Aberdour


Aberdour
   1) ABERDOUR, a parish, in the district of Deer, county of Aberdeen; comprising the village of Pennan, and containing 1645 inhabitants, of whom 376 are in the village of New Aberdour, 8 miles (W. by S.) from Fraserburgh. The name of this place is supposed to have been derived from a Gaelic term Aber, signifying "mouth" or "opening," in reference to the rivulet Dour, which finds an entrance into the sea, a short distance below the manse. There are numerous cairns and tumuli, containing stone coffins with the ashes and bones of human bodies, indicating the parish to have been originally the theatre of military conflicts; and the castle of Dundargue, also, stands here, which Sir Thomas Beaumont fortified and garrisoned, in right of his wife, who was daughter to the Earl of Buchan, when he accompanied Edward Baliol, who came to claim the kingdom of Scotland. This castle was of great importance in the feudal times, and is famed for a long siege in 1336, when Henry de Beaumont, the English Earl of Buchan, capitulated to Murray, Regent of Scotland, during the captivity of David Bruce. On the coast is a cave called Cowshaven, which is celebrated as the hidingplace of Lord Pitsligo, after the battle of Culloden; but this retreat, from which he was obliged to fly, was at last discovered by the impressions on the snow, of the footsteps of a woman, who regularly supplied him with food.
   The parish contains 15,165 imperial acres, of which 5873 are cultivated, 5608 are moor or green pasture, 3496 moss, 88 wood, and 101 roads, &c.; its form is altogether irregular, consisting of a kind of zig-zag boundary, some parts of which dart off to a considerable extent. The northern boundary runs for about seven miles along the shore of the Moray Frith, which is broken by numerous openings and caves, some of which penetrate for a long distance into the land. The coast in general is bold and rocky, and on the estate of Auchmedden stands the colossal Pitjossie, an immense natural arch, which strikes the beholder with astonishment, when viewed from the summit of the adjoining cliff, and is said to rival the celebrated Bullers of Buchan. On the coast are also the three small bays of Aberdour, Pennan, and Nethermill, the beaches of which consist of large quantities of stones washed down the Dour burn and other streams, and thrown back by the violence of the sea, on the occurrence of a storm. The surface, generally, is unequal, the eastern division being flat and low, while the estate of Auchmedden, on the western side, rises about 200 or 300 feet above the level of the sea; on that property are several deep ravines and dens, which, with the numerous plants and adjacent scenery, present a striking and romantic appearance. In the south-eastern extremity are three farms, entirely cut off from the rest of the parish by the lands of Tyrie, and which some suppose to have been originally grazing land for the cattle belonging to the tenants on the sea-coast; but others think that, at the time the parish was erected, they formed a separate estate belonging to the proprietor, who, wishing to have all his property in one parish, included them within the bounds of Aberdour. In the south-west of the parish, on the farm of Kinbeam, is a fresh-water loch, called Monwig, situated in a large and deep moss; it is 200 yards long, and 22 broad, and in some parts very deep; and the dark mossy water, of which it consists, is covered, in the season, with flocks of wild geese and ducks. There are also several small streams, all of which run into the Moray Frith; and near Pitjossie, in the glen of Dardar, is a cascade, the water of which, after dashing from the top of a rock into three successive basins, glides gently for 100 yards, until it falls into the Frith.
   The soil near the coast is a strong loamy clay, which, with good husbandry, yields fine crops, but in many other parts it is cold and mossy, exhibiting merely cultivated patches of land; the produce raised chiefly comprises oats, turnips, potatoes, barley, bear, and hay. Great improvements have taken place in agriculture within the last thirty years, especially upon the estate of Aberdour, where a regular and scientific system of drainage has been adopted. The bog, moss, and moor, with which the arable land was mixed, have been removed; bridges and roads have been constructed, and a proper rotation of crops introduced and observed; which, together with the application of the most approved methods of cultivation, have entirely altered the character of the parish. In other parts, however, there is a deficiency of good inclosures, arising from the scarcity of stones for building dykes; but the farmsteadings are in decent condition, and generally covered with tiles or thatch. The rocks on the shore, which are lofty and precipitous, are a coarse sandstone, passing frequently into conglomerate, and greywacke slate; the loose blocks are primary trap or granite, and in some parts are seen convolved masses of clay and limestone, in which have been found the fossil remains of fish. There are several quarries of granite and sandstone, and two of millstone, one of which, in the rocks of Pennan, though now but little worked, is said to contain some of the best stones in Britain; the stones from this quarry were formerly in great repute, and sent to the south and west of Scotland, but the high price set upon them, has greatly lowered the demand. The chief mansion is Aberdour House, an old building, occupying a very bleak situation; and there are several other residences, particularly one on the estate of Auchmedden, the glens of which, justly celebrated as the beds of the finest collection of plants to be found in Scotland, include some scarce specimens of botanical treasure.
