Dunfermline was once the capital of Scotland and its grandiose abbey and palace were built on the remains of a Benedictine priory founded by Queen Margaret in the 11th century; she went on to become Scotland’s first royal saint and was canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1250. The foundations of her priory lie under the abbey’s monumental 12th-century Romanesque nave, which is the final resting place of King
Robert the Bruce in 1329 as well as seven other Scottish monarchs. Repeatedly destroyed and repaired during centuries of territorial skirmishes with the English, the abbey was eventually sacked during the Scottish Reformation of 1560. Just 27 years later its fortunes changed again when a splendid palace added by King James VI for his queen, Anne of Denmark. When the English and Scottish monarchies unified in 1603, Dunfermline ceased to be of political importance and the abbey fell into disrepair.
The original abbey church was replaced in 1821, and services are now held there every Sunday at 9.30am and 11am. Much of the old refectory, parts of the cloisters, kitchens and the lower floor of the palace can be seen and two small museums occupy the old gatehouse of the abbey.
St Margaret’s Street, Dunfermline. Open late Mar–late Oct
Mon–Sat 10am–4.30pm, Sun 2.30pm–4.30pm. Admission adults £4.50, seniors & students £3.60, children under 18 £2.70. Dunfermline is 48 km (30 miles) north of Edinburgh. Take exit three off the M90 or the train to Dunfermline Town railway station; the cathedral is a 15-minute walk away.