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Restenneth Priory

Coffin (Medieval), Priory (Medieval)

Site Name Restenneth Priory

Classification Coffin (Medieval), Priory (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Strathmore Estate

Canmore ID 33745

Site Number NO45SE 10

NGR NO 48222 51600

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

First 100 images shown. See the Collections panel (below) for a link to all digital images.

Administrative Areas

  • Council Angus
  • Parish Forfar
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Angus
  • Former County Angus

Archaeology Notes

NO45SE 10.00 48222 51600

NO45SE 10.01 c. 47 51 gold ring

For cup-marked stone adjacent to Prior House (NO 4810 5167), see NO45SE 51.

(NO 4822 5159) Remains of (NAT) Restenneth Priory (NR) (Augustinian) (NAT)

OS 6" map (1970)

Restenneth Priory, possibly occupying the site of a Celtic foundation is fully described and planned by Simpson (Easson 1957).

W D Simpson 1952; 1957.

A silver-gilt thumb ring from the Priory was donated to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS) in 1877 (Accession no: NJ 42).

Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1878.

The remains of Restenneth Priory stand on a knoll, and are as described. The walls of the choir are c.5.0m high and contain fine lancet windows. The foundations of the nave and part of the chapter house vary from 0.3m - 1.2m in height. The plain cloister walls are c.4.0m high. The tower is entire. The whole is well preserved by the DoE.

Visited by OS (JLD) 14 August 1958.

Architecture Notes


Owner: H.M.Office of Works


Forfar Public Library - Measured survey by David E Adam 1912 - E & W elevations, section, detail of mouldings.

Uncatalogued MSS of General Hutton, Vol 2 No 17 - sketches and a ground plan


Online Gallery (1306 - 1329)

The year 2014 sees the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, in which the army of Robert I of Scotland defeated that of Edward II of England. The battle marked a major turning point in the long, drawn-out struggle of the Wars of Independence.

The Wars have had a lasting influence upon all the nations of the United Kingdom and upon the national story. Each age has seen fit to commemorate the events in its own way: through the perpetuation of the genuine historical associations of buildings and places and also through the endowment of others with improbable or fanciful traditions. Where past generations allowed its historic buildings to decay and disappear, later generations began to value and actively preserve these for their associations. Where an event lacked a tangible reminder, as at Kinghorn where Alexander III was killed in a riding accident, a commemorative monument would be erected to act as a focus. The Wars of Independence predate the fashion for accurate portraiture: the weathered, generic military effigy of Sir James Douglas is one of the few to survive in Scotland. Later centuries saw a need and supplied it by a crowd of images of its historic heroes, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, each depicted according to contemporary taste and imagination. The opening of the new heritage centre at Bannockburn takes this into a new dimension, through the use of three-dimensional, digital technology.

RCAHMS Collections hold many images of these buildings and locations from battlefields, castles and churches, to the many commemorative monuments erected in later years. This gallery highlights a selection of these, including antiquarian sketches, photographic and drawn surveys, and architectural designs.

Aerial Photography (September 1970)

Oblique aerial photographs of Restenneth Priory, Angus, taken by John Dewar in September 1970.

Field Visit (March 1978)

Restenneth Priory NO 482 515 NO45SE 10

The ruins of the Augustinian priory of Restenneth stand on a gentle rise on the edge of an area of low boggy ground. The lowest parts of the fine Romanesque tower incorporate portions of what is probably an 8th century church. The priory served the parish of Restenneth, which later became known as Forfar.

RCAHMS 1978, visited March 1978

(Simpson 1969; Cowan 1967, 68, 171; Cowan and Easson 1976, 53, 95-6)

Publication Account (1987)

The ruined priory of Restenneth stands in the heart of the ancient kingdom of the Picts and its foundation dates to the Pictish period. In the year 710, Nechtan, King of the Picts, wrote to Ceolfrid, Abbot of Wearmouth, asking for advice on differences that had developed between the Celtic and Roman Church and for masons to build a stone church. This request was granted and the mission of St Boniface founded a series of churches in Pictland, all dedicated to St Peter. One of these churches was Restenneth. It has been suggested that the lower portion of the central tower may embody a remnant of St Boniface's church.

The present tower appears to date from about the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries. Later in the 12th century Restenneth is recorded as a small priory of Augustinian canons. The priory continued to prosper and King Robert Bruce was a generous patron and chose this as the burial place for his young son, Prince John.

After the Reformation, Restenneth had a number of owners-one of them, George Dempster of Dunnichen (nos 6 and 9), made part of the choir into a family burial place. In 1919 the ruins were placed in the custody of the State.

The most outstanding feature of the priory is the tower which rises to a height of about 14 m excluding the spire. It has a number of similarities to the tower of St Rule's Church, St Andrews (no. 64) and appears to date from about the same period. However the lowest 3 m appears to be much older and its character indicates that it is likely to have served as a porch prior to being heightened into a tower. The octagonal broach spire probably dates from the 15th century. The walls of the choir are reasonably intact and are a good example of early 13th century ecclesiastical architecture.

The old font of Restenneth Priory is preserved in the Episcopal Mission Church at Carsebarracks near Forfar (NO 476522).

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Fife and Tayside’, (1987).

Ground Penetrating Radar (1 June 2019 - 2 June 2019)

Ground penetrating radar survey.

Information from OASIS ID - rosegeop1-361283 (S Ovenden) 2019

Archive: NRHE

Funder: The Graham Hunter Foundation

Susan Ovenden - Rose Geophysical Consultants

(Source: DES Vol 20)

Project (1 June 2019 - 2 June 2019)

A geophysical survey was carried out at Restenneth Priory within the guardianship area. Resistance and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) surveys undertaken Both techniques have recorded anomalies within the cloister area which may be associated with the original cloister. However, the origin these anomalies is not clear. It is known that the existing 'cloister' walls are a later construction and one assumes the original cloister lies under or within the foot print of the extant 'cloister' walls on site. Assuming the existing walls overlie the original cloister walls then the responses could be associated with the internal walls of the cloister walk. However, it is entirely possible that these anomalies indicate the external corners of the original cloister suggesting a smaller area within the existing 'cloister' walls. Both techniques have detected anomalies consistent with foundations of walls associated with the Sacristy and the Chapter House / East Range. Within the GPR data a very well defined anomaly has been recorded which may indicate the southern extension of the east range. Within the Nave and to the north of the Nave well-defined low resistance anomalies have been recorded in the resistance survey although the origin of these is unclear. A low response suggests a cut feature like an infilled ditch. It is possible that they are robber trenches associated with earlier phases of the priory. However, they could indicate drains. Additional discrete anomalies of possible archaeological interest have also been recorded by both techniques, although their origin is less clear.

Information from OASIS ID - rosegeop1-361283 (S Ovenden) 2019

Archive: NRHE

Funder: The Graham Hunter Foundation

Susan Ovenden - Rose Geophysical Consultants

(Source: DES Vol 20)

Resistivity (1 June 2019 - 2 June 2019)

Resistivity survey.

Information from OASIS ID - rosegeop1-361283 (S Ovenden) 2019

Archive: NRHE

Funder: The Graham Hunter Foundation

Susan Ovenden - Rose Geophysical Consultants

(Source: DES Vol 20)


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