The Romanticism and Mystery of Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel south side

I was fortunate to be treated to a surprise visit to Rosslyn Chapel on my recent trip to Edinburgh. Rosslyn Chapel is a historic chapel from the 15th century that is still in use today. It is only a short bus from the Edinburgh City Center, which makes this a great place to visit for a few hours.  And visit you must, to experience the ambiance of hundreds of years of conspiracy theories, mysteries and the romanticism that is Rosslyn Chapel.

Rosslyn Chapel south side

How to Get to Rosslyn Chapel

We were able to pick up the bus directly at the Edinburgh City Center. You want to be on Lothian bus 37, and it should say “Penicuik/Deanburn.” The best seats on the bus are on the top deck in the front. You will be able to see everything on the 45-60 minute ride to Roslin Village. At that stop, it is only a short walk up to the visitor’s center. Tickets cost £1.70 one way, or you can purchase a day ticket for £4.00. I would recommend the day ticket that way you can use the bus system all day, and it will save you money if you make more than two trips on buses.

What to Do First

The first thing to do is go into the Visitor’s Center. The Chapel is open every day except for a few days at the end of the year (Dec. 24, 25, 31 & Jan. 1). It opens at 9:30 am to 5 pm until May, then during the summer, it stays open till 6 pm. Tickets for exploring the chapel and grounds are £9.00.  The Visitor’s Center also has a gift shop, a small coffee shop, and interactive displays. Rosslyn Chapel has gained popularity as a tourist destination ever since The Da Vinci Code was published, and the movie was released. They used to have 36,000 visitors a year; now, it is 176,000-200,000 visitors a year. I would try to come earlier as there might be fewer people walking in your photos on the outside of the chapel.

Outside Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel north side

I wish I would have brought my good camera with my wide-angle lens so I could have captured the entire Chapel in one shot. I guess I’ll have to come back to visit again to get better photos. When I walked outside the Visitor Center, I was so overwhelmed with what I saw. This imposing structure was looming before me with its multi-colored stones and beautiful stained glass windows. I was in complete awe, and I hadn’t even made it inside yet.Rosslyn Chapel west sideRosslyn Chapel west side close up

Inside Rosslyn Chapel

Inside Rosslyn ChapelThis is where the magic takes over. The minute you walk inside, you are transported to a different place and time, and you can’t help but get swept up in it. Please forgive me for the grainy photos as I had to resort to taking pictures of the brochure since no photography is allowed inside the chapel. The level of detail inside the chapel is beyond amazing. Each area is different than the next one. I spent probably a good 20 minutes just staring at the ceiling.

On the hour, they have informational talks that you can choose to listen to or stay wandering around the chapel. I listened to two different guides give 15-20 minute talks on the Chapel’s history, the family’s story, and even highlight some of the critical carvings throughout the chapel. If you get the chance to hear Neil speak, you will be enchanted. He has such a passion for Rosslyn Chapel and has so much knowledge that he enjoys sharing. While I was sitting there listening to the talk, I was thinking about how amazing it would be to get married in a medieval chapel like this. With all the candles lit, I can’t imagine a more romantic setting, although that could be just me thinking of a particular Outlander scene.

Carving Mysteries

Mason & Apprentice Pillars One of the biggest stories is about the massive carved pillars flanking the altar. The one on the left is called Mason’s Pillar, which was carved by a master mason. After completion, the master mason left to travel and get more inspiration for the second pillar. While the master mason was gone, the apprentice decided to carve the second pillar by himself after being inspired by a dream. What he created far exceeded what the master mason did. When the master mason returned, he flew into a jealous rage and struck and killed the apprentice. The irony is that the master mason’s head is carved into a corner of the ceiling facing the Apprentice Pillar. So, he is forced to look at that pillar for all eternity.

Green Men CarvingsGreen Man

Another exciting mystery has to do with the Green Men, in which there are 110 of them inside and out. These carvings of men have vines growing out of their mouths, which represent nature’s growth and fertility. But, the exciting thing is that each face you find is different in some way. Neil showed us four green men on the arch of an outside door, and looking at them closely; you could almost see them as representing the four seasons.arch of outside door

I got caught up in the conspiracy of individual carvings like corn (maize) on some of the arches inside the chapel. What is fascinating is that Rosslyn Chapel was built 50 years before Christopher Columbus discovered America, where corn originates. How did the master mason’s know how to depict corn? One theory is that the Knights Templar secretly discovered America earlier than 1492. The Knights Templar conspiracy with Rosslyn Chapel has also been researched and discussed by one of my favorite shows, The Mystery of Oak Island. Another Knights Templar conspiracy is that Rosslyn Chapel is the final resting place for the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant. Although there is no definite proof either way, if any or all of these conspiracies are true, it is fun to speculate about them with the guides.

One of my favorite carvings that I found on a lintel in the South aisle is “Forte est vinu; Fortior est Rex; Fortiores sunt mulieres; sup om vincit veritas.” This translates to “Wine is strong, The king is stronger, women are stronger still, but truth conquers all.” I’m sure that if I spent even more time exploring, I would have found even more fascinating carvings and mysteries to figure out.

Rosslyn Castle

driveway to Rosslyn Castle

Once you have finished exploring Rosslyn Chapel, you can take a stroll down to Rosslyn Castle. The sun was shining as we walked down the path to the castle. There were only a few people on the pathway, which gave the trail an air of solitude and peacefulness. It reminded me of a John Muir quote, “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” This place certainly gets to me. Or more like Scotland get to me. I cannot tell you how at peace and calm, I felt walking around enjoying the scenery and even taking a quick break sitting on the wall. What is even better is that you can book a stay at Rosslyn Castle for a holiday. It has accommodations for six people. For a four-night visit, it costs £530, which comes out to only £22.08 per person: not a bad price to stay in a castle and one in such a beautiful environment.Rosslyn Castle ruins


Words alone cannot do this place justice; you have to see it in person and fall in love with it as I have. Rosslyn Chapel is and should be on your must-see list when visiting Edinburgh. You can’t help getting carried away with all the romanticism and mystery surrounding Rosslyn Chapel. After you visit, let me know what you thought and if you think you have figured out any of the secrets here!

Thank you, Rosslyn Chapel Trust, for the fascinating visit! As always, opinions and romantic notions are 100% my own.

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Further Reading

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  • Ann 18October2019 at 3:49 AM Reply

    Oh wow thats really beautiful!
    How could I have missed this on our visits to Edinburgh?!

    • Heather 18October2019 at 6:52 AM Reply

      It is easy to miss. Although it really should be on everybody’s list as you are right, it is beautiful!

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