Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Kincardineshire

Kincardineshire (often called The Mearns), a maritime county on the eastern seaboard of Scotland. It is bounded N and NW by Aberdeenshire, E by the German Ocean, and SW by Forfarshire. Its outline is an irregular triangle, with the NE angle at the mouth of the river Dee, the S angle at the mouth of the river North Esk, and the W angle between Mount Battock and the Hill of Cammie, where the boundaries of Forfarshire, Aberdeenshire, and Kincardineshire all meet. The length of the E side is 30¾ miles, that of the SW side 18¾, and that of the NW side 29½-all the measurements being in straight lines. Following the main windings, the distance along the sea-coast is about 35 miles, and along the other two sides the distances would be fully one-third more than those just given. From the mouth of the North Esk the boundary follows the mid bed of that river for a distance of 15 miles from the mouth, and then takes a northerly course by Manach Hill to Sturdy Hill, from which it follows the watershed between Glen Esk and Glen Dye to a point about 1 mile NW of Mount Battock at Loch Tennet. From this it follows the course of the Water of Aven till it joins the Feugh Water, down which it runs for about ½ mile. The line then passes irregularly to the N and NW across the Dee on to the Hill of Fare, thence 4 miles E, and then in an irregular line S back to the Dee near Durris Church, and thereafter it follows the mid bed of the river for 14¾ miles to its mouth at Aberdeen. The greater part of the coast-line is bold and rocky, the cliffs often rising to over 200 feet, and presenting many picturesque features, particularly along the line of conglomerate cliffs to the S of Stonehaven. The area of the county is 383.4 square miles or 248,195 acres, of which 1463 are inland waters and 1385 are foreshore. Of the land surface of 245,347 acres, 120,676 were under cultivation in 1882 and 27,880 were under wood, an increase in the former case of 46,299 acres since the beginning of the century and of 30,505 within the last twenty-five years, and in the latter case of 11,228 acres within the last twenty-five years. There are about 6000 acres of permanent pasture, and the rest is rough hill pasture or heath, a considerable proportion being devoted to grouse and deer. The mean summer temperature is 58, and the mean winter temperature 37; while rain or snow falls on an average on 190 days in the year, the mean depth being 32½ inches. Among the counties of Scotland Kincardineshire is twenty-first as regards area, twenty-fourth as regards population, and twentieth as regards valuation. The county falls naturally into five subdivisions-the Grampian district, the northern coast district, the southern coast district, the Howe of the Mearus-a continuation northwards of the valley of Strathmore (see Forfarshire)-and the Deeside district.

The Grampian region embraces the eastern termination of the Grampians, extends across the county from Mount Battock (2555 feet) on the W till the sea is reached near Muchals, and separates the Deeside district from the Howe of the Mearns. To the E of Mount Battock is Clachnaben (1944 feet), with, rising near its summit, a curious mass of rock, which looks from the sea like a watch-tower, and forms an excellent landmark. Farther E is Kerloch (1747 feet), from which there is an excellent view of the greater part of Aberdeenshire, and from which it is possible to see as far S as the Lammermuir Hills. To the NE is Cairnmonearn (1245 feet), with its slopes almost covered with great masses of granite. ESE of Mount Battock is Cairn-o' Mount (1488 feet), over the eastern shoulder of which is the public road from the Howe of the Mearns to Deeside. As the summits approach the coast they gradually get lower, till, about 3 miles from the sea, they average from 500 to 600 feet high, and from this they slope gradually down till they terminate in rocky coast heights of from 100 to 200 feet. The district is about 18 miles long and from 6 to 8 wide. It comprises about 85,400 acres, and is very rugged, dreary, and sterile, though there are here and there some picturesque glens.

