The Old Bridge of Sheeoch is located just upstream from the South Deeside Road bridge at the Kirkton of Durris (click here for map). It has long been used as a pedestrian crossing of the Burn of Sheeoch. Historical accounts give evidence that there was some sort of crossing there for almost a thousand years. In the reign of Alexander III during the 13th Century, it was recorded that repairs were made to a bridge at Dores, the original spelling of Durris. As it is not conceivable that there was a bridge across the River Dee at this time, it seems possible that this notation refers to a bridge across the Burn of Sheeoch. Kirkton of Durris was an important site along the route to Aberdeen from the south. Edward I (Longshanks), along with his 35,000 troops, is recorded as having come along this route on his triumphal march to Aberdeen. It is possible that part of the current bridge dates from this period, although Historic Scotland has listed it as an 18th Century structure. It is a listed building (grade B).
Even in recent times, the bridge continued to be an important crossing for the people of Kirkton, as the road bridge is unsafe for pedestrians. While people were still using the bridge in 2000 when Friends of Durris Forest (FDF) first took an interest, part of the bridge had fallen away and there was risk of a major collapse. We contacted the owners, Dunecht Estates, with a view to undertaking a joint effort to save the bridge. At that time, the Estate was not inclined to put any resources into a restoration project but agreed to let FDF seek funding. Aberdeenshire Council was aware of the condition of the bridge and commissioned a structural report in late 2001. The report was highly pessimistic and advised that the bridge was dangerous and could collapse at any time. FDF approached Historic Scotland for funding, but they were not interested. We then began a process of seeking funds from other bodies. Unfortunately during this search a substantial portion of the bridge collapsed after a particularly violent storm. Residents of Kirkton were then forced to cross the Sheeoch on the main road bridge, a situation of major concern.
The Council's interest in the bridge has been rekindled in recent months. FDF was contacted by Donald Macpherson from the Transportation and Infrastructure office and a site visit was made. The Council is interested in creating a community body which could promote the restoration of the bridge. It would be led by the Northeast Buildings Preservation Trust. FDF has expressed its interest in playing a major role in this co-operative effort. It is thought that confirmation of the age of the bridge would lead to increased interest on the part of funding bodies, so plans are to be made to fund an archaeological survey. There has been considerable local support for this initiative. It is hoped that this important part of Scotland's architectural heritage will be saved and once again afford the residents of Kirkton of Durris a safe crossing of the Burn of Sheeoch.