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The line now lies up Strathisla,—so called from the river Isla, which, coming from beyond Keith, falls into the Deveron a little below Rothiemay Station.
miles from Aberdeen.
Grange is the next station, and is the junction for Portsoy, 13 miles, and Banff, 161 miles. To the right of the station, on the face of the brae, is the farm of Braco, interesting as the first possession of a family who now own immense territory on these shores,—the Duffs, Earls of Fife.
To the left the Little and Meikle Balloch Hills rise above the railway; and opposite the Meikle Balloch, on the north bank of the Isla, are the Parish Church and Manse of Grange. "It is said that the greatest part of the parish of Grange belonged in former times to the Abbots of Kinloss; and that the monks, attracted by the beauty of the scenery, built themselves a residence on the site of the present parish church, and lived therein 'richt merrilie.'" The scenery is pretty just about Grange, but becomes bare and bleak as you pass on to Keith, before reaching which the village of New Mills of Keith may be seen on the hill-side to the right. Immediately beyond we reach the terminus of the original main line, Keith.
miles from Aberdeen.
The station is five or six minutes' walk from the town, which lies on a gentle acclivity to the south of the railway. Approaching it from the station, you pass first on your right the extensive woollen mills of the Messrs. Kynoch, and a little further on, one on each side of the road, the handsome mansions of the partners. The river Isla forms here a picturesque glen, overhanging which are the ruins of an old castle. Thore is little of it left, beyond the walls of one tower. The old road wound between the tower
and the water, but it now leaves both to the right. The Isla falls over a ledge of rock there, forming a cascade called the Linn. The tower, called Castle Oliphant or Milton Tower, was once a place of some note as a stronghold of certain Lords Oliphant, who obtained it of the Earls of Findlater. "Tradition relates that a part of this edifice projected over the Pool of the Cascade, in which the plate was deposited; the foundation failed and the whole submerged to the bottom. His Lordship brought experienced divers from England, the first of whom having gone down, floated after a considerable time to the surface, his bowels torn out; none of the others had the resolution to make another essay, and the plate was lost."—(" Book of Keith,'' p. 29.) This old tower is now, we believe, in the possession of and within the grounds of Mr. Robert KynochShand.
Beyond Milton Tower is the extensive distillery, of Messrs Longmore and Co. ; and a few minutes' further walk brings you to Fife-Keith, one of the suburbs of Keith, built on the high ground to the north of the railway. The old church stood in the hollow below, and the graveyard still remains there. The new parish church is built on a slight eminence to the left, midway between Fife-Keith and the modern or New Keith. Fife-Keith stands on the west bank of the Isla, separated from Old and New Keith by the river and the railway. The road from the station crosses this great turnpike at right angles and runs southward parallel to the Isla, while the turnpike runs east and west through the town ; these two roads forming the main streets. This village was founded by the Earl of Fife about 1817. Turning eastward along the great turnpike, we recross the Isla by another stone bridge which crosses the river a few yards below one of those antique structures called "Bowbrigs," which could only have served for foot-passengers, and preserved, probably, only as a relic of the past. A little beyond the bridge is the parish school and the Keith Academy, and then the new and very handsome parish church. Old Keith lies down by the river; New Keith up beyond the church. Old Keith seems to have been of some note even five and a half centuries ago—more so than now—for then it took precedence of all the other towns in the county, and had the power of pot and gallows. The church (not the new one built in 1816, but an old one, the ruins of which may be seen in the old graveyard down by the stream) was then the court-house; the church window, the panel box; and the church tower, the jail. Ordinary malefactors were hanged on a gibbet raised on the Gallow Muir, which is now the site of New Keith; and witches were drowned in a place called
Gann's Pool. Stories of battles in the neighbourhood abound. In the 18th century Keith was the site of a great annual fair, called the Summer Eve Fair, frequented by merchants from Glasgow and the south, and from the northern counties and the far Orkneys.
New Keith was founded about 1750 by the Earl of Findlater. It is regularly laid out in three parallel streets, crossed by lanes, with a commodious market square in the centre. There are a number of handsome buildings in the town,—churches, banks, and private dwellings. James Fergusson, the astronomer, was born a few miles from Keith, in the year 1710.—(Abridged from Grant.)
THE KEITH AND DUFFTOWN AND THE STRATHSPEY RAILWAY.