From this district the northern and southern coast regions are offshoots to the N and S respectively. The former contains 30,750 acres, and extends from Girdleness to the neighbourhood of Stonehaven, with an average breadth of 3 miles. There is a bold rocky shore, with cliffs varying in height from 100 to 300 feet; but, except in the neighbourhood of Aberdeen and Stonehaven, the region is very bleak. The southern coast district, with an area of 58,190 acres, extends from Stonehaven to the mouth of the North Esk, and has an average breadth of from 4 to 5 miles. Although the heights between Stonehaven and Bervie are somewhat bare, the land is well cultivated, and the aspect is much less bleak than in the northern district. To the S of Stonehaven is the range of cliffs known as the Fowlsheugh, noted as the summer dwelling-place of immense numbers of sea birds. Beyond Johnshaven the heights retire farther from the coast, leaving a strip of fertile land in some places 3 miles wide, and gradually rising into the green ridge known as Garvock Hill (915 feet), forming a continuation the Sidlaws. Between the Grampians on the SW a the heights of Garvock and Arbuthnott on the NE the northern portion of the great valley of Strathmore, which is in this county known as the Howe of the Mearns. The length of this district is about 16 miles, and its breadth gradually narrows from 5 miles at the W till it runs out at Stonehaven. It contains 34, 3 40 acres. Sheltered by high grounds from the ungenial N and E winds, it is a fertile and highly cultivated country, with thriving plantations, good farms, and a considerable number of gentlemen's seats. The soil is of a bright red colour, which gives the surface when newly ploughed a very peculiar, but rich and warm, appearance. The Howe constitutes the main line of access between the N and SE of Scotland.

The Deeside district extends from the sea westward along the southern bank of the Dee for over 14 miles, and then along both banks for about 8 miles. It comprehends also the valley of the Feugh. The area is 36, 667 acres. The district is peculiarly favourable to the growth of timber, and there are large and thriving plantations, which in many cases extend to the summits of the adjacent hills. At Banchory, where the county occupies both sides of the Dee, the scenery along the river is good.

As will be seen from this outline the surface of the county is considerably diversified. The highest summit of the Grampian range in the county is Mount Battock (2555 feet), and the other principal summits are Sturdy Hill (1784), Kerloch (1747), Hound Hillock (1698), Whitelaws (1664), Mount Shade (1662), Goyle Hill (1527), Cairn -o-' Mount (1488), Fen 358), Cairnmonearn (1245), Mongour (1232), Hill of Trusta (1051), Craig of Dalfro (1042). In the coast tract between Stonehaven and the mouth of the North Esk are Clochna Hill (638 feet), Bruxie Hill (710), Law of Lum (492), Leys Hill (495), Knox Hill (523), and Hill of Morphie (486). There are a few small lochs in the county, the chief being the Loch of Drum (6 x 2 furl., formerly 3 times as large) near the centre of the N side, and Loirstone Loch (2 x 1 furl.) near the NE corner. Leys Loch is now drained. It contained a crannoge, traces of which still remain. The drainage of the part of the county to the N of the Grampians is effected by means of the Dee and its tributaries. After that river enters Kincardineshire the first stream of importance that it receives is the Water of Feugh, which joins it a little above Banchory, after itself receiving the Water of Aven and the Water of Dye. At the church of Durris the Dee is joined by the Burn of Sheeoch, and, farther down, about a mile below Peterculter Church, by Crynoch Burn. The part of the Grampians immediately to the W of Stonehaven is drained by Cowie Water, Carron Water, and Bervie Water, of which the first two enter the sea at Stonehaven, and the last at Bervie. In the coast district N of Stonehaven are the small burns of Elsick and Muchalls. The district S of Stonehaven has, besides the Bervie Water, also the smaller burns of Caterline, Benholm, Fenella, and Lauriston; near the mouth of the second last is a prettily wooded rock glen with a lofty waterfall. The SW end of the Howe of the Mearns is drained by the Black Burn, Dourie Burn, and Luther Water flowing into the North Esk. There are a number of small local burns flowing into all of these streams, particularly the Dye and the Cowie. The Dee and North Esk are valuable salmon rivers, and in many of the smaller streams there is excellent trout fishing.

