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The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)
Volume XII - Aberdeen
United Parish of Crathie and Braemar

[Drawn up by the late incumbent, the Rev. Alexander Macfarlane.]

I.—Topography and Natural History.

Name, Extent, Boundaries, &c.—The name Crathie is evidently of Gaelic origin, and seems to be a compound of the two words, Crag and tir, or thir, signifying the rocky, or stony land. The face of the country favours much this derivation. Braemar was anciently styled the parish of St Andrews, but after Malcum Ceann Mor, who had a hunting-seat there, threw a bridge across the Cluney at Castletown, it obtained the name of Ceann-drochit, that is, Bridgend. And about the close of Queen Mary's reign, when the Earl of Mar became proprietor of the lands about Castletown, the name of the parish was again changed to the present name of the district. At what time it was annexed to Crathie is not known, but there is every reason to believe it must have been far back, as nothing can be learned concerning it, either from the records of session or presbytery. The form or figure of the parish is an oblong, lying from west, northwest, to east by south. It contains, according to Robertson's survey of the county, 199,658 acres.

It is bounded on the east, by Glenmuick; on the south, by Glenmuick, Glenisla, Kirkmichael, in Perthshire, and Blair-Athole; on the west, by Inch, Inverness-shire, Rothiemurchus, and part of Abernethy; and on the north, by part of Abernethy, Kirkmichael, Banffshire, by part of Strathdon, and by Glenmuick.

Surface, Mountains, Valleys, &c.—This united parish contains a greater variety of beautiful scenery, and richer display of what may be styled the grand and sublime, than any other district in Aberdeenshire. Its towering mountains, with their bold and shelvy cliffs, covered by lofty trees of variegated hue and deepening shade, and its sloping hills diverging into deep valleys and verdant plains, —afford such picturesque and diversified prospects, as delight every admirer of the works of nature.

The principal mountains are Lochnagar, [On the north-east side of Lochnagar, there is a small lake, or loch, from which, unquestionably, that far-famed mountain must have got its name. Gar is a contraction of the Gaelic word garren, which signifies underwood, or small thickets. This lake is 2500 feet above the level of the sea, and the perpendicular height of the huge rock close to it is 1315 feet, which has an awfully majestic and overpowering appearance when viewed from the edge of the lake.] Cairntoul, Benna-muickduidh, [According to the last geometrical survey by order of Government, this mountain was found to be 20 feet higher than Ben Nevis, which was before considered to be the highest in Britain.] Bennabuird, &c. The first of these is situated on the south side of the parish, and is partly in Glenmuick. According to the latest surveys, its height above the level of the sea is 3815 feet. The other three are on the north-west boundaries of Braemar, and are respectively in the order stated above, 4220 feet, 4390 feet, and 3940 feet above the level of the sea.

The ranges of mountains and hills here lie in general from east to west, from which lower and shorter ridges are at various distances jutting out in a south and north direction; and between these are embosomed fertile valleys of different sizes and exposure, according to their position, on the north or south of the river Dee.

Climate.—The climate is rather variable, and yet, from the purity of the air, and the absence of marshes and stagnant waters, it is remarkably healthy; so much so, that many strangers visit our hamlets for the benefit of their health during the summer months.

Hydrography.—The only lakes worthy of notice, are Loch Cal-lader, and Loch Bhrodichan, both situated among the hills and on the estate of Invercauld. The former is said to contain small delicate salmon, weighing from seven to eight pounds, and the latter, excellent red trout. The largest of these lakes is about two miles in circumference; but, being seldom visited except by fishermen, neither the depth nor temperature of either has been ascertained. The principal river is the Dee, which takes its rise high up on the side of Breriach, a mountain close to Cairntoul, already mentioned ; and according to Dr Skene Keith's account, the well or fountain whence the Dee springs, is 4060 feet above the level of the sea, and the top of said mountain, is 4220 feet.

