Arbroath Things to Do
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Arbroath Abbey’s rose-pink sandstone ruins described by Dr Johnston as ‘fragments of magnificence’ stands on Abbey Street. With its crumbling walls it seems an unlikely candidate for distinction. However it hosted the most significant event in Scottish history. Here on 6 April 1320 the Scottish nobility signed the Scottish Declaration of Independence.
The nobles intervened in a dispute between Robert the Bruce of Scotland and the Pope. The Declaration aimed to persuade the Pope who had given his support to Edward II of England and excommunicated Bruce to change his stance. The Declaration explained how Bruce had rescued the country from English aggregation and for this they would support him wholeheartedly.
The most famous passage states:
"For, so long as a hundred remain alive, we will never in any degree be subject to the dominion of the English. Since not for glory, riches or honours do we fight, but for freedom alone, which no man loses but with his life."
The document set the will and the wishes of the people above the King. He had to preserve their freedom. If he betrayed them he lost his kingship to someone who would fulfil his duties to his subjects. The manifesto affirmed the nation's independence in a way no battle could, and justified it with a truth that is beyond nation and race. Man has a right to freedom and a duty to defend it with his life.
Founded by King William in 1178 in honour of his friend the murdered St. Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, The Abbey also marks a significant event in English history.
William placed the Abbey in the hands of the Tironensian order. The monks were vegetarian and ate only two meals a day, the first meal being around noon although they got up in the middle of the night for a church service. On feast days, the monks could eat fish or birds such as chicken. William showered the Abbey with endowments and lies buried near its high alter.
Following the Reformation the 40 remaining monks gradually left or died. Fortunately parts of the Abbey such as the Abbot's House found other uses and remained in excellent condition. Conservation work on the rest began in 1815.
Arbroath Abbey has one more important date in its history. On Christmas Day 1950 some enterprising students stole back the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey. This stone stolen by Edward II of England had served as a coronation seat during crowning of Scottish kings from prehistory. On 11 April 1951 the students placed it on the site of the high alter where the Abbey’s caretaker discovered it. It now sits in Edinburgh Castle.
A new visitor centre now greets visitors. It contains interpretative displays within its wave-shaped form, and upper gallery offers views over the abbey. Its design with its red stone and glass construction topped off with a moss-covered roof is a worthy addition to a site that has inspired wonder for over 800 years.Related to:
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
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From the harbour to Auchmithie 5 miles away runs the clifftop path, part of it forming the Seaton Clifftop Wildlife Reserve. Pink and red sandstone cliffs stretch endlessly (or at least appear so!) into the distance, eroded into a series of inlets, caves and arches. Occasional breaks in the cliffs also allow you to descend to sea level. At all times you are accompanied by the screeching of the thousands of sea-birds (including puffins in the right season) that nest here.
There are certainly more impressive coastal paths, but combined with the Abbey, Arbroath is certainly an enjoyable day's visit.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Harbours are always interesting to visit, as boats of various types will be moored there. In Arbroath what is interesting is the buildings beside the harbour; not bleak grey buildings such as can be found in Aberdeen but attractively built out of sandstone, I think.
Somewhere it should be possible to have a meal of the local speciality, Arbroath smokies [smoked haddock].
Photo courtesy of Arbroath tourist pageRelated to:
- Road Trip
4 Shore, Arbroath, DD11 1PB, United Kingdom
Good for: Business
Small, traditional pub overlooking the harbour in Arbroath. Friendly and welcoming, extensive menu (also have a separate restaurant room) but the real experience is to taste the Arbroath Smokie - line-caught haddock which is then smoked over oak-chippings. Wash it down with one of the local beers - simple and good (as long as you like the idea of smoked fish). And with the boats outside, you know its fresh!!
Favorite Dish: Arbroath Smokie
The only time I have been through Arbroath since joining Vt was in 2009 when visiting Aberdeen. I took the morning train from Waverley station which took a couple of hours to reach Aberdeen.From the train I managed to get some long shots of Arbroath. Unfortunately it looks a grey town on the grey North Sea.
The train journey is comfortable and convenient whether from Aberdeen of Edinburgh, and would make a good day trip.Related to: