Not far from Edinburgh, you’ll find the charming village of Roslin. Overlooked by the rolling green hills of the Scottish Highlands, and perhaps one too many rain clouds, you can’t go wrong by dedicating an afternoon to exploring this little village and its associated historical sites. So here’s a quick guide to the best of Roslin, including how to experience the magic of the world-famous Rosslyn Chapel!
A Brief History of Roslin
Quaint, and with traditional Scottish architecture, Roslin lies seven miles south of Edinburgh. It can easily be reached via bus (single tickets cost just £1.60, while a full day’s pass will set you back just £4.00). As a result, a trip to Roslin is easily one of the best day trips from Edinburgh.
Recorded in 1240 under the name of ‘Roskelyn’ it’sts thought that the village may well have been founded as early as the 3rd Century. It was at the nearby Roslin Institute that Dolly the sheep was cloned (in 1996). Today, you can see Dolly preserved at the National Museum of Edinburgh. The village remains home to some of the world’s most cutting-edge biological advances to this day.
Roslin has further rocketed to fame since the release of Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ in 2003. The conspiratorial work of fiction featuring Professor Langdon lists the village as lying on the ‘Roseline’ (a line which supposedly also runs through Paris, connecting important places of worship related to the life and times of Jesus). However, most academics and historians believe that this medieval line is nothing more than a figment of the imagination.
Of course, the main attraction of Roslin is its chapel. A little way out of the village, the chapel lies secluded in a small copse of woodland. The ancient spelling of ‘Roslin’ was once ‘Rosslyn’, hence why the chapel and village have two different spellings!
Once lying in ruins and referred to as the ‘green’ chapel on account of it being covered in moss, the little place of worship is ornately decorated and has inspired writers, artists and poets alike for centuries. In Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’, the Chapel is home to the secret of the Holy Grail. Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks actually spent time at the chapel for filming in the mid-2000s.
Today, you can visit the castle. However, there is an entry fee of £9. While it’s lovely to see, and there are talks about the history of the chapel throughout the day, I still found the entry fee to be quite expensive (please note that there is no photography within the interior of the chapel itself).
Of all the things listed in this guide to Roslin, the Castle is the least touristic place. The crumbling ruins are all that remain of a once great castle. A few walls here and there mark the spot where there was once a grand palatial sized castle. Just a brief ten-minute walk from Rosslyn Chapel, you’ll find high walls perched atop of a steep hill.
Few of even those who love nearby Rosslyn Chapel know of the castle’s existence. However, perhaps they should. Though little of the original structure remains, its history is rich and varied, dating back all the way to the 14th-Century.
The Castle survived various fires over the century until it was ultimately destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s troops in the 17th-century. Today you can visit what is left of the castle for free, just a short walk into Roslin Glen.
Sprawling greenery carpets the valley below Roslin. This is Roslin Glen, a dense forest filled with hues of green and gently babbling brooks. Sir Walter Scott once wrote about the glen:
“A morning of leisure can scarcely be anywhere more delightfully spent than in the woods of Rosslyn”. – Sir Walter Scott (Scottish playwright, novelist and poet)
The Glen provides the perfect opportunity for walks, picnics and a general excuse to escape from the busier and towns in Scotland, and get a feel for its real countryside. Within the borough of Midlothian, and within the Glen, you’ll also find Hawthorden Castle. This privately owned castle is now home to a writer’s retreat and overlooks the River Esk.
Things to do in Roslin Village
Rosling is a typically Scottish village; all grey stone architecture and low hanging roofs. Now, of course, there are certain things you should see and do in Roslin. All in all, you’ll want to give yourself at least a day to experience the best things to do in Roslin.
Guide to Roslin Village, The Address Book:
Dolly’s Tea Room: A delightful little cafe offering both indoor and outdoor seating. There’s a selection of sadwiches, cakes, coffees and teas on offer. I personally enjoyed a coffee while hiding from the bad weather that’s so synonymous with the region!
Rosslyn Chapel: (see above) Associated with the Knights Templar, Roseline and supposedly home to the Holy Grail. Of all the Roslin attractions, the chapel is the one can’t miss experience!
Memorial in the Centre of the Village: dedicated to the Battle of Roslin. This battle took place in 1303 within the vicinity of the village and was one of the most important battles in the Scottish war for independence.
The Original Rosslyn Hotel: For a little getaway from the city centre, book yourself into a room at the incredibly well-reviewed Original Rosslyn Hotel. Set in a former coach house, amenities include a restaurant, bar, and WiFi in public areas. Check rates and availability here.
How to visit Roslin and Rosslyn Chapel as a day trip from Edinburgh
Though, of course, you can opt to stay in Roslin or its surrounds, you can easily see all of the attractions that this small town has to offer in one day. From Edinburgh, it couldn’t be easier to take the bus #37 towards Penicuik (Deanburn) from North Bridge (stop NE). The bus takes around thirty-five minutes and costs just a few pounds each way.
Alternatively, if you don’t have access to a car and are looking to experience other Scottish attractions during your excursion from Edinburgh, then you can always book a guided tour. For example, this well-reviewed day trip from Edinburgh encompasses a visit to Rosslyn Chapel, Scottish Borders & Glenkinchie Distillery. Otherwise, if you’re looking to experience a Scottish Castle during your time away, then this tour takes you to Rosslyn Chapel, Stirling Castle & Dunfermline Abbey.