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Mediaeval Roads: Evidence from Charters

Note: The maps below are based on the half-inch maps, sheets 14 and 15, dated 1912, the quarter-inch map for the Eastern Highlands 1923 and the 1921 one-inch map for Lower Strathspey. With thanks to Ordnance Survey.

For convenience the charters here are for the old province of Moray which consisted of the later counties of Nairn, Elgin and Banff and part of Invernessshire. Material from the Statistical Accounts section that deals with charters relating to the parishes of New Spynie, Alves and Boharm is repeated here.


Invernessshire Nairn Elginshire Banffshire Itinerary of Edward I
Inverness Nairn Loch Spinie area
Alvah 1296
Ardersier(& Petty)   Meikle Drainy
Banff 1303
    Elgin Urquhart Strathisla  
    Bridges over Lossie   Lethenot  
        Old Cullen  

Inverallen - via regiaKinloss abbey - grant of BurgieAuchterspinieElginLoch Spynie areaKrannockysfordUrquhart - king's roadBridges over LossieEdinkillie parish - via regiaBridge of SpeyKinloss abbey - DundurchieKinloss abbey - lands of StrathislaForglenAlvahLethenot - Gamrie parishGartanrode and Rathad na RighInverness and NairnshireBanff
Based on J Arrowsmith's 1844 map of Scotland, courtesy of David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Their images are copyright Cartography Associates but have been made available under a Creative Commons license for non-commercial use.

The sources examined so far give some indication of both local and regional routes. Of the latter there are references to a via regia between Forres and Elgin with a continuation just to the east of Elgin and one from Kildrummie a few miles south-west of Nairn which probably came from Inverness; one to another via regia from Forres running south to the Findhorn and another near the Spey, south-west of Grantown. Several roads are mentioned near Ardersier including a "hie kingis gaitt" but the course of this is very difficult to determine. Another valuable source for long-distance routes is the Itinerary of Edward I on his campaigns in Moray in 1296 and 1303.

The Forres - Elgin via regia is more than likely to be part of a continuous route running between the early burghs of Inverness, Nairn, Auldearn, Forres, Elgin, Cullen and Banff. When taken in conjunction with Edward's itinerary we can connect this with two routes to the south, one to Aberdeen and so to routes to the south, and the other to the strategically located Kildrummy castle and then to other crossings of the Mounth and so to the south. It is of course a moot point what relation these mediaeval routes had to earlier dark age routes used by the Picts who were extensively settled in both Moray and more southerly districts.

The Forres to Findhorn via regia and that near Grantown have been thought by one or two of the earlier writers to be one and the same route, with a presumed link to Lochindorb castle, visited and possibly strengthened by Edward. To the south of the second via regia (a stone bridge over the Dulnan is mentioned) there is an intriguing reference to a Rathad na Righ (King's Highway) on the east side of the Spey (the via regia is on the other side, at least as far as the bridge) which may possibly be the same road and even be the Gartanrode of Edward's itinerary. It would be very interesting if, following the suggestion of C Marshall Smith in his Strathspey, Highways and Byways, Elgin 1957, it could be proved that there was a continuous via regia from Perth and Dunkeld to Blair Athol then by Comyn's road to Ruthven and then one or more of these more northerly stretches of road as far as Forres.

Old road in Cromdale parish - click for larger imageOne confusing factor in respect of the via regia near Grantown is an old road that passes through Cromdale parish where there is a ford over the Spey and which runs north to Forres - see sheet 75 of the 1st edition one-inch map - which one or two writers have equated with the via regia. This is unlikely as it has a totally different line from the via regia though it could be possible that the via regia branched off from this road though proof would be needed for this.

The road has been said to be Roman, coming from Braemar but very few would accept this nowadays particularly as it seems to have its origin in Charles Bertram's forged writings of Richard of Cirencester, specifically the itinerary of a Roman officer that took a road along this line. Other theories are that it was made by the Comyns or that it was an abandoned military road. The course of this road can be seen on James Robertson's map of 1822 (western sheets) as a "romanum iter suppositum" running from Spittal of Glenshee through Braemar to near Tomintoul, then Cromdale.

Kinloss abbeyThe charters and other documents looked at here are also useful for more local routes although they often have their ambiguities. Kinloss Abbey, which was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1150 by David I as a daughter house of Melrose abbey and itself founded new houses at Culross and New Deer in the early 1200's, has a reference to the via regia between Forres and Elgin and a Blakeford which is difficult to identify. Other Kinloss charters refer to a grant of Strathisla in Grange, Keith and Rothiemay parishes which while not specifically mentioning roads at least allows routes to be inferred. There was also a grant of land in Gamrie parish in Banffshire that mentions a highway.

There are also mentions in the charters of fishings, mills, tofts in towns etc which would have some implications for routes, though these are not dealt with here.

Although not connected with the abbey it is interesting to note a reference to a bridge near Kinloss that existed in 966 AD. A king called Dubh/Duffus had been assassinated and his body placed under this bridge. See here for details - go to Edit>Find on this page and type Kinloss.

Elgin cathedralThere are a number of references in the Register for the diocese of Moray which was founded by David I in the early 12th century. The early bishops had their seat at earlier Culdee settlements at Kinneddar, Birnie and Spynie but moved from Spynie to Elgin which was less remote and relatively safe. Two of the references are to the via regias near the Findhorn and south of Grantown which have already been mentioned as well as a via regia just east of Elgin, another in Inverness, as well as local roads in these two burghs.

A couple of fords are mentioned and some roads north of Elgin near Loch Spynie, particularly interesting as there had been a marine incursion that greatly increased the size of the loch and covered over an existing landscape that was revealed again when the loch was drained to its present much smaller size. It is clear that there was quite a network of tracks in this area.

Also mentioned in the Register are a couple of bridges over the Lossie and a high road near the River Doveran, as well as many references to the Bridge of Spey, said by antiquarian writers to have been Roman in origin. When it finally decayed in the late middle ages it was replaced by a ferry, the name Boat of Bridge retaining a memory of the former bridge.

