Oot an Aboot June 2019 – 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.
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.