Strathdon

   STRATHDON, or Invernochty, a parish, in the district of Alford, county of Aberdeen, 19 miles (W. by S.) from Alford; containing 1563 inhabitants. This place, originally called Invernochty, derived that name from the situation of its church near the influx of the river Nochty into the Don; and its present appellation, from its extensive and beautiful strath, or valley, through which the river Don takes its pleasing, winding course, dividing the parish into two nearly equal parts. The lands appear to have formed a portion of the superiority of the earls of Mar, by one of whom the ancient castle of Curgarff was erected for a huntingseat; they subsequently became the property of the family of Forbes, between whom and the Gordons most deadly feuds subsisted for many years. In one of these, in 1571, the castle of Curgarff, at that time inhabited only by Margaret Campbell, her children, and servants, was attacked by Adam Gordon, of Auchendown, who set fire to the building; and Margaret Campbell, with the children and servants, to the number of twenty-seven persons, perished in the flames. The castle was, however, subsequently rebuilt; it was purchased by government from Mr. Forbes, of Skellater, in 1746, and was for some years occupied as barracks, under the garrison of Fort-George, by a detachment of twenty men. From 1827 to 1831 a captain, with a subaltern and sixty men, was stationed in it to support the civil authorities in their determination to suppress the practice of smuggling, which at that period was carried on to a very great extent; but it has not since been occupied by any military.
   The parish, which constitutes the western extremity of the county, is about twenty-three miles in length, and varies from three to eight miles in breadth; comprising, according to computation, 70,000 acres, of which nearly 5000 are arable, 4000 woodland and plantations, and the remainder hill pasture and waste. The form of the parish is extremely irregular, from the portions of adjoining parishes with which it is in several places indented. The surface is strikingly diversified, presenting, in peculiarly fine contrast, a considerable extent of level and fertile vale, and large tracts of moorland of mountainous elevation, combining all the varieties of wild and rugged Highland scenery. The valley of the Don, through which that river flows from west to east, is intersected nearly at right angles with several sequestered glens, watered by rivulets descending from the mountains between which they are inclosed; some of the glens are finely wooded with natural birch, but the mountains are covered with heath to their very summits. The highest of these mountains are, Morven, situated contiguous to the southern boundary of the parish, and which has an elevation of 2880 feet above the level of the sea; Scroulach, very near the military road by Curgarff Castle to Fort-George, and rising to the height of 2700 feet; Cairnmore and Ben-Newe, each 1800 feet high; and Lonach, which has an elevation of 1200 feet. On the summit of Cairnmore mountain, a cairn was erected by the tenantry, in 1823, to Sir Charles Forbes, in commemoration of his being raised to the rank of baronet. There is also a mountain of inferior height, called Greenhill, from its being partially clothed with verdure. The river Don has its source in this parish, on the confines of the county of Banff, and taking an eastern direction, receives in its course numerous streams from the mountains; it runs between banks exhibiting much romantic beauty, and falls into the sea about two miles to the north of Aberdeen. Among the tributaries of the Don are, the Conry, the Ernan, the Carvy, the Nochty, the Deskry, the Bucket, and the Kindy, nearly all of which take their rise in the parish, and flow through the several glens to which they respectively give name. The Don and its tributaries abound with trout, which, though small, are of fine flavour, and afford good sport to the angler; and salmon are occasionally found in the Don, but not in any considerable number. There are springs of excellent water in various parts of the parish, some of which are more or less chalybeate; but they have not been analysed, and their properties are but little known.
   The soil on the arable lands is mostly a deep loam, in some places alternated with gravel; on the lower acclivities of the hills it is generally very fertile. The summits of the hills are chiefly peat-moss, of great depth, and of various quality; and from some mosses are dug portions of the trunks of fir-trees, which, when dried and split into strips, may be used instead of candles. The chief crops are oats, with a moderate quantity of barley, and considerable quantities of bear; turnips are cultivated to a great extent, and some potatoes, but owing to the injury to which they are exposed from the early frosts, only very scanty crops of the latter are raised. The system of husbandry is improved; the lands have been well drained and inclosed; and where requisite, embankments have been formed to protect them from the inundations of the river Don, to which they were much exposed. The farm-houses are generally of a superior description, built of stone, and roofed with slate; and the offices are all well arranged. On some of the farms are threshing-mills driven by water, and on one a mill driven by horses; there are also three mills for grinding meal. The cattle, about 2200 of which are annually reared in the parish, are of the Aberdeenshire black breed, with a few of a mixed breed between the Ross-shire and the West Highland; and the sheep, of which nearly 9000 are pastured on the hills, are all of the black-faced breed. No horses are reared, except for purposes of husbandry. The agricultural produce beyond what is requisite for the supply of the inhabitants, and also the fat-cattle, are sent to the Aberdeen market, whence, since the facilities of steam navigation have been rendered available, much live-stock is forwarded to London. The plantations have been greatly extended within the last thirty years; they consist of Scotch fir and larch, for which the soil seems peculiarly adapted, and ash, elm, plane, and various kinds of forest-trees, which, since more attention has been paid to regular thinnings, are all in a prosperous state. Around the houses of the principal proprietors are some good specimens of timber. The prevailing rocks are sienite and granite, in which are found veins of compact felspar, hornblende in crystallized masses, and in some places garnets. Limestone, which is abundant, is extensively quarried, and is burnt into lime with peats, and occasionally a little coal; all the limestone rocks lie on the north side of the Don, with the exception of one near Boilhandy, and the quality of the lime is excellent. A quarry of slate was formerly wrought; but from the coarseness of its quality, the working of it has been discontinued. The rateable annual value of the parish, according to parliamentary returns compiled for the purposes of the Income-tax, is £4228.