Keith was originally the terminus of the Great North of Scotland Railway. The line was continued by the Dufftown Railway, sanctioned in 1857, and opened in 1862, and runs from Keith, 10J miles, to Dufftown on the river Fiddich. There the Strathspey Railway joins it, and proceeds to Craigellachie, on the river Spey, and by the south bank of that river to Boat of Garten, where it joins the Highland line. At Craigellachie there is also a junction made with the Morayshire Railway, by which Elgin and Lossiemouth are reached. The Keith and Dufftown Railway and the Strathspey Railway were amalgamated with the Great North Railway in 1866, and now form part of that undertaking. The Morayshire Railway was worked by them on a perpetual lease till 1880, when it also was amalgamated with the Great North of Scotland Railway. The Morayshire Railway has also a branch to Orton, which is at present disused.
54 miles from Aberdeen.
Leaving Keith, we pass Castle Oliphant, or Milton Tower, and Mr. Longmore's distillery on the left, and reach Earlsmill, only three-quarters of a mile. It is a station and siding for large grain mills close by.
56} miles from Aberdeen.
Proceeding up the Isla, the country
is good farming land. A little abeve the station, on the left, is the Free Church Manse of Botriphnie, and somewhat further on the church itself, prettily situated in a hollow, opposite the entrance gates to Drummuir House.
59} miles from Aberdeen.
At the station, on the right, are the Parish Church and Manse, snugly embosomed among trees. Grant quotes a curious epitaph from a gravestone in this churchyard over the remains of a blacksmith:—
"My sledge and hammer lie declined;
Near the manse is a locally famous well—St. Fumack's Well. Above the station, on a commanding height, is Drummuir Castle, the seat of Major Duff, of Drummuir and Park. The castle is a very fine modern building, and from its situation, and surrounded as it is with finely grown trees, it forms one of the most imposing views in the neighbourhood.
The following description of it is from the Banffshire Journal of February 18, 1802.
'' This magnificent castle was erected about 1848 by the late Admiral Duff, from designs furnished by, we believe, the late Mr. Mackenzie, Elgin. The style is of the Tudor Gothic; and its vast proportions and compact form, and its castellated and embrasured roof, with the banner tower rising high above, give it the look of being possessed of massive strength, and carry the mind back to the period when
"' Above the gloomy portal arch,
"The grand entrance is towards the north, and is protected by a spacious porte-cochere, which is lighted by a magnificent plate glass window set in open freestone work. This porch is also surmounted by an embrasured parapet, uniform with that of the rest of the building. Above the centre of the porch, looking to the east and west, there are two armorial shields, with the motto—
"'kind Heart Be True
"Passing through the vestibule, which, though small, is most elegant, the roof being arched and highly ornamented, you enter the grand entrance - hall, which, in point of style and magnificence, is perhaps unrivalled in the North. Some faint idea of the grandeur of this superb apartment may be gleaned from the simple fact, that it is the whole height of the building and is lighted by a cupola more than sixty feet from the floor.
"Entering from the hall on the east are, the library, looking towards the north; the breakfast parlour, hung with some very fine tapestry, looking towards the east; the grand drawing-room, looking towards the east and south, and occupying the south-east angle of the building. This last is a truly noble room. The walls are panelled, and the panels hung with French paper. The ornamental work of the cornice and ceiling is very elaborate, and is executed in the French style. The small drawing-room is on a line with the vestibule and entrance-hall, and looks towards the south—the dining-room communicating with it and occupying the southwest corner of the building. The latter is also a superb room. The ceiling is
panelled and painted in oak. The chimney-pieces are of Peterhead granite, the colour of which harmonises well with the ceiling and walls. On the west side of the entrance-hall is a corridor, leading to the business-room on the right of the vestibule, and also to the grand staircase, which is lighted by a stained-glass window, looking towards the west. The ceiling is nearly of the same style as that of the dining-room, each of the panels containing an emblazoned shield. The castle was erected at a cost of some £10,000."
Rather more than a mile beyond Drummuir Station we come to a long, narrow sheet of water, called the Loch of Park, more than a mile in length, though only some hundred yards or so in breadth. This loch, with its steep wooded banks, forms a most picturesque feature on the line. It occupies the bottom of a narrow mountain gorge— the sides of which rise abruptly on either hand. They are richly clothed with wood. The railway skirts the southern bank of the loch on the narrow ledge between the water and the steep hill-side. It is fed partly by the Isla Well, at its further end, but chiefly from springs in itself; and from its eastern extremity flows the Isla, here a tiny stream, but gathering as it flows towards the Deveron, which it joins at Rothiemay.
