Cambuskenneth Abbey

The wonderful thing about Ordinance Survey maps is all the stuff that you weren’t expecting to find. I bought the map to guide me on a walk through the Ochill Hills and was intrigued to see, nestled in the bend of a river:

Remains of Cambuskenneth Abbey

(Augustinian founded 1147)

I mean, could you refuse? 

The village of Cambuskenneth is at the end of a long, straight road. The land around is flat, clearly the floodplain of the river Forth. It feels like a causeway, leading us into a strange and deserted spot.

The village itself is unremarkable: pre-fabricated houses, clad in cheap fake stone or fading white paint. Cambuskenneth Abbey is at the end of the road, slightly beyond the village. With no car-park, we accidentally drove into someone’s front drive, before pulling up by the side of the road and taking a turn around the Abbey.

I’m not going to pretend that it was much to look at. It was not an undiscovered gem, nor a precious piece of history.

It wasn’t even open.

But it had an information sign. Cambuskenneth Abbey was founded in around 1140 by King David I, the first great king of Scotland and child of Queen (later Saint) Margaret of Scotland. Saint Margaret was sensational in her own right, having moved to England from Hungary when she was 12, then to Scotland at 23 before marrying age 25 and giving birth to 8 children. All eight children lived to adulthood and three of them became kings of Scotland, including David who was the youngest. She established a religious order, founded at least three abbeys, and reformed the Scottish church. She was a force of nature, described by her contemporaries as strong, pure and noble, and is the only Scottish queen to be canonised.


The most historically interesting thing about this abbey is it’s where Robert the Bruce held a parliament following the victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. It’s also the final resting place of King James III, an unloved king by all accounts but nonetheless *significant*.

The most personally interesting thing about this abbey is that my mother and I spent 20 lovely minutes here, on a floodplain, in the middle of Scotland, looking at a 700 year old archway and imagining the past.


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