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Royal Deeside : History and Folklore

Images of Royal Deeside, Scotland
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Queen Victoria is a key figure in the history of Royal Deeside because her decision to buy and develop Balmoral Castle had such a profound effect on the development of the area. In each of Banchory, Aboyne, Ballater and Braemar most of the important buildings were built in the Victorian era. Her influence can still be directly felt in the Victorian Heritage trail, the old station at Ballater and the interest inspired by the recent film 'Mrs Brown'.

Various aspects of the history of Royal Deeside are presented on these pages : general history from pre-historic times, people and personalities, social history and buildings and visitor events. A menu for these pages is given below. Clicking the button takes you there.

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However, the history of Royal Deeside stretches far beyond the Royal Connection. Thus, for example, it is possible to trace a thread leading from the defeat of Macbeth at Lumphanan, near Aboyne, through to today's popular Braemar Gathering and Highland Games. A key battle in the fight to retain Scottish independence was fought at Culblean on what is now the Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve. The ghostly ruins of Knock Castle tell of clashes between the Forbes and Gordons. The very existence of nearby Ballater was the result of the foresight of the brave Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie, so nearly executed after the battle of Culloden. And, of a generation or so earlier, the exploits of Farquharson of Inverey make exciting reading even today. See detailed history menu

Standing Stones near Tarland
Standing Stones : part of a fine stone circle near Tarland

Evidence of the ancient stone age and Pictish inhabitants abounds, especially near Loch Kinord. The valley also played an important role in the spread of Christianity. Thus a fuller name for Banchory is Banchory St Ternan after the 5th century saint. The ruined church at Tullich was founded by St Nathalan and is surrounded by a round wall so that the 'devil had nowhere to hide'. ( Pictish stones can still be seen in the churchyard.) St Andrews Church at Braemar is a reminder that the relics of the saint came here first before going to the town that now bears his name.

Beyond the official histories are the stories that were passed on by word of mouth, of ghosts and witches and curses...

On these pages we briefly outline the history of the valley and greater local detail will be found within the equivalent pages of the four area sites (see red buttons above).

As a child Lord Byron stayed at a farm just east of Ballater. Later he wrote a poem 'Dark Lochnagar' which was put to music by Beethoven. Morven, the hill overlooking Tarland, and Culblean are mentioned in several of his poems as is 'sweet Mary {Robertson]'. It is possible that Byron's poems helped to persuade Queen Victoria to buy Balmoral-including Lochnagar. If so, then this valley would not have been the same without his brief stay.

The Dee valley forms an important route through the mountains and has played an important part in Scottish history for over 2000 years Ballater developed rapidly during the 19th Century. Here the town's growth and the incidents in the lives of the residents are reported Like many towns Aboyne lost many of it's young men during World War I. Here some of their stories and some poetry are given

Life on Royal Deeside can be illustrated by stories about some the people - famous or not - who had connections with the area.

Macbeth was defeated and killed at Lumphanan. in Deeside. King Malcolm Canmore may later have staged the first Highland Games in Braemar For hundreds of years the Farquharson clan has been powerful in Upper Deeside. Francis Farquharson fought at the Battle of Culloden and later founded Ballater Lord Byron, the poet, spent some years as a boy in Deeside. His work is sprinkled with references to the area and includes the poem 'Dark Lochnagar'

The decision by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to buy Balmoral increased the popularity of Royal Deeside. John Brown, the Queen's loyal servant came from Deeside

Alexander Gordon was born near Ballater and became a successful brewer in London. His gifts to Deeside include the pretty iron footbridges over the River Dee and the fine public halls in Ballater Scott Skinner was a 'fiddler' from Banchory who became famous for the quality of his music. Today the town still honours memory of the 'Strathspey King' As with many communities young men from Aboyne emigrated to America and the colonies. The story of one emigrant, James Thomson is told here

The history of Royal Deeside is reflected in the stories behind many of its buildings and activities. Some of these are stories are given here.


Some of the kirkyards of Royal Deeside date back over 1000 years. They are an important link to the past and some of the stories are given here. Bonty and Formaston are communities that have been replaced by the town of Aboyne. The Formaston stone is a Pictish artifact on display in the Victory Hall. A military road linking Perth to Fort George by Inverness was built around 1750. Today the road is still used and the Brig o' Dee reminds us that function can be combined with beauty.

The bridge at Ballater was essential for the growth of the town. However, bridging the unpredictable River Dee is not an easy task. The current bridge is the fourth. Here the story of the bridges is related.


The Deeside Railway dramatically transformed the economy of Royal Deeside. Not only did it transport royalty and guests to Balmoral but it allowed thousands to take cheap Highland holidays. The Braemar Gathering and Highland Games is possibly the most famous of all such games. For over 150 years it has been attended by members of the Royal Family. Ballater Highland Games has a more intimate feel. Great buildings are not necessarily big. Glen o' Dee hospital at Banchory is a fine building with a rich history. The gazebo at Aboyne is a pleasant piece of whimsy. The bridge at Crathie is a good example of Brunel's work

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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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