   The parish contains the villages of New Aberdour and Pennan, the former erected in 1798; the inhabitants are employed in agricultural pursuits, with the exception of a few engaged in fishing, at Pennan. The manufacture of kelp was formerly carried on to a considerable extent, but has been greatly reduced, in consequence of the repeal of the duty upon Spanish barilla, which is now generally used in its stead. The white-fishing at Pennan, on the estate of Auchmedden, employs six boats, with four men each, who pay a rent to the proprietor of £20 sterling, and some dried fish; and several long boats annually proceed to the herring-fishing in the Moray Frith, which abounds with the best fish of almost every description, excepting salmon, very few of which are to be obtained. There are two meal-mills in the parish, the one at Aberdour, and the other at Nethermill, both built partly of granite, and partly of red sandstone. Four annual fairs are held at New Aberdour, for cattle, merchandise, and hiring servants, of which two take place at Whitsuntide and Martinmas, one in the middle of April, and the other in the middle of August; and there is also a fair called Byth Market, occurring twice in the year, in May and October, upon a moor in the south of the parish, where cattle are sold. The turnpike-road from Fraserburgh to Banff touches the parish, at the two points of Bridgend in the east, and Cowbog in the west, and is rendered available to the parishioners by an excellent junction road, constructed some years since by one of the heritors. The ecclesiastical affairs are subject to the presbytery of Deer and synod of Aberdeen; the patron is A. D. Fordyce, Esq.; the minister's stipend is above £200, with a manse, built in 1822, and a glebe of about 7 acres, valued at £14 a year. The church, which is conveniently situated at the northern extremity of the village of New Aberdour, was erected in 1818, and contains about 900 sittings. There is a parochial school, where Latin is taught, with all the ordinary branches of education, and of which the master has a salary of £32, and about £15 fees, with a house. The chief relic of antiquity is the castle of Dundargue, situated upon a lofty precipice overhanging the sea; and at a place called Chapelden, are the ruins of a Roman Catholic chapel, on a hill opposite the Toar of Troup. Mineral springs are found in every direction, the most famed of which is one named Mess John's Well, a strong chalybeate, celebrated for its medicinal virtue; it issues from a rock about 200 yards west of the burn of Aberdour, and has a small basin, like a cup, to receive the water that drops, which basin is commonly said to have been formed by John White, laird of Ardlaw-hill, during the contest of religious parties.
   2) ABERDOUR, a parish, in the district of Dunfermline, county of Fife; including the island of Inchcolm, and the village of Newtown; and containing 1916 inhabitants, of whom 307 are in Easter, and 469 in Wester, Aberdour, 8 miles (S. W.) from Dunfermline. This place takes its name from its situation at the mouth of the Dour, a rivulet which flows into the Forth near the village; it was anciently the property of the Vipont family, of whose baronial castle there are still considerable remains. The castle, with the lands, passed, in 1125, from the Viponts, by marriage, to the Mortimers, of whom Allen de Mortimer granted the western portion of the lands to the monks of Inchcolm, in consideration of the privilege of being allowed to bury in the church of their monastery on the island, about a mile distant from the shore. When conveying the remains of one of that family to the abbey for interment, a violent storm is said to have arisen, which compelled the party to throw the coffin into the channel, which, from that circumstance, obtained the appellation of "Mortimer's Deep." The ancient castle is a stately pile of massive grandeur, situated on an eminence, on the east bank of the water of Dour, and commanding an extensive view of the Frith of Forth; in front, is a spacious terrace, overlooking the gardens, into which are several descents by flights of steps. It was partly destroyed by an accidental fire, about the beginning of the 18th century, since which time it has been abandoned, and suffered to fall into decay; but the roof is still entire, and several of the apartments are in tolerable preservation, though used only as lumber-rooms. At a small distance, is the old church, now a roofless ruin; it contains the ancient family vault of the Morton family, and is surrounded by a small cemetery.
