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The Out About Scotland complete guide to Rosslyn Chapel
Category: Historic building, Forest or woodland, Religious site
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 8 out of 10
About Rosslyn Chapel
If you find the time to venture past the boundary of Edinburgh when you’re exploring Scotland I highly recommend you take a journey to the nearby Rosslyn Chapel.
This stunning chapel has its origins dating back to 1446 and it’s become a popular destination for anyone with an interest in history and architecture due to the ornate stone carvings that seem to cover every square inch of its walls.
The mysterious symbolism of these carvings has led to many theories about their meaning, with interest in Rosslyn exploding since it was featured in the movie The Davinci Code.
But it’s not just Tom Hanks movies and weird stonework that attracts visitors because this part of Scotland is extraordinarily pretty and there are loads of walks in the area that make for a great day out, with a visit to Rosslyn Chapel really just the icing on the cake.
The chapel lies just 7 miles south of Edinburgh city centre in the very pretty Rosslyn Glen which would be worth visiting if even if the chapel wasn’t there. If you’ve got a dog it’s probably one the best places in Midlothian to bring them and although the paths get bogged down in winter in summer it absolutely blooms with colour.
It’s easy to get to this historic attraction from the capital and coupled with the fact that it seems to have gained cult status thanks to its movie tie-in I think it really should be on your Edinburgh and Lothians ‘must-visit’ itinerary.
Things to do at Rosslyn Chapel
There’s enough to keep you occupied in the woods surrounding the chapel that you could easily make a visit to Rosslyn last a whole day (although the chapel itself only takes a couple of hours to view), and once you’ve made your way back to the popular tourist attraction you’ll be able to grab a coffee and some home-made cooking in the excellent cafe before heading inside the chapel.
There’s definitely a weird feeling you get when you wander around the inside of this historic building. A strange sensation that you can’t quite put your finger on. It could just be your imagination, but looking at the unusually detailed carvings you have the feeling that maybe, just maybe, there’s a secret hidden somewhere deep inside this building.
Although Rosslyn Chapel is small there’s so much to look at that you’ll be kept entertained for a good few hours. Take the Apprentice Pillar in the centre of the chapel for example, with its carvings of twirling vines that look uncannily like the helix of a DNA strand.
Was a representation of the core of all life carved into the core of Rosslyn Chapel 500 years before modern scientists discovered it?
Or how about the carvings of stalks of corn around one of the windows? There’s nothing interesting about stalks of corn you might think. Except that corn was an unknown crop in Scotland at the time the chapel was built, and in fact it wasn’t known at all to Europeans until Christopher Columbus discovered America 50 years after the chapel was built. So who carved them into the stonework?
But even that is insignificant to the secret that’s supposedly buried deep beneath the grounds of Rosslyn Chapel.
There’s a legend that says that the Knights Templar, the sect of holy warriors founded by the Catholic Church in 1119, found the Holy Grail inside Solomons Temple during the crusades, and after retreating to Rosslyn they buried the relic beneath the chapel’s foundations.
Strangely, there are carvings of the Knights Templar on the walls inside Rosslyn, so maybe the grail story has some truth to it?
A visit to Rosslyn Chapel can be rounded off with a drink on the visitor centre balcony that overlooks the treetops of the glen, while inside there’s a gift shop to wander through that has some really good quality toys and souvenirs. As a glimpse into the history of Scotland within a beautiful woodland setting, a visit to Rosslyn Chapel is hard to beat.
You can visit Rosslyn Chapel by car or public transport, but if you’re not happy with making your own way there you can also get a guided tour from Edinburgh with Rabbies Tours.
These guys specialise in small groups of no more than 16 people and they offer fun and informative tours for a reasonable price. Check out Rabbie’s small group tours of the UK and Ireland for further information.
What I liked about this attraction
- It’s a unique attraction unlike any other in Scotland
- The chapel is beautiful inside
- There are lovely views from the cafe balcony
My top tips
- Remember you’re not allowed to take photos inside the chapel
- If you don’t want to drive to the chapel you can always book onto Rabbie’s small group tours of the UK and Ireland
Address and directions map
Prices and opening times
- Adults: £9.00
- Concessions: £7.00
- Children: free as part of a family group
- Jan to May: Monday-Saturday 09.30 – 17.00, Sunday 12 noon – 16.45
- Jun to Aug: Monday-Saturday 09.30 – 18.00, Sunday 12 noon – 16.45
- Sept to Dec: Monday-Saturday 09.30 – 17.00, Sunday 12 noon – 16.45
Getting there: Car park on-site
Getting around: Easy-access paths, Disabled access, Pushchair access, Uneven paths in Rosslyn Glen
On-site conveniences: Gift shop, Hot drinks, Picnic area, Restaurant, Snacks, Toilets