A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1851), Samuel Lewis


KINCARDINE-O'NEIL, a parish and village, in the district of KINCARDINE-O'NEIL, county of ABERDEEN, 11 miles (S. by K.) from Alford; containing 1857 inhabitants, of whom 288 are in the village. This place, which is of some antiquity, derives its name from its position near the termination of a range of hills; and its distinguishing adjunct, O'Neil, from the name of a rivulet that flows round the village. A small hospital for the support of eight aged men was built at an early period, by one of the bishops of Aberdeen, and subsisted till the time of the Reformation, when it was suppressed: no vestiges of the building now remain. The parish is bounded on the south by the river Dee, and is about seven miles in extreme length and nearly five miles in breadth, comprising 15,000 acres, of which almost 6000 are arable, 3500 woodland and plantations, and the remainder (including 1500 acres capable of improvement) moorland pasture and waste. Its surface is divided into three wide valleys by ranges of hills of great extent and various degrees of elevation; and at the eastern boundary is the hill of Fare, rising to a height of 1800 feet above the level of the sea, and forming a well-known landmark to vessels navigating the eastern coast. The hill of Learney, which is a continuation of Fare, abounds with peat, furnishing a plentiful supply of fuel for the inhabitants; and most of the other hills in the parish are either cultivated, or clothed with wood, to their very summits. The river Dee is here seventy yards in width, and, about two miles below the village, is crossed by an elegant bridge of granite, erected in 1812, at a cost of £3500, of which one-half was paid by government, and the other raised by subscription. Salmon are found in the Dee, frequently in great abundance; they are generally taken with the rod, and afford excellent sport to the angler: there are very few trout in the stream, and even the numbers of salmon have much diminished within the last few years. The only other stream of any importance in the parish is the burn of Belty, which rises among the hills at its north-western boundary, and flowing in a south-eastern direction through the central valley, which it divides into two nearly equal portions, falls into the Dee in the parish of Banchory-Ternan. Though a very inconsiderable stream, it frequently, after rain, swells into an impetuous torrent, and inundates the level valley through which it passes, doing much injury to the crops: in 1829 it carried away two bridges, and greatly damaged three others. Some trout of very small size are found in this river.

Along the banks of the Dee the soil is light; in the valley of the Belty, much deeper, and of richer quality, resting on a subsoil of clay; and in the higher parts of the parish, heathy moorland, with large tracts of peat-moss. The crops are oats, bear, barley, potatoes, and turnips, with the usual grasses; the system of husbandry has for many years been steadily advancing, and is at present in a highly improved state. Large portions of the waste grounds have been reclaimed, and brought under profitable cultivation, both by the proprietors and the tenants. The lands have been inclosed with stone fences; substantial and commodious farm-buildings have been erected, many of which are roofed with slate; and on almost every farm, threshing-mills of good construction are found. Great attention is paid to the improvement of the breed of horses, black-cattle, and sheep, and to the management of the dairy-farms; and large quantities of butter of excellent quality, with a moderate proportion of cheese, and eggs and poultry, are forwarded to Aberdeen; whither, also, considerable numbers of fat-cattle are sent, to be shipped for London by steamer. The plantations, which are of great extent, consist chiefly of larch and Scotch firs, for both of which, especially for the former, the soil is well adapted; oak and ash have recently been tried with success, and birch seems to be indigenous along the banks of the river Dee. In this parish the principal substrata are whinstone and sandstone; and there is also abundance of granite of very excellent quality, in large masses, from some of which have been cut blocks seventeen feet in length. There is neither slate nor limestone, nor are there quarries of any kind in regular operation. The annual value of real property in Kincardine O'Neil is £7018.

Craigmile, the seat of the principal heritor, is well situated in a richly-planted demesne: the house of Learney, which was destroyed by an accidental fire some few years since, has been rebuilt in an elegant modern style; and Campfield, Kincardine Lodge, and Stranduff are also pleasant residences. The village, which is on the turnpike-road from Ballater to Aberdeen, is neatly built; it has a rural aspect, and is frequented during the summer months by invalids for the benefit of their health. An excellent inn has been erected; and a circulating library, containing a well-assorted collection, has been established. There are no manufactures carried on here, but many of the women are employed in knitting stockings for the Aberdeen houses. The post-office has a daily delivery, and the mail passes regularly through the village. Fairs for black-cattle, sheep, and horses are held in May and September, in the village; and during the winter months, markets for agricultural produce of every kind are held monthly at Tomavern, in the northern district of the parish. For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is within the limits of the presbytery of Kincardine O'Neii, synod of Aberdeen. The minister's stipend is about £230, with a manse, and a glebe valued at about £12 per annum; patron, Sir John Forbes, Bart. Kincardine church is an ancient structure, of which the date is unknown. Its roof was destroyed by fire in 1733, and only the walls, which are built of small stones embedded in lime, left standing: the edifice was, however, restored immediately, has since been more than once repaired, and is now in good condition, affording accommodation for a congregation of 640 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. There are three parochial schools, in the three divisions of the parish: the masters have salaries of £25 each, with a house, and the original master has also a garden; they all partake of the Dick bequest, and the fees average to each about £20 per annum.

[From Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1851) - copyright Mel Lockie 2016]