Chapel of St. Lesmo, Glen Tanar, Scotland

Chapel of St. Lesmo

Chapel of St. Lesmo, Glen Tanar, Scotland

Whenever I come across an old chapel on one of our walks in the country, I want to stop for a while. Sometimes I lag behind my family while I circle a church, and if I really want to get behind, I walk all the way inside.

The Chapel of St. Lesmo is usually closed up, but there is an information sign welcoming hillwalkers to wander the graveyard. Some of the materials used to build the chapel in 1872 were 400 years old. Granite blocks from the ruins of another building were stacked together with small pebbles in the mortar in between, which I later learned is called “cherry-cocking.”

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Chapel of St Lesmo, Glen Tanar, Scotland” type=”image” alt=”DSCF0234.JPG” ]

I wandered through the courtyard, and found the dedictation to St. Lesmo, a hermit who lived in the area 1000 years ago for whom this chapel was named.

The groundskeeper was clearing leaves out of the churchyard when we happened by, and he told me that he likes to unlock the chapel when he is there working so that people who are passing by can visit.

They no longer have services in the chapel, but is still used for weddings. Small ones. The space only holds seventy people, but more can come to up to the ballroom for the reception at “The Big House.”

On wedding days, the party walks from the chapel to the reception across the valley and over “a wee bridge,” with the piper at lead.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Chapel of St. Lesmo, Glen Tanar, Scotland” type=”image” alt=”DSCF0236.JPG” ]

I learned all this from the groundskeeper, who says there are about 20 weddings a year. Also, he told me that the animal skins covering the benches are from local red deer. They were meant to keep the churchgoers warm as the old building has no heat source, “You know back then,” he says, “services would go for nearly three hours.”

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Chapel of St Lesmo, Glen Tanar, Scotland” type=”image” alt=”DSCF0238.JPG” ]

All the wooden beams came from pine trees on the surrounding estate. (Glen Tanar) And the altar stone was brought up from the River Dee.

I thanked the groundskeeper for letting me in, and for telling me a little about the beautiful old chapel.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Chapel of St Lesmo, Glen Tanar, Scotland” type=”image” alt=”DSCF0239.JPG” ]

While I walked I imagined what a merry party it would be to follow a bride and groom from the church to the ballroom. I wondered if we returned to walk at Glen Tanar again in the summer if we might catch a glimpse of a wedding or hear the bagpipes in the field.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Chapel of St Lesmo, Glen Tanar, Scotland” type=”image” alt=”DSCF0241.JPG” ]

I also found myself wondering about the hermit for whom the church was named, St. Lesmo. I looked him up and could only find that he was a Holy Hermit. We walked for five miles in the surrounding woods, up and down the Dee Riverside, over ancient bridges and through fields of sheep.

What would it be like to live out here all alone, to know this landscape like the back of your hand, for every bend in the river to be familiar? To live with no sounds but the water running and the leaves blowing? To have no one to talk to but God? And maybe the sheep?

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Chapel of St Lesmo, Glen Tanar, Scotland” type=”image” alt=”DSCF0242.JPG” ]

Though I still know very little about him, I very much admire his choice of home. If you’re going to be a hermit in the outdoors, I cannot imagine a much better dwelling than the Highlands.


  1. Sounds positively enchanting.

    1. I know you would love it Suzy!! I hope you get to visit one day.

  2. Wonderful! I would love to see this place.

    1. Put it on your list for sure. 🙂 You could think of someone who should get married there and try to talk them into it. Not that I have been doing that. Not. At. All.

  3. Ooooh, you got to have a peek inside!! Looks amazing!! It would be so fun to happen upon a wedding one day!!

    1. Right? I’m really hoping to attend a Scottish wedding sometime in the next three years!

  4. How does one become a Holy Hermit? Because that sounds like a career move I could get behind. Especially if I got to live all alone in that beautiful setting.

  5. […] when I am quiet but for the crunch of the leaves under my feet or inside an old empty church. When it is Christmas and I will not hear her voice singing Silent Night, slightly off key. This is […]

  6. […] Miraculously, I actually had a friend visit during this dark season, so one day we made the most of what we had to work with and took off to Royal Deeside for a walk in Glen Tanar. […]

  7. […] PS. Aboyne, Scotland is a super lovey little town in Royal Deeside (west of Aberdeen in the Highlands). You can find the walk we did at Walk Highlands, and if you find yourself in need of a cup of tea after a wet, cold walk, I highly recommend stopping in the Black Faced Sheep in Aboyne, Scotland before you head on your merry way. Another really charming spot for walking in this area is Glen Tanar. […]

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