Kinneff Old Church stands in the tiny settlement of Kinneff, just over two miles north-east of Inverbervie. It is reached by turning onto a minor road towards the coast off the A92 a little under a mile north of the bridge over the Bervie Water at the north end of Inverbervie.
Kinneff Old Church as you see it today largely dates back to a major rebuilding of an earlier church which took place in 1738, with an additional north aisle added in 1876. What resulted was a typical example of a Scottish "T" plan kirk, in which all eyes are directed towards the pulpit, placed centrally on the cross-bar of the "T" on the south wall. Post-Reformation churches of this type were intended to ensure that the congregation took their religion seriously, and sought to avoid any distractions from the minister and the message he was preaching.
Kinneff Old Church had fallen out of regular use by the 1970s and the magnificent state of preservation in which you see it today is entirely due to the efforts of the Kinneff Old Church Preservation Trust, who stepped in and brought the church up to an "as new" condition. There are many redundant churches across Scotland, and as you wander around Kinneff Old Church it is not immediately obvious why people should have gone to so much trouble to preserve this one rather than any other. The answer lies in Kinneff Old Church's unique place in Scottish history.
A church was first erected on this spot in 1242. This comprised a nave and chancel within a simple rectangular building. After the Reformation in 1560 the basic structure of the church remained the same, but the interior was rearranged, with seating in the two ends pointing in towards the middle and the pulpit, and galleries in both ends. This was essentially the church in which the Reverend James Grainger found himself minister when, in late 1651, Cromwell's forces under the command of General George Monck besieged Dunnottar Castle, six miles up the coast. By the time Dunnottar fell on 26 May 1652, it was the last place left in Scotland holding out for Charles II.
Monck was especially keen to take Dunnottar because he knew it was where the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish Crown Jewels, had been taken for safekeeping, and their capture would be hugely symbolic. But when the castle fell, the Honours were nowhere to be found. Reverend Grainger's wife had smuggled them out of the besieged castle and the couple had buried them under the floor of Kinneff Old Church, only revealing their whereabouts after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. The story of the saving of the Honours of Scotland is reflected in many of the memorials on display in the church today.