The Dee, receiving in its progress the tributary streams issuing from other five fountains in that vicinity, and afterwards the Luidh, the Coich, the Cluney, &c. runs through Braemar and Crathie in a serpentine course, intersecting the parish longitudinally about the middle, and after running upwards of ninety miles, empties itself in the German Ocean at Aberdeen, where it forms the harbour of that opulent and flourishing city.

There are several linns or cascades in Braemar, but the most noted is the Linn of Dee, which is about three miles above Mar Lodge, where the river is confined for a number of yards between two rocks in so narrow a space, that some persons have been hardy enough to step across it. This natural curiosity is much visited and admired by strangers, as are likewise the cascades of Coirmulzie and Garvalt. The former is between Mar Lodge and Castletown, and the latter is about three miles farther down the strath, on the south side of the Dee, and in the heart of a beautiful forest belonging to Invercauld.

Geology.—The rocks here are generally pure granite, of various shades, and of a hard quality, which renders the stone susceptible of a beautiful polish, and in appearance, when highly dressed, it much resembles marble. There are also immense rocks of excellent limestone, of which there are often veins or strata running in different directions from the base of these rocks, occasionally becoming visible above the surface of the ground; so that the farmer in some situations might, if he chose, work a limestone quarry in some of his corn-fields. And besides these, there are likewise rocks of a hard flinty stone, which, in many instances, seems impregnated with iron ore. The top of all these rocks is, for the most part, covered with a thin layer of a blackish soil, rather of a mossy nature. The soil of this district is loamy, and bedded sometimes on dry yellow clay, but more frequently upon hard gravel, and is generally rather dry.

Plantations and Forests.—The indigenous woods are birch, alder, poplar, and mountain-ash. There is no oak coppice in the parish. The planted woods consist of all the different species of firs, but the larch prevails most in all the plantations. It grows quicker than any other, and is found to supply, in many instances, the place of hardwood, which is said not to thrive in this country. Although at Invercauld there are some large ash and chestnut trees, yet the common Scotch fir may truly be said to constitute the glory of this district, there being some trees of this kind of immense size, which are supposed to be from 300 to 400 years old. The far-famed forest of Mar is too well-known to require any particular description here. Its fir timber, both as to size and quality, far exceeds anything of the kind to be found in any other part of the British Isles; and its pasturage, as to richness and extent, is of a very superior description. It belongs wholly to the Earl of Fife and Mrs Farquharson of Invercauld, and is plentifully stocked with red and roe deer, and all sorts of game.

To show the great value of this forest as a walk or pasturage for deer, suffice it to state, that Lord Fife's part of it connected with Mar Lodge is at present let on a lease of seven years for the annual rent of L.1800. Invercauld's share is also of great value, but is never let.

II.—Civil History.

Eminent Men.—Major-General Farquharson, late Governor of St Lucia, and who died there, was a native of this parish.

Proprietors.—The sole proprietors of the parish are, Lord Fife; Mrs Farquharson of Invercauld; and Michael Gordon, Esq. of Abergeldie. There are five proprietors' seats in the parish, viz. Mar Lodge, Invercauld, and Corymulzie Cottage in Braemar, and Abergeldie and Balmoral in Crathie. The latter has been nearly all built by the Honourable Sir Robert Gordon, who rents the estate of Balmoral from the Trustees of the late James Earl of Fife, on a lease of thirty-eight years.

Parochial Registers.—These are neither voluminous, nor have they been regularly kept. The first of them commenced with the ordination of Mr Adam Ferguson, on the 25th of September 1700, and appears to have been regularly carried on till 17th September 1710, after which date, there is a complete blank down to 19th May 1716. Whether a change of pastor took place during that period, the writer cannot discover; but, from a minute of session dated February 1721, it appears that Mr John M'Innes was then minister of the united parish, who was succeeded in office successively by Mr Murdoch M'Lenan, Mr Wilson, Mr Charles M'Hardy, and the present incumbent.

