Buildings of Aberdeenshire: A Celebration
To help celebrate the region’s built environment in 2016, the Scottish Government’s Year of Innovation Architecture & Design, the Council’s Archaeology Service invited Councillors and staff working with the historic built environment to nominate their favourite building or built structure in Aberdeenshire.
The buildings and monuments of Aberdeenshire help to shape the region and define its character. While some are truly iconic to Aberdeenshire, instantly recognisable across the world, others may be of more local significance or hold happy personal memories – perhaps an even more important trait!
Here are a few examples of our favourites – find out more via the Sites & Monuments Record links, including details about location and access.
We hope our suggestions will inspire you to go out and explore the wealth and diversity of architecture and design which can be found throughout Aberdeenshire!
Some of our favourite buildings and structures across the Banff and Buchan area.
Low Shore, Banff // SMR Ref: NJ66SE0039 // NJ 6904 6409 // AB45 1HP
Former granary complex and merchant's house, now converted to residential use. The granary is a U-plan building, open to the E, which was originally described as dating to the 19th Century although recent research has suggested that the earliest section of the building, the West wing (probably originally a merchant's house), may date to the 16th Century, with the North and South wings likely to the date to the 18th and early 19th Centuries. The building was restored and converted into residential use with the help of the Banff THI project, HLF and Historic Scotland funding.
Nominated by Councillor John Cox
Portsoy // NJ 5894 6627 // AB45 2QR
The Boatshed comprises two stone-built former store buildings, dating originally from the 19th Century but which had lain derelict for a number of years, that have recently been renovated and converted for use into a community boat building centre for the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival group. The architects have sympathetically restored the original buildings and brought them back into use by creating a modern timber building within the bounds of the traditional stone “skin”. The renovation project received funding from Aberdeenshire Council, Historic Environment Scotland (through the Portsoy CARS) and the European Fisheries Fund (EFF).
“A fantastic example of adaptive reuse of a historic building. The building is sympathetic to its historic setting whilst being easily identifiable as having a modern intervention. It is also an excellent example of community lead regeneration and has an innovative community use as a training facility teaching school children and locals traditional boat building skills. The Boatshed will also provide boat building courses with accommodation at the Sail Loft Bunk House (Back Green). The income from these courses and the bunk house will give the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival a more sustainable future. Innovative and pretty!” Ross Wilson, Environment Planner (Built Heritage)
Kinnaird Head Castle and Lighthouse
Fraserburgh // SMR Ref: NJ96NE0006 // NJ 9987 6756 // AB43 9DU
Kinnaird Head Castle was built c.1570 by Sir Alexander Fraser, eighth Laird of Philorth, possibly on the site of an earlier castle. It was converted for use as a lighthouse in 1787.
“In 1787 the Northern Lighthouse Board bought the site, due to its maritime importance, for its first Scottish lighthouse. It proposed demolishing the building, and building the lighthouse on the site. Sir Walter Scott, a trustee of the Board, visited the site, and refused permission for the demolition. A compromise was reached in which the lighthouse was built inside the castle, protruding through the roof of the medieval castle, leaving the outside walls of the castle unaltered.” Councillor Charles Buchan
Dalrymple Street, Fraserburgh // SMR Ref: NJ96NE0036 // NJ 9985 6678 // AB43 9BH
Townhouse, dating from the 18th Century. Owned originally by John Gordon of Glenbuchat, one of the key Jacobite commanders in the '45. The house was sold to Charles Gordon 1766 and recast at this time. It is a 2-storey and basement, 3-window house constructed of squared heathen stone with freestone dressings and quoins, and is one of the best houses of its date in Aberdeenshire.