Geology.—The area occupied by the ancient crystalline rocks in Kincardineshire lies to the N of the great fault which bounds the Old Red Sandstone formation. This line extends from near Edzell, NE by Fenella Hill, to Craigeven Bay, about 1 mile N of Stonehaven. The synclinal fold which traverses the crystalline rocks in Forfarshire is also traceable across this county. As we ascend the sections in the North Esk and Cowie rivers, green and grey slates and shales are seen dipping towards the NW at high angles, which are succeeded by crystalline micaceous grits and mica schists. On the N side of the synclinal axis the same beds reappear with a SE inclination, but in a still more highly altered form. By means of repeated undulations they spread over the northern part of the county towards the valley of the Dee. A traverse along the rugged and rocky cliff between Stonehaven and Aberdeen furnishes admirable opportunities for the examination of the lithological varieties of these crystalline rocks, and the numerous flexures by which they are repeated. From the great fault in Craigeven Bay, near Stonehaven, to a point about 1½ mile to the N, there is a regular ascending series through green and grey slates, with bands of pebbly grit which are overlaid by contorted mica schists and micaceous quartzites. In the neighbourhood of Muchalls Castle the latter beds are repeated by gentle undulations, and at Skateraw they are inclined to the W or n of W, while from Portlethen to Findon there is a general dip to the S or SSE. In the eastern portion of the county no limestones are associated with the crystalline series, but, near Banchory and also near Lochlee in the adjacent county, some bands of limestone occur which are probably on the same horizon as the calcareous series of Loch Earn and Loch Tay. An important feature connected with these crystalline rocks is the occurrence of masses of granite in their midst. From the gradual disappearance of the foliation in the micaceous gneiss as we approach the margin of the granite, it is probable that the granitic masses may be the result of extreme metamorphism. By far the largest area of granite extends along the watershed of the county from Mount Battock E to Cairnmonearn Hill, but, besides this mass, there are several small bosses on the S side of the Dee between Maryculter and Aberdeen. The granite to the S of the Dee, which has been largely quarried for building purposes, is coarsely crystalline, of a grey colour, and is composed of the normal constituents- quartz, felspar, and black mica. Veins and dykes of this rock also occur throughout the county in the midst of the stratified crystalline series.

The geological structure of the Old Red Sandstone formation in Kincardineshire has a close resemblance to that in the adjacent county of Forfar. (See Geology of Forfarshire, Ord. Gaz., vol. II., p. 40.) The great synclinal fold which traverses Strathmore runs E to the shore at Crawton, while the N limb of the anticlinal fold of the Sidlaws extends along the shore between St Cyrus and Kinneff. In Kincardineshire, however, there is a great thickness of strata belonging to this formation which occupy a lower position than any met with in Forfarshire. This subdivision, which immediately underlies the volcanic series, is admirably displayed in the shore section at Stonehaven. By means of the great fault which bounds the Old Red Sandstone formation along the flanks of the Grampians the members of this subdivision are brought into conjunction with the crystalline rocks in Craigeven Bay about 1 mile N of Stonehaven. The base of the Old Red Sandstone, therefore, is nowhere visible in this county. The strata consist of red sandstones and flags, with purple clays and shales which are either vertical or highly inclined to the E of S, and as they extend along the shore to the Bellman's Head S of Stonehaven, it is evident that their thickness must be about 5000 feet. Notwithstanding the great thickness of the members of this series, it is important to note that when they are followed inland in a WSW direction they are abruptly truncated by the great fault already referred to. Not far to the S of Stonehaven the highest beds of this subdivision pass conformably below the representatives of the volcanic series of Forfarshire. In this county, however, there is a remarkable change in the aspect of the latter subdivision. Instead of a great succession of lavas and tuffs, we find a remarkable development of coarse conglomerates, with ashy grits and a few thin sheets of diabase porphyrite. It is apparent, therefore, that the centres of volcanic activity were far removed from this part of the inland sea in which the strata accumulated. The active volcanoes must have been situated along a line extending from Perthshire into Forfarshire. The massive conglomerates, containing large and well-rounded pebbles of diabase, and various metamorphic rocks are admirably seen on the bluff cliff at Dunnottar Castle, where they are inclined to the S. In Tremuda Bay they swing round to the SW and pass below a bed of lava. As we follow the coast-line S by Crawton the beds veer round to the W, and this dip continues to Inchbervie and Gourdon, while in the neighbourhood of St Cyrus they are inclined to the N of W. From these data it is evident that the representatives of the volcanic series are curving round the great synclinal fold of Strathmore. Of the sheets of lava intercalated in this subdivision, the most important occurs on the Bruxie and Leys Hills, which can be traced in a SW direction to the E of Inchbervie. The thin bands at Crawton, Kinneff, Inchbervie, and Gourdon are of minor importance.

The members of the volcanic zone are succeeded by red sandstones and conglomerates with bands of shale, in which occurs the well-known fish bed at Canterland (see list of fossils in vol. II., Ord. Gaz., p. 40), and these beds are overlaid in turn by the friable red marls and sandstones occupying the centre of the syncline between Stracathro and Fordoun.

