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Aboyne and Glentanner, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

ABOYNE and GLENTANNER, a united parish, in the district of KINCARDINE O'NEIL, county of Aberdeen, 5 miles (W. by S.) from Kincardine O'Neil; containing, with the burgh of barony of Charlestown, 1138 inhabitants. The Gaelic words A, signifying a "ford," and boinne or buinne, a "thin rippling water," originated the appellation of the first of these places, on account of its proximity to a ford on the river Dee; and the name Glentanner is said to be compounded of the Gaelic terms Glean-tan-ar, meaning "the glen of scanty arable land." The date of union is uncertain; but previously to 1763, there was a church in each parish, the two being served by one parochial minister. Glentanner, before the union, formed a separate chapelry, and Aboyne was then united to Tullich, an intermediate chapel being situated at Braeroddach, equidistant from the churches of Aboyne and Tullich. On the south bank of the Dee, and surrounded by a burying-ground, are still to be seen the remains of the old church of Glentanner, called, on account of its heather thatch, the "black chapel of the moor." The portion of Aboyne on the north side of the Dee formed two baronies, the burgh of which, now named Charlestown, formerly Bunty, is near Aboyne Castle; but the tolbooth was destroyed at the close of the last century, and all traces of the pot and gallows have nearly disappeared. The Knights Templars once had possessions here, given to them by the Bissets; from that body they passed to the Frasers of Cowie, and from them to Lord Keith, whose daughter Elizabeth, having married Sir John Gordon of Huntly, carried the lands and castle to the Gordons, with whom they have remained.

The main outline of the PARISH is irregular, rendering the statement of an accurate measurement difficult; besides which, there is a detached portion with a population of about sixty, situated on the left bank of the Feugh, about nine miles south-east from the church, and separated by the parish of Birse. The length from east to west, between extreme points, is supposed to be thirteen miles, and the breadth twelve miles; comprising 37,000 acres, of which a small part is arable, and the remainder moorland, natural pastures, and in wood. This is a mountainous and woody district, watered by numerous rivulets, among which are the Tanner, the Feugh, the burn of Dinnet, and that of Dess, beautifully winding in different directions, but all in subordination to the stately and majestic Dee, which here pursues its course through the middle of the parish, Aboyne lying chiefly on the northern, and Glentanner on the southern, bank. The district is bounded on all sides either by rivers or mountains; it is skirted on the west, south, and east by ranges of the Grampians. The climate is serene; during heavy falls of snow, and the blowing of the keener winds, it is intensely cold, but it is considered salubrious, particularly about the banks of the Dee, and the Tanner. Invalids frequently resort hither in summer, to enjoy a picturesque and romantic seclusion, and to drink the goats' whey for which the place is celebrated; while the heath-clad hills and Alpine forests, ascended by steep and craggy slopes, afford exercise for the more hardy, who, having reached the summits, are amply repaid for their fatigue by the fine views around them, embracing Aberdeen, Montrose, and many other objects of commanding interest.

The SOIL near the rivers is a thin alluvial deposit, formed, in consequence of the rapidity of the currents, chiefly of sand and gravel; but advancing towards the hills, the earth is stronger and of better quality, consisting of a black or clayey till. Extensive tracts of peat-moss are found on the higher grounds, to a large extent supplying the inhabitants with fuel. The only grain raised is oats and bear. The farms vary much in size, some being mere crofts, and others comprising more than 100 arable acres; but the latter are few in number, and the average dimensions are from twenty to fifty acres. Between 5000 and 6000 sheep, chiefly of the Linton breed, are pastured upon the hills and moorlands; and the black-cattle, to the rearing of which much attention is paid, comprise the Aberdeenshire horned and the Buchan polled breeds, crossed not unfrequently with the short-horned. The rocks mostly consist of granite, existing in various forms, according to the proportions of its constituent parts; gneiss is also common, and ironstone, limestone, topaz, crystallized quartz, and fullers'-earth are found. The annual value of real property in the parish is £4001. About 4500 acres of natural fir, a remnant of the ancient Caledonian forest, still remain in Glentanner; and on the estate of Balnacraig, where stand the old mansion-house of the same name and the house of Carlogie, about 1400 acres are covered with Scotch fir, which is in a thriving state, like most of the other wood in the parish. There are also 2144 acces of plantations near Aboyne Castle, the ancient seat of the Earls of Aboyne; consisting chiefly of Scotch fir, with many sprinklings of larch, oak, ash, beech, elm, and other varieties. The castle grounds are ornamented with an artificial lake of thirty-two acres, interspersed with wooded islets. The castle was partly rebuilt in 1671, by Charles, first Earl of Aboyne; and the east wing was added in 1801, by his great-great-grandson, now Marquess of Huntly. This mansion is surrounded with beautifully-wooded hills commanding extensive and interesting views.

The village of Charlestown has a daily mail to Aberdeen. The turnpike-road from that city terminates here, but the communication is continued by good commutation roads, on each side of the Dee, to Ballatar and Braemar; there are also commutation roads leading hence in the direction of Tarland and other places, and the parliamentary road to Alford commences here. Numerous small bridges cross the different streams; and at Aboyne, nearly opposite the church, is an elegant suspension bridge, erected in 1831, by the Earl of Aboyne, in place of a former one built in 1828, and swept away by the great flood in August in the following year. In 1846 an act of parliament was passed for the construction of a railway from Charlestown of Aboyne, along the valley of the Dee, to Ferryhill, near Aberdeen. The trade in the sale of grain and cattle is principally carried on with Aberdeen; and besides the cattle sold for this city, or forwarded by the steamers to the London market, large numbers in a lean state are sent to the south of Scotland or to England. Fairs are held at Candlemas, Michaelmas, Hallowmas, and in June and July, on a green between the village of Charlestown and the church.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Kincardine O'Neil, synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of the Marquess of Huntly. The minister's stipend is £158. 6. 8., part of which is received from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe of twenty acres of very poor land, assigned in lieu of the old glebes of the two parishes, when a central church was built for the united parish, in 1763: the present handsome edifice, containing 628 sittings, was erected in 1842, at an expense, exclusive of carriage, of £900. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches; the master has a salary of £26, with £28 in fees, and a portion of Dick's bequest. The antiquities comprise Picts' houses, cairns, tumuli, and the remains of encampments, of the history of which nothing is known. Aboyne gives the inferior title of Earl to the Marquess of Huntly.

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


Online maps of Aboyne and Glentanner are available from a number of sites:

Postal districtAB34
Post TownAboyne