Rosslyn Chapel (as featured in The Davinci Code) is one of the most beautiful examples of religious architecture in Scotland. The chapel dates back to 1446 and features a complex arrangement of mysterious stone carvings.
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Review of Rosslyn Chapel
If you find the time to venture past the boundary of Edinburgh when you visit Scotland I highly recommend taking 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 intricate 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 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, and once you’ve made your way to the visitor centre you’ll be able to grab a coffee and home-made cake in the excellent café before heading inside the chapel.
You’ll find an overview of the history of Rosslyn Chapel on information panels before you enter the building as well as a few tales about the mythology that surrounds it, all of which adds up to a feeling of suspense when you walk inside.
It could just be your imagination, but looking at the strange stone carvings you have the feeling that maybe, just maybe, there’s a secret hidden somewhere that is waiting to be discovered.
Although Rosslyn Chapel is small there’s so much to look at that you’ll be kept entertained for at least an hour. 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?
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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 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.
Midlothian is a great place to explore but so is the under-appreciated East Lothian. Check it out with my Guide to the Best Places to Visit in East Lothian.
- Rosslyn Chapel is a unique attraction unlike any other in Scotland. Just take a look at those stone carvings – they’re fascinating.
- The chapel is beautiful inside. I just wish you could take photos but bear in mind cameras are not allowed inside the building.
- There are lovely views from the café balcony looking over Rosslyn Glen.
- If a visit to Rosslyn has inspired you to visit more religious sites take a look at Melrose Abbey and Jedburgh Abbey in the Scottish Borders.
- If you don’t want to drive yourself to the chapel you can always book onto Rabbie’s small group tours of the UK and Ireland.
- Rosslyn Chapel can be considered a bit of a spooky place, but for a really atmospheric attraction take a look at Gilmerton Cove which lies five miles to the north of the abbey.
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Things to do near Rosslyn Chapel
- Roslin Glen. 78 Crusader Dr, Roslin EH25 9PX. 2-minute walk. Riverside walk with rough paths that follow the River North Esk. The country park is a short walk from Rosslyn Chapel and there is a car parking area with nearby seating and picnic benches.
- Penicuik Dalkeith Walkway. Lea Farm, Roslin EH25 9PY. 5-minute drive. Scenic countryside footpath on a reclaimed railway track that partially follows the River North Esk at Penicuik before diverting inland through fields. Can be reached on foot from the chapel or visited by car from the roundabout that joins the B7003 and A6094.
- Roslin Gunpowder Factory. 9PX, B7003, Roslin. 11-minute drive. An abandoned gunpowder factory that operated from 1804 to 1954 and was at one time the largest in Scotland. It is now a collection of ruined buildings buried in the woodland of Rosslyn Glen. Easily reached from a spar of the Penicuik Dalkeith Walkway.
- Pentland Hills. Flotterstone EH26 0PP. 9-minute drive. A regional park near Edinburgh that offers walks across several peaks. There are picturesque reservoirs inside the park as well as the ancient remains of pre-Roman civilization in places like Castlelaw Hill Fort. The car park at Flotterstone offers the best route into the hills and there is a café and pub within a few minutes walk of it.
- Castlelaw Hill Fort. Penicuik EH26 0PB. 10-minute drive. A raised earthwork that is believed to have been used for storage by the tribes that lived around the area 2,000 years ago. There is a car park nearby and a footpath that continues past the fort in the direction of the City of Edinburgh bypass
More places to visit in The Lothians
- The Bass Rock – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe Bass Rock is absolutely enormous and reaches 107 metres above sea level at its highest point, with most of the sides of this 320 million-year-old volcanic plug standing almost vertical above the pounding waves of the Firth of Forth.
- Seton Collegiate Church – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideSeton Collegiate Church, known locally as Seton Chapel, is a collegiate church south of Port Seton in East Lothian. The church is situated next to the magnificent Seton House – which can be glimpsed through the trees at one end of the site – and the grounds are a total oasis of peace and quiet.
- Hailes Castle – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideLocated a mile and a half from East Linton in East Lothian, Hailes Castle sits in a beautiful riverside setting that’s perfect for an afternoon of exploring followed by a picnic next to the gentle River Tyne that flows behind it.
- North Berwick Law – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideStanding 187m above sea level, North Berwick Law dominates the landscape around the popular town of North Berwick.