An interesting feature connected with the glaciation of Kincardineshire is the abnormal trend of the icemarkings on the shore, compared with the direction met with on the slopes of the hills. In the higher reaches of the North Esk, and along the hill slopes as far as the Auchlee Hill, near Maryculter, the general trend of the striæ is SE and ESE, but along the shore between Inchbervie and Aberdeen the direction is NNE. It would seem, therefore, that by some means or other the ice which radiated from the high grounds of Kincardineshire was compelled to change its course on reaching the low ground between Stracathro and Stonehaven. Along this line it moved towards the NE, and when it reached the coast-line it was deflected still further towards the NNE and N. It has been suggested that this remarkable deflection was due to the presence of the Scandinavian mer de glace in the North Sea, which, from its greater size, was capable of overcoming the seaward motion of the local ice. The evidence derived from the boulder clay furnishes striking confirmation of this northerly movement along the coast. This deposit, which is spread over the low grounds in the form of a more or less continuous covering, and which steals up the valleys draining the hills as a gently sloping terrace, presents the usual characteristics of the boulder clay. In the inland area occupied by the Old Red Sandstone, this deposit contains numerous fragments of the altered crystalline rocks derived from the lopes of the high grounds of the county, while to the N of the fault at Stonehaven, in the direction of Muchalls and Portlethen, striated blocks of red sandstone and porphyrite are mingled with fragments of the underlying rocks in the boulder clay. The blocks of lava and the red sandstones were derived from the area lying to the S of the great fault.

At the E end of Strathmore, and along the line of railway from that point towards Stonehaven, deposits of gravel and sand are spread over the ground, which are partly fluviatile and partly due to the melting of the retreating glaciers. Here and there along the coast between Stonehaven and St Cyrus patches of stratified sands, gravels, and clays are met with which may probably belong to the 100-feet beach.

Soils and Agriculture.—In the Grampian district there is a large extent of ground simply covered with heath, waste, or under peat, but along the southern border matters improve, and there are stretches of good loam on rock or clay subsoils, while along both the Feugh and the Dye there are patches of good rich loam. Along the coast districts the soil varies considerably. About Muchalls it is thin and moorish, and the northern district is generally rough and stony. Some of the land, however, near Aberdeen is let for dairy farming, and, though stony, is fertile and commands a good rent. In the southern district by Benholm, Bervie, and St Cyrus there is good loam on a subsoil of gravel, clay, or decomposed rock; the higher parts are thin. In the Howe district there are good black and reddish loams, with a subsoil of sand, gravel, or clay, the gravel lying mostly to the NW, and the clay to the SE. This tract is very fertile. In the Deeside district, along the N side, there is a good deal of light sandy soil produced by decomposed granite mixed with moss, while along the S side the soil varies from a good black loam to sand, gravel, and clay overlying rock.

