Historical description of Banffshire, Scotland

BANFFSHIRE, a maritime county, in the north-east part of Scotland, bounded on the north by the Moray Firth; on the east and south-east, by Aberdeenshire; and on the west, by the counties of Moray and Inverness. It lies between 57° 5' and 57° 43' (N. lat.) and 2° 17' and 3° 37' (W. long.), and is about fifty miles in length, varying from twenty miles to only three miles in breadth. It comprises an area of about 647 square miles, or 414,080 acres, and contains 11,149 inhabited houses, with a population of 49,679, of whom 23,249 are males, and 26,430 females. This county, which includes the districts of Boyne, Enzie, Strath-Doveron, Strathaven, Balvenie, and part of Buchan, was a sheriffdom in the reign of David I., and, previously to the Reformation, was included in the diocese of Moray. It is now partly in the synod of Moray, and partly in that of Aberdeen, and comprises several presbyteries, with twenty-four parishes. The county contains the royal burghs of Banff and Cullen, the former of which is the county town, and several thriving and populous villages, whereof the chief are Keith, Newmill, Gardenstown, Dufftown, Buckie, Portsoy, and Macduff. Under the act of the 2nd of William IV. it returns one member to the imperial parliament. The surface is beautifully diversified with mountains and vales, and the scenery enriched with woods and plantations, and enlivened with rivers and lakes. The principal mountains in the county are, Ben-Macdhui and the Cairngorm, which have an elevation of more than 4000 feet above the sea; Benrinnes, rising from the banks of the river Spey to the height of 2747 feet; Knockhill, near the north termination of the Grampian range, the Buck of Cabrach, and others, about 2500 feet high. Its chief vales are, those of Strath-Doveron and Strathaven, the former branching off to the right, and the latter to the left, from the forest of Glenavon; Glen-Livet; and Glen-Fiddich, which last extends to the strath of Balvenie. Its rivers are, the Spey, which has its source in Loch Spey, and after a long course falls into the Moray Firth near Fochabers; the Doveron, which rises in the hills of Cabrach; the Avon; the Livet; and the Isla; with countless smaller streams, which turn numerous mills. The salmon-fisheries on the Spey and the Doveron are extensive, the former yielding a rental of £6000, and the latter of nearly £2000 per annum. The coast, which extends for nearly thirty miles, is bold and rocky, in some parts precipitous; and is much indented with small bays.

The soil, near the sea, is rich; in the valleys, luxuriantly fertile; and the mountainous districts afford tolerable pasturage: the moors abound with game. Nearly one-half of the land is under cultivation; the system of agriculture is in a highly improved state, and much waste has been inclosed and rendered profitable. The natural woods and the plantations are extensive and well managed, and there are numerous oaks and firs of extraordinary dimensions. The chief minerals are ironstone and lead-ore, and there are some fine quarries of limestone, freestone, gneiss, and granite: a mine of manganese has lately been wrought to a great extent by the Duke of Richmond near Tomintoul. In this county the best seats are Gordon Castle, Glenfiddich, Duff House, Rothiemay, Banff Castle, Balvenie Castle, Cullen House, Birkenbog, Forglen, Troup, Arndilly, Baldorney, Edingarth, and Kinnairdy. The principal manufacture is that of linen. There are several tanneries, some distilleries, and works in connexion with the shipping, which is almost confined to the ports of Banff, Macduff, Portsoy, and Gardenstown. The herring-fishery is also very extensive, and is prosecuted along the coasts with great industry and success. Facility of intercourse has been greatly promoted by many excellent roads, constructed by commissioners appointed under an act of parliament; and the bridges over the different streams are kept in good order. The annual value of real property in the county is £124,347, of which £110,608 are returned for lands, £8403 for houses, £2592 for fisheries, £380 for quarries, and the remainder for other kinds of real property. There are numerous cairns, tumuli, ruins of ancient castles, and other monuments of antiquity, all noticed in the respective articles on the localities in which they are situated.

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