Aberdeenshire, one of 32 unitary council regions in Scotland, also formed one of the traditional counties of Scotland. It borders on Moray, Angus and Perth and Kinross. Size: 6300 square kilometres. Aberdeen serves as its administrative centre, although a separate authority, City of Aberdeen, has control over the urban area itself.

Towns and villages

Places of interest
  • Balmoral Castle
  • Dunnottar Castle
  • Findlater Castle
  • Scotland's Lighthouse Museum

Main Industries: Aberdeenshire Council's official website

The following text came originally from an old 1911 Encyclopedia

Aberdeenshire , a north-eastern county of Scotland, bounded north and east by the North Sea, south by Kincardine, Forfar, and Perth, and west by Inverness and Banff. It has a coast-line of 65 miles, and is the sixth Scottish county in area, occupying 1261,887 acres or 1971 square miles. The county is generally hilly, and from the south-west, near the centre of Scotland, the Grampians send out various branches, mostly to the north-east.

Popular geography divides the traditional shire into five districts:

  1. Mar, mostly between the Dee and Don, which nearly covers the southern half of the county and contains the city of Aberdeen. It is mountainous, especially Braemar, which contains the greatest mass of elevated land in the British Isles. The Dee valley has sandy soil, the Don valley loamy.
  2. Formartine, between the lower Don and Ythan, has a sandy coast, which is succeeded inland by a clayey, fertile, tilled tract, and then by low hills, moors, mosses and tilled land.
  3. Buchan lies north of the Ythan, and comprising the north-east of the county, is next in size to Mar, parts of the coast being bold and rocky, the interior bare, low, flat, undulating and in places peaty. On the coast, six miles south of Peterhead, are the Bullers of Buchan - a basin in which the sea, entering by a natural arch, boils up violently in stormy weather. Buchan Ness is the most easterly point of Scotland.
  4. Garioch, pronounced "gayree", in the centre of the shire, comprises a beautiful, undulating, loamy, fertile valley. formerly called the granary of Aberdeen.
  5. Strathbogie, occupying a considerable area south of the Deveron, mostly consists of hills, moors and mosses.

The mountains provide the most striking of the physical features of the county. Ben Macdhui (4296 feet), a magnificent mass, the second highest mountain in Great Britain, Braeriach (4248), Cairntoul (4241), Ben-na-bhuaird (3924), Ben Avon (3843), "dark" Lochnagar (3786), the subject of a well-known song by Byron, Cairn Eas (3556), Sgarsoch (3402), Culardoch (2953), are the principal heights in the division of Mar. Farther north rise the Buck of Cabrach (2368) on the Banffshire border, Tap o' Noth (1830), Bennachie (1698), a beautiful peak which from its central position is a landmark visible from many different parts of the county, and which is celebrated in John Imlah's song, O gin I were where Gadie rins, and Foudland (1529). The chief rivers are the Dee, 90 miles long; the Iyon, 82 miles; the Ythan, 37 miles, with mussel-beds at its mouth; the Ugie, 20 miles, and the Deveron, 62 miles, partly on the boundary of Banffshire. The rivers abound with salmon and trout, and the pearl mussel occurs in the Ythan and Don. A valuable pearl in the Scottish crown is said to be from the Ythan. Loch Muick, the largest of the few lakes in the county, 1310 feet above the sea, 2½ miles long and 1/3 to ½ miles broad, lies some 8½ miles southwest of Ballater, and has Altnagiuthasach, a royal shooting-box, near its south-western end. Loch Strathbeg, six miles southeast of Fraserburgh, is only separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land. There are noted chalybeate springs at Peterhead, Fraserburgh, and Pannanich near Ballater.

Table of contents
1 Geology
2 Flora and Fauna
3 Climate and Agriculture
4 Fisheries
5 Other Industries
6 Communications
7 Population and Government
8 History


