History Extra logo
The official website for BBC History Magazine and BBC History Revealed

Dundrennan Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway

Tranquillity surrounds the ruins of Dundrennan Abbey ruins where Mary Queen of Scots reportedly spent her last night on home soil

Published: February 27, 2012 at 11:37 am
Try 6 issues for only £9.99 when you subscribe to BBC History Magazine or BBC History Revealed

The Cistercian Dundrennan Abbey was founded in 1142 by King David I in alliance with Lord Fergus of Galloway and probably erected by monks from Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire. Around 50 years of construction saw changes in style from Romanesque to Gothic, still visible today.


The best remains are of the presbytery, chapter house and transepts – the north transept is well preserved with vaulted roofs visible in part and many archways intact. A footprint of substantial foundations, walls and pillars makes it easy to see this was an impressive structure, with aisles on both sides of the nave and a tower above the crossing, unusual for this period. The abbey prospered for over 100 years, becoming a mother house to two more abbeys in Galloway, Glenluce and Sweetheart.

At the end of the 13th century, despite swearing allegiance to Edward I, Dundrennan Abbey was damaged by his passing troops, for which it sought compensation. It continued to operate but by the Reformation was in decline and the appointed commendator Edward Maxwell, was ordered to demolish it. He declined, but monastic life there had essentially ended.

In May 1568, a fleeing Mary Queen of Scots spent her last night on Scottish soil within the abbey walls before boarding a boat to England, imprisonment and eventual execution.

Don’t miss: the carved tombstone lids, in particular an effigy of a murdered abbot and his assassin.

Pete Harrison


Dundrennan Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway, DG6 4QH



tel: 01557 500262


Sponsored content