Historical description of Aberdeenshire, Scotland

ABERDEENSHIRE, a maritime county, in the north-east part of Scotland, and one of the most extensive counties in the kingdom, bounded on the north by the Moray Firth; on the east by the German Ocean; on the south by Perth, Forfar, and Kincardine shires, and on the west by the counties of Banff and Inverness. It lies between 56° 52' and 57° 42' (N. Lat.), and 1° 49' and 3° 48' (W. Lon.), and is eighty-six miles in extreme length, and forty-two miles in extreme breadth; comprising an area of 1985 square miles, or 1,270,400 acres; 32,063 inhabited, and 1091 uninhabited, houses; and containing a population of 192,387, of which number 89,707 are males, and 102,680 females. From the time of David I., the county was included in the diocese of Aberdeen; at present, it is almost wholly in the synod of Aberdeen, and includes several presbyteries, the whole containing eighty-five parishes. For civil purposes, it is divided into eight districts, Aberdeen, Alford, Deer otherwise Buchan, Ellon, Garioch, Kincardine-O'Neil, Strathbogie, and Turriff, in each of which, under the superintendence of a deputy lieutenant, the county magistrates hold regular courts. It contains the three royal burghs of Aberdeen, Kintore, and Inverury, the market-towns of Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Huntly, Turriff, and Meldrum, and numerous large fishing-villages on the coast. Under the act of the 2nd William IV., the county returns one member to parliament.

The SURFACE, towards the sea, is tolerably level; but the greater portion forms part of the central highlands, and consists of high mountains, interspersed with a few valleys. The principal mountains are, Ben-Macdhui, the loftiest in Britain; the Braeriach, which has an elevation of 4304 feet; Ben-Aburd, Ben-Aven, Lochnagar, and Morven, which vary from 2500 to 4300 in height, with numerous others from 800 to 2000 feet in height. Of the valleys the chief are the Garioch and Strathbogie, the former inclosed on all sides with hills of moderate height, and the latter enriched with wood, abounding in beautiful scenery, and highly cultivated. The rivers are the Dee, the Don, the Ythan, the Doveron, and the Ugie, but the rapidity of their currents renders them comparatively useless for the purpose of navigation; they have their sources, generally, among the mountains in the south-west, and flow towards the north and north-east. All of them abound with fine salmon, and fish of every kind is taken on the coast.

About one-third of the land is under cultivation, and the remainder mountain, pasture, and waste. Towards the sea, and in the valleys, the soil is rich and fertile, producing excellent crops of wheat and other grain; and in the more secluded portions of the county is some fine timber, among which are numerous lofty pine-trees, fit for the masts of ships; but from the want of inland navigation, few of them are felled for that purpose. Between the Dee and the Ythan is a low tract of waste, on which are some sand-hills that have been lamentably destructive of the adjacent lands; several fertile fields, to the north of the Ythan, have been covered, to a great extent, with sand blown from these hills, and the walls of a church and a manse that have been buried by them are still to be seen. The minerals are quartz and asbestos; and various gems and pieces of amber are found in the mountains: the principal quarries are of granite of very superior quality, of which vast quantities are sent to London and other places, and freestone and limestone are also extensively quarried. Many of the proprietors reside on their lands, and have materially contributed to their improvement, by extensive plantations, and the introduction of a better system of agriculture, and superior breeds of cattle; and much waste land has been brought into cultivation under the patronage of the Highland Society. The chief seats are Haddo House, Aboyne Castle, Huntly Lodge, Slains Castle, Keith Hall, Mar Lodge, Delgaty Castle, Skene, Castle-Forbes, Philorth House, Monymusk, Ellon Castle, Fintray House, Fyvie Castle, Gordon Lodge, and Castle-Frazer. The coast is bold and rocky, with some alternations of level beach. On the Moray Firth, the most prominent headlands are Rosehearty Point and Kinnaird Head; and on the German Ocean, Cairnbulg Point, Rattray Head, Scotstown Point, Invernetty Point, and Buchan Ness. The chief bays in the former are, the harbour of Rosehearty, and the bay of Fraserburgh; and in the latter, Peterhead Bay, Cruden Bay, Sandy Haven, Long Haven, Garrick's Haven, and the bay of Aberdeen. Facility of communication is maintained by good roads, some of which were made under the authority of the commissioners for Highland roads and bridges, appointed by act of parliament. The annual value of real property in the county is £605,802, of which £423,388 are returned for lands, £145,366 for houses, £8864 for fisheries, £1087 for canal navigation, £1085 for quarries, and £26,012 for other species of real property.

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