2023 Oot an Aboot

Stothill Woods 11 May

A total of 13 members and guests joined the outing to Stothill forest to see the historic remains that have been hidden in dense woodland for decades. Our guide was Ann Raeburn who has been exploring the forest for some time and without whom we would all have struggled to find the scatter of interesting remains. We crossed the old road linking Lumpnanan to Torphins and climbed almost to the top of Stot Hill to visit a large cattle enclosure, or was it a hill fort later adapted to a cattle enclosure? Opinions varied. We then moved on to Cairn Mude, a large cairn around 13m in diameter and 2m high. Is it Bronze age or Neolithic? No evidence has been found so far, but it has almost certainly been robbed of stones in the past.

Cairn Mude
Stothill Croft

More recent remains of the old crofts at  Stothill and Colliestown on the south facing side of the hill were then visited. The tumbled drystone walls are all that remain of most of the buildings but they evoke the image of thatched roofs and hardy folk. The farm at Cairnmude is a more modern building with mortared walls and fireplaces but has lost its slated  roof. The nearby byre still carries its roof but decay is setting in to the roof timbers

On the eastern flank of the hill lies the remains of a field system with a cluster of stone clearance cairns. Some of the cairns have been damaged in recent timber harvesting operations. We sincerely hope that more care will be taken  to protect the features of historic interest in the next planned phase of tree felling. Our thanks go to Ann for all her explorations of the site and her efforts to guide us through the obstacle course of windblown trees.

Abandoned Farm

Auchtavan 13 June


We had a great day for our trip to the old farm at Auchtavan. The weather ws bright and sunny, the views to Lochnagar and the surrounding hills were fabulous and, as always, the blether was interesting. Our outing was led by Simon Blackett from Braemar Community Limited who now look after the old farm steading. We were ab le to visit the old cottage with its “hingin lum” and cobbled floor and visit the farmhouse that used to be a retreat for the Queen Mother. Many thanks Simon for a great day out.

Torry 19 July

We had an interesting trip to Torry despite the overcast skies and the cool wind. We started with history in the making and the new South Harbour in Aberdeen. This huge investment by the Harbour Board is now 95% complete and almost fully operational. We were met at the visitor centre by Kirsty Sivell who told us the story of the design and construction of the new harbour and the difficulties that had to be overcome. There is a great view of the new harbour from the viewing platform. The visitor centre is open on Saturdays but closes at the end of July so be quick if you plan to go.
We then went back to history at the old Torry Gun Battery which opened in 1863. This was built to protect the entrance to Aberdeen Harbour from enemy shipping. It has been operational for periods during the first and second world wars but was abandoned by the military at the end of hostilities. It served as temporary housing for a while, then was partially demolished for safety reasons but it now is an important part of Aberdeen’s heritage and a good place to watch dolphins, when they turn up.
We then moved on to the ruined St Fittick’s Church. The first church on this site was built in the late 12th century. The present structure may date from the 13thcentury but it was rebuilt in the early 18th century and finally abandoned in 1829 . Much of what is left is hidden behind ugly modern concrete harling but the many old gravestones tell the story of the lives of the local people.

Peterhead Prison  23 August

The sun shone on us on Wednesday when we went to visit Peterhead Prison Museum. We were shown around by our excellent guide Alex who took us through 125 years of history as the prison had to be adapted to deal with changing penal reform and with overcrowding and the management of potentially violent prisoners. It is one thing to read about prison riots in the newspapers and quite another thing to stand in the hall where it happened and to see how 3 men were cooped up in one small cell every night of a long prison sentence. Peterhead Prison was where all the Category A prisoners who had committed serious crimes were sent. In the early years they spent there working days breaking rocks in the quarry. Then, one the Peterhead breakwater was completed and there was no more need for stones, they were put to other jobs in the workshops. It was a fascinating and enlightening tour.
After lunch in the museum cafe we were set free and went on to visit New Slains Castel. This was the home of the Hay family who held the title of the Earl of Errol. Various members drifted in and out of favour with the various kings of Scotland and were involved in the Jacobite cause. One brother fought for the Jacobites in 1746 and his brother fought for the Hanovarians. Whoever won the Hays could claim to be on teh winning side and retain their lands and title. The castle was first built as a square tower sometime around 1600. It was later extended.


In the 1830s the 18th Earl commissioned the Aberdeen architect John Smith to remodel the castle. This resulted in a virtual rebuilding of Slains in a Scots Baronial style, including granite facings, in 1836–1837. The gardens were laid out in the late 1890s by the landscape architect T. H. Mawson. In 1916 the 20th Earl of Erroll sold New Slains and it passed through two other owners before it was bought by Charles Brand Ltd, a Dundee-based demolition company who specialised in buying Scottish castles and mansions for demolition, and then making money from selling off masonry and other fittings. The demolition went ahead in the summer of 1925.