The Preservation Society wants to see Lindores Abbey flourish again as a site for research, learning, brewing, distilling, horticulture, and beekeeping by reviving so many of the ancient crafts and traditions that were practised here centuries ago.
Standing amid the ivy-clad ruins of Lindores Abbey, it’s possible to imagine the day, when in 1298, a battle-wearied William Wallace and his men strode through the east gate fresh from a skirmish with the Earl of Pembroke’s men at the nearby Battle of Blackearnside, and refreshed themselves with water from the Holy Burn. The ruins are also a visible reminder of the day Lindores Abbey, built in 1191, came to an abrupt end in 1559 when a rabble roused by John Knox’s distinctive brand of religious intolerance “overthrew the altars, broke up statues, burned the books and vestments and made them cast aside their monkish habits”. The local villagers then used many of the Abbey's stones to build their own houses and the Abbey slowly became the ruins that you see today, with all its secrets and stories forgotten.
Over 100 years ago, the McKenzie Smith family bought the Abbey and farmed the local land. In 2017 the latest Custodian, Drew McKenzie Smith, opened Lindores Abbey Distillery on farmland opposite the ruins, with the intention of restoring and preserving the Abbey and reinstating the heritage orchards and extensive gardens which were first introduced here by the Tironensian monks following their arrival in the 12th Century.
You can help us to further continue this work by becoming a member of Lindores Abbey Distillery. A part of every membership is donated to the Preservation Society to help us preserve and continue the traditions that were established here over 500 years ago.
We have many exciting future plans such as developing a Herbarium or Medicinal Garden – bursting with the plants and flowers that the monks of Lindors believed had healing properties. For the modern visitor this garden will provide a place of reflection and a fantastic sensory experience.
We also hope to build a Classroom or meeting room/dining pod – that can be hired out for events or for use by the local community.
Plans for a Donors Wall that can be incorporated into the landscaping are being looked at, also allowing for seating/benches and a picnic area, which can be used by visitors.
Our biggest plans are to create a whole Visitor Experience for the whisky pilgrim, with mock ups of how the site may have looked on information boards, and using VR headsets and audio tours to reconstruct what the Abbey and its buildings and estate may have looked like. We would love to use augmented reality so that visitors could, for example, being able to talk to a monk, or stand on site and using their mobile phone to view the abbey and brewing areas.
The most pressing concern is to protect the original still site and create a way for the visitors to be able to view the still area, and learn all about how it would have been used, without damaging it and preserving it for future generations.
Throughout the build of the distillery we had to do a great deal of archaeological work to ensure that we were not going disrupt anything under the soil. A very thorough dig took place and we were delighted that for the first time in over 500 years we had a far greater understanding of the layout of the Abbey as we uncovered several walls that no one knew existed. The findings were meticulously recorded, and we filled in the trenches with sand to preserve the walls for a further 500 years.
Without further exploration we cannot definitively say what was being distilled and why but the well-known 1494 reference certainly indicates that distilling was being practised at Lindores on a semi-industrial scale.
NEW TRADITIONS FOR A NEW ERA
As well as restoring so many ancient practices, we are also hoping to start some traditions of our own.
After an absence of over 500 years, in 2018 we introduced bees back to Lindores Abbey with 6 hives having been set up by the Holy Burn. We will use the honey in several ways, one idea being to use it as a natural sweetener in our Aqua Vitae. “One idea being to use it as a natural sweetener in our Aqua Vitae”
Our chief beekeeper is Charley Clark, who is only seventeen but has already picked up extensive knowledge and is a now a member of the Fife bee-keeping association and the work she is carrying out here is forming part of her baccalaureate studies. Charley has a blog for anyone keen to follow the progress of project ‘Bee’.
Tim, our Apothecary, is always experimenting with many of the wild flowers and herbs that grow around the Abbey and we hope to produce drinks and cordials from these in the years to come.
PRESERVING THE ABBEY
One restoration task that happens almost continually is to tackle the ivy that is slowly taking over the ruins. From Drew’s Grandfathers day the family have been maintaining the ivy and cutting it back but this is a huge and laborious process that requires careful advice from Historic Scotland as over the centuries the stone and the ivy have become interdependent and if the ivy was killed off, the walls would crumble.
We carefully remove the ivy every year and attempt to stop the encroachment, but as any gardener knows, ivy is stubborn stuff and it is a full time job!
THE BEAR BURNING
On the hill overlooking our stillhouse, you will see a bear holding a ragged staff, burnt into the ground. Each year we burn this outline into the ground to remind ourselves of the importance of our past and to toast the coming year’s distillate.
The bear and ragged staff was carved into the hill to commemorate the links between the Earl of Warwick and the first Abbot of Lindores Abbey, Guido who was a cadet of the Earl. The lighting of the bear is a truly spectacular sight and the ancient wee town of Newburgh comes to a standstill to witness it.
We host a fantastic Ceremony and Ceilidh with welcome drinks, delicious food and a dram of Aqua Vitae for during the ceremony, and 1494 Members get 2 Free tickets per member every year.