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Mediaeval Roads: Evidence from Charters

Note: The maps below are based on the half-inch map, sheets 14, 15 and 20, dated 1911 & 1912 and the quarter-inch map for the Eastern Highlands 1923. With thanks to Ordnance Survey. The map of Aberdeenshire immediately below is from Arrowsmith 1846 and is courtesy of David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. The image is copyright Cartography Associates but has been made available under a Creative Commons license for non-commercial use.

Aberdeen - roads & streets Turriff Methlick Birse New Deer Kinnemonth Peter Culter & Skene Ellon (3 entries)
Aberdeen - bridges Newhills Inverury Wine Causeway Monymusk Drumoak New Machar Bourtie
Rayne Fyvie Kintore Itinerary of Edward I Insch Banchory-Ternan & Drumoak Tarves & Udny Mounth Passes

The charters examined so far have thrown up a few interesting roads.

Those for Aberdeen give a complete picture of streets in both Old and New Aberdeen in the middle ages.

Various sources show that there was a road from Aberdeen to Kintore and that part of this road still exists on Tyrebagger Hill. Just south of here the Cryne Cross Mounth forded the Dee at Durris church and made its way northward as the Couper or Coupar's Road, a "coupar" being a cattle or horse dealer. A charter for Drumoak parish may refer to this road - as it forms a parish boundary hereabouts it was clearly very old.

A charter for Turriff refers to a "Monk's road" and a via regia to King Edward. One for episcopal territories in Ellon parish mentions a "mercat gate" and two others refer to roads south west of Ellon. A couple of fords near Udny probably relate to local routes; one certainly gave access to the local church. Two charters for Fyvie and Rayne suggest local routes and a road is mentioned in New Deer parish but is untraceable. In Drumoak there was a "sledegat" and in Birse there were rights of pasture.

Just west of Bennachie there were two "king's highways" and a road running up onto Bennachie itself. At Leslie just north of here there was a road running from the old parish of Rathmuriel - the fair here used to be held at night and a "Sleepytown" still exists as a placename. It probably intersected a long-distance route to Huntly and the north that ran past Wardhouse castle. In New Machar parish a "road to the mountains" is mentioned. It is some 3 miles from a "road to the north" in Bourtie but it is not known if they were connected.

One important set of routeways was the Mounth passes. The Mounth was mountainous terrain that ran from the Braemar area south of the River Dee to the coast near Aberdeen. There were at least 11 of these routes, spaced every few miles and crossing the Dee at fords and ferries. They were much used by drovers and by seasonal workers travelling to the south.

These are just those references found in the charters looked at so far. Edward the First's Itinerary indicates a network of usable routes in Aberdeenshire, the Laurence Road must date from this time, merchants from Aberdeen used to travel to a major fair in Keith and the Bridge of Don in Aberdeen must indicate a major route to the north.

Further details of charters pre-1314 can be found on the PoMS website.
Amanda Beam, John Bradley, Dauvit Broun, John Reuben Davies, Matthew Hammond, Michele Pasin (with others), The People of Medieval Scotland, 1093–1314 (Glasgow and London, 2012) www.poms.ac.uk.

Roads and Streets
Aberdeen developed on the land that lay between the rivers Dee to the south and the Don to the north, near their mouths. The rivers here were about two miles apart.

Originally there were settlements on each of these rivers, both well established before the middle ages. The one to the north was originally known as the Kirktoun of Aberdon and later as Old Aberdeen, that on the Dee was known as Aberdeen and was made a burgh by David I. It became known as New Aberdeen, not in distinction to Old Aberdeen but to mark its re-building after being sacked by Edward III in 1336. It was after this time that the Kirktoun of Aberdon became known as Old Aberdeen to distinguish it from New Aberdeen.

Old Aberdeen was the site of the old cathedral and of the chanonry where the canons lived in small houses with attached gardens; at a later date a merchant area grew up around the Town House, as well as early buildings of the university.

New Aberdeen was the larger of the two settlements and had a castle, a port, a regular market with extensive trading privileges, a leper hosital and other establishments that made it one of the most important towns in mediaeval Scotland.

The two settlements did eventually merge as legal entities in the 1800's but were physically joined long before then.

Many early documents have survived that record details of the two settlements in the middle ages. Among these are those collected in the Register of the Bishops of Aberdeen (Registrum Episcopatus Aberdonensis) and those in the Chartulary of the Church of St Nicholas in Aberdeen (Cartularium Ecclesie Sancte Nicholai Aberdonensis). The Records of Old Aberdeen cover the later middle ages.

These give valuable details of the streets in Old and New Aberdeen as well as of the general topography. However, rather than look at each of the many documents that list roads it is much easier to note those roads listed in the indexes of the first two publications (of which there are in fact only a few) with the charters in which they occur and at Robert Gordon's map of Aberdeen published in 1661 which shows all the roads and streets very clearly - it is highly unlikely that the road network he shows had changed much since the period of the 1300's and later which the charters deal with. This map can be usefully supplemented with that of Old Aberdeen shown in The Records of Old Aberdeen (page 256)

- a modification of this map (Aberdeen City Council site) shows further details of the Chanonry in Old Aberdeen.

The roads mentioned in the Register are: boulgate, castlegat (vico castri), chakkaraw, gastraw, galowgat, le greyn, Hedraw, hucsterrawe, merkat gate, newraw, owerkirkgat, ratowne-raw , schipraw, thevis brig, vicus furcarum, pons de don 227, pons de polgowny,221 & v.II, p.294, thevis brig 332. There are also many instances of the term via regia though these are not noted in the index. Locations include Futy or Footdee, Dronydonis hil, and the Girthcorse (this marked the area of sanctuary for the cathedral).

Those mentioned in the St Nicholas chartulary are: Castle Street, Chackraw, Gallowgate,The Green, Gastraw, Shiprow, Upper Kirkgate. It too has many mentions of the king's highway.

The Register of Arbroath has two charters that refer to a vico fraxini, the Kirk brig and the kirkgate.
Vol. 1, Charter 140, page 98, viz. from a bridge called the kirkbrig by which one can go from the vico fraxini to the church of the blessed Nicholas and which is sited between two streams which split at the said bridge as far the former house of Henry the miller
videlicet a ponte per quem sit transitus a vico fraxini vsque ad ecclesiam beati Nicholas / qui vocatur kirkebrig /et que sita est inter duos riuulos qui bifurcantur a dicto ponte vsque ad domum que fuit Henrici molendinarij
Vol.1, Charter 269, page 203(?) ….in vico que dicitur kiregat in villa de Abirden/iacentem inter pontem iuxta ecclesiam sancti Nicholi ex parte boreali ex parte una/et terram Rogeri clerici ex parte australi/ ex altera….
….in the street called Kirkgate in the town of Aberdeen lying between the bridge next to the church of St Nicholas on the north side, on the one hand, and on the other, the lands of Roger the clerk, on the south side….

Another charter (Vol.2, page 117, charter 134) refers to the common kings highway.

Of roads going outwith Aberdeen the REA has a charter that relates to the sale of two crofts in 1362 by Robertus de Berevyk, a burgess of Aberdeen, to Ade Pyngil. These lay between the end of the forked street from the western part of the king's highway that runs from Aberdeen towards the burgh of Kintore.....
(REA, p.103 - see also p.105 which refers to the same two highways). See also Wine Causeway below.

"...ad finem vici furcarum ex occidentali parte vie regie qua itur a burgo de Aberden versus burgum de Kintor..."

The well-known bridges over the Dee and the Don as well as the Thieves Bridge are noted below. A number of other bridges are mentioned in The Doric Columns website here.

Bridge of Balgowny (River Don)
NJ9409 : Brig o' Balgownie by Lyn Mcleod

Brig o' Balgownie

  © Copyright Lyn Mcleod and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Construction began in the late 1200's and the bridge was completed by 1320. It is thought to have been commissioned by Bishop Cheyne or Robert the Bruce. It was renovated in 1605 and replaced in 1830 by another bridge 500 yards downstream. It provided an important link to the north-east of Scotland.

See here
(The Doric Columns website) for further details.






Bridge of Dee
NJ9203 : Bridge of Dee, Aberdeen by Lizzie

Bridge of Dee, Aberdeen
  © Copyright Lizzie and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

A bridge over the Dee had been long proposed to replace a dangerous ford but it was not until the early 1500's that one was commissioned by Bishop William Elphinstone. It was completed by 1527 by his successor Bishop Gavin Dunbar, who made a gift of his estate of Ardlair, the rents of which were to be applied to the upkeep and repair of the bridge (Reg.Episc.Aber. p. 393). The bridge is still in use today.

