Saint Margaret's Cave – Dunfermline, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

Dunfermline, Scotland

Saint Margaret's Cave

A hidden tunnel leads to a medieval queen's shrine buried beneath a parking lot. 

Not far from Dunfermline Abbey and the ruins of the palace is an ordinary parking lot with a small, nondescript building nestled in the corner. But there’s more than meets the eye. Enter this building, and you’ll discover a hidden tunnel. The sound of piped-in hymns and chants adds an eerie ambiance as you descend beneath what, from the surface, seems like any other parking lot.

A staircase beneath the building descends into a tunnel that leads visitors to a small, natural cave containing a life-sized image of Saint Margaret of Scotland. The cave, which was originally set in the wall of a valley, was a favorite spot of Queen Margaret, an 11th-century Scottish queen.

Margaret was a deeply religious woman known for her charitable works, and often came to this spot to pray. After she was canonized as a saint in 1250, the cave became a place of pilgrimage.

When Margaret went to the cave to pray, she followed a peaceful, wooded path that meandered along a stream. But visitors today must instead journey to the cave via a concrete and steel tunnel. That’s because when town planners wanted to convert the site to a parking lot in the 1960s, local outcry led to the construction of the tunnel as a compromise.

The clash between the atmosphere of religious reverence and the modern tunnel and parking lot makes the descent a unique experience. There is also a series of printed panels with information about the life of Saint Margaret and the history of the cave.

Know Before You Go

The cave is open to the public from April to September. To arrange visits outside these times or for large groups, contact the Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries at 01383 602365.