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district of Garioch. That the extensive fort and the more modern tower within its area are extremely ancient there can be no doubt. All is conjecture as to the history of the former, and nothing beyond very vague tradition leads to a conclusion as to the date when the latter was constructed. The fort has evidently extended over the whole flat oval summit of the cone, its form, a parallelogram, curved at one extremity, and length about 170 feet by 70. From the state of the ruin it is impossible to ascertain the dimensions of the wall; but from existing appearances it must have been of considerable strength. The materials are vitrified, and lower down the hill is distinctly marked a line of circumvallation, similar to that, on a more extensive scale, upon the mountain of Noth in Strathbogie. The appearance of both is identical, and it is probable they were built about the same period, and formed part of a chain of forts constructed as places of refuge and security, when attacked, to the inhabitants of a then barbarous country.
"Fordoun and other historians have recorded that Dunnideer was the residence of Gregory the Great, King of Scotland, and that he died there in 1393.1 Whether antecedent to the erection of the tower, of which a wall is now standing, or that it comprised part of his residence, is left in perfect obscurity. That it must have been for many centuries an uninhabited ruin, appears to be proved by the fact that, in more recent times, when other castles in its neighbourhood, now also fallen into decay, are mentioned in history as the scenes of many events during the troubles and wars carried on in the North of Scotland, no notice is ever taken of the inmates of Dunnideer, which could not have been the case had it been in the occupation of the proprietor during these times. It has been attempted to trace the erection of the tower to the reign of William the Lion, and to ascribe it to his brother, David, Earl of Huntingdon and Garioch, but this does not appear to be authenticated.
"In a ravine to the westward of the 1 This seems to be impossible.
castle formerly stood the 'Wardhouse' of Dunnideer, erected probably for a twofold purpose—that which its name denotes, and also as an outwork on the most assailable point, by which enemies in those days, passing to the Garioch from the north or west, were accustomed to travel. Nothing of the masonry of this fabric now remains, but the locality is strongly marked by the fosse which has surrounded it.
"The only remaining wall of the castle of Dunnideer is composed of the strongest masonry, and is likely for ages to withstand, as it has done, the gales that assail its elevated and perfectly unsheltered position. It is from fifty to sixty feet in height, and, perforated in its centre by the enlarged opening occasioned by ruined windows, it has a picturesque and striking effect."
Dunnideer is the property of Carlos Pedro Gordon, Esq., of Wardhouse and Kildrummie.
In the "View of the Diocese of Aberdeen" there are these notices of this interesting spot—"There is a tradition (which Boetius has taken notice of) that Dundore hill has gold ore under it, because the sheep's teeth that feed upon it turn yellow; he adds that their flesh and wool are also yellow; and that the name of the hill Down d?or signifies The Golden, Mount. However, it is still pronounced Dunnideer. Dundore Castle (on the top of a hill of that name) was built by King Gregory, who died there A.d. 1393. There is a tradition that this castle was supplied with water from Foudland Hill (three miles distant) by leaden pipes, which being at last cut, the castle was obliged to surrender from want of water, but when this happened it is not known."
There is a legend in the district that Dunnideer and the fort on Tap o' Noth, several miles distant, were inhabited by two giants who amused themselves with pitching rocks at each other. There is a huge boulder on the slope of Tap o' Noth, which tradition points out as one of these love-tokens sent by him of Dunnideer to his brother of Noth.
Dr. Davidson tells us that "whatever degree of historic light belongs to the legend of the British King Arthur embraces in its dreamy radiance Dunnideer, the historic capital of the Northern Picts." In Jhon Hardynge's map of Scotland, constructed about 1465, there appeared the "Castells of Strathbolgy, of Rothiemay, of Douy Dowie;" and he says of King Arthur:—
"He held his household and the'Round Table, Sometyme at Edinburgh, sometime at Strivcline;
Of Kynges renowned and most honorabil;
Emong all his knights and ladies full feminine;
"Facing Dunnideer on the west, and rising with equal abruptness, is the hill of Christ's Kirk. Formerly there was a parish of Christ's Kirk lying round about the hill, which is supposed to have been the scene of the well-known poem, 'Christ's Kirk on the Green,' ascribed to James I. of Scotland, but the parish is now joined to Kennethmont."—(Grant.) Some have supposed that King James's poem alludes not to this "Christ's Kirk," but to a parish and hamlet near St. Andrews in Fife.
