Sunday 16 April 2017

Easter: Aberdeenshire 2017


I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front for a couple of weeks.  That's because we were away on holiday for the first week of our children's Easter holiday and then I've been catching up with work &c for the second week.  For what it's worth, we spent our vacation in southern Aberdeenshire.  The weather was glorious: we spent 7 hours or more walking each day, becoming very tired and a bit sunburnt in the process and found over 100 geocaches.  But you probably don't want to hear about that.

I imagine that my audience are primarily wargamers, military modellers and the like.  What can I tell you about our travels that might interest you?  Let's see...

Saint Palladius Church

This architectural marvel was situated just a few minutes away from where we were staying in Glensaugh.  It's near Drumtochty Castle and is a very unusual shape for a Scottish church.  The next time you're tempted to make a model of a rectangular or cruciform church, remember that you can have curves, towers and turrets as well!

Bridge of Dye Pillboxes

In the small hamlet of Bridge of Dye there are 2 pillboxes of World War II vintage, one on either side of the road.  They're ideally placed to guard the nearby bridge, which is one of the few places in the area where the local river might be crossed.  So far, so good - but there are some things which puzzle me here:

  • These pillboxes are made from stone blocks, rather than the more common reinforced concrete.  Would that provide the same level of protection?  I don't know.
  • These defences are very well situated to protect against attacks from the west.  However, given that Bridge of Dye is extremely rural and that there isn't really much to the west except mountains, against whom were they expecting to defend?
I suppose that it's possible the stone blocks would help with camouflage by making the pillboxes appear to be part of a garden wall.  Or maybe concrete was in short supply in wartime and was reserved for more strategically important locations?  Perhaps these were used for training (where the east/west facing and choice of construction material wouldn't matter), rather than being serious preparations against a foreign invasion?  Maybe they were even a misplaced folly built by an over-enthusiastic local commander or landowner?  I just don't know...

Crathes Castle

Some 25 minutes journey to the north of our apartment, near the picturesque town of Banchory, is Crathes Castle.  The core of this is a fairly typical, large 16th century tower house, though much extended at later dates.  It's owned by the National Trust for Scotland and has extensive grounds including a walled garden and lots of woodland.

Dunnottar Castle

On the Aberdeenshire coast, just south of the town of Stonehaven, we visited Dunnottar Castle.  As you can see from my picture, this is now a ruin, but in its day it was a strong fortress in a very imposing location on a near inaccessible promontory.  Probably it's most famous achievement was to protect the Honours of Scotland (crown, sword and sceptre) from Cromwell's army.  The castle only fell after a siege of 7 months, but before then the honours had been smuggled out and were hidden in a nearby kirk (church).

Inverbervie Pillbox

Finally, we found another pillbox.  This time it was located on the coast at Inverbervie, over looking a river mouth and beach.  There are also a number of tank or landing craft traps stretching away from the pillbox and on the other side of the river; these were surprisingly large (maybe 1 metre in each dimension?) and still in very good condition.  Sadly, the pillbox itself had a lot of litter in and near to it: discarded drink cans, broken glass and the like.


If castles are your thing then Aberdeenshire is something of a paradise!  There are many, many such buildings, including medieval ruins, stately homes and everything in between.  If you can get the right weather then I would highly recommend this area for a holiday.  It's also good for walking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits.

For what it's worth, we stopped briefly at Doune Castle (famous for the filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, amongst other things) in Stirlingshire on our return journey.  However, we didn't go inside as this was just a quick break to walk the dogs - you'll have to wait for another time to hear about this one!


  1. There are 'stop lines' all over the place - those ones were build from stone to camouflage them into the surrounding buildings and walls - they may well be concrete on the interior with a stonework facing. These pillboxes are "The Cowie stop line, running west from the town of Stonehaven, the county town of the historical county of Kincardineshire, some 19km south of Aberdeen, has been recognized for some time as a well-preserved example of a Second World War anti-tank obstacle, but has not hitherto been described in detail. Its purpose was to stop any German force landing in the north-east penetrating into Angus and further south. To work effectively the line was extended to the west, by defences at the Bridge of Dye (on the Strachan-Fettercairn road) and the Devil’s Elbow (on the Braemar-Blairgowrie road) and planned demolitions on the Inverness-Perth road and railway. It originally comprised a dozen pillboxes,’ over 5km of anti-tank barrier, eight small and one large groups of anti-tank cubes2 and other defensive features."

    1. Thanks very much for this information, James! I did try a little research of my own, but failed to find out anything like this.

  2. Looks like a rather lovely part of the world to visit.

    1. Well, of course it is! I don't go on holiday to nasty places :-) .

  3. The church in particular was stunning. I would love to try and model the clifftop and fort though

    1. Both would make rather splendid (and large!) models, I think.

  4. Fascinating photos and background. My wife and I have not had the chance to visit Scotland yet, but it's on our to-do list. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, AJ. Make sure that you do visit, them :-) ...

  5. Excellent photographs.

    I'd planned to appear knowledgable by stating that round Churches are often associated with the Templars. However I checked and found that the famous Temple church in London is one of few with Templar roots.

    What I did find is that a trend for a particular type of round church (based on the layout of the Holy Sepulchre) grew in the years following the first crusade.

    Such round churches have often been extended with traditional shaped additions, leaving the round construction the oldest part of the church.

    1. I don't know for sure, but I rather suspect this church is entirely Victorian in construction. Were the Templars still a force then?