See here (The Doric Columns website) for further details.

Thieves Bridge

REA, page 332 A charter of Andrew Ancroft mentions the Thevisbrig or Thieves Bridge - this crossed the Powcreek Burn between the Castlehill and the Gallow Hills. It was so called because it was crossed en route to the gallows - see here for details. In a charter on page 221 it is called ponte latronum.
Parish of Rayne
Agreement on the land of Threpland
Registrum Episcopatus Aberdonensis (REA), p.26

This agreement, dating from 1259, concerned a dispute between the Bishop of Aberdeen and the abbey of Lindores about "a certain land called Threpland between the land of Boyndington which belongs to the said bishop and the land of Newton which belongs to the said abbot and community and which begins at the ford of Gethyn which is from the western part of Boyndington and extends from the same ford by the river of Gethyn northwards as far as a certain large syke called Fulleche and by the same syke ascending towards the west as far as a certain bridge which is beyond the same syke towards Neutoun and so descending from the same bridge by the same syke in a circuit as far as the foresaid ford of Gethyn." These lands are in Rayne parish.

Compositio super terra de Threpland
"... super quadam terra que dicebatur threpland inter terram de Bondyngton que est dicti episcopi et terram de Newton que est dictorum abbatis et conventus et incipit ad vadum Geythyn quod est ex parte occidentali de Bondyngton et extendit se ab eodem vado per eundem rivulum de Gethyn versus boream usque in quendam magnum sichum qui dicitur Fulleche et per eundem sichum ascendendo versus occidentem usque ad quendam pontem qui est ultra eundem sichum versus Neutoun et sic descendit ab eodem ponte per eundem sichum in circuitu usque in predictum vadum de Gethyn."

Despite its apparent clarity there are uncertainties about this document that make it difficult to identify the ford and the bridge with their implied routes.

One uncertainty is of the location itself. Alexander Laing in Lindores Abbey and its Burgh of Newburgh says on page 162 that it was to the west of Newburgh (Fife) although he says the places can no longer be identified. A more likely location is in the vicinity of Old Rayne where both the bishop of Aberdeen and Lindores had possessions and where there is a possible fit with placenames.

On this reading Bondyngton would be Bonnyton and Newton could be Newton to the west of Bonnyton; by definition Threpland (disputed land) would lie in between. Fuleche as a name is very close to Folethrowle, now Folla Rule, which is between 2 and 3 miles north of Bonnyton (see p.110 below) and is very close to the parish boundary here that runs along a water course.

There is a stream to the west of both Mill of Bonnyton and Bonnyton which if followed northwards and then westwards leads to another stream that flows down to meet the original stream - this could conceivably fit the wording (though Folla Rule would be too far to the north). This would allow us to place the ford and the bridge on both streams though with only a hint of where the associated tracks would have run. Barreldykes would also fit the wording as the location of the ford.

Note the placename "tocher" at the top centre of the map which means causeway or road.

Parish of Turriff
Carta fundationis terre ecclesiastice ville de Turreff continens limites ejusdem
(REA, p.30)

The church at Turriff was passed over to Arbroath Abbey by Marjorie Countess of Buchan as noted in a charter of William I dated 1213 that confirmed grants to Arbroath. There was an earlier Celtic monastery in Turriff but it is not clear if it was this along with its lands that were passed to Arbroath. In any event Marjorie's son Alexander, Earl of Buchan, set up a hospital at Turriff and passed over the rights he had to the church lands in Turriff. These are described in Alexander's charter, dated 1272, as follows:

".....namely between the said land of Kinarmy from the southern part as the river descends in Parcok which is called Putachi and so as the Parcok runs into the water of Doverne and so by the Doverne as far as the stream between Auchinfoight and Cnocky from the western part which is called Cnockiburn and so ascending by the same rivulet as far as the ford at the head of the said rivulet called Hacracky and so from that ford by a syke descending to the ford of Tulkillj and so descending from that rivulet to the stream quarellj (colloquially?) called Sulhok and so returning from that stream as far as the standing stones that divide Colpie and Kacukj and so returning by a certain hill as far as the standing stone of Balmalj and Cokukj and so from that stone to the road of the monks and so by that road ascending to the divisions made by plough descending to the via regia between Kyneduart and Turrech and so by that road descending as far as the eastern part of the meadow and so descending to the rivulet of Putachi...."
Original text below

For further details about the monastery see Turriff page on this website on the early Celtic church here, also Notice of the Church of St Congan at Turriff, John Stuart, PSAS 1866, and Canmore record.

Course of via regia from Turriff to King EdwardThose places that can still be identified are marked on the map. From Kinarmy one would go to the Putachi Burn which runs through Turriff near to the old church then up by the Dovern to Knockiemill, presumably Cnockie then up the stream there. There is a ford called Dubhford that may be Hacracky, or Hacracky may be nearer the head of this stream. Tulkillj is lost but quarellj/Sulhok may just be Quarry Well on the present day Burn of Colpie south oquially, i.e. the stream commonly called Sulhok. of Delgaty Castle - or it may even be that quarelli means coll

The 2nd edition of the 6"OS map shows stones in this area (shown as small red dots on the map) that could be the ones referred to and the "certain hill" might be Roundel Law. Whatever the case, the wording suggests the monk's road was somewhere near Balmalj though not where it was leading. It is hard to say if the road had been formed at the time of the Celtic monastery or by Arbroath though it is likely enough to have been to an outlying part of the territory as defined by the boundaries noted above.

The via regia is very likely to be the same road as that shown on the Military Survey map (now the minor road running north out of Turriff) both because there is a reasonable fit with the wording of the charter and it is the shortest and most direct route to King Edward.


Carta fundationis terre ecclesiastice ville de Turref continens limites ejusdem
"....scilicet inter dictam terram et Kinarmy ex parte australi sicut riuulus descendit in Parcok qui vocatur Putachi et sic sicut Parcok descendit in aquam de Douerne et sic per Douerne usque ad riuulum inter Achinfoight et Cnocky ex parte occidentali qui dicitur Cnockiburn et sic ascendendo per illum riuulum usque ad vadum in capite dicti riuuli nomine Hacraky et sic de illo vado per vnum siketum descendentem vsque ad vadum de Tulkillj et sic descendendo de illo riuulo vsque ad riuulum quarellj nomine Sulbok et sic redeundo ab illo riuulo usque ad lapides stantes in diuisis inter Colpie et Kakukj et sic redeundo per quendam collem vsque ad lapidem stantem de Balmalj et Cokukj et sic ab jllo lapide vsque ad viam Monachorum et sic per illam viam secundum diuisas factas per aratrum descendendo in via regali inter Kyneduart et Turrech et sic per illam viam descendendo usque ad orientalem partem prati et sic descendendo vsque ad riuulum de Putachi..."

Parish of Newhills
Carta Regis Roberti super foresta de Cordys Jacobo de Garviach militi concessa
Memorandum quod carta sequens hic scribitur ad finem et effectum ut cognoscantur mete seu limites terrarum de Clyntre episcopi
(REA, p.43)
Grant by Robert the Bruce of the Forest of Fordyce to a Sir James Garviach, 1316 and noting the boundaries of the bishop's lands of Clinterty.

The section of interest is as follows: "...namely, beginning at the ford called Achinacragoc and so descending by the river as far as the mill of Kinaldy and so from the northern part of the said forest descending to two large standing stones below Thorrynadac and so descending to Polnacroscell and descending next to the water of Done as far as the shaws of Alton of Fyntraff and so descending by a path to the well/fountain called Tubirnacrag and so ascending to Schencragoc and from thence to Carenlech and from Carenlech to the stream called Aldenacloch and so descending to Carenleth next to the kirkton of Dys and so descending by the path which leads to the said village of Dys as far as a font/well at the entrance to the village and to another font in the middle of the village and so from the east side of the aforesaid forest by the king's highway that leads from Aberdeen to the well called Tubirnadaly and thence to the ford called Achynnafonee and thence to the ford called Achynaterman then from the south side of the said forest by a path leading as far as Gelcaren next to the village of Huttereny and from there by a Reske (rough unproductive land - see definition of "risk" on Records of the Parliaments of Scotland site) to a cross (Canmore entry) and great stone on the king's highway next to Huttereny from the west side of this village descending to the river called Aldynalene and so ascending by the river to the head of the river of Glenconan and so ascending to the summit of the mountain called Cragnathybo and so descending to the river of Glenyn and so by the said river to the ditch which leads to a recumbent stone (see Cruikshank) and so ascending by the same ditch to the head of the wall of Clenterret bishop ("Bishop's Clinterty") and so passing in a circuit by the said wall to an old cart road which leads from the village of Clentrethi herhard and leads next to the marshy lake as far as the font/source under the Crag of Clentrethy (now Clinterty) and so from the said source as far as Achinacragoc where we began." (original text below)


The line of the mediaeval and, for the most part, the pre-turnpike road is shown in red. For details of the Bishopton area see Cruikshank's paper below - this includes a map and illustrations.