In a volume, however, entitled "Poetical Remains of James the First, King of Scotland, printed for J. and E. Balfour, Edinburgh, 1783," we find this note: "The scene of action of this poem is traditionally said to have been a village of this name, within or near to the parish of Lesly in that part of the county of Aberdeen called the Garrioch. In its neighbourhood is the hill of Dunnideer, which rises like a pyramid in the midst of the plain of the Garrioch, on the top of which are the remains of a castle, said to have been a hunting seat of the Scottish kings. Allan Ramsay seems to have mistaken the above situation for Lesly in the county of Fife." The poem opens—
"Wes nevir in Scotland hard nor sene
As wes of wowaris, as I wene,
Thair came our Kitties weshen clene,
At Christis Kirk of the greno that day."
The poem goes on through twentythree stanzas to describe very graphically the rough play of a fair. Allan Ramsay has added two cantos, "in which he has, with a great deal of fancy and humour, carried on the story from the end of the fray where the king breaks off, by entering into the humours of a country wedding, with the frolic usual on such occasional festivals. He adopts most of the characters introduced by the king in his poem, and it must be owned that he has carried them through with much mirth and drollery, though often not with decency. His humour, though highly comic and natural, is, however, different from the fine arch vein of pleasantry which flows through the king's poem."
Some have attributed this poem to James V. In Bannatyne's MS. collection of Scottish Poems prior to 1568, the date of the MS., it is inserted as first in point of antiquity, and at the end of it bears this signature, "Quod James I."
6J miles from Oyne.
A small station, built specially for Mr. Gordon of Wardhouse, whose mansion lies upon the hill to the right, and is seen soon after passing the station embosomed among pines. At the second bridge north of this station is the summit-level of the line. Till now all the waters have been flowing southward into the Gadie—the Gadie into the Ury, the Ury into the Don, the Don into the sea at Old Aberdeen. Henceforth they flow the other way— into the Bogie, the Bogie into the Deveron, the Deveron into the sea at Banff.
The property of Wardhouse extends on both sides of the line at this point. The mansion-house was erected during last century by Charles Gordon, Esq.
1J mile from Wardhouse. 32| „ „ Aberdeen.
Before reaching the station the Free Church of Kennethmont lies off to the left, and north-west of it is the Parish Church. This is the station for Drumminor (Mr. Grant), two or three miles west, and for Leithhall (Leith Hay of Rannes), close to the line a little further on upon the right. The village of Kennethmont, a very pretty one, is not visible from the line.
"Leithhall (built about 1650) was, until altered by modern improvement, one of those massive towers flanked by turrets which appears to have been in the close of the 16th, and during the period of the 17th century, the peculiar style of architecture adopted by the lairds of Aberdeenshire. It was in its earlier days defended by a strong wall, having a turret at each angle, and containing an area of about two acres. About half a mile to the westward runs the river Bogie, from whose left bank rises the Hill of Noth, on the summit of which is the most remarkable specimen of a vitrified fort, either as to altitude, extent of area, or preservation, extant in Great Britain.
