The beautiful thirteenth-century ruin of Sweetheart Abbey lies in the pretty village of New Abbey, in the Dumfries and Galloway area of south-west Scotland. It’s well worth a visit even if you’re not into history.
This is the sixth and (almost) final post in my little Dumfries and Galloway series from our Kirkcudbright trip, apart from a round-up post I’m planning for next week. It seems fitting that it’s the last post actually, because Sweetheart Abbey is a good place to call in on on your way home (if you’re driving southbound, that is). This is what we did. It’s just south of Dumfries and a stop there will stop the journey home being so miserable.
The story of Sweetheart Abbey
Have you heard the one about the 13th century lady who carted her dead husband’s embalmed heart around with her and then when that wasn’t extreme enough, she built a gigantic abbey in memory of him? No? Well, you have now.
You don’t get that kind of thing on Take Me Out, do you?
That’s basically what went down. Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway (what a name!) chose a good spot for it – tucked between the imposing Criffel hill (as mentioned re beer in our Castle Douglas post!) and the flow of the Solway Firth. Even on a very grey day like this one, the reddish brick makes Sweetheart Abbey quite a sight against such a backdrop. It really is much redder than these photos show. By the way, huge apologies for the terrible quality of the pictures in this post – I was using an old camera so they’re not up to the usual standard. I’ll have to edit this post with better ones next time we go.
Lady Dervorgilla is of course buried with her embalmed heart accessory in the abbey itself, and there’s a stone effigy. So keep an eye out for her.
Sweetheart Abbey is now looked after by Historic Scotland. It’s a fiver to get in to walk round the main walls. There’s nothing stopping you from looking at it from the graveyard or roadside, but if you want to get a nice symmetrical photo, you’ll have to cough up. It really is pretty and quite atmospheric.
The village of New Abbey
Once you’ve wrung Sweetheart Abbey dry, you can have a look round the village, New Abbey. I wonder where they got that name from? The mind boggles.
You can walk up the main street of New Abbey to find a lovely mill pond, next to the Cornmill. You can go round that – it’s all in working order. We didn’t on this trip because we had to get on with the gruelling drive home and inevitable post-holiday blues.
Oh and there’s a tearoom. This is a Scottish village so of course there’s a tearoom! It’s a really good one too, but I sadly have no photos of the scones we saw off in there because of said terrible camera. You can sit outside with the view of Sweetheart Abbey if the weather is decent. It’s right next to the abbey, in a cute cottage, so naturally it’s called Abbey Cottage Tearooms.
The rest of the village is worth a wander round. It’s full of beautiful houses and gardens. Very pretty.
Open gardens in New Abbey
In summer, some New Abbey gardens are open to the public in a ‘garden safari’. I can’t find anything online about whether it’s every summer, but maybe someone can let me know in the comments.
A couple of years ago, we were lucky enough to visit on a garden open day so I dug these photos out from it.
We could freely do what everyone wants to do all the time and walk into people’s gardens for a good nose round, instead of casually craning over the fence outside.
This one was particularly good.
Sweetheart Abbey, New Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway: useful information
How to get there (and away)
Sadly, we break our no-driving rule when it comes to a trip to Dumfies & Galloway. To get to New Abbey, we drive from Kirkcudbright and it takes about 50 minutes, which is why we tend to do it on the way home. There’s a carpark just by the abbey.
Where to stay
We always stay in Kirkcudbright, which is an ideal base for days out. Sweetheart Abbey/New Abbey is quite a drive from there (see above), but if you wanted to be very close, there are loads of places to stay nearer to Dumfries.
When to go
As I’ve said in my other posts in this little Dumfries and Galloway series, nowhere in this area gets too heaving with tourists. That’s why it’s such an unspoilt gem. Sweetheart Abbey is no exception, even though it’s quite a tourist attraction. We almost had it to ourselves on both our recent visits, despite it being July and there being open gardens going on outside on one trip.
Save and share: Visiting Sweetheart Abbey in New Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
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If you enjoyed this post about Sweetheart Abbey, you might also like others in my Dumfries and Galloway collection:
- a Kirkcudbright travel guide
- a walk between Rockcliffe and Kippford
- a perfect day in Castle Douglas
- and discovering Gatehouse of Fleet and Mossyard
- the secret beach of Carrick Bay.
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