This was a grant by Robert the Bruce of the Forest of Fordyce to a Sir James Garviach in 1316, and which noted the boundaries of the bishop's lands of Clinterty. Although a number of the placenames are lost it is clear enough that the forest was in the vicinity of Tyrebagger Hill and the Hill of Marcus that lie between Aberdeen and Kintore.

We can trace the western boundary along the Blackburn up to the river Don at Hatton of Fintray. The next identifiable place is the Kirkton of Dyce that lies about a couple of miles NNW of present day Dyce. The east side of the grant is obscure but we can pick it up again on the south side by the reference to Huttereny which is close to the cross and great stone on the king's highway that still exist. The Clenterret bishop of the charter or Bishop's Clinterty, as we would style it, is now Bishopton and we can presume the boundary would have ran up to the Blackburn and its ford of Achinacragoc where the circuit began.

The charter refers to various fords as well as a couple of roads, as follows:
- the ford called Achinacragoc
- path to the well/fountain called Tubirnacrag
- path which leads to the said village of Dys
- the king's highway that leads from Aberdeen to the well called Tubirnadaly and thence to the ford called Achynnafonee and thence to the ford called Achynaterman then from the south side of the said forest by a path leading as far as Gelcaren next to the village of Huttereny
- cross and a great stone on the king's highway next to Huttereny

- old cart road leading to a marshy lake.

The first three of these are lost although a rough idea of their location can be estimated; they seem no more than local. There is a slight ambiguity in the fourth extract where it is not quite clear if the kings highway is on the east side or the south side of the forest though "the kings highway next to Huttereny" is clearly on the south side. At this point we can be sure of the location as the cross, great stone and recumbent stone have been identified and are discussed in an interesting paper, viz. Newhills Cross, Aberdeenshire by James Cruikshank (PSAS, Vol.60, p.269-273, 1926).

In this paper he describes these (intended to mark the boundary of the bishop's lands) and identifies the wall (presumably a dry-stone wall). Interestingly the bishop's land is marked by the old parish boundary which at this point cuts up towards Tyrebagger Hill. What is significant here is that the king's highway is said to be beside the cross and great stone. Cruikshank was able to identify it saying that it was "less than six feet wide, has a solid, well-preserved bottom, and is almost level the whole way, being formed as a kind of shelf in the brow of the hillside." It is very likely that the course of this old road is shown (in this locality) by the parish boundary.

The cart road would have ran the very short distance from the vicinity of Bishopton to the marshy ground near Broombank, identified as where some prehistoric finds were made in 1897 - see 2nd edition 6" map.

The latest note on the Canmore entry suggests that the cross had been misidentified and was in fact to be found in the area of Corsehill to the east. Even if this is the case, it does not negate Cruikshank's remarks about the mediaeval road and the route it took.

Cruikshank refers to an 18th century road below the mediaeval road, and the turnpike below that again. Thomas Day in Construction of Aberdeenshire's first turnpike roads (Journal of Transport History, Sept. 2003) notes that the turnpike was opened in 1800 and that before that, road improvements had been carried out not just by parishes but in the case of the Kintore and Inverury road by the Commissioners of Supply who in 1739 made local landowners on the line of this road responsible for stretches near their estates (p.156). It is interesting to see that a stretch of the Kintore road had been worked on by the military - it runs very directly from above Kinellar House towards Kintore (6" OS map - Aberdeenshire, LXV). Taylor discusses this in The Military Roads in Scotland, page 91/92 and dates it to the 1760's.

While it is interesting to note that a section of the mediaeval road to Kintore has survived, the question arises as to what course it took over the whole distance, and how close this was to the turnpike or 18th century line. Although the line of the turnpike road is very clear, being shown on recent maps before current improvements to the A96, that of the 18th century road is less so. One ambiguity is at the Aberdeen end where the military survey (c.1750) shows it south of the river that runs past Craibstone and Bankhead, whereas the early OS maps suggest it ran west of Bankkead by the minor road as far as Corsehill. From here it seems to have run just north of the turnpike to Blackburn and then by the straight military road stretch to Kintore though even here the maps can be difficult to interpret.

With these factors in mind, a possible course for the mediaeval and 18th century road is shown on the map - these roads were likely to have had much the same course with the exception of the earlier road being visible on Tyrebagger Hill. Given that there was a road between Aberdeen and Kintore from early in the middle ages, and that tradition tells of a "Wine Causeway" between these places there can hardly be any doubt that this was one and the same road.

Carta Regis Roberti super foresta de Cordys Jacobo de Garviach militi concessa
- Incipiendo videlicet ad vadam que vocatur Achinacragoc et sic descendendo per riuulum usque ad molendinum de Kinaldy et sic ex parte boreali foresto predicte descendendo ad duos magnos lapides sub Thorrynadac et sic descendendo vsque Polnacroscell et descendendo iuxta aquam de Done vsque le schawes del Alton de Fyntreff et sic descendendo per semitam vsque ad fontem qui vocatur Tubirnacrag et sic ascendendo vsque Schencragoc et deinde vsque Carenlech et a Carenlech vsque ad riuulum qui vocatur Aldenacloch et sic ascendendo vsque Carenleth iuxta le kirkton de Dys et sic descendendo per semitam que ducit ad dictam villam de Dys vsque ad fontem in introitu ville predicte et ad alium fontem in medio dicte ville et sic ex orientali parte predicte foreste per viam regiam que ducit apud Abirden vsque ad fontem qui vocatur Tubirnadaly et abhinc vsque ad vadam que vocatur Achynnafonee et abhinc vsque ad vadam que vocatur Achynaterman et abhinc ex australi parte foreste predicte per semitam ducentem vsque Gelcaren iuxta villam de Huttereny et abhinc per vnam Reske usque ad crucem et magnum lapidem in via regia iuxta Huttereny ex occidentali parte dicte ville descendendo vsque ad riuulum qui vocatur Aldynalene et sic ascendendo per riuulum vsque ad caput riuuli de Glenconan et sic ascendendo vsque ad summitatem montis qui vocatur Cragnathybo et sic descendendo ad riuulum de Glenyn et sic per dictum riuulum vsque ad foueam que ducit ad magnum lapistratum et sic ascendendo per eandem foueam vsque ad caput muri de Clenterret episcopi et sic transeundo in circuitu per dictum murum vsque ad veterem viam plaustrorum que ducit de villa de Clentrethi herhard et ducendo iuxta lacus maresij vsque ad fontem sub le Crag de Clentrethy et sic de dicto fonte vsque Achinacragoc vbi inceperunt." (back to translation)

Parish of Fyvie
(REA, p.110 -see also page 174)
Donatio Ade Pyngle burgensis de Aberden terrarum de pro sustentatione vnius capellani in ecclesia beate Marie de Aberden 1376

In this charter there is mention of a mill at Folethrule, the lands of Folethblakwatre, and of a portion of land between the stream called Folethblackwatre and the road of Garlet. There is also a mention of a Blakfurde and Badchass in the vicinity.

"...et cum illa petia terre arabilis iacente in terris de Folethblakwatre inter dictum riuulum et viam del Garlet...."

These locations lie in the parish of Fyvie about 8 miles NNW of Inverurie. Folethrule is Folla Rule, Foleth-blackwatre is the Black Burn, and Blackford and Badchass (Baldyquash) still exist. Garlet as a placename has not survived but the text suggests that the road ran parallel to the Black Burn.

Fyvie Castle - Stanyford
(Registrum de Aberbrothoc Vol.1, Page 310, No. 353, 1325)

This recorded a perambulation of the bounds between Ardlogy and Fyvyne, thus:
…beginning at the lower end of the motherlech (a marshy area from which various streams arise) which is called Greimos and so proceeding and placing marks between the petary of Ardlogy and the petary pertaining to the park (of Fyvyne) until coming near the Stanyford

incipiendo ad inferiorem finem de le Modirlech qui vocatur Greimos et sic ambulando et signa ponendo inter petariam de Ardlogy et petariam pertinentem ad parcum quousque peruenerant apud le Stanyford

In a paper dealing with Fyvie Castle, (Fyvie Castle, PSAS, Vol 73 (1938-39), 32-47) W Douglas Simpson identifies the Stanyford as being just south of Fyvie over the Ythan. In the middle ages the castle was defended on north and west by the river and marshy ground to its east. The only approach from the south led over this ford to a strip of land only 500 feet wide running past the castle (page 35).






