Scheduled Monument

Culross AbbeySM13334

Status: Designated


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The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Ecclesiastical: abbey
Local Authority
NS 98873 86220
298873, 686220


The monument is the remains of Culross Abbey, a Cistercian monastery founded in 1217 by Malcolm, Earl of Fife. It is visible as upstanding masonry structures comprising the S wall of church nave and the remains of the W, E and S cloister ranges arranged around the cloister garth. The abbey church is situated on a steep slope at about 45 OD, overlooking the village of Culross and the Firth of Forth. The monument was originally scheduled in 1921, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present amendment rectifies this.

The 13th-century abbey church was mostly abandoned by the early 16th century and all that remains is the S wall of the western part of the nave (although the eastern parts of the church were subsequently remodelled to form the present parish church). The wall is of sandstone ashlar and displays the remains of wall shafts, an aumbry and part of a jamb of a window. The remains of the cloister buildings are arranged around the cloister garth, which measures about 32m E-W by 30m transversely. Due to the steeply sloping ground, the cloister buildings were constructed on terraces with tall undercrofts. The W range is the most complete, although its N section is now occupied by the abbey manse. Surviving at ground level, to the S of the manse, is a quadripartite passage through the cloister range and a refectory comprising three quadripartite vaulted bays. The steps to the lay brothers' dormitory, which would have been located above the refectory, are still visible in W elevation of the W range. Underneath the S bay of the refectory is a tunnel-vaulted room, possibly a kitchen, with a latrine in its W wall. The most visible remains of the E range are an undercroft showing blind arcading on the N wall and a line of octagonal piers at its centre, running from N to S. At ground level, a section of walling containing a window and arched door is all that remains of the chapterhouse. Of the S range, only the N wall of the undercroft remains. Corbels and stonework on the wall suggest that this undercroft would have been vaulted.

The scheduled area includes the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence for the abbey's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes: the above-ground elements of the wire fence and stone wall that bound the E extent of the scheduled area; the above-ground elements of the S boundary wall; the above-ground elements of a wooden shed and of all modern fixtures and fittings; and the top 300mm of all modern paths and gravelled areas to allow for their maintenance. On the N side the scheduled area extends up to, but does not include, the wall of the graveyard. The scheduling entirely excludes the occupied manse, the cafe and the present parish church.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as an upstanding medieval abbey that can add to our understanding of medieval monastic foundations, devotion, patronage and economy. The monument survives in good condition and the lay brothers' accommodation is amongst the best preserved of the Cistercian monasteries in Scotland. It represents an important component of both the medieval and contemporary landscapes. In addition to the upstanding structure, which can inform us about the development of Cistercian abbeys in Scotland, there is high potential for the presence of buried archaeological remains that can provide information about medieval monastic religious practice, society and economy. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to understand the form, character and development of Cistercian monastic foundations in Fife and across Scotland.



RCAHMS records the castle as NS98NE 3.

Culross Abbey is a property in the care of Scottish Ministers.


Fawcett, R (2002) Scottish medieval churches: architecture and furnishings, 29, 75, 80, 81, 107, 134, 240, 252, 271, 295, 330-331, 360. Stroud.

Lindsay, I G (1959) The Royal Burgh of Culross. Edinburgh.

MacGibbon, D and Ross, T (1896-7) The ecclesiastical architecture of Scotland from the earliest Christian times to the seventeenth century, 3v: vol 2, 231-43. Edinburgh.

MacGibbon, D (1905) 'Culross Abbey', Trans Edinburgh Architect Assoc, vol 3, 5-8.

RCAHMS (1933) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Eleventh report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, 70-77. Edinburgh.

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Culross Abbey

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About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at

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Printed: 21/06/2021 14:03