After leaving the Loch of Park, the line, which at the west end of the loch has reached its summit level, proceeds further southwards for a time, until it suddenly sweeps round a sharp curve into the valley of the Fiddoch. This beautiful mountain stream is crossed by a bridge of two arches, each sixty feet span; and on a crag above stand out, bold and eerie, the ruins of old Balvenie Castle. A few hundred yards beyond we reach the old terminus of the original Dufftown Railway, called Dufftown Station, though the town of Dufftown itself is a mile off to the south.
64 miles from Aberdeen.
Dufftown, as already said, is a mere station, distant about a mile from the town or village of that name. Its chief interest to us is its neighbourhood to the two Castles of Balvenie, the old and the new.
The new castle of Balvenie is a spacious mansion of imposing size, standing on a flat lawn between the railway station and the river Fiddoch. It was built by William Duff of Braco, the first Earl of Fife, who was reckoned the richest man of his time, north of the Forth, as having an annual income of about £7000 sterling. The house was never quite finished; it has stood untenanted always, and is sadly dilapidated. There are a fine entrance-hall and a noble suite of public apartments, all panelled in unpainted larch, with elaborate carving. Except on rare occasions of public rejoicings, it is entirely unoccupied. In the basement story there is a well, reached by a flight of stone steps, and sometimes the water of this well rises so high as to overflow the kitchen floor and run out into the court.
The old castle is perhaps half a mile distant, and occupies the flat summit of a steep eminence overhanging the Fiddoch. Grant says of it—
"The situation of the old castle of Balvenie is most picturesque, being on an eminence near the confluence of the Dalian with the Fiddoch, commanding a view of the beautifully-wooded banks and fertile straths of these rivers, and of the lofty mountain ranges which surround them. The origin of the castle is unknown. Some antiquaries say the name Balvenie is a corruption of an Irish word signifying The House of St. Bayne, the first Bishop of Mortlach, and suppose it to have been built for a residence of the bishops of Mortlach. Others maintain that its founder was a Dane, and evince in proof the existence in it of a large parlour called The Dane's Hall. But certain it is that Balvenie belonged at different periods to the Cumyns of Badenoch, to the great House of Douglas, and to the Stewarts of Athole. The motto of the House of Athole—' Fvrth Fortvin and fill thi Fatirs,' may still be read in large letters running across the front of the
castle. After these it passed to the Gordons, to the Inneses of Coxton, through whom the Laird of Edingight, Sir James Innes, derives the title of Baron of Balvenie, and lastly to the Earls of Fife, who now possess it. The ruins of the castle are in good preservation, and are well worthy of a visit from the tourist, more especially if he be one who loves
"'Auld howlet-haunted biggins,
"Near the Castle of Balvenie Malcolm II. defeated the Danes in the year 1010. These daring adventurers had landed in great force on the coasts of Moray, forced their way up the valley of the Spey, and were advancing upon Mortlach when the valiant King of Scots and his stout followers marched against them. In the first shock of the two armies, the Scots—who had rushed with headlong impetuosity upon the Danes—lost three of their leaders, fell into confusion, and were driven before the enemy as far as the Church of Mortlach, then a chapel dedicated to St. Moloch. Here Malcolm uttered a short fervent prayer to Heaven, the Virgin, and Saint Moloch, and vowed that if he should be enabled to retrieve the fortunes of the day he would add three lengths of his spear to the chapel. His followers, who had gathered round him and heard the prayer and the vow, regained their courage and returned upon the Danes with redoubled fury, and totally discomfited them. Malcolm fulfilled his vow by making an addition to the nave of the chapel, or, according to others, by founding an entirely new cathedral."
The church of Mortlach is a few minutes' walk from the village of Dufftown. It is a building of unknown antiquity. IStuart tells us, in his preface to the Book of Deer, that "Mortlach was probably founded by St. Moloc or Mo-luag, to whom the church was dedicated. This saint, according to our early writers, was the pupil of St. Brandan. He was the founder and patron of Lismore, in Argyle, a county throughout which he laboured as well as in that of Mar. Becoming associated