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

The parish of Old Machar was originally a deanery called the Deanery of Saint Machar; and in Gaelic Machair means "a plain." The name appears singly in the counties of Inverness and Lanark, and as Machermore in Kirkcudebright. Machairmor and beag, which signifies "the larger and lesser plain," is found in Argyleshire; and the Auch-machars in this County, which signify "the plain fields," are to be found in the parish of Old Deer.

The Deanery of St. Machar comprehended what is now the parishes of Old Machar proper, Newhills, Dyce, and New Machar. New Machar was disjoined about the Reformation; that of Dyce, or the Chapel of St. Fergus, presumably about the same time; and Newhills in 1666. this parish is also called the Old Town parish; and the Oldtown Cathedral is now the parish church.

Old Machar parish is bounded on the north by the parishes of New Machar and Belhelvie; on the east by the German Ocean (along which it has a sea board of four miles), and the parishes of St. Nicholas, or Aberdeen; on the south by the Dee, along which it has a river frontage of one mile, two furlongs, 350 yards; and on the west it is bounded by Banchory- Devenick, Newhills, and Dyce; and by the Don from the Scatterburn up to Airyburn, in New Machar.

The greatest length of the parish in a direct line, from the influx of the burn of Rutheriestone with the Dee, to the Belhelvie boundary north of the Corbie-loch, is seven miles; and the greatest breadth, from the sea at Black-dog, to the Don on the New Machar boundary, also in a direct line, is 4½ miles. The whole area of the parish is computed to be 12,595 acres, 479 decs. That portion within the burgh of Aberdeen is estimated to be about 5,290¼ acres.

On the division of the parish of Old Macahar, north of the Don, the surface is varied. Bordering the sea-shore, the large tract of broken benty hills and green knolls, between the new bridge of Don and Tarbot-hill, stand at an average of 50 feet above sea level; and in the north-east corner the Strabathie, or Tarbathie Hill, stands 170 feet above sea level. West of the Ellon road are the gravelly hillocks of Mindurno, and the ridges of Tramaud, which are 260 feet; the Shielhill is 265 feet, and the hill of Perwinnes is 313 feet. The Corbie-loch, on the north-west corner of the parish, is 251 feet above sea level; while the peak of Scotston moor, in the central division, is 270 feet; and the summit of the Old Meldrum road, on the west side of it, is 282 feet. The broad-backed hill west of Mains of Scotston, is 307 feet; and the lower flat range of this hill, on Danestone, is 250 feet. The Fowler's Hill, on the west, overlooks the valley of the Don, Loch Goul, or the Bishop's Loch, in New Machar, with the flat mosses on Grandholm, and Leuchlands on the east, which stand, on an average, about 196 feet above sea level. The junction of the Udny with the Ellon road, near Mill of Mindurno, is 130 feet; and the second milestone on the Ellon road from Aberdeen, is 65 feet. The roadway on the new bridge of Don is 41 feet; the peak of the roadway on the old bridge is about 60 feet; the Grandholm works are about 46 feet; and the top of the Downie Hill is 100 feet. The highest tides rise in the river to within 350 yards of the Kettock's Mill weir; the coping of the Woodside, or Printfield weir at Persley, is 50 feet , and the highest point on the Don, above the Carlin-pot at Airyburn, is about 104 feet above sea level.

The northern division of the parish is undulatory and bare, from the sea to the Corbie-loch, with its bleak mossy surroundings Scotston moor, or the "Aulton common," occupies a central position, and has the plantations and private grounds of Denmore on the east, and the finely wooded private grounds of Scotston on the west; while the moor itself, though only covered with heath and whins, has, along with its small loch and boggy streamlets, long been known to be rich in botanical productions. The eastern division is bare, if we except the belts and clumps of trees on Denmore; but it is closely cultivated, and studded with small farm houses. On the sloping grounds lying along the valley of the river, there are several fine mansion houses on Balgownie and Danestone, beautifully adorned with clumps and belts of planting; and on the extreme west stands the mansion house of Grandholm, "amidst its tall ancestral trees." Altogether, the general aspect of the country is pleasing. On the north bank of the river, below the "auld brig," stands the hamlet, or Cot Town of Balgownie, and by the new bridge there are the Don Mills, with some modern buildings; but, with the exception of a few monarchial looking plane and ash trees by the old bridge, the steep banks of the river between the bridges are bare. From the old bridge, up to the Walker's haugh of Seaton, the rocky crags confine the river into a narrow dismal looking channel, where the waters are still and loch-like, and in many places hidden from view by the close foliage of the trees, which clothe the braes and overhang the stream, as it were to intercept the view and conceal the terrors of the precipices near the "Devil's rock" and the "Lover's loup," and the horrors of "Tam's hole," and the "Black nook," which are scarcely seen from the crown of the grey gothic arch of the "auld brig," long since doomed by a Rhymer, described by Byron, painted by a Nasmyth, and pictured in many a photograph, without more than justice being done to the singular romantic beauty of scenes which have charmed many. Above the Devil's rock, the Don has formed a rather snakish course round the island-looking haugh of Kettock's Mills, by the dark side of Tillydrone, and the braes of Gordon's Mills, and by the old Printfield works, and the back of "Wud-syed," with its castellated farm stead, above which, and at the Scatterburn, the river appears to rest for a time in a deep dark pool after having performed important services in the manufacture of paper at Stoneywood in the adjoining parish of Newhills. The haughs on the north side of the river, above Persley, are flat and uninteresting, relieved only by some cross belts of planting, and the debris from the workings of the granite quarries; but below the Woodside weir and the Downie Hill, which is at the top of the lower haughs of Grandholm, a scene of extreme beauty is here presented. The lower slopes of Danestone and Balgownie are studded with fine mansions, and the majestic-looking building of the Grandholm woollen factory stands on one side of the plain, and the Don runs on the other within a fringe of trees, while the busy town of Woodside, and grey towers of the Old-town Cathedral appear as if they were overlooking "one of the finest valleys that ever spread its bosom to the sun."

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