Crathie and Braemar

   CRATHIE and BRAEMAR, a parish, including the villages of Auchandryne and Castletown, in the district of Kincardine O'Neil, county of Aberdeen, 22 miles (W. by S.) from Kincardine O'Neil; and containing 1712 inhabitants. The word Crathie is supposed to be of Gaelic origin, and derived from the words crag and tir or thir, which signify "stony or rocky land," and are descriptive of the general appearance of the surface. The ancient parish of Braemar, a name expressing the highest land of the three districts into which the county was once distributed, was in early times called St. Andrew's, and subsequently Bridgend, in consequence of a bridge having been built over the Cluney at Castletown by Malcum-Ceann-Mor, who had a hunting-seat here. It received its present designation towards the end of the reign of Mary, when the lands about Castletown became the property of the Earl of Mar; but at what time it was united to Crathie is uncertain. The united parish extends about forty miles in length, and twenty in breadth, and is situated in the heart of the Grampian range. The principal part was in ancient times covered with wood, and was included in the great Caledonian forest: that portion called the forest of Mar, has always been highly celebrated for its abundance of very superior timber, and the number of fine deer which traverse it. It was the rendezvous of the inhabitants of the country in the time of the Romans, and afterwards the stronghold of the Highland clans. On the lands of Monaltry, on the north bank of the river Dee, in a narrow pass, is Carn-na-Cuimhne, "the cairn of remembrance," so named on account of the chieftains, in times of danger, marching with their followers through the pass, and causing each man to lay down a stone, by which they might ascertain, on their return, how many had followed them to battle, and what number had been lost in the conflict. The castle of Braemar was built as a seat of the ancient earls of Mar, but was subsequently used as a garrison to keep in awe the lawless chieftains, and was let to government for barracks in 1748, the great military road from Blairgowrie to Fort-George and Aberdeen passing through the district, close by Carn-na-Cuimhne. In the vale near the castle, the Earl of Mar, in 1715, first erected the standard of the Pretender, as is more particularly noticed in the article on Charlestown.
   The parish comprises 199,658 acres, of which, in comparision with the extent of the district, but few are under cultivation; between 10,000 and 11,000 are under wood, natural and planted, and the remainder is arable land, hill pasture, mountains, and moor. The scenery of the whole is highly diversified, and can scarcely, for grandeur and sublimity, be equalled by any in the county. The Braemar district, which is especially mountainous, and the forests of which are well stocked with deer and game, is said to be the highest land above the sea in Scotland, and the furthest removed in every direction from the coast. The principal lochs are those of Callader and Bhrodichan, in the midst of hills on the estate of Invercauld, the former of which contains salmon, and the latter red trout. The Dee, which rises in the mountain of Breriach, from a fountain 4060 feet above the level of the sea, flows through the parish in a serpentine course, augmented by numerous tributaries, and displays several beautiful cascades, especially one called the Linn of Dee. It falls into the German Ocean more than ninety miles from its source, at Aberdeen, where it forms the harbour of that city. The most lofty mountain is Bennamuickduidh, rising to an elevation of 4390 feet, and which, by a recent survey, has been found to be twenty feet higher than Ben-Nevis, previously reputed the highest mountain in Britain. Cairntoul and Bennabuird are respectively 4220 and 3940 feet above the sea, and, with Bennamuickduidh, are the principal elevations, all situated on the north-west boundaries of Braemar: Lochnagar, on the south-eastern side of the parish, rises 3815 feet. These imposing mountains, covered to a great extent with wood of almost every kind and hue, and exhibiting in many places their broken and boldly-shelving cliffs, with the verdant acclivities, grassy plains, and winding streams ornamenting the lower grounds, form together a rich assemblage of natural beauties which can scarcely fail to charm.
   The soil in some places is shallow and sandy, and in others loamy and dry, incumbent on clay or gravel. Oats and bear are raised, and the green crops comprise turnips, potatoes, peas, and hay; live stock is much attended to, and the black-faced sheep and small black-cattle are the prevailing breeds, for which the large quantity of hill pasture attached to each farm affords a fine range. Agriculture has much advanced within these few years; and among other improvements many stone dykes have been constructed as fences, and several secure embankments have been raised against the overflowings of the river Dee. The rocks, which are covered with a thin mossy soil of dark hue, are chiefly pure granite, of different colours, and of so close and firm a texture that, when highly polished, it resembles marble. Limestone is also abundant, masses of which protrude in many places; and in addition to this, there is a species of very hard flinty stone or rock, which is supposed to contain a portion of ironore. The rateable annual value of the parish is £6600. The natural wood consists of Scotch fir, birch, mountain-ash, poplar, and alder; and the plantations contain the various firs, but chiefly larch, which latter is of quick growth, and is much esteemed as a substitute, in many cases, for hard-wood, to the growth of which the climate is not suited. Some of the first in the forest of Mar are supposed to be between 300 and 400 years of age, and exhibit specimens rarely, if ever, seen in any other part of Britain. The mansion of Invercauld is situated in the beautiful vale washed by the Dee, and in the midst of plantations; there are also the mansions of Mar Lodge and Corymulzie Cottage in Braemar, and Abergeldie and Balmoral in Crathie. Three annual fairs are held at Castletown, two principally for cattle, and the other for sheep and cattle; and one is also held at Clachnaturn, in Crathie. The parish is in the presbytery of Kincardine O'Neil and synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of the Crown; the minister's stipend is £233. 10., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £8 per annum. The church of Crathie, which was built on a new site, in 1806, is an elegant structure, containing 1400 sittings, all free. An ordained missionary regularly officiates at Castletown, and there is a Roman Catholic chapel at the same village; also a place of worship for members of the Free Church in the parish. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches; the master has a salary of £26, with a house and garden, and £8 fees. There are two schools for boys, and three for girls, supported by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; a school is supported also by the General Assembly, and two schools are kept in Braemar, during the winter, by the Roman Catholics. A friendly society was established in 1815, and re-modelled in 1830, under the title of the Braemar Highland Society; its annual meeting is held in August, when many gentlemen attend, and its funds are appropriated partly to the relief of sick and aged members, and to the purchase of annuities for widows and orphans, and partly to the encouragement of ancient games. A savings' bank was instituted in 1816, and has now a capital of upwards of £2000. The ruins of the castle built by Malcum-Ceann-Mor are still standing.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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