The west front is that of the building set apart for lodging guests, and is known as the Hospice. It is entered by a short covered bridge, crossing the moat at the site of the former drawbridge of the fort. Overshadowing the entrance is an ancient tree of huge bulk; it is a Norwegian elm, the solitary specimen of its kind in this part of the country. The tradition is that it was brought as a sapling with a cargo of timber from Norway, at the time of the erection of the fort in 1729.
The bastion which adjoins the Hospice, on the left hand side of the principal entrance, was allowed to remain for some years in its original condition. After the clearing away of the earth, which nearly filled it and protected the passage leading to the well—covered by a central building—the walls of the extensive area were roofed to form two large halls. One of these was fitted with a stage and scenery for dramatic performances, concerts, etc. by the students of the School ; the other was converted into a gymnasium. These halls were accidentally burned down in 1935, but a new theatre and gymnasium have been erected on the same site.
Although the Abbey itself is not open to all visitors indiscriminately, gentlemen are shown certain portions, if they desire it. Ladies are not admitted except to the Church, Abbey School, and to the reception-rooms of the Hospice. From the window of the chief of these they are able to obtain a general view of the quadrangle and cloisters. Entering the Hospice by the covered bridge already mentioned, the visitor finds himself in a narrow passage, lighted by small Gothic windows whose recesses are fitted with seats for the poor who are frequently found there, awaiting the food daily distributed to such applicants. Thence he passes into a lofty entrance hall from which ascends a flight of stairs to the upper rooms. In this hall stands a very fine model of the old Fort made by one of the Brothers of the community. Original drawings from the War Office were lent by the authorities for the construction of this model. This hall never formed part of the original fort ; the low round arch leading into the building was the chief entrance from the drawbridge. The passage vaulted with brick, which is entered through this arch, has on either side vaulted apartments which originally served as guardrooms, but have been converted into reception-rooms for visitors ; that on the left adjoins a low arch of brick—now leading to a private staircase— which traditions says formed part of the dungeon into which Lord Lovat was thrown after his capture in 1746.
A small vaulted room, situated near the door leading into the cloisters and entirely unlighted, was once occupied by the fire-engine belonging to the old fort. The Abbey had acquired in the course of time an exceptionally fine collection of relics of various saints of the Catholic Church—some of them the gift of Pope Leo XIII ; in the opinion of some of the artists of the community, this disused apartment suggested an ideal storehouse for these treasures. Accordingly the place was decorated by mural paintings after the style of the Roman Catacombs, the figures of the saints being modelled from members of the Fort Augustus community. The stone altar was designed and made in the Abbey, and the crucifix is inset with coloured pebbles brought from the Catholic Hebrides. This sanctuary is known as the Chapel of Holy Relics.