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East Lothian
Athelstaneford Kirk, East Lothian.jpg
Athelstaneford Kirk
Grid reference: NT533772
Location: 55°59’10"N, 2°44’53"W
Post town: North Berwick
Postcode: EH39
Dialling code: 01620
Local Government
Council: East Lothian
East Lothian

Athelstaneford is a village in East Lothian, north-east of the county town, Haddington, and about 20 miles east of Edinburgh.

According to popular legend, Athelstaneford is where the original Scottish saltire - the white diagonal cross on a blue background - was first adopted. The legend states that on the eve of a battle between an army of the Picts and the Northumbrians in AD 832, St Andrew, who was crucified on a diagonal cross, came to the Pictish King Óengus II in a vision promising victory. The next morning the Picts saw a white cross formed by clouds in the sky. They won the battle and attributed their victory to the blessing of Saint Andrew, adopting his form of the cross as their flag, and naming him as their patron saint.[1] The leader of the retreating English army was one Athelstan" (not to be confused with the 10th Century King of the English) and he was slain at a nearby river crossing, hence the name Athelstaneford. There are several versions of the tale, of which this is one of the more popular. Whatever the truth, the legend has cemented Athelstaneford's place in Scotland's history.

There is grave doubt about the legend. The only known ruler named Athelstan at that time was Æthelstan of East Anglia, who would have had no reason to invade Scotland. Another explanation is that the village is named after the Anglo-Saxon King Æthelstan who would have travelled through the area in AD 934 to successfully obtain the submission of the Scottish King Constantine II.

The village is home to the National Flag Heritage Centre which occupies a lectern doocot built in 1583 and rebuilt in 1996. It is at the back of the village church.[2]

Other attractions

Athelstaneford Heritage Centre

Today the village is surrounded by farmland and has little in the way of amenities. Tourists can follow the "Saltire Trail", a road route which passes by various local landmarks and places of historical interest.

Athelstaneford Parish Kirk has a connection with the author Nigel Tranter who was a prominent supporter of the Scottish Flag Trust. He married in the church, and in April 2008 a permanent exhibition of his memorabilia was mounted in the north transept of the church. Items include a copy of Nigel Tranter's old typewriter, a collection of manuscripts and books, and other personal items. The display was previously at Lennoxlove House, and prior to that at Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Athelstaneford)