Heavy rains and melting snows can turn the river’s serene flow into a raging torrent. Major floods occurred in 1769, 1920 and the Cairngorm Flood of 1956. Reportedly, the flood of 1920 drove the river into its old course at Inch of Culter, swept away crops and inundated the Maryculter bridge. Most notable of all, was the Muckle Spate of August 1829 and Storm Frank in late 2015.
There are presently 24 bridges over the River Dee, wheras prior to 1800 there were only four: the Bridge of Dee (1520-27), Old Bridge of Invercauld (1752), Bridge of Ballater (1783), and Bridge of Banchory (1799). As a result there are recorded some 27 ferry and 36 ford crossings along the length of the river. Many of these crossings were linked to the important Mounth roads which crossed the area. One of the ferry points was at the ‘Coble-heugh Inn’, where the Banchory Lodge Hotel now stands. James Humble, a ferryman in the early 19th century, related some wondrous tales of the strange beasts known as water kelpies that haunted the river. One of these creatures was said to have given warning prior to the death, by drowning, of one of the ‘floaters’ who navigated the river.
‘Floaters’ was the name given to those men who plied their hazardous trade by steering rafts of timber down the Dee from its upper reaches when the water was high. Their old river songs could be heard far and wide across the fields and through the trees. When the water was high, a floater could earn 21 shillings a raft for transporting timber down the Dee from the upper reaches down to Aberdeen. The Silverbank Sawmill (Banchory) was opened in 1854 and timber would be delivered here and be loaded onto the newly arrived railway after treatment at the mill. As the railway progressed up the valley, it eventually replaced the need for river transportation of timber. The railway ceased with so many others in 1966 but the key stations in Aboyne and Ballater have survived and are now used as shops and cafés.
The historical Mounth roads represent some 15 or so major passes which linked traders and drovers in Deeside with the coastal lowlands to the south. Various passes (from E to W) such as Slug road, Cairn a’Mounth, Firmounth, Capel Mounth, Tolmounth and Cairnwell shaped the civilisations in the area and the first two and last remain today important roads. In 1296 Edward I of England with forces marched over the Cryne’s Cross Mounth, then crossed the Dee at Durris on way to Aberdeen .
Over a hundred and fifty years ago Queen Victoria chose Deeside as her holiday centre and successive generations of the Royal Family have followed her example. So too have generations of holiday makers, visiting the area renowned for the majestic scenery, and the many and varied sporting activities associated with the river and surrounding mountains.
Further area information
- Past Map Site Finder- A great way to explore Scotland's historic environment, showing all of the listed and protected sites
- National Library of Scotland - Browse and compare old maps, aerial photographs, soil data etc. with present day
- SCRAN - Provides access to digital media to aid learning, culture and heritage