Pluscarden  abbeyA charter for Urquhart abbey refers to a "grenegait" which was a local track near Garmouth, and a more interesting "king's road" that could point to a very old road running south from Urquhart. The abbey was Benedictine and founded by David I of Scotland in 1136 as a dependency of Dunfermline Abbey. It continued under Dunfermline until 1454 but the small number of monks living there led to it being merged with Pluscarden in 1454.

Also included in this section are extracts from the Statistical Accounts for New Spinie, Alvah and Boharm parishes relating to mediaeval roads and bridges.

It is clear enough from these sources that there was a strategic network of routes that allowed control of Moray and helped to incorporate it into the kingdom of Scotland, and of more local routes that developed in concert with the improvements made to the lands given to the monasteries.



Several charters in the Register of Moray relate to Inverness and refer to roads. Charter 237, page 304, dated from 1361 can be taken as an example and refers to the Scathgate, a road to Kingsmills, and a via regia (the High Street), all in present day Inverness. See Am Baile for a translation of this charter, also for maps of Inverness and area in the 1500's. See also chapter one of Inverness in the 15th Century by Evan MacLeod Barron, 1906 for a description of the streets and roads in the town.

A document of 1611 concerning Temple lands belonging to the Knights of St John, refers to various streets in the town of Inverness, viz.
"that temple tenement of biggit land with the yard thereof, lying in the town of Inverness, on the north side of the hie gaitt, betwixt the tenement of John Cuthbert on the east, the vennel or street leading to the kirk of Inverness on the west, the high street on the south, and the yard and back house pertaining to the said John Cuthbert on the north, possessed by Alexander Cuthbert and his subtenants;—another temple land and tenement lying in the said burgh upon the south side of the gait, betwixt the lands pertaining to on the east, the passage or vennel that leads to the castle on the west, the kingis hie streit on the north, and the back land pertaining to on the south, possessed by Alexander Bayne and his subtenants;—another temple tenement of biggit land with yard and pertinents lying in the territory of the burgh of Inverness, outwith the eist port thereof, possessed by Finlay Mc faill"
The Book of the Thanes of Cawdor, page 266

Ardersier (also Petty)
Ardersier - based on 1923 quarter-inch  OS map - with thanksThe Knights Templar had various lands in the vicinity of Ardersier which are described in The Book of the Thanes of Cawdor, 1859, p.266ff.

One charter of 1601 mentions a couple of these, as follows:
...in Ardrosseir by all right bounds, viz. beginning at the great boundary of old next to the place of trial towards the north and next to the ditch towards the petary to the south, in the middle of which the common highway passes through, and Tempilbank which is measured and extends in length above the common highway of Flemingtoun to the north as far as the stone boundary to the south, and in breadth above the Howburne to the east and as far as the marches of the stone boundary on the west, and Tempilcruik which runs in breadth above the burn of Conniche on the western part as far as the morass on the eastern part.
......in villa de Ardrosseir per omnes rectas metas viz. incipiendo ad magnam metam antiquam juxta locum trialis versus boream et juxta fossam verus petagiam ad austrum, in quarum medio petransit via communis, et lie Tempilbank merchiatur et extendit in longitudine super communem viam de Flemingtoun ad boream usque ad metam lapideam ad austrum, extendendo in latitudine super le Howburne ad orientem et usque ad merchiam diuisam lapideam ad occidentem, et lie Tempilcruik extendit in latitudine super torrentem de Conniche ex occidentali parte et usque ad moram ex orientali parti &c. apud Narne 4 Julii 1601.
The Book of the Thanes of Cawdor, page 268

A charter of 1602 gives the boundary of the lands of Templecruik and Bogschangand as follows:— "Boundand with ane lang myre on the Sowth, and fra thyne passand sowthwest fra the lang myre to ane gray stane lyand in the gait, and fra the said stane to the round hillock at the west, and fra the said round hillock to ane uther gray stane ledand to the north, and fra that gray stane to the burne that lyis at the north, and extendis betuix the landis of Rodrie and the landis of Bogschangand, and the hie kingis gaitt that leidis to Rodrie merchand at the eist."
The Book of the Thanes of Cawdor, page 268

Despite their apparent clarity these charters are difficult to interpret. The following notes and the map suggest tentative locations for some of the places mentioned.

Regarding the first charter, the place of trial and the ancient boundary could fit the distinctive Cromal Mount in Ardersier which has been thought to be a motte. Bain (History of Nairnshire,
page 134
) suggested the trial was by combat though it could also have been a place where justice was dispensed. The parish boundary is about 500 metres south of the mount which accords with the wording that the mount was north of the "great boundary."

The common highway would presumably have led from the settlement to the petary on a north-south alignment though whether this was along the coast or further to the east is unclear.

Templebank must have been to the north of Loch Flemington. Flemington is shown on Pont's map at the north-west end of the loch and there are in fact stones to the south still marking the parish/county boundary. The Howburne to the east is very likely to be the burn running up from Loch of the Clans; this burn forms the parish/county boundary in that area; to the west the old county boundary (see 1st edition 1" OS map - Nairn) north from Loch Flemington is shown by boundary stones, presumably the stone boundary of the charter. Given that the northern boundary of Templebank is defined by the common highway of Flemington, an east-west alignment for this north of the loch would fit better that having this highway run northwards.

Templecruik as mentioned in the first charter lies above the burn of Conniche. There have been extensive drainage works in the area but this can only be the stream shown on old maps running up to join the "Howburne" south of Ardersier. The Military Survey map shows a wide expanse of boggy ground running from Dalziel on the west to Balnagowan on the east and which reaches up towards Ardersier. Charles Fraser-Mackintosh in Antiquarian Notes, Invernessshire: Parish by Parish, 1897, page 444 says of Connage: "Connage then comprehended almost the whole of the Parish, lying between the long hollow whence water flows west to the bay of Castle Stuart, and east to the burn or ditch dividing Campbelltown on the one side, and the sea on the other. As this great hollow in winter and floods, before drainage works were known, filled with water it sometimes gave Connage the appearance of a long island, and is indeed sometimes described as an island."

Although the second charter is dealing with the same lands with the addition of Bogschangand it is very difficult to relate to the first charter and makes the "gait" and "hie kingis gaitt" almost impossible to identify.


Nairn parish - based on 1923 quarter-inch  OS map - with thanks
The via regia to Kildrummie probably continued to Inverness on the line of the road shown on the Military Survey map.

