Saint Baldred of Tyninghame lived from about 700 to 6 March 757. He is sometimes known as "the Apostle of the Lothians" and in Northumberland was known as Saint Balther or Saint Baltherus. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
St Baldred seems to have become a monk at the monastery on the tidal island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland, though by some accounts he was born in Ireland. At some point in the first half of the 700s he established a monastery at Tyninghame which owned large estates covering much of the coastal plain of East Lothian. St Baldred himself undertook frequent retreats to a hermitage and chapel he had built for himself on Bass Rock. It is said that St Baldred died on Bass Rock and there was subsequently a dispute between the parishes of Auldhame, Tyninghame and Prestonkirk, about where he should be buried. The story goes that after a night of prayer, three identical bodies were found, each wrapped in its winding sheet ready for burial. The story was probably a later invention intended to explain why all three churches established shrines to Saint Baldred.
Echoes of St Baldred occur throughout the area of East Lothian in which he lived and worked. St Baldred's monastery at Tyninghame was destroyed by the Danes in 941 and the following century the version of the remains of St Baldred buried at Tyninghame were moved to Durham. However, in the 1100s St Baldred's Church was built on the location of the monastery and this still stands today in the grounds of Tyninghame House.
From the 1300s miracles began to be reported by people drinking at St Baldred's Well, at Whitekirk. This quickly became a major centre for pilgrimage. In 1413 someone took the trouble to count 15,563 pilgrims visiting St Baldred's Well, to the considerable benefit of the church established here and the local economy. In 1430 King James I oversaw the building of a pilgrims' hostel in the village to cater for the throng. In 1435 the future Pope Pius II walked barefoot through snow from Dunbar to Whitekirk to give thanks to St Baldred for his survival from a shipwreck in the Firth of Forth. The rheumatism from which he suffered for the rest of his life would serve as a reminder of his visit.
A Papal Bull of 1493 records the Pope's consent to build a chapel on the site of St Baldred's own chapel on Bass Rock. This is overlooked by the beautiful beach at Seacliff. Reminders here of St Baldred include St Baldred's Boat, a rock formation in the bay, and St Baldred's Cave, where he is said to have lived from time to time.