River Don

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Don, a river of S Aberdeenshire, that forms a sort of twin stream to the Dee, ranking next thereto among Aberdeenshire rivers as regards at once basin, magnitude, and notability, and possessing like it much volume of water and much fine scenery, with very little commercial importance. Yet the Don differs essentially from the Dee in some great characters and even presents some striking contrasts. It rises, as a small mossy stream, 13/8 mile SSW of Meikle Geal Charn (2833 feet), close to the Banffshire border, and within a mile of the river Aven; and thence winds eastward in a direction somewhat parallel to the Dee, at a mean distance of about 9 miles to the N, but through a country much less mountainous, and abounding far more in plains and meadows. With little or none of the impetuousness or fitfulness of the Dee, it displays a prevailing current of gentleness, calmness, and regularity, and, making great loops and bends now to the right, now to the left, it falls at last into the German Ocean, 1 mile NE of Old Aberdeen, and 2½ miles N of the mouth of the Dee. From source to mouth it has a total length, following its windings, of 82¼ miles, viz., 20¾ to Castle-Newe bridge, 423/8 thence to the Ury's influx, and 19¼ thence to the sea. And from 1980 feet above sea-level at its source, it descends to 1320 at Cock Bridge near Corgarff Castle, 900 near Castle-Newe, 450 near Alford, and 170 at the mouth of the Ury. Its chief tributaries are the Conrie, the Carvie, and the Leochel on the right bank, and the Ernan, the Nochty, the Bucket, the Kindy, and the Ury on the left. The parishes traversed or bounded by it are Strathdon, Tarland, Glenbucket, Kildrummy, Towie, Leochel, Auchindoir, Alford, Tullynessle, Keig, Tough, Monymusk, Oyne, Chapel of Garioch, Kemnay, Inverurie, Kintore, Keithhall, Fintray, Kinnellar, Dyce, New Machar, Newhills, and Old Machar; and in our articles on these parishes details will be found as to the villages, seats, etc., along its banks.

The river's course, from the head of Strathdon to the upper part of Alford, lies chiefly along a series of glens; contracts then, for a short distance, into a narrow gullet; but opens presently into a considerable vale, with great expanses of meadowland on the immediate banks; and lastly, from the New Bridge of Old Aberdeen to the sea, is a narrow artificial channel. Its original mouth is was afterwards at a point nearly midway between the Dee's and its own present mouth; and was diverted to its present situation by the cutting of an artificial channel for its lower reach, about the year 1750, under the direction of Professor James Gregory. The river is subject to great freshets; swept away, in the autumn of 1768, the greater part of the crops on the haughs and level lands adjacent to its bed; made similar devastation in Aug. 1799; rose, on 4 Aug. 1829, to a height of 14 feet above its ordinary level; and is now prevented from working similar havoc only by extensive embankments in the parts of its course most subject to inundation. It is one of the best trouting streams in Scotland (especially in its upper waters), and has some valuable salmon fishings. Pike are fortunately few; but river trout, ranging in weight from ½ lb. to 5 lbs., abound, as also do salmon and sea-trout. As many as forty salmon were killed in one season, by a single rod, in one pool near Alford Bridge; and 3000 salmon and grilse were netted at its mouth in a single week of July 1849. Between 1790 and 1800 the yearly average number of salmon and grilse caught in the Don amounted to 43,240, between 1813 and 1824 to 40,677; and in 1881 towards the end of July and throughout August the net fishings of the nether Don yielded between 300 and 400 salmon per day, but this was a great improvement over the past two years.—Ord. Sur., shs. 75,76,77,1876-73. See chap. xxii. of Sir Thomas Dick Lander's Moray -Floods (Elgin, 1830; 3d ed. 1873).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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