Beauly Priory

Mary, Queen of Scots Home Page

West front of Beauly Priory
Beauly Priory was founded in about 1230 by one of the Bisset family, who were lords of the Aird to the west of Inverness. It later came under the protection of the Frasers of Lovat, who made some additions to the buildings. Towards the end of the Middle Ages the priory underwent a revival under the leadership of Robert Reid. abbot of Kinloss. By that time it had transferred its allegiance from the Valliscaulian to the Cistercian order.
View of the Nave from the Monks' Choir View of the Monks' Choir from the Nave
In its original form the church was probably an elongated triangle, with no more than a timber screen between the monks' choir and the nave, where the lay folk might be admitted. A chapel or sacristy block was attached to its north side. At some stage part of the east monastic range was absorbed as a chapel, giving the building its present cross-shaped plan. In the early 15th century another chapel was added to the north, and a century later the west end was rebuilt. By 1780 most of the domestic buildings of the priory had disappeared. Parts of them would have been destroyed soon after the Reformation in 1560 and other parts were removed to build Oliver Cromwell's citadel in Inverness in 1653.
West front of Beauly Priory, rebuilt by Prior Reid between 1530 and 1558
In the summer of 1564 Mary, Queen of Scots travelled through the Highlands to Easter Ross. She stopped at Beauly Priory before visiting Dingwall, capital of the Earldom of Ross. It is known that Mary was touched by the beauty of the priory, which was enhanced by a fine orchard. She is reputed to have said: "Oui, c'est un beau lieu" (Yes, it is a beautiful place), a pun on the name of the Priory, which is derived from Bello Loco, Latin for "beautiful place". Mary frequently stayed in monasteries during her progresses, because they had the necessary accommodation and supplies for royal guests. Her host, Walter Reid, was the Protestant commendator of Kinloss Abbey and Beauly Priory. During the civil wars, which followed the flight of Mary into England in 1568, Reid initially favoured the Queen's Party, but he later joined the King's Party, the supporters of the infant James VI.

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