Historical description of Kincardineshire, Scotland

KINCARDINESHIRE, or The Mearns, a maritime county, in the east of Scotland, bounded on the north-west by the river Dee and part of Aberdeenshire, on the east and south-east by the German Ocean, and on the south-west by the county of Forfar. It lies between 56° 46' and 57° 7' (N. Lat.), and 2° 1' and 2° 45' (W. Lon.), and is about thirty-two miles in length, and twenty-four in extreme breadth; comprising an area of 380 square miles, or 243,444 acres; 7620 houses, of which 7304 are inhabited; and containing a population of 33,075, of whom 15,829 are males and 17,246 females. The county is supposed by some to have derived the name Mearns (which is proper only to a particular portion of it) from Mernia, brother of Kenneth II.; but, with greater probability, others deduce it from the Vernicones, by whom the district was inhabited in the time of Ptolemy. Few events of historical importance are recorded: it is conjectured that the battle between the Caledonians under Galgacus and the Romans under Agricola took place here. Prior to the abolition of episcopacy, the county was included partly within the archdiocese of St. Andrew's, and partly within the dioceses of Aberdeen and Brechin; it is at the present time chiefly in the synod of Angus and Mearns, and comprises the presbytery of Fordoun, in that synod, and part of the presbyteries of Kincardine O'Neil and Aberdeen, in the synod of Aberdeen. With the counties of Aberdeen and Banff, it constitutes the Eastern or Aberdeen circuit for justiciary and civil purposes, and the courts are held in the former county twice a year, in spring and autumn. It contains Stonehaven, which is the county town; Bervie, or Inverbervie, which is a royal burgh; and the villages of Gourdon, Laurencekirk, Johnshaven, Auchinblae, and Fettercairn. Under the act of the 2nd of William IV., the county returns one member to the imperial parliament; and the Kincardineshire burgh of Bervie is associated with Montrose, Forfar, and Brechin, in the county of Forfar, these four burghs forming the Montrose district, represented in parliament by one member. The number of parishes in Kincardineshire is nineteen.

The SURFACE near the coast is tolerably level, though varying in elevation. The Grampians occupy the central, western, and northern parts of the county; and from their base the land subsides towards the south-east, into what is called the Howe of the Mearns, forming a continuation of the vale of Strathmore, and between which and the sea there is a tract of swelling ground. The Howe is a beautiful tract of champaign country, about fifty square miles in extent, richly cultivated, embellished with plantations, and sheltered on the north by the Grampians, and on the east by the hills of Arbuthnott and Garvock, which are from 500 to upwards of 800 feet high. In this county the principal mountains are, the Strath Fenella, detached from the Grampian range by a narrow vale from which it takes its name, and about 1500 feet in height; Cairn-a-Mount, which is 2500 feet; the hill of Fare, 1800 feet; Clachnabane, which attains an elevation of 2370 feet, and is crowned with a mass of rock resembling an ancient fortress, rising abruptly from eighty to 100 feet above the surface; and Mount Battoch, the highest point of the Grampian range in the county, and which has an elevation of 3465 feet. The principal river is the Dee, which has its source in Aberdeenshire, and after intersecting this county for about eight miles in a course from west to east, forms its northern boundary for fourteen miles, and falls into the sea at Aberdeen. The other rivers are, the North Esk, which is formed at the top of the sequestered valley of Glenesk by the junction of several mountain streams from Forfarshire, and, after forming the boundary between the Mearns and that county for about twelve miles, falls into the sea three miles to the north of Montrose; the Bervie; the Cowie; and several smaller streams. The Loch of Drum and Loch Leys, the former partly in Aberdeenshire, are the only lakes worthy of notice, being each about three miles in circumference.

About one-third of the land is arable, and in good cultivation; one-eighth capable of being cultivated with advantage, and the remainder rough fell and mountain pasture. Much of the cultivated land is highly fertile; the districts comprehending the Howe of the Mearns and the southern portion of the coast are very productive, and the system of agriculture in an advanced state of improvement. Great attention has been directed of late years to the mechanical improvement of the soil by draining and subsoiling, to the experimental application of manures, and to the rearing, and improvement by crossing, of live stock; for the promotion of which important objects, and for the extension of the knowledge of chemistry as applied to agriculture, two societies exist in Kincardineshire. The cattle are generally of the Angusshire breed, which, however, is in many parts of the county giving place to the cross or to the pure Teeswater breed: the number of cattle is on an average 25,000, of which 5000 are milch-cows. The number of sheep is about 24,000, of various breeds, but chiefly the black-faced. There are no minerals of importance: limestone is found, but it is very rarely quarried for any purpose; granite is the prevailing rock in the northern, and red sandstone in the southern section of the county. Various gems are found in the mountains and in the rocks, the principal of which are the topaz or Cairngorm. The seats are Arbuthnott House, Dunnottar, Fetteresso, Fettercairn, Inglismaldie, Crathes, Blackball, Kirkton Hill, Tilquhilly, Lauriston, Mount Cyrus, Inch Mario, Thornton, Drumtochty Castle, Fasque, Durris, Ury, Johnston, Glenbervie, Muchalls, and others. The manufactures are neither important nor extensive; they are chiefly of coarse linens and canvass, and some branches of the cotton manufacture. At Laurencekirk, the highly-esteemed snuff-boxes of wood are made. Facility of communication is afforded by the Aberdeen railway: there are good roads in various directions, some of which are turnpike; and a road over the Grampian hills has been made, and is kept in good repair. The annual value of the real property in the county is £134,341, including £3858 for fisheries. There are vestiges of Druidical monuments, Roman encampments, and royal residences; the most venerable ruin in the county is that of Dunnottar Castle, the ancient seat of the Keiths, earls-marischal of Scotland, romantically situated on the summit of a lofty rock boldly projecting into the sea.

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