"From an elongated mass of mountain, rising to the height of 1500 feet above the level of the sea, ascends at its south-western extremity a truncated cone, having a rapid acclivity: rising as it does not from the highest point of the hill, its altitude may be about 400 feet, making the extreme height 1800 feet. On the flat summit of this cone the fortress has been constructed; occupying its whole area, the enclosure is a long parallelogram of about 100 yards by 35, rounded at the angles, and in the centre is an excavation, probably used as a well or tank. At the south-eastern angle is clearly marked the only entrance to this place of strength: this is connected with a causeway which leads up the more steep part of the ground in one only line, but which afterwards diverges and descends the mountain in directions connected with the different parts of the country—towards the valley of the
Kirkney, to Rhynie, to Cabrach, etc. It is remarkable that the main road, and that which appears to have been the principal line of access, is that leading to the Cabrach, the wildest and least populously inhabited country of the whole surrounding district. Instead of being covered by vegetation, or obscured to sight, the shape, formation, and altitude of this extraordinary work, are distinctly visible; the blackened mass of vitrified wall, with its superstructure of innumerable small unvitrified stones, contrasts strongly with the verdure of the sward they encircle and shelter. The vitrified wall measures in some places 8 feet from the ground: to this must be added the height lost by the accumulation of soil and rubbish, and the fallen courses of dry masonry which had raised it to its total altitude; the thickness of the wall appears to have been about 20 feet. The vitrifaction must have been produced by extreme heat; and in every part of the rampart portions of the stone are converted into a glazed substance. Lower down the cone, and enclosing an area of about 30 acres, is a line of circumvallation, which is continuous except at the southern face of the mountain, where the steep and inaccessible nature of the ground appears to have been considered a sufficient defence from attack in that immediate direction. This line is composed of a wall of solid masonry, with towers, either for the defence of the roads of access, or placed where hollows in the formation of the ground rendered them important for purposes of observation as well as of defence. In most parts of this extensive rampart the building is either covered with soil and vegetation, or has fallen down, but in several places the masonry is still in a perfect state, and the line of stones is continuous, marking, not only the exact locality of the wall . but the shape and extent of the round towers above noticed. A second line of circumvallation is perceptible at the base of the cone on which the fort stands; it embraces a very extensive area, but from its appearance has never been so perfect a work as that described. History and tradition are silent as to the origin or purpose of these great works; and in a country where events are traced back either from fact or imagination to the remotest times, not even a surmise exists as to what race of men were the constructors and the occupiers of these most formidable places of defence.
"On a plain of some extent at the north and north-western base of the hill, are still distinctly marked the cairns or tumuli said to have contained the slain in the battle in which Lulach, the son of Macbeth, lost his life in 1057. Upwards of one hundred of these are still to be distinctly recognised, but whether this plain was the great cemetery of the mountain fort, whether the graves are those of the victims of many fights, or whether the above tradition is authentic, it is impossible to determine. It is called Mildewne (the grave of a thousand). The author of this notice opened five of these cairns in different parts of the field. The first, and apparently the most important from its magnitude, contained a stone coffin of very rude construction, but still of such a description as to render doubt with regard to its original purpose out of the question. On removing the stones and earth to the depth of about 3 feet a large flagstone placed upright appeared at the western extremity of the excavation, and at the eastern, at the distance of about six feet, a similar one was discovered of lesser size, but standing in exactly the same position; on the earth being still further cleared, a flat layer of stones was observed; these were placed so close that it appeared to be one entire slab, but on being removed proved to be small portions of a flat stone of the same description and quality in those previously discovered, but differing in shape and consistency from any found in the rest of the cairns opened, and unlike any other, either in the plain or on the mountain. In the four other tumuli inspected on the same occasion nothing whatever was discovered, from which it may be fairly conjectured that in those barbarous times the rights of sepulture were not attended with much ceremony or refinement, and that it was only in the
case of a person of superior rank that even the rough and apparently disjoined stone receptacle was provided. The flat stones above mentioned were laid upon a flat clay substance, to which the excavation had at first been made; the earth above appeared mixed, as if thrown in by the hand of man, and covered by the growth of ages."
Beyond the Tap o' Noth, to the westward and south are to be seen the Auchindoir and Cabraoh hills. Conspicuous among these is the Buck of the Cabrach, some 2734 feet in height above the level of the sea. It is said tbat "the summit of the Buck is seen far and wide over the country, and ten leagues at sea, from which it is thirty miles distant." Among these hills rises the river Bogie, a very famous trouting stream, which, winding northwards through Rhynie and Gartly, joins the Deveron in the park of Huntly Lodge, half a mile below Huntly.