A document of 1436 (Ane Instrument Off Certan Rudis Off Land That Donald Thain Of Caldor Gatt In Nairn) mentions a via regia in Nairn, presumably the main street in the town.
The Book of the Thanes of Cawdor, page 12

Another document from 1529 mentions the common highway (communem viam regiam) leading to Kildrummie. It also refers to "a field called the Skaitraw (a name of street common in our fishing towns)", and to the King's Steps that lie a couple of miles east of Nairn.
The Book of the Thanes of Cawdor, page 153

There is a strong likelihood that the highway to Kildrummie is the road shown on the Military Survey map of c.1750. This is marked as the road from Inverness to Nairn and ran south from Nairn High Street along the line of the B9091 to near Easter Lochend which is close to Kildrummie. From there it ran south of Loch of the Clans to Wester Lochend and then south of Loch Flemington.
The same road is shown on Taylor and Skinner, 1776, Plate 32 although it runs north of Loch of the Clans and Loch Flemington. The road shown by Moll (1745) has more of the line of the modern road which was built much later; his map does not have much detail so he may just be showing an approximate line.

The name King's Steps is indicative of a route and in fact a road between Nairn and Forres is shown on this line on the Military Survey, Taylor and Skinner, and Moll. It is tempting to assume that it is a mediaeval via regia though more definite evidence is desirable. The Military Survey also shows a road to Auldearn then by Penick and Brodie to Forres which because Auldearn was an early burgh may also have been an early route.


Loch Spinie area (New Spinie parish)

Map of Spynie parish
Places mentioned in charters below. The course of the roads is approximate. Loch Spynie is shown c.1750 from the Military Survey. Blaeu shows it was once closer to Kintrae. The dotted lines are those roads referred to in Young's Parish of Spynie - see notes below. Details of the "ancient causeway" can be found on Canmore.

From OSA Vol. 10, page 623
Page 624 In discussing the Palace of Spynie (residence of the Bishops of Moray) and the former extent of Loch Spynie he notes:

"But although it is evident, that, at a period comparatively not remote, the sea flowed into the space which the lake now occupies, and covered, besides, a large extent of land at each end of it; yet it is also obvious, that, at a still more recent period, the bounds of this lake were more limited than at present. For, a few years ago, when the canal, which had long been neglected, was cleaned out and enlarged, a causeway was discovered, stretching from this parish quite across the lake, in which there were several passages for the water, each about 3 feet wide, and covered by a thick flag-stone; and, upon its appearance, a tradition was recollected, that this causeway was called the Bishop's Steps, and had been formed by his influence, for the accommodation of the ministers of St. Andrew's, who officiated also in the church of Ogueston, (since united to Drainy,) both having been mensal churches before the establishment of Presbytery. Bishop Falconer told the author this; and that the Bishop's priest, who officiated, had prayers in the forenoon in the one, and in the afternoon in the other, and thereafter his dinner in the Castle every Sunday. This causeway was soon converted, by Mr Brander of Pitgaveny, into a substantial road, by which a more direct communication was opened between Elgin and the shore. "
Note: See Plan of The Loch of Spynie and Adjacent Grounds, Moray (1783) on Scotland's Places website. This shows that work by the "Messrs. Branders" had started on a road close to Lochside and Gilston with a note saying "Said to be Steping stones". West of this and just south-east of Unthank a road is shown as "old road by the Long Steps from Causie (Covesea) to Elgin with the "Long Steps" just on the parish boundary. The map also shows "steping stones said to be in this direction" running NNE from Scarfbanks NJ236 664.

On page 626 he says:

Duffus castle"The boundaries of estates were early attended to. There was a distinct march, dividing Spynie and Findrassie from Kintrae and Quarrywood, by agreement, in 1226, between Hugh de Moravia, and his brother the bishop, and establishing the road to Sherriffmiln, Auchter-Spynie, and Elgin, the march of property, declaring the muirs to the east neutral ground."

Note: The wording here is different from that covering what is presumably the same charter mentioned in the Survey of the Province of Moray (1882 edition, v.2, p.112). There it talks of the highway that comes from the castle of Duffus to Levenford (the Register of Moray indicates this might be le neu ford - charter 120, p. 132). It is difficult to identify the course of the road nowadays though in general terms it must have run from Elgin through Sherriff Mill about one mile west of Elgin then by the line of the minor road to the Duffus road which runs between Finrassie and Kintrae, and then tending over towards Duffus castle.

The Survey of the Province of Moray (v.2, p.117) mentions another road leading from Duffus Castle to the old church of Kintrae (Reg. Mor. 211, p.273) and two roads from Spynie Palace into Elgin (v.2, p.125) in a charter dating from 1566 (Reg.Mor.324, p.395).

Robert Young in his Parish of Spynie (1871) mentions these roads with additional comments that on the road leading from Elgin to Duffus castle Loch Spynie was crossed on steps with carts and horses skirting the loch, and that one of the roads leading north from Bishopmill accessed a ferry on the loch that went to Salterhill, and another road (perhaps the easternmost road to Spynie Palace mentioned above) passed the east end of the loch to access Lossiemouth, Kineddar and Stotfield. See Plan of The Loch of Spynie and Adjacent Grounds, Moray (1783) on Scotland's Places website for additional information on these. He also mentions the Elgin to Forres highway that is shown on Taylor and Skinner and the Military Survey - see Alves.
Young also gives details of the bridge at Elgin (1630) and later roads.


Meikle Drainy (Drainie parish)
Charter 348, page 399 (Reg.Mor) dating from 1545 refers to common ways at Little Drainy or Salterhill, viz. descending to the land of Littil Drainy called the Salterhill by the common way which leads to the port of Mekill Drany, and from there ascending by the common way which leads to the lands of the Bishop of Elgin....
"descendendo a terris de Littil Drany enunciates the Salterhill per communem viam quae ducit ad portum de Mekill Drany, et exinde ascendendo per communem viam quae ducit ad terras Episcopi de Etlis...."

It is not at all clear where the track approaching Salterhill came from, perhaps Duffus castle or from the north; the lands of the bishop are more likely to be those at Kinneddar rather than on the south side of the loch at Spynie so that after Salterhill the track probably ran towards Kinneddar.

