Kincardine is the southernmost of the historic counties of northeastern Scotland. In ancient times, it was the northernmost point of the Romans’ brief occupation of Scotland, as evidenced by Raedykes Roman Camp, of which the ruins are still visible today. It then formed part of the kingdom of the Picts, which later merged with the Scots.
In 1296, during the Scottish Wars of Independence, Edward I of England passed through Kincardine, and during the 1650s, the regalia of the Scottish crown were kept for safekeeping at Dunnottar Castle, which, perched on a cliff edge overlooking the sea, is now one of the most famous ruins in the area.
Here’s our pick of 5 essential historic sites to visit in Kincardineshire.
1. Dunnottar Castle
Dunnottar Castle is a ruined medieval fortress located upon a picturesque rocky headland south of Stonehaven. The surviving buildings largely date from the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is thought to have been fortified as long ago as the Early Middle Ages. Owing to its strategic position, Dunnottar played a significant role in the 18th-century Jacobite risings.
The castle is best known for being the place where the Scottish crown jewels were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army in the 17th century. The ruins were re-fortified in the 20th century and are now a hugely popular attraction for both history and nature lovers.
2. Crathes Castle
Set against a backdrop of stunning rolling hills, Crathes Castle was built by Alexander Burnett in the 16th century, creating a structure featuring turrets, towers, oak towers and painted ceilings. The family lived in the castle for over 350 years, and planted a stunning garden, with yew trees still surviving today that are thought to date to as early as 1702.
Today, the castle and grounds are open to the public and feature family portraits and fine antique furniture. The walled garden is split into eight sections that feature sculpted topiaries, herbaceous colours and exotic blooms.
3. Tolbooth Museum
Located on the scenic harbourfront, the Tolbooth Museum is the oldest building in Stonehaven. It is thought to have been founded by George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal (c. 1553-1623) as a storehouse during the construction of nearby Dunnottar Castle. In 1600, it was made an official administrative centre for Stonehaven. After 1624, the town business functions were conducted on the top level of the Stonehaven Tolbooth, while the ground floor was used as a prison. Later used again as a store, it fell into disrepair in the 1950s.
In 1963, following refurbishment the building was officially re-opened, and in 1975 the upper floor was converted into a museum which details Stonehaven’s heritage. Entry is free, and particular highlights include an original cell door, the Inverbervie stocks and a punishment device called the Crank.
4. Ury House
Built in the Elizabethan style in 1885 by Sir Alexander Baird, 1st Baronet, Ury House is a large ruined mansion close to Stonehaven. Over the years, the house has been rebuilt three times. The estate first belonged to the Frasers, then the Hays starting in 1413, before becoming the property of the Earl Marischal. Most notably, Colonel David Barclay bought the estate in the 1660s and owned it until 1854, when it was then bought by the Baird family. In the 17th century, it was established as the headquarters of the Quaker organisation by David Barclay.
Today, Ury is ruined, and though plans have been put in place to turn it into everything from housing to a golf course and hotel, it remains a pretty spectacle for walkers and history enthusiasts.
Located just outside Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Raedykes is the site of a Roman marching camp. Covering an area of around 93 acres, the site would have originally housed three full legions, or 16,000 troops. The site was first recorded by Maitland and planned by George Brown and Barclay of Urie in 1778. Raedykes probably dates to the 1st century AD, though it has been argued that it could originate from any time during the following two centuries. The fort was one of many which were established during the late first century AD. Many of these camps were reoccupied during the reign of emperor Septimius Severus about a century later.
The camp remains in a remarkable state of preservation, with the rampart and ditch clearly visible for much of the perimeter. The site commands good views of the surrounding countryside, particularly to the sea at Stonehaven some 5km to the south-east. It makes for a scenic walk for outdoor and history enthusiasts alike, though do be aware that at times the site is inaccessible due to livestock.