The birthplace of Scotland's national flag
Tradition has it that the Saltire, Scotland's National flag, originated in a battle fought in East Lothian, near the village of Athelstaneford in the Dark Ages.
Today the flag flies proudly all year round from the floodlit Saltire Memorial in Athelstaneford Parish Church to celebrate this special connection. The Flag Heritage Centre at the back of the churchyard tells the story of the Battle of Athelestaneford in 832AD.
In the year 832AD, Angus mac Fergus, High King of Alba, clashed with a force of Angles and Saxons led by Athelstan. Encouraged by the appearance of a white cross of St Andrew in the blue sky, the Scots and Picts won the battle. Thereafter St Andrew became the patron of Scotland, and his cross, or saltire, the emblem of the Scottish people.
The Scottish Flag Trust is a registered Scottish charity run entirely by volunteers which maintains the Saltire Memorial and the Flag Heritage Centre at Athelstaneford and promotes the proper use of the Saltire.
The Flag Heritage Centre is an award-winning visitor attraction, which attracts visitors from across the world. However, the 16th Century Doo Cot which houses the audiovisual presentation is now in serious need of repair. The Doo Cot is an important historic building in its own right and skilled and costly repairs are required to the harling on the building.
The Audio-Visual equipment is coming to the end of its life and is in significant need of upgrading.
Accessibility of the site is an issue and recent accessibility inspections have highlighted access problems with the uneven pathways being difficult to negotiate for people with reduced mobility and wheelchair users.
You can help restore this nationally important historic site, so we can continue to share the story of Scotland's flag with the world.
- The restoration and renewal project will see a new accessible pathway with interpretive timeline, telling the history and adoption of Scotland's national flag from 834AD to the present.
- New landscaping and engraved paving around the Saltire Memorial will tell the story of St Andrew's and Scot's societies across the globe.
- A new immersive audiovisual experience telling the story of the Battle of Athelstaneford and the creation and adoption of Scotland's national flag.
- Restoration of the 16th Century lectern doocot which houses the Flag Heritage Centre will maintain this important historic building and keep it safe for the future.
Legend of the Saltire
It is believed that the battle took place in the year 832AD. An army of Picts under Angus mac Fergus, High King of Alba, and aided by a contingent of Scots led by Eochaidh (Kenneth mac Alpin’s grandfather) had been on a punitive raid into Lothian (then and for long afterwards Northumbrian territory), and were being pursued by a larger force of Angles and Saxons under one Athelstan.
The Albannach/Scots were caught and stood to face their pursuers in the area of Markle, near East Linton. This is to the north of the modern village of Athelstaneford (which was resited on higher ground in the 18th century), where the Peffer, which flows into the Firth of Forth at Aberlady, forms a wide vale. Being then wholly undrained, the Peffer presented a major obstacle to crossing, and the two armies came together at the ford near the present day farm of Prora (one of the field names there is still the Bloody Lands).
Fearing the outcome of the encounter, King Angus led prayers for deliverance and was rewarded by seeing a cloud formation of a white saltire (the diagonal cross on which St Andrew had been martyred) against a blue sky. The king vowed that if, with the saint’s help, he gained the victory, then Andrew would thereafter be the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots did win, and the Saltire became the flag of Scotland.
When Kenneth mac Alpin, who may have been present with his grandfather at the battle, later united Picts and Scots and named the entity Scotland, Andrew did indeed become the patron saint of the united realm. Kenneth mac Alpin, King of Scots and Picts, Ard-righ Albainn, was laid to rest on Iona in 860AD.