Krannokysford (Drainie and Urquhart parishes)

Item 289 in the Register of Moray (page 369) is a memorandum dated 1368 noting that the bishop when walking from Kinneddar to the church at Urquhart by the ford called Krannokysford came across a sailing vessel in "his water of Lossie" which led to a dispute (see Lachlan Shaw, The History of the Province of Moray, page 59 for details).

With the placename lost and so many changes to the coastline, the course of the Lossie and the former Loch Spynie, one can do little more than note the approximate location of the ford and of what would likely have been a local track.

Auchterspynie (Elgin parish)
Charter 136 (page 149) (Reg. Mor) concerns the exchange of the lands of Auchter Spynie for the land of Qwytford, Innerlothy, the mill at Innerlothy, and Miltoun.

It is unclear where Qwytford was though it may have been near Inverlochty. Shaw says Auchter Spynie was Sherriffmiln west of Elgin and suggests Whitefield for the location of Qwytford (History of Province of Moray, page 131).

There are three references in the Register of Moray of interest:
1. Via Regia
Charter 117, page 129 refers to the hospital called Domus Dei which was sited in lands that stretched from the via regia to the rivulet called Taok, along with lands called Spetelflat next to the leper hospital of Elgin.
....Domus Dei de Elgin • quam fundavit in terra a via regia usque ad rivulum de Taok in qua domus situata est • cum terra que vocatur Spetelflat juxta domos leprosorum de Elgin....
The Taok is the Burn of Tyock just east of Elgin town centre (see 6" OS map, Elgin, sheet VII). The via regia would presumably continue to the east.

2. Road behind gardens
Charter 240, page 310 mentions a road on the south side of Elgin running behind the gardens.

3. Stratam Communem
Charter 242, page 313 refers to the stratam communem which was probably the high street.

Kings's Gate
A document in the Register of Arbroath (Vol.2, page 311, no. 383, dated 1497) refers to the Kyngis gait in the town of Elgin.

Bridges over the Lossie
The Register of Moray mentions two bridges over the Lossie: one from Sankathel over to Cranfinleth; the other named as the Bishop's Bridge.

Sankathel - Cranfinleth
No.27, page 19 This concerned a dispute between the bishop and a Robert Fyndoc over land which Robert held on the south side of the Lossie which he said was part of his land of Kelleys held in feu-farm (requiring an annual payment to the feudal superior) of the Domus Dei in Elgin, and which the bishop said was part of his lands of Tullibardine, obtained when he exchanged some lands pertaining to the church of Munben. The dispute was resolved with Robert passing over the lands south of the Lossie as well as Kelleys. For this he was granted a half davoch of land held by Archibald of Inverlochty in the feu of Spynie.

The boundaries of this land are given as: "from near the ridge on the east side of the bridge which Archibald constructed over the Lossie from the eastern side of Sankathel as far as Cranfinleth...
a proximo cundos* ex orientali parte pontis quem construxit idem Archebaldus supra Loslyn ex orientali parte de Sankathel usque Cranfinleth....

*Note: Cundoys/cundois/cundos seems an obscure word. One source gives the meaning as ridge crest (see here); another as a conduit or watercourse (see here). Given this location, either meaning could fit. See Logynfythenach for another occurence of "cundoys".

The map shows the approximate location of some of the places - Kelleys is Kellas with a Bardon on the other side of the river, presumably Tullibardine, and Munden is now Manbeen to the north of Kellas. Manbren is mentioned in charter 39, page 33 and Tulibardyn as part of the barony of Birnie in charter 457, page 421.

Although Inverlochty and Spynie survive as placenames, Sankathel and Cranfinleth do not, even on old maps so that it is very difficult to say where this bridge might have been other than that the mention of Spynie suggests somewhere north or east of Elgin.

Bishop's Bridge
No. 182, page 212. This contains a reference to the bishop's bridge, which was probably near Bishopmill on the north side of Elgin.




Burgie (Rafford, Forres parishes)
Kinloss abbey was given the lands of Burgie, adjacent to the original grant of Kinloss itself. In its charters a via regia or king's highway between Forres and Elgin and a ford called Blakeford that lies between Burgyn (Burgie) and Ulern (Blervie) are mentioned.

From William the Lion they received "the lands of Burgie, which lay on the north side of the king’s highway leading from Forres towards Elgin, and adjoined their lands of Kinloss, and the lands of Invereren..."
Records of the Monastery of Kinloss,
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, John Stewart, 1872, page xi.
See page 108 for this charter which is no.2 - Carta donationis Willelmi Regis totius terre de Burgin, dated pre-1180. (See also Reg. Mor, page 454, and charter VI)

A charter of confirmation from Alexander II, dated 1221, referred to lands of Burgie that ran "from the great oak in Malevin, on which Earl Malcolm caused a cross to be marked, as far as the Rune of the Picts, and from thence to Tubernacrumkel, and from thence by the sike to Tubernafein, and thence to Runetwethel, and from that by the rivulet which runs through the marsh to the ford called Blakeford, between Burgy and Ulern."
Records of the Monastery of Kinloss, page xxvi. See page 112 for this charter which is no.5 -
Carta confirmationis Regis Alexandri II. Terre de Burgyn. (See also Reg. Mor, page 456)


Map of Burgie. The boundaries of the charter are difficult to identify, as is "Blakeford". As noted there was probably a track from Burgie to the abbey or its grange and probably to Forres as well. The via regia ran between Forres and Elgin. Based on 1" OS map of Lower Strathspey 1921.

In the above volume (page xxvi ff, also PSAS Vol 2, 147), James Brichan discusses the boundaries of this grant and places the Blakeford on the former road from (Easter) Laurenceton to Forres and on the boundary between Burgie and Blervie. St Laurence's fair had been held in the vicinity which would have entailed communication with Forres.

The road between Forres and Elgin as shown on the Military Survey map, c.1750. This must be very close to the original line of the "king's highway" as the Military Survey map shows several lochs east of Easter Cloves. On one section it follows a parish boundary. Based on half-inch OS map sheet 14, 1912.

