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ABERDEENSHIRE - Description and Travel

The individual parish pages each have a detailed description written in 1875. This page gives details of how travel improvements affected development.

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Until the end of the 18th century the roads within Aberdeenshire were exceedingly poor and ill-maintained. A system existed, from 1669, whereby all labourers in the county were required to spend six days each year working, without payment, to repair the roads.   However, this system did not appear to work very well.  In fact, better road maintenance existed in areas where the tenants paid for the privilege of not working on the roads, and the resultant funds were used to hire professional labourers.

The expansion of farming, and rural industry, of the latter part of the eighteenth century, demanded better transport facilities.  In 1793 the Turnpike Bill was passed, which provided the legislation for the construction of toll roads.

The first toll road was constructed along the north bank of the Dee, for a distance of 13 miles, and was completed in 1798.

Over the next forty years, 17 turnpike roads were constructed along all the radial routes leading to Aberdeen.  These were (in roughly clockwise - not chronological order):

When the Aberdeen - Inverness road opened in 1820, a four horse stage coach served the route, taking 18 hours to complete the journey (104 miles).

As can be seen by the present day road numbering, virtually all these routes have survived as major roads.  However, their existence as toll roads was less successful.   Although by 1857 there were 450 miles of turnpikes and 84 toll gates, the revenue never repaid the original outlay and the ongoing maintenance.  The subsequent rapid expansion of the railway network altered the pattern of road usage, and by 1866 the roads were brought under public ownership and the toll gates dismantled.

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There was only one canal in Aberdeenshire - the Aberdeen - Inverurie canal.   Opened in 1805, this canal was 18 miles long and operated for more than 40 years with barges carrying fertiliser and coal inland and returning with agricultural produce.  Passengers were carried in "Flyboats" drawn by two horses which managed to achieve a speed of eight miles per hour.  The canal was never a financial success and in 1845, it was bought by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company who closed it in 1854, filled it in and layed track along its route.  A very small part of the canal remains today and can be seen at Port Elphinstone, by Inverurie.

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The railway from the south reached Aberdeen in 1850, and terminated at Ferry Street station. About the same time, the Great North of Scotland Railway Company (GNSR) started construction on a local network to serve Aberdeenshire, Banff and on to Inverness. The first local railway from Aberdeen (to Banchory) was opened in 1853 by the Aberdeen and Deeside Railways company.   The next 20 years saw rapid expansion of the local railway network.

By the 1870s the network was largely complete.  The main branches were:

The railway network existed largely unchanged until the 1960s when it was decemated.  The only lines remaining out of Aberdeen are the main line to the south and the single track line to Inverness.   Some parts of the old railway track beds are now public walking tracks.

Further details of the NE Scotland railway developments.
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