top of page

Lumphanan - a place steeped in history

Lumphanan - a small village set in a stunning and productive landscape - is home to a friendly and active community, benefitting from a wide range of facilities, including a school, shop, tea shop, pub, golf course and of course a fantastic network of paths! 


Lumphanan's recent history can be seen in its traditional buildings, churches, manses and former railway structures.  Our surroundings reveal features in the landscape which tell a fascinating earlier history. To the west of the settlement is the well-known  Peel Ring, but look for less prominent and sometimes hidden signs in the landscape – cairns, old field systems  and deserted settlements. You'll be surprised at the stories our surroundings reveal.

Read on to find out more.....

Early history of the area

As long as 10,000 years ago, as the last ice age came to an end, before the coming of roads and cars, before the building of granite houses, shops and the school, before electricity and all the conveniences we are used to, small groups of people may have hunted and fished in the wide bowl of Lumphanan.

Proof of their presence has been found on the banks of the River Dee in sharp little flints knapped into arrowheads and scrapers to hunt, fight and treat animal skins. Later, people settled here, living in round houses and tilling the first simple fields. They left stone axeheads and carved stone bowls which, with animal fat and rush for a taper, served as lamps. We call their burial mounds cairns which often covered stone tombs or cists.

Later still simple homes were built on crannogs  (artificial islands) in the huge loch of Auchlossan that once covered all the area to the west of the present Deeside Activity Park. These people fished from their canoes, shaped from whole tree trunks, hunted the abundant wildfowl and farmed the shores of the loch.

Stone lamp approx 2000 yeras old.jpg

Stone Lamp, approx. 2,000 years old, found locally

Ann Raeburn

Knapped Flint.jpg

Knapped Flint used to scrape animal skins

Ann Raeburn


The lowlands formerly occupied by Loch of Auchlossan, viewed from the path from Lumphanan over high ground to Kincardine O' Neil


Loch of Auchlossan. Bartholomew Map 1934.

Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Lumphanan becomes a place

What’s in a name? Lumphanan (Llan-finan) – where did it originate? The answer is in Christianity. In 560 AD missionaries from Ireland spread across Scotland , building little churches and preaching to the natives. St Finan,  arrived in this area and established a church. He later became the second Bishop of Lindisfarne Island, Northumberland.

Early routes through Lumphanan

From the south and the river ford across the Dee near Kincardine O’ Neil an ancient track led through the Lumphanan area, over the hills to Moray. The track, a main route to the north, hugged the high ground, avoiding the boggy flat lands. Up this track in 1057 rode Malcolm and his loyal lieutenant, Macduff, pursuing Macbeth, King of Scotland, determined to kill him and seize the Scottish throne. Macbeth was fleeing towards Moray , his  powerbase where he would have had support from his people but at Lumphanan King Macbeth was murdered by Macduff.

Macbeth's stone 1.JPG

Macbeth's Stone traditionally marks the spot where Macbeth was mortally wounded. See Canmore records

Rings, castles and an invasion

From the south and the river ford across the Dee near Kincardine O’ Neil an ancient track led through the Lumphanan area, over the hills to Moray. The track, a main route to the north, hugged the high ground, avoiding the boggy flat lands. Up this track in 1057 rode Malcolm and his loyal lieutenant, Macduff, pursuing Macbeth, King of Scotland, determined to kill him and seize the Scottish throne. Macbeth was fleeing towards Moray , his  powerbase where he would have had support from his people but at Lumphanan King Macbeth was murdered by Macduff.

In 1296 came Edward I of England, a hard man, “Hammer of the Scots”. His great army of foot soldiers and knights on their big war horses returned through Lumphanan area after subduing the North-East. Imagine the problems of feeding such an army; there can’t have been a cow, sheep or chicken surviving in the parish. Edward probably stayed the night in the safety of the Peel Ring while his army pillaged.

On a knoll, protected to the south by the loch of Auchlossan, stood the little castle of Auchenhove. The owner, Patrick Duguid  fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden, the disastrous finale to the rebellion of 1745. Captain MacHardy was the redcoat officer responsible for seeking retribution from the guilty rebels. He was ruthless in his duty. The Captain ordered his redcoats to burn the castle. Patrick’s’ wife and children escaped and the Laird, lying in hiding among the birch trees on the hillside, had to watch his home burn.


Looking from the Cairnbeathie track over the Peel to Craiglich. The Peel Ring was built in the early 13th century, is a well preserved example of the earthwork for a timber castle and one of the few examples that would have had a water-filled moat, with mechanism to control the flow.


St Finan's Parish Church, built 1742, and the old Manse, from the Cairnbeathie track. Known locally as  Old Lumphanan this was the original settlement before the arrival of the railway in 1860.