Before the middle of last century, agriculture in the county was but little attended to. ' At that period ' [1761}, says Captain Barclay of Ury, in speaking of the county, ' agriculture was at a very low ebb. My grandfather, although a most respectable man, had no turn for improvement, nor had any of his predecessors; indeed, the pursuit of agriculture was generally despised through the country. But my father seems to have been a heaven-born improver; for such was his enthusiasm, that a year before his father's death he carried on his back, all the way from Aberdeen, a bundle of young trees, which he planted in the den of Ury with his own hand, sorely to the vexation of the old gentleman, who complained that the protecting of the plants annoyed the people's sheep. Soon after this my father went to Norfolk, then the great agricultural school of the kingdom, where he served a regular apprenticeship to the business, and brought home with him not only the most improved implements of husbandry, but also a number of Norfolk ploughmen. At that time the tenantry were little better than the boors of Germany and Russia, and the lairds were more inclined to break each other's heads than to break up the treasures of the earth. Seeing, then, that preaching doctrines was of no avail without putting them into practical operation, he took into his own hands a large surface of about 2000 acres. At that time the estate of Ury was a complete waste, consisting of bogs, baulks, and rigs, everywhere intersected with cairns of stones and moorland. For twenty years he toiled most indefatigably; and during all that time he was never known to be in bed after five o'clock in the morning, winter or summer. He was the first man who sowed a turnip in a field, or artificial grasses, north of the Firth of Forth. During this period he thoroughly improved 2000 acres, reclaimed from moor 800, and planted from 1200 to 1500 acres chiefly with forest trees. Gradually his operations began to attract attention, and be followed by the proprietors and tenantry around, until at last that spirit of improvement burst forth, which has the agriculture of this part of the country, and Scotland generally, in the high state of excellence in which we now find it. ' This was in 1838, and the improvement that has since taken place is equally well marked. ' The area of cultivated land, ' says Mr James Macdonald in his prize report on the agriculture of Forfar and Kincardine in the Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society for 18 81, ' about the commencement of the century is stated at 74, 377 acres, and that under actual tillage at 45, 736, it being estimated that other 28, 000 acres were capable of being cultivated. In the better parts of the county, in the Howe of the Mearns, and in the parishes of St Cyrus and Benholm, wheat had been grown as far back as tradition and record stretched; while by 1807, barley, oats, peas, beans, potatoes, and turnips, and sown grasses, were cultivated with success all over the country. The practice of leaving land in fallow is said to have been introduced into the county by Mr Barclay of Urie in 1761. It spread gradually over the county, and in 1807 the fallow break was estimated at 2619 acres.. It is stated that potatoes were first planted in Kincardineshire in 1727 by an old soldier, who had brought some tubers with him from Ireland to the village of Marykirk, where he resided for only one year. He raised a good crop, and it is recorded that, while the villagers were ready enough to steal the strange plant, ' none of them had the ingenuity to cultivate it after he was gone." They looked in vain to the stems for the seed. Potatoes were again introduced into the Mearns in 1760, while in 1754 turnips were introduced by Mr R. Scott of Dunninald, and grown by him on the farm of Milton of Mathers, St Cyrus. In 1764, Mr William Lyall, farmer in Wattieston, Fordoun, raised about an acre of turnips, and it is stated that the crop was considered so rare that it was sold in small quantities, at one penny per stone, for kitchen vegetables. This crop was cultivated on only a very few farms till 1775, but by the beginning of the present century it was grown all over the county. Sown grasses were not in general use till about 1770; but it is stated that, as early as 1730, Sir William Nicolson of Glenbervie, ' a spirited cultivator at an early period, " raised hay from sown seeds, ' not, however, from the seeds of any of the species of clover now in use, but from such seeds as were found among the natural meadow hay." The number of cattle in 1807 was 24, 825, and it is stated that a four-year-old Mearns ox weighed about 45 stones. The best cattle are described as black or brown, or brindled with spreading horns. There were also some very good polled cattle similar to, and, no doubt, of the same breed as the Buchan "Humlies," the progenitors, along with the Angus Doddies, of the improved polled Aberdeen and Angus breed. The sheep stock numbered 24, 957, and consisted mainly of blackfaced sheep and the ancient dun faces. Along the coast there were a few Bakewell Leicesters, and also some Southdowns. At the commencement of the century the farm implements were somewhat primitive. The ancient Scotch plough was fast giving way to Small's improved ploughs, which cost about £4 each, and which by 1807 was almost the only sort of plough used in the county. Harrows, with five wooden bills and five iron teeth in each, were coming into use, as also were single carts. During the first ten years of the century about a score of threshing-mills were erected in the county at a cost of from £140 to £180 each. Among the noted early improvers, Mr Barclay is mentioned as having been the most prominent. Between 1760 and 1790 he reclaimed over 000, and planted 1000, acres, raising the rental of his estate of Ury from £200 to £1800 in less than fifty years. Early in the century great improvement was effected in houses, roads, and fences.

'Coming to speak of more recent times, the spirit of improvement aroused in the last century has never been allowed to lie dormant. True, during the last twenty-five years a smaller extent of land has been reclaimed than during either of the last twenty-five years of the 18th century or the first twenty-five of the present; but that has not been due to any flagging in the spirit of improvement, but simply to the fact that only a limited area of suitable land remained for the proprietors and tenants of the past twenty-five years to bring under cultivation. There has been less done simply because there has been less to do.'

The acreage under the various crops at different dates is given in the following tables:—

Grain Crops.—Acres.

Year.Wheat.Barley or Bare.Oats.Total.

Grass, Root Crops, etc.—Acres.

