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Brechin High Street
Brechin High Street

Brechin is usually only glimpsed in passing by travellers on the main A90 from Dundee to Aberdeen. And many will know little more about the town than that it has a football club, Brechin City, whose name appears in Grandstand's classified results list every Saturday afternoon.

Brechin Cathedral Choir
Brechin Cathedral Choir
Cathedral Organ and West End
Cathedral Organ and West End
Stained Glass Window
Stained Glass Window

Brechin is a town with a considerable history: even its football club has been around since 1906. In 970 it was described as a "city". This may have been as much in awe at its great circular tower as for any other reason. This tower still stands, now seeming oddly ill at ease off to one side of Brechin Cathedral. You can read more about city status in Scotland here.

Brechin has seen both boom and bust, several times over, during the intervening centuries. It was doing especially well in the period to about 1350. But then it was hit by a double disaster. First the black death struck. Then, allegedly through misunderstanding, the town erected a Mercat Cross, a privilege reserved to Royal Burghs. This was such a serious misdemeanor that its rights to hold a market, which were legitimate, were withdrawn.

Brechin from the Railway Station
Brechin from the Railway Station
St Ninian's Square Library
St Ninian's Square Library
Caledonian Railway
Caledonian Railway

The 1400s saw the return of the market and considerable wealth that lasted through the following century. But around 1648 bubonic plague struck again, killing two thirds of the population.

It was the nineteenth century that saw the real growth of Brechin, based largely on textiles. By 1870 there were four major mills in the town, three with power looms. Between them they employed around 1400 people.

1895 saw the arrival of the Caledonian Railway at a station on the east side of the town, and in the meantime brewing and distilling assumed considerable importance in the local economy. The brewing has since all gone, and the last distillery in the town is Glencadam.

At the heart of the old town is the Cathedral itself. There are few satisfactory images of the exterior of the cathedral, and this page provides no exception. It is tightly built around by medieval and more recent development, and a really good shot would require a helicopter.

The interior, however, is a very different proposition. This is remarkable mostly for the wonderful collection of stained glass on offer. Virtually every window carries beautiful images, mostly dating back to a major restoration undertaken between 1900 and 1902. These are from a range of big name designers including the William Morris factory.

This full coverage of stained glass in the windows makes Brechin Cathedral naturally darker than most, and this in turn has been used to good effect by lighting in the roof and around the organ pipes. No visit to Brechin is complete without a visit to the Cathedral.

If the old town is one centre of attraction in Brechin, the other is around St Ninian's square, a little to the east. Here is some of the town's more attractive Victorian architecture, including the library and, down the hill, a view of the remaining mill buildings. And here too is the attractively restored Caledonian Railway Station. This has been opened by enthusiasts each summer since 1992 to provide trips for tourists to Bridge of Dun, three miles towards Montrose.

Brechin's most famous son was Sir Robert Watson-Watt, the inventor of effective radar in the years before World War Two.

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