The town's origins date back to a Columban monastery built near by in around 1000. Some time later, St Congan's Church was built at the end of what is now Castle Street. This was a long and narrow church whose original tower still survives: though the bellcote still on view dates back only to 1635. The castle from which Castle Street took its name no longer exists. The market cross that stands in its middle dates back to the 1500s, on a base made for it in 1865.
Turriff grew primarily as the trading centre for a large agricultural area. In 1800 it was noted that the town was home to more than twice as many ale and whisky houses as butchers. Possibly connected to this was the notorious reputation of Turriff shoemakers in the early 1800s, who were said to be always ready for a fight.
A significant planned expansion to the town took place in the 1760s, and various agricultural industries were operating in the town by the early 1800s. Turriff also benefitted from being on the route of the main road from Aberdeen to Banff, and in 1857 the railway arrived, though it was to stay for less than a century until 1951. Two miles to the east of Turriff is Delgatie Castle.
The main road still passes through Turriff, and it remains a bustling place. If you can imagine it free of the cars, you begin to see a strikingly attractive small town. The overwhelming majority of the buildings are constructed from a red sandstone quarried nearby. Much of the High Street dates back to the early 1800s, and there is a sense throughout the town of an attention to detail that is often absent elsewhere. Especially impressive is the Clydesdale Bank on the corner of High Street and Main Street, with its Gothic tower and clocks.
At the north end of High Street is Turriff's market square. This is now given over primarily to car parking, but is still overlooked by the white painted Fife Arms Hotel, a traditional country inn built in 1770. This became famous as the location of a riot in November 1913 when an attempt was made to sell the "Turra Coo" a white cow that had been seized from a local farmer for non-payment of National Insurance contributions.