Dunino Den | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Dunino Den

St Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom

Luke Tomes

18 Feb 2021

About Dunino Den

Located approximately 5 miles south of St Andrews, Dunino Den is a site of ancient Druid, pagan worship.

The hidden gem, which lies in the wooded area just behind Dunino Abbey has a mystical, supernatural atmosphere. The pre-Christian holy site consists of two large crags, below which lies a clearing in the woods.

Dunino Den history

First known to exist around 4000BC, Druids were the most knowledgeable people of their time in Scotland. Nonetheless, by the 7th century AD, Druidism and other pagan practises were driven underground for fear of persecution by Christian missionaries. Many Pagan gods and goddesses were converted and assimilated into Christian Saints and sacred wells were used as baptismal fonts.

The practises and rituals of these people have fascinated historians for centuries. Sites such as that seen at Dunino Den only further feed these curiosities.

The first crag is known as the “Altar Stone”. The well, which sits at the top of the rock, is said to have been used as an altar for human sacrifice by ancient druids. A footprint carved into the rock next to the well gives us an insight into the importance of the site. Carved footprints were used during inauguration rituals, such as the anointing of kings.

The next crag, referred to as “Pulpit Rock”, may have been used to plant a wooden cross carried by Christian monks at one time.

A narrow, winding set of steps, carved into the rocks, lead down into the den, where Celtic crosses, odd faces and mystical symbols have been etched into the rocks. Offerings, including ribbons, beads, coins and even women’s underwear dangle from branches and decorate the rocks around the site.

Dunino Den today

Although Dunino Den is a relatively unknown pagan site, many people who do visit it continue to use the site in the way that it was used in ancient times.

The site is seen as a gateway to the otherworld and hence offerings, as well as messages, are left for loved-ones and ancestors who have passed on. Monetary offerings are left in the rock crevices and it is believed that removing a coin from the site will bring bad luck.

Getting to Dunino Den

To reach the site follow directions for Dunino Church (roughly three miles south-east of St Andrews). Parking is available outside the church. Once you have parked, follow the path down into the woods, leaving the church to your left and walking along the trail through the cemetery.

Once you enter the woods, continue straight for a few minutes and you will reach the ‘altar’. The steps down into the den sit to the left of the altar. Be cautious when approaching the site, as there is a substantial drop from the top of the altar stone to the river below – the steps can also be very slippery.

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