Inchmahome Priory is a ruined monastic sanctuary located in an idyllic setting on an island in the lake at Port of Menteith, Stirlingshire. The historic attraction is managed by Historic Environment Scotland and is open to the public for self-guided tours.
Review of Inchmahome Priory
Inchmahome Priory is located on the largest of three islands on the Lake of Menteith, one of the few bodies of water in Scotland that’s referred to as a lake instead of a loch.
Although the priory is now in ruins it was once home to a community of Augustinian monks, and over the course of 300 years it has served as a sanctuary for many Scots including two of the nation’s most famous historical figures – Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots.
A visit to the island is accomplished via the ferry boats that regularly sail out of the Port of Menteith (a small village located on the banks of the lake), and once on Inchmahome you can explore this very pretty and quiet location to your heart’s content.
While the old buildings of the priory are partially collapsed it’s still an impressive place to wander around and I can only imagine what a peaceful life those yester-year monks must have had, although it probably wouldn’t have been quite so enjoyable in winter due to its isolation.
At least the monks could have enjoyed a wintry game on the shallow lake if they’d wanted – it’s been known to freeze up to 20cm thick and even in these days of global warming it can still freeze over enough to walk on, attracting droves of visitors to watch the impromptu games of curling that are played there.
Things to do at Inchmahome Priory
Although Inchmahome Priory is located on a fairly small island it’s big enough that you can spend several hours exploring it and there’s a fair amount of wildlife to keep an eye open for as well.
Visits to the island are only possible with the small ferry boats that transport tourists to and from it at regular intervals, and on a sunny day the short journey across the water is really quite enjoyable with lots of waterfowl to watch as the boat motors its way across the lake.
When you get to the island you’ll be in for a treat if the weather’s nice as it really is an oasis of tranquillity, and not only is there the ruined priory to explore but there’s also a thick woodland that surrounds it.
While there aren’t any paths as such there are several open clearings that have been trodden down by fellow visitors so you can venture quite deep into the woods, although HES do ask that you minimize noise so you don’t disturb the wildlife.
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There’s an abundance of wildflowers in spring and summer and even in the autumn it’s a lovely place, with the woodland changing from a deep and rich green into varied hues of brown and red.
Spring is possibly the nicest time to visit as you’ll see lots of birds making their nests on the island, but please be respectful and keep your distance from parents sitting on clutches of eggs.
The old priory is really just a collection of ruined walls, although some of the intricate carvings in the stonework can still be seen, and of course, as this is a Historic Environment Scotland site there are plenty of information panels dotted around so that you can learn about the priory’s history and the role it served as a religious sanctuary for over 300 years.
If you just want to enjoy the setting you’re in luck as there are a few benches thoughtfully installed in the grassy areas that are perfect for sitting in the sun with a good book. I honestly can’t think of a more peaceful reading location in all of Scotland.
The history of Inchmahome Priory
The priory was founded in 1238 by the Earl of Menteith, Walter Comyn, for an order of Black Canons who lived their lives on Inchmahome until the monastic orders began to decline in Scotland during the 16th-century.
While the island that the priory is situated on is the largest on the lake there are two others of a similar size that were owned by the Comyn family, one of which – Inch Talla, was home to the Comyn family estate.
Like many priories and monasteries in the 16th-century, Inchmahome gradually fell into decline after the Scottish Reformation as there were no new priests being ordained, and without having a purpose to serve it was no longer deemed worthy of maintenance and repairs.
As the walls of the priory began to give way the land was sold on several times, first to the Erskine family and then to the Duke of Montrose. Finally, in 1926 it was handed over to the nation as a site of historical importance and it’s now managed by Historic Environment Scotland.
If you’d like to visit another historic attraction in Scotland that’s off the usual tourist routes I highly recommend Crichton Castle in Midlothian, or if you’d prefer somewhere in the area you might like Ben Ledi, Bracklinn Falls, or Doune Castle.
- This is one attraction that’s virtually unspoilt by tourism and it’s almost silent apart from the waterfowl that live on the island.
- It’s an incredibly peaceful setting that has been left as it was when it was in use 300 years ago, although that means there are no facilities other than a few benches. The priory is an interesting ruin but to be honest the scenic island is the real star of the show.
- The boat trip to the island is enjoyable and it’s a nice wee bonus to your visit, plus it’s a great way to see wildfowl up close.
- Be aware the island is not open in winter so it’s best to check the Historic Environment Scotland website before setting off for the latest times.
- If it’s a warm day take a picnic – but remember to take your rubbish back home with you. There are a few spots that are ideal for a picnic outside the priory walls.
- Looking for an outdoors attraction after a visit to Inchmahome Priory? The Bracklinn Falls are just six miles away.
Port of Menteith,
Photo gallery and video
Things to do near Inchmahome Priory
- Blair Drummond Safari Park. Blair Drummond, Stirling FK9 4UR. 18-minute drive. Wildlife safari park that includes animal enclosures, a boating lake, a children’s play park and bird of prey displays. Briarlands Farm petting zoo is located behind the safari park.
- Doon Hill and Fairy Knowe. Aberfoyle FK8 3XF. 14-minute drive. A popular circular walking route in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park that is reputed to be home to fairies. The route passes woodland, open countryside and the River Forth.
- Bracklinn Falls. 17-minute drive. The forest surrounding Callander offer superb walks on rough paths that extend throughout the wooded area. The Bracklinn Falls are a series of natural waterfalls that can be seen both from the banks of the Allt a Choire Bhric river and there is a purpose-built wooden bridge in the heart of the forest.
- Lodge Forest Visitor Centre. Aberfoyle, Stirling FK8 3SX. 10-minute drive. A large visitor centre that is the starting point for a variety of walks into Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. The centre features a café, visitor information point, toilets and a car park.
- Loch Ard. Aberfoyle, Kinlochard FK8 3TL. 15-minute drive. Freshwater loch in the middle of the forest that is easily accessed via the B829. Loch Ard is frequently used by small sailboats and there is a footpath that allows walkers to explore the perimeter of the loch in around 2 hours.
More places to visit in Central Scotland
- The Scottish Deer Centre – Fife: Complete Visitor GuideSet in 55 acres of lovely Fife countryside, The Scottish Deer Centre is an animal conservation park that looks after 14 species of deer from around the world as well as wolves, otters, wildcats, and birds of prey.
- Scone Palace – Perthshire: Complete Visitor GuideScone Palace is widely recognised as one of the top tourist attractions in central Scotland, not only because It’s a genuinely interesting place to visit but also because it’s absolutely steeped in history.
- The Crieff Hydro – Perthshire: Complete Visitor GuideThe Crieff Hydro is a popular resort in the Perthshire countryside that offers a range of health-based activities as well as large grounds for walking and relaxation. The hotel boasts over 200 bedrooms and over 50 self-catering properties, as well as restaurants, cafes and bars.
- The Kelpies – Stirlingshire: Complete Visitor GuideThese equine marvels are Scotland’s celebration of a bygone era of horse-drawn barges that kept the nation’s industry going for well over a hundred years, and although Clydesdale’s (the breed of horse) are no longer a sight on the canals you can at least enjoy the spectacle of the world’s biggest horse sculptures when you go to visit them at Helix Park.