Arch at Kelso Abbey, Scottish Borders.

My blog tonight focuses on Kelso Abbey in the Scottish Borders region. Kelso is a small town (pop 12,000)  ) about forty-four miles SSE of Edinburgh.

Kelso Abbey is one of four ‘Border Abbeys’ with the others being MelroseDryburgh and Jedburgh, all within relatively close proximity to each other.

Kelso Abbey with post Reformation burial ground.

History of Kelso Abbey

  • Constructed by a community of Tironensian monks over period 1128-1243.
  • Design featured two pyramidal roofed towers corresponding to western and central transepts, upper roofs of wood covered in lead, partly paved floor, a screen dividing the monks’ choir and parochial nave and twelve or thirteen altars. Only the western tower contained bells in 1517.
  • Religious community comprised up to forty monks under an abbot, prior and sub-prior.
  • During 16th century the Abbey suffered considerable physical damage due to attacks by English armies with final denouement at the Reformation when most of the internal fixtures and fittings were removed, in 1559. The last monk died in 1587.
  • A new parish church was created within the western transepts in 1648 until replaced by a new church built elsewhere in 1773.
  • The ruins were taken into Government care in 1919.

Surviving Ruins

The remains of the abbey buildings comprise a pair of transepts set either side of a western tower with part galilee vestibule porch to west and two bays of the south arcade of the nave to the east. Adjoining the southern transept is a vaulted parlour which formed part of the lower storey of the west range.

Kelso Abbey with town in distance.


The Abbey ruins are close to the centre of Kelso and easily accessible on foot. A visit to Kelso can be included within a day tour of the Borders region.