(Sancta Maria Abbey)

©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland


Located a half-mile (1 km) southeast of Garvald and 7 miles (12 km) southwest of Dunbar is the estate and monastery of Nunraw, the only Cistercian monastic community in Scotland. Nunraw Abbey, or Nun's Row was founded as a Cistercian convent in c.1158 by the nuns of Haddington and developed into a thriving mediaeval village.

In the 16th Century a Z-plan tower house was erected to defend the community against the English and in 1548, the Scottish Parliament met there to decide on sending the young Mary, Queen of Scots, to France. After three Hepburn Prioresses, Nunraw had become the preserve and then, following the expulsion of the Roman Catholic church at the Reformation, the residence of the Hepburn family. The original castle was incorporated into the baronial mansion built in the same red-sandstone by the Dalrymple family in 1860, which later passed to the Hays.

In 1946, Cistercian monks returned to Scotland for the first time since the Reformation and made Nunraw their home. They came from Tipperary in Ireland and purchased the house and the surrounding estates. In 1952, the monks began building the Sancta Maria Abbey just to the southwest of the house on the crest of a foothill of the Lammermuirs. They moved into the partially completed buildings in 1969, but work continued into the late 1980s. Nunraw is now one of three Cistercian Abbeys in Britain and the original part-Mediaeval, part-Victorian house is now the monastic guest-house, which gives hospitality for up to thirty visitors.

In the grounds of the Nunraw are a large walled garden, a beehive doo'cot, sundial and an arched gateway incorporating a lodge, also in red sandstone. The monks labour on Nunraw's 500 ha (1235 acre) farm, originally a mixed farm, now specialising in fattening beef cattle.

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