Athelstaneford and the legend of the Saltire

Athelstaneford in East Lothian is supposedly the birthplace of Scotland’s flag, the St Andrew’s Cross or Saltire. Legend has it that in 832, an army of Picts under King Angus were being pursued by a larger army of Anglo-Saxons under Athelstan. Angus prayed for help and was rewarded by a white cloud in the shape of a saltire (the diagonal cross on which St Andrew was martyred) in the blue sky. He vowed that if Andrew led him to victory he would become the patron saint of Scotland. The rest is, allegedly, history.

The Flag Heritage Centre commemorating this has to be the smallest museum I’ve ever been in! It’s a lectern-shaped doocot (dovecote) behind the parish church with a door you have to bend down to enter. Inside, a short audiovisual presentation dramatises the story. The viewpoint beside it looks over the fields, and in the churchyard there’s a memorial (1965) showing the battle scene. Both sport saltires blowing in the breeze. This didn’t take long to visit, but it was a lovely experience.