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St Drostan's Episcopal Church lies on the west side of Tarfside, the only significant settlement in Glen Esk. It was built in 1879 by Lord Forbes in memory of his brother Alexander Penrose Forbes, Bishop of Brechin, who had died in 1875.
The current church was the fourth Episcopal Church to be built in Glen Esk. The first was built on the Hill of Rowan, to the west of the current site, in 1717. In a sign that traditions of religious tolerance run deep in Scotland, it was burned down by Presbyterians in 1746. Its replacement, built in a week and roofed with turf, never proved wholly satisfactory and it in turn was replaced in 1811 with another church whose remains have now disappeared.
When the current church was built it was named after St Drostan who, tradition dictates, established the first church in the glen near Loch Lee in the early 600s. A carved cross on a stone near the site of the 1717 church is thought to be associated with St Drostan, so naming the 1879 church after him seemed entirely natural.
It is said that Robert the Bruce planted his standard on the stone before entering battle against the Earl of Buchan in the winter of 1306. It is also said that the cross stone was moved to its current location from elsewhere in the glen early in the 1800s. As ever with possibly conflicting local stories, pick the one you want to believe.
St Drostan's Church is elegantly simple in its design, comprising a single open nave with an apse at the eastern end. The high ceiling, white walls and exposed beams give an impression of space, while sunlight coming through the windows paints attractive patterns on the red carpet. In the apse are three stained glass windows.
Externally, the only real decoration comes from three crosses on the ridge line, two of wrought iron, one of stone. In the absence of a bell tower, the bell is hung at high level outside the west gable of the church, sheltered from the elements by a little semi-conical roof if its own.
St Drostan's Church remains part of the Diocese of Brechin and is open to visitors every day. The nearby buildings are used as a retreat centre associated with St Andrew's Episcopal Church, Brechin.