Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654

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Name: Blaeu, Joan, 1596-1673  
Title: Praefectvrarvm Aberdonensis Et Banfiensis ... Nova Descriptio, Auctore Roberto Gordonio  
Pagination: 106-7
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This small region, totally inland, the ancestral patrimony of the Marquess of Huntly, lies on the course of the River Avon; the information that of all rivers in this kingdom this was the most limpid and had the purest water was given to me by Timothy Pont, who had travelled over the whole of it. But there is no sign of praiseworthy soil in it, for it is quite barren, with scarce crops that in some years hardly ripen; hence the greatest expectation for the inhabitants is always in pasture, which never fails. The River Avon, from the ridges of a very rough and almost always snow-covered mountain Ben Avon, flows out of a small loch; after some miles it takes in from the right the Bulg Burn from the loch of the same name, then rushing through a rocky valley like a torrent, and drawing many streams from all sides, at the bottom of the valley it takes in from the right the River Livet, likewise accompanied by many streams; in its whole course except at the beginning it heads north, and at Balindalloch, a castle which is not included in Strath Avon, it joins the River Spey. At the confluence of the Avon and Livet are the ancient walls of Drumin Castle; above on the Livet is situated Blair Findy; elsewhere rustic houses are scattered throughout these valleys, and although the roughness of the mountains seems to forbid it, yet habitations are not infrequent from the confluence of the Bulg Burn.


Balvenie is next, with somewhat gentler soil, yet all bristling with mountains. It acquired its name from the Danes who attacked these places too – nothing here was not attempted by them – Bal means country house or village, to which Van was added with a slight change in letters for Dan (this change of letters is considered a common elegance of speech in the old tongue). This area is cut by the limpid and lovely River Fiddich, which takes in the Rinnes Burn and many other obscure streams, as is natural in a mountainous region, and discharges into the Spey. To this area belongs the source of the River Isla, from which the small region next to be discussed takes its name. But the source of the Fiddich are not in this estate; the area called Glen Fiddich with Auchindown Castle is annexed to this parish, but the jurisdiction belongs to the Marquesses of Huntly; the whole is wooded and enjoys grass. On the banks of the Fiddich is Balvenie, whence the area’s name, and lower down is Kininvie, and not far thence Newton. On the Rinnes is Mortlach Church, from which comes the common name of the region, the first some centuries ago and earliest seat of the bishops of Aberdeen. At Achluncart House, not far from the royal road to Moray, there is a cliff and a vein of fine flints, of which some are rough, others smooth, these hard, those soft, taking a point with water or oil, and in such quantity that they could suffice for the whole of Britain; people living nearby use them instead of tiles for houses. At Balvenie there are spring of aluminous water and in the ground veins of stone from which alum is burnt out. This estate, from as far back as James II, that is from 1440, belonged to the Stuarts, Earls of Atholl; he presented his half-brother with it, and when that line failed, it was acquired by purchase by the Lords of Parliament of Saltoun, and was transferred by them in the same way to the family of Innes; now the Earl of Rothes holds it.


Where the mountains begin to give out, Strath Isla stretches on the banks of that river, which with sinuous bends turns first to the east, then to the north, and again to the north-east, and enters the River Deveron a little above Rothiemay Castle. This district enjoys fertile soil, crops and grass, with much assistance from limestone, of which there is such a supply here that all the buildings are made from this stone. Here no little effort is given to the burning of lime both for their own use and to make it ready for merchants. They also give attention to linen weaving of quite fine thread, which however in the markets has the name of Strathbogie. They make a profit from fattening beef cattle. The village of Keith on the river, with its fixed weekly market and suitable location, attracts a great number of people especially from the upland regions. Many nobles of lesser note have houses and seats here, but there are hardly any castles; the whole region is divided among various owners. It is separated from Strathbogie by the high ridges of The Balloch, from Enzie by the area of low hills which are called Aultmore.


This small region has its boundaries in the west in the River Spey, on the north the gulf of the Ocean already spoken of by me, and on the east the region of Boyne, while the southern parts touch on Strath Isla. It is wholly given over to cereal production, and being rich in crops never fails the farmer’s expectation, yet it is poor in grass. Although Moray with its rich soil and mild climate wins the prize for crops and fruits over all provinces on this side of the River Dee, still Enzie is equal in crops and inferior in garden produce rather because of the failure of the inhabitants than by the nature of the soil. The sea is full of fish. As there is a deficiency of lime here, the fields near the Ocean are fertilised with seaweed, which is thrown on to the shore with great force by the twice daily incoming tide; farm-servants stand by at the prescribed times, and to stop any being lost as the tide goes out pull back the fleeing seaweed, immersing themselves in the water in cruel winter (often too at night). But this method of agriculture is not peculiar to these places, but when the shore spreads out and the sea is close by, it is common to all unless rocks prevent it. On the bank of the Spey sits Bog of Gicht, an elegant and spacious castle, raised to a great height, and more splendid than the others of these regions; it lacks nothing whether you consider pleasure or utility, being surrounded with lovely gardens and an ample four-part enclosure, for the use of deer; there is there an abundance of both kinds, as also of rabbits, hares, wild geese and ducks. The name of the place is from its low and wooded site. In former years it was magnificently enlarged by the Marquess of Huntly, owner of all this area. Between this and the neighbouring Boyne lies a wood clothed until quite recently with high oaks; but now having been totally cut down, it is regrowing to a new stock over the neighbouring hills.