“I love this building! “one of the best examples of an 18th century townhouse in Aberdeenshire”. It is sited unassumingly on Dalrymple Street in Fraserburgh but has been surrounded gradually by more modern development. I actually really love the way it sits on its own. To me it is a reminder of Fraserburgh’s past; almost a Romantic and lost history. It has a beautiful, simple, Georgian façade and looks like it has a story to tell!” Frances Swanston, Environment Planner (Built Heritage)
“I should like to nominate Warld’s End, Dalrymple St. Fraserburgh as my second idea. It is the oldest inhabited building in Fraserburgh, owned by John Gordon of Glenbuchat. Lord Glenbuchat was a commander in the 1745 Jacobite Uprising. It was in this house, from 1740, that the uprising was planned, and where he oversaw the importation of arms and ammunition from France. It presently houses a Land Surveyor (Shephards), but the top floor is leased to the Glover Trust, which has a museum there dedicated to the life and works of Thomas Blake Glover, the Fraserburgh-born man who is credited in Japan as introducing modern industry to the country, and on whose character it is supposed Puccini based Lieutenant Pinkerton in his opera 'Madama Butterfly'.” Councillor Charles Buchan
Banff // SMR Ref: NJ66SE0007 // NJ 6905 6328 // AB45 3SX
Duff House is a magnificent Baroque mansion house designed by William Adam for William Duff MP, later Lord Braco, first Earl of Fife. The foundation stone for the house was laid in 1735, and the building completed in 1749. The original design contained two flanking pavilions and quadrants, but these were never completed due to an argument between Adams and Lord Braco over costs, leaving just the central block. The house is built on a square plan of three storeys over a raised basement with advanced corner towers, breaking eaves, and with domed roofs and cupolas.
“Duff House is a bit of an underappreciated hidden gem. One of the finest examples of William Adam architecture in Scotland also one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in Scotland. On a side note it is also the new home of the Scottish Traditional Skills Centre.” Ross Wilson, Environment Planner (Built Heritage)
Seaforth Street, Fraserburgh // NJ 9985 6667 // AB43 9BD
Church, which continues in ecclesiastical use, designed in the Germanic Gothic style by J. B. Pirie (1878-80). A striking landmark on Seaforth Street, the conical spire, decorated with ornate spirelets, differs markedly from others in the town. The church is constructed in grey granite ashlar masonry with decorative contrasting banding in red ashlar masonry adding further character to the spectacular West facade.
“Every part of Europe has an architect influenced by the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movements. Glasgow has Charles Rennie Mackintosh; Aberdeenshire has John Bridgeman Pirie. His work is unique to our area. The way he uses granite is extraordinary. Granite is a hard material to carve and Pirie weaves simple hard granite shapes into complex forms. Fraserburgh South Church is best seen when the sun is low and picks out the buildings details in light and shade. It is my favourite Aberdeenshire building because it is a thing of beauty in itself and because a building like this could only be found in the North East of Scotland and nowhere else.” Robert Gray, Head of Planning and Building Standards
Some of our favourite buildings and structures across the Buchan area.
Rattray Old Church
Rattray // SMR Ref: NK05NE0002 // NK 0850 5752 // AB42 3HA
Remains of a chapel, rectangular in, roughly built of rubble and robbed of its dressings. Reference is made to church at this site in the early-mid 1200s, but it may have been built in the late 12th Century as a private chapel of the nearby castle.
“I like the old church at Rattray, which sits close to the site of the old castle. Rattray has such a rich history, having once been connected to the sea, stories of shipwrecks and piracy along the Rattray shores conjures up loads of stories!” Councillor Fiona McRae
Inverugie // SMR Ref: NK14NW0003 // NK 1020 4831 // AB42 3DN
Remains of a castle and towerhouse, probably late 16th or early 17th Century in date, with two towers at its North East and South East angles, one of which is known as the Cheyne tower. The buildings which flank the large courtyard appear to be of more recent date than the castle and are possibly associated with the renovation by Ferguson in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. The tower house was blown up in 1899, now only a stump remains.
"I also like the old castle at Inverugie – the whole Buchan area is steeped in history and fabulous tales!" Councillor Fiona McRae
Some of our favourite buildings and structures across the Formartine area.
