Inchmahome Priory - History and Facts | History Hit

Inchmahome Priory

Port of Menteith, Scotland, United Kingdom

Inchmahome Priory was a medieval monastery which once sheltered a young Mary Queen of Scots.

Peta Stamper

13 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome Priory was first founded as an Augustinian monastery in approximately 1238 under the instructions of the Earl of Menteith. Over the centuries, Inchmahome Priory’s secluded location made it an ideal refuge: even royals such as King Robert Bruce saw Inchmahome Priory as a sanctuary.

However, the priory is better known for the time when a young Mary Queen of Scots sheltered there. Following the Protestant Reformation of 1560, Inchmahome Priory fell into decline and ceased being a working monastery.

Today, Inchmahome Priory’s picturesque ruins are a major tourist attraction.

Inchmahome Priory history

Around 1238, a small community of Augustinian canons founded a priory on the largest of 3 islands in the Lake of Menteith in Scotland. Their founder and patron was the Earl of Menteith, Walter Comyn, whose residence was located on Inch Talla, a nearby island. The Comyns were at the time the most powerful family in Scotland.

Built on the low-lying half of the island, the Earl kept the other half for himself as Inch Talla lacked garden space. The church was built first – its magnificent doorway built by visiting masons. The church within Inchmahome Priory also featured a bell tower in the nave and intricate fixtures such as the stone sedilia seat used by priests during Mass.

Inchmahome Priory’s secluded location offered the monks isolation from the world to worship God in peace, while also providing a sanctuary for royal visitors. In September 1547, English forces defeated the vast Scottish army at the Battle of Pinkie while trying to enforce Mary Queen of Scots’ marriage to Edward VI of England. Mary and her mother, Mary of Guise, were brought to Inchmahome for safety.

Monastic life at Inchmahome ended shortly after the 1560 Scottish Reformation. Stone was taken from the buildings to build on Inch Talla, and the chapter house became a family mausoleum for the Menteiths. From the 1800s, Inchmahome became a tourist attraction thanks to Sit Walter Scott’s writing and the railway nearby – the Loch of Inchmahome became the Lake of Menteith.

Inchmahome Priory today

Today, much of the cloister buildings at Inchmahome Priory are ruined although the chapter house, converted to a mausoleum in the 17th century, has survived. Visitors can admire the large collection of beautiful carved stones, including an effigy of Walter Stewart and Countess Mary in a loving embrace.

Those with a keen eye should look out for the name of Mary Queen of Scots attached to the little boxwood bower in the island’s centre. Walk amongst the gnarly old chestnut trees surrounding the ruins, thought to date back to the 1500s.

Getting to Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome Priory is on a small island and reached by a motor boat from the Port of Menteith. Note crossings are made on demand: turn the wooden board so the white side signals to staff you wish to cross. Driving is the easiest way there and from Glasgow, is a 55 minute drive via the A81. There is parking at the port. Otherwise, the X10A bus from Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow will take you to the port in 2 hours.

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