Arbroath is a small fishing port in Angus in north-east Scotland, 16 miles from Dundee. It's best known for its red sandstone abbey, its local fish specialty "Arbroath Smokies", and as the scene in 1320 of Scotland's first documented assertion of independence, the Declaration of Arbroath.
- . . . for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself . . . - Declaration of Arbroath
King Robert I (1274-1329) or "Robert the Bruce" led Scotland to a famous victory over the English at Bannockburn in 1314, but Pope John XXII had excommunicated him and backed the English. The Scottish nobility drew up a document affirming Robert as their ruler and that Scotland was independent of England. It was written in Latin, signed and sealed in Arbroath on 6 April 1320 and delivered to the Pope at Avignon. This original has been lost but one contemporary copy survives, held in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. In the following years the Pope, France then eventually England accepted Scotland's status. The 700th anniversary of the signing was to have been commemorated in 2020 but this has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Edinburgh (EDI IATA) has the best range of flights and fares - see Dundee for onward transport towards Arbroath.
Aberdeen (ABZ IATA) is closer but has fewer flights. Closest of all is Dundee (DND IATA) with flights from London Stansted but little else.
The A92 follows the coast from Dundee through Arbroath to Montrose, Stonehaven and Aberdeen; it's dual carriageway south of Arbroath. The main Edinburgh-Dundee-Aberdeen road A90 runs much further inland.
Arbroath has daytime trains every 30 mins from Glasgow Queen St or Edinburgh via Dundee. The fast trains continue north to Montrose, Stonehaven and Aberdeen. The slow trains also stop at nearby Broughty Ferry, Monifieth and Carnoustie, then terminate at Arbroath.
The railway north was closed for 12 weeks following a landslide and serious rail accident near Stonehaven on 12 Aug 2020, but it re-opened in November.
The Caledonian Highland Sleeper to Aberdeen runs Su-F from London Euston, departing after 21:00 to reach Arbroath for 06:30. The southbound train picks up around 22:30 to reach Euston towards 08:00. You might prefer to take the Lowland Sleeper from Euston towards midnight and change to a day train in Edinburgh. Going back, you need to leave Arbroath before 22:00 to join the southbound sleeper at 23:30 from Edinburgh.
1 Arbroath Railway Station is 100 yards west of the bus station.
Long-distance coaches from Edinburgh run inland and bypass Arbroath, so change in Dundee.
Stagecoach Strathtay Bus X7 runs every couple hours daily from Perth to Dundee, Arbroath, Montrose, Stonehaven and Aberdeen.
Stagecoach Bus 73 runs every 10 min from Arbroath to Carnoustie, Monifieth, Broughty Ferry, Dundee High Street and bus station, and Ninewells Hospital.
Wishart's Bus 140 runs every hour or two from Auchmithie to Arbroath, Brechin and Strathcathro Hospital; there's only three on Sunday. A sporadic Bus 35 also connects Auchmithie and Arbroath.
- 1 Arbroath Abbey, Abbey St DD11 1EG. Apr-Sept daily 09:30-17:30, Oct-Mar daily 10:00-16:00. This was founded by King William I in 1178 for Benedictine monks, whose mother-house was Kelso. The king was buried here in 1214. It was here in 1320 that Scottish nobles signed the "Declaration of Arbroath" proclaiming Scotland's independence. The abbey fell into ruin after the 16th century Reformation, and its roof-lead and masonry were pilfered. There remains an impressive shell of red sandstone (with the round "O", through which was shone a beacon to guide sailors), and the abbott's residence. Adult £9, conc £7.20, child £5.40.
- 2 Keptie Pond. Scenic park wrapped around a pond. At the top of the hill there is a stone brick building overlooking the park that locals call the Water Tower.
- 3 Arbroath Signal Tower Museum, Ladyloan DD11 1PU. Mar-Oct Tu-Sa 10:00-16:00, Nov-Feb Th-Sa 10:00-16:00. The Bell Rock or Inchcape, 11 miles offshore, is only visible at low tide, with a long extension lurking just beneath the surface. By the 19th century it was wrecking half a dozen ships every winter. A 115-ft (35-m) lighthouse was built 1807-10 by Robert Stevenson, a daunting engineering challenge on such a small sea-washed foundation; and built so well that it has needed no alteration since. A shore station was built by Arbroath harbour: it housed the lighthouse keepers' families and the crew of the support vessel, and there was a tower for exchanging signals. In 1955 the support base was switched to Leith and the station endured a spell as Council housing, before being renovated as a museum; the lighthouse was automated in 1988. Free.
- 4 St Vigeans, Arbroath DD11 4RD. The village is a single street of old sandstone cottages leading to a 17th century bridge. It skirts the church, prominent atop a mound; this goes back to the 12th / 13th centuries but was over-restored in the 19th, so most ancient features were lost. An 18th C legend had it that below lay an underground loch harbouring a kelpie, a shape-shifting evil spirit usually manifesting as a horse. It was, they said, harnessed to heave masonry up the mound to build the church, causing it to curse the church and its minister, who would be struck down or tumble to perdition in the loch. As an excuse not to go to church on Sunday, this was a beauty. The museum in the two cottages next to the church displays 38 fine Pictish stones which formerly stood on the mound; the "Drosten Stone" is 9th century. The museum is only open one Sunday per month Apr-Sept, see website for dates, otherwise by appointment.
