Visit Inchcolm Island and the Augustinian Abbey

Lying in the Firth of Forth, east of the Forth Bridge, Inchcolm island is separated from the south coast of Fife by a deep stretch of water referred to as Mortimer’s Deep. While in days gone by the island featured on the route of boats crossing the Firth of Forth, the building of bridges has replaced this means of transport. Today, the island is primarily a tourist destination, with the medieval Augustinian Inchcolm Abbey drawing visitors to its ancient ruins. Inchcolm island is also great for exploring on foot, and visitors are likely to see seals along the island’s coastline, as well as on rocky outcrops just off-land. Due to a lack of predators such as hedgehogs and stoats, the birdlife on Inchcolm is prolific and the west end of the island is home to large colonies of fulmars and seagulls.

Legend has it that the Irish missionary monk St Columba visited the island in 567, and it may have been occupied by monks of the Columban order for a time, with ruins of hermit’s cells believed to be from the 9th century supporting this possibility. Fragments of stonework suggest the island was visited, if not occupied, by Christians during the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ – generally accepted as being the 10th and 11th century.

Inchcolm Abbey lies at the centre of the island and was founded in the early 12th century, most likely during the reign of King Alexander I of Scotland. The Abbey was initially used as a priory by Augustinian Priests referred to as Canons Regular, before becoming a dedicated abbey in 1235. By the end of the 13th century the island was repeatedly attacked by the English, and following the 1560 Scottish Reformation the Abbey was abandoned. Its position on Inchcolm island protected the Abbey from attack by zealous Protestant Reformers in the 16th century, and as a result it is Scotland’s most complete monastic house. The Abbey is cared for by Historic Scotland – an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with the responsibility of caring for Scotland’s historic monuments. There is a visitor center near the landing pier on Inchcolm island, and visitors can explore the ruins, of which the chapter house, refectory, warming house and cloisters are all complete.