The route taken by the King's Highway is shown on the map and is that of the pre-turnpike which is likely to be identical with or very close to the King's Highway.

It should also be noted that there must have been a track of sorts connecting the lands of Burgie with the abbey itself, some three miles distant.

Dundurchie (Rothes parish)

A couple of Kinloss abbey charters refer to the gift of the haugh of Dundurchis and fishing rights granted by Peter de Polloch before 1203.
Records of the Monastery of Kinloss, charters 4 and 6, pages 112 and 115.

Dundurchie is on the west side of the Spey a couple of miles NE of Rothes and just over a mile from Boat of Brig where there was a bridge in the middle ages. In theory they could have used it as a staging point on journeys from their Strathisla possessions but additional evidence for this would be needed. Any journeys to Kinloss would presumably be by a direct route to Elgin which the bridge itself suggests.

Logynfythenach (Edinkillie parish)
Charter 37, page 30, (Reg.Mor) records that Alexander II and the Bishop exchanged land in Finlarg (see Inverallan below) for the forest of cawood and logynfythenach and mentions a via regia and a semita.

Today logynfythenach is known as Edinkille parish, about 6 miles south of Forres. A remnant of the name can be seen in Logie. It is unlikely that the name refers to the whole of the present day parish which is quite large but rather to the vicinity of Logie from the Findhorn to the brow of a ridge and north to the boundary of the lands of Mundole.

The charter reads: "The land of Logynfythenach which is on the east side of Fyndarn as far as the nearby brow of a ridge as that ridge extends from the east side of the aforesaid land beginning above at the said water and extending to the same water further down. For the continuing support of a single chaplain to serve God and to him and his successors we concede pasture for six cows and eight oxen in our nearby forest on the east side of the Fyndarn, namely between the king's highway of Drumynd and Fyndarn and as the said highway goes as far as the path that leads to Scloy above Fyndarn and as the said highway goes to the bounds of Mundol....."

Terram de Logynfythenach que est ex orientali parte de Fyndarn usque ad supercilium proximi cundoys* sicut ille cundoys se extendit ex orientali parte predicte terre incipiens superius a dicta aqua et extendens se ad eandem aquam inferius ad sustentandum perpetuo ibidem quendam capellanum solitarium Deo serviturum • cui et successoribus suis ibidem Deo servituris concedimus pasturam ad sex vaccas et octo boves in foresto nostro proximo ex orientali parte de Fyndarn • scilicet inter viam regiam de Drumynd et Fyndarn et sicut predicta via regia extendit se usque ad semitam que vadit ad Scloy super Fyndarn et sicut predicta via regia extendit se usque ad diuifas de Mundol.....

*Note: Cundoys/cundois/cundos seems an obscure word. One source gives the meaning as ridge crest (see here); another as a conduit or watercourse (see here). The ridge crest meaning seems more appropriate here, although another occurence under "Bridges over the Lossie" above could fit either meaning.

The ridge can not be identified although Drumine Hill is a possibility and perhaps even the top of the steep-sided valley in which the Findhorn runs; Drumynd is presumably Drumine; Scloy somewhere near Mains of Sluie, and Mundol the present-day Mundole.

There is a clear north-south orientation to the via regia, running from Drumynd/Drumine to the boundaries of Mundol/Mundole, with a track running to Scloy/Sluie. The Military Survey map has a route from near Sluie past Altyre to Forres that could approximate to the via regia. It is of course very tempting to assume that it came from Forres and ran down to the via regia in Inverallen below, perhaps by Lochindorb.

While there may be some truth in this, it is not that clearcut. Apart from the Inverallen via regia there was an old road running north from Cromdale to Forres, as well as the Gartanrode of Edward's Itinerary, and a Rathad na Righ near Loch Gartan. It is probably best to just note these as separate stretches of road rather than speculate too much about how they might be linked.

Inverallen (Cromdale, Duthil, Abernethy parishes - included under Elginshire for convenience)
In charter 128 (page 142) (Reg. Mor.) there is a reference to a via regia and a stone bridge in the vicinity of Finlarig, a few miles south-west of Grantown.

The charter relates to a dispute between Augustine, the lord of Inverallan and the Bishop about the land called Fanymartach which the bishop said was part of his lands of Fynlarg. Augustine ceded the said land:

"from the king's highway which is below the great standing stones on the west side, and so descending by the valley of the Fayny directly as far as the water of Spey, and so towards the west as far as the next river and a stone bridge..."
a via regia que est subtus magnos lapides stantes ex parte occidentali • et sic descendendo per vallem del Fayny directe usque ad aquam de Spee • et sic transeundo versus occidentem usque ad proximum rivulum et pontem lapideum

Fynlarg is undoubtedly Finlarigg and there is a good possibility that Fanymartach is nearby Muckrach. There are standing stones nearby and at a first reading one would assume the boundary went from the stones over to the River Dulnan. The problem is the mention of the Fayny as even the earliest OS maps do not show a stream between the standing stones and the Dulnan. However, the Military Survey map shows there was a stream (the Laggan Burn) which must have been rechanneled as part of a drainage scheme and which would fit the wording of the charter.

As noted under Logynfythenach above it is unclear how this relates to the Findhorn via regia, any route that there might have been from Lochindorb, the old road through Cromdale, the Gartanrode of Edward I, and the Rathad na Righ mentioned by the Rev. W. Forsyth in his In the Shadows of Cairngorm (chapter XXV, page 205) that was near Tulloch south of Nethy Bridge.

Urquhart (Urquhart parish)
In the History of the Religious House of Pluscardyn, (Rev.S R Macphail, Edinburgh, 1881) there are a couple of references to roads in the early 1500's - Urquhart and Pluscardine were merged in 1454 which is why this is dealt with in the above book.

On page 258 there is an extract from the old Rental of c.1500 that mentions the marches of Urquhart, viz.