Parish of Methlick
Carta terre ecclesiastice de Methlaych
(REA, p.112 - see also page 114)

This charter refers to a piece of land that on one side lies immediately next to the water of Ethoyn called the haugh, and on the other descends to the ford over the Melok as far as the ford called Clochy.... 1365

"quamdam peciem terre iacentem immediate iuxta aquam de Ethoyn que vocatur le haulch ex parte vna et descendendo a vado riuuli de Melok vsque ad vadum quod vocatur Clochy ex parte altera..."

This location is near the old church of Methlick as shown by the following quote from the New Statistical Account for Methlick parish (Vol.XII, page 973), viz. "Robert II....confirms a charter....of a piece of land called the Haulch, bounded on the one side by the water of Ethyon, stretching, on one hand, from the ford of the burn of Melok to the ford which is called Cloy or Clochy on the other. It is probable that the present glebe is very nearly the piece of land referred to in the charter just quoted. For it is bounded, on the one side, by the river Ythan; at one extremity of it, there is the burn of Methlick, at the entrance of which, into the Ythan, there was formerly a ford, now superseded by a bridge, and a little below the other extremity there is another ford, which is now called Golyford or Cloverickford, evidently corruptions of Cloy or Clochyford, the name mentioned in the foresaid ancient charter."

Jarvise in Epitaphs and Inscriptions from Burial Grounds (V.2, page 23) says that below the kirk there are "large stones on both sides of, also stepping-stones across, the river."

The burn of Melok must be what is now called the burn of Sauchentree. Just before it joins the Ythan there is a small bridge. The Clochyford would have been over the Ythan a little way downstream.

Parish of Inverury

Inverury (REA, p.286)
A charter dating from 1464 refers to lands in Inverury between the via regia on the east and the Keylandis on the west. Keylandis is now Kellands and can be seen on the OS 6" map, sheet LIV, Aberdeenshire.


Inverury - Bridge of Balhaggardy (Balhalgardy)
Charter of Earl John concerning xx. shillings in Inverurie
Chartulary of Lindores, charter XVII, page 21. Date 1232X1237. Notes, page 240.
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This was a grant of Earl John of twenty shillings sterling per year to be paid initially from rents owed byburgesses of Inverury for lands between the burgh and the Bridge of Balhagerdyn.

Balhagerdyn, now Balhalgardy, is two miles north of Inverurie. There is no bridge shown on early maps (NLS maps) - whether it had disappeared by the 1600's when the maps were made, or have still existed but was not mapped is impossible to say. From the wording of the charter it is likely that it was over the Urie and to the north of Inverurie where the burgh muir was.

Parish of Kintore
(REA, p.303 - see also 340, 341, 343)

Several charters from the 1490's refer to a via regia in Kintore. Thus one on page 303 has communem viam regiam and vie regie, another on page 340 has vici regij and communem venellam, page 341 has vici regij and communem venellam, page 343 has vici. The via regia is no doubt the high street and would have come from Aberdeen and led onwards to Inverury. The common vennel would be a lane leading off the high street.

The Wine Causeway

The Old Statistical Account for Kintore says that the burgh had a privilege, now passed over to Aberdeen, of collecting customs on wine coming into Aberdeen and that there was a “a causeway at the east end of the freedom of Kintore, near Kinellar, on the way to Aberdeen, still called the Wine Causeway, to which it is said, in old times people came from the harbour to pay custom.”

Alexander Watt in The Early History of Kintore (page 20 and 149) says of the wine causeway that there was a tradition that it was a Roman road and that it is shown on the 6" map running up from near Cairntradlin through Kintore to Inverury. Certainly the 1st edition shows the supposed line of road north of Kintore but not south of the town. In any case the putative Roman road was supposed to come due north from Normandykes which would take it well away from any route between Aberdeen and Kintore.

A more likely identification is a very old road mentioned in an interesting paper by James Cruikshank, Newhills Cross, Aberdeenshire, (PSAS, Vol.60, p.269-273, 1926) that crosses Tyrebagger Hill and appears to have been a made road rather than a track. This would merit it being called a causeway and it is on the direct route between Aberdeen and Kintore. Further details are given above.

Parish of Birse
(REA, p.375)

This is an entry in the Rental (dated 1511) of lands near Aboyne that allows tenants to have common pasture in the Bradbog and marsh and to come and go with their animals to the forests of Glenawen and Lendrum (see page 12 for original grant of the Forest of Birse made by William the Lion). An entry on the following page for the mill of Cluny mentions pasture rights and a way to the forest. There are a number of other entries in the Rental for this area that mention bondages and services that would entail travel.

All locations mentioned except for Bradbog and the marsh (where there was common pasture) are still identifiable and shown on the map, viz. Tulyquhorsky, Ennochty, Tulygarmontht, Glenawen, Lendrum, Clune, Parsy, Invercat. From the wording we can assume sufficient movement from the farms to form rough tracks leading to the two forests.

There is an interesting reference to Whitestone and its inn on the Cairn a'Mounth road, namely, "The quhitstane at thee mvreaile hous."

Itinerary of Edward I
Details of Edward's movements in his campaigns in the north-east of Scotland during 1296 and 1303.

Parish of New Deer
New Deer charter - click for larger image
Places mentioned in the charter. The parish boundary of New Deer is shown in purple and estate boundaries in the 19th century in green. Although New Deer was formed out of the old parish of Deer in the 1500's it is quite likely that the boundary above existed in the 1200's.

Sometime before 1211, Fergus Earl of Buchan exchanged three davochs of land in what is now New Deer parish for the lands of Slains and Cruden south of Peterhead.

His charter is of interest because it mentions "the high road above Clochnuly" as well as a couple of fords.

At first glance the charter seems very easy to interpret because many of the placenames still exist. Indeed some are almost unchanged. However, although we can get a reasonable idea of where the fords were, "Clochnuly" has not survived and its occurence in the charter does not make it clear where it might have been.

The map shows the placenames that can be identified as well as the boundary of the parish and boundaries of estates as shown on Alexander Gibb's map of 1858. Estate boundaries are very long lived and may give a clue to early land divisions.

After a preamble that details the exchange for Slains and Cruden, the charter refers to the "Three Daughs of Feddret (Fedreth), viz., Easter Auchoch (Estir Auhioch), Atherb (Auhetherb), Auchethad (Auhethas) and Quiltes (Conwiltes), wholly and without diminution, as well in length as in breadth, with all their boundaries and proper divisions, viz., On the East from the rivulet running on the East side of Easter Auchoch (Estir Auhioch) as far as the Crooked hollow on the West side of the Hill of Derevan on the West, and between the High Road above Clochmerly (Clochnily) as it extends on the South as far as the Physician's Cross on the North; and again going up on the East from the foord of the rivulet of Huskethuire, between Auchelit (the translation identifies this as Affioch - it is Auhelit in the original text) and Atherb (Auhitherb), as far as the rivulet of Gight (Giht) on the West, and on the foresaid East side from the Foord of the rivulet between the two Auhcranthis (Auhcrauthis) as far as the said Water of Gight (Giht), below the Sheep Cott of Ruther McOan of Allathan (Allethan) on the West and proceeding in the middle between the Two Sheep Cotts Southward, as far as the foresaid High Road above Clochmerly (Clochnuly), and likewise from the great hollow lying near the Manor of Cairnbanno (Carnebennach), on the North-West side, extending to the Water Gight (Giht), as far as the conflux of the ....... of Lethalge on the North side, and from the Crooked hollow which is called Hollers Myleth (Holleresky Lech), lying between Bathangie (Buchangy)and the hill of Darevan, on the West side of the Darevan, and likewise from the Dyke at the hollow foord of Auhakerly (Auhakorty), on the West side as far as to the North side of Craigcultur (Cragcultyr), and from Craigcultur to the foresaid Physician's Cross, and from the said Cross to the North side of the Darevan. (Translation given in Scottish Notes and Queries, Vol. VII, 1893/94, page 139). As some of the placenames are rendered differently from the original text, the original forms are given in brackets after each placename.

For original see Collections for a History of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, 1843, page 407.
Also Book of Deer, page 98

As this is a very difficult charter to interpret we will restrict comments to identifying placenames. The main problems are that it is not clear if the charter describes one continuous boundary or three boundaries for each of the davochs, and where Clochnily and the road is located. There are also a couple of places in the charter where words are missing.

