St Duthac’s Way

NE Scotland, 2-3 week

St Duthac’s Way – 97 miles – 9 days – Aberdeen to St Andrews. St Duthac was one of Scotland’s patron saints, an C11th holy man who became a saint for warriors and a favourite of the Scottish Kings. After many years of being buried, his body was found to be incorrupt; i.e. it hadn’t rotted, a sure sign of holiness! His pilgrimage starts in the ‘silver city’ of Aberdeen and takes you down to the coast and the sprawling ruins of Dunnottar Castle perched high above the North Sea. The castle was a scene of many desperate actions and host to famous Scots like William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots. Further south you arrive at Montrose, once a busy port exporting skins, salmon, wheat and barley. Montrose was also where the romantic hero ‘The Great Montrose’ was born, who met a grisly end and was probably the favourite of novelist Sir Walter Scott.
Then along country roads and the coast through unspoiled villages past lava flows and lime kilns to the red ruins of Arbroath Abbey. Look across to the terrible threat to mariners, the Inchcape Rock, then, keeping along the coast, a sometimes precipitous path takes you to busy Dundee. Cross the silvery Tay and you are now in the Kingdom of Fife. After a few miles you will suddenly see in the distance the ancient city of St Andrews. And soon you will be walking amid the towering ruins of the giant cathedral consecrated in the presence of Scotland’s greatest king, Robert the Bruce, 600 years ago.

Sublime coastal walking
Great introduction to Scotland’s history of saints and battles
Striking Dunnottar Castle and surrounding cliffs
Arbroath Abbey, once the richest in Scotland

Holy Places mentioned in Britain’s Pilgrim Places book: St Andrews

NB The above route forms the second part of an expanded route which starts at Tain (Gaelic: Baile Dubhthaich, ‘Duthac’s town’), the shrine of St Duthac there being another former pilgrimage destination of some importance. Tradition has it that he was educated in Ireland and died in Tain. A chapel was built in his honour and a sanctuary established at Tain in the 13th century, ministered by the Norbertine canons of Fearn Abbey. After many years his body was found to be incorrupt and his relics were translated to a more splendid shrine at the Collegiate Church of St Duthac in Tain in the 14th-15th centuries. The peak of the shrine’s popularity as a place of pilgrimage came around 1500 with the repeated visits of King James IV. The Collegiate Church is one of the finest medieval buildings in the Highlands, and inside you can see where the shrine of St Duthac would have been.

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Dunnottar Castle is a ruined medieval fortress on a rocky headland on the north-east coast of Scotland, about 2 miles south of Stonehaven. The surviving buildings are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland through to the 18th-century Jacobite risings because of its strategic location and defensive strength. Dunnottar is best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish crown jewels, were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army in the 17th century. The property of the Keiths from the 14th century, and the seat of the Earl Marischal, Dunnottar declined after the last Earl forfeited his titles by taking part in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715.
The ruins of the castle are spread over 3.5 acres, surrounded by steep cliffs that drop to the North Sea, 50 metres below. A narrow strip of land joins the headland to the mainland, along which a steep path leads up to the gatehouse. The various buildings within the castle include the 14th-century tower house as well as the 16th-century palace. Dunnottar Castle is a scheduled monument, and twelve structures on the site are listed buildings. Photo credit to Astalor, iStockPhoto.

The substantial ruins of a Tironensian monastery, founded by William the Lion in 1178, who is buried in Arbroath Abbey.
Arbroath Abbey is famously associated with the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320, which asserted Scotland’s independence from England.
Parts of the abbey church and domestic buildings remain, notably the gatehouse range and the abbot’s house. Credit to jimmcdowall, iStockPhoto.

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