Drove roads and military roads

In 1760 Messrs Taylor and Skinner from Aberdeen surveyed the route from Kincardine O Neil to Moray. They produced Scotlands 1st road maps in 1769 and have Lumphanan marked on their map. You can see the map here .

The trackway through Lumphanan saw the droving of many herds of shaggy cattle in the late 1700s. These cattle were sold by crofters in the Autumn, gathered into big herds and then driven south to the markets in the south of England. There was much demand for fine Scottish beef in the industrial towns , the fine houses of England and the Navy and Army. Britain was fighting Napoleon and requiring vast quantities of dried beef to feed sailors and soldiers. These little cattle were walked over the vast network of drove tracks, tended by drovers and their dogs. The men knew how much they dared push their herds of cattle without them losing condition, allowing them to graze along the way.The route of the drove road is still visible in the landscape today, mainly in the old military roads and modern surfaced roads.

Military roads were constructed in the 18th century, part of a Scotland -wide network to improve the accessibility of the area after the rebellions of 1715 and 1745. They often followed and upgraded previous routes. The route from Fettercairn to Huntly and Fochabers, completed by William Caulfield around 1764, passes through Lumphanan, and may be an upgrade of the earlier drove road. The Old Military Road today forms the walking route from Lumphanan to Tullochvenus, starting west of the Stothert Memorial Church. It can also be followed on the route south - the Cairnbeathie track - to Kincardine O'Neil.

Tom Main


Stothert Memorial Church in Lumphanan. The Old Military Road to the west of the church leads to Tullochvenus and beyond, and marks the start of the church circular walk.

Tom Main


The old track, dating from ancient times was improved as a Military road about 1764. Seen here at the start of the Church Circular walk and continues to Tullochvenus.

Deserted settlements and field systems

On the high ground south of Lumphanan old field systems and deserted buildings can still be seen. To the south of Old Town,  crumbling, sinuous stone dykes define old fields and a green lane, which is part of the Lumphanan to Kincardine O' Neil walk. At Cairnmude under Stot Hill to the east of the route, a small deserted group of crofts and fields is located within modern forestry.


Stone dykes define the route of a green lane, passing through old field systems south of Old Town.

The railway arrives

The arrival of the Deeside railway around 1860 put an end to cattle having to be walked south. Until then, Lumphanan had been a scattered rural parish with the heart being the old church of St Finan. Now a settlement of houses, small shops, a bank, a cattle mart, and sawmill grew around the railway station. As the line climbed from Torphins it had needed a deep cutting to the east of Lumphanan . Clouds of steam and sparks would billow from the narrow cutting as the trains laboured up through the highest point on the whole line. To the locals it resembled the Devil’s fiery abode . They named it “Satan’s Den”!

Although the railway is now disused, its route and associated structures such as embankments and bridges are still prominent in the landscape, a reminder of Victorian era engineering. A deep cutting, dilapidated bridge and stone burn-retaining walls can be seen alongside the route of the Lover's Lane path in Lumphanan.

Satan's Den.jpg

The deep railway cutting known as Satan's Den, east of Lumphanan. Image from Old Midmar & Cromar by David Jamieson and W. Stewart Wilson, courtesy of Stenlake Publishing Ltd.

Recent times

What changes do we notice today? The statistical account of Lumphanan in 1845 mentions the very fine cattle bred in the area. Progressive local farmers still produce large numbers of beef cattle and sheep and grow fine crops of barley. The farmlands now include the great Loch of Auchlossan, drained just after 1860, and again in the 1940's, to provide fertile loam. Hillsides reveal traces of ancient habitation in field systems and cairns. Many crofts, hard won from the heather and birch clad slopes, are now cloaked in commercial forestry.

Through the decades farm names, some Gaelic in origin, became corrupted by map makers and Census writers recording names as they heard them.

Examples are “Tullich” – an Tulach – a green hill,  “Knapp” – Cnap – a small hill, and “Auchenhove” – Achadh nah Uamba – Field at the hollow.

Further Reading:

As a Tale that is Told. A Church of Scotland Parish, 1913 -1954 by Heather Gilbert

Jock Ritchie: Memories of Life in Lumphanan by Scott Raeburn

Royal Valley. The Aberdeenshire Dee by Fenton Wyness

Old Midmar and Cromar by David Jamieson and W. Stewart Wilson


Auchlossan from Glen Road, Lumphanan, 2016. Although drained in the mid-1800's and as late as  the 1940's, the area now floods every winter. It is a Local Nature Conservation Site, known for the huge flocks of Pink-footed geese which arrive in September to overwinter in the area.

The Lumphanan area offers a remarkable variety of walks. We hope this insight into the local history adds to your interest and enjoyment.

bottom of page