Few countries do history and atmosphere quite like Scotland – and where history and atmosphere collide there are always going to be ruins. Here are five prime examples.

Melrose Abbey

As well as being one of the most picturesque of the Borders towns, Melrose is home to what was once one of Scotland’s most important religious buildings. Founded in 1136 by the Cistercian order at the request of David I, Melrose Abbey remained the Cistercian HQ in Scotland until the Reformation after which a combination of geo-politics, war (Cromwell’s was just one of the armies whose artillery took chunks out of the Gothic stonework) and improvements ended its centuries long run as a centre of importance. A new church was built in Melrose in 1810 at which point the Abbey was already a virtual ruin. Despite extensive repair work instigated by Sir Walter Scott it has pretty much stayed that way. There are good walks around Melrose but the Abbey and its grounds are a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours as well.


Tantallon Castle

As any Hollywood film producer knows, Scottish isn’t short of dramatic castles begging to be used as the backdrop for, say, a fantasy caper about sword-wielding eternals (Highlander used Eilean Donan) or an adaptation of a Shakespeare tragedy (Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet used Dunottar Castle as a backdrop). With its main claim to screen fame being used as the home of Great Wizard Michael in the BBC children’s series Shoebox Zoo, East Lothian’s 14th century Tantallon Castle isn’t quite in the same category. But its headland setting, its views (to Bass Rock) and its proximity to great beaches (Seacliff and Tyninghame) and great chippies (a visit to the nearby North Berwick Fry is a must) make it a great day out.

St Peter’s Seminary

Located just outside Cardross and considered a modern building of “world significance” this Brutalist masterpiece has also been described as “an albatross round our neck” by the Catholic church, which commissioned it from Scottish architecture practice Gillespie, Kidd and Coia in the early 1960s. It opened in 1966 but only functioned as a seminary for 14 years, closing in 1980. It had a brief second life as a drug rehabilitation centre but the fences went up for good in 1992 after which a combination of Scottish vandals and Scottish weather turned it into a ruin. Sustained attempts to rehabilitate the Category A-listed building have come to nothing and last year a bid to have it taken into state care was refused. In their current state the building is considered unsafe – it’s hard to stress that point too much – but the Royal Geographical Society’s Discovering Britain website contains a walk from Cardross to nearby Kilmahew which offers a decent view of it.


Inchcolm Abbey

Billed somewhat cheekily as ‘the Iona of the east’, Inchcolm Abbey sits on Inchcolm, an island in the Firth of Forth. The Abbey itself was founded in the 12th century by the Augustinian order of monks and is one of the most complete (that is, least ruined) monastic churches in Scotland. The Reformation ended its effective life as a monastery but the island’s strategic importance didn’t diminish, so as well as the Abbey ruins visitors can tour the defences and buildings built during the first and second world wars (there’s even a tunnel which was built in 1916 and intended to link the gun batteries on the island’s hillier end to the magazine). One more thing: you need a boat or, failing that, a ticket for one of the regular trips run from South Queensferry.


New Cathkin Park

Once home to Glasgow footballing legends Third Lanark, whose storied history includes the same number of league titles and Scottish cup wins as Dundee United, New Cathkin Park is now an atmospheric relic: a pitch and, partly obscured by vegetation but still visible on three sides of the ground, the all-important terracing on which fans of the Hi-Hi stood to cheer on their team. Find yourself a time turner and you could go back to April 25, 1967 and the three-three draw with Queen Of The South in front of 325 spectators which marked the last game the club played there. Now revived, the club currently plays in the Central Scottish Amateur Football League and ‘home’ is the Toryglen Regional Football Centre.