St Machar Cathedral

The Cathedral is a fine example of a fortified kirk, with twin towers built in the fashion of 14th century tower houses and now with spires added in the 15th century.

Aberdeen, Grampian

Opening times

Open daily from 9.30am to 4.30pm from April to October and 10am to 4pm from November to March. Transepts are free to visit.


The Chanonry
AB24 1RQ

A place of worship was established in this area about 580AD and it is highly likely that it was indeed on its current location. A stone carved with a Celtic cross, a clear indication of the sites Celtic roots, believed to have been associated with this original church is now on display in the church. It became a Cathedral in the 1130s when the seat of the Bishop was transferred from Mortlach, near Dufftown to Old Aberdeen under David I.

By 1165 a Norman style cathedral stood on the site. In the 13th century the Cathedral had to undergo extensive restoration becoming a fine example of a fortified Kirk. In 1305 Sir William Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered and his dismembered body was sent to different parts of Scotland. Whether his left arm was indeed interred within the walls of St Machars it is not known. Shortly after the war of independence construction was continued and it must have been a glorious sight when the church was finally complete in 1530.

St Machar's oak ceiling was erected in 1520 and is of international significance. Supported on all sides by a deep wooden frieze, it is decorated with 48 carved and painted heraldic shields, representing contemporary historic figures from Henry VIII to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and numerous notable Scottish families.

With the reformation of 1560 change came. The Cathedral lost its status as cathedral. While it is a part of the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian church, which has neither bishops nor cathedrals, St Machars is a cathedral only by name. This seemingly trivial distinction is nevertheless a reminder of serious conflicts which more than once in the in the middle of the 17th century led to civil wars that engulfed Scotland, England and Ireland

General Monck led Cromwells troops into Aberdeen in 1654. Looking for material for his fort he removed the stones from the empty and destroyed bishops palace to the east and from the disused and probably never finished choir. It is not clear if this led to a weakening of the base of the central tower.

A storm in 1688 caused its fall into the transepts and crossing, and damaged the nave as well. It took until 1953 to bring the east end into the state that it is today complete with three stained glass windows.

St Machar's Cathedral was awarded the 2020 Friends of the National Churches Trust Grant, worth £10,000. The award helped to fund extensive roof repairs to make the church watertight, protecting the historic fabric of the building and safeguarding the stunning decoration of the oak ceiling. 


  • Captivating architecture

  • Enchanting atmosphere

  • Fascinating churchyard

  • Glorious furnishings

  • Magnificent memorials

  • National heritage here

  • Social heritage stories

  • Spectacular stained glass

  • Accessible toilets in church

  • Accessible toilets nearby

  • Bus stop within 100m

  • Café in church

  • Café within 500m

  • Church shop or souvenirs

  • Dog friendly

  • Level access to the main areas

  • Non-accessible toilets in church

  • On street parking at church

  • Parking within 250m

  • Space to secure your bike

  • Train station within 250m

  • Walkers & cyclists welcome

  • Church of Scotland

  • Cornerstone Grant, £40,000, 2019

  • Our Cornerstone Grants fund urgent repairs and essential community facilities such as toilets and kitchens to help keep churches open.

Contact information

Other nearby churches

St Andrew's Cathedral

Aberdeen, Grampian

You are very welcome to St Andrews Cathedral, the home of Christian hospitality and culture in the heart of the granite city.

Aberdeen Cathedral

Aberdeen, Grampian

The main place of worship in the Catholic diocese of Aberdeen the Cathedral was opened in 1860 and has many attractive architectural and liturgical features.

St James the Less

Aberdeen, Grampian

St James is a hidden gem right in the centre of Aberdeen, a well loved place of worship for 125 years.