Luffness Friary, Aberlady

The ruins of Luffness Friary sit in woodland just to the east of the historic little town of Aberlady. The path to the site starts on a quiet cul-de-sac, but is not easy to find. I started badly, taking the wrong gate and ending up in a muddy field, the track clearly visible on the other side of a stone wall. After an unsuccessful attempt to find the proper route, I finally clambered over the wet, slippery wall, the fastest (but also messiest) option.
The path to Luffness Friary

The path to Luffness Friary

The woods of Luffness are strange. As you enter them you will come across a large pond, its water bright green with algae, the skeletons of dead trees emerging from the water. It’s a quiet place, rarely visited and slightly eerie.
A strange green pond near Luffness Friary

A strange green pond near Luffness Friary

It doesn’t take long to find the foundations of the Friary itself. Little is known about its history, although it is clear that it was a Carmelite community. It first gets a mention in written records in the early 14th Century, but the remains themselves suggest a much earlier date.
Ruins in the forest, Luffness Friary

Ruins in the forest, Luffness Friary

The most striking part of the ruins is the knight’s tomb, a well-worn effigy of a medieval nobleman lying under a pointed arch. The identity of the subject is long forgotten, although local tradition claims that it is one Bickerton, a standard bearer to Sir William Douglas who turned traitor on his master at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 and later met a grisly end. Others say it is Henry de Pinkey, a local landowner who supported Robert the Bruce during the famous Wars of Independence in the early 14th Century. Whoever he was, the wide cracks in the tomb reveal that his mortal remains are now long-gone.
The Tomb of the Knight, Luffness Friary

The Tomb of the Knight, Luffness Friary

While investigating the tomb, I also noticed below the fallen leaves the intricate carvings and inscriptions which survive on the floor of what was once the church. On the day of my visit a huge fallen tree lay across the ruins, its elaborate roots exposed to view. In amongst the network of roots and lumps of damp earth I spotted the glittering shells of oysters, the remains perhaps of medieval monkish meals.
The carved floor, Luffness Friary

The carved floor, Luffness Friary

Not much else of the priory is extant, the foundations either lost or hidden below the forest floor, although the dip of its now empty fish ponds can be seen in a nearby field. On the other side of the woods stands Luffness House, a grand mansion which sits on the site of a much earlier castle, still a private home. The whole area is filled with reminders of an eventful history. The fact that so much of this history is now lost or forgotten, with tales and legends inevitably emerging to fill in the gaps, only seems to add Luffness’s incredible air of magic.

The ruins of Luffness Friary

The ruins of Luffness Friary

14 Responses to “Luffness Friary, Aberlady”

  1. The kind of forgotten place I love exploring. Fascinating that you saw oyster shells.

  2. I love this!! Thank you for liking my blog. I will keep checking back…great work.

  3. Katrina Rudden Says:

    Brought up in Aberlady in the 50’s and walked these woods most Sundays with my Dad such fond memories, looks nearly the same, magical place especially the knights tomb. Must visit again soon.

  4. Oh wow, what an extraordinary, magical place! I shall have to seek this one out. Really enjoyed this! 🙂

  5. colin smith Says:

    I spent the first two years of my life and most of my holidays from school in aberlady and have told many people about the ruins and taken a few people to see it .mystycal place and fascinating.

  6. After a couple of aborted efforts to find the little known and well hidden “Postmans Walk” in Aberlady village, we decided to drive around from the village, past Aberlady Mains House and along the road leading to Luffness, we found a sign “Bickertons Walk”. Parking in the layby we headed down the track and yes, we found Postmans Walk, Friary and Effigy! Just such a magical, mystical spot, the entire area liberally speckled with snowdrops.

  7. mike sherlock Says:

    i lived at luffness in the 70s and walked that route almost every day to aberlady primary school, the area is part of hopes estate and back then lady hope who lived in the castle was an eccentric old lady who walked about in an old overcoat and wellies and always had several dogs with was always known locally “the monastery” . there were a lot of characters who lived at the castle in those days, a few ex german prisoners of war, and some poles, it was a great place, i have been there several time recently with my dog. aberlady has a lot of history, i remember “the bothy” which was an old shack by the side of the road and inhabited by irish farm workers, these people lived in terrible conditions, with no gas or electricity and cooked on an open fire outside.all that history is long gone now. its a real shame.

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