Kirriemuir To Stonehaven By Forfar, Aberlemno And Brechin

Angus Coast And Glens

ROUTE LENGTH: 49 MILES

By Road

From Kirriemuir, take Brechin Road (the B957), and drive to the cross roads 3 miles from Kirriemuir,with ‘Forfar 4’ signed to the right. Turn onto this road, and at this road’s end, turn right onto theB9128, which leads to Forfar. From Forfar, take Montrose Road (B9113), which leads to Restenneth Priory. From there, continue but take the next left, then turn right onto B9134, into Aberlemno and its stones (closed October- March). The road leads into Brechin, and its cathedral accessible by Channonry Wynd (open 9am- 5pm daily, except Sunday Service at 10.30-11.30).

Take the B966 north of Brechin to Edzell. Here turn left onto Lethnot Road which leads to castle and the Old Church. Return to Edzell, then take the B966 north (a left turning). To reach the Green Cairn or Finella’Castle, follow B966 to Fettercairn, but the hillfort’s remains will be on the right at Thornyhill, shortlybefore reaching Fettercairn. Follow B966 to Auchenblane, turning left onto the road to the village, The Waters. The parish churchis on the left.

Afterwards, return along The Waters and turn left (east) and continue along the B966, before joining the A90 turning left, and continuing to Stonehaven by the A957.

By Cycle

From the parish church, on Kirk Wynd, ride east along Marywell Brae. At the crossing onto Marywell Gardens, turn right, then left onto Whitelums Road, crossing the Gairie Burn. Follow Whitelums Rd right at the split, before turning left at its end, onto Forfar Road (A926). Keep following this road to the roundabout near the A90, take the first left, the road over the dual carriageway, then the firstleft at the second roundabout and follow to Forfar, turning right at the road’s end into the town.Continue past both roundabouts in town, then left onto East High Street, where the parish church is. Continue along the road, and turn left onto Montrose Road, and you will pass the Lowson Memorial Church too. Follow this road further east to reach Restenneth Priory.

From Restenneth cycle along B9113, but take the next left. Then take the right at the road’s end(onto B9134), which will pass into Aberlemno. The stones are accessible on a road to the right – but please not that from October to March the stones are covered in wooden boxes for their protection. Follow the road to Brechin; you will take a right onto Channonry Wynd and meet the cathedral and its round tower. It is open daily 9am – 5pm, except for Sunday worship (10.30-11.30).

To reach Edzell, take Clerk Street from the cathedral to the roundabout and continue straight ontoTrinity Road (B966). Follow north to Edzell. In Edzell, take a left at the town’s end onto LEthnot Road. You will pass the castle, and then come to the abandoned old church on the left side of the road. Return to Edzell, then take the B966 north (a left turning). To reach the Green Cairn or Finella’Castle, follow B966 to Fettercairn, but the hillfort’s remains will be on the right at Thornyhill, shortlybefore reaching Fettercairn. Follow B966 beyond Fettercairn to Auchenblane, turning left onto the road to the village, The Waters. The parish church is on the left.

Afterwards, return along The Waters and turn left (east) and continue along the B966, before joining the A90 turning left, and continuing to Stonehaven by the A957.

By Foot

To walk this entire leg will take about seventeen hours so it is recommended that you walk some of it only, or stay along the way.

By Public Transport

The numbers 20, 20B, 20C & 21 travel from Kirriemuir to Brechin and Forfar. The 24, 29 & 29A travel between Brechin and Stonehaven.

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

From Kirriemuir to Forfar is a short hop for anyone but a local, as rivalries were once intense. Forfar is the county town and wears its status openly with some fine architecture, including the churches. The old parish kirk is on its original site in East High Street, while the Lowson Memorial Church is almost a cathedral. However to catch the early atmosphere of Christianity here we need to go a little further east to peaceful Restenneth Priory. Here St Boniface baptised Nechtan King of the Picts close to the site of his epoch making victory over the Anglo-Saxons to the south at Dunnichen. This was one of the many occasions when, had Nechatn lost the battle, there might never have been a Scotland. Later St Margaret supported the Celtic Church of Restenneth, and it became in due course a medieval priory.

Turning left beyond the priory we join the Aberlemno road passing the prehistoric fort on Finavon Hill. Here the Picts held powerful sway as is demonstrated by the four Aberlemno stones, three at the roadside and one in the churchyard. If any Pictish superlatives had survived they would be in order now as these stones display the ‘mysterious’ symbols, hunting scenes, angels and the crosses that are like the full page of an illuminated manuscript.

Next we continue to Brechin which is as perfect a little cathedral town as Britain possesses, with its medieval form largely intact. But before the medieval cathedral Brechin was a Celtic or Culdee monastery as the striking Irish style round tower shows. Here Pictish patronage and Irish devotion met. The interior displays aspects of all these phases in surviving features and helpful interpretation. Brechin is the pilgrimage centre of Angus and the Mearns and is gradually reawakening to that role. The Cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Trinity.

We go north next to Edzell where the castle with its fine renaissance ornamentation and the old church of St Laurence lie west of the modern village at the mouth of Glen Lethnot. Due north of Edzell itself is the more major Glen Esk, last of the Angus Glens, which was a centre of Episcopal loyalties. In consequence the old chapel in the glen was burned after the 1745 Jacobite Rising, but later rebuilt on lower ground. St Drostan was missionary of the glen which reaches deep into the Grampians.

Our main route continues to Fettercairn but again the main action here is a little out of the present attractive village. Going north towards the Cairn O Mount Pass, Dunfothir Hill Fort rises at the west end of Strathfinella. This was an ancient Pictish fortress associated with the Celtic Mormaers or Earls of Angus. Finella, a real life lady Macbeth, murdered King Kenneth here in revenge for the death of her son. In due course this fortress was moved southeast to Kincardine Castle, of which little now remains, yet it too was a mighty Pictish and later royal stronghold which gave its name to the later county of Kincardineshire. There was a Chapel of St Catherine at the castle.

Geography is critical here as the Howe of the Mearns narrows to the Mounth separating the Mearns from the Aberdeenshire lowlands. The old church of Fordoun, now confusingly in Auchenblae on a wooded ground above the village, was founded by St Ternan of Banchory who brought relics of Palladius, the very early Irish missionary to Scotland, here to kickstart his own Pictish Christian endeavours. A later medieval priest John of Fordoun was one of the first historians of Scotland. In the twentieth century, Howe of the Mearns gave birth to Lewis Grassic Gibbon, whose Scots Quair captures the history and spirit of the area in some of modern Scotland’s finest prose. Our journey continues through the Mearns to the port and holiday town of Stonehaven.

The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not want
He makes me to lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake
Even though I walk
Through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil
For you are with me,
Your rod and your staff they comfort me.
( from Psalm 23 )

Pilgrim Journeys

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