An Explorer's guide to spelunking inRoyal and Religious Ruins

An Explorer

Hello! My name is Lord Hesley Longmore of Longmore House, 8th Earl of Salisbury Place and Pro-vice-chancellor of theoretical exploration at Historic Scotland. I am a fabulously famous scholar and explorer of Scotland’s greatest wonders! For years, I have collected items that my fellow explorers and I use on our expeditions. These red-bagged bundles of knowledge are called Explorer Packs and can be enjoyed by families, children up to 12, and even teens. And the best bit is that you will not need to part with any pennies or pounds to take these wonderful bags of adventure for a spin! There are six amazing locations across Scotland that have Explorer Packs ready to go at a moment’s notice. Today, I will give you a tour of these wonderful places and the discoveries hidden within.

Curious what's in your Explorer Pack?

Castle Cartographers receive a jester’s hat, 2 hand puppets, a musical instrument, binoculars, and a torch. Abbey Adventurers gain 2 hand bells, a monk bear, binoculars, a torch, a kaleidoscope, and a magnifying glass. Each of these wonderful items will help you with any number of things - like teasing the king or studying scrolls. Some of these items are specifically made for each location, so try out our recommendations! If you're curious how the wonderful teams at HS and I decided what items to include in your packs, see our research below.

Tantallon Castle - the Torch

The castle on the cliff - how magnificent, don't you think? Built in the mid 1300's, this resolute fortress was one of the last truly great castles built in Scotland. It was constructed by William Douglas and would go on to survive some of the greatest sieges in Scottish history. If you visit, we suggest you use your pack's torch to light your way. The ruins of Tantallon can be dark, dramatic, and full of howling winds! It will serve you well as you weave between the ruins or signal ships on the sea.

Dryburgh Abbey - The Hand Bells

Dryburgh Abbey sits by the River Tweed south of Edinburgh. Founded by Premonstratensian canons in 1150, the abbey housed this French monastic order until the Protestant Reformation in 1560. In 1322, King Edward II was headed back to England after fighting in Scotland. Unaware that Edward was close enough to hear, the monks rang the bells of Dryburgh as Edward and his army rode away. The king turned swiftly around and sacked the abbey! Perhaps you can use your hand bells to bring the ringing back to life.

Blackness Castle - the Binoculars

Built in the 15th century as a residence for the Crichtons - a powerful Scottish medieval dynasty - the castle was constructed to resemble a ship sailing along the coast of the Forth of Firth. Known as the 'Ship that never sailed', Blackness resembles a ship beached upon the shore - its three towers mimicking masts. The castle would eventually be converted into a fortress and prison and then an ammunition depot in the late 19th century. If you're exploring Blackness Castle, consider using your binoculars to spy on enemy ships in the harbour or watch for Cromwell's army!

Jedburgh Abbey - the Magnifying Glass

Recognised as one of the four great abbeys of Scotland, Jedburgh was an important religious site even 300 years before the Augustinian Monks arrived in 1138. In the visitor centre, there are artefacts on display as old as the 700s AD. The central abbey buildings have been recognised as masterpieces of Scottish architecture and they house some of the greatest artefacts in the region including the Jedburgh Shrine (a richly carved stone sarcophagus) and the Jedburgh Comb (an intricately cared walrus-ivory comb). We suggest you pull out your magnifying glass to study some of the carvings and runes! Maybe you'll discover something new that will even shock the scholars!

Craigmillar Castle - the Musical Instrument

Unlike Edinburgh Castle which was built as a military garrison or Holyrood Palace which operated as a political centre, Craigmillar Castle - Edinburgh's 'other castle' - was built with leisure and social life in mind. Just outside the walls of Edinburgh, the castle served as a welcome retreat from the intensity of the Scottish court. The castle has many nooks and crannies built by various owners to accommodate their needs and the gardens and parkland offered a rural retreat. Perhaps you should take your pack's musical instrument and play from the towers! A bard or two might even write a poem about you!

Melrose Abbey - the Kaleidoscope

One of the most splendid abbeys in all of Scotland, Melrose Abbey was founded by Cistercian Monks by order of King David I in 1136. The abbey was recognised as a focal point of both religious and political interests and was lavishly endowed with gifts from many donors. Several people of importance were born there including Alexander II (1249). Believe it or not, the heart of Robert the Bruce was also buried at Melrose! There are also some incredible sculptures and architecture at Melrose, which is why you should use your kaleidoscope to view the spectacular sights!