   The parish, which is bounded on the south by the river Forth, is about three miles in length, from east to west, and nearly of equal breadth, comprising about 6240 acres, of which 3240 are arable, about 1800 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow and pasture. The surface is broken by the ridge of the Collelo hills, which traverses the parish from east to west, and of which the summits are richly wooded, and the southern acclivities in profitable cultivation. Towards the river, along which the parish extends for more than two miles, the ground is, for the most part, tolerably level; but on the east, the coast is rocky and precipitous, rising abruptly into eminences which are wooded to the margin of the Forth. On the face of the hills, walks have been laid out, commanding diversified prospects; and on the west, is a rich bay of white sand, surrounded with trees, from which the ground rises towards the west, into eminences crowned with thriving plantations, which, stretching southward, terminate in a perpendicular mass of rock washed by the sea, by which, and by the headlands on the south-east, the harbour is securely sheltered from the winds. To the north-west of the harbour, the surface again rises into a hill richly wooded, adding greatly to the beauty of the scenery, and commanding, on the right, a view of the island of Inchcolm, with the picturesque ruins of the abbey, and, on the left of it, the town of Burntisland, with the coasts of Lothian, the city of Edinburgh, and the Pentland hills in the distance.
   The soil on the north side of the ridge of hills, which has a considerable elevation above the sea, is cold and sterile, but on the south side more genial and fertile; and generally a rich black loam, in some parts alternated with sand. The chief crops are, wheat, oats, barley, beans, potatoes, and turnips; the system of agriculture is much improved, and the farm-buildings are substantial and commodious. The substratum abounds with coal, of which an extensive mine on the lands of Donibristle, belonging to the Earl of Moray, is in operation, about 2½ miles from the village; and on Cottlehill, coal is also wrought. Freestone of white colour, and of compact texture, was formerly quarried to a great extent, and much of it was sent to Edinburgh and Glasgow, for ornamental buildings; and on the lands of the Earl of Morton, is a quarry of stone, admirably fitted for piers and other purposes where great durability is requisite, and from which large blocks were used in the construction of Granton Pier. Aberdour House, the seat of the Earl of Morton, is a spacious mansion, on the west bank of the Dour, opposite to the ancient castle, and surrounded with pleasure-grounds richly wooded, and tastefully laid out. Hillside is a stately mansion, commanding views of the Frith of Forth, the opposite coasts, and the adjacent scenery; and Whitehill Cottage, and Cottlehill House, are also finely situated. The village of Aberdour is divided into two portions called Easter and Wester, by the river Dour, over which is a handsome bridge; and to the south of the western portion, is the village of Newtown, consisting of Sea-side-place and Manse-street. The beauty of the surrounding scenery, the numerous retired walks in the neighbourhood, and the fine sandy beach, have rendered these villages places of favourite resort during the summer months, for bathing; and for the accommodation of the numerous visiters, lodging-houses are extensively provided. Steamers ply twice in the day from Edinburgh, during summer, and pinnaces daily from Leith harbour, throughout the year.
   The manufacture of coarse linen was formerly carried on extensively, by hand-loom weavers; but it has greatly decreased. On the Dour, about a mile from the old village, is an iron forge, in which spades, shovels, and other implements are made, and of which the great hammer is worked by water power; there are also a brick-work, and some saw-mills of recent establishment. Considerable quantities of coal are shipped from the harbour, for exportation; and several foreign vessels arrive weekly, for freights of coal, from the mines: between the harbour and Burntisland, is an oyster-bed belonging to the Earl of Morton, which is leased to the fishermen of Newhaven. A fair is held on the 20th of June, chiefly for pleasure. The ecclesiastical affairs of the parish are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Dunfermline and synod of Fife. The minister's stipend is £207. 14. 6., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £13 per annum; patron, the Earl of Morton. The church, erected in 1790, and repaired in 1826, is a plain building. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church. The parochial school is attended by about 100 children; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house and garden, and the fees average £30 per annum. An hospital was founded in Wester Aberdour, by Anne, Countess of Moray, who endowed it for four aged widows, of whom three are appointed by the family, and one by the clerk of the signet; each of the widows has a separate apartment, with an allowance of coal and candles, and £5 per annum in money. On the summit of a hill on the farm of Dalachy, was a cairn, on the removal of which, during agricultural improvements, were found a stone coffin containing a human skeleton, several earthern vessels containing human bones, a spear-head of copper, and various other relics. The field adjoining the garden of the old manse is called the "Sisters' land," from its having been anciently the site of a Franciscan nunnery. The place gives the title of Baron to the Earl of Morton.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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