The greater part of the county is composed of crystalline schists belonging to the metamorphic rocks of the Eastern Highlands. In the upper parts of the valleys of the Dee and the Don they form well-marked groups, of which the most characteristic are (1) the black schists and phyllites, with calcflintas, and a thin band of tremolite limestone, (2) the main or Blair Atholl limestone, (3) the quartzite. These divisions are folded on highly inclined or vertical axes trending north-east and south-west, and hence the same zones are repeated over a considerable area. The quartzite is generally regarded as the highest member of the series. Excellent sections showing the component strata occur in Glen Clunie and its tributary valleys above Braemar. Eastwards down the Dee and the Don and northwards across the plain of Buchan towards Rattray Head and Fraserburgh there is a development of biotite gneiss, partly of sedimentary and perhaps partly of rock origin. A belt of slate which has been quarried for roofing purposes runs along the west border of the county from Turriff by Auchterless and the Foudland Hills towards the Tap o' Noth near Gartly. The metamorphic rocks have been invaded by igneous materials, some before, and by far the larger series after the folding of the strata. The basic types of the former are represented by the sills of epidiorite and hornblende gneiss in Glen Muick and Glen Callater, which have been permeated by granite and pegmatite in veins and lenticles, often foliated. The later granites subsequent to the plication of the schists have a wide distribution on the Ben Macdhui and Ben Avon range, and on Lochnagar; they stretch eastwards from Ballater by Tarland to Aberdeen and north to Bennachie. Isolated masses appear at Peterhead and at Strichen. Though consisting mainly of biotite granite, these later intrusions pass by intermediate stages into diorite, as in the area between Balmoral and the head-waters of the Gairn. The granites have been extensively quarried at Rubislaw, Peterhead and Kemnay. Serpentine and troctolite, the precise age of which is uncertain, occur at the Black Dog rock north of Aberdeen, at Belhelvie and near Old Meldrum. Where the schists of sedimentary origin have been pierced by these igneous intrusions, they are charged with contact minerals such as sillimanite, cordierite, kyanite and andalusite. Cordierite-bearing rocks occur near Ellon, at the foot of Bennachie, and on the top of the Buck of Cahrach. A banded and mottled calc-silicate hornfels occurring with the limestone at Iyerry Falls, west-northwest of Braemar, has yielded malacolite, wollastonite, brown idocrase, garnet, sphene and hornblende. A larger list of minerals has been obtained from an exposure of limestone and associated beds in Glen Gairn, about four miles above the point where that river joins the Dee. Narrow belts of Old Red Sandstone, resting unconformably on the old platform of slates and schists, have been traced from the north coast at Peterhead by Turriff to Fyvie, and also from Huntly by Gartly to Kildrummy Castle. The strata consist mainly of conglomerates and sandstones, which, at Gartly and at Rhyme, are associated with lenticular bands of andesite indicating contemporaneous volcanic action. Small outliers of conglomerate and sandstone of this age have recently been found in the course of excavations in Aberdeen. The glacial deposits, especially in the belt bordering the coast between Aberdeen and Peterhead, furnish important evidence. The ice moved eastwards off the high ground at the head of the Dee and the Don, while the mass spreading outwards from the Moray Firth invaded the low plateau of Buchan; but at a certain stage there was a marked defection northwards parallel with the coast, as proved by the deposit of red clay north of Aberdeen. At a later date the local glaciers laid down materials on top of the red clay. The committee appointed by the British Association proved that the Greensand, which has yielded a large suite of Cretaceous fossils at Moreseat, in the parish of Cruden, occurs in glacial drift, resting probably on granite. The strata from which the Moreseat fossils were derived are not now found in place in that part of Scotland, but Mr Jukes Brown considers that the horizon of the fossils is that of the lower Greensand of the Isle of Wight or the Aptien stage of France. Chalk flints are widely distributed in the drift between Fyvie and the east coast of Buchan. At Plaidy a patch of clay with Liassic fossils occurs. At several localities between Logie Coldstone and Dinnet a deposit of diatomite (Kieselguhr) occurs beneath the peat.

Flora and Fauna

The tops of the highest mountains have an arctic flora. At the royal lodge on Loch Muick, 1350 feet above the sea, grow larches, vegetables, currants, laurels, roses, etc. Some ash-trees, four or five feet in girth, grow at 1300 feet above the sea. Trees, especially Scotch fir and larch, grow well, and Braemar has plentiful natural timber, said to surpass any in the north of Europe. Stumps of Scotch fir and oak found in peat sometimes far exceed any now growing in size.

Moles occur at 1800 feet above the sea, and squirrels at 1400. Grouse, partridges and hares abound, and rabbits are often abound excessively. Red deer abound in Braemar, which has the most extensive deer forest in Scotland.

