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Chapter 19. Communications—Roads and Railways.

Kincardineshire being on the direct route between the north and the south of Scotland, the earliest of the main roads in the county were avenues, running generally north and south, and leading to the Highlands and Lowlands. Where much of the land was ill-drained and boggy, the making of suitable roads was often a difficult and tedious matter. The high roads, being the dry roads, had perforce at first to be followed, while the straight line as the shortest distance between any two given points was, where practicable, preferred. Until well after the Union of 1707, the roads in Kincardineshire were, as elsewhere in the north of Scotland, in a very neglected state. Where wheeled vehicles were non-existent or few, wide, well-made roads were of little consequence. Bridle paths sufficed for the needs of the pack-horse that plodded along by ways none too safe by day or night.

The Roman road from Tay to Dee is undoubtedly the oldest, and its course can be generally traced in the line of the Roman camps, usually a day’s march apart. Starting probably at Ardoch in Perthshire, and continued through the northern district of Forfarshire, it entered the county at Kingsford (a modern name) in a north-easterly direction between the parishes of Marykirk and Fettercairn ; whence the route was direct to the camp at the Mains of Fordoun. From this it was continued to the camp at Raedykes near Stonehaven, and thence to Normandykes, Peterculter,. where it crossed the Dee. At Marykirk a short branch, probably not, however, a Roman road, struck to the left, leading to the royal palace of Kincardine. From that point it was continued to the pass of Cairn O’ Mount, which in later days echoed, not to the tramp of the Roman legions, but to the tread of the red-coated regiments of the second King George, under that renowned road-maker General Wade, the last of whose military roads this was. From the Roman road, or its successors, numerous cross-roads struck off on each side leading to hill and sea. The hill roads were utilised by the Highland drovers on their way to the great annual trysts and fairs south of the Grampians, while the roads that led from the numerous small shipping ports were convenient for transporting either coal or lime, jnto the interior.

For the first three-quarters of the last century the roads were divided into two classes—the turnpike or toll, and the statute labour roads. The former were originally made by subscription, and partly upheld by tolls, while the latter were made and upheld from highway and bridge moneys paid by heritors and others. When the Roads and Bridges Act of 1879 came into force, a road rate was imposed on all householders ; and since then a gradual improvement has been effected on the roads so that they are now, as a rule, very suitable for the needs of modern travelling.

The main road through the county leads from Brechin by North Water Bridge, west of Marykirk, to Laurencekirk, Fordoun, Stonehaven, and Aberdeen. This is the main route for traffic from Edinburgh, through Strathmore and the Howe of the Mearns. A parallel road to this, but running along the base of the hills, passes through Fettercaim and the beautiful Glen of Drumtochty, thence through Fordoun, Glenbervie, and Fetteresso parishes to Stonehaven, where it joins the Great North Road. From Montrose a splendid turnpike road runs close to the coast through St Cyrus, Bervie, and Stonehaven, where it also meets the main road. These three parallel roads are connected by numerous cross-roads, which give free access to all parts of the county. One of the best roads in the county is that along the south side of the Dee from Aberdeen to Maryculter, Durris, Banchory, and Strachan. From the coast various cross-roads connect with this road—the well-known “Slug” road from Stonehaven going through Rickarton and Durris to Banchory ; another through Cookney, Netherley, and Maryculter to the Dee valley ; and a third from Portlethen through Fetteresso, Maryculter, Durris, and Strachan.

The county has no canals, though towards the end of the eighteenth century there was much talk of constructing one through the Howe of the Mearns and Strathmore to the Tay. The general opinion on this is pithily summed up by Robertson {Agricultural Survey) : “ There seems, in fact, to be very little to urge against the practicability of the thing, and nothing perhaps against its expediency, but that it would be of no use. Nobody would think of conveying goods 40 or 50 miles by water who had it in his power to bring them directly to market by an easy land carriage, of less than the fourth part of the distance and time.”

The railways in the county run practically parallel and contiguous to the main roads. They belong to three railway companies—the Caledonian, the North British, and the Great North of Scotland. The northern section of the Caledonian, first called the Aberdeen, and afterwards the Scottish North-Eastern, was opened throughout in 1850. It enters the county by a viaduct of thirteen spans over the North Esk near Marykirk Station, and running northward past Laurencekirk, Fordoun, and Drumlithie, where the highest point on the section is, reaches through heavy cuttings the sea at Stonehaven, after which it follows the coast to Aberdeen. A section of the North British Railway, about 14 miles long, runs from Montrose along the sea to Bervie, at present the terminus, although proposals have been made to connect it with Stonehaven by a light railway. From Kinnaber Junction, two miles north of Montrose, where the North British and Caledonian main lines connect, the former company possesses certain running powers over the Caledonian system to Aberdeen. The Deeside railway, owned by the Great North of Scotland Company, runs from Aberdeen along the north side of the Dee. It enters the county near Crathes Station, 14 miles from Aberdeen, and leaves it close to Glassel Station.


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