Kinloss Abbey-The Ruins of an Old Cistercian Monastery

It was late afternoon, and Mr. C and I were on our way back to our cabin in Farr, tired from a full day of exploring sites in the Moray region of Scotland. We were driving on the B9089 through the village of Kinloss when I suddenly spotted some intriguing looking ruins out my window. I shouldn’t have been surprised – it is Scotland after all. You can’t drive five miles without coming upon some treasure or another (you think I jest). I had Mr. C turn the car around, and though we were worn out from our long day of adventuring, we ended up spending another hour or so happily exploring what turned out to be the fantastic ruins of Kinloss Abbey.

An arched ceiling and stonework inside Kinloss Abbey.
Vaulting in the upper floor of Kinloss Abbey.
Vaulting in the upper floor.

We learned that Kinloss Abbey was a Cistercian monastery founded by King David I. One of medieval Scotland’s faithful monastic patrons, it was David who first introduced the Cistercian Order to the country in 1136 with the establishment of Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders. It was from Melrose that an Abbot and twelve monks were sent to Kinloss in 1150 to colonize King David’s newest religious establishment.

Kinloss Abbey ruins and old falling down gravestones.
An intact doorway arch at Kinloss Abbey.
A window at Kinloss Abbey.
Kinloss Abbey ruins.

According to the tradition of Kinloss Abbey:

“The king, while engaged on a hunting expedition, lost his way in a thick wood; and while in extremity, and in answer to his prayers, he received the guidance of a white dove.

By following the dove he was led to an open spot, where he found two shepherds tending their flocks. From these he received food and shelter.

During the night he was warned, in a dream, that he should erect a chapel in honour of the Blessed Virgin, by whose ready aid he had been preserved.

On rising from sleep, and recalling his dream, he resolved to act on it, and, drawing his sword, he marked out on the ground the lines of the chapel that he vowed to erect.

The King then went to the castle at Duffus, accompanied by his nobles; and after communicating to them his vision and consequent vow, he called the architects and masons engaged on royal works in various places, in order that the foundation of Kinloss might forthwith be proceeded with.

To secure the uninterrupted progress of the work, the King remained during the summer at Duffus.

When he was called away by other affairs before the completion of the Abbey, he sent to Melrose for a monk, whom he set in charge over his builders and the rising monastery, of which he was afterwards made the first Abbot.”    –

An arched door frame inside Kinloss Abbey.

During its tenure, Kinloss Abbey was gifted vast amounts of land from the King and succeeding monarchs and eventually became one of the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful Cistercian monasteries in Scotland. It continued in its position of power for over four hundred years until 1560, when Protestantism replaced Catholicism as the religion of the land.

An artist's rendering of how Kinloss Abbey may have looked.
An artist’s rendering of how Kinloss would have looked.

One of the abbey’s most well-known Abbots was a fellow named Robert Reid, who is credited with establishing an organized educational system into the area. He became Bishop of Orkney in 1541, and upon his death, his estate was bequeathed to the founding of Edinburgh University in 1583! How neat is that?!

The Abbott's House ruins at Kinloss Abbey.
The Abbot’s House (not accessible).
Who were the Cistercians?

“Cistercian, byname White Monk or Bernardine, member of a Roman Catholic monastic order that was founded in 1098 and named after the original establishment at Citeaux (Latin: Cistercium), a locality in Burgundy, near Dijon, France. The order’s founders, led by St. Robert of Molesme, were a group of Benedictine monks from the abbey of Molesme who were dissatisfied with the relaxed observance of their abbey and desired to live a solitary life under the guidance of the strictest interpretation of the Rule of St. Benedict.”   –Encyclopedia Britannica

A room with an arch and window at Kinloss Abbey.
A tomb inside Kinloss Abbey.
A tomb.

The burial grounds at Kinloss Abbey are currently under the care of the local authority. Some of the tombstones date back to the 17th century.

Old gravestones in the yard at Kinloss Abbey.
An old grave marker that contains a hand holding a scroll.
A tall Celtic cross grave marker.

Along with the weathered and worn tombstones from centuries past, there is large section that is dedicated to those who lost their lives in the World Wars. It was sad looking at these. Many of the dead had been mere boys. So many young, promising lives lost too soon.

Kinloss Abbey ruins and rows of World War II gravestones.

“There was a Royal Air Force Training Station at Kinloss aerodrome during the 1939-1945 War. During the early part of the 1939-1945 War a special plot was set aside for service war burials, and all but three of the war graves are in this plot. Elsewhere in the burial ground there is one 1914-1918 War grave. A Cross of Sacrifice is erected at the far end of the plot overlooking the graves.”  (The Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

A large white cross overlooking World War II gravestones.
A Cross of Sacrifice stands over the fallen.

To the casual observer, Kinloss Abbey might look like just another dilapidated church ruin. But to the keen observer, treasures abound. It is well worth the stop.

An arched doorway at Kinloss Abbey and a headless angel grave marker.
A headless angel on a tomb at Kinloss Abbey.
A skull and face carvings over a doorway at Kinloss Abbey.
Purple flowers in front of Kinloss Abbey ruin.

Thank you so much for stopping by today, dear reader. I really appreciate you.

Have a wonderful week ahead. (And if you live here in the U.S., don’t forget to get those turkey’s a’thawin!’)


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