Scotland is known for its distilleries and castles, but who has thought of adding a monastery stay into their tour of Scotland? Staying at a monastery is a unique way to see a very different aspect of the country. The Pluscarden Abbey is a Catholic Benedictine monastery founded in 1230 that welcomes visitors to come and stay.
Not all monasteries are Christian, the Taktsang Monastery in Bhutan is one of the world's most iconic and one that only a few tourists get to see.
The Catholic Benedictine Pluscarden Abbey
The Pluscarden Abbey is stunningly situated in the glen of the Black Burn in north-eastern Scotland and offers peace and quiet to those coming for meditation and introspection. It is run by a community of Catholic Benedictine monks living in what is Britain's only medieval monastery still being used for its original purpose.
- Located: North East Scotland
- Setting: In The Glen Of The Black Burn
The atmosphere is one of quiet reflection while the setting is peaceful and secluded. As one visits the Abbey today one will immediately notice the beauty of the Abbey's architecture while soaking in the ideal atmosphere for rest and devotion. Meditate and listen as the monks sing "The Mass and full Divine Office" each day in the Abbey using the Gregorian Chant.
- Gregorian Chant: "The Mass and Full Divine Office" Is Chanted Each Day
What To Expect Staying At The Abbey
The Abbey has two guest houses - one for men and one for women. These are open to people of all faiths who seek to make a retreat to the monastery and share in with the monk's life of prayer and work of the community. Or even if people just want to rest and renew their focus on what is most important to them.
The Abbey says of the retreats that they offer - "A spiritual retreat is an opportunity to participate in the monastic life of prayer, reading, and work."
The 8 services of the Office and the daily Mass are open to all. There are books to read, and recorded talks to listen to, there is even spiritual counsel available with the guest master. All of this is to the peaceful backdrop of hills, moors, fields, and forests of Scotland.
- Sevices: The 8 Daily Services Are Open to All
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The monks say that hospitality is a keynote of the Old and the New Testaments with stories of Abraham entertaining strangers to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus entertaining Christ.
"I was a stranger, and you welcomed me" - Jesus (Quoted From The Monastery Website)
Men and Women's Accommodation
As this is a monastery with monks, there is gender separation and visitors should be aware of the rules and etiquette of what to expect going there.
- Separate: Men and Women Have Separate Accommodation
Women are hosted in a different venue just down the road in the St. Scholatica's Retreat. It is a self-contained building with 10 guest rooms with shared showers and bathrooms. Each room has a bed, table, wardrobe, and a washbasin.
- Women Hosted: In St. Scholica's Retreat Just Down the Road
Meals are self-catering although the basic foodstuffs like muesli, porridge, bread, milk, eggs, tea, coffee, and margarine are provided. The kitchen is equipped with the needed facilities to cook one's meal. If one wants ingredients other than that listed one should bring one's own supplies. The nearest shops and supermarkets are 6 miles away at Elgin.
- Women's Meals: Self-Catered
Men are accommodated separately. Whereas the women are a stroll down the road from the monk, the men are accommodated in the guest house adjacent to the Abbey. This St. Benedict's guest house has 12 guest rooms with the same facilities as the women's.
Men Hosted: By The Abbey
The second floor of the guest house has a common room for quiet reading or for talks. It also has a room that has been adapted for those with disabilities.
While there is a small kitchen where men can make snacks and meals, male guests share their lunch and dinner with the monks in the Refectory. Breakfasts meanwhile are shared with the monks in St. Benedict's.
- Men's Meals: Shared With The Monks
Work And Respect
It should be noted that this is a working Monastery and the monks have daily work and chores. It is expected that guests will help out with the manual work around the Abbey - both men and women are expected to share in with some of the monk's chores.
- Cost: Free (Donations Appreciated)
- Chores: Guests Are Expected to Help Out With Chores
One should also be aware that it is no party destination. Silence is generally observed in the Refectory, the Church, and other monastic areas. They also ask that guests make an effort to keep silent in their rooms so that they do not disturb the meditation and reflection of other guests seeking the atmosphere of the Abbey.
- Audio Equipment: Only to be Used with Earphones