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History At Your Door

Glebe Cottage

You may have noticed that there are Glebe cottages, streets, avenues, etc all throughout the UK. The names of these places are derived from the historical links to land allocated to a church to be worked in return for a share of the profits from the land being returned to the Parish in order to provide an income and contribute to paying for the local Churches up keep.

This particular Glebe cottage sits on a piece of land most recently belonging to the Kilmorack Kirk (Church). This particular religious institution was build in the 1800s but it sits on a site far more ancient. The original ruins are located just across the road from the current building. The name Kilmorack is taken from the orginal Gaelic Kil - meaning Church and Morack being a reference to St. Moroc, a Culdee monk of Dunkeld. Exactly when St. Moroc lived is a matter of some speculation but most historians would consider this to be well into the Dark ages and over 1000 years ago.

The nearby town of Beauly derives its name from the French Monks who founded the now ruined Priory (Beau– Lieu Beautiful-Place named by the French monks who settled here to found the ancient Beauly Priory in the 12th century.

Beauly Priory

Beauly Priory was  founded around 1230 by monks of the Valliscaulian order. They came from their mother house in Burgundy, in France, and settled beside the Beauly River, at the place where it enters the Beauly Firth. They were invited to do so by the lord, Sir John Bisset. And there their successors lived for the next 300 years, until the Protestant Reformation of 1560 brought their cloistered and contemplative life to an abrupt end. Today their legacy lives on, in their pretty, tree-fringed abbey church, roofless but otherwise largely intact.

The Valliscaulians were one of the less well-known reformed Benedictine monastic orders. They aspired to return to the ideals of poverty, chastity and obedience espoused by St Benedict of Nursia around 530. They were founded in 1205 by Viard, a lay brother from the Carthusian abbey of Louvigny. They established themselves at a place near Dijon called Val des Choux, ‘valley of cabbages’, or vallis caulium in Latin – hence their name. Few Valliscaulian houses were set up elsewhere, but Scotland was to have three – Ardchattan, near Oban, Pluscarden, near Elgin, and Beauly. All were founded around 1230.
Beauly, meaning ‘beautiful place’, must have seemed to the founding monks a wonderful place to devote themselves to the worship and service of God.

Only the abbey church now survives. It takes the form of a Latin cross, with a three-bay choir to the east, and a seven-bay nave to the west, and at their junction two flanking transepts to north and south.
Neither the choir nor the nave was aisled. The entire building, except the south transept, was laid out in a single operation. However, the surviving structure exhibits architectural styles from throughout its time as a place of worship. These include the 13th-century Y-tracery windows lighting the presbytery, the three trefoiled windows lighting the monks’ choir, and the graceful west front, rebuilt as late as the 1540s by Abbot Robert Reid.

The church houses some fine funerary monuments. There is one to Prior Alexander Mackenzie (died 1479) at the entrance to the south transept, now minus its effigy. Another one, dedicated to Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail (died 1492), stands at the entrance to the north transept, still with its knightly effigy. Other Mackenzie tombs lie in the north transept, which was restored in 1900–01 as their burial aisle and is normally locked.

To the south-east of Beauly is the church of Kirkhill, Highland containing the vault of the Lovats as well as a number of septs of the Mackenzies, including Seaforth and Mackenzies of Gairloch.

Three miles south of Beauly is Beaufort Castle, the chief seat of the Lovats, a modern mansion in the Scottish baronial style. It occupies the site of a fortress erected in the time of Alexander II., which was besieged in 1303 by Edward I. This was replaced by several castles in succession, of which one, Castle Dounie ,was taken by Oliver Cromwell and burned by Prince William, Duke of Cumberland in 1746, the conflagration being witnessed from a neighbouring hill by Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, before his capture on Loch Morar.

Standing Stones

Cairns and standing stones are some of the earliest evidence of people in the Highlands, notably the unique hillside arrangements of rows of small stones found in Caithness and East Sutherland.

Also early - perhaps 3rd millennium BC - are cairns such as the round cairns at Clava near Inverness, Corrimony in Glen Urquhart or Camster in Caithness. Hillforts too belong to these ages long ago and there are several to explore, along with the typically northern and slightly later brochs, with their unique circular and hollow stone walls.

The Dark Ages in the Highlands are especially represented by examples in the Pictish area, ie along the east coast and Moray Firth, where a signposted Pictish Trail will lead to the best sites and carved stones throughout Easter Ross.

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