The village was consumed by the sand in just one night – only the chapel remained

The original St Mary’s Chapel was built in the 13th century and is believed to be one of the oldest surviving in north-east Scotland

Ruins of the 13th Century St Mary's Chapel in Rattray, Scotland
Ruins of the 13th Century St Mary’s Chapel in Rattray, Scotland

A village was inundated by sand in just one night – only one chapel remains.

Dating to at least 1220, St. Mary’s Chapel miraculously survived an historic storm that wiped out the surrounding settlement 500 years later.

The remains became part of a Historic Kirkyards project in Aberdeenshire, Scotland in 2006.

The original chapel was built in the 13th century and is believed to be one of the oldest surviving chapels in north-east Scotland.

It was previously used for religious purposes and this “almost certainly predates the chapel” according to Aberdeenshire Council’s Historic Kirkyards prospectus.

It also has a connection with the spread of Christianity in Buchan, Aberdeenshire between the 6th and 8th centuries.

An artist’s rendering of the settlement near St Mary’s Chapel, Rattray


It is believed to have been built by William Comyn as a private chapel and “dedicated to a son accidentally drowned in a well”.

William Comyn married Marjorie, heiress to the last Celtic Mormaer of Buchan, and became Earl of Buchan, the first ‘Norman’ earl in Scotland.

The chapel was first recorded in 1220 when William Comyn, Earl of Buchan recorded a note of a gift.

It was initially in the form of alms (food or materials given to the poor) and later in the form of gifts of money.

The chapel formed part of the Burgh of Rattray until a huge sandstorm in 1720 decided the fate of the medieval settlement, but the chapel survived unscathed.

The ruins of the structure that still exist today


Alamy Stock Photo)

However, some historians say that it was simply replaced by the Parish Kirk of Crimond after the Reformation around 1576.

The parish church in turn was replaced in 1812 by the present church in the village of Crimond.

A granite stone dated 911 AD on the south wall of the 19th-century chapel does not refer to any known event related to the structure.

The churchyard with its collapsed walls has now become part of the surrounding farmland.

Legend has it that a former castle was covered in sand and that in the nearby fishing village of Rattray was buried alive.

St Mary’s Chapel is located in Rattray, Aberdeenshire, Scotland



They were described as “an ungodly crew” playing cards “on the Sabbath” around the time of the tragedy

The former Castle of Rattray was often violently attacked by Scottish King Robert the Bruce.

A wooden castle first appeared in the early 13th century, and later the Lady Chapel and burial ground followed.

It was once found on a sand dune near the chapel, overlooking the water where boats entered the bay and harbour.

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Fry Electronics Team

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