"The Marishes betwix the Baronie of Urquhart and the Yrles lands of Murray on the West sid and South sid. . . . passand oupwart on the West hand fra the Threpland till Cormulan, and oup all the mouthe till Findlay's Sete, and syne cummand doun agane on the sid neist Spey till the heid of the Badyntenay, and sa cumand doune the Blackburn till the taille of the Ellabege, and cumand fra the taille of the Ellebege as the Geit ganges till the heid of the Moss of the Quhit corss (note: probably Corskie). A continuation to the hip thorn bush on the king's road be that road throu Farnhead Green of Darkland to the old thorn tree of Scotstonside."
The author adds "a note by Mr Rose informs us that the old thorn still remained in 1803 on the public road opposite to Pittinsair, dividing the woodfield of Urquhart from Templeland and Kirkland of Lhanbride."

On page 238 an indenture of 1524 refers to the marches between the lands and barony of Urquhart and the lands of Garmouth and Corskie, viz.
"It is appointit accordit and finalie aggreit be ye said partis concurrand in ane woce sa, yat ane corss of tre is set wp be yaim and at yar command, at ye heid of ye stripe rynnyng throwe ye said moss at ye west end yareoff in ane grene gait cumand fra ane litill loich callit ellebege and lyand ourthowet ye west end of ye moss, And yarefra to discend northest linealie be ane lyne to be ymaginit and drawin be ye sycht and E, to ane poynt nuke or hillake on ye southsyd of ye said moss betuex it and ye nowlandis of Corskie quhilkis ye said robert wynnis out of mure on ye same southsyde and yare ane othir corss of aike siclike is set and infixit on ye southsyde of ye stripe rynnand throu ye moss hard by ye said poynt and nuke, and yarefra to discend siclik lynealie be ye sicht and E est to northin throu ye moss to ane gryt erdfast qwhin stane lyand on ye northest syde of ye grene gait passing athowrt ye est end of ye said moss……"


Based on Thomson's map of Nairn and Elgin, 1832, courtesy of David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Their images are copyright Cartography Associates but have been made available under a Creative Commons license for non-commercial use.

The map shows those places that are still identifiable, although the references to roads are somewhat obscure. The Geit near the Ellebege in the first extract is clearly the grene gait of the second extract and would be found near Corskie. It is unlikely to have been more than a local track.

The king's road of the first extract is difficult. At first glance we would think it to be the presumed via regia heading east from Elgin towards a crossing of the Spey. Certainly at the time of the Military Survey, c.1750, this had much the line of the present main road. However, if we take the reference to Pittensair at face value, the king's road may be an old road that ran past Pittensair to Blackburn. To the north this road is shown on older maps as running to Urquhart but may also have had a branch up towards present day Darkland if this is the Farnhead Green of Darkland of the extract - the parish boundary runs in this direction. In any case it is interesting to note that the parish boundary runs for a couple of miles along the old Pittensair to Blackburn road, indicating its age.



The above map shows places mentioned in the commentary on the charter in the Statistical Account, as well as the likely course of the road - see also 6" map, Banff sheet X (NLS). It is not clear if it was local or gave access to places like Turriff to the south or Banff. The placenames containing "ford" are indicative of routes, albeit local, and "slack" was an old word that implied a pass or gap through a hill. Based on OS half-inch map, Aberdeen and Banff, 1912. With thanks to OS.

Civil History. Documents, Transactions, Etc.-There is a long discussion of a charter of donation (to Coupar-Angus abbey) dated 1314 - see here. In a description of the boundaries of the land grant, a road is mentioned 'ascendendo rivulem statent de lie Claretwell usque ad viam ascendendo slakmethy et inde descendendo per viam usque ad slacklethy descendendo ad fontem et rivulem ejusdem usque ad redbank'.

In determining the boundaries he states: 'A little farther up lies Knokkne, a place which still retains its ancient name. From this we are directed to ascend the stream which flows from Claret-well, until we come to the road ascending to Slakmethy.

The Claret-well is still known by the same name, and the stream which flows from it is only the upper end of the Meirburn - circumstances which confirm the opinion given in regard to the previously mentioned localities. The road ascending southward to Slackmethy, (although this name is now forgotten), can be no other than the road ascending to the place now called Berryhillocks, and the descent from thence to Slackmethy must be the continuation of the same slack to the place now called Kemplemire.' The charter also mentions a place called Scurryford of which he says: 'Still farther up is Scurryfurd, which is probably the place where an old road now crosses the marshy hollow north-west of Bythestown, near the Slacks.' These places are noted on the map.



A charter of 1468 mentions a via regia and via maris in Banff. (Registrum Episcopatus Aberdonensis, page 288)

The via maris is also mentioned in an Arbroath abbey charter, dated 1323. (Vol.1, charter 289, page 223)


From OSA
V17, p358

Boat of BrigThe charter of Moray mentions a bridge over the Spey at this location (Boat of Brig) - see 25" map, Banff XIII.9. It is thought to have been of timber and the foundation of the southern pier can still be seen. There was an associated chapel of St Nicholas - "Ad receptionem Pauperum transeuntium." Both are mentioned in 1232 but little else is known of them.

Records and tradition tell of a very early bridge (NMRS record) over the Spey, near the confluence of the Orchil. It was of timber and suitable for pedestrians and horses. At its location the water is very deep on the eastern side but it quickly becomes shallow and tradition suggests that the deep water would have been spanned by large lengths of timber while shorter ones would serve to cross the shallower water, presumably supported by pillars. It would be easy to repair if damaged in a flood or suffered natural decay.
As the only bridge across the Spey for centuries it was very important for the north. It has been thought to have first been built by the Romans under Severus, and existed at the time of the Reformation. In fact, when the associated religious establishment was closed this may have led to the neglect of the bridge until it finally decayed or was swept away in a flood. Nothing now remains.
A ferry-boat was established and the crossing point became known as "the boat of bridge" while farm names retained a reference to the former bridge e.g. Upper Briglands. Just a few years ago a suspension bridge has been erected at a cost of L.3500, along with a toll house, by the Earl of Seafield and others. It comes under the Banffshire Turnpike Act and a moderate pontage is exacted.
Although the importance of the crossing is less since the bridges at Fochabers and Craigellachie were built, it is still very convenient to this neighbourhood.

Beside the bridge there was a religious establishment called " the Hospital of St Nicholas at the Bridge of Spey" and founded in the early 1200's for the reception of poor travellers. (Some details are given in the History of the Province of Moray, Lachlan Shaw, Elgin, 1827, pages 20 and 424.);
Reg. Mor. Charters 106 - 113

In charter 218 (page 279) (Reg.Mor) there is a reference to a chapel dedicated to St Menimis or Monanus that lay by the river Dovern and near which there was a high road (altam viam).

