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THE ALFORD VALLEY BRANCH.
This line branches off the main line at Kintore, 13 J miles from Aberdeen, and pursues a course almost directly westward up the valley of the Don to Alford, 29J miles from Aberdeen and 16 from Kintore. The line was sanctioned in 1856, and opened in 1859. It was built by a separate company, afterwards leased to the Great North of Scotland Railway Company, and finally amalgamated in the year 1866 in their general system.
Leaving Kintore to our left, we sweep round a curve and pass through not very interesting scenery, a good deal of it moory, and some woodland, till about 3i miles we reach Paradise Hill, where there is a siding to the Kemnay Granite Quarries, of which Mr. Fife is the lessee. The granite obtained here is of a very fine quality as a building stone, and is a fine gray colour.
Directly west from this, on the other side of the Don, is Fetternear House (Leslie), once the summer residence of the Bishop of Aberdeen. To the north of it is a Roman Catholic chapel, and not very far off, Aquhorties, where was the Roman Catholic college before it was removed to Blair, on Deeside. It is said that this neighbourhood was "the scene of a miraculous conversion effected through the preaching of George Leslie, a Capuchin friar, in the early part of the 17th century. Leslie's life and marvellous adventures were published in Italian by the Archbishop of Fermo, and dramatised at Rome in 1673. Ho is represented as the son of James, Count Leslie, and Jean Wood his wife, who trained him in the doctrines of the Reformation, but having gone to the Continent he was
converted to the Roman Catholic faith and became a Capuchin friar under the assumed name of Archangel. Returning to Scotland a papal emissary, he not only converted his mother and the other members of his family, but having led the people of Monyinusk and the surrounding neighbourhood to the adjacent mountains, he created such a powerful sensation by his preaching that in 'half a quarter of an hour, the whole audience shuddered, changed colour, and knelt at his feet.' In eight months he converted four thousand to the Romish faith, and performed numerous miracles and exploits of the most extraordinary character. So at least says his biographer."
4J miles from Kintore. 17| „ „ Aberdeen.
The village and parish church are about half a mile from the station to the south, and close by on the same side of the line is Kemnay House (A. G. Burnett). The next station is Monymusk.
8 miles from Kemnay.
20| „ „ Aberdeen.
Immediately north from the station is Monymusk Castle (Sir Archibald Grant). "Monymusk, situated in the parish of that name, and not distant from the site of its ancient priory, is one of the finest places in the county. Surrounded by an extensive park, through which flows the river Don, it is sheltered by trees of great age and growth, and the plantations, extending for miles, are commanded by the picturesque and rocky summit of the mountain of Bennachie. The House or Castle of Monymusk dates from the Reformation, and was erected by Duncan, the son of William Forbes of Corsindae, who having seized upon the monastery, employed the materials of that building in its construction, at the same time founding the family of Forbes of Monymusk. It has been added to by later proprietors, and now forms a spacious baronial residence."—(Sir A. L. Hay.)
Duncan Forbes's charter under the Great Seal is dated 1st December 1554. In 1710 the estate was bought from the Forbeses by Sir Francis Grant, who became one of the Senators of the Court of Session as Lord Cullen. The present proprietor is his representative.
There are some interesting relics preserved in Monymusk House. Among them is a gold coin, dug up in 1832, which is referred to a prince of the Morabilin dynasty of Morocco and to the date 1097. There is also a very interesting reliquary, or shrine for the preservation of relics. It is of copper, and had been plated with silver, and ornamented with precious stones, many of which still remain in their places.
The Parish Church of Monymusk is said to be part of a priory founded by Malcolm Canmore. At the west end is a square tower 50 ft. high, surmounted by a spire of 40 ft.
"Two miles north-west of Monymusk, on the south bank of the Don, at a sudden turn of the river where the rocky and romantic hills rise on both sides to a great height covered with Scotch firs and natural wood, are situated the remains of extensive and picturesque pleasure-grounds, laid out in 1719, and called Paradise. Here there is a number of- large spruces, larches, very large fine limes, Spanish chestnuts, oaks, etc., by the river side, upwards of a hundred years old, several of which measure from 10 to 11 ft. in circumference, and about 100 ft. in height."
