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Arbroath facts for kids

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Arbroath from Inchape Park
Arbroath from the south
Population 23,902 (2011 census)
OS grid reference NO641412
• Edinburgh 45 mi (72 km) SSW
• London 371 mi (597 km) SSE
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town ARBROATH
Postcode district DD11
Dialling code 01241
Police Tayside
Fire Tayside
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament
  • Angus
Scottish Parliament
  • Angus South
List of places
Coordinates: 56°33′41″N 2°35′09″W / 56.561385°N 2.585705°W / 56.561385; -02.585705

Arbroath or Aberbrothock /ɑːrˈbrθ/ (Scottish Gaelic: Obar Bhrothaig, [opəɾˈvɾo.ɪkʲ]) is a former royal burgh and the largest town in the council area of Angus in Scotland, and has a population of 23,902. It lies on the North Sea coast, around 16 miles (25.7 km) ENE of Dundee and 45 miles (72.4 km) SSW of Aberdeen.

While there is evidence for settlement of the area now occupied by the town that dates back to the Iron Age, Arbroath's history as a town begins in the High Middle Ages with the founding of Arbroath Abbey in 1178. Arbroath grew considerably during the Industrial Revolution owing to the expansion of firstly the flax and secondly the jute industries and the engineering sector. A new harbour was built in 1839 and by the 20th century, Arbroath had become one of the larger fishing ports in Scotland.

The town is notable as the home of the Declaration of Arbroath, as well as the Arbroath smokie. The town's football team, Arbroath Football Club, hold the world record for the highest number of goals scored in a professional football match. They won 36–0 against Aberdeen Bon Accord in the Scottish Cup in 1885.



The earliest recorded name for the town was 'Aberbrothock', a reference to the Brothock Burn which runs through the town, the prefix 'Aber' coming either from the Gaelic 'Obair', or the earlier term 'Aber' which could be either Goidelic or Brythonic for 'river mouth'. The name 'Aberbrothock' can be found in numerous spelling variations. In the earliest manuscripts available, it is seen as 'Abirbrothoke' (in the letter to Edward I confirming the Treaty of Salisbury, which agreed that the Queen regnant, Margaret, Maid of Norway would marry Edward I) and 'Aberbrothok' (in the subsequent letter giving consent for the marriage). In the Declaration of Arbroath, it is seen as 'Abirbrothoc'. Early maps show a number of variants including Aberbrothock, Aberbrothik, Aberbrothick, and Aberbrothwick.

The modern name 'Arbroath' became more common in the mid-19th century, with the older name being largely dispensed with by the time of the first edition of the Ordnance Survey Maps. However, variants of 'Arbroath' had been used since the 17th century, including 'Arbroth' and Aberbreth.

Early history

Drosten Stone

The area around Arbroath has been occupied since at least the Neolithic period. Material taken from postholes from an enclosure at Douglasmuir, near Friockheim, about five miles north of Arbroath have been radiocarbon dated to around 3500 BC The function of the enclosure is unknown, but may have been for agriculture or for ceremonial purposes.

Bronze age archaeology is to be found in abundance in the surrounding area. Examples include the short-cist burials found near West Newbigging, about a mile to the North of the town. These burials included pottery urns, a pair of silver discs and a gold armlet. Iron Age archaeology is also well represented, for example in the souterrain nearby Warddykes Cemetery and at West Grange of Conan, as well as the better-known examples at Carlungie and Ardestie.

The area appears to have been of some importance in the early Christian period, as evidenced by the Pictish stone carvings found during the restoration of St Vigeans Church, and now housed in the small museum there. The stones had been used in the building of the old church and, unfortunately, many been badly damaged. One of the stones, the 9th century Drosten Stone, has the distinction of being one of the few Pictish artefacts to have an inscription in Latin text: 'DROSTEN: IREUORET [E]TTFOR CUS', which has been interpreted in various ways, but it is thought that the second line refers to the Pictish King Uurad, who reigned between 839 and 842 AD.

Medieval history

Arbroath Abbey1
Ruined Arbroath Abbey, built from local red sandstone

The first modern development in Arbroath was the Abbey, founded by King William the Lion in 1178 for monks of the Tironensian order from Kelso Abbey. It received consecration in 1197 with a dedication to Saint Thomas Becket. It was the King's only personal foundation, and he was buried within its precincts in 1214. The Abbey was not finally completed until 1233.