   Newe, the seat of Sir Charles Forbes, is a spacious mansion, erected in 1831, of Kildrummy freestone, in the old manorial style, and situated on the north bank of the Don, in a demesne tastefully embellished with thriving plantations. The present house, with which the old mansion was incorporated, contains a splendid suite of apartments, and is ornamented with a noble portico of extremely elegant design. Candacraig House, the residence of Robert Anderson, Esq., is a handsome mansion in the Elizabethan style, built in 1835, of granite discovered in the immediate vicinity; and is pleasantly situated in grounds richly wooded. Inverernan, belonging to Mrs. Forbes, is a villa partly in the Italian style, near the confluence of the Ernan and the Don; and the house of Auchernach, erected by General Forbes in 1809, is also a commodious residence. The mansions of Glen-Kindy, the property of Sir Alexander Leith; Bellabeg, situated near the influx of the Nochty into the Don; Edinglassie; and Skellater, the property of Sir Charles Forbes, are all of old date. There is no village in the parish, unless a few cottages at Heugh-Head, not exceeding ten in number, may be so called; nor is there any manufactory, except at Glen-Kindy, where is a mill for spinning woollen yarn. In the weaving of blankets and plaidings, from six to eight persons are employed. The post-office, under that of Aberdeen, has a daily delivery; and fairs for cattle, one of which is also for the sale of meal and fodder, are held five times in the year, the principal being on the third Friday in August. Facility of communication is maintained by the turnpike-road from Aberdeen, which passes for eighteen miles through the parish, and terminates at Curgarff; by cross roads that intersect it in various directions; and by three good bridges over the Don, and bridges across the other streams, one of which, over the Nochty, is of cast-iron.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Alford and synod of Aberdeen. The minister's stipend is about £210, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £2. 12. 6. per annum; patron, the Crown. The church was rebuilt in 1757, and reseated and repaired in 1808; it is a plain substantial structure containing 504 sittings, all of which are free. A missionary station has been for more than a century supported at Curgarff by the Royal Bounty, from which the minister receives a stipend of £63 per annum, with a croft and right of pasture. A church, with a manse and offices, was erected for this district in 1834, by Sir Charles Forbes, at a cost of £1100; the church is a handsome structure, and affords ample accommodation for the inhabitants. There is also a small Roman Catholic chapel at Curgarff. The parochial school gives instruction to nearly 100 children; the master has a salary of £28, with a house, an allowance of £2 in lieu of garden, and the fees, averaging about £10 annually. A new parochial school-house, with a dwelling-house for the master, was built in 1838 by the heritors, upon a greatly improved plan. Three schools are supported by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, who allow the masters salaries of £15 each, with a dwelling-house, in addition to the fees; and in 1832, Sir Charles Forbes built a school-house and dwelling for the teacher at Curgarff. The late John Forbes, Esq., of Newe, bequeathed £500, and Miss Forbes, of Bellabeg, £100, for the benefit of the poor. The ruins of three ancient castles are found at unequal distances, within the parish, apparently forming part of a chain of forts extending from Kildrummy to the castle of Curgarff, at the head of Strathdon. Near the confluence of the Nochty with the Don, is an abruptly conical mound called the Doune of Nochty, of elliptical form, 970 feet in circumference at the base, and 560 at the summit, and about sixty feet in height. This mound has been surrounded with a ditch twenty-six feet wide and sixteen deep; and around the summit are still to be traced the foundations of numerous buildings. According to tradition, it was the site of the ancient church. Numerous subterraneous buildings occur in this part of the county, five of which have been discovered in this parish; they are here called "Eirde houses," are constructed of loose stones placed together in irregularly circular form, and contract in diameter towards the roof, which is of flat stones. In 1822, two ancient rings and several hundred silver coins were found in digging for a dyke. One of the rings was of gold, with a sapphire stone of deep colour, and the other of iron, gilt, and mounted with a pale sapphire; some of the coins were of the reign of Henry III. of England, two of King John, and the others of William the Lion of Scotland.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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