Arbroath Abbey - one of Scotland's most significant historical attractions
With so many tourists drawn to Scotland because of its fascinating history, it amazes me that I hardly come across any that include Arbroath Abbey in their travel plans. This has to be one of the most interesting and significant buildings to feature in the story of Scotland.
From its connection to the famous Declaration of Arbroath, said to be an influence for the American Declaration of Independence, to the mysterious appearance of the Stone of Destiny, the abbey is often viewed as the home of Scottish nationalism.
I've explored countless ruins all over Scotland and only a few have left a lasting impression on me. Arbroath Abbey is one of them which probably explains why I keep returning. I can't quite explain it but the surviving stones seem to have soaked up some serious history which now seeps from the walls. You can really feel it, or at least I can. And don't even me started on the goosebumps I get when I reach the replica of the Declaration of Independence, displayed in the setting where it was said to be written and accompanied by the haunting voices of those who signed it.
I know all this might sound a little over-romanticised and I don't usually get so affectionate over the remains of an old building. However, it does feel extraordinarily special, maybe its in my imagination or maybe it really is in the walls but visiting for yourself is the only way to fully understand what I'm talking about.
Arbroath Abbey Facts
Arbroath Abbey has a long and interesting history with too much for me to cover in a blog post. However, here are a few quick facts as an introduction to its background -
The Declaration of Arbroath & its connection to the American Declaration of Independence
'...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no man gives up but with life itself...'
My recommended things to do in and around Montrose
As always, I aim to show you places in Scotland that don't always make it to the guide books or other travel blogs. i think it is fair to say that the town of Montrose in Angus falls in to that category. I rarely hear of tourists including it in their travel plans and as with many places in Scotland, that comes mostly down to the fact it is not promoted very well meaning visitors don't know what it has to offer.
Even after some online and guidebook research, I still wasn't sure what there was to do in Montrose and whether it was worth exploring. Fate stepped in as I ended up staying just across the river in the village of Ferryden. This gave me 4 days to check out as many things to do in the Montrose area as possible. It turned out there was more than enough to keep me busy.
It might not be the first place you think of for a short break in Scotland, however after reading about all the diverse Montrose attractions that I managed to pack in, you might just be inspired to add it to yourScotland itinerary.
I've also marked all of the places mentioned in a handy interactive map at the bottom of this post.
The east coast of Scotland is blessed with some fantastic beaches and Montrose Beach is up there with the best of them. The vast expanse of pristine sand stretches for over 3 miles and is popular with families and dog walkers. This was one of our first stops in Montrose, mainly so Willow could get a run about, but the humans enjoyed it too!
Plenty of nearby parking is a bonus and the adjacent promenade is perfect for a leisurely stroll. With a children's play area, cafe, art deco pavilion and William Lamb statue (see below), it is a worthwhile destination even if you don't venture down on to the sand.
The Walkhighlands website features a circular walk of just over 7 miles that starts at Montrose Beach if you are keen to explore more of the area on foot.
I've said it before on other blog posts but museums are usually my first stop when I visit a new destination and Montrose was no exception. I love to learn a bit about a place before I start exploring as I appreciate my location more when I've educated myself on some of the history and culture first.
Montrose Museum was purpose built in 1842 to display the growing collections of the Montrose Natural History and Antiquarian Society. The neo-classical building is impressive from the outside with lonic columns either side of the entrance-way and Greek key design features.
The interior is just as remarkable, with an atrium, mezzanine and galleries. The museum collections cover many eras including early archaeological finds, the Jacobite period, maritime history of the area and much more. There is also an art gallery with changing exhibitions.
I think this is a great museum with enough displays to be interesting but not too much information to be overwhelming. It is also free to visit which means adding it to your Montrose itinerary seems an obvious choice.
Montrose Heritage Trail
If there is a way to learn about places that I love even more than museums, it is by following heritage trails. History isn't behind glass cases on these walks, it is all around, and you usually discover lots of details that are easily missed if you don't know where to look. It is also a way of increasing your daily steps without noticing which is always a bonus for someone like me who hates working out in a stuffy gym!
While I was in the museum I picked up a leaflet for the Montrose Heritage Trail and decided that was would be next on my itinerary. I actually picked up quite a few leaflets for different heritage trails in Angus so I'm looking forward to trying more out in the future.
The Montrose Trail should take about 90 minutes to complete and you can expect to cover a good part of the town. Starting at the Parish Kirk I discovered that the spire is one of the tallest in Scotland. Finishing at St Mary's and St Peter's Episcopal Church I learned that it replaced an earlier chapel dating back to 1722 which burnt down. It is reputed that legendary composer, George Frideric Handel, played the original organ in the original church.
One of many smaller details I probably would have missed without following the trail was the The Holy Royal Arch sign shown in my photo. It is listed as a monument by Historic Environment Scotland and has been a landmark in the town since the 18th Century.
The sign was carved in France and erected by Freemason captains of French sailing ships who met in the building, which used to be a coffee shop. The sign has recently been restored so hopefully it will be around for at least another few hundred years.
With 25 stops on the trail, these are just a few of the facts that I learned during my walk and I don't want to give too many away as I recommend you try it for yourself. You can download a copy of the heritage trail here.
Explore the historic closes
A guide to Ferryden
Have you ever picked a random place to stay just because you've never heard of it before or because it has a pretty name? I like to do this from time to time as I find it one of the best ways to uncover new hidden gems and this is how I ended up staying in Ferryden.
I was searching for last minute holiday apartments in Scotland for a short break when I came across a reasonably priced one in Ferryden. This is also a benefit that comes with staying outwith tourist hot spots - the overnight rates are usually far cheaper!
On further investigation I discovered that this former fishing village is situated opposite Montrose. As I didn't know this part of Scotland too well before my visit, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to rectify that.
I booked my accommodation through Airbnb. If you've not used Airbnb before you will receive a £25 discount off your first booking by using my personal link.
This doesn't cost you anything extra but I receive a little bit of travel credit if you do.
I immediately fell in love with the quaintness of Ferryden. Characterful buildings and people along with an interesting history were an unexpected surprise. Although it is small, it is the kind of place you need to walk around a few times to take in all the wee quirky details.
I have personally found that historic fishing villages in Scotland have more than their fair share of individuality and charm. I've previously written about Footdee in Aberdeenshire and Stromness in Orkney which also fall under this category. It is no wonder that coastal communities seem to hold so much appeal to me.
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