"...and by this present charter of mine confirm before God and the blessed Virgin Mary and dom Cristino (title of respect, cf. Benedictine usage), chaplain of the chapel of Saint Menimii, confessor, by the river Duffern (Dovern) establish and provide for him (Christino) four silver marks from the mill of Carnoussexth (Carnousie) each year and the attached haugh which is called Dolbrech by its right bounds, i.e. as a little syke on its western side runs to a ditch at the head of the said Dolbrech, and as another syke on the eastern side descends to the high road..."

.....et hac presenti carta mea confirmasse Deo et beate Marie Virgini et domino Cristino capellano capelle Sancti Menimii confessoris super ripam de Duffhern site servienti et perpetuo capellano qui pro tempore fuerit ibidem serviturus quatuor marcas argenti de molendino de Carnoussexth singulis annis percipiendas • et le haylch integre que vocatur Dolbrech per suas rectas divisas • per illas scilicet sicut sica parvula ex parte occidentali se extendit usque ad unam fossam in capite dicte Dolbrech et sicut alia sica ex parte orientali usque ad altam viam se descendit...


Possible location of places named in the charter. See early 6" map, Banffshire XVI, XVII. Based on OS half-inch map, Aberdeen and Banff, 1912. With thanks to Ordnance Survey.

The location of the mill of Carnousie is unlikely to have changed much, if at all, from the middle ages although it is not actually of use in determining the location of the "high road".

The site of St Eunan's Chapel fits well with the charter in as much as it lies by the river and has a haugh to the east of it, named as Chapel Haugh on the old 6" map. Eunan is a variant of Andoman, although it is unclear if he is the same as St Menimis who has been identified with St Monan.

Clearly the "high road" would have been in the vicinity but there is insufficient information to say where it might have ran.

Although the above location fits well with the charter, there is another chapel site a few miles upriver (Chapeltown) that Andrew Jervise in Epitaphs and Inscriptions (Vol.1, p234) suggests might be that of St Menimis or St Monan. It too lies by the river and has low-lying land nearby. There is also a nearby ford that could have been associated with a "high road".

Which of these is correct depends much on the identification of the Menimis of the charter - Watson in The Celtic Placenames of Scotland (chapter X) gives a good indication of the wide variation in saints names.
Based on half-inch OS map, sheet 14, 1912.

Strathisla (Keith, Grange, Rothiemay parishes)

Although some names in the original charters are unidentifiable today it is still possible using those names that are identifiable as well as parish boundaries to reconstruct the original grant of Strathisla. Based on half-inch OS map, sheet 14, 1912.

This was a grant made by William the Lion in 1196 of a large tract of land that today is represented by the parish of Grange, the northern part of Keith parish and part of Rothiemay parish (Barrow, Acts of William II, p.383). Another charter relates to "certain debatable lands between Strathilay and Deskfurd" but need not concern us here.

Records of the Monastery of Kinloss, page xi, See page 109 for charter no.3 - Carta Willelmi Regis de terra de Strathylaf data Monasterio de Kynlos, dated 1195/96.
See charter 21 relating to Deskfurd on page 146, viz. Charter by Robert, Abbot of Kinloss, and Convent thereof, in favour of Alexander Ogilvy of that Ilk, and of Finlater, of certain debatable lands between Strathilay and Deskfurd. Dated 18 November 1537

Although no roads are mentioned, there would have been quite a dense network of local routes as implied by the large number of farms dependent on the grange and also a route or routes to the abbey, some 30 miles away.

What this route might have been is uncertain. One possibility is by Keith and Fochabers to Elgin and then by the king's highway to Kinloss, another is from Keith over to the Boat of Brig where there was a mediaeval bridge and then up to Elgin. Dundurchis near the river crossing belonged to the abbey and would have afforded accomodation on any journey though additional evidence for this would be needed.

Bowmen's Road (from Statistical Account for Grange parish)

(V9, p555)

Bowmen's Road, as shown on 6" OS Map (Banffshire, Sheet XV - top left of centre). Based on half-inch OS map, sheet 14, 1912.

Antiquities. - In referring to battles between the Scots and the Danes in the 9th century he says that one of the battlefields was on the south side of the Knockhill "to which there leads a road from the encampments, over the hill of Silliearn, called to this day, 'The Bowmens Road.'

Note: In fact, as Cosmo Innes notes in his Lectures on Scotch Legal Antiquities, p.266, a Bowman was a person hired to look after a tenant's milk cows and their pastures. The road probably indicates a route to these pastures.


Lethenot (Gamrie parish)

Lethenot. Based on half-inch OS map sheet 15, 1912.

A charter of Alexander II confirms Kinloss in a grant by Robert Corbett of three bovates of land between the church of Gamrie and Troup, next to the sea, namely Lethenoth. This lies about 7 miles east of Banff and some 40 miles from Kinloss.

This land became the subject of a boundary dispute in 1537 which resulted in the boundaries being agreed between Lethnot and Troup.
The document refers to certain "furds" and to a high gate in the area.

The references of interest are are follows:
"frae the lang furd where the said Patrick begoutht to rid quhilk is the midmest furd of the thrie furds ascendand up the hill of ffindon and to the north side of the same on to the Cairnslaw callit Clochtyne alias Teorie Clamchyne and frae thin west to the high gate to the heid of Pollisdone and in Commonty frae the said gate of the heid of Pollisdone ascendand up the hill of ffindone on to the Law apon the height of the same where there sal be put ane Staincross, and frae than descendand down to the brek of the Moss callit the Crossslacks as it is partit and merchit and frae the said Cross-slaks south to the Todlaw as sal be partit and merchit be the saids parties, swa that it sal be leisum to the said Gilbert and his heirs to laboure and mannure be west the said merches of Cross-slacks and Todlaw with conies or ony other ways, and it sal not be leisum to the said Gilbert nor his heirs nor successors proprietars of the said Barony of Troup to labour nor mannure the commond mure lying betwixt the Halkden and the Todlaw..."
Records of the Monastery of Kinloss,
page 143. Decreet anent the Merches betwyx Lethnot and Troup. (A.D. 1537.)

