A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1851), Samuel Lewis


KINTORE, a parish and burgh (royal), in the district of GARIOCH, and county of ABERDEEN, 4 miles (S. S. E.) from Inverury, and 12 (N. W. by W.) from Aberdeen; containing, with the village of Port-Elphinstone, 1299 inhabitants. The name of Kintore signifies in Gaelic "the head of the forest". The place was formerly remarkable for its castle, said to have been built by Robert Bruce for a hunting-seat, and which was the occasional residence of several of the Scottish kings. who enjoyed the pleasures of the chase in the royal forest adjacent. This castle, called the Castle of Hall Forest, was granted, with surrounding lands which are supposed to have extended from the west part of the parish to Dyce church, a distance of five or six miles, to Robert de Keith, great marischal of Scotland, by Bruce, after the battle of Inverury, or, as is more generally supposed, after that of Bannockburn, for eminent services rendered to the king. Upon this, it became the seat of the family; the son of Robert de Keith was created Earl of Kintore, and it continued to be inhabited so late as the seventeenth century by the same family, who hold the property at the present time. The castle appears to have been of considerable strength, and its vicinity was the scene of various conflicts: here Bruce is said to have completed the destruction of the army of Edward I., after the defeat of Cumyn, Earl of Buchan, near Inverury.

The town of KINTORE, situated on the bank of the river Don, was once of some consequence, being the place of meeting of the great northern road by Aberdeen, and the roads leading to some of the principal passes of the Grampian mountains. It is, however, at present of small dimensions, and the houses and buildings are not of sufficient importance to merit particular notice; the village of Port-Elphinstone having become the main point of interest and traffic, chiefly on account of its situation at the head of the Aberdeenshire canal. The burgh contains several good shops for necessary commodities; but through the facilities of intercourse with Aberdeen, many articles are procured from that place. There are a subscription library and a savings' bank; and the post-office established in the town is the oldest in the district of Garioch. A branch of the northern road from Aberdeen to Inverness extends westward, and at last joins the Alford turnpike-road; and the royal mail and several other coaches pass and repass daily: there is likewise a depot at the town, on the Aberdeenshire canal. In 1846 an act of parliament was passed authorizing the construction of a railway, nearly sixteen miles in length, from Kintore to Alford. The northern part of the parish, as well as Port-Elphinstune, has Inverury as its post-town. Monthly markets are held, chiefly for the sale of cattle.

Kintore was erected into a ROYAL BURGH by a charter of King James IV., dated February 4th, 1506, and is governed by a provost, two bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and nine councillors. The old council, with the magistrates, choose the new magistrates; then the old council, with the new magistrates, choose the new council: there is no restriction with respect to re-election, and the present resident chief magistrate has consequently been in office some time. The burgh has neither property nor debt; its only revenue consists of feu-duty paid by the Earl of Kintore, amounting to £9. 6. Scots, and of £1. 13. 4. sterling, paid annually by the family of Craigievar to the poor of Kintore, as a fine for the murder within the burgh of one of the family of Gordon of Craigmile. The magistrates have no power of taxing the inhabitants; the cess and burgh charges, amounting to £5. 2. per annum, are paid by Lord Kintore. Nor have they for many years been in the practice of exercising jurisdiction, either civil or criminal, except in confining a disorderly person for the night. Peace is maintained by a town-serjeant and one or two special constables, and Lord Kintore provides a gaol and townhouse. This burgh is classed with the Elgin district of burghs in returning a member to parliament.

The PARISH, including the lands of Creechy and Thainston, which were detached from the parish of Kinkell, and annexed to it in 1760, is about six miles and a half in length from the southern to the northern extremity, and at its greatest breadth measures a little more than three miles. It comprises 8430 acres, of which 3408 are under cultivation, 2478 waste or permanent pasture, 652 waste, but capable of cultivation, and 1892 occupied by wood. The surface is uneven, and in many places rugged; but there is no high land except the hill of Thainston, which rises about 280 feet above the level of the sea, and by its beautifully-wooded scenery, in connexion with the smoothly-gliding stream of the Don, invests the locality with a lively and interesting appearance. The lands rising from the town, which is situated in the vale of the Don, are alluvial and rich, occasionally interspersed with hollows of mossy soil. The level and cultivated parts not immediately on the river side consist of a light sandy earth, or drained moss. On the higher grounds the soil is so thin in many places that the substratum is scarcely covered. Considerable portions of peat-moss have been reclaimed, and the remainder supplies fuel. Grain of all kinds, potatoes, and turnips are raised; and their aggregate annual value, with the revenue from pasturage, hay, and the cuttings of woods and plantations, amounts to above £10,000. The cattle are chiefly of the Aberdeenshire breed, and much care is taken in selecting those of good shape, and without horns. Formerly large flocks of sheep, numbering upwards of 2000, were pastured on the moors; but very few are now kept, extensive plantations having been since formed. The most improved system of husbandry is followed; large tracts of waste land have been reclaimed and cultivated, and embankments have been raised against the inundations of the river Don. Furrow-draining has been successfully practised; and during the last thirty years more than 300 acres have been trenched, drained, and inclosed by the tenants, under the encouragement of the proprietor. The annual value of real property in Kintore is £4525.

The rock in the parish, as in most of the neighbouring parts, consists of granite, which exists in large masses forming the substratum, and is also found in blocks upon the surface, thus rendering the improvement of some of the waste grounds a work of great labour. Part of the wood is ancient; but a large proportion is plantation, chiefly of larch, Scotch, and spruce firs, about 250 acres of which, for some years past, have been annually planted by Lord Kintore. The mansion of Thainston is an elegant modern structure, beautifully situated in a wellwooded tract, and commanding fine and extensive views. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Garioch, synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of the Earl of Kintore: the minister's stipend is £184, with a manse, and a glebe of eight acres, valued at £23 per annum. Kintore church, situated in the town, was built in 1819, and contains accommodation for 700 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school affords instruction in Latin, Greek, geography, and the usual branches of education; the master has a salary of £30, with about £30 fees. A legacy was lately left by Mr. John Buchan, of Aberdeen, a native of Kintore, for the promotion of education, the will directing £200 to be put to interest, to form an endowment for a school to be founded in the western extremity of the parish. A charitable bequest of £9 per annum, called Davidson's, is confined to the poor of the burgh. The only relic of antiquity worthy of notice is the ruin of the castle, situated about a mile westward of the Aberdeen road; it is a rectangular structure, containing two lofty arched apartments, one over the other, and forms an impressive object from several points of observation. Arthur Johnston, the poet, celebrated for his elegant Latinity, was a pupil in the parochial school of Kintore; and Sir Andrew Mitchell, ambassador to Prussia in the reign of Frederick the Great, possessed the estate of Thainston, where he often resided.

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