Arbroath Abbey

Tuesday 5 April: Day 4 of the Easter Holidays

Have Historic Scotland membership; will use it! The Boss and I compared the properties on the Historic Scotland website that we could drive to, alongside their forecast weather, in a demented game of Top Trumps. We settled on Arbroath Abbey. I vaguely remembered visiting it when I was around Maxi’s age and thought it might be quite interesting, so off we drove.

It was empty bar 3 or 4 other people. Maybe they’d heard we were visiting..? We started by touring the indoor visitor centre, whose displays and panels listed the Abbey’s historical timeline, described its links in the 1950s with the Stone of Destiny, and explained why the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 – signed at the Abbey – was so significant in Scottish history. Upstairs in the visitor centre is a model of the finished abbey and a wall of glass through which you can see the Abbey, presumably for when it’s too wet to go out and explore yourself.

Minxes being minxes, they needed to get outside and explore and touch and see and compare. So they did. With much glee. I’m still surprised when they enjoy visiting old crumbly ruins, but I think they each get something out of it: 6 year old Mini likes the freedom of being able to run around; Midi is fascinated by sculpture and carving; at nearly 10, Maxi’s imagination lets her picture what life was like hundreds of years ago, and she’s curious about the differences.

The red sandstone of Arbroath Abbey hasn’t stood up to the elements as well as that at Melrose Abbey, so there wasn’t so much stonework for Midi to study. However, the intact Abbot’s House had some exhibits and replicas inside that took all the hard work out of Maxi’s imaginings and brought the building to life.

We paused for quite a while trying out the very long echo of the sacristy. Even still, itĀ didn’t take too long to explore every opening door and climb every accessible staircase, so decided to have a look further afield.

We’ve been to the town centre of Arbroath a few times, so decided to explore the walk along Seaton cliffs at the very end of the seafront esplanade before going home. It starts beside the public toilets and follows a tarmac path along the edge of the cliffs. It felt safe enough, but we didn’t venture too far – just as we started spotting the sand martins and were looking out for arches and stacks, Mini suddenly was very glad that the public toilets were so close. By the time we’d walked back, it really was time to go home. Perhaps we’ll finish the walk in the summer.

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