A Car Park with a Royal Secret

Circle stained glass window with female figure in the middle and two young boys at her feet. One is kneeling with hands in prayer and he is looking up, the other young boy is standing and leaning onto the figure. The bottom left has written Saint Margaret and the bottom right has written Queen of Scotland. Further smaller figures in the background left are man and woman, each wearing crowns and the woman is dressed the same as central figure. The group on the right background has a woman, dressed as the central figure, no crown, a man sitting and dressed like the left figure, no crown, a child in yellow and another woman head and shoulder behind the group.

It’s maybe unusual to find a royal and saintly shrine in a car park but Dunfermline is a town of many surprises! 

During her time at Court in Dunfermline, the devout Queen Margaret would often visit a small cave here to pray quietly. It’s hard to imagine today but the location was originally part of a steep ravine, with the cave set back into the rock. It’s well-worth exploring and many visitors comment on its serene and special atmosphere.

Small building surrounded by tress and road in front. It has writing Saint Margaret's Cave with doorway on left and window on right
St Margaret’s Cave, Dunfermline

Or take our free audio tour to hear more about St Margaret’s Journey. To hear an extract, click the play button at the bottom left of the screen, or read the transcript below. 

[Transcription from Audio tour]

Fiona: You might not be too inspired when you first see this next one but give me a chance. 

Thomas: … A car park. You’ve brought me to a car park. Medieval is it?

Fiona: You remember the city of Leicester’s story about Richard III being found under a carpark? Well, Dunfermline has its very own car park story. Believe it or not, this is actually the site of St Margaret’s Cave. Go on, try and find the cave.

Thomas: I can’t see a cave anywhere. Oh, wait. What’s that little building in the corner on the far left?

Fiona: You’ve got it. That building houses the entrance to what was a special little place where Margaret came regularly to pray. If you go in there you can still see part of the cave itself, though you’ll need to be feeling fit. There are 87 steps down AND up. Hope you’re not claustrophobic.

Fiona: The often-told story goes here that Malcolm got suspicious when Margaret regularly disappeared off to some secret location and he imagined she was up to all sorts of things. No-one knows if this is true but one day he was supposed to have followed her, expecting to find her in the arms of some medieval hunk. But of course, Margaret being Margaret, he found her praying and fasting. Feeling guilty – as he should – he then wanted to make amends and, knowing she liked fine and beautiful things, started decorating her precious religious books with gold, silver and jewels. Is that not the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard? Though if it were me, I’d probably go for earrings.

Thomas: That’s a rather romantic story, isn’t it? Now, Margaret might have been one for fasting but I’m not. It must be time for coffee.

To visit the cave see venue website St Margaret’s Cave for more details.

Discover St Margaret’s Journey audio walk
St Margaret’s Cave website