Friday, September 14, 2007

Open Day on the Berriedale Braes

This church on the hill is open only one day a year. A friend researched its history and through her efforts made an opportunity to open the church to display the history and the beauty of the simple church which she has been researching.

The community of Berriedale wants to keep their church open; the Church of Scotland is making hard economic choices. When it comes to hard economic choices, the Highlands has a history of coming out on the short end.

Berriedale, usually associated with the full name "Berriedale Braes" for its cliff top location along the coast, is perhaps best known for its hair raising, white knuckle driving on a road considered one of the most dangerous in the United Kingdom Given the foibles of the low population density in the Highlands, however, not enough people actually die on the road to make it a priority for widening or otherwise addressing. In all fairness, much money was recently spent taming the road around the Braes, but, as a former flatlander, any road that still needs to be signposted: "Caution Oncoming traffic will be in the middle of the road" is not yet properly fixed.

Many of the people stopping by on this special open day were semi-locals who had passed the church on their way to Inverness or some place South but had never stopped. Given this, it was easy to understand how the church might have been forgotten not only in recent times but throughout its troubled history. On or near the site of the current church there has been a church since about 580. In fact, the Berriedale name may refer to Finbar, one of the reputed early Christians on the site.

The compact but appealing architecture is a testament to another local hero: Thomas Telford, a self taught engineer better known for bridges and railways took on the task of creating plans for 15 churches in some of the most remote places in the Highlands (Compared to some sites on the islands, Berriedale is a veritable crossroads). In the hopes of being noticed, Jenny Bruce was invoking not only the beauty and the history of the site in its own right but also as part of the larger history of the country.

I have already confessed in this blog to being an inveterate reader of those roadside historic markers, but I would encourage everyone to take advantage of the open days or their equivalent to find the little treasures of history lurking there.


At 2:25 PM, Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

It looks like an inspirational setting. How old is the graveyard? Some of the old stones may have interesting stories behind them... or even on them. Because markers sometimes carry more information than just name and dates....

And congratulations on the job, too.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Thanks, Cur, for your good wishes re job. The visible part of the graveyard seems to date from the time of the current church--about 1800's. Many stones here carry messages like "lost at sea" or "killed at some foreign battle site" the saddest ones for me here or anywhere else are the ones where the lifespan is measured in days.

At 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you make me see my own country with different eyes, and I thank you greatly // scorrie //

At 5:57 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

You're welcome, Scorrie. I like sharing what I see with folks who are not as lucky as I am.


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