Old Aberdeen To Fraserburgh By Old Deer

Dee, Don, And Spey

ROUTE LENGTH: 75 MILES

By Road

Taking the B9077, or another route, into Aberdeen follow signs for Old Aberdeen. From Aberdeen, We recommend taking the coastal A956 north out of Aberdeen, continuing onto the A90, passing Balmedie, turning right onto the A975, passing Newburgh and Collieston. Cruden’sEpiscopalian church, St James, will be on your right after a sharp right turn. After Cruden, rejoin the A90 by turning right. Bodham will pass by on your right. At the Peterhead roundabout, go left, inland to Old Deer, along the A90 and then left at a second roundabout onto the A950 (passing through Longside and Mintlaw). Deer Abbey is accessible through a portico on the A950 itself. The old site is accessible by turning left from the A950 itself into Old Deer, then right onto B9029, on which the old church is.

Return to Peterhead. From there, take any route north, passing Invergurie, onto St Fergus. From there, continue along the A90 passing through Crimond, Rattray and Lonmay, onto Fraserburgh.

By Cycle

From St Machar’s, take King Street then the bridge onto Ellon Street (all the A956) north onto A90. Shortly after passing Balmedie, turn right onto the A975. You will pass Newburgh and Collieston, andSt James, Cruden Bay’s Episcopalian church, will be on your right after a sharp right turn.

After Cruden, rejoin the A90 by turning right. Bodham will pass by on your right. At the Peterhead roundabout, go left (first turning/A90), inland to Old Deer. At the second roundabout take the first turning (left) onto the A950 (passing through Longside and Mintlaw). Deer Abbey is accessible through a portico on the A950 itself. The old site is accessible by turning left from the A950 itself into Old Deer, then right onto B9029, on which the old church is. From there, return to Peterhead. Take the first left and follow the road north, and you will reach Fraserburgh.

By Public Transport

From St Marchar’s, walk to King Street, from which the buses north go. Take the 63 to Cruden Bay,which you need to change at Newburgh for a 63 going to Peterhead. From Cruden take the same bus north to Peterhead. At Windmill Street, then take a 66/66A to Stuartfield, getting off at the Parish Church in Old Deer. The simplest route from Old Deer to Fraserburgh is to walk or take the 253 to Mintlaw, get off there at the roundabout and take the 68 to Fraserburgh.

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

Old Aberdeen is one of the understated glories of Scottish pilgrimage, combining an early cathedral settlement with an ancient medieval university. The university stretches along the spine of Old Aberdeen, with Kings College at its centre. Founded by the great medieval bishop and Scottish patriot, William Elphinstone, Kings College has at its heart a Chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Nativity. The architecture consciously imitates the supposed proportions of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, and the underlying philosophy is one of sacred Wisdom.

But there is more, as the High Street leads on to St Machar’s Cathedral, which stands in its own Chanonry or precinct in a once secluded grove above the River Don. We know very little about Machar individually, but that may be because he was part of a movement rather than a solo trip, as we have already discovered coming down the Dee. The saints of the northeast combine Columban inspiration with a determination to ground Chritianity in Pictish society and culture. Amidst the many eye-catching features of St Machars is the modern memorial to Archdeacon Barbour, author of the medieval epic poem ‘The Brus’.

Crossing the Don, the journey goes north along the sandy coast to Dyce, Balmedie, Newburgh, and Collieston to Cruden, past the ruins of Slains Castle and the Bullars of Buchan. Stop at the Episcopal chuch on the hill above Cruden for a commanding view over the rolling, fertile lands of Buchan. The coast road goes on to Boddam with its majestic lighthouse and Peterhead, but we divert outside Peterhed inland to Old Deer. The Celtic monastery of Deer, founded by St Drostan, was probably located on the bank of the Ugie near the old parish church in the village. The medieval abbey was established by the Comyn Earl of Buchan on more spacious lines a bit upriver. Both places should be visited.

Old Deer was a centre of early scholarship and devotion, with notes on the Book of Deer exhibiting the earliest known written example of Scottish Gaelic. Drostan was an associate of Columba, but with a Pictish name and numerous foundations, he has some claim to be ‘Apostle to the Picts’. The Book of Deer attributes its name to a sorrowful parting between Columba and his young follower after the Abbey had been founded. Tears -deur in Gaelic- were shed. This doubtful etymology is a fine example of the wonderful Gaelic tradition that every place name should have its story!

Peterhead is a substantial industrial port, though also an ancient burgh, with a range of churches including the remains of the original St Peter’s Church on the south side of the town. Our route continues north on the coast past Inverugie with its castles, to St Fergus. This seems to be the first settlement of this Irish inspired Pictish missionary. The present St Fergus Church is a little inland, but out on the sandy flats to the north east is the isolated, atmospheric Old St Fergus Church, redolent of the seagoing saints and their desire to find the ‘place of their resurrection’. We are now set fair for Fraserburgh by way of the low lying sandy plains in which Crimond, Rattray and Lonmay are located, all with old churches. The fishing village of St Comb’s flags up, like St Fergus, the seaborne Irish influence. Lonmay Episcopal Church had as one of its ministers John Skinner the poet and songwriter who was much admired by Robert Burns.

Columba. Dove, Dove of the Church
Royal Prince of Ulster,
Chaluim Cille of the Battles
Toast of Poets, Scriber of Psalms
He takes the Sea Road
Green Martyrdom of Exile,
He sails for Alba, to the land
Of Picts and Scots, where
The vison of his inner eye
Meets with the strength and passion
Of land and people- and
A new Scotland is born.

Pilgrim Journeys

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