A New History of Aberdeenshire, Alexander Smith (Ed), 1875

The name of this parish has been greatly corrupted. It has been written Preiss, and then Breiss, which is said to signify in Gaelic, a "wood or thicket." In some writings it is called Brass, and now it is Birse, signifying a "bush," either of which would express what was formerly the general appearance of the parish--a thicket of trees--the remains of which bear abundant testimony.

The parish is bounded on the north by the river Dee, and the parishes of Aboyne and Kincardine O'Neil; on the east by the parish of Strachan in Kincardineshire; on the south also by the parish of Strachan, and the parish of Lochlee in Forfarshire; and on the west by the old parish of Glentanar.

Its greatest length from north-east to south-west, measuring in a direct line, is 10½ miles; and its greatest breadth from south to north, also in a direct line, is 7½ miles. The whole area, exclusive of the Percy portion of Aboyne parish, is computed to be 31,444 acres, 959 decs.

Birse occupies the south-eastern corner of the County, in the upper valley of the Dee, and lies wholly between the river and the Grampians. Besides the wild valley of the water of Aven, or Aán, which forms the south boundary of the parish, and the valley of the Dee, which chiefly forms the north, there are three divisional valleys :--first, that which is formed by the water of Feugh or Glen-birse; second, the valley of Midstrath, formed by the water of Glen-cat; and third, that which is formed by the burn of Birse, in the valley of the Sax-towns. The most northerly ridge of hills, commence at the rocks of Inchbare on the Dee, (270 feet above sea level), and run by the hills of Marywell and Balfour, towards Cairn-ferg. The middle ridge runs from Glenflendrum and the Shooting-greens, or Cairn O'Month road (600 feet), westward, by the hill of Tom's Cairn (1016 feet), and terminates at Glencat; the southern range of mountains lie between the Feugh and the Aven, and comprehends that portion of the Grampians, known as the Peterhill (2023 feet), Mulbrax and others, westward to the Gainach (2396 feet), which forms the south-west bounding, and highest mountain in the parish.

The lowest point of land in the north-east corner of the parish is on the Dee, nearly opposite, but below Woodend cottage, and about 232 feet above sea level; the roadway on the Bridge of Potarch is 301 feet 4 inches, and the highest point on the river (410 feet), is at the influx of the burn of Aultdinny, a little above the Suspension bridge across the Dee, at Aboyne. The church of Birse is 380 feet above sea level. The water of Feugh, at Whitestones, on the Cairn O'Month road, is 300 feet; the Feughside road, at Percy, is 388 feet; the stone of Corse-dardar, is 745 feet; and the old castle of Birse, 1000 feet above sea level. The highest point on the ridge between the Dee and the Feugh, is on the Tillygarmonths, 1040 feet, and between the Feugh and the Aven, the highest point is the Peterhill. The ridge of the west bounding mountains, run from Birse-more (about 1200 feet), on the Dee, by the top of the Deuchry, to the Gainach, which overlooks the fine conical hill of Cairnferg, the treeless forest of Birse, the richly wooded valleys of Finzean and Ballogie, and some finely wooded hilltops along the valley of the Dee, embracing scenery of the wildest, and of the most pleasant description, which is to be found on the northern slopes of the Grampian mountains.

[A New History of Aberdeenshire, Alexander Smith (Ed), 1875]