People have been living in the area from 2000BC but most would trace the origins of the village back to the founding of the Priory in the early 13th Century. Mary Queen of Scots is said to have visited Beauly in 1564 and stayed overnight. Indeed the town’s name Beauly is credited to her reaction when she stayed her “c’est un beau lieu” – what a beautiful place. It’s probably more likely the name originates from the French monks who had another base in Hampshire in a place called Beaulieu.
The history of the village and surrounding area is inextricably linked to a number of the Scottish clans, most notably the Lovat Frasers. Their base was Beaufort Castle and they owned much of the land around the village. Indeed at one time they owned land from the west coast to the east coast of Scotland, although much of it, including the castle, has now been sold.
The current Lord Lovat is the great grandson of Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, who founded the Lovat Scouts in 1899 to fight in the Boer War. His grandfather, also Simon Fraser, was honoured for his bravery during the 2nd World War and is best remembered for his D-day landing with his piper prominently featured in the war movie The Longest Day. The Lovat Frasers have found fame more recently with the popularity worldwide of Outlander. The books and TV series may be fictional but they feature a number of genuine historical characters including Simon the Fox, one of the current Lord Lovat’s predecessors.
The Chisholms owned much of the land on the north side of the River Beauly from their base at Erchless Castle, while the Mackenzie clan ruled the land to the north of Beauly itself.
Some history may be more recent, but is still of interest. The Phipps Institute, our very grand “village hall” was gifted to Beauly by Mr Phipps who was the Company Secretary to Andrew Carnegie’s steel company and regularly rented out Beaufort Castle.
The village also played a role in the development of the magnificent hydro power schemes, some of which can be seen further up the glen towards Cannich. Hydro power transformed life in the Highlands in the 1940s and 50s, bringing electricity to even the remotest of glens. Many of the materials needed to build the dams arrived through Beauly, much of it by rail.