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Inchcolm Abbey

My husband and I are going on the RS Scotland tour in September. We are arriving two days early in Edinburgh for some independent sightseeing, and I'm trying to prioritize the places we'd like to go. I've read that Inchcolm Abbey is an interesting trip, but it will take much of the afternoon and it has an extra cost. Has anyone been here? Did you feel it was worth the cost/trip? We are also planning to go to Holyrood Palace and its Abbey as well as Rosslyn Chapel. The tour also includes ruins at St. Andrews and Iona Abbey, so I'm not sure if this would be redundant. Any feedback would be appreciated. Thank you!

Posted by
5678 posts

Incholm Abbey is most spectacular to me because of it's location. It's also very old, having been founded by David I. When you go to the Castle, St. Margaret's Chapel was built around the same time. I have not been to Incholm, but would like to go sometime. I do love St. Margaret's Chapel. I have been to both St. Andrew's and Iona, and this sounds very different. St. Andrew's is not an Abbey. Iona, is an Abbey, but it's been partially restored. Incholm mean's Columba's Isle, so you would have an interesting symmetry to your trip to have visited both places. Have you found Historic Scotland? Here's the link for this property. Here's the most complete link I found for King David. If you want a fictionalize history, try Nigel Tranter's, David the Prince.

I hope that by the time you are there in September that the world is a more peaceful place than it is right now. I visited Iona on 9/11 and I still feel an ache in my heart when I think of it.


Posted by
312 posts

Hi Tamara,
Enjoy your trip! Scotland has so much history and beauty - just wonderful. I've a list of freebies that I made for a friend .. somewhere ... here 'tis:

These are ones that I've read about but not done myself:
Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat Walk,
Water of Leith Walk,
St Cecilia's Hall Museum of Instruments and The Reid Concert Hall Museum of Instruments,

Done items, just ask if any questions:
The People's Story, .. my favorite museum .. I visit every time .. do climb to the video room at the very top if it's open when you visit

Museum of Edinburgh, .. you can see Greyfriars Bobby's bowl and some pictures

Writers' Museum,

National Museum of Scotland, .. good hands on activities, the stuffed Dolly the cloned sheep is there, and when finding the correct elevator, you can go to the roof for a nice view of the city .. note: I see this is on the RS tour's itinerary, but I do recommend the roof terrace for the view

The Scottish Parliament, .. be ready for security (i.e., metal out of pockets, bags through x-ray)

Museum of Childhood, .. a lot (Lot!) of older type toys, very nostalgic, a few old mechanical toys are fun, you need 10p and 50p coins

Tartan Weaving Mill & Exhibition, .. you go down, down (used to be a reservoir, I've read, long time ago) and see some exhibits .. as you enter, stairs to the side go up to toilets, smaller gift shop, and nice cafe - it's where I first enjoyed haggis nachos - freshly made potato chips, not corn chips

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, .. outside is free .. I've not done the £4.50 glasshouse

Museum on the Mound, .. gentleman in suit opened the door! .. if money is your thing, very text-oriented displays

National Galleries, .. check what is current exhibit for possible interest at the different locations (National, Portrait, and Modern .. I've visited only first two to date)

National Library of Scotland, .. usually a nice exhibition on display in entrance area .. to visit the closed stacks research area (up the stairs) you need an ID to get free day pass

be on the upper part of the Royal Mile in the later evening, ex. 7 or 8 p.m. .. when the various bells are tolling, call and leave voice message for someone (yes, I did this on my first visit for coworker :-)

a Church where the history learning is outside and free .. Greyfriars Kirkyard .. informational signs to learn about the signing of the National Covenant, and one corner has an entrance to the area that was used as an open air prison for several months; many died

Great pictures to help explain attractiveness of four of the above:
Some of the above, and a few more, with links ..
FYI, sortable by type, some free, family fun days are also fun for those without kids ..

Posted by
312 posts

Hi again .. I put the freebie list first, but I do have some other ideas, depending on how much you want to spend and what your personal interests are .. .. if weather is fine and you want a trip across the rail bridge .. I was able to get a combined rail/aquarium ticket, but I don't see that mentioned anymore .. the walk from the rail station to the aquarium is steep(!), fyi .. another "excuse" for a rail trip from Edinburgh .. exit the train, go up the hill by the ASDA and across the street to catch the bus to the Wheel .. though maybe not on a first trip, true .. the aquarium is much closer if you wanted to try a rail experience

Oh, found another freebie, and easier than the top of Arthur's Seat (I admit, not gone up there yet) .. walk to the end of Princes Street (east end) and go to the top of Calton Hill .. The Old Calton Burial Ground is near, that's worth a browse. There are steps up to the top of Calton Hill, but keep walking past the Old Royal High School and you'll find a roadway - much easier.

Not free, but you'll be passing if you go for a look up the Royal Mile all the way to the esplanade before the RS tour ..

Will you be there on a Saturday?

To try and answer your specific questions :-) .. I've not done Inchcolm Abbey, so I can't offer any opinion to it's worth. Perhaps let weather help decide. Windy days whipping the water? I'd probably be seasick on the ferry. There's lot other things to check out.

Doing Holyrood/Rosslyn in addition to tour's St Andrews/Iona .. true, you don't want a "if the photo was taken Tuesday, the ruins are St A" effect, but each has a uniqueness, and differences in locations (ex: seaside vs not seaside) that I can sense in my memories of them .. read the info signs and reflect on each place's history while there .. I think they'll stay separate in your mind (and photos :-)


Posted by
610 posts

Thank you both so much for your reply! I appreciate all the tips - I have a lot of new ideas to add to my list now. I think I will keep Inchcolm Abbey in my plans and leave it flexible depending on the whether, as you suggested. Pam - what a memory, to be in such a spiritual place on such a day. I can imagine how that impacts your memories. We did not realize when we planned our trip that they would be voting for independence this year and it turns out we will be in Edinburgh on Referendum Day, so that should be unique. Thanks again for all your help!

Posted by
1811 posts

We visited Inchcolm Abbey several years ago and found it very picturesque. However, skip it if there have just been heavy rains - it gets extremely muddy - your feet sink two inches with every step! We didn't have any choice about dates so we went anyway. When we went you had to ring a bell to summon the launch from the island.