Dunfermline Abbey Visitor Guide

By Craig Neil. This post includes affiliate links.

Dunfermline Abbey is located in the heart of Scotland’s ancient capital, where it’s best known as being the final resting place for many of the nation’s royals, including Robert the Bruce.

The abbey borders a large public park and is within a short walk of Dunfermline high street. Discover Dunfermline Abbey in this guide, which includes an overview and detailed visiting information.

Dunfermline Abbey
Address:St Margaret’s Street,
Dunfermline,
Fife,
KY12 7PE
Opening Hours:1 May to 30 September:
Monday to Saturday 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday 1 pm to 5 pm
Last entry 4.30 pm

1 October to 31 March:
Daily 10 am to 4 pm except for Sunday and Monday
Last entry 3.30 pm
Admission Price:Adult £6
Concession £4.80
Child £3.60
Family Ticket £20
Parking:No on-site parking. Paid car parks in Dunfermline.
Contact:01383 739 026
Facilities:Gift shop, drinks machine

Map

Overview

Dunfermline Abbey is a historic site that has a history stretching back almost as far as the history of Scotland itself.

It’s here at this impressive 900-year-old abbey where some of Scotland’s greatest kings and queens were buried, with prominent figures including Saint Margaret (wife of Malcolm III) and Robert the Bruce buried beneath the abbey grounds.

Dunfermline Abbey

But it’s not just the inhabitants of the mausoleum that draws in thousands of visitors every year, because this is one historic building that’s worth visiting just to appreciate its architecture.

What started as a small priory in 1070 became the grandest abbey in the whole of Scotland thanks to the continuing programme of building works that began all the way back in the 12th century.

We can thank King David I for the monumental scale of Dunfermline Abbey after he was inspired by the equally impressive Durham Cathedral in England.

Even today you can’t fail to be impressed by the enormous Romanesque pillars inside the nave and the colossal buttresses that surround the outside of the abbey.

It really is a bit of a gem amongst Scotland’s historic attractions.

Dunfermline Abbey

The highlights

1: There’s a lot to see at Dunfermline Abbey so thankfully Historic Environment Scotland has installed lots of information panels to help you know exactly where it all fits into Scotland’s history.

2: If you visit with children you can keep them entertained with a HES fact-finding quiz.

3: The cathedral is centrally located in Dunfermline so it’s easy to find. Perhaps even better is the fact that it’s easy to get to from Edinburgh (Waverley to the abbey takes just 45 minutes by car).

Visiting tips

1: There aren’t any toilets on-site at the cathedral but there are cafés with toilets in the High Street.

2: Dunfermline is a nice enough town but I recommend after you visit the abbey you drive west on the A985 to explore the historic village of Culross instead. This attractive village is a tourist attraction in its own right and takes just 15 minutes by car.

3: If you’d rather stretch your legs in Dunfermline you’ll find Pittencrieff Park nearby which is large enough to spend a full afternoon in.

Dunfermline Abbey

Tourist information

If you’ve got any interest in history then you’re going to really enjoy a visit to Dunfermline Abbey with its hugely impressive nave and mausoleum housing Scotland’s medieval royalty.

But even if tales of dusty old kings and queens aren’t your thing, a trip to this Historic Environment Scotland site is well worth taking.

The grounds surrounding the abbey are expansive and house a huge collection of tombs and gravestones so they’re a good place to start your tour, and after wandering around the neatly trimmed graveyard paths you’ll probably be itching to look inside the main abbey building.

The first thing I recommend you do when entering the nave is to look up and gaze at the pillars and columns that tower overhead.

It always amazes me how those medieval stonemasons managed to create such monumental buildings back in the day, especially one like Dunfermline Abbey which still impresses modern-day visitors 900 years after its foundation stones were first laid.

Dunfermline Abbey

Even if you’re not religious I guarantee you’ll be impressed by the stunning stained-glass windows – especially if the sun is shining through them – which is part of the reason why over 30,000 tourists visit this historic attraction each year.

Another good reason for coming here is to see the final resting place of Robert the Bruce with its regal bronze floor plaque, and the elaborate shrine of St. Margaret at the east end of the nave.

Leaving the nave you can head towards the gatehouse where you’ll see the ruins of the old monk’s refectory which has a few information displays to read, while the nearby Dunfermline Park can be easily visited through the gate at the western end.

The park is well worth taking the time to visit as it has a few good attractions of its own including a museum, pavilion and a peacock sanctuary.

As the abbey is located in the heart of Dunfermline it’s easy enough to find a café if you fancy a snack after enjoying your slice of history, and it’s only around a half-hour drive across the Forth Bridge if you want to head into Edinburgh afterwards.

Dunfermline Abbey

History

The first religious site in Dunfermline was the priory established by Malcolm III in the 12th century, and it’s on this small church that the Dunfermline Abbey that we see today was built.

It was actually Malcolm’s wife, Margaret, who introduced Benedictine monks to Dunfermline Priory, and after her death her son, David I, began works to build a magnificent abbey that would rival any other in Scotland.

In 1250 the remains of Margaret (later to become Saint Margaret) were moved to an elaborate shrine at the eastern end of the abbey and Dunfermline became the primary site for burials of Scottish royalty.

