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 that are believed to have links to the Knights Templar.
Discover Rosslyn Chapel with this article which contains a detailed overview and lots of useful visitor information.
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun: 9.30 am to 4.30 pm|
Saturday: 12.00 to 4.15 pm
|Admission Price:||Adults: £9.50|
Children go free as part of a family group
|Parking:||Free on-site car park|
|Contact:||0131 440 2159|
|Facilities:||Gift shop, toilets, cafe, disabled access|
|BUY TICKETS||Click here to purchase|
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.
1: Rosslyn Chapel is a unique attraction unlike any other in Scotland. Just take a look at those stone carvings – they’re fascinating.
2: The chapel interior is stunning. Sadly cameras are not allowed inside the building so you won’t be able to take photos without prior permission.
3: There are lovely views from the café balcony looking over Rosslyn Glen. The cafe and shop are worth a mention in their own right as both are first-class for an attraction of this size.
2: If you don’t want to drive yourself to the chapel you can always book Rabbie’s small group tours of the UK and Ireland.
3: 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 in Edinburgh.
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, while at the visitor centre you’ll be able to grab a coffee and homemade 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 add 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?
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.
Things to do
Guided Tour of Rosslyn Chapel – Embrace the history of Scotland by taking a guided tour of Rosslyn Chapel. Expert guides will take you through the chapel’s intricate carvings and unique architecture while telling you about its connection to the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. To book a tour, visit the Get Your Guide website.
Attend a Choral Service – Experience a choral service at Rosslyn Chapel. The chapel’s acoustics amplify the choir’s harmonies to create a truly magical experience. Services are held every Sunday and are open to all visitors.
Photography – With its beautiful architecture and picturesque surroundings, Rosslyn Chapel is a photographer’s dream location. Capture the details of the stone carvings or the stunning woodland views. Please note that while interior photography is not permitted, visitors are allowed to photograph the exterior.
Visit the Rosslyn Chapel Visitor Centre – Enhance your visit by exploring the visitor centre. The centre offers interactive displays that delve deeper into the chapel’s history, the Sinclair family, and the stonemasons who crafted it. There’s also a tearoom where you can enjoy traditional Scottish meals (the terrace is a great place to sit with a coffee).
Walk in Roslin Glen Country Park – Surrounding the chapel is the beautiful Roslin Glen Country Park. A walk through this park offers a delightful experience with stunning views of the River North Esk and paths that meander under a canopy of ancient trees.
Inception and Construction: Rosslyn Chapel, or the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew as it was originally known, was founded in the mid-15th century by Sir William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness of the Scoto-Norman Sinclair family. Construction began in 1446, and the chapel took 40 years to complete.
Architectural Marvel: The chapel features a blend of Gothic, Norman and early Renaissance architecture, with its most prominent feature being the Apprentice Pillar – a stunning column adorned with entwining dragons.
The Apprentice Pillar: The story behind the Apprentice Pillar is a fascinating blend of history and legend. It’s said that the master mason travelled to Rome for inspiration. In his absence, his apprentice completed the pillar. Upon his return, the master mason was so filled with rage and jealousy that he killed the apprentice.
Da Vinci Code Connection: The chapel gained worldwide recognition after being featured in Dan Brown’s bestselling novel, ‘The Da Vinci Code’, and the subsequent film adaptation. The chapel is portrayed as the hiding place for the Holy Grail.
Cryptic Carvings: The chapel boasts over 100 Green Men carvings. The Green Man, a pre-Christian symbol, is often depicted as a face surrounded by or made from leaves. It’s considered a symbol of rebirth and the cycle of growth each spring.
Musical Inspiration: Some believe that the carvings in the chapel’s arches represent a piece of music, with each carving corresponding to a musical note. This theory, known as the ‘Rosslyn Motet’, was put forward by Thomas and Stuart Mitchell, who translated the patterns into a piece of music.
Crypt Mysteries: Beneath the chapel lies a crypt, which is said to house the remains of the chapel’s founder, Sir William Sinclair, among others. However, due to the sensitivity of the site, no archaeological investigations have been permitted.
Masonic Connections: Some believe that Rosslyn Chapel holds secrets about the Freemasons and the Knights Templar due to the presence of symbols associated with these groups. However, these claims remain speculative as there is no historical evidence to support them.
Unfinished Expansion: The current Rosslyn Chapel is only a part of what was intended to be a larger cruciform church. The planned nave was never completed due to the death of its founder, Sir William Sinclair.
Things to do nearby
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 minute’s walk of it.
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.
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
Frequently asked questions
Who built Rosslyn Chapel?
Building works on Rosslyn Chapel began in the mid-15th century by the first Earl of Caithness, William Sinclair.
How much does it cost to visit Rosslyn Chapel?
Rosslyn Chapel costs around £10 for an adult ticket. The chapel has free entry for under 18s. Visit the Rosslyn Chapel tickets page for the latest entry prices.
What is buried under Rosslyn Chapel?
There are many myths and legends that guess at what is buried under Rosslyn Chapel, with the most popular theory being it is a treasure secreted in an underground vault that was left there by the Knights Templar.
There is no evidence of a Holy Grail, but some historians believe the underground vault is a store of rare books that were saved from a fire 500 years ago.
Was The Da Vinci Code filmed in Rosslyn Chapel?
Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh was the film set for the final few scenes of the film ‘The Da Vinci Code’ starring Tom Hanks.