The placenames of Fedreth, Auhioch and Auhetherb are straightforward but Auhethas and Conwiltes have not survived. It is possible that these are Affath and Culsh - the Quilquox in the south of the parish seems too distant and does not tally with the boundaries. The rivulet to the east of Ester Auhioch accords with the parish boundary here (the parishes of Old and New Deer were formed out of the old parish of Deer but it is quite possible that an existing boundary for Fedderet was used for the new parish in this location) but the Hill of Deveron is difficult, especially as the river Deveron is far distant. However, an entry in MacFarlane's Geographical Collections (Vol.1 page 62) says that there is a place in the north of the parish called Whitestanes on which the three rivers of Ythan, Ugie and Deveron arise. In fact the Little Water (the Gight of the charter) runs into the Ythan, the Burn of Monquhitter into Deveron and the North and South Ugie still retain their name. We could then surmise that the Burn of Monquhitter would have been thought of at that time as the Deveron and that the Hill of Deveron would have been a distinct hill east of the Monquhitter, though exactly which is difficult to say. The Hill of Corsegight or one north of Balthangie would be possibilities.

Leaving the high road aside, J Milne (Place-names in Buchan, Trans Buchan Fld Club, vol.4, Page 215, 1897) says that the Physician's Cross may have been on the lands of Grassiehill and that a carved stone had been found embedded in a bridge on the old road between New Deer and Strichen. He also says (p.202) that the ford of the rivulet of Huskethuire was probably the Fishfur Burn (see map) - Auhelit (Affleck) and Auhitherb) Atherb are nearby. The two Auhcrauthis are unidentified.

Allathan still exists as does Cairnbenno and there is strong possibility that Lethintae marked on Gordon's map (Lower part of Bu[quhan]) is the Lethalge of the charter - it is certainly near the confluence of the Gight with what must be the Black Burn and which forms the parish boundary here. Holleresky Lech was no doubt a marshy place but its exact location, other than it being near Balthangie, can only be guessed at.

The remaining placenames are on the east side, and still exist, i.e. Auchorthie and Cragcultyr along with the Physicians Cross.


This charter details lands granted to the Priory of Monymusk by Malcolm III in 1078. It is of interest as it mentions two king's highways.

Lands granted to Monymusk - cleck for larger image
Charter boundaries as determined by Low, some stretches of which follow parish boundaries. In one or two places the boundaries are not precise but the location of the roads at Littlejohn's Length and on Bennachie is clear enough. Click for larger map.

The marches of the Episcopal lands of Keig and Monymusk granted to the Church of St. Andrew by Malcolm, King of Scots, as contained more fully in the charter above drawn up. Extracted from the Register of St. Andrews by Mr. Walter Bannantyn. And the said King assigned to the said Church the said lands by the underwritten marches and caused them to be reduced to writing.

The first march begins at the brook which is called Toen [Ton], so called because a certain woman of the name of Toen [Ton] was submerged in that brook and drowned, and so as far as the brook called Kolcy and so by following from Kolcy as far as the river that is called Don, and so holding the Don as far as the rivulet towards the north that is called Fowlesy and so by following from the Fowlesy as far as Coritobrich, which is interpreted the valley of the fountain. and from Coritobrith to Lawchtendaff, which means in Latin, a place where a man was killed, to the turning point of the four royal roads, and so towards the east as far as the top of the mountain that is called Sclenemingorne, which is interpreted the haunt of goats, and so towards the east as far as the Standing Stones near Albaclanenauch, which means in Latin the field of sweet milk, and along the road as far as the top of the mountain that is between Keig and the Garioch, and so by dividing the separate hills into two parts as far as Benachie, namely one part to the property of the Garioch, and another to the property of Monymusk. Likewise by dividing Benachie into one part to the property of Monymusk and another to the Garioch. And from Benachie as far as Aide Clothi, which means in Latin the Rocky Rivulet, and from that place as far as Brecachath, which is interpreted a field marked by colours, on the right, and from Brecacath as far as the brook which is called Urcewy, and by following from the Urcewy as far as Cosalde and from Colsalde to the head of the wood which is called Trenechinen which means in Latin Wood extended straight, and towards the south as far as one fountain from which one rivulet flows which is called Doeli which means "Carbon" in Latin owing to its blackness, and so by following from Doeli as far as the river Don, and from the Don towards the south as far as the first march which began at the brook that is called Ton. (Translation from Materials for a History of the Church and Priory of Monymusk, (1895), William M MacPherson, p.87)
For original text see Collections for a history of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, vol. 2-5, p.171

There is a very useful paper on this charter printed in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol.6, p. 218, 1865. The paper is by Rev. Alex Low and is entitled "Notices of the Localities in a Grant of the Lands of Keig and Monymusk etc." The boundaries identified by Low are shown on the map. Some clearly follow parish boundaries but here and there, particularly east of Bennachie, some uncertainty creeps in. However, the place where the four highways (presumably two highways crossing each other) met can be readily identified as Littlejohn's Length, a pass lying between Knock Saul and Satter Hill. The other road mentioned, following Low, appears to be on Brindy Hill leading up onto the massif of Bennachie.

From the location of Littlejohn's Length one would suspect a north-south route passed through here. Leslie lies a couple of miles to the north and Alford and Tullynessle to the south although we cannot be sure how far the routes would have gone.

For the other (roughly east-west route) there may be a clue in a road shown on the Military Survey map of c.1750. This shows a north-south road (later improved by Caulfeild as a military road) with a road leaving this about one mile south of Clatt and going past Satter Hill over to Keig and then crossing the Don to follow this on the south through Monymusk and Kenmay to Kintore and ultimately Aberdeen.

Another slight clue to the orientation of these roads is that the north-south road was an old route north from the Cairn a Mounth road that led ultimately to Huntly and Moray. If this major north-south route existed in the middle ages the first road would have allowed access to the south from places like Leslie to the north.

The road leading towards Bennachie may be shown by the parish boundary to just east of Watch Craig, which follows the watershed and so could be a ridgeway. The continuation of the Monymusk boundary to the Mither Tap is also on the watershed. This is not impossible given the long history of human occupation on Bennachie including the major hillfort on the Mither Tap itself.

Of the Chapel of Weredors
Chartulary of Lindores, charter LIX, page 65. Notes, page 254. Dated 1228X1239.
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The presence of two castles and an earlier hillfort suggests a route ran along the valley of the Shevock. Note how close this charter is to the charter immediately below for Rathmuriel.

This was a grant of Bartholomew Fleming where he granted "the church of St. Drostan of Inchemabani (i.e. Insch) a toft and two acres of arable land adjoining the toft in his ville of Ravengille between the great road and the moor towards Gillandreston" along with the common easement of this ville and common pasture for some animals.

Weredors is now called Wardhouse in Insch parish (RCAHMS NJ 5930 2888) and Gillandreston is Glanderston in Kennethmont parish, about one mile to the west (Notes p.254). There is no trace of Ravengille. From the wording we would assume "the great road" ran along the valley of the Shevock much as the main road does today.

There is a strong possibility that the road was a main route that ran from Inverurie past here to Huntly and beyond. Some support to this is given by Davidson in his Inverurie and the Earldom of Garioch (page 3) where he places the nearby Dunnideer Castle on the NW boundary of the Garioch where it would guard the natural routeway along the valley of the Shevock - the castle at Inverurie would guard the southern approaches to the area, along with the important fording points of the Urie and the Don there. Interestingly Dunnideer Castle is sited within an earlier hillfort, presumably located here for the same purpose.

There was a settlement of Flemings in the area (including Bartholomew) as shown by the nearby "Flinders" placenames, which would have led to the development of local routes.

The Castles of Dunnideer and Wardhouse, in the Garioch, Aberdeenshire, W Douglas Simpson, PSAS, Volume 69 (1934-35), pp 460-71
Rev. John Davidson, Inverurie and the Earldom of Garioch

Parish of Kinnemonth - Rathmuriel

Parish boundaries near Leslie. Sleepytown is just north of Christ's Kirk.

In a charter of William of Brechin dating from 1245 there is a reference to the church lands of Rathmuriel being bounded by the highway from the ford of Ury towards Leslyn (Leslie). They were separated from the "other Rathmuryel" that belonged to William.

Formerly a separate parish, it was united with Kinnemonth in the 1600's. The church was called Christ's Kirk and there was an annual fair called Christ's Fair. This was also known as Sleepy Fair as it was held at night. The church and land had been gifted to Lindores Abbey.

Chartulary of Lindores, page 60;
Epitaphs and Inscriptions, Vol.2, p.8, A.Jervise
NMRS record
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On the 6" map (Aberdeenshire sheet XLIV) the church lands are shown as bounded by the Dawache of Murrell with a parish boundary running along the road near the church, making it very likely this is the highway referred to. The only difficulty with the charter is the mention of the Ury which is about 6 miles distant. The most likely explanation is that it is the Shevock just to the north that is being referred to, as it runs into the Ury. Davidson in Inverurie and the Earldom of the Garioch (page 8) suggests the road came from Dunnideer castle.