In the immediate neighbourhood there is a (so-called) Druidical circle, and a field still called Campfield, where Bruce bivouacked on his way to the
battle of Inverurie. Here too is the Monymusk stone figured on plate 8 of 'The Sculptured Stones.'" It stands close by the public road at the farm of Nether Mains. About fifty or sixty years ago it was placed in a field about a mile east of Monymusk House, near the river Don, where it had been from time immemorial, and then it was removed to its present site. The ruins of Pitfiehie Castle lie a little to the north. It was once the property of General Hurry, hanged in 1C50 at Montrose. He began as a Royalist, and then joined the Covenanters, whom he deserted after their defeat at Auldearn.
To the south about three quarters of a mile is Cluny Castle (late Gordon of Cluny, now Lady Cathcart). It is said to have been founded in the 15th century, but it was rebuilt in 1836, and is an imposing structure. Southwest are the ruins of Tillycairn Castle, a 16th century house, long the residence of a family of Lumsdens. East from Cluny is Castle Fraser, the ancient name of which was Muchals or Muchil, in Mar. '' Castle Fraser, one of the finest specimens of the Flemish style of architecture in Scotland, is a very ancient building, still in perfect repair. There is no record by which the date of its original structure can be ascertained; but, as it is proved by inscriptions extant on the walls of the more modern parts of the building that they were erected in the years 1617 and 1618, it is probable that the square tower to the west, which bears evident marks of greater antiquity, belongs to the 15th century, from its similarity to the square tower or keep, so characteristic of the architecture of that period. The angles of the whole building, with the exception of the round tower, are turreted, and in form and proportion accord admirably with the mass they have been destined to ornament. The superstructure, including the turrets, is connected by and projected upon the lower part of the building, by a continuous corbelled moulding of carved granite, which embraces the great square tower in the centre, the round tower on the south-east, and the original square tower to the west, j The oldest date on the castle is affixed j to the Royal Arms of Scotland, and I is 1576. The great round tower is a j noble feature of the building, 100 feet j in height, with a massive balustrade of granite. The walls throughout the edifice have a thickness of from 6 to 10 feet. The whole is built upon arches, and there are keeps in both the square towers, the larger of which is about 40 feet in length, 22 wide exclusive of recesses, and 21 feet high. There are two spiral staircases, the one leading to the upper apartments of the western tower, the other to the battlements of the round tower on the southeastern angle of the building. The wings, extending to the north, are terminated at their outer extremities by circular turrets; they were added by Lord Fraser in the reign of Charles I. The Frasers originally possessed estates in the county of Stirling, and by charter of James II. of Scotland, dated 25th October 1454, exchanged the lands of Corntoun, near Stirling, their previous property, for Muchil and Stoneywood, in Aberdeenshire."—(Sir A. L. Hay.)
They are still possessed by Fraser of Castle Fraser.
Si miles from Monymusk.
There are more granite quarries here, and some population to the back of the hills to the left. "That huge hill to the left is called the Red Hill of Correnny, height 1578 feet, and that on the right is part of the Menaway range, highest peak 1436 feet." Passing through the defile between them, we enter the Howe,—an amphitheatre of rich country, shut in by hills rising 1000 to 2000 feet all around it. The Don winds through it from east to west, and it is very fertile and highly cultivated. To the left we pass the Church and Manse of Tough, and Tonley House. (P. M. Byres). On the right is Whitehouse (Farqnharson), as wo reach the station of that name.
2J miles from Tillyfourie. 13 „ „ Kintore. 83$ „ „ Aberdeen.
