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Aberlour, Banffshire

Historical Description

ABERLOUR, a parish, in the county of Banff, a few miles (W. N. W.) from Dufftown, and on the road from Elgin to Grantown; containing, with the village of Charlestown, 1352 inhabitants. This parish, which was formerly called Skirdustan, signifying in the Gaelic tongue "the division of Dustan," its tutelary saint, derived its present name from its position at the mouth of a noisy burn which discharges itself into the river Spey. It is situated in the western part of the county, and extends nearly seven miles along the south bank of the Spey, from the hill of Carron on the west, to the mouth of the river Fiddich on the east. The surface is very uneven. Towards the southern part is an almost unbroken chain of mountains, consisting of the Blue Hill, the East and West Conval hills, the mountain of Benrinnes, and the broad hill of Cairnakay; with part of the hill of Carron, on the border of the Spey, and separated from Benrinnes by a narrow valley. A deep and narrow pass called Glackharnis, of great length, and of uniform breadth at the bottom, separates the mountain of Benrinnes from the Conval hills, and is remarkable for the great height and regularity of its declivity on both sides. The mountain of Benrinnes, as its name implies, is precipitous in its ascent, and sharp on the summit. It has an elevation of 2756 feet above the sea, and of 1876 feet from its base, being the highest in the country for many miles around. From the summit are seen the Grampian hills to the south, the interesting valley and hills of Glenavon to the west, and to the north the mountains of Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness; it embraces a fine view of the sea, along the coasts of Moray and Banffshire, and forms a conspicuous landmark for mariners. The Conval hills are spherical in form, and profusely covered with heath; and between these and Benrinnes is the fine valley above mentioned, the south part of which, consisting of sloping land, and including the district of Edinvillie, is divided on the north-east, by a brook, from the lands of Allachie, and on the north, by the burn of Aberlour, from the district of Ruthrie. To the north-west of Ruthrie is the district of Kinnermony. The lands of Aberlour are watered by two rivulets, descending from the Blue hill, and which unite to form the burn of Allachoy, separating the lands of Aberlour from the district of Drumfurrich.

These several districts contain some good tracts of holm land, and form the principal arable grounds of the parish, of which, upon the whole, not more than one-half is under cultivation. The soil, near the river, is a rich deep loam, mixed with sand; towards the hills a deep clay, lying on a substratum of rough gravel, and covered with a thin alluvial soil; and towards the centre of the parish, a richer alluvial soil, resting on a bed of granite. In the neighbourhood of Glenrinnes, limestone is quarried for agricultural purposes, and, by many of the farmers, burnt upon their own lands. The principal crops are barley, oats, wheat, and peas; and the barley produced here weighs more, per bushel, than that of the heavier soils of the adjoining parishes. The Morayshire breed of black-cattle is raised, and the sheep are of the hardy black-faced kind. Several of the farms are inclosed with fences of stone, and the farm-buildings generally are substantial and commodious. The annual value of real property in the parish is £3169. Here is the handsome seat of Aberlour, occupied by Alexander Grant, Esq., the chief resident proprietor: a column of the Tuscan order has lately been erected on the estate. There are several flourishing plantations of fir in the hilly districts, and of elm and ash near the river, the banks of which are in some places decorated with birch-trees of very luxuriant growth.

The river Spey, from the rapidity of its current, and the narrowness of its channel, frequently overflows its banks, and damages the neighbouring lands. In 1829 a very destructive flood occurred, the waters rising to the height of nearly twenty feet above the ordinary level, sweeping away the entire soil of several fields, with all their crops, and leaving upon others a deposit of sand and rough gravel, to the depth of several feet. A cottage and offices were carried away; and the dry stone arches which formed the approach to the bridge of Craig-Ellachie were entirely destroyed, only a few yards of masonry being left on which the end of the arch rested. This bridge consists of one metal arch, more than 160 feet in span, abutting on a solid rock on the north side of the river, and supported on the Aberlour side by a strong pier of masonry, built on piles. It was erected in 1815, at an expense of £8000, of which one-half was defrayed by government, and the other by subscription. The rivers Spey and Fiddich afford excellent salmon and trout; the fishing season commences in February, and closes in September. The parish also abounds with various kinds of game. On the burn of Aberlour, about a mile above its influx into the Spey, is a fine cascade, called the Lynn of Ruthrie; the water falls from a height of thirty feet, and, being broken in its descent by a projecting platform of granite rock, richly adorned with birch-trees and various shrubs, presents an interesting and highly picturesque appearance. Fairs are held annually in the village of Charlestown.

For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is in the presbytery of Aberlour and synod of Moray: Lord Fife is patron, and the stipend of the incumbent is £287. 8. 2. The church, a well-arranged structure, erected in 1812, is situated to the north of Charlestown, at a distance of about 300 yards from the ruins of the old church near the influx of the burn of Aberlour into the Spey; Mr. Grant has lately made an addition to the length of the edifice, and erected a handsome tower. In the valley of Glenrinnes is a missionary establishment, and a chapel of ease has been erected, the minister of which has a stipend of £60 per annum, royal bounty, with a manse, glebe, and other accommodations provided by the heritors. The parochial school affords instruction in the Latin language, arithmetic, elementary mathematics, &c.; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4½. per annum, with a house and garden, and the school-fees average about £40.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis


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