Benedictine Monks, Icecream, and Art in a Bus

This post is about one of our proper days of fun where we just went where the spirit took us. We had to go into Inverness in the morning so we took the opportunity to go to Leakey’s Bookshop which is in Church Street and is the largest second hand bookshop in Scotland, with over a thousand books. It opened in 1979 and is housed in the old Gaelic Church building which has been in existence since 1793. It’s absolutely piled with books and has got a wood burning fire in the middle of the room. Upstairs there are comfortable seating areas and it’s just fabulous – I think we’ll be going back regularly now that we’ve found it.

We then headed east to Pluscarden Abbey which is somewhere we’ve been before and really love. When we got there Ken took Bramble for a walk before we went in and I love this picture as she was running full speed at me with her ears flying.

This stone wall near the entrance to the abbey grounds is being taken over by ivy and the large mound of ivy in the middle is a post – all along the fence there were these mounds of ivy showing where the posts were.

Lovely cottage opposite the entrance to the abbey grounds – obviously something to do with the abbey as it has crosses on each point of the building. The windows are really nice with their arches and patterns.

Old walls that you pass as you walk up the driveway.

The monastery at Pluscarden was founded in 1230 AD which is so long ago it’s really hard to comprehend, but as you walk around the site it’s quite easy to imagine the monastery in years past as everything is so simple there. The monks here are Benedictine monks but instead of the normal black habit they wear white. The reason for this is that the monks here at Pluscarden were originally from the Valliscaulian order but it was also inherited from the Prinknash community of monks.

There are 21 monks at Pluscarden and they start their day at 4:15am and spend their time in worship, silent prayer, and work around the abbey. When you visit you can sit in the laypersons section of the chapel and listen to monks doing their worship which is chanted in latin. It’s really beautiful to hear. So if you’re in the abbey grounds and hear the bell rung, make your way to the chapel as that is the signal to the monks for them to come together.

There are beautiful stained glass windows throughout the abbey.

I had to lean around a corner to take this one as it’s where the monks hold their worship so we weren’t allowed into this bit.

These are some old stone memorials that have been moved into the transept aisles for preservation rather than being outside in the elements. Great symbology on them – especially the two with the skulls as they both have an hourglass on them with a bell one side and what looks like a coffin the other.

Lovely old stone stairway leading to a door that takes the monks into their inner sanctums where the public aren’t allowed to enter.

Gorgeous tapestry hanging in the aisles.

As we were walking around outside we came across a cat door in one of the windows at chest height with a platform outside it and then another step to get down to the ground. After looking through the window we spotted a black and white cat who we found out was called Baxter, and after introducing ourselves to him he came out for a chat. He was a very handsome gentleman with only half a tail and very friendly, though took offence when I tried to pick him up. In the shop the monks have even made postcards of him and a calender which is lovely – I think he must have a very nice life with the monks in the abbey as in his room were lots of treats and grooming brushes.

Part of the orchard – there is a large vegetable garden and many fruit trees to help the monks be fairly self sufficient, though they do have to buy some food in. The only day that they eat meat is Sundays and the meals are quite simple.

Another view of part of the abbey.

You knew this was coming didn’t you – this is the abbey graveyard. It’s not just monks buried here, there are other people as well, but they all have the very simple wooden crosses.

The symbol for the abbey on the gate.

When we left the abbey we stopped at the nearby parish church to have a look at the graveyard but it turned out to be a bit modern for me, with the oldest graves being the early 1900’s. I did like this angel on one of the graves and the celtic cross below that.

Our next stop was the town of Lossiemouth which is on the coast and has a fabulously long beach.

We had lunch in the Smugglers Whiskey and Gin Bar which had a lovely virtual fire on the wall – made the place feel very cosy. There was also a mini whiskey still next to our table – very cute.

For dessert we went along the street to Miele’s for ice cream – I made a new friend outside the shop.

So many lovely flavours to choose from!! It took me a while but I finally settled for bubblegum and ferrero rocher – scrumpdillyicious!

This ice cream cake that was on display in their freezer looks so decadent – I can just picture me and Ken sitting with this and two spoons.

This bike had a very cute pillion passenger.

As we were leaving Lossiemouth we passed this bus, so of course we stopped to investigate. It had been at the day of culture in Forres for their festival and was on the way to the Western Isles. It’s a great idea, taking art to people in areas that maybe don’t have easy access to art galleries.

So there you have it, a classic day of fun that included all the perfect things needed for both of us – history, graveyards, good food, and unusual finds.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and have a really lovely week.

Pamela & Ken

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