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1 Beauly Priory

Despite the Reformation, monks were allowed to stay on at some monasteries, and Beauly was one of them. They belonged to the little-known Valliscaulian order, which only had three monasteries in Britain, all in northern Scotland. The name Beauly means ‘beautiful place’ and when Mary visited in 1564 she is said to have agreed with that assessment.

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2 Balvenie Castle

When Mary visited Balvenie in September 1562, it was the main residence of John Stewart, 4th Earl of Atholl, one of her closest and most loyal Catholic allies. (Despite his name, he was only a very distant cousin.) He was the man who commissioned the Atholl Lodging, still Balvenie’s finest feature, and Mary very likely stayed in one of its grander bedchambers.

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3 Spynie Palace

The Bishop of Moray was Mary’s host at the northernmost port of call on her northern tour in 1562. Observers criticised the bishop for his lifestyle: he lived in great luxury and had at least 13 children by various mistresses. Mary was not unduly concerned: she was busy brooding about the Earl of Huntly, an eccentric local magnate who had wronged her. The following month Huntly died, suffering a seizure while in battle against her forces.

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