Catholicism was no longer accepted. In an uprising against the Catholic Church many of the cathedrals and abbeys were looted, destroyed and left to deteriorate over the coming centuries.

Ruins & Rebuilding

Many of the castles, cathedrals, abbeys and palace were destroyed at one point— either by an accidental fire, siege, reformation, or battle. Each was re-built. Some were further enhanced and modified in order to increase security or to support the growth or societal changes. Many sites were re-built, re-architected, or re-stored at some point in history. However, many were neglected and fell into ruins in the 16th century and have never been restored to their glory of long ago.

During our trip to Scotland, we took advantage of the seven day Scotland Explorer Pass. The pass provided free entry to a number of the historical sites across Scotland. We attempted to maximize the value of our pass by focusing on the sights covered by the pass, namely those managed by Historic Scotland.

We saw more than 20 historical sites in three weeks and can officially say that we are just about “castled-out”. We loved seeing the country-side and beautiful terrain. Some of our favorite sites covered by that pass were: Fort George, Iona Abbey, Jedburgh Abbey, Edinburgh Castle and the Linlithgow Palace. Additionally, we enjoyed our visit to Holyrood Palace and Dunnotter Castle, which were not covered by the pass.

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