Arbroath was the location of the Battle of Arbroath in 1446. A series of disagreements between the Chief Justiciary of Arbroath, Alexander Lindsay, third Earl of Crawford and Bishop James Kennedy of St Andrews resulted in Lindsay sacking the bishop's lands and burning his properties. Lindsay was excommunicated for his troubles and it was felt that this was incompatible with his role as Chief Justiciary. The monks of Arbroath Abbey selected Alexander Ogilvy of Inverquharity as his replacement and the insult led to pitched battle in the town, leaving 500 dead, including Lindsay and Ogilvy. Large parts of the town were destroyed in the aftermath by the Lindsay family.

The abbey relatively quickly fell into disuse and eventual disrepair after its dissolution at the Reformation, the lead from the roof rumoured to have been used in the 16th century civil wars and the stonework plundered for housebuilding throughout the town. The ruins were a popular site for travellers during the 17th and 18th centuries, and finally in 1815 the remains were taken into the care of the State for preservation. The remains are now administered by Historic Scotland.

On 6 April 1320 the Scottish Parliament met at Arbroath Abbey and addressed to the Pope the Declaration of Arbroath, drafted by the Abbot of the time, Bernard. This document detailed the services which their "lord and sovereign" Robert the Bruce had rendered to Scotland, and affirmed in eloquent terms the independence of the Scots.

Arbroath was created a royal burgh in 1599 by James VI.

In the 17th century, at the church of St Vigeans, near Arbroath, communion was not held for several years because the villagers believed there was a curse on the church. The curse said that if communion were held then the church would fall into a large subterranean lake.

Modern history

During the Jacobite rising known as the Forty-Five, Arbroath was a Jacobite town. A large portion of its able bodied men joined the Jacobite army. It was one of the principal ports where men and supplies could be landed from France. It and other Jacobite ports along the north-east coast collectively formed ‘an asset of almost incalculable value’ to the Jacobite cause.

During the Industrial Revolution, Arbroath's economy expanded and the population of the town expanded, with new housing having to be constructed to house the influx of workers. Arbroath became moderately well known for jute and sailcloth production, with 34 mills employing 1,400 looms and producing over one million yards of osnaburg cloth and 450,000 yards of sailcloth in 1875. Arbroath is believed to be the source of the sails used on the Cutty Sark. In 1867, the mills in Arbroath employed 4,620 people. Arbroath was also prominent in the manufacture of shoes and lawnmowers; local firm Alexander Shanks supplied mowers to the Old Course at St Andrews and the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Arbroath today is mostly known for its connection with the Scottish fishing industry. After the original harbours, dating from the 14th and 18th centuries, were replaced in 1839 with a larger harbour, the local council tried to find fishermen who would be interested in migrating to Arbroath in order to take advantage of the new facilities offered. The town council contacted fishermen in nearby Auchmithie and further afield, including Shetland. The fishing industry grew and at its peak years between 1900 and 1980, around 40 whitefish and pelagic vessels worked from Arbroath, with hundreds of men employed directly as fishermen, hundreds more employed ashore to service the fishing vessels and to process the fish. Quota cuts and decommissioning took its toll on the fishing industry throughout Scotland from the 1980s to present. Today, Arbroath remains a designated whitefish landing port, and although no fish auction takes place, the fishmarket remains open and is used for landing shellfish. There is now only one large fishing vessel operating regularly from Arbroath, and a further three Arbroath owned vessels operating from Aberdeen and ports further north. The fish processing sector remains one of the largest employers in the town however, but fish for processing now comes from Aberdeen, Peterhead and occasionally from Iceland, Norway and Ireland.


At 56°33′31″N 02°34′58″W / 56.55861°N 2.58278°W / 56.55861; -2.58278, Arbroath is located on the North Sea coast in eastern Scotland 17 miles (27 km) northeast of Dundee, within the Angus region. Geologically, Arbroath sits predominantly on Old Red Sandstone. Lower-lying parts of the town were below sea level during and immediately after the last ice age.

Arbroath is located 98 miles (158 km) northeast of Glasgow, 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Aberdeen and 77 miles (124 km) from Edinburgh. The neighbouring villages of St Vigeans, Carmyllie, Friockheim, Colliston and Inverkeilor are considered part of Arbroath for the purposes of council representation, and together with Carnoustie, share the 01241 telephone area code with Arbroath.

