Footsteps through Time

Follow the 400 year-old pilgrimage route to the shrine of St Andrew, Scotland's patron saint, through the National Library of Scotland's collections

By National Library of Scotland

St. Andrew, from 'Christ, Mary and the Apostles' (ca. 1590–ca. 1610) by Antonio Tempesta|Nicolaus van AelstThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Scotland's Patron Saint

November 30th marks when Scotland comes together to celebrate St. Andrew, its patron saint, with events that showcase Scottish culture. The story begins centuries ago when legend has it that St. Andrew came to Scotland and built a church in what is now the town of St Andrews.

St Andrews (1821) by William DaniellNational Library of Scotland

Place of Pilgrimage

The church became a place of pilgrimage for worshippers from all over Britain. 

Follow the footsteps of these early pilgrims, starting in Edinburgh, by tracing the route and see the changes in the surrounding landscape over the centuries.

Cowgate looking East (1829) by Thomas ShepherdNational Library of Scotland

The Cowgate

Many pilgrims wanting to see the shrine of St Andrew started their journey in the Old Town of Edinburgh. The Cowgate was one of the main thoroughfares through its maze of streets, lanes and closes.

Here begynnys the may[i]ng or disport of Chaucer (1508)National Library of Scotland

It was here too that in 1507 King James IV of Scotland granted merchant Walter Chepman and bookseller Andro Myllar a licence to begin printing in Scotland. In 1508 they established their press in the Cowgate.

Saint Margaret (between 1410 and 1415) by Bohemian ArtistMuseum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Queen Margaret

Between Edinburgh and the Kingdom of Fife lies the Firth of Forth. In the 11th century, Queen Margaret, the wife of the Scottish King Malcolm III, established a ferry to make crossing the Firth easier. Margaret was born in Hungary in 1045 and died in Edinburgh in 1093. 

Around the ferry ports, new settlements sprang up. Today, the ferry has been replaced by three bridges: the famous Forth Rail Bridge, the Forth Road Bridge and the latest, the Queensberry Crossing, was opened in 2017.


Use the large arrows to explore the view.

Dunfermline

Margaret was Queen of Scotland from 1070 until 1093. The royal couple lived at the court of Dunfermline, the capital of Scotland at that time. There she had a large church built and staffed by Benedictine monks, which became Dunfermline Abbey. Margaret was made a saint in 1250.

Prospect of ye Town & Abbey of Dumfermling (1693) by John SlezerNational Library of Scotland

Around 1120, Dunfermline became a royal burgh and was the capital of Scotland until the 17th century. In 1329, Robert the Bruce was the last of the seven Scottish kings to be buried at Dunfermline Abbey.

A famous Dunfermline native was the US steel magnate Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) who was born in the town as the son of a linen weaver. With his wealth he established a library and concert hall in his home town.

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Stob Cross by OnFife ArchivesNational Library of Scotland

Stob Cross, Markinch

Markinch was popular with medieval pilgrims as a place of rest on their route to St Andrews. They would stay in the priory or the hospital, which then meant hostel. On the northern outskirts of the town is the ancient Pictish symbol stone, the Stob Cross.   

View of the Cathedral of St Andrews with the Chapel of St. Rule from the West (1797) by John SlezerNational Library of Scotland

St. Rule's Church

The pilgrims’ destination was the town of St Andrews with the shrine of St Andrew. St Rule’s Church with its 33 metre tall tower may have served as a beacon for them. When St Andrews Cathedral was dedicated in 1318, it was by far the largest church in Scotland.

St Andrews Today

Today St Andrews is known as the home of golf. St Andrews Links has one of the world’s oldest gold courses, where the game has been played for nearly 600 years. 

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The college of St Andrews University received university status in 1413, which makes it the oldest Scottish university and the 3rd oldest university in the English speaking world. Alongside Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen universities, it was part of the Scottish Enlightenment.

St Andrews (1804) by John Claude Nattes (drawing), James Fittler (etchings)National Library of Scotland

Learn more about St Andrew

You can continue to follow the pilgrimage route today on what is now called The Way of St Andrews.

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