It was only recently that I found out about Rosslyn Chapel and it wasn’t really somewhere I thought I would plan to visit. I was so wrong not to visit this beautiful 15th century chapel that lives in the tranquil village of Roslin, Midlothian, Edinburgh, Scotland.
It was my mum’s 70th birthday this year and her wish was to visit Rosslyn Chapel, so my sister and I took her. Believe it or not, this was the very first time ever that we had been on a trip together.
It was a cold, but sunny April spring day and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. We arrived quite early in the morning just when the chapel opened and it was already starting to get busy.
We parked the car and walked up towards the the visitor centre.
We were greeted by very friendly and helpful staff. You do need to pay to get in but when we visited this also included a gift-aid annual pass for two adults to visit any other time for free if we filled out the form and returned this with a photo.
The visitor centre was full of interesting information about the chapel including interactive displays and animated videos. There was also a gift shop and a nice wee coffee shop full of refreshments.
As we made our way outside to the chapel my first impressions were “wow, what a beautiful building”. I loved all the pointy spires and arched windows.
The architecture was nothing like I’d seen before and I was quite excited to go inside. The entrance looked quite scary though!
Inside the chapel
Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos in the chapel. You can see some inside photos if you visit the Rosslyn Chapel website or purchase their book.
When I stepped through the door it was smaller than I imagined. I could see impressive carvings of faces, stars, angels, animals, the green man, beautiful pillars and so much more.
The arched ceiling was really high with carvings all over and the stained glass windows were simply beautiful. I’ve always wanted to design my own stained glass window with trees and a castle!
Inside was quite dull in colour compared to the outside. The stonework was covered with a grey cement to protect the carvings. The original colour behind it was red sandstone and you could still see some evidence of this peeking through.
Red iron railings separated sections of the chapel, they were really quite lovely. Shaped like figures of eight with gold leaves and flowers.
We walked around for a little while and then I noticed a black and white cat curled up sleeping on a pew. I laughed and wondered if it was real at first. The tour guide then told me that, William, had been visiting the chapel every day for ten years! He wasn’t a stray and his home was nearby, but he didn’t get on with his sister, so he came to the chapel every day. He’s now very famous and the shop even has William toys and a children’s story book all about him called William the Cat and the Rescue of Rosslyn Chapel.
There was about 50 people in the small chapel and we all sat down on the pews to listen to the tour guide’s stories. William the cat was still sleeping and didn’t notice any of this. He slept all the time we were there!
William St Clair, 3rd Prince of Orkney, began to build the church in 1446 and it took 40 years to build. I can imagine why! The chapel today is only a small part of what was planned. Many of the stone carvings have great stories behind them so this made it all the more interesting! I loved the story about the Master Mason and Apprentice the best. The tour guide was a great story teller too.
The chapel’s visitors have greatly increased after the publication of Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, in 2003 and then the movie in 2006.
Outside the chapel
Later we walked around outside the chapel and this was when I could take some photos. My mum also seemed to be enjoying her visit, so that was really nice to see.
We headed back into the visitor centre for some tea and cake. It looked so nice outside when the sun was shining but it was busy when we arrived so sat inside. I waited until everyone had left before I took these photos.
As I was reading about the chapel I kept seeing pictures of a beautiful castle that was nearby. I really wanted to see this but we were short for time as we’d hoped to visit Blackness Castle and Linlithgow Palace whilst we were in the area.
As we were waiting for my mum, my sister and I followed a path behind the chapel to see if we could see anything that resembled a ruined castle. Nothing. But there was great views of the surrounding countryside and the chapel.
We eventually found a trodden path down a hill that took us to another path that led us to the castle ruin. We’d missed the sign for the castle near the car park, so we could have taken the obvious route. But then, I like getting lost!
I was so excited to see the castle ruin. It was a beauty in its day as the visitor centre displayed pictures of what it looked like. The red sandstone towered so high above me.
I could see a river and many winding paths below me. This was a place to come back and explore another day. I’d love to look up at the castle ruins from ground level.
I really wanted a photo underneath the arches, so mother and two daughters stood hidden in each one. Neither of us knew how we were standing and we ended up like this. Spooky but nice.
There was a gate into another area of the castle ruin and a huge house. It was private so I didn’t venture in, but leaned over to take a photo, as you do. I later found out that you can rent this house out from the Landmark Trust. Wow, what a great place to stay for your holidays and near Edinburgh too.
Looking over the wall you could see how high up we were. Just beautiful.
It was time to head back to the car. I could have sat there all day. It took a wee while walking back though as my mum isn’t as fit as she used to be.
It was lovely day out and this is another place I will revisit. Blackness Castle was next and it was only half an hour away. Watch out for my next post on this.
Thanks for reading.
~ Dawn~Marie ~