Although not all the placenames can be identified it does not matter too much as the high gate must have been north of the Hill of Findon; however, it is not clear if it ran down Powies Den (Pollisdone) or ran in an east-west direction.

It is possible that the "furds" referred to are not fords across a stream but are an old Scots word for burn or brook as noted by Johnston in The Placenames of Stirlingshire, p.19. This would fit the meaning of the text better where they are said to ascend the hill - as the map shows, streams do descend from the hill of ffindon.

Old Cullen
Carta Thome de Petkarn domini eiusdem (Register of Arbroath Vol. 2, Page 48, charter 51)

This charter of 1413 refers to:
..a toft lying in the villa of Colly in the street called Kyrkgait on the south side of the same street between the monastic lands on the east side and the croft called Castailgait on the west side…..

vnum toftum jacens in villa de Colly in vico qui dicitur Kyrkgait ex parte australi eiusdem vici inter terram
. . . monachorum ex parte orientali . . . Et croftum quod dicitur Castailgait ex parte occidentali . . .

Miller in Arbroath and Its Abbey (1860), page 203 suggests Colly might be Cullen. There are earlier charters for Innerculayn (vol.2, no.5, p.5/6) and Kolly (vol. 2, no. 11. p.10) so this may well be correct though the name refers to Old Cullen and not the new town of Cullen which dates from 1824 - see NMRS record. Old Cullen did have a Kirkgait and a Castlegait.

Itinerary of Edward I

Edward visited Moray twice, in 1296 and 1303. The routes he and his army took are listed and discussed in two books, viz:
Itinerary of King Edward the First throughout his reign, Henry Gough, (see in particular Vol. II)
Edward I. of England in the north of Scotland. James Taylor, Elgin 1858.
See also W Douglas Simpson who discusses the siting of castles in relation to routes between the eastern lowlands and Moray in "The Early Castles of Mar", PSAS, Vol 63, and shows how Edward was using well-established routes into Moray.

The route taken in his 1296 campaign can be seen on the map, and his activities are discussed in Taylor's book (chapter 4). It is not clear if there were via regias between the main centres - these need not imply made roads but allowed free passage along a beaten track. Taylor suggests that the approach from the Spey to Elgin was by a via regia - while likely enough we only have one reference to a via regia just to the east of Elgin over the Taok so it may be an assumption on his part.

He gives some interesting details of the crossing point of the Spey (page 86) which was an ancient fording point just north of Fochabers. Leaving aside the possibility that the Romans used this ford from their putative camp at nearby Bellie, it was used by Malcolm Canmore and Alexander I in military campaigns, by Cromwell and Montrose, and by Cumberland prior to Culloden.

Castle RoyOn leaving Elgin for Rothes, Edward himself went south by Invercarrach (Taylor, chapter 7) which is about 3 miles north of Cabrach, and then Kildrummy castle. At Rothes he sent three groups into Badenoch, probably to ascertain if there were remnants of Comyn resistance. Taylor suggests they would have travelled to Ruthven, Lochindorb, Loch na Eilan near Aviemore, and possibly Castle Roy at Nethy-bridge or an earlier fortification at Castle Grant. The bishop of Durham was sent south "by another way" which Taylor suggests was to the castle of Strathbogie, either by Botriphnie etc, or "by the bridge of St Nicholas across the Spey at Inverorkel, and thence by Mulben, Strathisla, Rothiemay, and Ferendraught".


Places visited by Edward on his campaigns










1296 Gough, page 143
20 July Aberdeen 27 Elgin
" Kintore 28 Elgin
21 Kintore 29 Rothes
" Lumphanan (then via Fyvie & Turiff) 30 Invercarrach south of Dufftown
22 Banff 31 Invercarrach
23 Cullen 1 August Kildrummy '
24 The Moor " Kincardine- O'Neil
25 Rapenache 2 Kincardine in Mearns and south thereafter
26 Elgin    


1303 Gough, page 228
28 Sept Aberdeen 6 Rathven 15 Kinloss 24 Lochindorb 2 Gartanrothe 11 Elgin
29   7 Rathven 16 Kinloss 25 Lochindorb 3 Lochindorb 12  
30   8 Rathven 17 Kinloss 26   4 Lochindorb
13 Fettercairn
31   9 Elgin 18 Kinloss 27   5   14 Kinloss
I Oct   10 Elgin 19 Kinloss 28 Gartanrode 6 Kinloss
15 Kinloss
2   11 Elgin 20 Kinloss 29   7 Kildrummie 16 Dundee and south thereafter
3 Banff 12 Elgin 21 Kinloss 30 Gartanrode 8 Kildrummie    
4 Banff 13 Elgin
22 Kinloss   Kinloss 9 Kildrummie    
5 Cullen 14 Kinloss 23 Kinloss 1 Oct Lochindorb
10 Coghresk

The campaign of 1303 followed much the same routes as the earlier campaign (Taylor, chapter 11). The excursions to Lochindorb and Gartanrode are interesting because of the problem alluded to under Inverallan above, viz. if the route from Kinloss/Forres was by the via regia mentioned in Edinkillie parish and if this was the same as the via regia of Inverallan and indeed the old road running north from Cromdale.

As a name Gartanrode is interesting as it suggests a road. However, Louise Yeoman in the community newsletter BOG Standard, Winter 2012 (page 18) suggests that it may have been a fortified site near Boat of Garten called Petriny Motte (on Mains of Garten farm) or effectively, the rath of Gartan, where "rath" means a fort. This was a Comyn stronghold and would give a good reason for Edward to come here. While this is a more likely explanation for the "rode" of Gartanrode there does seem however to have been a road in this area - this was the Rathad na righ or king's road as mentioned by the Rev. W. Forsyth in his In the Shadows of Cairngorm (chapter XXV, page 205).

Taylor refers to forays to more northerly and western districts by detachments of the army though not accompanied by Edward himself. He suggests that Urquhart castle (at the north end of Loch Ness) and Inverlochy castle (near Fort William) were taken as well as Beaufort castle near Beauly, followed by attacks on the castles of Dingwall and Cromarty. All these forays imply routes.