"Drumminor," already mentioned, "like most of the property in the district, was an ancient seat of the Cummings, to whom it was granted by Alexander III., but it is known to have been in the possession of the Forbes family as early as 1332. It, indeed, at one time was the principal residence of the latter family, a circumstance which gave it the name of Castle Forbes. The more ancient portion of the existing house was built in 1577 by the Forbeses, and a portion still standing—a fine hall —was once the scene of a notable catastrophe. The Forbeses were long at feud with the Gordons, but a peace having been effected, a party of the latter clan, numbering fifteen, went to Drumminor to an entertainment, at which some conditions were to be arranged. Jealous of treachery, the chief of the Forbeses had instructed his retainers to seat themselves, every man, beside a Gordon, and if they saw him (the chief) stroke his beard, they were to conclude that there was treachery at work, and were to stab each their man. Matters went on smoothly, the two chiefs conversing agreeably together, till the Forbes, raising, and as he afterwards confessed, inadvertently, his hand to his chin, his followers plunged their dirks into the whole of the fifteen Gordons. The tragical event excited a great sensation in the country."
The Bame story, or one very similar, is told at Craig Castle, the victims in this case being Forbeses, and a room is shown surrounded by sliding panels, which conceal a secret passage. The story then goes that on Gordon pulling his beard, the sliding panels fell, and every Forbes had a dirk sticking out from below his chair. The sliding panels still exist at Craig.
The present family of Drumminor are Grants, who came from Strathspey, and into whose possession the estate came about the end of last century.
Craig Castle lies at some distance from the line, and is most easily reached from Gartly. It is beautifully situated on the edge of a deep and narrow gorge, called the Den of Craig, through which the Burn of Craig, coming down from the eastern flanks of the Buck of the Cabrach, flows in a series of beautiful cataracts to join the Bogie. The original tower was founded in 1510, by Patrick Gordon, the first of Craig, who fell at Flodden in 1513; it was completed by his son in 1518. It stands on the very verge of the cliff, inaccessible on that side, and it presented almost unpierced walls of immense strength to the only assailable sides. In the lower story is a strongly defended door, and an arched apartment where may still be seen the "cleek " or hook, by which, in the old hard age, victorious Gordons hanged their foes, when they got them into their power. It now serves the more peaceable purpose of hanging the lamp, this old prison being now the servants' hall. From one of the upper floors a narrow dark passage is said to terminate in a well, having an outlet down in the den, and tradition tells that this was a handy way of getting rid of tale-telling bodies of slain men. One room was long observed to be much lower in the roof than the other rooms on the same floor, and the present proprietor, sounding over it, found it sounded hollow over an oriel window. Tearing down the modern plaster, he discovered a trapdoor which led to a concealed chamber,
and this chamber was largely filled with decaying human remains. What tales, could they give voice to them, would these old "cleeks," and wells, and concealed charnel rooms have to tell! By the gateway are two stones from the old Castle of Lesmore, and these were the heading or "beheading" stones on which Lesmore executed summary punishment on his foes or on his rebellious vassals. The late Mr. Gordon of Craig was the last of his line. His family having all predeceased him, the estate was inherited by the present proprietor James Sherriffs Lumsden Gordon, Esq., son of an old friend of Craig's, under his settlements. He adopts the name of Lumsden in right of his wife, the heiress of Knoussie, and Gordon as heir of Craig. It is an interesting and beautiful spot, and visitors who wish to examine the remains on "Tap o' Noth," could easily extend their ramble to Craig Castle.
8 miles from Kennethmont. 35} „ „ Aberdeen.
We are now in the famous district of Strathbogie—so called after the name of the stream, the Bogie, that flows through it. The Bogie rises about the base of the Buck of the Cabrach, flows in a deep and beautifully wooded ravine past the fine old and interesting Castle of Craig (John Sherriffs Gordon, Esq.), past the base of the Tap o' Noth, through the parishes of Rhynie and Gartly, and falls into the Deveron, a little below Huntly. Regarding Strathbogie, Grant says— '' The district of Strathbogie, which is partly in Aberdeen and partly in Banff, was anciently a Lordship or Thanedom. The first Lords of Strathbogie, of whom I have read, were the Cumyns. In the wars of Scottish independence, the Cumyns sided with the English against Robert the Bruce; and that monarch confiscated the lands of David Cumyn, Lord of Athole and Strathbogie, and bestowed them on Sir Adam Gordon, his valiant and faithful follower. The descendants of this same Sir Adam Gordon subsequently became Lords of Huntly, Marquises of Huntly, and Dukes of Gordon, and were, for many