(REA, pps.52 and 246)
On page 52 of the Registrum Episcopatus Aberdonensis there is a charter of 1331 in which the bishop gave William Irvine the lands of Dulmayoch and Petbracher next to the forest of Drum, along with rights of pasture, for payment of a certain sum.

On page 246 the boundaries of Dulmayok are given (Nota limites de Dulmayok).
"In the first the meir burne thro the merefurde the hirde hillok (the shepherd's hillock - see DSL) the .......stane the sledegat off ard'gyne the ball bush the modermyre (source of a waterway through a myre - see DSL) the h.......off petbrachare at the forest syde"

Dulmayok is in Drumoak parish about 9 miles wast of Aberdeen and on the north side of the Dee. There is an old church there and a farm called Dalmaik and the meir burne may possibly be the stream forming the parish boundary near the church. Unfortunately the other place names are lost. Sledegat is interesting as it implies a track on which sledges were used.

Banchory Ternan and Drumoak

In a charter of 1247 relating to a grant of lands in Banchory, Drumoak and Peterculter parishes there is a reference to a road running through a place called Starnamoneth, north of Banchory, and two other roads. Another charter of 1358 confirming an earlier charter of 1323 for much the same area has other references and helps to identify some ofthe locations. Also very useful is Gordon's map of 1634 of land in this area (see link below). For convenience we will treat the Peterculter grant separately from the Banchory and Drumoak grant. This mentions a couple of roads.

In what follows we wll restrict comments to just those parts of the charters that mention roads rather than the complete charters as not all details are relevant. The map below shows those places that can be identified and allow us to see where the roads were to be found.

Charter for Banchory and Drumoak - click for larger image
The area covered by the charters and Gordon's map. Placenames in italics appear on Gordon, those in black in Alexander's charter, and those in blue in David II's charter. Click for larger map.

1247 Charter

Abstract from The Family of Burnett of Leys with additions in brackets from the original text of the charter.

KING ALEXANDER II grants to Robert, son of Alan Walchope, for his homage and service, the land of Tulimacboythne, from Blairmacogamgor towards the land of Glascul, belonging to the Bishop of St. Andrews, to the Loch of Banchory, and thence to Tuberusky and Starnamanath, (entering and exiting by the road of Starnamoneth - intrando et exeundo per viam de Starnamoneth) and through the mid forest to Burn (with the fishing thereof), and on the other hand from Starnamanath to Pulnacoy, and (so by a dry road - viam siccam) to the burn of Perferyn, and northwards therefrom (by a dry road - viam siccam) to Kilmaclerauche and thence to the land of Gormeg, belonging to Alan Durward; also the lands of Culter and Ardboik......... (see Peterculter and Skene parishes below)
Original text: Collections for a History of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, Vol.2-5, p, 298

See also The family of Burnett of Leys, (1901) Page 151. This has the original text and a summary translation; however, see note opposite on the viam siccam.

is identified as Kilduthie on the Paradox of Medieval Scotland website




Although Starnamoneth is marked on Robert Gordon's map (A map of the district along the north side of the River Dee near Crathes and Durres) it is hard to say what route the road might have had. The name is Gaelic for "moor road" or "moor crossing".

Pulnacoy is probably present day Coy and the Burn of Perferyn is probably the Bo Burn/Black Burn. This fits David's charter if we identify Pulnacoy with its Badinse/Badindessy and the Badindaff of Gordon (or its close vicinity) and also fits the estate boundary for Coy shown on William Garden's map of Kincardine. From the Bo Burn it would be a mile to Kilmaclerauche (now Candyglirache).

The estate boundary of Garden's map would be the first dry road (viam siccam) with another dry road leading to Candyglirache.

There is some uncertainty about this however as the original text in the Family of Burnett book has unam sicam instead of viam siccam - this would mean a ditch rather than road or path.

1358 Charter
Abstract from The Family of Burnett of Leys
In 1358 KING DAVID II confirms a charter dated at Berwick on Tweed, 28th March,1323 by which King Robert granted to Alexander Burnard, for his aid in making the Park of Drum, the land of Kellienachclerach, from the Gonnochy burn to the well of Tubirnanen and the old road leading to the cross of Barricor, and downwards by the Sclaye to the King's Well running into the Loch of Drum to the east of the said Alexander's land, and on the west of the King's forest to the old boundaries of the land of Tolybothuill, and of Culenerly; and the lands within the King's forest of Drum outwith the Park thereof from the ford of Durris along the Dee to the Banevy burn (Burn of Bennie) and up the said burn to the Loch of Banchory (Loch of Leys), together with the Loch and island therein, and from the ford of the Loch to the well of Tuberusky on the north, and thence to the cross of Starnamanach, and thence to the old boundary of Badinse, and thence to the north of Badindessy, and thence to the Loch of Drum.......
Original text and above summary: The Family of Burnett of Leys, (1901), page













As noted the latter part of the 1358 charter offers some support for the interpretation above.

The first part of the charter with its old road leading from the well of Tubirnanen to the cross of Barricor can be interpreted in two ways depending on how we read Gordon's map east of the Loch of Drum, particularly if the line is of the road or the Sclaye.

The map shows a Crossbarricor near to the well of Tubirnaven. Crossbarricor very much fits the present Barrowsgate and Tubirnaven is probably one of the wells shown on the 1:25,000 OS map (NO79 and NJ70) near Coldstream (Tobar is Gaelic for a well or spring).

The first interpretation would have the old road run south from near Coldstream to Barrowsgate, the boundary then continuing towards the Kings Well. The immediate problem with this is that there is no sign of the "Sclaye" at the present day. There is a short length of stream on Robertson's 1822 map and a hint of a channel in the contour lines of the 1:25,000 map that may have been the Sclaye although it could not have continued beyond Barricor which lies on a hill, whereas Gordon's map suggests it does go beyond the hill.

The other interpretation is that the old gate comes more directly from the north and is in fact the Couper's Road said to be very old and making directly for the ford of Durris, which is mentioned in David's charter. The reference to the cross of Barricor could fit by assuming the cross was on top of the hill where Barrowsgate is now and be visible from the road.

On the south side of the Dee the Couper's road continued as the Cryne Cross Mounth.

G M Fraser in The Old Deeside Road, p.99 has some details of this road. It was clearly very old as it formed the old county boundary (see Robertson's map of 1822). W Douglas Simpson also mentions work done by a William Kelly on the area in the Early Castles of Mar (PSAS, 63 (1928-29), page 133). This has Tubirnaven by the Couper's Road which would favour the second of the two interpretations above. The DSL gives one meaning of "couper" as a horse or cattle dealer indicating its use as a drove road.

Peter Culter and Skene Parishes

The two charters for Drumoak and Banchory above continue with references to grants of land in Peter Cultur and Skene parishes.

The lands described in the charter. The streams are as shown on Thomson's map of 1826, much longer than today due to drainage schemes.

1247 Charter of Alexander II
Abstract from The family of Burnett of Leys, (1901) Page 151, also original text.

.....also the lands of Cultur and Arboik, from Achmasoliche (Camrisilick) to Setnabradiauch (Technabrodach), and thence to the burn of Cardany, and along it to the Wolves' dens towards the land of the Bishop of Aberdeen.....
See also Collections for a History of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, Vol.2-5, page 298 for original Latin text.
The names in brackets are as given in the original Latin text.

This is included here for completeness as it is the continuation of the 1247 charter above. As it does not contain any references to roads we need not be concerned with identifying the placenames although there is an Ardbeck Hill just north of Peterculter itself.





1358 Charter of David II
Abstract from The family of Burnett of Leys, (1901) Page 154, also original text.

....also, in compensation for the loss of the forestership of the Forest of Drum, the six merk lands of the two Cardenys in the shire of Aberdeen, from the Thornbush east of Wester Cardeny down to the Stainlethe, and thence to the high road of Cardeny, and down the burn to the water of Locher, and up to Badyennach, and thence to the bog of Cask, and thence to the burn of Frifady, and thence to the road through the midst of Skene of Wester Cardeny, and back by a cart road to the said Thorn bush: to be held of the King by the said Alexander, paying a chalder of oatmeal yearly.

The above renders the two fords of the original text as roads. While this might not matter too much as fords imply roads, a more literal translation is given here, viz: "the six mark lands below our lands of the two Cardenys in the shire of Aberdeen, by these bounds and divisions, namely the vill of Westercardeny beginning at the thorn bush on the east side of the said vill and so descending to the Stainlethe and from there to the wide ford of the said vill of Cardeny and so descending by the burn to the water of Lochar and so ascending
as far as Badyennach and from there to the bog of Gask and from there to the burn of ffrifady and thence to the ford between the half davochs of Skene and of Westercardenny and so returning by a cart road to the foresaid thorn bush."