Strathbogie is an ample and ancient barony, now raised to an earldom by King James. The Rivers Deveron and Bogie irrigate it, and join together in it; there are frequent burns and streams, by which the richness of the soil, both for crops and grass, is much advanced. Long ago it was divided into forty-eight villages, which in ancient times, as has been said, were called daachs; to each of them was assigned as much land as could be cultivated in a whole year by four ploughs, while each plough was driven by four or five yoke of oxen. Hence no small amount of land was required, since it is customary here, after the harvest has been cut, for the plough to be worked all through the winter to the month of March; after that sowing begins, but there is no rest from that work until the end of May. Today, with woods having been cut down and all land from which there is hope of a harvest having been brought into cultivation, everything has been more than doubled. Linen thread, thin and of quite fine fibre, is made here and is commended above the others of the kingdom; hence there is a certain profit for the inhabitants, who bring it for sale at the summer markets. There is a great number of cattle fattened on the grass for butchering, and quite enough sheep and horses for agricultural uses, as well as some being provided for markets. Strathbogie, from which comes the regions name, is an ample and magnificent castle, and is placed in a lovely situation at the confluence of the aforesaid rivers, supplied with wide and pleasant gardens; at its gates the Deveron is crossed by a stone bridge. There is on the Bogie, one mile from the river, Lesmore Castle, below it on the opposite bank Gartly; on the Deveron at the boundary is Glass, which by most people is counted as being in Balveny; below it is Cairnborrow; two miles from the river on a pleasant stream is Pitlurg, lower on the same Auchindachy, and many country houses, unnamed as we hasten on. An addition to this area is Rothiemay castle and parish, three miles below Strathbogie on the Deveron, now increased by the Rivers Bogie and Isla; once a not inconsiderable part of this district, recently belonging to the heirs of the Lords of Parliament of Saltoun, it has now come down to the Gordons. At the source of the Deveron lies an area of low ground between mountains, called Cabrach, at the foot of a rough and high mountain called The Buck, looking to Strathavon over rough mountains, which have the name Ladder from their divided precipices; from here the stream called Black Water flows to the Deveron. The land here is set aside for grass and pastures, of which there is here an amazing abundance. In summer the huts of the herdsmen cover it all, in winter it is largely deserted. The inhabitants of this region are for the most part kinsmen of the Marquess of Huntly, and have the same surname, which they keep constantly by the custom of the kingdom; but they are all his dependents. Three hundred and forty years ago, at the fall of the Comyn family at the hands of Robert I, the rights to this region were given to the ancestors of the Marquess of Huntly, who on this occasion moved to these parts from the province of the Merse, where their ancestral home was; part of the family was left there, and part poured into the province of Galloway, which is the origin of the family of the Viscounts of Kenmure. Later in 1407 Adam Gordon, the head of the family, with his brother Roger was killed at the unhappy battle of Halidon, and an only daughter was left as sole heir; since masculine feus had not yet come into use among us, when grown up she married Alexander Seton, second son of the Lord of Parliament of Seton, with the condition that offspring should keep the surname and insignia of the ancient family. There remain however various not undistinguished families in these parts, who came into being before this division. Later they were always faithful to the kings, who were more than once disturbed by conspiracies of the nobles, and were rewarded with many estates by them. In the reign of Queen Mary (when she was not sufficiently in control) they were severely struck; yet consistently taking his part, they always had a friend in King James, whatever the factions (by whom he was almost crushed) suffered; what happened later in Charles’s times, this is not the place to recount, the heir of the house and much the greatest part of the famous family had the royal fate and misfortune: yet it must not be despaired that the illustrious family, which has often survived its disasters, will some day revive.


Boyne is a small region with good soil where it is closer to the sea in the north, but not inland. It stretches from Enzie along the coast to the mouth of the Deveron. At its beginning is Cullen, old certainly (it enjoys the rights of a town), but lacking a harbour, scarcely worthy of the name of a middling village: all that commends it is its fruitful land and the house of the earls of Findlater, who, abandoning Findlater Castle which is built on a rock in the sea, moved a mile hither, attracted by the beauty of the place. Also in the neighbourhood they have ample estates with the house of Deskford, a farther mile away, and not far from there Durn. In the vicinity is Birkenbog, a castle of the Abercrombies, likewise Glassaugh, a country house of the Gordons. Following the coast to the east, four miles from Cullen is a castle named Crag of Boyne, certainly beautiful, and a little further on Buch-chragie; the owners of both have titles from the name of the whole region. The town of Banff, head of this prefecture, sits at the mouth of the Deveron, not however a place of great importance as it has no harbour and is exposed to the north-west wind, the fiercest on this coast; hence the mouth of the river changes position from time to time; the remains of a castle survive; the citizens, unequal to maritime business, actively work the outstandingly fertile land around the town; there is also a quite well known salmon fishery. Not far from the town is Inchdrewer, a country house of a Lord of Parliament, who has his titles from the town; >

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