In c 530 on old maps of Scotland, there is evidence of a church at Berriedale. The village is written as Baridal or Bardual,with the indication relating to Saint Finbar and this name possibly given by his associated monks in his honour. From 166 to 1220 a series of chapels has been noted.
Following the appointment of Bishop Darrus as Bishop of Caithness in 1066, the first Catholic chapels were erected where there was some habitation, and in the parish of Latheron these were Clyth, Latheron, Dunbeath and Berriedale. Four separate Chapels are noted in the Berriedale area. One at Berriedale itself, another on the Berriedale Strath, one on Langwell Strath and one at Braemore.
One is called Braeheglish (Church on the Hill) and is sited on the Langwell Strath, linked by an ancient track known as the Priests’Walk. The priests walked from one chapel to another over the moors and along the streams and rivers. The burn on the west side of Scaraben flowing into the Langwell Water/River? is called Angel’s Burn after an incident where a priest allegedly met an angel. It was not until after the Reformation that the Presbyterian form of government and worship took effect and in 1699 a General Assembly was able to constitute a Presbytery in the county with three ministers serving the population. From 1760 the Missionaries of the Royal Bounty Committee conducted services in the preaching stations of Achreny, Halsary and Halladale. In 1794 Alexander Sage was the first missionary appointed to Achreny and his duties included services at Berriedale, Bruan and Achreny.
During the 18th century individual elders played an important role in fostering spiritual life and interest in the church and were called ‘The Men’. One such belonging to the Berriedale district was John Sutherland or John Badbea. He was born in Ousdale in 1795 and for forty years he was an outstanding speaker at the Friday meetings all over the parish.
In 1806 the Rev John MacDonald, otherwise known as the Apostle of the North, was ordained as missionary to Berriedale. In 1807 he was called to the Gaelic Chapel in Edinburgh and later to St Kilda, and was famous all over the Highlands for his superb oratory and influence in the Disruption of 1843. Some of his sermons during the Cholera Epidemic are of particular significance. He was followed by the Rev George Davidson, then the Rev Archibald Cook and Rev Donald Sage, who was later to become minister at Reay.
In 1823 the Commissioners of Parliament had commissioned Thomas Telford, Civil Engineer, to undertake the construction of 31 Highland churches and 42 manses throughout Scotland. Following the granting of suitable land by James Horne, proprietor of Welbeck Estate, the Church with its distinctive bell tower and manse was completed in 1826 by William Davidson at a price of £1473.18s.1d. for the church.
On the outside wall facing south are two plaques.
One states ‘Erected by the Commissioners of Parliament 1826’ and the other ‘On the application of James Horne of Langwell who granted all the required accommodations of lands. Gratis 1826’.
The first minister of this church was the Rev D. MacLachlan and in 1833 Berriedale was raised to the status of a Quod Sacra Parish.
Ministers were Rev Samuel Campbell, 1837;Rev Gilbert MacMillan, 1850; Rev Hugh Fraser, 1862; Rev Alexander Stewart, 1870; Rev Daniel MacDougall, 1876; Rev James Grieve, 1904; Rev W. Caird Taylor,1917 and Rev A. Scott Berrie, 1927. Following his retrial in 1950, the two congregations of Berriedale and Dunbeath were united under the old name of Berriedale–Dunbeath Church and the Rev A.F. Andrew was inducted as the first minister of the new united charge. He was succeeded by Rev James Whitton in 1956.