Climate and Agriculture

Except in the mountainous districts, Aberdeenshire has a comparatively mild climate, owing to the proximity of much of the shire to the sea. The mean annual temperature at Braemar reaches 43.6°F, and that at Aberdeen 45.8°F. The mean yearly rainfall varies from about 30 to 37 inches. In summer the upper Dee and Don valleys provide the driest and most bracing climate in the British Isles, and grain grows cultivated up to 1600 feet above the sea, or 400 to 500 feet higher than elsewhere in North Britain. Poor, gravelly, clayey and peaty soils prevail, but tile-draining, bones and guano, and the best methods of modern tillage, have greatly increased the produce. Indeed, in no part of Scotland has a more productive soil developed out of such unpromising material. Farm-houses and steadings have much improved, and the best agricultural implements and machines get widespread use. About two-thirds of the population depend entirely on agriculture. Farms are small compared with those in the south-eastern counties. Oats form the predominant crop, wheat has practically gone out of cultivation, but barley has largely increased. The most distinctive industry is cattle-feeding. Aberdeenshire fattens a great number of the home-bred crosses for the London and local markets, and imports Irish animals on an extensive scale for the same purpose, while an exceedingly heavy trade in dead meat for London and the south occurs all over the county. Farmers also raise sheep, horses and pigs in large numbers.


A large fishing population in villages along the coast engage in the white and herring fishery, fostering the next most important industry to agriculture. Aberdeenshire fishing developed almost exclusively due to the introduction of steam trawlers. The total value of the annual catch, of which between a half and a third consists of herrings, amounts to £1,000,000. The industry produces both speldings (salted and rock-dried haddocks) and finnans (smoked haddocks). The ports and creeks belong to the fishery districts of Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Aberdeen, the last of which includes also three Kincardineshire ports. The herring season for Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh lasts from June to September, at which time the ports become crowded with boats from other Scottish districts. Valuable salmon-fishings exist - rod, net and stake-net - on the Dee, Don, Ythan and Ugie. The average annual despatch of salmon from Aberdeenshire comprises about 400 tons.

Other Industries

Manufactures mainly cluster in or near the city of Aberdeen, but throughout the rural districts one finds much milling of corn, brick and tile making, smith-work, brewing and distilling, cart and farm-implement making, casting and drying of peat, and timber-felling, especially on Deeside and Donside, for pit-props, railway sleepers, laths and barrel staves. A number of paper-making establishments operate, most of them on the Don near Aberdeen.

The chief mineral wealth comes from the noted durable granite, quarried at Aberdeen, Kemnay, Peterhead and elsewhere. An acre of land on being reclaimed has yielded £40 to £50 worth of causewaying stones. Sandstone and other rocks are also quarried at different parts. The shire imports mostly coal, lime, timber, iron, slate, raw materials for the textile manufactures, wheat, cattle-feeding stuffs, bones, guano, sugar, alcoholic liquors, fruits. The exports include granite (rough-dressed and polished), flax, woollen and cotton goods, paper, combs, preserved provisions, oats, barley, and live and dead cattle.


On the south Aberdeen city links with the Caledonian (via Perth, Forfar and Stonehaven), and the North British (via Dundee, Montrose and Stonehaven) railways, and the shire also hosts part of the Great North of Scotland railway, whose main line runs via Kintore and Huntly to Keith and Elgin. Branch lines from various points opened up the more populous districts, as from Aberdeen to Ballater by Deeside, from Aberdeen to Fraserburgh (with a branch at Maud for Peterhead and at Ellon for Cruden Bay and Boddam), from Kintore to Alford, and from Inverurie to Old Meldrum and also to Macduff. All of these lines have now closed and serve as local pathways or bicycle tracks. By sea Aberdeenshire has regular communication with London, Leith, Inverness, Wick, the Orkney Islands, the Shetland Islands, Iceland and the continent. The highest of the macadamized roads crossing the eastern Grampians rises to a point 2200 feet above sea-level.

Population and Government

In 1801 the population numbered 284,036 and in 1901 304,439 (of whom 159,603 were females), or 154 persons to the square mile. In 1901 Aberdeenshire had 8 persons who spoke Gaelic only, and 1333 who spoke Gaelic and English. The chief towns include Aberdeen (population in 1901, 153,503), Bucksburn (2231), Fraserburgh (9105), Huntly (4136), Inverurie (3624), Peterhead (11,794), Turriff (2273).

The Supreme Court of Justiciary sits in Aberdeen to try cases from the counties of Aberdeen, Banff and Kincardine. The three counties are under a sheriff, and two sheriffs-substitute reside in Aberdeen, who sit also at Fraserburgh, Huntly, Peterhead and Turriff. The sheriff courts occur in Aberdeen and Peterhead.

The county sends two members to parliament -- one for East Aberdeenshire and the other for West Aberdeenshire. The county town, Aberdeen, returns two members. Peterhead, Inverurie and Kintore belong to the Elgin group of parliamentary burghs, the other constituents being Banff, Cullen and Elgin.

