2019 Oot an Aboot

May 2019 Historic Coull


We had a good turn out of 18 members for our first outing of 2019. Starting at Kirklands of Coull,  Professor Jane Geddes told us about the history of the house which had been the manse for Coull Kirk. It was built around 1830 after the loch was drained and a deeper channel cut for the Tarland Burn. It originally had a number of outbuildings including byre, stables, gig shed and peat shed.

Kirklands of Coull


Next we went to Coull Church which is late 18th century in date and incorporates the west gable and bellcote from the earlier church. It is rectangular on plan and built in a Neo-Classical style, which includes the round-arched windows and doors. The church was built using roughly-squared, coursed granite blocks, with better quality ashlar stone used on the south elevation. The curious ventilator stone in the boiler house wall is obviously a relic from some earlier building.


Then on to nearby Coull Castle which was one of three castles built by the Durwards c. AD 1228. Excavations from 1912 to 1923 revealed a pentagonal courtyard, 110ft broad, with the remains of three flanking towers, standing with its back to Tarland Burn, and defended in front by an enormous ditch. The absence of any pottery later than the early 14th century and the evidence from excavation that the castle was deliberately dismantled, indicate that it was probably destroyed by Bruce in AD 1307 during the War of Independence.
Our thanks to Professor Geddes for a fascinating trip around historic Coull.

At the Ruins of Coull Castle

June 2019 Tullich

We were a bit depleted in numbers due to having to postpone the excursion from the previous Saturday. However we had the company of members of Ballater Historical Society and a few other local folks. Our guide, Professor Jane Geddes, started off the outing with a water tasting challenge, could we identify the Pannanich Wells water in a blind tasting against Coull spring water and tap water. Yes we could. Then on to Tullich Kirk, dedicated to St Nathalan,  with it’s circular walled graveyard which very probably started life as a Pictish monastery. The largest single collection of Pictish carved stones in Scotland was found here, almost all simple crosses as would befit a monk. The stones are currently in the Aberdeenshire Council store but will be returned to the Kirk later this year once the construction of the small secure shelter to hold them has been completed.

Porfessor Jane Geddes at Tullich Kirk

At the ring cairn


Our next stop was to what looks like a ring cairn in the woods above Braehead of Tullich farm. The Sites and Monuments Record (NO39NE0054)describes this as a low mound with a hollow in the centre which is  a bit non-committal. If it is a ring cairn it is likely to be around 4,000 years old so we have an old circular feature close to the circular graveyard round the Kirk.


Next we walked east along the old railway line to where the line goes into a cutting just opposite Tomnakeist. Records show that a carved Pictish stone stood here before it was destroyed by the railway builders. This in all probability marked the boundary of the lands of the monastery of St. Nathalan. Tomnakeist means hillock of the (burial) kists and derives from the old practice of burying the dead on the boundaries of the land holding.

Finally a quick sprint up the hill to the granite obelisk memorial to William Farquharson of Monaltrie (1753 -1828) who, along with his father, made many improvements to the surrounding area. Our thanks go to Jane for being such an engaging and well informed guide.

The Farquharson Memorial

2019 Alastrean Sand Quarry


Fourteen members gathered for an evening outing to the old sand quarry near Alastrean House. We were led by  Peter  Craig, our in-house geologist.  First we looked at the layers of sand exposed by the quarrying while Peter explained the process of glaciation and how the sand carried by the  melting water running off the glaciers would be deposited when the streams  ran into the still waters of a lake. After all the ice had melted,  the lake would have drained away leaving the big piles of sand that persisted until quarrying began.

At the quarry face



Next we looked at the jumble of different types of rock mixed through the sand, granites, gabbro sandstones, schists and quartzite. The only type of rock that can be found in outcrops around Tarland is granite so all the others must have been carried to Alastrean by the moving glacial ice and by the streams of melting water that ran under the ice. The land shapes we see around us now were all formed by these powerful natural forces.


Finally an intrepid bunch braved the climb through tangles of nettles to the site of  a possible medieval hall which was discovered by archaeologists in 2000 when a planning application was placed for the expansion of the quarry. To our surprise the flagstones that paved the floor of the hall were still there just under the moss. This is one item of local history that warrants  more exploration. Our thanks to Peter for an enjoyable eveing.

Flagstones, remnants of the Medieval Hall

2019 Kildrummy and Glenbuchat

Fifteen members gathered for a sunny, Sunday afternoon trip to Donside to visit the historic churches of Kildrummy and Glenbuchat.  We were led by Allan Hepburn, a CHG member, who had also carried out work on behalf of the Aberdeen & North East Family History Society in transcribing the gravestones in Kildrummy Kirkyard to produce a booklet to preserve the information on the stones before the inscriptions are lost to the elements and also to help those with genealogical interests.

We firstly explored Kildrummy Church which is now owned and maintained by Historic Churches Scotland (formerly The Scottish Redundant Churches Trust) having acquired it from the Church of Scotland General Trustees in 2009 for £1.  It was built in 1805 and replaced an earlier church which stood on the mound within the old kirkyard – the north and east walls is all that remains of it.  It was rumoured that when the Kirk was built in 1805, the plans were mistakenly mixed up with that of a mill which was to be built locally.  Construction commenced and was too far gone before the mistake was realised so had to continue building.  Whether this is true or not is left up to the individual to decide, but it may perhaps explain the rectangular plan with bow front.

Gravestone at Kildrummy church


Next we explored the old kirkyard where Allan pointed out some stones of interest, including that of Michael Dunbar who died in 1722 aged 100 who was made ‘Captain’ of the parish, or leader of those who – as was essential in those times – combined to protect their lives and property against the incursions of the Cateran, or Highland robbers.

The grandparents of James Leslie Mitchell – better known as Lewis Grassic Gibbon – are also buried at Kildrummy, and it was from the name of his grandmother, Lilias Gibbon née Grassick, that he took his pen-name.

The remains of the North wall of the old church contain an arched recess, believed to be a rare Scottish example of an Easter Sepulchre.  The recess now houses a tombstone with the effigy of Alexander, 3rd Laird of Brux and his wife Mariota, hands clasped in prayer with a Latin inscription dating to circa 1550.


We spent about 1½ hours at Kildrummy before heading to the nearby parish of Glenbuchat.   We arrived at Glenbuchat Bothy first and were greeted by Peter Duffus.  Peter is the administrator of the Glenbuchat Heritage website (http://www.glenbuchatheritage.com) which houses a large archive of photographs, artefacts and stories relating to the area.  We were treated to a much welcome cup of tea and beautiful home baking prepared by Peter and his wife before Peter began a presentation of a visual tour around Glenbuchat, displaying some old photographs from around the Glen and providing stories to match.


Glenbuchat church

After this we visited the old Kirk.  The original Church dated from circa 1473, but was rebuilt in 1629 and again in 1792.  The interior has remained largely unaltered since then, with the exception of the addition of the Lairds Loft at one end of the Kirk in 1828.  The floor is interesting as it is stone paved along the main aisle, cobbled amongst the pews surrounding the pulpit, and wooden in the box pews along the north side of the church.  These box pews are known as ‘pumphals’ a type of pew which is now almost obsolete and are such that the partitions between them can be removed and the small tables of the pews set together to form one long Communion table.  Overall Glenbuchat is one of the best examples of a Scottish country Kirk to survive from the late 18th century period.