..... sex marcatas terre infra terras nostras de duabus Cardeinys in vicecomitatu de Abirdene per has metas et diuisas videlicet villam de Westercardeny
incipiendo apud Dumum Spinarum ex orientali parte dicte ville sic descendendo vsque le Stainlethe et ab hinc vsque ad latum vadum dicte ville de Cardeny et sic descendendo per riuulum vsque ad aquam de Locher et sic ascendendo vsque Badyennach et ab hinc vsque le lecche de Gask et ab hinc vsque riuulum de ffrifady et ab hinc vsque ad vadum inter dimidiam dauatam de Skene de Westercardeny et sic redeundo per vnam viam plaustrorum vsque ad dumum spinarum predictum

Using the literal translation, and noting that the streams had longer courses prior to drainage schemes (as shown on Thomson's map of 1826 and the above map), a possible fit can be found by assuming the Stainlethe is one of the two streams just south of Westercardeny. We can follow this down to "the wide ford" (which could imply a track running up to Westercardeny) and then down to the water of Lochar.

Following this upstream (it forms the boundary between Peter Culter and Skene parishes here) towards its source in the Loch of Skene, we come to a place which today is called Torshinach and which could be the Badyennach of the charter with the "bog of Gask" nearby. The ffrifady would then be the burn entering the Loch of Skene on its eastern side and which rose quite far to the east.

At one point there must have been a ford over this burn, now called Mackie's Steps. Rather than there being two separate roads as mentioned in the summary translation it is more likely that the ford was used by the cart road on a north south alignment. It is not clear if it was linked to the other road above though they both went through the lands of Westercardeny.








New Machar

The "road to the mountains" would presumably have come from Aberdeen and headed north-westwards. The green dots show part of a parish boundary.

Register of Arbroath Charter 227, Vol. 1, Page 161/162

The first part of this charter which dates from 1236 is concerned with a perambulation of the bounds of part of Tarves -no roads are mentioned.
The next day a meeting was held to discuss the bounds between abbey lands and Strathlochath. The charter says:
"on the morrow of the same day recognition was made by a party of good men of the right divisions between the lands of the Abbot and convent of Abirbrothoc and the lands of Strathlochath viz. by leyn / conueggy and by the road to the mountains as far as the waste called Rassalath, and as Rassalath descends to the rivulet of Orky."

in crastino eiusdem diei recognite fuerunt per iuramentum proborum virorum recte diuise inter terram Abbatis et conuentus de Abirbrothoc et terram de Strathlochath / viz per leyn / conueggy et per stratam montis usque ad wascellum qui dicitur Rassalath / et sicut Rassalath descendit in riuulum de orky.

Although there is a place called Rosullah about 4 miles west of Tarves, a stronger possibility is that Strathlochath is Straloch, two miles north-west of New Machar. Within a mile of two to the west of Straloch there is a Clyne and a Knaggan. It would seem far too far to assume the Rassalath was that near Tarves (more than 7 miles distant), however older maps show a Rashiebottom, one mile west of Knaggan (there is another place of this name one kilometre to the south but the more northerly is preferable). The meaning of Rassalath and Rashiebottom is much the same if it is rushes that are being talked about and lath is leth meaning a marshy place. The name of the Orky has disappeared.

Apart from the similarities of the place names, what gives some credence to this is that all the places are on or near the parish boundary and the meeting took place the day after the one in Tarves, thus allowing time for travel. As for the road to the mountains, the location would fit a road from Aberdeen albeit a little to the west of the present road. The term stratam is difficult as it can imply a paved road, often Roman, though none is known in the area. It may however just mean a highway in this document.


Places mentioned in the charters. The green line is the parish boundary and the purple line is from Alexander Gibb's 1858 map showing an estate boundary that may be that of the first document.

A perambulation between the lands of Tarves and Udny dating from 1417 refers to two fords near Udny, viz. the ford of Christ's Chapel and the black ford. Another charter of 1469 also mentions the black ford.

The documents, particularly the first, are very difficult to interpret. However, from the wording of the first document it is clear enough that both fords were in the vicinity of Udny (where Christ's Chapel was located) and Gilmorton. The boundary starts on the east side of the vill of Cowle and descends by a stream past a rumbling well to the Brony and follows this upstream in a westerly direction to the ford of Christ's Chapel. The black ford seems to have been over a smaller stream nearby. Gilmorton is mentioned after the black ford.


Registrum de Aberbrothoc, Vol. 2, Page 51, charter 53, 1417
Registrum de Aberbrothoc, Vol. 2, Page 161, charter 182, 1469


A document of 1551 details the results of the examination by witnesses of a dispute about the marches between Nethir Ardlethen and the Ald mill of Essilmonth which are a couple of miles west of Ellon. In this it mentions "the breaking of the gate ascending fra Aquharnies furd halden the hie gate that passit that tym to the Chapel of Dumbreck quhil it cum to Clottinpanis Stane...."
Illustrations of the topography and antiquities of the shires of Aberdeen and Banff, v.3, 1847, page 20-21

The wording of this is a little obscure as can be seen from the variation in meanings given in the Dictionary of the Scots Language. This leads to an ambiguity, namely, whether a track led up to and joined the "hie gate" that then carried on past the chapel or whether the track using the ford was itself the "hie gate."

The various locations can be seen from the map. Clottinpanis stone has disappeared but was said to have been on the lands of Dumbreck (Thanage of Formartyn, page 470). The placename of Aquharnies has also disappeared but is more likely to have been over the Yowlie Burn, perhaps the ford shown on the 1st edition 6" map, rather than the ford over the Ythan at Kinharrachie.

The wording of the document could suggest the "hie gate" was a local route from Ellon towards the Udny/Pitmedden area. If so, it could be linked with the "kirkgate" near Ellon.


In an agreement on the marches between Fortrie and Essilmont (1537) there is a mention of the Kirkgate in the parish of Ellon, viz. "Begining at the Corne burn in the Kirkgate at an ald carn of stanes new reformit and frathencefurth south-eist direct to a gret gray stane in the bra And frathin est to the ald dyke of the Hill fauld And frathin to the northeist part of the Woll law haldin under the bra as it is carnit to the well of the Woll law And frathine to the meiting of the twa myres at the hed of the burn of the Fortree And frathine as it is carnit ascendand to the carn of the Turf hill at the heid of the Lards bra And fra that to a carn callit the Leurok carn upon the north side of the roof of the Bog hill And fra the said carn to the Corne burn descendand the ald passage of the said burn to the water of Ithane "
Illustrations of the topography and antiquities of the shires of Aberdeen and Banff, v.3, 1847, page 16-17

The only placenames surviving are Fortrie itself (the present day farm of Fortree is less than a mile to the south-west of Ellon) and Woll (present-day Ulaw near Fortree).

One other clue is that on older maps, e.g Thomson and Robertson, the former courses of streams in this area are shown and that it is likely that the Fortree burn is the stream to the east and the Corne burn the one to the west, with both running into the Ythan.

Given that the document starts at the Carne burn it is very likely that the Kirkgate ran just south of the Ythan, probably crossing the Corne burn to reach the then ford near the present day bridge of Ellon. The kirk itself was nearby on the north side of the Ythan.


Bischop Brynnes (mid-1400's)
(REA, p.247)

Memorandum that the ar the meris of Bischop Brynnes • In the first begynnand at Girgisfurde ascendand west a grete lech (small stream draining marshy ground - see DSL) til it cum oure a rode to the brede of an akyr the quhilk rod strekis fra Bischop Brynnes the nerrast gate our the moss to the kyrk of Ellon and fra thine merkand northwest our a moss to the nerrast teleland of Ardgrane and fra thine a perty northest to the estmast welespring betuix the landis of Bischop Brynnes and Ardgrane the moss and the mersk to Bischop Brynnes and the teleland to Ardgrane and fra that wele ascendand vp an ald fald dyk to the hill and fra thine descendand down the hill syde til a moss and swa throw that moss on the west half of the muryinch of Bischop Brynnes til it cum to the burne of Tuledesk quhar it and the lechis of Pittolly metis togidder and swa ascendand that lech til it cum til a lech laid on ilke syde with mannys handis and swa ascendand a mikil lech to the hede of it on west half the stokynstane and fra thine north west to the Blakloch and fra thine up a lech to the teleland and a furschot lynth and sua ascendand a perty northest til a karne of stanys in the hicht of that hill nerrast and fra thine descendand to the Hartuellys and swa dovn the strynde (stream usually issuing from a spring - see "strinde" - DSL) of that wellis til it enter in a burne and swa ascendand that burne til it worth (becomes) a lech and swa ascendand that lech til it cum to the Karlynden and swa throw the said den (narrow valley) descendand a stripe til it cum to the burn of Cortycrum and swa ascendand that burne til it cum to a lech ner the hede of that burn and sua ascendand that lech and on the esthalf of a slak (prob. a marshy low area) and vp to the hede of ald malynis den and swa descendand dovn the den til it cum to the furde and the mercat gate and swa ascendand the merkat gate and throw the furde of Ardgrantane til it cum til a litil slak and standand stanys northwest a perty fra Carnamuk and swa descendand throw the mur to the slak of Tornawys and swa doun throw the moss and on the westhalf of the jnsnochley (insnochley) of carnamuk And swa doun throw the jnsnochmoss to the hede of the Sayntmanynis burn and swa dovn the burne til it enter in the burne of Brynnes and swa till it enter in Grigisfurde quhar we begouth first...

