A burgh town in the valley of Strathmore, Angus, Brechin is situated on the River South Esk 9 miles (14.5 km) west of Montrose. It was the cathedral town of the pre-Reformation diocese of Brechin and developed from the 12th Century when the bishop was granted permission to hold a weekly market on Sundays. In 1641 Brechin was raised to the status of a royal burgh. Brechin Cathedral, which incorporates one of only two surviving 11th century round towers in Scotland, was built in a Gothic style in the 13th century. It replaced an earlier religious centre from which the Culdee monks of the Celtic church had ministered to the local communities of Angus and the Mearns.
Buildings of historic and architectural interest include Brechin Castle, the Town House and Museum (1789), Gardner Memorial Church (1897-98), Fox Maule Ramsay memorial fountain, Public Library (1891-93), Den Burn Works (1864), Mechanics Institute (1838), the chapel of Maison Dieu Hospital built as an alms house in 1267 by Lord William de Brechin, and several gabled merchants' houses from the 18th century.
The station and goods yards built for the Caledonian Railway Company in 1895 and closed in 1981 have been restored by the Brechin Railway Preservation Society which runs steam trains along 4 miles (6.5 km) of track eastwards to Bridge of Dun. Brechin is also a considerable industrial centre with textiles, distilling, engineering, packaging and food canning. The Brechin Castle Centre on the Haughmuir includes a 25 ha (62 acre) country park with an ornamental lake, miniature railway, garden centre, children's play area, farm and Pictavia exhibition exploring the world of the Picts.
Brechin was the birthplace in 1892 of the physicist Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt, who is associated with the development of radar.