Antiquities.—There are at Castletown of Braemar the ruins of an old castle, which is said to have been built by Malcum Ceann Mor, for a hunting-seat. From the vestiges still remaining, it is evident that the edifice must have been of considerable extent. On a small eminence below Castletown, stands the castle of Braemar, in an opening between two hills. It belongs to Invercauld. In 1748, it was let to Government on a lease of ninety-nine years, and has since been occasionally occupied by a party of soldiers as barracks, for which purpose it is well adapted, both from its situation, and also from its being surrounded by a strong rampart.

At Castletown, the spot is still pointed out where the Earl of Mar erected the standard of rebellion in 1715, and proclaimed King James. About a mile and a half down the valley, on the south of the Dee, there is a steep shelvy rock all interspersed with trees; it is known by the name of Charters Chests, from this circumstance, that, in the face of it, there is a cave of very difficult access, wherein the charters of the Invercauld property were deposited during the Rebellion above-mentioned.

About seven miles down, on the north side of the river Dee, there is a narrow pass between the water and the base of a high hill, and through this pass runs the line of road leading to Aberdeen, and also to Fort-George, and close by is a large cairn of small stones, which is called Cam nacuimhne, that is, the cairn of remembrance. Under the feudal system, when the chieftains, on any alarm being given, called out their adherents, they had to march through this pass, and on the said cairn, each laid down a stone; by which means every successive party could discern the number that had advanced towards the scene of action, and, upon their return, by counting the stones thus deposited, it was discovered how many of the men were amissing, or had fallen in the field of battle.


The only village in the parish is Castletown of Braemar, which contains 245 inhabitants. The average of births for the last seven years is 39, and of marriages, 23. Of deaths, no record is kept. There are, in the united parish, 9 bachelors and 7 widowers above 50 years of age, and 21 unmarried women above 45.

Language.—The Gaelic is very generally spoken throughout the whole parish, and, during the summer months, is used in conducting part of the public worship, both at Crathie and Braemar. There are, however, very few, if any of the inhabitants, who are not so well acquainted with the English language as to be able to converse and transact business in it, when necessary.


Agriculture.—The number of acres under cultivation is comparatively small in proportion to the great extent of the parish. There is no undivided common. The number of acres under wood, both natural and planted, cannot be less than from 10,000 to 11,000. Considerable attention is paid to the pruning and thinning of plantations, although perhaps not so much as their extent would require. There being so much of hill pasture attached to each farm, and valued along with the arable land, renders it the more difficult to fix precisely the rent per acre.

Live-Stock.—The black-faced, or Linton breed of sheep, and the small black-horned breed of cattle prevail here, and of late some attention has been paid to its improvement.

Several expensive bulwarks and embankments have been constructed on the Dee since the flood of 1829; but the most extensive of these is the one above the Lawn, in front of Mar Lodge, being 260 ells long, about 40 in breadth at the base, 9 at the top, and from 10 to 16 feet high. Another very strong bulwark was erected by the heritors of the united parish for the protection of the glebe belonging to this benefice.

The general duration of leases is nineteen years. The accommodations for farmers have been greatly improved here within the last fifteen years, and inclosures with stone dikes are also increasing.

Produce.—The average amount of raw produce raised in the parish per acre, and also its value, taken upon the average of last seven years, may be seen by the following table:—

V.—Parochial Economy.

Market-Town.—The nearest market-town is Aberdeen, which is distant forty-eight miles.

Means of Communication.—There is a post-office at Castletown of Braemar, with a daily post to and from Aberdeen, and there is to be a receiving office at Crathie, which will prove a very great convenience to the district. A chain bridge was erected across the Dee, near the manse, in the year 1834, which has superseded the use of two ferry boats, and is of great service to the district.

Ecclesiastical State.—The church of Crathie was rebuilt on a new site, and in a very eligible situation, in 1805, and was finished in 1806. It is a plain, but elegant structure, and affords very comfortable accommodation for all the parishioners; it being intended that all attending religious ordinances in the whole united parish should be accommodated there at the dispensation of the Lord's Supper, the church contains about 1400 sittings, all free. The manse was built about forty years since; it is a substantial, well-finished house, and is in a good state of repair. An excellent set of office-houses was built in 1823, which are likewise in complete repair.