Prop of Ythsie
Near Ythsie // SMR Ref: NJ83SE0048 // NJ 8843 3147 // AB41 7LS
Monument, built in 1861-2, and erected to the memory of the Prime Minister, George Hamilton Gordon, the Fourth Earl of Aberdeen. A square tower of coursed red granite with dressed quoins and a corbelled and crenellated parapet. It bears the following inscription:
‘To George Hamilton Gordon, Fourth Earl of Aberdeen, By his attached and Grateful Tenantry. He was born at Edinburgh 28 Jan 1784 and died at London 14 Dec 1860.’
“This is a truly impressive monument, visible from miles around, which bears witness the esteem which in which the Fourth Earl of Aberdeen was held by his tenants, who erected this memorial as a tribute to the extensive improvement works he carried out on the estate. The top of the tower also offers fine views over the surrounding Aberdeenshire countryside.” Caroline Palmer, Archaeologist
St Peter's Church
Fyvie // SMR Ref: NJ73NE0001 // NJ 7685 3776 // AB53 8LL
Church, built in 1808 in the graveyard of St Peter's, on the site of its early medieval predecessor. The church is a 4-window Gothic rectangle, built of heathen rubble with cherry cocking and granite dressings with margins at the angles only, with Pictish symbol stones incorporated into the East gable. Inside, the East wall contains a stained glass Boer War memorial window to Lieutenant Percy Forbes-Leith of Fyvie Castle, designed by Louis comfort Tiffany.
“There’s real haunting atmosphere, from the moving story behind the exquisite Tiffany window which just comes alive when the light shines through it, to the glimpse back in time with the Pictish stones built into the rear wall.” Claire Herbert, Archaeologist
Some of our favourite buildings and structures across the Garioch area.
Elyza Fraser Mausoleum
Cluny Old Kirkyard // SMR Ref: NJ61SE0012 // NJ 6846 1255 // AB51 7RS
The Elyza Fraser Mausoleum (1808) was designed by James Byers of Tonley. It is a circular Roman Neo-classical design built in fine ashlar granite. It bears the following inscription:
'ELIZABETH FRASER OF CASTLE FRASER MDCCC VIII'
The doorway is covered by an ornate wrought-iron grille, and has a fine carved coat of arms above. To the right hand side of the doorway there is a signature of William Cottie, possibly the stonemason who built the structure.
“This is a rare example of the work of architect James Byres. As well as appreciating the shape and form of the building, the intricate details within it and the whole surrounding kirk yard; the mystery of ownership and the dedication of a local group to preserve it fascinates me. This structure is well worth celebrating!” Councillor Iris Walker
Kintore Town House
Kintore // SMR Ref: NJ71NE0113 // NJ 7923 1631 // AB51 0US
Town House, dating from the 18th Century. Stone built, with curving outside stair and clock tower with ogee roof. Paid for by John Keith, the 3rd Earl of Kintore, when he was elected Provost of the town.
“This is the finest building in Aberdeenshire. It is beautifully proportioned with impeccable stonework. The curved staircases add a distinction appropriate to the building's function. It has a presence that dominates and distinguishes The Square. Even the stonework on the back wall is great.” Councillor Martin Ford
“For me it is the old Kintore Town Hall. Its central position provides a real focus for the village and its architecture is so redolent of a bygone age.” Provost Hamish Vernal
Garioch // SMR Ref: NJ62NW0043 // NJ 6122 2815 // AB52 6XQ
Remains of tower house castle, probably the earliest authenticated example of a tower house in Scotland with a suggested build date of c.1260AD. The medieval castle sits atop an earlier substantial vitrified hillfort with summit defences consisting of two stone walls, the outer a low stony bank, best seen on the North and East sides.
“Dunnideer really is a significant feature of this West Garioch landscape and can be seen for miles around. It is held very fondly in the hearts of all those who reside in the settlements around it, for whom it has, for centuries, provided invigorating walks, egg rolling at Easter and sledging! The walk to it is steep and the views from it quite magnificent.” Deputy Provost Allison Grant
Oyne // SMR Ref: NJ62NE0003 // NJ 6865 2520 // AB52 6XQ
A Z-plan towerhouse with remains of a barmekin wall, including the gatehouse. Built in 1601 for the Leiths of Harthill, after becoming ruinous the castle was restored in the mid-1970s overseen by architect William Cowie.
