Inchmahome Priory consists of a group of buildings, including the remains of the church, which has fairly intact upstanding outer walls. The remains of monastic buildings that survive include the east range, with the south and west ranges reduced to foundations only. The island is predominantly covered in mixed deciduous woodland, predominantly oak, ash, sycamore and silver birch. Some sweet chestnuts, dating from the late 17th century/early 18th century, are located at the southern end of the island.
Type of Site
Monastic island site.
Location and Setting
Inchmahome Island is on the Lake of Menteith which lies between the A873 and the B8034, to the east of Aberfoyle. Inchmahome is on the largest of the three islands on the Lake of Menteith and lies in the western part of the lake. There are views from the shore of the island to the mainland all around. The designed landscape is determined by the shore of the island.
Inchmahome Priory consists of a group of buildings, including the remains of the church, which has fairly intact upstanding outer walls. The remains of monastic buildings that survive include the east range, with the south and west ranges reduced to foundations only. The Chapter House with its barrel vaulted ceiling with seats all around is the most intact building. The main buildings are centred around the cloister. The domestic buildings are thought to be of later date than the church, and some foundations of the earlier buildings have been discovered.
The island is predominantly covered in mixed deciduous woodland, predominantly oak, ash, sycamore and silver birch. Some sweet chestnuts, dating from the late 17th century/early 18th century, are located at the southern end of the island. In the 19th century, some specimen conifers were planted in the vicinity of the ruined priory, including Douglas firs, and more latterly some cherries have been planted on the open area of grass near the landing stage. There is an understorey of hazel, particularly in the southern part of the island around the Nuns' Hill.
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The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:
Reason for Inclusion
The early gardens laid out around the abbey, which may date back to the 13th century, and the wider obvious designed planting on such a small island, make this a unique site. The picturesque associations with Mary Queen of Scots and the probability of high archaeological interest also boost the significance of the site.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
The priory was founded in 1238 and there would have been cultivation associated with that community. Planting indicates 17th and/or 18th century activity. There are picturesque associations with Mary Queen of Scots who stayed here for three weeks.
It has been historically recorded in several books that the island of Inchmahome was divided in half ' it still is by a stone dyke ' and that the southern part formed the gardens of the Earls of Menteith who resided on Inchtalla. Beside the western wall are some Sweet chestnuts, dating probably from the 17th century, or possibly the later 16th century. These have been recorded in many local histories of the area. According to William Macgregor one of the trees measured 18 feet in circumference in 1815. Forty years previously, 1775, when the trees were thinned a ring count showed the trees were 300 years old at that time, which means they dated from 1475. Other stories suggest that the seed was bought from Rome by the monks of the 14th century priory.
The south-western end of the island, said to be the gardens for the Earl of Menteith of Inchtalla, were apparently gardened until the middle of the 19th century, apparently leased to an Alexander M'Curtain said to have been 'a lineal descendant of the hereditary gardeners of the Earls of Menteith.' A John M'Keurtane was a Chamberlain to the Earl of Menteith at the end of the 17th century. Apparently, gooseberries, cherries, plums, pears, apples and Spanish Filberts were cultivated by Alexander M'Curtain. For a small fee he would ferry tourists across from the mainland and give them a guided tour of the island. Ramsay in his 'Scotland and Scotsmen in the 18th Century', says it was the M'Curtains who planted the trees shortly after the Restoration. There is still an understorey of hazel on the island, although not of any great age. There are daffodils in the spring, but many of these were put down in the 1930s as recorded by John Stewart in his book, Inchmahome and the Lake of Menteith, 1933.
There are also many associations with Mary Queen of Scots who spent three weeks on the island after the Battle of Pinkie. Queen Mary's Bower and Queen Mary's garden which is situated in the southern part of the island and the part traditionally known as the Earl of Menteith's garden, as described above. Queen Mary's Bower consists of a small mount at the southern end of a rectangular area bound by a dry stone dyke. The mount is planted around with box trees and form a bower. Apparently this boxwood came from nearby Cardross estate and was replanted by the gardener from that estate, having being grown on from cuttings from the original box. Tradition of course relates that the box was originally planted by the young princess herself which is unlikely as she was only four years old at the time.
Other named places include the Nuns' Hill and the Nuns' walk to which various stories are also attached. The Nuns' Walk is the name given to the track lined with sweet chestnut which delineates the land of the Earl of Menteith from that of the priory. The stories do not appear to have any historical truth behind them ' especially given the fact that there were no nuns at Inchmahome Priory.
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- Priory (featured building)
- Description: The remains of monastic buildings that survive include the east range, with the south and west ranges reduced to foundations only. The Chapter House with its barrel vaulted ceiling with seats all around is the most intact building.
- Earliest Date:
- Key Information