BRECHIN, a royal, municipal and police burgh of Forfarshire, Scotland. Pop. (1901) 8941. It lies on the left bank of the South Esk, 73 m. west of Montrose, and has a station on the loop line of the Caledonian railway from Forfar to Bridge of Dun. Brechin is a prosperous town, of great antiquity, having been the site of a Culdee abbey. The Danes are said to have burned the town in 1012. David I. erected it into a bishopric in 1150, and it is still a see of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. In 1452 the earl of Huntly crushed the insurrection led by the earl of Crawford at the battle of Brechin Muir, and in 1645 the town and castle were harried by the marquis of Montrose. James VI. gave a grant for founding a hospital in the burgh, which yet supplies the council with funds for charity. No trace remains of the old walls and gates of the town, but the river is crossed by a two-arched stone bridge of very early date. The cathedral church of the Holy Trinity belongs to the 13th century. It is in the Pointed style, but suffered maltreatment in 1806 at the hands of restorers, whose work, however, disappeared during the restoration completed in 1902. The western gable with its flamboyant window and Gothic door and the massive square tower are all that is left of the original edifice. The modern stained glass in the chancel is reckoned amongst the finest in Scotland. Immediately adjoining the cathedral to the south-west stands the Round Tower, built about 1000. It is 863 ft. high, has at the base a circumference of 50 ft. and a diameter of 16 ft., and is capped with a hexagonal spire of 18 ft., which was added in the 15th century. This type of structure is somewhat common in Ireland, but the only Scottish examples are those at Brechin, Abernethy in Perthshire, and Egilshay in the Orkneys. Brechin Castle played a prominent part in the Scottish War of Independence. In 1303 it withstood for twenty days a siege in force by the English under Edward I., surrendering only when its governor, Sir Thomas Maule, had been slain. From the Maule family it descended to the Dalhousies. Its library contains many important MSS., among them Burns’s correspondence with George Thomson, and several cartularies including those of St Andrews and Brechin. In the Vennel (alley or small street) some ruins remain of the maison dieu, or hospitium, founded in 1256 by William of Brechin. Besides these historical buildings the principal public structures include Smith’s school, the municipal buildings, the free library, the episcopal library (founded by Bishop Forbes, who, as well as Bishop Abernethy-Drummond, presented a large number of volumes). The principal industries include manufactures of linen and sailcloth, bleaching, rope-making, brewing, distilling, paper-making, in addition to nurseries and freestone quarries. Brechin—which is controlled by a provost, bailies and council—unites with Arbroath, Forfar, Inverbervie and Montrose to return one member to parliament.
Edzell (pronounced Edyell, and, locally, Aigle) lies about 6 m. north of Brechin, with which it is connected by rail. It is situated on the North Esk and near the West Water, which falls into the Esk 2 m. south-west. Edzell is on the threshold of romantic Highland scenery. The picturesque ruins of Edzell Castle lie a mile to the west of the town. Once the seat of the Lindsays the estate now belongs to the earl of Dalhousie. The church of the parish of Farnell, 31 m. south-east of Brechin, was erected in 1806 after the model, so it is stated, of the famous Holy House (Casa Santa) of Loreto in Italy. It was here that the old sculptured stone giving a version of the Fall was found. Between Farnell and Brechin lies Kinnaird Castle, the seat of the earl of Southesk.