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Visitors encouraged to explore Arbroath Abbey's maritime past

21 February 2011

Visitors to Arbroath Abbey will have the opportunity to explore the site’s links to its maritime past at a special series of events to be held during the month of March.

The Abbey, which is run by Historic Scotland, is running a series of workshops to celebrate the bicentenary of the Bell Rock Lighthouse. From the 13th century, the abbey provided a vital focal point for sailors in the North Sea.

The Abbey also actively sought to help protect sailors in other ways. A warning floating bell is believed to have been placed near the Inchcape Rocks by Abbot Gedy. This bell was made famous in the poem by Robert Southey. The poem describes how a pirate sought to make mischief by removing the bell, before ironically becoming a victim of the rocks himself as his ship ran aground there and sunk without the warning of the Bishops bell.

Visitors to the abbey will be able to explore these stories and others during March, as Jim Tollerton the Local Learning Officer for the Abbey, who is running the sessions explains;  

“The Abbey had many early links to the seafaring community and provided a vital source of reference for sailors. The sessions will cover some of these fascinating stories as well as displaying interesting artefacts, including early maps and pictures which show the prominence of the Abbey for sailors.”

The activities coincide with National Science Week and this will form a key focus of the events. Visitors will have the opportunity to try out various hands on activities. These range from handling sessions looking at the craft skills involved in the construction of the abbey and the lighthouse, through to creating scaffolding models.

Jim continued;

“The lighthouse was a prime example of engineering in its day and these sessions are designed to address some of the technologies that were involved in building the lighthouse.

Constructing a building of this type was extremely precarious, and where Stevenson was very clever was in his approach to the building of the lighthouse, using pulleys and balance as part of his crane designs.

Visitors will have the opportunity to explore this first hand through interactive sessions, which are designed to bring to life the challenges involved in creating one of the greatest feats in Scottish maritime history.”

The events will run every Tuesday in March at the Abbot’s House at Arbroath Abbey from 10am -12noon and 2pm - 4pm. Maximum number at each session is 33. Anyone interested in attending can book a place by contacting the Abbey on 01241 878 756.

Photo Opportunity:
Please note that you are welcome to send a photographer to cover the opening sessions on 1st March. Please contact our communications team on 0131 668 8703 to arrange access.

Notes for editors

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit

For further information

Iona Matheson
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8703 or 07827 956 858