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Royal Deeside : Before 1000AD


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There is a long history of human settlement in Deeside and numerous ancient remains are to be found in the valley. The remains are of varying types, cairns, hill-forts, earth-houses, crannogs, stone circles and standing stones. A fine example of an earth-house, or souterrain, can be found near Tarland and crannogs and stone circles at Loch Kinord.

It is known that at the time of the Romans the North East of Scotland was inhabited by diverse Pictish tribes. In particular, the Braemar area was inhabited by the Vacomagi tribe. These tribes were Britons and spoke a language more akin to modern Welsh than to Gaelic and many local place names reflect this. References to Roman activity in the area are dated to 81AD and 138AD, In the latter reference is made to the crossing of the Dee by a substantial ford near the junction of the Clunie and Dee rivers. It is thought that they aided the armies crossing by putting large rocks into the river which supposedly were visible - and maybe still are - in the 19th Century. After the withdrawal of the Romans little is recorded about the area until between about 700 -900 AD when the Pictish inhabitants of the region were converted to Christianity.

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Page Before 1000AD 1000-1800AD From 1800AD

Stone circle, Midmar, Royal Deeside
Part of the standing stone circle within the kirkyard at Midmar

The Dee valley was important in the spread of Christianity in Scotland and several early saints are identified with the valley. They include Saint Miniar or Monire at Crathie, St Nathalan at Tullich and St Ternan at Banchory. The relics of St Andrew stayed for a while at Braemar and St Machar travelled this way to Aberdeen.

To understand the history of the Dee Valley it is necessary to recognise that the River Dee runs approximately West to East. To the south of the river is the Mounth, a mountain barrier to all travelling North-South. Between Braemar and Aberdeen there are very few passes through the hills and even today there is no road through the mountains between Glenshee in the West and Cairn o' Mount in the East. Thus the passes through these mountains provided important routes and places where these routes crossed the Dee were strategically important. Several of these routes (including Glenshee and Glen Callater) converged on Braemar where the Dee could be forded. Therefore whoever held a stronghold here dominated the area and the traffic.

It is known that Angus MacFergus, king of the Picts 731-761 had a stronghold here and granted asylum to Bishop Acca, the recently expelled bishop of Hexham, who was carrying relics of St Andrew. At Doldnahancha, 'meadow of the two islands', where the Farquharson Mausoleum now stands close to Braemar Castle, the first church in Scotland dedicated to St Andrew was built. At some stage the relics were removed to the church in the Fife town of St Andrews where they now reside. For some years the Pictish kingdom of Alba had to resist frequent attacks and incursions from the Vikings. In 843 Kenneth Macalpine, leader of the Scots or Gaels, invaded Alba from the west and united the kingdoms of the Scots and Picts. Thereafter Gaelic became the predominant language of the Deeside area.


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Introduction A History of Royal Deeside The Deeside Railway The Old Military Road Old Kirkyardst
Queen Victoria and Royal Deeside John Brown, Loyal Servant Francis Farquharson Lord Byron, poet Alexander Gordon
Macbeth and Braemar Braemar Gathering and Highland Games History of Braemar Clan Farquharson Bridges of Ballater
19th Century Ballater History of Dinnet area Aboyne History Aboyne Wartime Poetry Aboyne Great War Records
History of Dinnet History of Tarland Scott Skinner, the Strathspey King Glen O' Dee Hospital Brunel's Bridge
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