“I grew up a few miles from this castle and have early memories of it being brought back from a ruin to a restored building, before seeing its surroundings being lovingly developed over the following decades. For me it epitomises the rich tradition of castles we have in Aberdeenshire, and how they are iconic landmarks within our landscape.” Bruce Mann, Archaeologist
Some of our favourite buildings and structures across the Kincardine and Mearns area.
Stonehaven Outdoor Pool
Stonehaven // SMR Ref: NO88NE0120 // NO 8766 8652 // AB39 2RD
Open-air heated salt-water swimming pool, built in 1934 to the designs of Gregory and Gall, still in use today. It is the only surviving Art Deco Olympic sized salt-water pool in the UK, and holds 320,000 gallons of water. At the entrance, the highly decorative cast-iron turnstiles, by ‘Bailey, Albion Works, Manchester’, can still be seen.
“This Art Deco Pool gives a Mediterranean feel to the North East of Scotland with its warm waters and swims under the stars in the Midnight Swims.” Councillor Raymond Christie
West Street, Johnshaven // NO 7917 6677 // DD10 0HL
An Eco-house, designed in 2006-2007, with the aim of being a non-polluting dwellinghouse which sits comfortably in its landscape and serves the needs of its inhabitants with minimal impact on the environment.
“A radically different concept in house design - and a bit of a landmark and talking point.” Councillor George Carr
3 Bettridge Road, Newtonhill // NO 9121 9343 // AB39 3TN
Village Hall, which retains the original name of the settlement now known as Newtonhill. The village was established as a small fishing community, and the hall continues to act as a hub for residents.
“This cosy hall dates back to the 1880s. It was originally provided by the Laird as a meeting place and reading room for the many fisherfolk of Skateraw, whose houses extended along the top of the cliff. Walking along the small streets around the hall, you can get a good sense of what the original village was like. The Hall is pine-lined as homes and bothies built at the time often were, and it is still run by a management team of villagers as it was when first built.” Councillor Alison Evison
Dunnottar // SMR Ref: NO88SE0007 // NO 8810 8386 // AB39 2TL
Remains of a castle, which may occupies the site of a prehistoric fort. It may also be the 'Dunfoithir' besieged in 681. In the reign of William the Lion (1165-1214) 'Dunnottar' was the place where warrants were returnable for the Mearns, and 'le castiel de Dunostre' is mentioned at the beginning of the 13th Century. Another castle was erected at the end of the 14th Century. In its final form the castle was forfeited in 1716 and the roofs and floors removed and sold. In 1925 the systematic repair and excavation of the ruins was begun. In its present form the extensive remains date from various periods.
“I know this one is perhaps more predictable, but Dunnottar Castle is fab. On my first weekend living in Aberdeen I visited the castle. It was so misty, you couldn’t see the castle from the main walk down. It suddenly appeared through the mist. Its dramatic setting is was breath taking. Again a bit of the rose tinted spectacles about it, but I associate moving and living in Aberdeenshire with this castle.” Frances Swanston, Environment Planner (Built Heritage)
Some of our favourite buildings and structures across the Marr area.
Glen Tanar Old School
Near Dinnet // SMR Ref: NO49NE0131 // NO 4721 9821 // AB34 5PN
Former school and schoolhouse, designed by George Truefitt (a London-based architect who designed numerous buildings across the Glen Tanar Estate), built c.1885. The school is a single storey building constructed in rough-faced granite and topped by a pair of tiled, pyramidal, oast house-style ventilators forming the roof.
In front of the school is a memorial stone which bears the following inscription:
'VICTORIA QUEEN AND EMPRESS HAS REIGNED FOR 60 YEARS 1837-1897'.
