The world-famous Rosslyn Chapel, as featured in The Di Vinci Code, is only 7 miles south of Edinburgh. If you are cycling the Edinburgh to Penicuik path you can make a visit to the chapel. There is also an Edinburgh City Council QuietRoutes cycle route. The chapel has one of the most beautiful interiors I have ever seen. Every inch of stone is carved intricately with angels, knights and biblical scenes.
Sir William wanted his chapel to spread God's word and at a time when few people could read this was best achieved by visual messages in the form of stone carvings all over the interior of the chapel.
An army of craftsmen were required to bring this vision to life and the village of Roslin grew to house them. Stonemasons, quarriers, blacksmiths and carpenters were all involved.
Photography is not permitted inside the chapel in order not to disturb other visitors' enjoyment. This is a good thing as it forces people into a slower pace and to take a greater interest in the carvings instead of rushing around to shoot pictures.
There is an excellent free leaflet that shows you the locations of the most notable carvings in the building. It has a map, photos and a short explanation about what the carvings mean.
The best way to learn about the chapel is by listening to one of the regular talks. You can take a seat on a pew and hear all about the incredible history of this building, including its restoration, and the guide uses a laser pen to point out specific carvings.
One of the most extravagant carvings is the Apprentice Pillar. It is said to have been made by an apprentice mason who saw the design in a dream. His master was extremely jealous and murdered the apprentice. Do take a closer look at this, it is magnificent. There are eight dragons at the base of the pillar who have vines sprouting from their mouths.
You might just meet William, the chapel cat. He likes to take a nap on the pews and I sat right next to him, stroking his silky fur whilst he was oblivious to all of the tourists around him. A children's book about the cat, written by the Countess of Rosslyn, can be bought in the shop.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is one of the most popular books of all time and it had a huge impact on Rosslyn Chapel. It featured in the book and the film version brought Holywood to the chapel for a few days. The result was a huge influx of visitors with much needed income that enabled the restoration of the building to be completed.
The modern visitor centre has a shop, interactive exhibitions and a cafe specialising in local produce. During my visit I enjoyed a fruit scone with jam and lashings of clotted cream.
When the weather is good the cafe's outdoor terrace is a choice spot for views over Roslin Glen. The chapel overlooks this area of forest, river and walking trails.
Although the carvings inside the chapel are the highlight of a visit the outside of the building is also impressively adorned with fine stonework.
Adjacent to the chapel entrance you will notice a distinctive yellow building with '1660' scrawled above the entrance. This had been Rosslyn Inn and can now be rented as self-catering accommodation. It had an impressive rostrum of guests, including Robert Burns, William Wordsworth and King Edward VII.
There is something tranquil and spiritual about Rosslyn Chapel. Even if you have no interest in religion or The Da Vinci Code it is difficult not to be impressed by the stonework. It can be a busy place, but, somehow, this does not distract from enjoying the special feeling you get when walking around the building. Some touristy places can be disappointing because they are too touristy, but Rosslyn Chapel is not one of those places.
How to get there
Read my blog about the Edinburgh to Penicuik cycle path
Edinburgh City Council QuietRoutes
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle. Follow my blog on Facebook: