Kinloss Abbey

Written by Chris Thornton | 25th of June 2021
Castles / Ruins Moray Religious
Kinloss Abbey

Coming from an RAF family, I always used to visit my grandparents in Kinloss. My grandfather worked as an armourer at RAF Kinloss, and I have many memories of being in the car and passing the ruins of Kinloss Abbey.

Kinloss

Kinloss is a small village in Moray, Scotland just south of Findhorn Bay and about 3 miles from Findhorn itself. Kinloss is home to Kinloss Barracks, an army base, the base was RAF Kinloss until it was transferred to the British army in 2012. The Royal Engineers army unit is based at Kinloss Barracks. Kinloss is also near the larger settlement of Forres to the south.

Kinloss Abbey Ruin

The ruin is quite impressive, with many parts of the Abbey still existing, and many of the ruined monastic buildings at the Abbey still viewable. There is a graveyard at the Abbey, so it is a strange mix of graves and ruinous buildings... it's hard to imagine the old layout of the Abbey based on the remaining ruins.  The Abbey and site is currently maintained by Kinloss Abbey Trust.

There are some impressive stone masonry examples at Kinloss Abbey, my favourite being this ceiling in an interior area.

Kinloss Abbey interior ceiling detail

The key buildings/areas in the Abbey were:

The Nave, North Transept, South Transept, Sacristy, Chapter House, Workshops, Abbots Hall, Warming room, Refectory, Kitchen, Cellars, Cloister.

The biggest part of the Abbey still surviving today is the south transept along with the attached sacristy of the abbey church.

Info board from Kinloss Abbey
Artists mock up from the information board.

Kinloss Abbey History

Monks from Melrose Abbey and King David

Kinloss Abbey was founded in 1150 by King David I (famously coming to him in a dream) and first colonised by monks from Melrose Abbey. From an initial 12 monks (often called "White Monks" due to their grey or white habit), Kinloss Abbey became more wealthy as more lands were granted to the Abbot by King David I and the monarchy over the next 100 years.

The abbey received its Papal Bull from Pope Alexander III in 1174 and later came under the protection of the Bishop of Moray in 1187. It went on to become one of Scotland's largest and wealthiest religious houses in Scotland. Eventually, the timber buildings were replaced with new stone constructions worthy of their status.

Arch detail
Arch detail.

In the mid 13th century the Abbey was destroyed by fire and rebuild in the Cistercian Abbey Monastery-style more common with other Abbeys in Yorkshire, England.

In the 14th century, Robert the Bruce granted salmon fishing rights from the River Findhorn to the Abbey which further cemented the riches of Kinloss Abbey.

Royal visitors to the abbey include Edward I in 1303, Edward III in 1337, and Mary Queen of Scots in 1562.

Info board from Kinloss Abbey

During the Reformation (Scotland breaking away from the Papacy in 1560) the Abbey was ended and Edward Bruce received the estates. Kinloss then went on to be sold to Alexander Brodie of Lethan in 1643. Ironically the Abbey was partly dismantled to build Inverness Citadel in 1650 - a military fort, a building of peace transformed into a building of war.

Arch detail
Arch detail.

Abbots at Kinloss Abbey

The Abbot, meaning Father was the head monk at the Abbey. 24 Abbot's had a tenure at the Abbey, but the most renowned was Robert Reid appointed Abbot in 1528. Known for boosting education in the area by building a library and other buildings such as barns, a malthouse, and a dovecot.

Robert Reid went on to become Bishop of Orkney in 1541. Following his death in 1558, substantial funds from his estate were used in the founding of Edinburgh University - Founder and benefactor of Edinburgh University is not a bad claim to fame!

Abbot Reid's ruinous house still exists as seen in the following image.

Info board from Kinloss Abbey
War Graves with Abbot's House remains in the background of the burial ground. Photo by John Luckwell

War Memorial

The remains of the abbey are now located within a graveyard under the care of the local authority. There are 141 CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) graves within the graveyard, and they are beautifully maintained by the Kinloss Abbey Trust.

Where is Kinloss Abbey located?

Turning off the A96 from either direction to Kinloss on "Kinloss Road", the Abbey can be seen on the left through fields to the west. Turn left from Kinloss road to B9089 and look out for the brown tourist sign for Kinloss Abbey. Follow this road until you get to the cemetery/Abbey.

How much does Kinloss Abbey cost?

Entrance is free, a donation would be gratefully received by Kinloss Abbey Trust.

What other castles/ruins can I visit near Kinloss Abbey?

Elgin Cathedral, Duffus Castle, Spynie Palace, Rait Castle, Cawdor Castle, Brodie Castle, Fort George and Pluscarden Abbey (still inhabited by Monks) are all well worth a visit. Also visit Sueno's Stone in Forres, a large Pictish carved monolith, and Nelsons Tower - a monument to Admiral Lord Nelson.  Clava Cairns is a fantastic site located about 22 miles to the west, it contains 4000 year old burial mounds and standing stone circles.

Map of Kinloss Abbey location

Share this article