The centre of Ballater is dominated by the imposing bulk of the Glenmuick Parish Church, standing in park-like surroundings that once presumably formed a kirkyard. Built on an impressive scale, its most striking feature is the large spire at its south-east corner.
If the exterior of the church is impressive, the interior is still more so. The large nave is broadened by arcaded aisles supported by iron columns. The focus of the church is at its west end, where what is almost an apse is home to the magnificent organ. Below the organ is a beautifully carved wooden screen, in front of which is the pulpit and communion table. The already generous accommodation for worshippers is boosted further by the gallery at the east end of the church.
The look and feel of the interior of the church is greatly enhanced by four stained glass windows in its south wall. These were added to commemorate individuals at different points during the life of the church, and as a result they vary greatly in style, providing a spectacular exhibition of the varying approaches to stained glass design over the last 150 years. The most recent was designed by Howard Butterworth and dedicated at the Easter service in 2009.
To the visitor, an obvious question is why the church in the centre of Ballater is called the Glenmuick Parish Church. In the aftermath of the Reformation in 1560, three parishes were established in this part of Deeside. This all changed in 1798, when they came together to form the united Parish of Glenmuick, Tullich & Glengairn, served by a new church built in Ballater. The old churches, like Tullich Kirk, were simply abandoned, and their congregations had to find their way instead to Ballater. "Rationalisation" is not a modern phenomenon. This all presumably means that the proper name of the church is the Glenmuick, Tullich & Glengairn Parish Church.
Although the church carries a date stone marked 1798, most or all of what you see today dates from 1874, when the first church built to serve the joint parish was replaced with something a little grander. The architect was J Russell Mackenzie. It was built with seating for 600 in the main body of the church, plus 100 more in the gallery. The organ was installed in 1889 by Foster and Andrews of Hull.