The county has school-board jurisdiction, and there are also several voluntary schools. There are higher-class schools in Aberdeen, and secondary schools at Huntly, Peterhead and Fraserburgh, and many of the other schools in the county earn grants for secondary education. The County Secondary Education Committee dispense a large sum, partly granted by the education department and partly contributed by local authorities from the "residue" grant, and support, besides the schools mentioned, local classes and lectures in agriculture, fishery and other technical subjects, in addition to subsidizing the agricultural department of the university of Aberdeen.

The higher branches of education have always been thoroughly taught in the schools throughout the shire, and pupils have long been in the habit of going directly from the schools to the university.

The native Scots are long-headed, shrewd, careful, canny, active, persistent, but reserved and blunt, and without demonstrative enthusiasm. They have a physiognomy distinct from the rest of the Scottish people, and have a quick, sharp, rather angry accent. The local Scots dialect appears broad, and rich in diminutives, and is noted for the use of e for o or u, f for wh, d for th, etc. So recently as 1830 Gaelic provided the fireside language of almost every family in Braemar, but now it is little used.


The country later forming the shires of Aberdeen and Banff once served as home to the northern Picts, whom Ptolemy called Taixall, dubbing the territory Taixalon. Their town of Devana, once supposed to be the modern Aberdeen, has been identified by Professor John Stuart with a site in the parish of Peterculter, where there are remains of an ancient camp at Normandykes, and by Dr W.F. Skene with a station on Loch Davan, west of Aboyne. So-called Roman camps have also been discovered on the upper Ythan and Deveron, but evidence of effective Roman occupation is still to seek. Traces of the native inhabitants, however, occur much more frequently. Weems or earth-houses occur fairly commonly in the west. Relics of crannogs or lake-dwellings exist at Loch Ceander, or Kinnord, five miles north-east of Ballater, at Loch Goul in the parish of New Machar and elsewhere. Duns or forts occur on hills at Dunecht, where the dun encloses an area of two acres, Bnrra near Old Meldrum, Tap o' Noth, Dunnideer near Insch and other places. Monoliths, standing stones and "druidical" circles of the pagan period abound, as do many examples of the sculptured stones of the early Christian epoch.

Efforts to convert the Picts started with Teman in the 5th century, and continued with Columba (who founded a monastery at Old Deer), Drostan, Maluog, and Machar, lasting results emerged only slowly. Indeed, dissensions within the Columban church and the expulsion of the clergy from Pictland by the Pictish king Nectan in the 8th century undid most of the progress that missionaries had made. The Vikings and Danes periodically raided the coast, but after Macbeth ascended the throne of Scotland in 1040, the Northmen, under the guidance of Thorfinn, refrained from further trouble in the north-east. Macbeth was afterwards slain at Lumphanan (1057), a cairn on Perkhill marking the spot.

The influence of the Norman conquest of England made itself felt even in Aberdeenshire. Along with numerous Anglo-Saxon exiles, there also settled in the country Flemings who introduced various industries, Saxons who brought farming, and Scandinavians who taught nautical skill. The Celts revolted more than once, but Malcolm Canmore and his successors crushed them and confiscated their lands. In the reign of Alexander I (ruled 1107 - 1124) mention first appears of Aberdeen (originally called Abordon and, in the Norse sagas, Apardion), which received its charter from William the Lion in 1179, by which date its burgesses had already combined with those of Banff, Elgin, Inverness and other trans-Grampian communities to form a free Hanse, under which they enjoyed exceptional trading privileges. By this time, too, the Church had extended its organisation, establishing the bishopric of Aberdeen in 1150.

In the 12th and 13th centuries some of the great Aberdeenshire families arose, including the earl of Mar (c. 1122), the Leslies, Freskins (ancestors of the dukes of Sutherland), Durwards, Bysets, Comyns and Cheynes; significantly, in most cases their founders had immigrated to the district.

The Celtic thanes and their retainers slowly fused with the settlers. They declined to take advantage of the disturbed condition of the country during the wars of the Scots independence, and made common cause with the bulk of the nation.

Though John Comyn (d. 1300?), one of the competitors for the throne, had considerable interests in the shire, his claim received locally little support. In 1296 Edward I made a triumphal march to the north to terrorise the more turbulent nobles. Next year William Wallace surprised the English garrison in Aberdeen, but failed to capture the castle. In 1303 Edward again visited the county, halting at the Castle of Kildrummy, then in the possession of Robert Bruce, who shortly afterwards became the acknowledged leader of the Scots and made Aberdeen his headquarters for several months. Despite the seizure of Kildrummy Castle by the English in 1306, Bruce's prospects brightened from 1308, when he defeated John Comyn, earl of Buchan (died 1313?), at Inverurie.