- 5 Arbroath Western Cemetery, Forfar Rd, DD11 3RA, firstname.lastname@example.org. Cemetery maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, containing graves from both world wars. Free.
- Beaches and cliffs: southwest of town is sandy, backed by West Links Park. It's somewhat cut off by the railway track, but there are access paths eg a subway at Red Lion Holiday Park. The coast northeast of town is initially sandy, backed by King's Drive, which dead-ends at a car park. From there a scenic walk continues along the clifftops, and four miles brings you to Auchmithie. You can swim in the sea or walk below the cliffs, but the tide comes right in and covers the route.
- Watch football: Arbroath FC were promoted in 2019 and now play in the Championship, the second tier of Scottish soccer. Their stadium Gayfield Park (capacity 6600) is by the coast at the south end of town. This club holds the world record for the most goals scored in a professional match: they beat Aberdeen Bon Accord 36-0 in the Scottish Cup first round on 12 Sept 1885, with a further five goals disallowed. (And in another Cup tie that day, Dundee Harp beat Aberdeen Rovers 35-0.) Arbroath marched on in the Cup to beat Forfar Athletic 9–1 then Dundee East End 7–1 before losing 5–3 to Hibernian in the fourth round. Higher scoring matches have since occurred but aren't accepted as record-breaking, eg in 2002 a notorious 189-0 result in Madagascar was a "thrown" game.
The main supermarket is Tesco, on the corner of Cairnie St and Lochlands St, open daily until 22:00. The pedestrianised High St has the usual chain outlets eg Boots.
- Smokies are the signature dish of Arbroath: smoked haddock. This delicacy is available all around Scotland, but nothing compares to eating one that only finished smoking a few minutes ago, and it's an EU protected food name. The fish are first salted and dried overnight, then hung up to smoke over a fire of hardwood chips. Traditionally this is done in barrels sealed with wet jute sacking to stop the whole contraption burning; it takes an hour and the town smokeries have signs showing when their next batch will be ready. Originally they were made in Auchmithie, a little village 3 miles north, but it had a poor harbour and they relocated to Arbroath in the 1890s. There's a hoaky legend of how the villagers discovered the delicacy in a burnt-out store, like the way Piltdown Man discovered Chicken McNuggets, but the technique was obviously brought from Scandinavia.
- There are lots of fish & chip places in town but the best is 1 Peppo's Harbour Chip Bar, 53 Ladybridge Street DD11 1AX. W-Su 16:00-19:00. Long-established place with locally sourced fish and meat all cooked to order. The fish and chips are excellent and the mock chop supper is also worth trying. Peppo's has a few seats but is mainly a take-away, and you can expect a queue.
- 2 Coast Bar & Restaurant, 4 Gravesend DD11 1HT, ☏ +44 1241 437811. M-W 10:00-23:00, Th-Su 10:00-02:00. Casual, family-friendly place with staples such as meat pies, steak, burgers and fish & chips, substantial portions. £12.
- 3 The But 'n' Ben, Auchmithie DD11 5SQ (on coast 3 miles NE of town), ☏ +44 1241 877223. M W-Sa 12:00-14:00, 18:00-21:00, Su 12:00-18:00. This restaurant serves traditional seafood and high tea. Good food and cosy, beach house décor. Great location on the clifftop over the old Auchmithie harbour - after your meal, take a stroll down to the harbour and rugged shoreline.
- Gordon's in Inverkeilor has a great restaurant, see "Sleep".
There's a cluster of pubs along High Street, with more along West Port towards the railway station. They're all much of a muchness, and typically open daily 11:00-23:00.
- Town centre options are Townhouse Hotel and Old Brewhouse both on High St, and Harbour Nights overlooking the harbour. There's several more a mile or two further out.
- 1 Brucefield Boutique B & B, Brucefield, Cliffburn Rd East DD11 5BS, ☏ +44 1241 875393. Friendly well-run B&B a mile east of town. B&B double £120.
- 2 Red Lion Holiday Park, Dundee Rd, Arbroath DD11 2PT, ☏ +44 1241 872038. These are cabins and static caravans intended for several weeks self-catering occupancy. They also have camping and touring caravan pitches, but way overpriced for short stays. The static caravans have living area, kitchen, shower and toilet, and at least two bedrooms suitable for families. They're fairly basic, and the long list of units for sale tells its own story. Recreation facilities include a pool. Tent £35, Caravan £65 a night.
- 3 Gordon's, Main Road, Inverkeilor DD11 5RN, ☏ +44 1241 830364. Splendid stylish hotel near Lunan Bay, and the dining gets rave reviews. Open Feb-Dec, no children under 12 or dogs. B&B double £110.
As of Oct 2020, the town has a decent 4G and mobile signal from EE, O2 and Vodafone, but nothing from Three. The signal is poor to zero going north on A92 towards Montrose. 5G has not reached this area.
- Dundee needs a couple of days to see Discovery, the V&A, Verdant jute mill and more.
- Forfar has Glamis castle and a remarkable collection of Pictish stones.
- Stonehaven has Dunnottar castle; indeed Aberdeenshire has almost as many castles as it has malt whiskys.
|Routes through Arbroath|
|Dundee ←||SW NE||→ Montrose → Aberdeen|