King David 1 of Scotland created a priory here which was promoted to become an abbey in 1235. Standing on an island in the Forth, this is Scotland’s best preserved group of monastic buildings. It is cared for by Historic Scotland.
Inchcolm is only about 1 km off the Fife coast, but is served by a seasonal ferry from South Queensferry (Hawes Pier), a distance of about 8 miles (13 km). The location of these buildings is seen to best advantage as the boat makes its final approach. Look out also for seabirds, seals and other wildlife.
The abbey church has medieval stone screens at the base of its bell-tower. In a tomb recess, there’s an amazing fresco (wall painting) of a funeral procession dating from the 13th century. Don’t miss its fine cloister, the arched walkway which the monks used to walk around the open quadrangle inside.
The island’s location made it a target for the English navy during the 14th-16th centuries, and a gun battery was installed during the Napoleonic Wars in 1795. It was fortified further during the two World Wars, in order to defend Rosyth Naval Base, the Forth Bridge and Leith docks.