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History and Description

Kincardineshire - History and Description, 1868

"KINCARDINE, (or Mearns), a maritime county situated on the eastern side of Scotland. It is bounded on the N. by the county Aberdeen, from which it is partly divided by the river Dee; on the S. and W. by the county Forfar, from which it is chiefly divided by the North Esk; and on the E. by the German Ocean. Its form is nearly that of a triangle, having its base towards the sea. Its length, stretching along the coast from the bay of Aberdeen to the mouth of the river North Esk, is about 30 miles, and its greatest breadth 24 miles. The coast is partly flat and partly rocky, and at the N.E. corner of the county the chain of the Grampians terminates, there forming what is called the Girdle Ness, which presents to the sea a bold face of rock from 60 to 80 feet high. The chief mountains and eminences are, Mount Battoch, 3,465 feet in height; Clachnabane, 2,370; Cairniemount, 2,000; Kerloch, 1,890; the Hill of Fare, from 1,500 to 1,700; Scolty Hill, 1,500; and Strathfenella, a detached spur of the Grampians, from 1,200 to 1,500 above sea level. It is watered by the rivers Dee, North Esk, Bervie, Cowies, Carron, and Luther Water, besides numerous burns, abounding with salmon and trout. The severity of the climate in the lower districts has been of late years much mitigated by drainage and the increase of plantations. In the mountainous parts it is extremely severe in winter and spring, and frequently excessively hot in the summer months in the glens among the Grampians. Granite abounds in the Grampian district, but the hill of Strathfenella is an isolated mass of sandstone. The prevailing rocks in the other parts are greenstone, basalt, and breccia. The county is entirely destitute of coal. Limestone is found in various parts of the district, but only in large quantities at Mathers. There are a few sandstone quarries. Iron has been discovered at Balnakettle, and there are indications of iron ore in several parts of the county. In Arbuthnot parish, and near St. Cyrus, on the seashore, beautiful pebbles and jaspers are found, and cairngorm is occasionally met with in the Grampian streams. On the coast near Stonehouse are stalactite caves. The soil varies in different parts of the county. The Grampian district is very sterile, although a rich loam is occasionally found. The Howe of Mearns district is the most cultivated portion, and consists of a loam chiefly derived from clay and gravel. The estates into which this county is divided number about 80, of which 13 are very large, and have been for many years in the same families. The arable farms are of various sizes, the largest consisting of about 500 acres. The sheep farms are in general very extensive. The county has wonderfully improved in agriculture during the last half century, and all the new improvements in husbandry have been introduced. Manure (chiefly lime) has been most liberally used, and large tracts of land have been reclaimed. This operation has greatly been facilitated by the construction of new roads. It abounds in game of almost every description, and offers great attractions to the sportsman and angler. The county is almost exclusively of an agricultural character; for although it has the advantage of an extensive coast line, there is no harbour of any commercial importance. Manufactures have not made much progress in this district. In various parts the manufacture of coarse linen is carried on, chiefly for houses in Dundee, Aberdeen, &c., and there is also a small trade in woollen cloth. There are breweries, distilleries, and manufactories of wooden snuff boxes. The inhabitants of the villages on the coast are chiefly occupied in fishing, and large quantities of haddock, skate, herring, cod, and turbot, are taken. The exports consist of cattle, pork, eggs, butter, potatoes, granite, fish, whisky, and ale. The principal imports are, colonial produce, salt, coals, lime, slate, and timber. The main lines of road between the N. and S. of Scotland traverse the county, extending from the bridges over the Dee to the bridge over the North Esk. The chief cross-roads are, South Deeside, Netherby, and Slug. The Aberdeen railway traverses the county from Nigg to Marykirk, and the Deeside railway runs along the Deeside district. The county sends but one member to parliament. The parliamentary constituency in 1860 was 1,028. Bervie is the only royal burgh in the county, and there are but three burghs of barony, viz: Stonehaven, Fettercairn, and Laurencekirk. The county town is Stonehaven. The meetings of the courts under the Small Debt Act are held at Banchory on the fourth Thursday in the months of March, July, and November; at Bervie on the fourth Friday in January, April, July, and October; and at Laurencekirk on the fourth Saturday in the months of March, July, and November. The chief police stations are at Stonehaven, Banchory, Laurencekirk, Maryculter, Portlethen, and Fettercairn. The area of the county is about 382 square miles, or 243,200 statute acres, and its population in 1861, 34,466. It comprises eighteen parishes and three parts of parishes. Thirteen of its parishes constitute the presbytery of Fordoun, in the synod of Angus and Mearns; and one of the parts is in the presbytery of Brechin, in the same synod; two of the parishes are in the presbytery of Kincardine O'Neil, in the synod of Aberdeen; and three of the parishes, two of the parts, and the chapel-of-ease, are in the presbytery and synod of Aberdeen. The places of worship in the county include the Established Church, United Presbyterians, Free Church, Episcopalian, Independents, Baptists, and Roman Catholics. It has not been the scene of any extraordinary event, unless, as some historians aver, the great battle between Galgacus and Agricola took place here. It received its name from Kincardine, formerly a small town in the parish of Fordoun, and which was the seat of the county courts, &c., until the year 1600, when they were transferred to Stonehaven. On Garvock Hill and at-Aquhorties are Druidical remains, and at Raedykes, Stonehaven, and Fordoun are the remains of Roman camps. Near Garvock Hill is the Sheriff's Kettle, where, in the reign of James I., the Laird of Glenbervie was boiled to death. The principal ancient castles are, Dunnottar, Kame of Mathers, Finella, Green, Kinneffe, Whistlebury, and Morphie, some being in ruins."