Everyone knows that the highlands are beautiful, but every once in a while someone says it.
In the year 1230, a group of monks, called the Valliscaulians, built themselves a priory just outside Inverness. The location was ideal for them: It was close enough to the city to have some help in emergencies, far enough outside the city to accommodate their cloistered lifestyle, and along a very scenic bend in the River Beauly. Now, if you’re a good Roman Catholic and you’ve never heard of the Valliscaulian Order, there’s no need to be embarrassed – they were disbanded and absorbed by the Cistercian Order in the 18th century. They might not have made a lasting impression on the Catholic consciousness, but they did leave behind a priory.
According to the story, Mary, Queen of Scots was riding through the country in 1564, making a tour of her kingdom. When her retinue stopped at the priory, she exclaimed “Quel beau lieu!” She had, after all, been raised in France, and while she was fluent in several languages, was most comfortable with French. For those of us who don’t speak 16th-century French, that means, “What a beautiful place!” The story goes on to say that the Scottish-ization of that phrase gave rise to the name that the place now boasts: Beauly.
The monks continued to live at Beauly well into the 16th century, but as the Reformation spread through Scotland, Catholic religious orders were either disbanded or chased out. The priory was turned over to more secular uses, until it was finally abandoned in 1634. The priory now stands as a set of ruins along the Beauly River.
There is no admission to the Beauly Priory, and it’s open 9:30-5:30 in the summer and 10-4 in the winter.
If you’re afraid of renting a car in a left-side-driving country, you can take either the bus or the train from Inverness to Beauly. A round-trip train ticket costs around £5, and the ride takes less than 20 minutes.
Once you’re in the town, just follow the main road (the place is very small, and there’s really only one road to follow). You won’t get lost, but you will see the top of the priory peeking out over the tops of the trees planted around the edge of the town square.
Plan your visit here.