Perhaps even more famous than Saint Margaret’s tomb is that of Robert the Bruce who was interred there in 1329.

King Robert had close ties to the abbey as he had personally overseen its reconstruction after it was damaged by Edward I during the Scottish Wars of Independence and Dunfermline Abbey became a beacon of Scotland’s self-reliance.

Unfortunately, the abbey was yet again ransacked during the Scottish Reformation in 1560 but thankfully the nave was left unharmed.

Although Dunfermline Abbey lost its status as a site of royal burials shortly after the Reformation (Iona Abbey was used instead), the nave continued to be used as a parish church right up to the present day.

Dunfermline Abbey

Things to do

Visit the Abbey: The Abbey is an architectural marvel with parts dating back to the 12th century. Home to the tomb of Robert the Bruce, Scotland’s famous king, it’s a must-visit for anyone with an interest in history.

Explore the Abbey Nave: The Abbey Nave is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture. Marvel at the detailed stone carvings, the towering pillars, and the beautiful stained glass windows. The Nave is also home to a collection of medieval grave slabs and historical artefacts.

Explore Dunfermline Palace: Discover the rich history of Scotland by exploring Dunfermline Palace, a former royal residence that’s part of the Dunfermline Abbey complex. Walk through the ruined halls and rooms and learn about the lives of the nobility that once called it home.

Walk through the Historic Grounds: The area surrounding Dunfermline Abbey is filled with beautiful gardens and parks. Pittencrieff Park is well worth a visit as it features lots of footpaths, greenhouses, a pavilion, a cafe, and a children’s play park.

Visit the Church: The parish church is part of the abbey complex and is open to visitors to explore as part of a self-guided tour, though visitors should note that it’s still an active place of worship so access might not be possible on certain days.

Dunfermline Abbey

Facts

Royal Burial Ground: Dunfermline Abbey is a significant site in Scottish history as it served as the burial ground for many of Scotland’s kings and queens. Most notably, Robert the Bruce, the King of Scots from 1306 until his death in 1329, is interred there.

Monastic Beginnings: The Abbey’s roots lie in the establishment of a Benedictine priory by Queen Margaret in the 11th century. The priory was elevated to Abbey status by her son, David I of Scotland.

Surviving Nave: Despite the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, Dunfermline Abbey’s nave survived, serving as a parish church. It’s one of the best-preserved medieval naves in Scotland.

Towering Presence: The Abbey’s tower, a 16th-century addition, stands as a prominent landmark in Dunfermline. At 33 meters high it’s the dominant feature on the skyline.

Royal Birthplace: Dunfermline Abbey holds the honour of being the birthplace of Charles I, the last monarch born in Scotland.

Last Medieval Church: Dunfermline Abbey is Scotland’s last medieval church built for royal patronage. Its construction was funded by King David I in honour of his mother, Saint Margaret of Scotland.

Largest Monastic Complex: At its zenith, Dunfermline Abbey was the largest and wealthiest monastic complex in Scotland.

Things to do nearby

Pittencrieff Park. Pittencrieff St, Dunfermline KY12 8QH. 1-minute walk.
An extensive public park with a spiders-web of footpaths through managed lawns and coppices. The park includes children’s play areas, a pavilion, several memorials, a peacock sanctuary and more.

Dunfermline. 2-minute walk.
Historic Dunfermline offers a number of local shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants in its high street which is an easily accessible walk from the abbey.

Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum. Moodie St, Dunfermline KY12 7PL. 4-minute walk.
A museum dedicated to the entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie who was born in Dunfermline but later moved to America to become the world’s richest man. The museum features original artefacts as well as displays of 19th-century life in Dunfermline.

Abbot House. 11 Maygate, Dunfermline KY12 7NE. 2-minute walk.
Local centre for Dunfermline history and heritage. This historic building aims to preserve the story of the town and its people with a collection of archives, exhibits and displays. There is a café and a micro-brewery on-site.

Pittencrieff Glasshouse. Dunfermline KY12 8QH. 2-minute walk.
A large refurbished glasshouse that is over 200 feet long. The glasshouse contains a variety of exotic plant species from across the globe. The front of the glasshouse features ornamental gardens and flower borders.

Frequently asked questions

How do I get to Dunfermline Abbey?

Address: St Margaret’s Street, Dunfermline, Fife, KY12 7PE

Directions map: Google Maps

What is Dunfermline Abbey famous for?

Dunfermline Abbey in Fife is famous for being the grave site of several of Scotland’s kings and queens, including Robert the Bruce, St. Margaret, David I, and Robert I.
Dunfermline Abbey has more royal graves than anywhere else in Scotland, except for Iona Abbey.

Is Dunfermline Abbey free?

The abbey and nave are open to visitors free of charge. Visit the Historic Environment Scotland website for the current opening times.

When was Dunfermline Abbey destroyed?

Dunfermline Abbey was partially destroyed by English troops in AD 1303, during the Wars of Independence. It was also sacked by Protestants in 1560, after which it fell into ruin.

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By Craig Neil

Craig Neil is a travel writer from Edinburgh with a passion for visiting Scotland's tourist attractions. Over the last 15 years he has explored Scotland from the Shetland Islands to the Scottish Borders, and he shares his travel experiences in Out About Scotland.