Urquhart lies some four miles east of Elgin and a mile north of Lhanbryde and the main A96. Being slightly off any through routes, you need to make an effort to get here, but the pretty little village you find is worth it.
Urquhart's origins lay in a priory founded here in 1125 by King David I. However, in 1454 the Benedictines abandoned Urquhart Priory, moving instead to Pluscarden Abbey, south west of Elgin, after the merger of the two had been agreed by the Pope.
The impact of this on Pluscarden was very positive, but the merger led to the rapid disappearance of Urquhart Priory. As early as the end of the 1700s it was recorded that the partial ruins could only be found with difficulty in a hollow north east of the church of the day, whose own location is now only shown by the graveyard on the south side of the village. The only sign of the priory today is a carved cross built into the wall of the Church Hall.
More recent church buildings have also seen change. The Old Church of Urquhart, built in 1843 a little to the north of the village and, unusually, aligned north-south, now serves as a Bed and Breakfast. Meanwhile, the Free Kirk in the centre of the village has been converted for residential use.
In 1884 Urquhart saw the building of a railway station on the newly opened line from Elgin to Buckie, over the Spey Bridge south of Spey Bay. This made Urquhart a more attractive place to live for people working elsewhere along the line, especially in Elgin. The entire railway line was closed in 1968, though the River Spey Bridge remains in use as a footbridge.
Old photos of Urquhart, taken as late as the mid 1950s, reveal a village in which many cottages were thatched. The thatched roofs have all given way to slates now, but this remains an extremely attractive village complete with a few local services including the village pub, the Royal Oak.
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