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Athelstaneford Attractions

East Lothian


Birthplace of the

Scottish Flag 

Athelstaneford is a small hamlet in East Lothian, with a church and a few houses and a big history.

Known as Athelstoneford as on Adair’s map 1650 -1722.

The Scottish flag (Saltire) a white cross on a blue background is thought to be the oldest national flag in Europe and the Commonwealth. It was during a battle in 834 AD, King Angus believes that when seeing a cloud formation of a white saltire in the sky (which was the diagonal cross that St Andrew had been crucified on) was a sign from the saints, he proclaimed if the saints help them defeat the enemy he would make St Andrew patron saint of Scotland. On victory, he made the Saltire the flag of Scotland in addition to St Andrew becoming the patron Saint of Scotland.

Athelstaneford Village Flag Centre East Lothian
Athelstaneford Saltire Centre East Lothian

Scottish Flag Heritage Centre

 Athelstaneford East Lothian

The doocot, in the Athelstaneford Church grounds houses a visitor centre, visitors can see a short audio-visual dramatisation of the Battle in 834 AD prior to when the St Andrew’s Cross first appeared in the sky. The Doocot was original built 1583 by George Hepburn. A landowner of the area. Doocots were near to large house or Castles and are seen all over Scotland as they were means of getting fresh meat to the table only taking the young pigeons as they are the most tender. 

Athelstaneford Flag Centre Information Board
Athelstaneford Do'cot Athelstaneford East Lothian

The Scottish Saltire

Athelstaneford East Lothian

The story of the Scottish Saltire starts in East Lothian with a white cross in the sky. When the St Andrew's Cross was written about circa 1380 the scots were going into battle against the English and were all to wear the white cross on a dark top. 


However, it was 1385 before we see any mention of the symbol to be committed to cloth. A Parliament decree that year, as Scots prepared to raid England stated that every man would bear St Andrew's cross but set against black cloth. Later in the century this symbol began to appear on coins. However blue was still not a feature. Indeed the Douglas standard carried into the Battle of Otterburn (1388) had a green background and also contained the lion as a predominant symbol. It might have been 1460 before the white Saltire against a blue background first appeared in the standard of the Edinburgh Incorporated Trades although the Saltire cross was not the predominant symbol and was vertical and on one side of the banner.

Saltire Bore Stone East Lothian

Athelstaneford Parish Church

Nigel Tranter Centre

 Athelstaneford East Lothian

Athelstaneford Parish Church that can be seen today was built Circa 1885, but a church has been on this site since circa 1175. The first church was replaced in 1784. Nigel Tranter author and historian, a true Scotsman and nationalist. He was married in Athelstaneford Church in 2008. There is an Nigel Tranter Exhibition in the church. Educated at George Heriot’s School Edinburgh, he has had over 125 books published. He died at his home in Gullane East Lothian aged 90.

Athelstaneford Church East Lothian
Athelstaneford War Memorial East Lothian
Athelstaneford Church East Lothian

Athelstaneford Village Hall

 Athelstaneford East Lothian

The Village hall in Athelstaneford opened in 1929 on land donated by Sir David Alexander Kinloch, of Gilmerton. The purpose of the hall is for the benefit of the Athelstaneford Parish community as a centre for community activities. The monument in the garden in front of the village hall is a memorial to Robert Blair.  Robert Blair was born at Edinburgh in 1699. He moved in 1731 to Athelstaneford where he lived until his death in February 1746. He was the minister of Athelstaneford and a poet  with only one notable work, The Grave published in 1743.

Athelstaneford Village Hall East Lothian
Memorial Obelisk East Lothian

Athelstaneford Mains 

Athelstaneford East Lothian

Athelstaneford Mains Farm was built by Mt Douglas circa 1850. He was well known for breeding shorthorn cattle. In the garden of the house are a number of ornaments, carved stone heads of cattle and a fountain with a scallop stone base and dolphins. A ancient Yew tree and topiary hedges.

Athelstaneford Mains House Athelstanefor

Athelstaneford Mains Barn
Athelstaneford East Lothian

Athelstaneford Mains Barn East Lothian

Barnes Castle


Sir John Seton of Barnes

Barnes Castle was being built by Sir John Seton of Garleton Castle as he had been honoured with the title of

Sir John Seton of Barnes.  Sir John Seton's important status to King James IV (a diplomat at Philip II of Spain’s court and later James VI’s Treasurer of the Household and a Lord of Session) and that he was to marry. He decided to build a more lavish home, a castle with courtyard and towers, that had gun loops that could defend against any potential invaders. Barnes Castle was never completed as Sir John Seton died in 1594.

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