When you are at Balmoral Castle you shouldn’t forget to cross the road and visit Crathie Kirk, the parish church of the small village of Crathie. The church, that is linked to the Church of Scotland and is nowadays united with the neighbouring parish of Braemar, has somewhat of a royal history. When coming to Balmoral Castle in 1848 Queen Victoria of Great Britain visited this church. Since it has been a custom. Members of the British royal family and their guests worship here together with local people.
The foundation stone of the present church – in Gothic revival style – on this spot was laid by Queen Victoria herself in 1893. In 1895 the building was finished. Parishioners and members of the public donated funds for this new church. Queen Victoria’s daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Louise raised £2,000 at a Bazaar in the grounds of Balmoral Castle. The Queen herself donated two stained glass windows. Princess Beatrice donated four bells. The walls of the new church were built of local granite and the roof was made of SScots Pine. The architect was A. Marshall Mackenzie.
Queen Elizabeth II has continued the tradition of her ancestors. When she stays at Balmoral Castle she often goes to church here on Sunday, regularly joined by family and/or friends. She donated a Bible to the church, decorated with the Royal Coat of Arms. The south transept of the church is reserved for royal use. The north transept contains pews belonging to the Farquharson family (the owners of Braemar Castle) and to the Gordon family (owners of Abergeldie Castle). Anne, The Princess Royal, married her second husband Timothy Laurence at this church on 12 December 1992.
Many local people who served Queen Victoria are buried at the old graveyard, including her personal attendant John Brown. Some headstones even show personal epitaphs from Queen Victoria. I really wished I would have had more time to have a look around when I visited in 2006. But I depended on the bus service that didn’t run very often.