Restored Royal Deeside scheduled monument and artefacts collection unveiled by Provost

The wraps have come off a major £250,000 restoration project in the heart of Royal Deeside.

Tullich Kirk - a nationally-important Scheduled Monument to the east of Ballater - has been undergoing a sensitive repair and consolidation led by Aberdeenshire Council with support from the North East Preservation Trust (NESPT).

The works have been made possible thanks to funding from Aberdeenshire Council, Cairngorm LEADER, Heritage Lottery Fund, Wolfson Foundation and Historic Environment Scotland without whom the project would not be possible.

It was officially re-opened by Aberdeenshire Provost Bill Howatson at a private ceremony on Friday, November 1.

Tullich is an important early Christian site close to the River Dee and in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park, with a rich history stretching back to the 4th Century AD
It was originally one of the main settlements in the area but was moved to the new planned village of Ballater located at an established crossing of the Dee.

Tullich Kirk was home to an important collection of carved symbol stones, including a class-1 Pictish stone and font. 

These were removed in the 1990s for safe keeping and conservation but are now to be returned to a new purpose-built display shelter at the church after a community-led decision.
As part of the £250,000 heritage project, the historic church, largely dated to the 15th Century has been consolidated and repaired.

LDN Architects were appointed to develop a scheme of repairs for the church and also to design a contemporary display for the symbol stones which was installed by Andrew Cowie Construction Ltd.
Local stonemason Stewart Urquhart was engaged as a specialist contractor capable of the sensitive work at the kirk and also delivered training courses in lime pointing and hard hat tours of the site.

Professor Jane Geddes - an authority on the Picts – also took participants on a tour of the site, while Professor Gordon Walkden gave a fascinating talk on the geology of Deeside. 

The project aimed to deliver two unique visitor attractions to Ballater’s including both the display of the stones in the town's station and the display at Tullich Church itself linked by a short and enjoyable walk along the Deeside line.

Cheryl Roberts of Aberdeenshire Council's Built Heritage team said: "A number of new finds were identified as part of the project and the council is currently in negotiation with Historic Environment Scotland to decide how best to record, conserve and display these important artefacts to ensure their part in Tullich’s rich story is recognised, protected an promoted."

The conservation works to the carved symbol stones collection have been carried out by specialists KK Art and Conservation and supported by Harper and Allan Masonry Ltd. 
During the works the stones have also been scanned to create a permanent record of the collection.

Very detailed recording of the church was also undertaken prior to the works being carried out. Including laser scanning of the church as well as more traditional survey techniques. 
Detail on this can be found at http://www.aocarchaeology.com/key-projects/tullichchurch/

Ms Roberts continued: "As part of the wider project we wish to encourage the use of the Deeside Way to gain access to the site from the Ballater direction. 

"To aid this we have improved the access from the site to the Deeside Way by the implementation of an access ramp and safe field crossing. 

"We have also designed and implemented bespoke traditional and tactile interpretation to enhance visitors experience and understanding of the site."

Chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, and Cairngorms National Park Authority board member, Councillor Peter Argyle, said: “I am hugely-impressed with the high-quality of the work and attention to detail which has gone into the sensitive repair and upgrading of Tullich Kirk and its carved stones.

“Deeside has a fascinating history, with settlements dating back thousands of years and many of the visitors who come here want to be able to see and feel connections with the past.
“This project will enable future generations to come and appreciate the rich history of our ancestors in this area, what life may have been like for them and what was important to them.”