Panorama of Arbroath Cliffs in winter


Arbroath has a typical British marine climate, that is heavily influenced by its position by the sea. There are narrow differences in temperature between seasons. January has an average high of 6.4 °C (43.5 °F) and July has 18 °C (64 °F). The climate is somewhat dry and sunny compared to Scottish standards with 628.6 millimetres (24.75 in) of precipitation and 1538.4 hours of sunshine. All data is sourced from the 1981-2010 averages from the Met Office weather station in Arbroath.

Climate data for Arbroath 15m asl, 1981–2010
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.4
Average low °C (°F) 1.6
Precipitation mm (inches) 55.1
Sunshine hours 59.7 83.3 126.0 161.2 197.1 184.6 183.5 176.8 136.0 103.9 74.7 51.8 1,538.4
Source: Met Office


Residents of Arbroath are called Arbroathians but often refer to themselves as Red Lichties after the red lamp that shone from the harbour light and foghorn tower at the entrance to the harbour as an aid to shipping entering the aforementioned harbour.

At the 2001 census, the population of Arbroath was 22,785. Approximately 88.9% were born in Scotland, while 97.7% were born in the United Kingdom as a whole. Most Arbroath residents are between 16 and 65, with 19.8% under 16, 59.5% between 16 and 65 with those over 65 making up 20.7% of the population. There are 47.1% males to 52.9% females.

Arbroath has a moderate rate of unemployment – around 2.7% of the population are claiming unemployment-related social welfare benefits.


Arbroath Station
Arbroath railway station

The A92 road connects Arbroath to Dundee and Fife to the south west, and Stonehaven in the north east. The A92 joins the A90 north of Stonehaven and leads to Aberdeen further north. The A92 is dual carriageway from the southern outskirts of Arbroath to the northern outskirts of Dundee, the A92 proceeds through Dundee before crossing the Tay estuary into Fife via the Tay Road Bridge. The A90 can also be reached at Dundee heading both north (to Aberdeen) and south (to Perth and Edinburgh).

Arbroath has a modest public bus transport system, with the Arbroath Bus Station serving as the town's main terminus. Stagecoach Strathtay and Travel Wishart (part of National Express) operate most of the local services, with most rural services operated by Stagecoach Strathtay. Arbroath has one railway station, a short walk from the bus station, with regional train services to the east coast of Scotland, Edinburgh, Perth and Glasgow whilst intercity services operate to destinations in England such as Newcastle, Birmingham, York and London. Passenger services at Arbroath are provided by Abellio ScotRail, CrossCountry Trains, Caledonian Sleeper and Virgin Trains East Coast. Dundee has a regional airport which offers commercial flights to London City Airport five times a week. The airport has a 1,530-yards runway capable of serving small aircraft and is located 1.8 miles west of the city centre, adjacent to the River Tay. The nearest major international airports are in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Arbroath has a sizeable airfield at the Royal Marines military base on the western outskirts of the town, but this remains a dedicated military airfield.

Places of worship

Old and Abbey Parish Church - - 1152028
The Old and Abbey Parish Church

The neighbouring villages of St Vigeans, Carmyllie, Friockheim, Colliston and Inverkeilor are considered part of Arbroath for the purposes of council representation

The Church of Scotland has a number of congregations that meet in Arbroath. The Old and Abbey Church is located in the centre of town at West Abbey Street, and will shortly welcome Rev. Dolly Purnell as its minister. St Andrews Church, Arbroath is located in Hamilton Green, and the minister is Rev. Dr. Martin Fair with associate minister Rev. Stuart Irvin. Knox's Church is located in Howard Street and the minister is Rev Dr Nelu Balaj. The West Kirk is located in Keptie Street and the minister is Rev. Alasdair Graham.

There are also a number of Church of Scotland kirks in the surrounding villages. St Vigeans Church, St Vigeans is linked with Knox's Church in Arbroath and services are led by Rev Dr Nelu Balaj. Arbirlot Church is linked with Carmyllie Church. Colliston Church is linked with Friockheim and Kinnell Church and Inverkeilor and Lunan Church. The minister of these three churches is Rev. Peter Phillips.

There is an Episcopalian congregation based at St Mary the Virgin Church in Springfield Terrace. The Minister is Rev. Dr. John Cuthbert. St Mary's Church evolved from a meeting house set up in 1694 by Episcopalians forced out of Arbroath Parish Church. The present church building dates from 1854. The Scottish Episcopal Church in Arbroath is part of the Diocese of Brechin. There is also a Scottish Episcopal Church in Auchmithie; King David of Scotland Church.

