St Mary’s Chapel Eskadale
The Catholic chapel of St Mary’s was built in a remote spot at Eskadale on the River Beauly in 1827, two years before the final emancipation of Roman Catholics. It is visited by hundreds of Frasers and Chisholms from across the world every year, drawn to their ancient clan homelands in Strathglass and the surrounding area.
The chapel was built by the Chief of the Clan Fraser, the 14th Lord Lovat, on a hillock on the south side of the river. With its dazzling whitewashed harling, it was built on a scale of grandeur unknown in the Highlands at the time.
There are two graveyards, one being the family burial place of the Frasers including Simon Fraser, the 25th clan chief of the Lovat Frasers, who led his special services brigade ashore during the Normany landings in 1944. Beside his grave are those of two of his sons who died almost exactly a year before him, both within ten days of each other.
A number of well-known names lie in the public graveyard including “The Chevalier” John Stuart Sobieski: one of two brothers reputed descendants of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (The Young Pretender).
There are also a number of priests buried here, two of whom, Father James Gordon (Beauly) and Father Angus MacKenzie (Eskadale) died from accidental poisoning. They had travelled to Dingwall for dinner and discussions regarding plans for a new chapel to be built in Dingwall. The servant who prepared the meal mistakenly gathered the roots of aconitum (deadly monkshood) for use in a radish sauce to accompany the roast beef.
In the trees west of the church is a stable where those who rode to Mass could leave their horses during the service. At one time parishioners from across the River Beauly would cross to Eskadale by the former ferry crossing at Aigas.
The passage of almost 200 years has seen structural problems develop threatening the future of the building. Major concerns include water penetration, exterior harling, interior plasterwork and timber frames inside the roof.
Heritage Lottery money has helped fund commission specialists to undertake vital survey work of the building but the restoration project has some way to go with a substantial amount of funding still required to restore the chapel to its former glory.
The Lovat family still own St Mary’s but a Trust established by the late Lord and Lady Lovat in 1991 now maintain the chapel. Mass is held at Eskadale once a month.
Fraser Family Burial Ground