Dufftown To Old Aberdeen By Huntly, Rhynie, And Chapel Of Garioch

Dee, Don, And Spey

ROUTE LENGTH: 60 MILES

By Road

Take the B9014 from Dufftown to Keith. From there, the A96 will lead to Huntly. The A97 south will go to Rhynie. Following this, A944, turning left at Bridge of Alford to unnamed road, leading to the Chapel of Garioch. Afterwards, turn left at the end junction, onto an unnamed road, following south to Monymusk.

After Monymusk, to pass Kemnay, Inverurie and Kintor. Turn left onto B993. Then right (south) onto A96 to Aberdeen again.

By Public Transport

Take the 360 from Dufftown to Keith. You can take the train to Aberdeen from there, and get off at Huntly. Then you can either take the train to Aberdeen, or to visit Monymusk, get off at Inverurie, then take the 421 towards Alford and get off at Monymusk. Then to go to Aberdeen, take the 421 back to either Inverurie, taking the train to Aberdeen (possibly you can buy a ticket from Keith to Aberdeen and use it slowly over the course of the trip), or taking the 421 back but getting off at Kemnay and taking the 420 from there to Aberdeen.

To check times go to Traveline Scotland and click on Plan your Journey on left side of page.

By Public Transport
There is a railway station at Tyndrum. There is no moderately direct way of covering this stage by public transport. The options are to go by way of Glasgow and Perth, or by Rannoch and Pitlochry, taking around 5 hours. There is a bus to Crianlarich. If you can then get the 11 miles to Lix Toll (junction of the A85 and A827) you could catch the Callender to Killin service. There is a service from Killin to Aberfeldy twice a day on school days only.
To check times go to Traveline Scotland and click on Plan your Journey on left side of page.

Dufftown is a whisky town, though much older in origin than its distilleries. Half a mile south at Kirktown of Mortlach is the church and early monastic settlement of St Moluag of Lismore. There is an abundance of early remains here in and around the present church, and some have argued that this is the first centre of the Diocese of Aberdeen. Whatever the history, we know that we are standing on many layers of Christian heritage by the Dullan Burn. There is no fuss or bustle here in the rural north-east, but quiet depth and meaning.

The last leg of the journey will take us back to the River Don but first we go to Keith, where the oldest church, on the east bank of the River Isla, is dedicated to St Maelrubha of Applecross, later evolving to St Rufus, as Gaelic names became more unfamiliar. Keith is a handsome town, though rivalled by our next stopping place Huntly, capital of the Gordon country. The main feature here is the dominant castle with its rich heraldic ornament, some of which has been defaced to obliterate the older Roman Catholic imagery. As previously mentioned the Gordon Earls retained their traditional Catholic allegiance. George MacDonald, founder of modern fanstasy literature and inspirer of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, was born here, and also wrote touchingly about the social and spiritual life of north-east Scotland.

The route goes on south to Rhynie, nestling below Tap o’ Noth with its multiple ancient remains, including Clochmaloo, the Stone of Moluag. Cutting east towards Bennachie we proceed by Insch, Oyne and Chapel of Garioch. This has been a sacred landscape since prehistoric times, devoted to the Cailleach or Auld Mither, her giant offspring, and the maiden who is turned to stone escaping from the devil. The Maiden Stone is at the roadside going from Oyne to Garioch. Christian sites and dedications cluster round with the Church of the Virgin at Chapel of Garioch looking two miles to the Mither Tap or Pap of Bennachie. Insch’s dedication is to St Drostan.

Due south of Chapel of Garioch, in the Don Valley, is Monymusk where a Culdee monastery gave way to a medieval priory and then today’s superb church. The famous reliquary, the Brecbennoch of St Columba was kept here in medieval times. A jewelled casket, elaborately incised and inlaid with early Celtic deigns, the reliquary contained a bone of St Columba and was carried into battle by the Scottish army at Bannockburn. It is now has pride of place in the National Museum in Edinburgh. Like Mortlach, Monymusk is an atmospheric and many- layered location. One could travel much farther and see far less.

We follow the Don by the growing towns of Kemnay, Inverurie and Kintore back finally to Old Aberdeen at the mouth.

Returning to the sanctuary
Of town, and the lights,
By land and sea, we are
Weary but welcome.
Content to have filled this
Day with the presence of
All that is good, longlasting,
Precious and deep planted
In this native soil.

Pilgrim Journeys

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