The Roman Catholic Church meets at St Thomas of Canterbury Church in Dishlandtown Street. The priest is Rev Kevin J. Golden. The church is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dunkeld. The parish includes a primary school and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1998.

The Methodist Church have one of their earliest established churches in Arbroath, St John's in Ponderlaw, which was opened in 1772. Services are led by David Nicoll.

Other groups that worship in Arbroath include the Arbroath Corps of the Salvation Army, who meet in Marketgate, the Elim Pentecostal Church, led by Alan Herd, who meet in Ogilvy Place; the Baptists who meet at the New Life Church in James Street, the Jehovah's Witnesses, who meet at the Kingdom Hall in Lindsay Street, the Springfield Christian Assembly, who meet in the Gospel Hall in Ponderlaw Lane; and the Arbroath Town Mission, an interdenominational group led by Dr Robert Clapham, who meet in Grant Road.

Followers of other faiths and denominations travel further afield to worship.


Arbroath's Webster Theatre has featured among others Harry Lauder, Jimmy Tarbuck, Charlie Landsborough, the Illegal Eagles, the Drifters and the Chuckle Brothers and was the first venue the Alexander Brothers, a Scottish easy listening act, performed in as a professional duo. The Webster Theatre recently went through a multi-million pounds refurbishment and opened in February 2008.

There are several amateur theatre and musical companies based in and around Arbroath, the best known being the Angus Minstrels group, the last group in Britain to regularly perform blackface. In 2005, following pressure from Angus Council, who feared legal action, the show began performing with normal stage makeup, and the group changed its name from 'The Angus Black and White Minstrels' to simply 'The Angus Minstrels'. The decision to stop performing the show in blackface received widespread press coverage in the UK.

Beginning in 1947, a pageant commemorating the signing of the Declaration has been held within the roofless remains of the abbey (last full-scale event 2005). This was run by the local Arbroath Abbey Pageant Society, now Arbroath Abbey Timethemes, a registered charity, and re-enacts the story and history of the signing. The group also spearhead Scotland's Tartan Day celebrations on 6 April in association with Angus Council as well as educational visits to local schools.

Arbroath Male Voice Choir was established in 1934 and is now one of only a few male voice choirs left in Scotland. At 2012 the choir has over 45 members drawn not just from Arbroath but also Angus and Dundee. The choir's musical director is Sheena Guthrie. They sing a mix of songs from classical, through Scottish, showtunes to pop. The ensemble perform two main concerts each year (one at Christmas and another in spring) and several smaller events for good causes. The choir are notable for attracting well known, often international singers to their annual spring concert as guests. In recent years these have included, Jamie McDougall, Karen Cargill, Gordon Cree, Cheryl Forbes and Colette Ruddy. March 2012 saw international diva Lesley Garrett as the choir's special guest.

The author Sir Walter Scott is famous for the Waverley series of novels, including Rob Roy and Ivanhoe. Scott is known to have visited Arbroath three times, and his personal favourite in the series, The Antiquary (1816) features affectionately fictionalised versions of both Arbroath ("Fairport") and Auchmithie ("Musselcrag").

Arbroath has one museum, the former Bell Rock Lighthouse Signal Tower. In 1807 Arbroath became the base of operations for the building of the Bell Rock Lighthouse. The shore station for the lighthouse – the Bell Rock Signal Tower – was completed in 1813 and acted as a lifeline for the keepers offshore. Signal Tower Museum was opened in 1974 as a visitor centre detailing the history of the lighthouse and the town of Arbroath.

Arbroath smokies

Arbroath smokies, for which Arbroath is well-known nationally and internationally, are made solely in Arbroath following the award of Protected Geographical Indication in 2004, which limits Arbroath smokie production to within 4 km of Arbroath. Smokies are made from haddock using traditional methods dating back to the late 19th century where the fish are first salted overnight to preserve them, before being left tied in pairs to dry. Next, the dried fish are hung in a special barrel containing a hardwood fire and covered with a lid. After around an hour of smoking, the fish are golden brown and ready to eat. The preparation of smokies remains a cottage industry in Arbroath, centred almost exclusively at the harbour area. However, one larger processor, RR Spink, supplied Arbroath smokies to several UK supermarket chains. It appears that, nowadays, the firm concentrates on smoking other fish such as salmon or trout and no longer supplies the Arbroath Smokie.. They have a royal warrant as a fishmonger to the Queen for which the company holds the Royal Warrant.

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