On the north bank of the river is Whitehaugh House (J. Forbes Leith); and on the south bank, HaughtoD (R. O. Farquharson). About three miles north, on a beautifully wooded eminence, close to the village of Keig, is Castle Forbes, the residence of Lord Forbes. Sir A. Leith Hay thus describes it:—"Castle Forbes, formerly Pritachie, and now the principal residence of the senior Baron of the Scottish Peerage, is situated on the north bank of the river Don, which passes through the grounds on its course to the ocean. The castle is removed but a short distance from the south-west shoulder of the mountain of Bennachie, which there becomes the boundary of the vale of Alford. Rising immediately from the river, and surrounded by extensive 'plantations, the lawn slopes gradually to its banks, and the view from the house, being uninterrupted, is varied and extensive. The building is modern, in the castellated style of architecture, and forms a striking and picturesque object, from all points of the valley beneath. The late Lord Forbes erected the Castle, and greatly altered and improved the place, changing its name from Pritachie to its present designation."
8 miles from Whitehouse. 16 „ Kintore.
863 ii *, Aberdeen.
Passing on our left the old castle of Balfluig, we reach the terminus of the line at the village of Alford; "a pleasant little village, near which Montrose defeated the Covenanters under Colonel Baillie in 1645; the gallant Lord Gordon, eldest son of the Marquis of Huntly, being killed in the battle, with his hand on General Baillie's shoulderbelt." It was to Lord Gordon's younger brother, Lord Lewis Gordon, who preferred dashing forays on his own account to regular campaigning, that the rhyme referred:—
"If you with Lord Lewis go,
It is a thriving place, having increased much since it became the railway terminus. In its immediate neighbourhood are Kingsford, Breda, Asloon. Further off we have Craigievar, 6 miles, Clova and Kildrummie each about 10 miles, and Castle Newe some 16 miles.
A little to the north-west, in a most sequestered spot, stands the old castle of Dalpersie or Terpersie, "a small fortified house consisting of a quadrilateral building with a round tower (internally octagonal) at the diagonal corners. There are but three stories, with one room in each. On one of the window-sills is the date 1561, also the crest of the Gordons—a boar's head— beautifully cut." Hay says—"It is about a mile removed to the westward of the road leading to Alford, which crosses the Suie hill from Huntly ; but intervening high grounds prevent its being observed. Except to those proceeding to the farm, or to the sportsman who looks down from the grouseshooting grounds in the immediate vicinity, it is never seen by the traveller or the stranger, and is a most sequestered and retired abode. The building," he adds, "is not remarkable either for its architectural importance or its extent ; but, situated as above described, in the centre of heath-covered mountains, with some fine old trees and a rapid and clear stream running past, it presents when approached a picturesque and interesting object. . . . After the battle of Culloden, the then laird of Terpersie, who had joined the army of Prince Charles, after continuing for some time a wanderer among the hills near his house, was induced to revisit it. Information having been given, a party of soldiers surrounded the place, and after diligent search captured him in a concealed part of the building, from whence he was withdrawn and speedily executed. His estate was forfeited ; and, like many others similarly situated, became in possession of the York Buildings Company. It was subsequently purchased by a descendant of
the former family, and is now the property of Sir Henry Gordon, Bart, of Knockespock."
Craigievar Castle is the property of Sir William Forbes, Baronet, whose family purchased it in 1610. "About equidistant from the rivers Dee and Don, it is finely placed on a bank sloping to the east, and terminating in a ravine, through which passes a burn forcing its way to a junction with the rivulet of Leochel. The castle is sheltered from the north and west by rising grounds covered with plantations, and in its immediate vicinity the ash and birch trees seem to be contemporaries of the stately tower they have been destined to ornament; straight avenues of forest trees, while they give formality to the grounds, are at the same time in perfect keeping with the style of the place. There was originally a paved courtyard in front enclosing stables and offices, which was surrounded by a strong and very thick wall, with ramparts flanked with turrets. Only one portion of this barrier now remains, and trees of considerable size, rooted in its masonry, have usurped the station formerly occupied by the defenders of this formidable stronghold. The castle is 7 stories high, and the walls are pierced with shot-holes to the rooms and turrets of the upper story.
