The Scottish Borders was a magnet for monks in medieval times – truly men on a mission. In a region with ancient Christian traditions and lured by the promise of royal patronage they set up four mighty monastic institutions at Drybrough, Melrose, Jedburgh, and Kelso.
The first group of immigrant monks to settle in the Scottish Borders belonged to the Tironesian order from Tiron near Chartres in France.
They were invited by David 1 and represented the first phase of much grander plans to establish monastic centres throughout the Borders region.
The year was 1113 and the monks, known as the Grey Monks, originally founded their community at Selkirk only to relocate at Kelso in 1128; a decision thought to have been driven by economic considerations.
Roxburgh near Kelso was developing as an important economic and administrative centre and was the home of the royal mint.
Kelso Abbey, one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture, did not disappoint.
Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and St John in 1243 it became one of the largest and richest in Scotland and boasted a superb library.
Two kings, James III and James IV, were crowned in the abbey, and Prince Henry, son of David I, was buried there in 1152.
Like Dryburgh, Melrose and Jedburgh, Kelso Abbey suffered greatly at the hands of various English armies and was finally destroyed by Henry VIII in 1545. Even in its ruined state, it is a superb piece of architecture. The arrival of the Reformation in Scotland in 1560 killed off any chance of a recovery.
The Abbey and grounds are open every day. There is no charge for entry.
Picture with kind permission of Historic Scotland