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Bed and breakfast availability
Arbroath b&b, guesthouse and hotel accommodation

Arbroath in Angus

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Visit Arbroath and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:

Arbroath, Angus. Having originally been given the charter of a royal burgh in 1599, and having now become a seaside resort as well as a fishing centre and a town containing a certain amount of industry, Arbroath bustles with contemporary life.

The town possesses a small harbour at the mouth of the Brothock Water, from which it derives its original name of Aberbrothock, now abbreviated to its present form. The tourist industry is lively here and has a number of attractions to offer. Apart from golf, there is a large open-air swimming-pool, there is sailing, and you can take motor-boat trips up the coast. There is a fine sandy beach to the West of the town. To the North East are red sandstone cliffs with spectacular caves and a peculiar rock-stack known as Pint Stoup. To the South East is the Bell Rock or Inchcape associated with the “Abbot of Aberbrothock”. Arbroath is associated too with Scott's novel The Antiquary, and the extravagantly restored “Hospitalfield” on the North side of the town may be the original of Monkbarn in that tale.

Arbroath has much to offer to the holidaymaker; but to the antiquarian, to the lover of old architecture even when it has suffered decay, and (of course) to the student of Scottish history, the Abbey of Arbroath is of prune importance.

Originally a Cluniac priory founded by William the Lion in 1178 (the King is buried in the present sacristy), it was taken over by Tironesian monks from Kelso after 1233 and after two fires had set back the building. It was dedicated to St Thomas a Becket of Canterbury, and continued to flourish even after the Reformation until 1606, when it was declared a “temporal lordship”. Thereafter it was ruined not by violence, nor by the deliberate hand of man, but by natural decay consequent upon lack of use the fate of many pre-Reformation ecclesiastical buildings on which we shall have cause to comment in the course of this gazetteer. it is often unjust to the reformers to attribute to them deliberate iconoclasm. They merely turned their backs upon old buildings, and let nature and pilfering humans (without any desire to destroy or commit sacrilege) have their way.

What remains, however, is impressive and important. Dr Johnson, in his visit to Scotland, said of Arbroath, “I should scarcely have regretted my journey had it afforded nothing more than the sight of Aberbrothock”. There are some who would echo his words today. Considerable portions of the Abbey and its attendant buildings remain and are only the more striking for the gradual desolation (now of course halted) around them.

What remains that is striking is of the 13th century. The most outstanding of these relics are the South transept gable and the West front with a ruined tower and portal. The South transept, with arcades and triforium intact, is famous for its fine rose window. This was called the “O of Arbroath” and was in the days of the Abbey's life illuminated to act as a guide to ships at sea. Beside the transept is a vaulted building still remarkable for its acoustics. This may have been the sacristy.

To the West and South of the Abbey once stood the domestic buildings. There is a large gatehouse tower by the side of the Abbey pend. The Abbot's house, until fairly recently in use as a dwelling-place, is now a museum. A headless effigy may represent William the Lion, who is buried in the sacristy. One of the rooms is still called “Bruce's Bedroom”.

The Abbey pend referred to above used to have a chamber over it. It was here that the Declaration of Independence, now usually styled the Declaration of Arbroath, was eventually signed in 1320, having been outlined, prepared, and completed in the Abbey itself. The Declaration was the product of a meeting of the Estates of Scotland, and was launched toward the ear of Pope John XXII, himself in exile in Avignon. The word “ear” used above is deliberate; for this unique manifesto of freedom, this declaration of the independence of the Kingdom of Scotland after Bruce had liberated her at Bannockrurn, was pronounced before the Pontiff by two Scottish emissaries in the noble, echoing audience chamber still to be seen in the Palais des Papes at Avignon.

On the 11th of April 1951, the world was by headlines reminded in the liveliest way of Arbroath's place in Scottish history. On that date, early in the morning, the young Scotsmen who had removed the Stone of Scone, or Stone of Destiny, from Westminster Abbey (whither it had been taken by Edward I after his campaign in Scotland), and had kept it in Scotland for over three months, surrendered it on the High Altar of the Abbey of Arbroath. The young men were not prosecuted, but the Stone was removed in a Black Maria to spend the night in Forfar gaol on its way back to London. There continues a legend or pious belief that the real stone is still in Scotland.

Nearby cities: Dundee

Nearby towns: Brechin, Carnoustie, Forfar, Montrose

Nearby villages: Aberlemno, Arbirlot, Ardovie, Barry, Carmyllie, Colliston, Dubton, Dunnichen, East Haven, Farnell, Ferryden, Friockheim, Guthrie, Inverkeilor, Kinnell, Kirkbuddo, Letham, Lunan, Maryton, Monifieth, Monikie, Murroes, St. Vigeans, Usan, West Ferry, Woodville

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