YearHay, Grass,
and Permanent

while there are about 1500 acres annually under beans, rye, vetches, fallow, etc. Between 1854 and 1882 the permanent pasture never broken up, and included above, has decreased from 13, 029 to 698 3. Harvest in the earlier districts commences between 10 and 31 Aug., and in the later districts between l and 16 Sept. The large farms are worked mostly on the seven shift rotation, most of the others on the six shift. The average yield of wheat per acre is from 28 to 30 bushels; barley, from 36 to 40 bushels; oats, from 36 to 46 bushels; hay, 1¾ ton; turnips, from 14 to 30 tons; and potatoes, 5 tons; but the last is very variable. Wages of farm servants vary from £25 to £35 a year. Women for out-door work get 1s. 3d. a day, and in harvest 3s. 4d. a day. The decrease in the area under wheat is due partly to a decrease in the price of wheat, and partly to a slight falling off in the yield per acre, which make its growing still less remunerative. The latter is due to the chemical falling off in the soil.

The agricultural live stock in the county at different dates is shown in the following table:—


Owing to the time when cattle are sold for the meat market, the actual number of cattle reared is more than is given in the table. Breeding of cattle is now mostly confined to polled animals, the chief herd being that of Mr James Scott at Easter Tulloch; while there are good herds also kept by Mr Walker at Portlethen, Sir Thomas Gladstone of Fasque, and Mr Grant of Ecclesgreig. Kincardineshire, in the earlier years of the present century, figured prominently in the breeding of shorthorns, the herd being that of Captain Barclay of Ury, founded in 1829, and from which a large number of the shorthorns in the north of Scotland are descended. The horses are principally Clydesdales, but there are no celebrated breeders. A stud established by Mr Baird, the present proprietor of Ury, was dispersed some years ago. Sheep-farming is carried on in the upper districts, and the heather of Glen Dye is supposed to be particularly tender and sweet. The sheep are of the blackfaced breed, and the largest stock belongs to Sir Thomas Gladstone of Fasque. In 1875 there were 1200 holdings of 50 acres or less, 301 of from 50 to 100 acres, 362 of 100 to 300, and 51 of more than 300 acres. Rents vary from 15s. to £3 per acre, according to the quality of the soil. There are 5 proprietors holding each between 10, 000 and 50, 000 acres, 5 between 5000 and 10, 000, 18 between 2000 and 5000, 13 between 1000 and 2000, and 1342 owning land of less extent. The largest landowner in the county is Sir Thomas Gladstone of Fasque. The chief estates, most of which are separately noticed, are Altries, Arbuthnot, Badentoy, Ballogie, Balmain, Balmakewan, Banchory, Benholm, Blackhall, Brotherton, The Burn, Cowie, Coul, Drumlithie, Drumtochty, Dunnottar, Ecclesgreig, Fasque, Fawside, Fettercairn, Fetteresso, Gillien brands, Glenbervie, Hallgreen, Haulkerton, Inchmarlo, Inglismaldie, Johnston, Kingcausie, Kirktonhill, Lauriston, Leys, Luthermuir, Morphie, Muchalls, Netherley, Pitarrow, Pitcarrie, Portlethen, Raemoir, Rickarton, Strachan, Thornton, and Ury. The manufactures of Kincardineshire are practically nil, as a weaving trade once carried on in the smaller villages is now practically extinct. Finely-jointed wooden snuff-boxes were formerly made at Laurencekirk, but this is also now gone. There are small manufactories of woollen cloth at one or two places, and two large distilleries. The herring, haddock, cod, and ling fisheries round the coast are of great importance, and afford employment to the inhabitants of the coast towns and villages. The chief of these are Stonehaven, Gourdon, and Johnshaven. There are also good salmon fishings along the coast and in the Dee and Esk, while there are some excellent grouse moors.

Roads, etc.—The county is traversed by three railways, viz., the Caledonian, which, entering on the SW side at Marykirk, passes along the Howe of the Mearns to Stonehaven, and then along the coast to Aberdeen, a distance of 34 miles. The Montrose and Bervie railway enters the county near Kinnaber about 1 mile from the mouth of the North Esk, and passes along the coast to Bervie, a distance of 11 miles. The Deeside railway, starting from Aberdeen, passes along the Aberdeenshire bank of the Dee till about 1 mile to the E of Crathes station, where it enters Kincardineshire, and passes through it as far as Glassel station, where it returns to Aberdeenshire, the distance being about 7½ miles. The roads throughout the county are numerous and excellent. There are four main lines with connecting links. The first passes along the coast from Montrose, by Bervie and Stonehaven, to Aberdeen. The second, starting from Brechin, enters the county between Inglismaldie and Balmakewan, and, passing along the Howe by Laurencekirk, joins the first road at Stonehaven. The third, leaving the upper part of Forfarshire at Ganochy near Edzell, passes by Fettercairn, Fordoun, and Fetteresso, also to Stonehaven. The fourth main line follows the right hand bank of the Dee from Aberdeen as far as Wester Sluie, about 5 miles above Banchory, where it passes into Aberdeenshire. This road is connected with the first by a road starting from Maryculter House and leading to Stonehaven, and by another road which, starting between Durris and Banchory, winds across by Cairnmonearn also to Stonehaven. A third road, starting from Banchory, crosses by Cairn-o'-Mount to Fettercairn.

