Sitting in immaculately manicured gardens, Seton Collegiate Church is in the care of Historic Scotland and is a 4-star rated historic tourist attraction near Prestonpans in East Lothian.
Review of Seton Collegiate Church
Seton 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.
Although this historic attraction is quite small (it’ll take less than an hour to explore entirely) it’s definitely worth visiting if you’re in the area as it offers a unique glimpse into the past that for once isn’t centred around a Scottish castle.
The origins of the church date back to 1242 when the original parish church was consecrated by the Bishop of St. Andrews, and over the years it was expanded and eventually converted into the collegiate church that we see today.
It would have been quite elaborately decorated in its heyday although it’s now just a shell of the original building, but it’s no less interesting for it.
The church is close to the lovely East Lothian coastline and there are lots of other attractions in the area so it can be easily combined with a visit to the beach (check out my guide to Yellowcraig) or a castle (have a look at Dirleton Castle), or you can simply spend a bit of time here before heading into Edinburgh from the nearby Prestonpans rail station.
Alternatively, you might like to take a look at the free outdoor mining musuem Prestongrange Museum and the Levenhall Links nature reserve directly across the road.
But whatever you decide to do I think you’ll enjoy your visit to this unique historic attraction.
Out About Scotland recommends...
Things to do at Seton Collegiate Church
Sitting in immaculately manicured gardens, Seton Collegiate Church is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland and is a 4-Star tourist attraction.
The stonework of Seton Collegiate Church is in a remarkably good condition for a building of its age and inside it features several points of interest, including a collection of impressive stained-glass windows set in equally grand gothic-style archways along with a number of grave slabs marked by stone effigies.
The ruins to the rear of the church grounds are the location of the remains of buildings that were inhabited by monks at one time, but today only the foundations and some low-lying walls can be seen. The remainder of the gardens are home to collections of flowerbeds and the entire gardens are surrounded by fields and woodland.
It really is a very peaceful place to visit.
Although the church itself is pretty much bare inside there are some examples of stonework that have been saved from hundreds of years of neglect and there are plenty of information panels dotted about that give a rundown of the history of the church, courtesy of HES.
The stonework inside the chapel is worth taking a look at as it’s in exceptionally good condition – especially the priest’s seat and the basin where sacred vessels used to be rinsed.
Another section of the church that’s well preserved is the priest’s domestic quarters and it’s quite an eye-opener to see how cramped it would have been for six men to have spent the majority of their lives in such a tiny place.
As usual Historic Environment Scotland have had a good go at making a visit to one of their historic sites interesting to children and they’ve thoughtfully made a fun fact-finding quiz and a scavenger hunt challenge to keep them occupied, and I’d say that’s more than enough to keep them busy while you explore the site in peace and quiet.
There’s a small visitor centre tucked away near the entrance which has a few souvenirs to buy and there are toilets on the site as well, but please note there are no disabled toilets.
I’d say you should certainly find the time to visit Seton Collegiate Church if you’re looking for something to do and are already in this part of East Lothian, but I probably wouldn’t specifically travel there if I was on the other side of the country.
That being said, it’s a nice wee place to visit and it’s an excellent attraction to learn about Scotland’s religious history.
- Seton Collegiate is one of those hidden gems that most tourists don’t know about. That means it’s very quiet. It’s also close enough to Edinburgh that you could take a drive there before heading down to the beach at Gullane or Yellowcraig if you want a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
- The grounds are lovely with great views across the Firth of Forth. Admittedly it won’t take you long to visit the collegiate building but it’s a nice wee place to explore for a half hour or so.
- It’s close to lots of other East Lothian attractions like Glenkinchie whisky distillery and the Athelstaneford National Flag Centre.
- Combine a visit to Seton Collegiate Church with a walk along the beach at Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve which is around 10-minutes drive away.
- You can get into historic attractions like this for free with a membership of Historic Environment Scotland and The National Trust for Scotland.
- The nearest village is Prestonpans which has a couple of attractions like the Leven Links nature reserve, the Battle of Prestonpans viewpoint and Prestongrange Museum.
Seton Collegiate Church,
National Grid reference: NT 418 751
Things to do near Seton Collegiate Church
- Gosford House and Grounds. Longniddry EH32 0PY. 8-minute drive. Country house that is open for private events and public open days. The grounds are open year-round and offer picturesque walks through managed woodland.
- Prestongrange Museum. Prestonpans EH32 9RX. 8-minute drive. An open air museum that features a collection of original machinery and industrial buildings from across the 400 years that the site was a focus of glass works, pottery and colliery. Entry is free. An on-site shop is open during summer months only.
- Myreton Motor Museum. Aberlady, Longniddry EH32 0PZ. 11-minute drive. A small privately-run and highly-rated motor museum that celebrates automobilia with a collection of cars, bikes, motorcycles and trucks.
- Carberry Tower Mansion House. Carberry Tower Estate, Musselburgh EH21 8PY. 9-minute drive. Grand 18th-century country house set in 35 acres of countryside. The house is open both as a hotel and as a restaurant. The grounds are free to visit and paths run to Queen Mary’s Mount where Mary Queen of Scots is said to have rested after the Battle of Pinkie in 1547.
- Levenhall Links and Musselburgh Lagoons Nature Reserve. 2 Hope Pl, Musselburgh EH21 7QE. 8-minute walk. Nature reserve and popular bird-watching site that has been created from reclaimed coal excavations from nearby quarries.
More places to visit in The Lothians
- Prestongrange Museum – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuidePrestongrange in the coastal village of Prestonpans is a free-to-visit outdoor museum that showcases East Lothian’s rich industrial heritage. The museum aims to educate visitors about the 800-years of industrial activity that left its mark on the area, from the almost-vanished harbour to the long-abandoned colliery.
- Dalkeith Country Park – Midlothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe historic county of Midlothian seems to be permanently out of favour with visiting tourists – mainly due to the fact that it borders Edinburgh and most sightseers have already got their hands full trying to fit in as many city attractions as possible before hopping on the coach to their next destination.
- Jupiter Artland – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideIt was with great pleasure that I happened to stumble upon Jupiter Artland recently, a contemporary sculpture park near Edinburgh that gave me one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in a long time.
- Dunbar Harbour – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe quaint coastal town of Dunbar is located just 30 miles east of Edinburgh on a stretch of coastline that’s famed for being one of the most scenic in Scotland.