Historic Churches Trail highlights Aberdeenshire's archaeological heritage

Coinciding with Scottish Archeology Month, Aberdeenshire Council has launched the latest of its archeology trails, this time exploring the area’s historic churches.

The Historic Churches Trail leaflet was launched at the medieval St Palladius Chapel at Auchenblae by Provost Bill Howatson, alongside representatives from VisitScotland and VisitAberdeenshire.

The new leaflet is the third in a trilogy of archaeology trails – previous editions in this popular series have explored Stone Circles and Pictish Stones, making it easier for people to experience the best of Aberdeenshire’s heritage.

The trail highlights 12 of the most interesting and accessible historic churches in Aberdeenshire, including St Mary’s Chapel, the last remnant of the medieval settlement of Rattray, granted Royal Burgh status by Mary, Queen of Scots in 1564.

A guide accompanying the trail focuses on the history and development of each site, such as Kinkell Church, near Inverurie, where a stone lies depicting the death of knight Gilbert de Greenlaw at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411.

At St Congan’s Church in Turriff, an unusual decorative stone displaying ten carved heads can be seen that is thought to have been part of the town’s medieval almshouse.

The recently restored Kincardine O’Neil Old Parish Church is home to a rare survival of a 14th century gothic doorway. The earliest record of the church, used by the community up until the 1860s, dates to 1330.

In Aberdeenshire, there are more than 140 historic churches and chapels no longer in ecclesiastical use, dating back to the 13th century. Dating from the 13th to the 19th Centuries, they offer a fascinating insight into the development of Aberdeenshire – its settlements, society, architecture and more.

The new Aberdeenshire Historic Churches Trail leaflet is available on Aberdeenshire Council’s website and paper copies are available from visitor information centres, public buildings and service points.

At the launch, Provost Bill Howatson said: “I’m pleased to be in a position to celebrate the launch of such a fantastic leaflet, which I hope will encourage people to get out and absorb the history Aberdeenshire has to offer.

“The sites in the Historic Churches trail leaflet really help inform us about our past and I think many people will enjoy visiting these sites.”

VisitScotland Regional Director, Jo Robinson, was at the launch and said: “This new guide is a fantastic tool for both visitors and locals - particularly those interested in learning more about the history of Aberdeenshire.

“In our Visitor Survey 2015/16, history and culture were a draw for more than a third of visitors to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and with so many interesting churches and chapels in this region, this guide will allow people to discover more about these fascinating buildings for themselves.

“VisitScotland works closely with communities and businesses to help showcase the hidden gems and local stories of each region, and Aberdeenshire’s cultural and religious heritage is extremely rich and diverse.”

VisitAberdeenshire’s Head of Tourism Development, Yvonne Cook, added: “There is a marked trend throughout Europe for touring routes and themed trails.

“The north east of Scotland has the infrastructure to respond to this growing interest thanks to a vast array of amazing visitor experiences and stunning scenic driving routes. The new church trail adds to the existing themed trails in Aberdeenshire and helps to give exposure to great visitor experiences and attractions in the region.”

September celebrates Scottish Archaeology Month and Scottish Civic Trust’s Doors Open Day, it is the perfect time to go out and explore the historic churches of Aberdeenshire.

You can access the Historic Churches Trail leaflet online at: http://bit.ly/HistoricChurches

Anyone following the Historic Churches Trail is encouraged to share their photos with us via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram by tagging Aberdeenshire Council or using the hashtag #Aberdeenshire