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Dundrennan Abbey

nr Kirkcudbright, Dumfriesshire, Scotland

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The substantial remains of a Cistercian abbey. It was built in the later half of the 12th century. The monks came from Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire.

The name (Dun-nan-droigheann) means "fort of the thorn-bushes".


Dundrennan Abbey was founded in 1142 by Fergus, Lord of Galloway, with the help of King David I of Scotland. The white-robed Cistercian monks came from Rievaulx Abbey, in North Yorkshire. After establishing the abbey at Dundrennan, monks went out to found two more Cistercian abbeys in Galloway – Glenluce, near Stranraer, around 1190, and Sweetheart, in the village of New Abbey, south of Dumfries, in 1273. All three are now in the care of Historic Scotland.

For 400 years, the monks worshipped at Dundrennan, but, we know little about them. The names of abbots and other officials are known from grave-markers, charters and other legal documents. A hint of the abbey’s economy comes from papers dealing with the wool trade. But for the most part we have only its physical remains to tell its history.

In 1587, following the Scottish Reformation, the land passed to the Crown. In 1621 it was annexed to the Royal chapel at Stirling. For many years the buildings were used as a quarry for the erection of houses in the vicinity. The site fell into ruin after it was subsequently used to house livestock.

In 1842 steps were taken to repair and preserve what was left of them. The cruciform church had a nave of six bays 130 feet long, and choir 45 feet long, 175 feet in all, and there was a central tower 200 feet high. The style is transition between Norman and First Pointed. Historic Scotland maintain the site today.

Major Remains - Church, cloister and chapter house

The church and cloister providing some of the best early Gothic architecture in Scotland, lie in secluded woods below the small village.

The church is the most impressive one to survive from the 13 Cistercian monasteries set up in Scotland. It is laid out on the usual Cistercian cross plan, but by the time the transepts were being built in the later 12th century, the Cistercians’ legendary austerity was becoming diluted. As a result, the visitor sees an unusual three-storied design graced by blind and open arcades. This complements the simple details of the presbytery, notably the ‘bundled-shaft’ piers with their plain, bell-shaped caps.

The cloister,  is still largely traceable on the ground.

The chapter house in the east range dates from the early 13th century and must have been a chamber of exceptional beauty, judging by what remains. The entrance façade is a delightful composition with a cinquefoil arched doorway between two windows and the six finely moulded piers inside once supported a handsome, stone-vaulted ceiling. Grave-slabs of four abbots can still be seen set into the floor, together with a slab of blue marble, once highly polished and mounted with a Flemish brass depicting a knight and lady.

Queen Mary’s last night in Scotland

The abbey‘s most famous visitor was Mary Queen of Scots. On 15 May 1568, she was welcomed at the gates following her escape from Lochleven Castle, near Kinross, and her defeat at Langside, beside Glasgow. Mary was making for England and the comparative safety, so she thought, of her cousin, Elizabeth I of England. On the following morning she boarded a boat bound for the Cumberland coast. She never returned to her native land. She crossed the Solway Firth to Workington, and shortly after was imprisoned by the English.

Further information Grid



Dundrennan Abbey, Dundrennan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland

Ceremonial County: Dumfriesshire

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Other useful websites:

Wiki     CE 

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Other Relevant pages: Abbey Section, including all major Christian buildings, regions orders, normal layouts and history.


Planning Grid


Dundrennan Abbey, Dundrennan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

The Abbey is located in the village of Dundrennan, 10km south east of Kirkcudbright on the A711.


From the road, down a short drive through a gate.


No problem



Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Buildings, architecture, views

What to take:

Tripod, level, wide angle lens.

Nature highlights:







Tel 01557 500 262

Opening times:

Summer 1 Apr-30 Sept, every day, 9.30am-5.30pm

Winter 1 Oct-31 March, Sat and Sun, 9.30am-4.30pm


Adult £3.20, Child £1.90, Concession £2.70 (Historic Scotland)

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By: Keith Park Section: Abbey and Religious Buildings Key:
Page Ref: dundrennan_abbey Topic: Abbeys Last Updated: 02/2011

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