Deer is one of the most ancient Christian sites in all of Scotland but the reader should be wary of certain aspects of what some would call its history!

To begin with, the present ruins, which are quite extensive, are not those of the original foundation of St Drostan. They are, in fact, the remains of a later house of Cistercian monks founded in 1219 by the Earl of Buchan. This monastery was founded from the Cistercian house at Kinloss. These ruins are of great interest in their own right and are well worth a visit.

 

Remains of the Cistercian house at Deer.

 

However, to find the site of the original foundation it is necessary to travel a couple of miles further east of the Cistercian house to Old Deer. Here is where Drostan and his colleagues Fergus, Colm and Medan, founded their ancient muinntir. Another trap waiting for the unwary is the old story, promulgated by the "Roman fabulists" and others, that Drostan was accompanied by the great Colum Cille (St Columba) when Deer was established, but most historians now discount this possibility, explaining the confusion by revealing a confusion between the names of Colm and Colum Cille.

Deer seems to have been a Brito-Pictish foundation of c.500AD The date is supported by the fact that a younger sister of Drostan had married the Scotic king Gabhran before 532AD. After the Scotic ascendancy in Pictland of Alba Deer was penetrated by Gaidhealic or Scotic clergy who appear to have come from Dunkeld and also Kenneth macMalcolm's community which had intruded the Culdee muinntir at Brechin.

If you visit Old Deer there is a path leading down the outside of the north wall of the churchyard (leading into Aden Park) and following this path the visitor very soon arrives in a heavily wooded area surrounded on three sides by a stream. If one imagines this area devoid of the trees then it is easy to arrive at a "classic" site for an Early Christian community.

Medieval remains at Old Deer near the site of the original Celtic Muinntir.

The arched memorial (right hand photograph) is that of Lord Altrie, Commendator of Deer and a brother of Earl Marischal. It bears the dates 1603 and 1608 but the archway itself is considerably earlier - possibly Fifteenth century workmanship. The hood moulding is of a darker red sandstone, said to have been brought from nearby Byth.

 

 

 

 

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