Normally it would be difficult to identify these boundaries but George Forrest Brown in his book On Some Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Duncht House (1921) says that Bishop's Brynnes is now Dudwick (parish of Ellon). The boundaries of Dudwick are shown on a map of Aberdeenshire (NLS website) by Alexander Gibb (1858) delineating various estates in the county. When the charter is compared with the map it becomes evident that they are dealing with the same boundaries (most of which are water-courses) with the exception of Fortree immediately to the north which should be included in Bishop's Brynnes.

This allows us to fix the references to roads and fords more closely. The road that goes to the kirk of Ellon (this was on the present site of the church) must have been between Greigsford and Ardgrain, very close in fact to the road shown on the map which if not the same can be taken as indicative of its line. The other road, the mercat gate, must be close to the Den of Auldmaling (which had a ford where the present road crosses it) and Ardganty and may in fact be shown by the boundary and present road between these places as this is not a watercourse; at Ardganty another burn is crossed which may be the "furde of Ardgrantane." The reference to market suggests a local route to Ellon perhaps through Griegsford or by the road to the kirk in that locality.

Two charters, one by William of Lamberton and a confirmation charter by his son Alexander, relate to a gift to St Andrews Priory of the church of Bowird and of 12 acres "next to the church lands towards the west, and on the other hand by the road towards the north..."
.....xij acras terre iacentes iuxta terram ecclesie uersus occidentem ex altera parte uie versus aquilonem ...

St Andrews Liber page 267

The village is situated between Inverurie and Old Meldrum. One would suspect the "road to the north" would have led to Old Meldrum and in fact the 6" map shows a path leading past the Hill of Barra to the town but there is insufficient information to confirm this. An attractive possibility is that it was the continuation of the "road to the mountains" in New Machar parish which we last hear of about 3 miles to the south-east but again this would need confirmation.

The Mounth Passes and Ferries on the River Dee

Mounth passes - click for larger image
Map of the Mounth passes based on Fraser's map (see paper below) and of the ferries listed by Balfour. In addition to these ferries (dark blue) there were also fords (light blue), some of the main ones being shown above. These would have connected with the Mounth passes and would have given access to routes leading to the north. For further details of fords see The Old Deeside Road, G M Fraser. Click map for larger image.

In the View of the Diocese of Aberdeen contained in the Collections for a History of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, there are details of various ferries over the River Dee and of eleven passes over the Mounth, the mountainous range that stretched from upper Deeside to the coast south of Aberdeen. The notes had been written by Sir James Balfour sometime before 1657, the date of his death, and it is very likely that the ferries and passes over the Mounth were in existence well before that time. Some were of sufficient importance to become surfaced roads, still in use today. Others had fallen into disuse by the late 1800's and are now used only for recreational purposes.

One major use of the passes, even at an early date, was for droving. On the north side of the Dee various routes would converge towards a crossing point, continue as the one route over the mountainous terrain and then split into different tracks leading to the various fairs and markets south of the Mounth and then onwards to Crieff and at a later date, the trysts at Falkirk. The passes were also used by seasonal workers travelling south in search of work.

The easternmost pass is the Causey Mounth. It was the main route from the south to Aberdeen until replaced by the turnpike and got its name from stretches of causeway laid across boggy ground.

The route taken by the Elsick Mounth is uncertain with Fraser (see below) saying it followed the line of a possible Roman road between the camps at Raedykes and Normandykes using a ford on this supposed road at Tilbouries near Peter Culter, and others having it run a mile or two to the west and probably crossing the Dee at Dalmaik. In either case, Balfour gives the destination as Drum (Castle). Balfour doesn't mention the Slug Road, although it must have served as a link between the Banchory/Durris area and Stonehaven. The route shown on the map is that of the pre-turnpike, the turnpike line being that of the modern road.

Three passes converged from the north on the area near Glenbervie close to where the Paldy Fair was held. These were the Cryne Cross Mounth on the east, the Stock Mounth in the centre, and the Builg Mounth to the west. The Cryne Cross Mounth was used by Edward I, and Fraser mentions about 30 yards of paving on the Hill of Mossmaud and a local tradition that this paving could be Roman. It crossed the Slug Road with branches reaching the Dee at the Mills of Drum and Durris. At Durris it continued on the north side of the Dee as the Couper's Road, couper being a name for a cattle or horse dealer. The Couper's Road is on the county boundary indicating the road must have existed in the early middle ages. The Stock Mounth went to Strachan on the Water of Feugh from where Banchory or the Cairn a' Mounth Road could be reached and the Builg Mounth went more directly to the Cairn a'Mounth Road.

The Cairn a'Mounth Road, well-known for being improved as a Hanoverian military road, ran from Fettercairn up to the Dee at Kincardine O'Neil and on into the north country. There was an inn at Whitestone mentioned in 1511 - "the quhitstane at thee mvreaile hous" (see Birse above) and a bridge (still standing) which was built over the Water of Dye about 1680.

The next three of Balfour's passes ran from Dee side between Ballater and Aboyne south to Glen Esk and from there to Edzell and Brechin. Looking north from Glenesk the Birse Mounth and the Gammel Mounth were probably one and the same path from Tarfside up to the county boundary where it divided, the easternmost path (Birse Mounth, also known as the Fungle) running up to Aboyne and the westernmost path (Gammel Mounth, also known as the Fir Mounth) running up to Glentannar with branches coming from Aboyne and near Dinnet to the west of Aboyne. Still in Glen Esk, 3 miles west of Tarfside at the end of the public road, the Mounth Keen track ran north to Canakyle, now Deecastle, with a branch to Ballater.

The tenth of Balfour's passes is Capel Mounth which starts in Glen Clova then heads north past Loch Muick to the Dee just south of Ballater. At the north end of the loch it passed a spittal (Canmore record) said to have been founded by the Bishop of Aberdeen, hence the "chapel". This pass is shown on the Gough Map of c.1360 as Month Capelle as is the Causey or Cowie Mounth, here called Monthe colli. In both cases the map says "here is a passage".

The final pass is Carnavalage Mounth, now called the Cairnwell Mount but as the Carnavalage shows would originally have been Carn 'a bhealaich, cairn of the pass (see Fraser below). There was a spittal at Glenshee and the road was improved as a military road in Hanoverian times.

This excerpt below is Balfour's list of ferries and passes from View of the County of Aberdeen contained in the Collections for a History of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, p.77.

The Capel Month takes its name from a chapel attached to a spittal - it appears onm the Gough map dating from 1300

Reproduced from National Library of Scotland digital copy on Internet Archive under a Creative Commons Licence, Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK: Scotland

Additional References
The Mounth Passes over the Grampians, G M Fraser, Scottish Geographical Magazine, Volume 36, 1920, pages 116 - 122 and continued on pages 169 - 180
Megalithic Portal, Causey Mounth - Ancient Trackway in Scotland in Aberdeenshire, C Michael Hogan
Heritage Paths - see Grampian and Angus and Tayside for details of paths over the Mounth
Megalithic Portal, Elsick Mounth - Ancient Trackway in Scotland in Aberdeenshire, C Michael Hogan
Elsick Mounth leaflet, Friends of Durris Forests
Grampian Ways, Robert Smith, John Donald, Edinburgh 2002
The Mounth Passes: A Heritage Guide to the Old Ways Through the Grampian Mountains. Nate Pedersen and Neil Ramsay, with photographs by Graham Marr. This is an eBook and is a compilation of a series of articles the authors wrote for Leopard magazine in Scotland between 2011 and 2012. Published: January 2014. The British version is available here.