The ruins of Tullich Kirk stands alongside the A93 about a mile and a half north-east of Ballater. After the Reformation Tullich was one of three parishes serving this part of Deeside. In 1798 they were rationalised into the joint parish of Glenmuick, Tullich & Glengairn served by a new parish church built in Ballater, and Tullich Kirk was simply abandoned.
Although abandoned as a place of worship, Tullich Kirk and the circular kirkyard that surrounds it was never abandoned as a place of burial. This is very evident as you wander around the kirkyard, and within the shell of the kirk itself, which has been used as a burial enclosure. Perhaps Tullich Kirk has remained so popular as a place of burial because of the sense of history which still pervades the place. When it was abandoned in 1798, although the church that stood here dated back to around 1400, it was just the most recent in a series on the same site, the earliest of which was founded here by St Nathalan in the mid 600s.
As is often the case across Scotland, when new churches were built on the site of earlier ones, they often incorporated elements of the structure of the church or churches they were replacing. Evidence of this can be found at Tullich Kirk in an enclosure surrounded by railings on the outside of the north wall of the kirk. Here are displayed a series of interesting stones which turned up either built into the structure of the church or in its surroundings. The oldest is what remains of a Pictish symbol stone dating back to around 700. At some point in the past this seems to have been reshaped to make it suitable for reuse as a grave slab, because parts of the Pictish patterns it carries have been chopped off. Today it is difficult to discern the detail of the carvings under the layer of lichen that has colonised much of the surface of the stone.
In the 1200s, Tullich Kirk was granted by David I to the Knights Templar, and was included within the Scottish property portfolio of this wealthy and enormously powerful Christian order of knighthood, which was administered from Temple, in Midlothian. The demise of the Templars followed their refusal to grant loan to King Philip IV of France, and his retaliation by launching a wave of arrests of members on trumped-up charges on Friday 13 October 1307. Templars in Scotland were treated less brutally than across most of Europe, and many simply became Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St John, with their property being transferred to that order and administered from its Scottish headquarters at Torphichen Preceptory near Linlithgow.
The Scottish Reformation in 1560 saw many old religious buildings destroyed or abandoned, but it seems that Tullich survived to find a new use, as a parish kirk, a role it was to fulfil for a further 238 years. Perhaps the only incident of real note during this period happened one wintry Sunday morning. The Minister was very late for the service and the congregation took to keeping themselves warm by dancing a reel in the kirkyard. The event was recorded for posterity in the late 1700s by a poem (later set to music as a dance) written by John Skinner, The Reel of Tullochgorum.