The stipend is 17 chalders, half meal, half barley. The glebe is from six to seven acres, and may be worth L.10 a-year. There is no grass glebe. The Queen is patron. There are no Dissenters in the parish, but there are some Roman Catholics. At Castletown of Braemar, there is an ordained missionary regularly stationed, who is supported by the Royal Bounty. There is also a Roman Catholic chapel, and a resident priest. The number of souls under his care is 378. About two-thirds of the Protestant population attend the Established Church pretty regularly, and the number of communicants is generally from 750 to 800.

Education.—The total number of schools in the parish is nine, and at all these about 250 boys and girls attend during the winter season, of which number nearly 40 come from the adjacent parts of the parish of Tullich and Glenmuich. The parish schoolmaster has the legal accommodations and the minimum salary. Five of the schools above-mentioned are on the first and second patents of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, that is, two for boys on the first, and three for girls on the second patent. The schoolmasters have each L. 15 of salary, with the usual accommodations of a house, garden, and fuel, &c. required by the society. The female teachers have from L.4 to L.5 each. The school at Inverury is from the Committee of the General Assembly, with a salary of L.25, an allowance of L.5 by the heritor in lieu of fuel, and an excellent croft of land capable of keeping two cows summer and winter. The other Protestant school is only kept during the winter season; but it is hoped that a permanent school may be soon established. The other two schools are kept by the Roman Catholics in Braemar, for three months during winter.

Friendly Society.—There is one Friendly Society in the parish, which was instituted in 1815, and being remodelled in 1830, it was designated the Braemar Highland Society; of which the Earl of Fife and James Farquharson, Esq. of Invercauld, are joint patrons, and The Honourable Alexander Duff, and James Duff, Esq. of Innes House, are presidents. It consists of two funds ; the ordinary fund is for the support of sick and aged members, and for granting annuities to widows and orphans. The annual payment by each member is 4s. The honorary fund is for the encouragement of the ancient games of the Highlanders, and is supported by donations from noblemen and gentlemen frequenting the district during the shooting season. The annual meeting of this society, held always in the month of August, is generally countenanced by many noblemen and gentlemen of the first respectability from all parts of the united kingdom. The funds are in a prosperous state.

Savings Bank.—A savings bank was established here in 1816, and how far its investments exceed the withdrawings will appear from the present amount of its capital, which is L.1290, 10s. The contributors are generally tradesmen and servants, with a few of the smaller farmers. The capital of the savings bank is now up. wards of L.2000 Sterling.

Poor and Parochial Funds.— The number on the session's roll varies according to circumstances. At present there are from 55 to 60 receiving aid from the funds regularly twice in the year, On these occasions none get more than L.1, some 15s., and some less, according to their circumstances. But of the number before stated, there are nine or ten, who, being confined either by sickness or age, require more frequent relief; sometimes to the amount of 1s. 3d., but not more than at the rate of 1s. 6d. per week, except where a sick nurse is requisite. It may, however, be proper here to mention, that, in addition to the session's allowance, the proprietors give private benefactions to the poor on their own estates, such as meal or articles of clothing, just as may best suit their condition. The only mode of procuring a fund here for the relief of the poor, is by collections in church, proclamation dues, donations from the heritors and others, together with the interest on funded money, amounting in whole to about L.90 a-year, which, in general, covers all the disbursements. The sense of the degradation, implied in a dependence on parochial relief, is now much impaired, although there are still some persons who feel a great reluctance in making their case known, even when actually in need of pecuniary aid.

Fairs.—There are 3 fairs annually at Castletown of Braemar, two of them principally for cattle, and the third for both sheep and cattle. There is one also at Clachnaturn in Crathie.

Inns.— In the united parish, there are 3 public-houses or inns, and their effects on the morals of the people are, in many instances, very unfavourable.

Fuel.—The description of fuel used here is principally turf and peats, together with some birch and fir-wood. But the use of coals is becoming more general. The boll of 40 stone, driven from Aberdeen, costs here 10s. 6d. About twenty years back, it cost double that price.

May 1842.

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