The only royal burgh in the county is Bervie. The old county town was Kincardine, but it is now gone, and the county town is Stonehaven, which is a burgh of barony, and the only town of over 3000 inhabitants. Laurencekirk and Fettercairn are also burghs of barony; and Bervie, Laurencekirk, and Johnshaven have over 1000 inhabitants. The principal villages are, along the coast and in the coast district, Caterline, Cove, Crawton, Downie, Findon, Gourdon, Lochside, Portlethen, Roadside, Skateraw, St Cyrus, Tangleha, and Torry; in the Howe district-Auchinblae, Drumlithie, Fettercairn, Fetteresso, Inch, Luthermuir, and Marykirk; and on Deeside-Banchory. The principal seats, besides those on the estates already noticed, are Auchlunies, Berryhill, Bridgeton, Crathes Castle, Durris House, Elsick, Forcett Hall, Glendye Lodge, Hatton House, Kirkside, Maryculter, Monboddo, Ravelstone, Redhall, and Tillwhilly.

The civil county consists of the eighteen entire quoad civilia parishes of Arbuthnott, Benholm, Bervie, Drumoak, Dunnottar, Durris, Fettercairn, Fetteresso, Fordoun, Garvock, Glenbervie, Kinneff, Laurencekirk, Maryculter, Marykirk, Nigg, St Cyrus, and Strachan, and parts of the parishes of Banchory-Devenick, Banchory-Ternan (both shared with Aberdeen), and Edzell (shared with Forfar). The quoad sacra parishes of Cookney, Portlethen, and Rickarton are also included. The majority of these are ecclesiastically in the presbyteries of Fordoun and Brechin in the synod of Angus and Mearns, and the others in the presbyteries of Aberdeen and Kincardine O'Neil in the synod of Aberdeen. There are Established churches within all these parishes; and the county also contains 16 places of worship in connection with the Free Church, 4 in connection with the United Presbyterian Church, 1 Congregational Church, 8 in connection with the Scottish Episcopal Church, and 1 in connection with the Roman Catholic Church. On Deeside, near the NE corner of the county, is also the Roman Catholic College of Blairs (St Mary). In the year ending Sept. 1881 there were 61 schools (51 public), which, with accommodation for 7613 children, had 6154 on the rolls, and an average attendance of 4634. Their staff consisted of 82 certificated, 6 assistant, and 47 pupil teachers. Kincardineshire, with a constituency of 1879 in 1882-83, returns one member to parliament. It is governed by a lord-lieutenant, a vice-lieutenant, 26 deputy-lieutenants, and 88 justices of the peace. It forms a division of the sheriffdom of Aberdeen, Kincardine, and Banff, but there is now no resident sheriff-substitute, the business being carried on from, Aberdeen. Ordinary courts are held at Stonehaven every Wednesday throughout the session. Sheriff small debt courts are also held at Stonehaven every Wednesday during the session, and circuit courts are held at Banchory on the first Saturdays of January and May, and at Laurencekirk on the second Saturdays of January and May, and at each of these places on a previously intimated day in September. Justice of peace courts are held at Stonehaven on the first Saturday of every month. There are police stations at Stonehaven, Banchory. Ternan, Bervie, Durris, Fettercairn, Fordoun, Hillside, Johnshaven, Laurencekirk, Mary kirk, Nigg, and St Cyrus; and there is a force of 17 men (one to each 2027 of the population) under a chief constable, with a salary of £200 a year. In 1881 the number of persons tried at the instance of the police was 138, convicted 133, committed for trial 19, not dealt with 74. The number of registered poor at 14 May 1881 was 711; of dependants on these, 409; of casual poor, 533; of dependants on these, 433. The receipts were £7835, 15s. 9 ¼d., and the expenditure £8304, 1s. 11d. The parishes of Arbuthnott, Banchory-Devenick, Banchoryn Ternan, Benholm, Bervie, Dunnottar, Durris, Fettercairn, Fetteresso, Fordoun, Glenbervie, Kinneff, Laurencekirk, Maryculter, Marykirk, and Strachan form Kincardineshire Poor Law Combination, with a poorhouse near Stonehaven. The proportion of illegitimate births averages about 13 per cent. The death rate averages about 15 per thousand. There are coastguard stations or detachments at Johnshaven, Gourdon, Caterline, and Muchalls; batteries of artillery volunteers at Johnshaven, St Cyrus, and Bervie; and the headquarters of the 1st Deeside Highland Rifle Volunteers are at Banchory. Valuation (1674) £6244, (1804) £63,748, (1856) £158,761, (1866) £194, 336, (1876) £223,724, (1883) £233, 522, all inclusive of the burgh of Bervie, but exclusive of railways, which in 1866 were valued at £24,305, and in 1883 at £26, 541; total in 1883, £260, 063. Pop. of registration county, which takes in part of Banchory-Devenick and of Banchory-Ternan from Aberdeen, and gives off parts of Drumoak and Edzell to Forfar, (1871) 35,097, (1881) 35,465; of civil county (1801) 26, 349, (1811) 27, 439, (1821) 29,118, (1831) 31,431, (1841) 33,075, (1851) 34, 598, (1861) 34,466, (1871) 34,630, (1881) 34, 464, of whom 16, 978 were males and 17, 486 females. In 1881 the number of persons to each square mile was 137, the number of families 7557, the number of houses 6748, and the number of rooms 26,187.

