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      29.03.2009 18:44
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      An ancient and beautiful Scottish town

      A Cathedral City of just over 6000 people, Brechin is situated on a steep hill overlooking the River South Esk in Angus in Scotland. A town of great antiquity, it was initially focussed around the riverside Catherdral, built over a millennium ago. Due to the town's expansion northwards, the spire and tower of the Catherdal complex is now hidden by far smaller buildings built further up the hill. At one point, Brechin was a thriving jute mill town, nearly twice the size it is today, but slowly its wealth and status has been eroded, most recently by the closure of a nearby airforce base in the mid-1990s.

      Transport links to Brechin are good, with the main A90 trunk road bringing traffic to the town in relative comfort and speed. Bus services are reliable to the south, heading towards Dundee, although Aberdeen-facing public transport is far more problematic (Brechin suffers from being on the northern border of Angus and Aberdeenshire, and some local amenities suffer from existing in a no man land's, with neither Council willing to take complete responsibility). A railway linked Brechin to the main East Coast line until 1979, when the last goods train ran into the City. The station is now a popular museum, and there has been several aborted plans to reconnect Brechin to the main network (at the moment, the line peters out two miles from Montrose station).

      Architecturally, the centre of the town is in some state of decay, although it still remains picturesque owing to its tremendous age. Eighteenth century shops and houses lie adjacent to red-brick nineteenth century halls and libraries. The north of the town is bordered by a line of Victorian and Edwardian parks, a large cemetery, a working distillery, and a nature trail following the line of a disused railway. Some of this "green belt" has been slowly encroached on by new building developments over the last thirty years, but the mixture of town, country and landscaped gardens give the north end of the town, starting at the area known as "The Den", a pleasant aspect.

      The south end of town is dominated by the River South Esk, which still occasionally floods onto River Street. A large caravan park can be found next to the road to Arbroath, opposite the ancient Brechin Bridge, and a complex of parkland and lidos leads from the leisure centre to the back of the Cathedral and Brechin Castle, a private residence that can be glimpsed through the trees. In between the river and the northern parks lies an expanse of industrial land and roads, some of which used to feed directly into the railway and surrounding factories. The subsequent desolation that resulted from companies closing down and the trains stopping has now slowly been regenerated with new houses and shops.

      Perhaps the biggest change to Brechin in recent years has been to the west of the City, heading out towards the Dundee road. Fifteen years ago, a small garden centre opened about a mile from the Cathedral, owned by the Dalhousie family (who also own Brechin Castle). Slowly, it began to expand, and developed a seperate, well-respected Bronze Age museum known as the Pictavia. Symbolically, Brechin's Tourist Information Centre moved to Pictavia at the end of the 1990s (it had previously been on St. Ninian's Square, opposite the railway museum). A new industrial park also sprang up on the land between the garden centre and the City, playing host to a wide variety of firms, from local farm machinery manufacturers, to computer graphics studios.

      I would heartily recommend a visit to Brechin, and a walk on foot around the town's many footpaths and walk ways into semi-rural areas. The more adventurous might even want to try some of the longer walks towards Edzell or out towards Montrose, walking amongst the broom that sides the railway line there. On a beautiful day, the town can feel quite Edwardian, like walking into a Sunday night TV show - but its lack of tourists means you can be alone to enjoy the vistas and quiet, and feel that it is truly "yours".

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