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.

Contents of this page:


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):

  • the north Deeside road, through Cults, Peterculter, Banchory and Aboyne to Braemar (the present day A93 road).
  • via Echt and Midmar to Tarland (present day A974), with a branch from Garlogie to Kincardine O'Neil (B977), and another branch from Skene to Alford (A944).  This branch was later extended to Mossat and then (A97) by Glenkindie and Strathdon to join General Wade's road at Corgarff (A939).
  • the Post road, from Aberdeen to Inverness (A96).  Leaving Aberdeen by Bucksburn, Tyrebagger Hill, Blackburn, Kintore, Inverurie, Glens of Foudland and Huntly.  There were branches from Huntly to Banff (A97) and to Portsoy (B9022).
  • the Strathbogie road, from Huntly to Donside, via Gartly, Rhynie and Lumsden (A97), joining the Alford - Strathdon road at Mossat.
  • the Insch and Kennethmont road (A979) which leaves the Huntly road near Pittodrie and goes via Oyne, Premnay, Insch and Kennethmont, joining the Strathbogie road near to the Tap O'Noth.
  • the west Foudland road (present day - unclassified), which leaves the Huntly road at Bridge of Ledikin and goes by Insch and Dunnydeer to rejoin the Huntly road at Sliach in Drumblade.
  • the Kintore to Alford road, which leaves the Huntly road at Torryburn, Kintore and runs to Kemnay (B994), then via Cluny and Monymusk to Tillyfourie (B993), there joining the main Alford road.  Also a branch from Kemnay to Port Elphinstone (Inverurie).
  • the Inverurie to Forgue road (B9001), which goes by Daviot, Wartle and Rothienorman to join the Huntly - Banff road at Forgue.
  • the Aberdeen to Banff road (A947), which leaves Aberdeen at Bucksburn, then via Dyce, NewMachar, Old Meldrum, Fyvie, Turriff and King Edward to Banff with a short branch to Macduff.
  • the Old Meldrum to Colpy road (B9000), via Wartle and Culsalmond to Colpy on the main Huntly road.
  • the Peterhead road, leaving Aberdeen via Bridge of Don (A92), then via Belhelvie, Ellon, Birness and Cruden (A952) to Peterhead, with a branch to Mintlaw (A950) and via Rathen to Fraserburgh (A92).
  • the Buchan road, from Peterhead to Banff, via Longside, Mintlaw and New Pitsligo (A950), to Macduff (A98) and Banff.
  • from Peterhead to Fraserburgh, via St Fergus, Crimond, Lonmay and Rathen (A952).
  • the Boyndlie road, from Fraserburgh via Tyrie and Aberdour (A98) joining the Buchan road two miles north of New Pitsligo.
  • Fraserburgh to Strichen road (A981) with a branch to New Pitsligo (B9093).
  • Newburgh to Old Meldrum, via Foveran, Udny and Pitmedden (B9000).
  • the Udny and Tarves road (B999) which leaves the Aberdeen - Ellon road at North Murcar and goes via Belhelvie, Whitecairns, Udny and Pitmedden to Tarves and Methlick.

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.


There was only one canal in Aberdeenshire - the Aberdeen - Inverurie canal.   Opened in 1805, this canal was 18¼ 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.


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:

  • Aberdeen via Deeside to Ballater
  • Aberdeen via the Don to Kintore and Inverurie, then via Huntly to Keith, Elgin, Forres, Nairn and Inverness.
  • Kintore to Kemnay
  • Inverurie to OldMeldrum
  • Inverurie to Turriff and Banff
  • Dyce to Ellon then via Maud and Strichen to Fraserburgh
  • Ellon to Cruden Bay and Boddam
  • Maud to Peterhead

The railway network existed largely unchanged until the 1960s when it was decimated.  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.