Founded early in the thirteenth century by Duncan of Carrick, later Earl of Carrick, as a daughter house of Paisley Abbey. The name "Crossraguel" may be derived from "The cross of Riaghail", suggesting that there may once have been an early Christian prayer-cross here. One such, carved in stone, survived from the eighth century at Barochan in Renfrewshire and is now in Paisley Abbey.
St Riaghail is a well-known Irish saint, usually identified with St Regulus or St Rule, who is honoured at St Andrews in Fife .
The monks belonged to the Cluniac order, named after the abbey of Cluny in France. The Abbey's patrons were well connected, from Earls of Carrick to Kings of Scotland and the Kennedy family who became Earls of Cassilis.
Crossraguel Abbey remained loyal to Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick and from 1306 King of Scots, during the wars with England in the fourteenth century.
The abbey was badly damaged during those wars, but the monks rebuilt it over the next two centuries.
Crossraguel Abbey, like most in Scotland, ceased to be a flourishing monastery following the Reformation of the church in Scotland in 1560.