01 January 2021
Follow in the footsteps of Queen Margaret of Scotland with our guide to historic sites associated with the life and times of this remarkable medieval woman.
Margaret of Scotland (c1045 - 1093) was a Hungarian born princess of the Royal House of Wessex, whose family fled to Scotland after the Norman Conquest.
Margaret was the queen consort of Malcolm III and three of the couple's eight children became kings of Scotland - Edgar, Alexander I and David I.
This guide to places connected with the life and times of Margaret of Scotland shows you how to explore sites associated with this life of the queen and her achievements.
1. NORTH AND SOUTH QUEENSFERRY
Margaret was a religious woman and initiated a ferry service across the Firth of Forth for pilgrims travelling to St Andrews.
The towns of North Queensferry and South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, take their name from Margaret and she appears on the first known seal of the burgh of Queensferry, dating to 1529. A plaque to Margaret's memory stands at The Binks in South Queensferry.
North Queensferry & South Queensferry stand on either side of the Firth of Forth, close to Edinburgh.
2. SAINT MARGARET'S CAVE
Visit the Fife cave where Margaret came to pray almost 1,000 years ago. At the time when Margaret visited in search of peace for her prayers and devotions, the site was a lonely cave by a wooded stream. Nowadays, it's accessed via a tunnel with 87 steps leading underground.
Saint Margaret's Cave, Glen Bridge car park, Chalmers Street, Dunfermline KY12 8DF; tel: 01383 602386.
3 SAINT MARGARET'S CHAPEL, EDINBURGH
Saint Margaret's Chapel is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh Castle and in the city of Edinburgh also. Although it doesn't date to the time of Margaret herself, it is believed to have been created by her son, King David I of Scotland, in the early 12th century.
Over the years, the chapel has had many different uses, including a time as a gunpowder store. It was restored by Sir Daniel Wilson in 1853 and the stained glass windows were replaced Dr Douglas Strachan's representations of St Margaret, St Andrew, St Columba and Sir William Wallace.
The chapel celebrated the 900th anniversary of Margaret's death in 1993 when it was renovated by Historic Scotland and its interior refurbished by St Margaret's Chapel Guild. Nowadays, the chapel is still used as a place of worship and enjoyed by thousands of visitors to Edinburgh Castle each year.
St Margaret's Chapel, Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh EH1 2NG; tel: 0131 225 9846; website.
4 IONA ABBEY
During her time as queen consort, Margaret showed an interest in the Abbey at Iona, an ancient site of pilgrimage and monasticism. She attempted to restore the abbey to its full use, after it had been decimated for centuries by Viking raids. n.b. Although Margaret is recorded as having shown an interest in the abbey, there is no evidence of her having visited.
Iona Abbey, Isle of Iona; website.
5 SAINT MARGARET'S SHRINE, DUNFERMLINE ABBEY
Margaret was canonised by Pope Innocent IV in 1250, almost two centuries after her death. Following the canonisation, her remains were re-interred at Dunfermline Abbey, where a shrine was established and became a focus for medieval pilgrims.
Although Margaret's remains were lost during the Reformation, her shrine still stands outside Dunfermline Abbey. Her feast day is marked by the Catholic Church on 16 November.
The site of the shrine is a large stone slab beside the Abbey, which is marked by a plaque and surrounded by fencing.
Dunfermline Abbey, Dunfermline KY12 7PE; website.
QUICK LINK: Strange deaths of medieval kings
(St Margaret's Chapel copyright Jonathan Oldenbruck, St Margaret's cave copyright Paul McIlroy, stained glass copyright Rob Farrow)