The territory now forming Kincardineshire belonged to the ancient Caledonian Vernicomes, was included in the so called Roman province of Vespasiana, and afterwards formed part of Southern Pictavia. Mention is made of various sheriffs from 1163 onwards, but none of them held office for more than a few years, except Philip de Maleville of Mondynes, who held the post from 1222 to 1240. The sheriffship became in 1348 hereditary in the Keith-Marischal family, in which it remained till the time of William, Lord Keith (1621-35). There are few distinctive features in the history of the district. Malcolm I., King of Alban, fell, according to the Ulster Annals, at Fetteresso in 954; and there is in that parish a tumulus known as Malcolm's Mount. It was opened in 1822 by some workmen digging materials for road repair, and found to contain a stone coffin formed of whinstone slabs 7 feet by 4. The bottom was covered with pebbles and a number of small black balls, probably acorns. The bones in it were those of a man of middle size, and when the body had been interred it had been wrapped in a robe of fine network. Some beautiful auburn hair still remained. Kenneth II. was killed near Fettercairn, and Duncan II. at Mondynes. The historical incidents are noticed under the localities Kin cardine, Fenella, Dunnottar, Kinneff, etc., with which they are more immediately connected. The name Mearns is supposed to be derived from Mernia, a brother of Kenneth ii., who was mormaer of the district. ' Men o' the Mearns ' has been for long the particular name of natives of the district, and is often associated with the ideas of skill and strength; hence the proverb' I can dae fat I dow: the men o' the Mearns can dae nae mair.' There are two large cairns on the top of Garvock Hill; stone circles at Durris and Aquhorities; Roman remains and a disputed camp at Raedykes; and ruins of old castles at Strathfenella, Kaim of Mathers, Kincardine, Balbegno, Dunnottar, Greencastle, Kinneff, Morphie, Whistleberry, and Cowie, and there are the ruins of a very old church at Cowie. The Sheriff's Kettle is noticed under Garvock.

See Anderson's Black Book of Kincardineshire (Stonehaven, 1843; 2d ed. 1879); Jervise's Memorials of Angus and Mearns (Edinb. 1861); his Land of the Lindsays (Edinb. 1843; new ed. 1882); and James Macdonald's ' Agriculture of the Counties of Forfar and Kincardine ' in Trans. Highl. and Ag. Soc. for 1881.

(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a maritime county"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 2nd order divisions")
Administrative units: Kincardineshire ScoCnty
Place names: KINCARDINESHIRE     |     MEARNS
Place: Kincardineshire

Go to the linked place page for a location map, and for access to other historical writing about the place. Pages for linked administrative units may contain historical statistics and information on boundaries.