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Inchcolm sits in the Firth of Forth, about a quarter of a mile to the south of Aberdour. The island is separated from the mainland by a stretch of water known as Mortimer’s Deep; this is named after William de Mortimer who was due to be buried on the island, but at some point during the crossing his coffin slipped off the boat and was lost.

In 1123, Alexander I landed on Inchcolm during a storm while trying to cross the Forth. The story goes that he was given shelter and food by a hermit on the island and as a result the king vowed to build a monastery. Alexander died in 1124, but his brother, David I, fulfilled his promise by founding a priory for Augustinian monks some time before his death in 1153; this became a full abbey in the early 13th century. In 1418, Walter Bower, the author of the Scotichronicon, was the Abbot of Inchcolm Abbey; the abbey was abandoned following the Reformation in 1560.

Despite its closeness to Aberdour, visitors to the island travel from South Queensferry on the Maid of the Forth. While the outline of the abbey is clear as the boat approaches the island, what are less obvious are the military defences that date from the First and Second World Wars. These are located on the eastern side of the island and were built to protect the inner Firth, including the naval base at Rosyth, from enemy invasion. The NAAFI building is used as a shop by Historic Scotland who look after the abbey remains.

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