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Glenbuchat Heritage

9 Part 8 Kilns: The Survey
The Glenbuchat Image Library
9 Part 8 Kilns: The Survey

Pictures above

1. Map of 4 parishes in Strathdon area
2. Badenyon Kiln - Buttresses
3. Ryntaing Kiln – Buttresses
4. Hillockhead kiln – Double wall Support
5. Badenyon Kin - vent
6. Upperton Kkin - vents

Click for the Introduction page

The Survey

The survey of limekilns marked on the first edition Ordnance Survey (OS) maps of 1869 -1871 and the second edition maps of 1902 - 03 (Aberdeenshire. 6" to 1 mile. sheets L, LX, LXI. LXVIII. LXIX) covering the four parishes of Upper Donside - Strathdon, Glenbuchat, Towie and Kildrummy (as they existed c. 1900), was carried out in the autumn of 2002 and spring and summer of 2003. Two of the parishes, Strathdon and Glenbuchat lie within the eastern boundary of the newly formed Cairngorms National Park, officially opened in September 2003. *

(*The boundaries of Strathdon parish used for the survey were those of the post May 1999 redistributing, when the two geographically detached areas of Tarland and Migvie parish were transferred to Strathdon, and the detached area of Strathdon parish at Glenkindie was transferred to Towie parish.)

The site of each limekiln in the area was identified on the ground, its condition examined, Recorded, and where appropriate, photographed. A total of 106 sites were identified - 67 in Strathdon (23 of these in the Corgarff district – above Colnabaichan), 34 in Glenbuchat and 5 in Towie. No sites were found in Kildrummy parish.

Map references

Each limekiln was assigned an 8 figure OS National Grid Reference using a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. Maps used were the OS Explorer series, numbers 404,405 and 420, 1:2500, 4cm to 1km (21/2 inches to a mile).

The Limekilns - some observations

From examination and measurements taken of the best surviving kilns and from the remains of the others, a number of observations were made:


What is striking about the limekilns of the area is the individuality in appearance of each one. All, with the single exception of the rectangular quarry kiln on Sron Aonghais, were built of field stones to the same principles - circular, slightly tapering inwardly to the top, with a single draw hole in the centre of the front face and a number of inverted, stepped lintels in the roof of the draw hole, supporting the weight of the bowl. Within this basic design, however, each kiln appears to have been an individual, having differing heights, diameters, thicknesses of walls. Draw holes, heights, number of lintels supporting the bowl and either having a form of front wall support or none. The unique appearance of each kiln strongly indicated that they were built by the farmers themselves. Had the various estates in the area been involved in constructing them, or a local mason been employed, a more uniform design to a standard plan and size would have been used, similar to the estate built cottages. houses and steadings of the area.

Wall support

Many of the kilns had added support to strengthen their front walls and this was often in the form of extra thick stonework. Some kilns had a double wall system, where a second outer wall was added to the front face for additional support. Others had a pair of buttresses added and in addition to being functional; in some cases they appear almost decorative, such as the kiln at Badenyon. It is impossible to say how many of the kilns in the area had these additional strengthening refinements, as the majority of them have not survived.


Some of the intact kilns show a small opening above the draw hole, which appears to have been blocked off to the interior of the bowl during its building (Illustration 31). They may have been a form of secondary ventilation for controlling the rate of burning higher up the kiln pot. The thin layer of stone work between the interior and exterior of the bowl would not have been air-tight, as was the rest of the kiln walls, and may have allowed a restricted supply air into the upper bowl. Alternatively, the openings may have gone through to the interior of the pot at one time and been used as ‘poke holes‘, to help dislodge material ‘hung up‘ in the bowl during the burning process. Of the seven largely intact kilns in the area. Badenyon, Rhnytaing and Upperton Road have these openings while at Hillockhead, Beltimb, Coull of Newe and Sron Aonghais they are absent. The large kiln at Upperton Road has additional air vents between the lintels of the draw hole (illustration 32).

Lost Kilns

The practice of limestone burning died out in the late 19th century and the limekilns in the area had come to the end of their useful lives. The survey shows that the great majority of them have not fared well in the intervening years. A large number have been removed with either no visible trace remaining or only a depression in the ground and some scattered stones on the surface to indicate where they once stood. The stones from the kilns were often recycled - used in buildings, dykes and for field drainage. Dressed stone lintels were valuable for reuse in new farm buildings and some of the kilns have their bowls intact with their draw holes collapsed and lintels missing, for example the large kiln within a dense conifer plantation at Dunfeal (Ni 2368 0953).

Changes in land-use in the passing years, such as the development of modern farming practices with enlarged fields for farm machinery, the greatly increased afforestation of the area and the improvement of the road system resulted in the loss of kilns. They were often situated at the edge of roads and farm tracks for ease of access, and some have been destroyed by subsequent road works, particularly when widened from single tart tracks to modern roads, as for example at Boilhandy (NJ 2937 0798) and Rippachie {NJ 4171 1125). Kilns were also lost when forestry roads were laid down for the extraction of timber. for example the kiln that once stood at the Burn of Garchory (NJ 3027 0921)

The establishment of large forestry plantations in the area, both private and state (Forestry Commission), particularly after the Second World War and until recent times. much of them on agricultural land, has meant that archaeological and historical remains have often been destroyed, with little attempt to understand the past history of the landscape. The land around the old quarries at the Balloch in Glenbuchat was deep-ploughed and planted with conifer trees by the Forestry Commission in the 1970s destroying any evidence of lime burning activity. On the small Auchernach Estate in Glen Nochty, the mansion house with a walled garden and the fields were planted over with conifer trees in the late 1940s. Much of the best low-lying agricultural land in the main strath was afforested on Candacraig Estate from the 1950s (to much local disquiet when tenant farmers were forced to vacate their farms), the results of which are still evident today. Forested land on this estate increased from less than 900 acres immediately after World War II to 4265 acres by 1975, employing a peak of 22 men in 1963. Limekilns on these and other farms were ploughed under, filled in and planted over. Surprisingly, some have survived in a damaged condition within the tree plantations and there are two good examples of kilns with their bowls largely intact at Rhinstock (NJ 3310 1697) and at Dunfeal (NJ 1363 0953). In recent years the conifer trees have been felled around the ruins of Auchernach House to reveal the remains of the walled garden with a fine clock tower. Today, forestry is a changed industry, with greater regard given to local community, landscape, environmental and archaeological concerns. Detailed surveys of land before proposed planting are now statutory. Estate and forest managers are increasingly aware of the need to preserve archaeological sites, and are much more inclined to adapt planting and felling regimes to conserving the historical landscape. Despite the loss of limekilns due to these changes in land use, many of the redundant kilns in the area have been left undisturbed since they were last used. A few have had their upper structure reduced to ground level, or their bowls filled into prevent livestock from falling into them, or used as a dump for rubbish or field stones. But the general rule appears to have been - if the kiln was not in the way or the stones and lintels not required for re-use, it was left alone. They survive in various stages of collapse ranging from a few which are virtually intact, through examples with their walls and draw holes partially collapsed, to tumbled down kilns with some minimal structure, or a rickle of stones remaining.

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Picture added on 06 August 2015 at 20:58
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