Nominated by Councillor Katrina Farquhar
Braemar // SMR Ref: NO19SE0002 // NO 1560 9238 // AB35 5XR
Braemar Castle is a tall five-storey turreted L-plan house with a large round stair tower in the re-entrant angle and angle-turrets on the corners. Built in the early 17th century (c.1628) for the 7th Earl of Mar as a strategic stronghold and hunting lodge. In 1748 it was leased and garrisoned by the Government for use as a barracks, and a defensive military wall similar to that at Corgarff Castle was built around it.
“My favourite Building is Braemar Castle. This historic building is the first community run castle in Scotland and links the past - the building - with the future - community resilience.” Councillor Geva Blackett
Finzean Saw and Bucket Mill, and Souttar Shop
Finzean bucket mill, built c.1853 by Peter Brown, still in use today. It is unique in Britain with its specialised water powered machinery for producing wooden pails or buckets. The mill is a single-storey and attic wood, stone and brick building with a corrugated-iron roof, and adjoining sawmill. It has a mid-breast paddle wheel with double cast iron frame.
Finzean sawmill and turning mill, in operation since the 19th Century and still in use today. The mills comprise a group of single storey wooden buildings with two low breast wood and iron paddle wheels and the site for a third. The sawmill and turning mill were established in the early 19th century to exploit the Glen Ferrick pine woods, and is currently worked by the fourth generation of Duncans, who have worked the mill since 1850.
“All truly vernacular and unique buildings in almost complete form, with all internal machinery still intact and in working order, the Souttar shop also has its complete interiors in place and the stock left from the day it was closed.” Cheryl Roberts, Environment Planner (Built Heritage)
Tough War Memorial
Tough // SMR Ref: NJ61SW0031 // NJ 6146 1306 // AB33 8EQ
The Tough war memorial stands on a rise adjacent to the Parish church. It commemorates both World War I and II. The memorial is surmounted by the statue of a kilted soldier with a Glengarry bonnet, standing with bowed head, holding an inverted rifle.
“My particular favourite, because of its setting, is the war memorial at Tough. It’s off the road on the way to the church framed by three large trees, a quiet place to pause and reflect. In design it’s similar to the Robert Warrack Morrison monuments at Tarland and Rhynie, in that it is the figure of a Gordon Highlander, but the work was undertaken by another company. There is no other event in history which generated such a range of monuments reflecting the styles of the period, frequently using the local materials engaging the best designers and craftsmen available.” Marsaili Aspinall, Environment Planner (Built Heritage)
Crathes // SMR Ref: NO79NW0005 // NO 7342 9674 // AB31 5QJ
An L-plan tower-house built in the mid-16th century with a later projecting wing. It is built of granite with rounded angles and rises to four storeys and an attic. The interior is famed for its plaster and magnificent wooden painted ceilings. The castle was built for the Burnetts of Leys who received the charter for the land from Robert the Bruce in 1323.
“Having volunteered and worked at the castle, I love its sense of history – all the stories of who lived there and how they lived – and features such as the trip step really give it character too.” Kelly Morrison, Marketing & Events Officer (Economic Development)
Old Brig O’Dee / Old Invercauld Bridge
Invercauld // NO19SE0009 // NO 1869 9094 // AB35 5XQ
Former road bridge, built in 1752-53, designed by Major W. Caulfield, now in pedestrian use only. The bridge was originally built to carry the military road linking Blairgowrie with Corgarff and Inverness over the River Dee, but was superseded in 1859 when Invercauld Bridge was built. The bridge is a remarkable 6-arch humped back rubble-built bridge with segmental arches increasing in size to the centre, varying from 3m to 21m in span.
“There are so many majestic bridges in Aberdeenshire, especially over the River Dee, but Old Invercauld Bridge is probably my favourite. It makes such a strong architectural statement as it springs across the river, and occupies a wonderful position in the landscape with spectacular views both up and downstream. I’ve visited many times, it’s a great spot to sit, contemplate and enjoy your surroundings. Well designed for its function and still standing strong – so much so that it was brought back into use during the recent floods.” Claire Herbert, Archaeologist