The combination of cathodoluminescence (CL) analysis, temperature and temperature-time calculations, and microstructural numerical modelling offers the possibility to derive the time-resolved evolution of a metamorphic rock. This combination of techniques is applied to a natural laboratory, namely the Ballachulish contact aureole, Scotland. Analysis of the Appin Quartzite reveals that the aureole was produced by two distinct magmatic events and infiltrated by associated fluids. Developing microstructures allow us to divide the aureole into three distinct regions. Region A (0-400 m, 663°C < T max < 714°C) exhibits a three-stage grain boundary migration (GBM) evolution associated with heating, fluid I and fluid II. GBM in region B (400-700 m, 630°C < T max < 663°C) is associated with fluid II only. Region C (>700 m of contact, T max < 630°C) is characterised by healed intragranular cracks. The combination of CL signature analysis and numerical modelling enables us to recognise whether grain size increase occurred mainly by surface energy-driven grain growth (GG) or strain-induced grain boundary migration (SIGBM). GG and SIGBM result in either straight bands strongly associated with present-day boundaries or highly curved irregular bands that often fill entire grains, respectively. At a temperature of ~620°C, evidence for GBM is observed in the initially dry, largely undeformed quartzite samples. At this temperature, evidence for GG is sparse, whereas at ~663°C, CL signatures typical for GG are commonplace. The grain boundary network approached energy equilibrium in samples that were at least 5 ka above 620°C.