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Origins of Ballater

The Ballater we know today is of fairly modern origin. The village began when in the 18th century accommodation was needed to deal with the overflow of visitors from Pannanich Wells, on the south side of the Dee and this became possible when a bridge was built over the Dee as an alternative to the ferry crossing. Ballater then was the ideal place to relax. It is still a mecca for visitors and for those retiring.

The name Baladar (baile challater) - settlement at the wooded stream, or perhaps, stream at the Pass, was used in Kirk records from the end of the 16th century to the middle of the 18th for a few houses at the east end of the Pass of Ballater, behind Craigenddarroch and near to the Baladar burn. The settlement appears on Bleau’s map that was published in Amsterdam in 1654. Kirk records indicate that in 1692 there were eight tenants and one tradesman (job unspecified) living in the hamlet.

The ecclesiastical and civic centre of a wide area was Tullich (tulach, a knoll or hillock). As with other Deesside settlements, it grew up at a meeting of routes - in this case where the Aberdeen to Braemar road met the North-South route of Glen Muick, crossing the Dee near Tomnakeist and going on to Donside. Roads were mere tracks and bridges few in number, so the ferry over the Dee at Dalmuickeachie was vitally important.

Tullich, the oldest inhabited centre on Upper Deeside has a long history. It was inhabited prior to 100 BC and an earth house or souterrain probably comes from that time. The Pictish dwellers in the area would have lived in huts and used the souterrain for storage. It runs in a semi-circle for almost 20 ft. and was built of stone, without any mortar, with a roof of granite slabs

The Church of Tullich was founded in the seventh century by Nathalan and was for generations the mother-Church of a considerable area. Like most Celtic missionaries, Nathalan picked an excellent site and put his wattle and daub on the knoll, hence Tulachnathlak, the knoll of Nathalan. In the 16th century, at the time of the Reformation, the Saints name was dropped, leaving Tulach or Tullich. Celtic missionaries were men of many skills: they were teachers, doctors, farmers and social workers.

There are many legends about Nathalan, the miraculous element increasing as time went by. As a penance when he had cursed the weather that was ruining the crops he padlocked his hand to his leg and threw the key into the Pool of the Key (poll na hiurach) below his Church. He went to Rome on pilgrimage and one day bought a fish for his supper. Inside he found his key, unpadlocked his hand and leg and returned to Tullich. As a farmer, he cultivated the fields but at the time of famine, with no seed-corn left, God told him to sow sand. He had a good crop at Sluivannachie ( the moor of blessing) west of Ballater. While legends abound, the Aberdeen Breviary states that Nathalan was born in 678 and buried at Tullich. His Church would not last long, but other buildings on the same site succeeded it. One was mutilated by the Reformers, but a 14th century doorway still stands and the Pictish Symbol stones, now gathered into an enclosure. There are 16 of these stones including a rare pre-800 AD stone, probably contemporary with Nathalan. It bears the somewhat indistinct carving of a double disk, Z rod, elephant and mirror. A large early granite font with drain hole is there too.


History of the Clan Farquharson