For a hundred years after Robert Bruce's death (1329) intermittent anarchy occurred in the shire. The English burned Aberdeen itself in 1336, and the re-settlement of the districts of Buchan and Strathbogie occasioned constant quarrels on the part of the dispossessed. Moreover, the crown had embroiled itself with some of the Highland chieftains, whose independence it sought to abolish. This policy culminated in the invasion of Aberdeenshire by Donald, Lord of the Isles, who, however, sufferred defeatat Harlaw, near Inverurie, at the hands of the earl of Mar in 1411.

In the 15th century two further leading county families emerged: Sir Alexander Forbes becoming Lord Eorbes about 1442, and Sir Alexander Seton Lord Gordon in 1437 and earl of Huntly in 1445. Bitter feuds raged between these families for a long period, but the Gordons reached the height of their power in the first half of the 16th century, when their domains, already vast, were enhanced by the acquisition, through marriage, of the earldom of Sutherland (1514).

Meanwhile commerce with the Low Countries, Poland and the Baltic had grown apace, Campvere (Veere in Dutch), near Flushing (Vlissingen) in the Netherlands, becoming the emporium of the Scottish traders, while education was fostered by the foundation of King's College at Aberdeen in 1497 (Marischal College followed a century later). At the Reformation so little intuition had the clergy of the drift of opinion that at the very time that religious structures were being despoiled in the south, the building and decoration of churches went on in the shire. Protestantism came in without much tumult, though rioting took place in Aberdeen and St Machar's cathedral in the city suffered damage. The 4th earl of Huntly offered some resistance, on behalf of the Catholics, to the influence of Lord James Stuart, afterwards the Regent Murray, but was defeated and killed at Corrichie on the hill of Fare in 1562.

As years passed it became apparent that Presbyterianism gained less generally support than Episcopacy, of which system Aberdeenshire remained for generations the stronghold in Scotland.

Another crisis in ecclesiastical affairs arose in 1638, when the authorities ordered subscription to the National Covenant. Aberdeenshire responded so grudgingly to this demand that James Graham, Marquis of Montrose visited the shire in the following year to enforce acceptance. The Cavaliers, not being disposed to yield, dispersed an armed gathering of Covenanters in the affair called the Trot of Turriff (1639), shedding the first blood of the civil war. The Covenanters obtained the upper hand in a few weeks, when Montrose appeared at the bridge of Dee and compelled the surrender of Aberdeen, which had no choice but to cast in its lot with the victors.

Montrose, however, soon changed sides, and after defeating the Covenanters under Lord Balfour of Burleigh (1644), delivered the city to rapine. He worsted the Covenanters again after a stiff fight on July 2, 1645, at Alford, a village in the beautiful Howe of Alford. Peace was temporarily restored on the "engagement" of the Scots commissioners to assist Charles I.

Aberdeen welcomed Charles II on his return from the Netherlands in 1650, but in little more than a year General George Monck entered the city at the head of the Cromwellian regiments. The English garrison remained till 1659, but the following year Aberdeenshire effusively hailed the Restoration, and prelacy once more went into the ascendant. Most of the Presbyterians conformed, but the Quakers, more numerous in the shire and the adjoining county of Kincardine than anywhere else in Scotland, sufferred systematic persecution.

After the Glorious Revolution (1688) episcopacy passed under a cloud, but the clergy, yielding to force majeure, gradually accepted the inevitable, hoping, as long as Queen Anne lived, that prelacy might yet become the national form of Church government. Her death dissipated these dreams, and as George I, her successor, was antipathetic to the clergy, it happened that Jacobitism and episcopalianism came to be regarded in the shire as identical, though in point of fact the non-jurors as a body never countenanced rebellion.

The earl of Mar raised the standard of revolt in Braemar (September 6, 1715); a fortnight later James Francis Edward Stuart was proclaimed at Aberdeen cross; the Pretender landed at Peterhead on December 22, and in February 1716 he was back again in France. The collapse of the first rising ruined many of the lairds, and when the second rebellion occurred thirty years afterwards the county in the main remained apathetic, though the insurgents held Aberdeen for five months, and Lord Lewis Gordon won a trifling victory for Prince Charles Edward at Inverurie (December 23, 1745). The duke of Cumberland relieved Aberdeen at the end of February 1746, and by April the Young Pretender had become a fugitive.

Thereafter the people devoted themselves to agriculture, industry and commerce, which developed by leaps and bounds, and, along with equally remarkable progress in education, transformed the aspect of the shire and made the community as a whole one of the most prosperous in Scotland.