The Out About Scotland complete guide to Seton Collegiate Church in East Lothian
Category: Historic building, 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: 6 out of 10
About 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 and it offers a unique glimpse into the past that for once isn’t centred around a Scottish castle.
The origins of this church date back to 1242 when the original parish church was consecrated by the Bishop of St. Andrews, and over the years the building 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.
But whatever you decide to do I think you’ll enjoy your visit to this unique historic attraction.
Things to do at Seton Collegiate Church
Sitting in immaculately manicured gardens, Seton Collegiate Church is now in the care of Historic Scotland and is a 4-Star Historic Tourist Attraction.
The structure of Seton Collegiate Church is in 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 beautiful collections of Scottish flowers, 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 Historic Scotland.
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 have some free time 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 a great place to let the kids learn about Scotland’s religious history.
What I liked about this attraction
- It’s very peaceful
- The grounds are lovely
- It’s close to several other East Lothian attractions
My top tips
- 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 (See advert below for details)
Address and map
Seton Collegiate Church,
National Grid reference: NT 418 751
Admission prices and opening times
Special offer! Click this affiliate link to purchase a Historic Environment Scotland Explorer Pass from Viator. Your 5-day or 14-day pass allows free entry to more than 77 castles, cathedrals, distilleries and more throughout Scotland. With passes starting at just £35 (as of 2019) it’s an absolute bargain!
- Historic Scotland Member/Explorer Pass holder: FREE
- Adult: £5.00
- Child aged 5–15: £3.00
- Child under 5: FREE
- Concession: £4.00
- Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
- Concession price: this applies if you can show proof that you’re aged 60+ or unemployed.
- Admission prices are subject to change.
- 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
- 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
- 1 November to 31 March: Closed
- Telephone: 01875 813 334
- Website: Historic Scotland
Getting there: Car park on-site
Getting around: Disabled access, Easy-access paths, Pushchair access
On-site conveniences: Gift shop, Snacks, Toilets
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