"Craigievar has for many years occupied an intermediate position as to preservation amongst the castellated residences of the county, most of which are either consigned to perfect ruin, or have been altered and adapted to the convenience and comfort of more modern times. Within its walls the furniture of former centuries is still extant; and in few places in the kingdom can so accurate a comparison be drawn between the rough garniture ot the baronial castles of former times and the comfort combined with elegance of modem decoration. The great hall, with its gigantic fireplace, its stuccoed walls, its ornamental roof, and its partitions of oak to rail off dependants and musicians, is a fine specimen of the banqueting apartment of an ancient baron. The narrow spiral staircase3, reaching to the summit of the building, lead to numerous apartments of confined dimensions ; while in others of a more spacious description the uplifted arras forms the means of communication from one to the other. The ancient carved bedsteads and oaken cabinets, with high-backed chairs, complete the beau ideal interior of a castle of the olden time. The exterior is in the best style of ornamented Flemish castellated architecture ; the turrets are formed in shapes of peculiar elegance; the square towers are lofty, and are crowned by bartizans with balustrades and cornices of massive and noble carving. Over the great staircase of the castle is an escutcheon, on which are carved the family arms, with the date 1668 and the initials J. F., encircled by a legend, 'Doe . not. vaiken . sleiping. Dogs.' The initials are those of John Forbes, called "The Red Sir John,' and are by traditional report characteristic of the man ; as also corroborative of the saying, current at the time, 'I'm a Craigievar man; wha daur trouble me?'"
Kildrummie Castle, ten miles from Alford, is well worthy of a visit. The drive to it along the banks of the Don is very fine, and many handsome houses are passed on the way. Sir Andrew Leith Hay tells us that "Kildrummie Castle, situated in the gorge of the extensive valley through which the. river Don winds its course to the eastward, and which, expanding to the north, reaches almost uninterruptedly to the base of the Hill of Noth in Strathbogie, is celebrated in Scottish history not only as the palace of kings, but as having been the scene of frequent and sanguinary warfare connected with its internal defence, and as the arena around which frequent battles and skirmishes were fought, the record of which is perpetuated by the tumuli that, notwithstanding modern improvement and the extension of cultivation, still mark the resting - place of the brave. The castle has evidently not only been of great extent, but of much architectural magnificence. Unfortunately some of the finest parts of the building now exist but in their ruined
basements; and the 'Snow Tower; at the north-west corner of the quadrangle — by all accounts the most ancient, most important, and noblest portion of the castle—is more than any other dilapidated and fallen. Some idea of its former state may, however, be formed from the masonry of its base, the thickness of its walls, and its extensive area; nor can there exist a doubt that this must have been a conspicuous and highly ornamental feature of the building. The entrance to the castle forms the centre of the southern face of the quadrangle; it has been flanked by towers. The courtyard is very extensive, and five towers, exclusive of those at the entrance, formerly defended the outer wall. Four of these marked the angles of this noble building. The 'Snow Tower' stood out more prominently from the general line of the castle than any of the others; and the fifth tower was constructed near to it, but more in a line with the western face of the fortress. The tower now in the best state of preservation is that to the north-east, and when its extent, height, and proportions are considered, some estimate may be formed of what the Snow Tower must have been, when it greatly surpassed in importance this certainly very fine specimen of the architecture of the time. Kildrummie stands between two ravines called the North and South Glens. A brook issuing from the former washes the base of the eminence on which the building is placed ; the ground falling precipitously towards the north gave additional strength and protection to that part of the fabric; while a moat encircling its western, southern, and eastern faces, by being flooded, rendered the approach of assailants more hazardous and difficult A popular but not well-authenticated impression has prevailed that a subterranean passage existed giving egress from the vaults of the castle. This appears to be a mistake. A footpath excavated in the bank and built up on each side, without being arched, formerly led from the back of the great hall to the burn in the north glen; but the stones fallen from the building