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Chapter 18. Architecture—(c) Domestic.

The mansions of the Mearns are not only numerous, but in many respects remarkably elegant structures. Several are of ancient foundation, and have been remodelled or enlarged as the demands for convenience and domestic comfort grew with the improving spirit of the times. Many of the sites are well-chosen either for beauty or, as in the case of older castles, for defence or observation. Of the castles on or near the coast the most interesting historically is I'etteresso Castle, formerly the home of the Earls Marischal. It was burned by the Marquis of Montrose in 1645, and rebuilt in 1671 ; but a large part of it is only about one hundred years old. After landing at Peterhead, in 1715, the Chevalier went to Fetteresso, where he was warmly received and hospitably entertained for more than a week. At the door of the castle he was proclaimed James VIII. by the Earl Marischal. The castle stands in the Carron valley near Stonehaven. In the same locality is Urie House, a fine mansion in the Elizabethan style, amid some 700 acres of well-wooded grounds along the Cowie Water. Urie belonged to the Marischal family, and then to the Barclays, of Quaker, farming, and pedestrian fame.

Further south on the coast there is a succession of mansions. Hallgreen Castle, overlooking Bervie Bay, dates from the sixteenth century, but has modern additions. Brotherton Castle, a little to the north of Johnshaven, is a fine building in the baronial style. Lauriston Castle, occupying a picturesque situation in the “Den” of the same name, was built by the Straitons in the thirteenth century. Alexander Straiton, “the knicht of Lauriston,” was one of the 500 knights slain at Harlaw in 1411. Ecclesgreig Castle, on a rising ground to the north of St Cyrus village, is modern. Its steep-pitched roof and crow-stepped gables, surmounted by conical turrets, give it a graceful and imposing appearance. The surrounding policies are tastefully laid out.

The Burn House, built in 1791 by Lord Adam Gordon, is romantically situated on the east bank of the North Esk. The house, itself a massive but somewhat plain structure, is surrounded by “woods, walks, and scenes of beauty,” as picturesque as any in the county, forming a striking contrast to the “dreary desert” the spot was said to be towards the end of the eighteenth century. Fasque House, a splendid pile built in 1809 in the English baronial style, is a very commodious mansion, and from its elevated situation commands an extensive and magnificent view of the Howe. It is the residence of Sir John Gladstone, the nephew of the late Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, who as a young man, frequently resided here. Drumtochty Castle, a fine Gothic building, occupies an ideal site on the richly wooded bank of the Luther, opposite Strathfinella Hill. Monboddo House is more interesting historically than architecturally, as the birthplace and residence of Lord Monboddo.

Dr Johnson thus refers to the visit which he paid to Monboddo in 1773: “Early in the afternoon Mr Boswell observed that we were no great distance from the house of Lord Monboddo. The magnetism of his conversation easily drew us out of our way, and the entertainment which we received would have been a sufficient recompense for a greater deviation.” Glenbervie House, on the north side of the Bervie Water, was an ancient seat of the Douglases, and the oldest part dates back to the twelfth century at least. Other mansions in the Howe district are Inglismaldie House in Marykirk, one of the seats of the Earl of Kintore; Fettercairn House, dating from 1666, but at various times considerably improved and enlarged; Thornton Castle, also a very old building, about two miles west of Laurencekirk; Arbuthnott House, on the left bank of the Bervie Water, the seat of the old family of Arbuthnott.

Of the larger mansions on Deeside, Kincausie House, and Durris House are the oldest. The former, beautifully situated on the right bank of the Dee about seven miles from Aberdeen, is surrounded by fine old timber. Durris House, an elegant and very substantially built modern mansion, was erected close to the site of the old castle of Dores, a residence of Alexander III.


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