The small village of Echt lies around the crossroads between the B9119 and the B977. Given Aberdeenshire's oddly-developed road network, this is a much more important junction than a quick glance at the map at first suggests.
Roads in Aberdeenshire tend to radiate outwards from Aberdeen, and the B9119 leads back towards Aberdeen, 12 miles to the east, and to Tarland to the west. The lack of good roads cutting across the grain of this pattern means that the B977 forms part of what is effectively an unofficial outer ring road for Aberdeen, connecting Banchory on Deeside with Kintore on Donside.
All of this means that if you are travelling in Aberdeenshire, Echt is somewhere you are likely to see sooner rather than later. What you find is an attractive village largely built of grey stone and offering a mix of cottages and other buildings including a school and a sports pavilion for the football club.
To the north west of the crossroads at the centre of Echt are a series of especially attractive cottages in a line of buildings that includes the village shop and post office. Concluding this side of the village is The Terrace, a line of six cottages with large dormer windows and porches partly hiding behind hedges and substantial front gardens. Despite their collective name they are detached rather than terraced properties.
Overlooking the crossroads from the south west is the Cowdray Restaurant. Dating back to the late 1800s, this has a white exterior guaranteed to attract attention whichever direction you are travelling in, and offers excellent meals that are also good value. Immediately to the south of the Cowdray Restaurant is the Echt Hall, an imposing village hall.
Opposite Echt Hall is the parish church, which dates back to 1804. In the kirkyard are an impressive war memorial erected in 1921, and the spectacular memorial to Weetman Dickinson Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray, erected when he died in 1927. The large granite sarcophagus is framed by a pair of obelisks topped off by seated lions. Viscount Cowdray was an English industrialist and politician who purchased nearby Castle Fraser in 1921. His arrival on the Aberdeenshire scene is also marked in the name now carried by the Cowdray Restaurant.
People have been living in and around Echt for millennia. Stone circles like those at Midmar Kirk, Sunhoney and Cullerlie show that people were living on and farming this land thousands of years ago, just as they are today. The important hillfort at Barmkin of Echt, just over a mile to the north west of Echt, marks an early example of a trend to control the land through the building of fortifications. This was a trend that was continued in the shape of the many castles built in the area, most notably Midmar Castle and Castle Fraser.
By 1600, Echt already stood on the site it occupies today, and came complete with a predecessor of the 1804 church. Its focal location was already well established by the 1800s, when Echt was home to many regular cattle markets, horse fairs and hiring fairs: the last of these being fairs at which agricultural workers would sell their services to farmers for the forthcoming season or year.
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