Type of Site: Religion/ Abbey
NMRS Number: NS20NE 7


Map reference: NS 275 083
Parish: Kirkoswald
Council: South Ayrshire

Archaeology Notes

NS20NE 7 2753 0833.


(NS 2753 0833) Remains of (NAT)

Crossraguel Abbey (NR)

(Cluniac founded 1244)

OS 1:10000 map (1972)


The date of foundation of the Cluniac Abbey of Crossraguel cannot be fixed with precision aand the circumstances leading up to it are involved and obscure (I B Cowan and D E Easson 1976). Duncan, Earl of Carrick, gave Crossraguel with other extensive lands and property in Carrick to Paisley Abbey prior to 1214-16. Only a small oratory was established. A dispute between Duncan and the monks was resolved by a judgement by the Bishop of Glasgow in 1244 that the monks of Paisley should build an abbey at Crossraguel. It is not known whether the abbey was in being by 1265 when supplications were being made to Rome by the monks of Paisley. The first abbot comes on record about 1286.

The abbey lay within an extensive walled precinct; there are the remains of a cruciform church of 13th century date; the only substantial remaining features are the two W angles of the nave. The associated buildings were probably of timber. The church, and presumably the other buildings, were destroyed during the War of Independence.

A new church, a simple rectangle, together with the E and S ranges anclosing the cloister and the abbot's house were erected in the 14th century. In the 15th century, the choir was rebuilt with a polygonal E end; the sacristy and chapter house were entirely rebuilt. Improvements were also made to the E and S ranges and to the abbot's house, mainly to the upper floors; corrodiars' houses were also built.

The church was again altered in the 16th century, being divided into two parts by a solid wall; the western part of the church became the Lady Chapel used by both monks and laity. In the SE corner is a tower house, built about 1530, which formed the residence of the last abbots and of the commendators who succeeded them. The gatehouse SW of the cloisters is also of 16th century date, as is the dovecot. (Full description given in the Official Guide by C A R Radford 1974).

The buildings were partly destroyed by Reformers in 1561, though monks continued in occupation until 1592, and in 1617 the whole benefice was annexed to the bishopric of Dunblane.

In 1919, 197 14th century coins and other small objects lost in the abbey latrine were found in a drain which ran eastwards on the S of the cellars. The inclusion of some hitherto unidentified pennies and farthings among coins of James III and IV led Macdonald (1920) to the conclusion that the abbey had its own mint, but modern opinion considers that they were struck at St Andrews by Bishop Kennedy in the second half of the 15th century.

The early forms of the name 'Crossaguel' suggest that it meant the Cross at Riaghail (St Riaghail is a well-known Irish saint, usually identified with St Regulus or Rule). The existence of a standing cross here does not necessarily mean that there was a church on the site when Earl Duncan made his grant.

R B K Stevenson 1952; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1889; 1896


Photographed by the RCAHMS. As described and illustrated.

Visited by OS (JRL) 12 June 1977


A watching brief was carried out by GUARD during widening and resurfacing of the A77 road in the immediate vicinity of the abbey in March 1995. No archaeological features were encountered.

NMRS MS/725/86.



NS 275 083 An archaeological watching brief was carried out by GUARD in March 1995 during resurfacing and widening of the A77 beside Crossraguel Abbey, near Maybole. Earth moving operations did not disturb sufficient soil to expose any archaeological features and no artefactual remains were recovered.

Sponsor: Strathclyde Regional Council.

R James 1995.


NS 2759 0834 The Strathclyde Joint Archaeology Service carried out a watching brief during works in the car park adjoining the E side of the Scheduled Ancient Monument of Crossraguel Abbey. A series of fence post holes were dug through the modern car park surface, but none of the holes penetrated the underlying rubble hardcore.

Sponsor: Strathclyde Roads.

Strathclyde Regional Council SMR 1995.

Collection Summary

Photographs: 31
Drawings: 0
Manuscripts: 1
Other Material: 2


Bateson, J D (1990 )
'Roman and medieval coins found in Scotland, to 1987',
Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 119, 1989, 172,

Cowan, I B (1986 )
Ayrshire Abbeys: Crossraguel and Kilwinning,
[Ayr], 267-95,

Cowan and Easson, I B and D E (1976 )
'Medieval religious houses, Scotland: with an appendix on the houses in the Isle of Man',
London, 63-4, 2nd ed.

James, R (1995 b)
'Crossraguel Abbey (Kirkoswald parish), watching brief',
Discovery and Excavation, Scotland, 1995, 83,

MacGibbon and Ross, D and T (1896-7 )
'The ecclesiastical architecture of Scotland from the earliest Christian times to the seventeenth century',
3v, Edinburgh, Vol.2, 402-19,

MacGibbon and Ross, D and T (1887-92 )
The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries',
II, 5v, Edinburgh, Vol.3, 385-6,

Macdonald, G (1920 )
'The mint of Crosraguel Abbey',
Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 54, 1919-20, 21-44,

RCAHMS (1983 a)
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The archaeological sites and monuments of North Carrick, Kyle and Carrick District, Strathclyde Region,
The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series no 17, Edinburgh, 20, No.139,

Radford, C A R (1974 a)
The Cluniac Abbey of Crossraguel,
2nd impression with amendments, Edinburgh, 1-22,

Radford, C A R (1988 )
Crossraguel Abbey,
Edinburgh, 3rd ed.

SRC SMR (1995 u)
'Crossraguel Abby Car Park (Kirkoswald parish), watching brief',
Discovery and Excavation, Scotland, 1995, Strathclyde Regional Council SMR, 83,

Stevenson, J B (1985 b)
Exploring Scotland's heritage: the Clyde estuary and Central Region,
Exploring Scotland's heritage series, Edinburgh, 92-3, no. 54,

Stevenson, R B K (1952 a)
'"Crosraguel" pennies - reattribution to Bishop Kennedy',
Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 84, 1949-50, 109-12,