This is the story of how Aberdeen acquired its boundaries and established itself as the city we know today. Walking or riding this boundary by following stone markers was an important tradition in Aberdeen.
Robert the Bruce
In 1313, Robert the Bruce granted Aberdeen custodianship over his Royal Forest of the Stocket. In 1319 Robert issued a second charter. This granted Aberdeen fuller rights over the Stocket. The City Council also bought three other plots of land, which together with the Stocket Forest came to be called the Freedom Lands.
There are two sets of boundary stones: the inner and the outer. The inner march stones mark the boundary of the crofts that ringed the medieval Royal Burgh of Aberdeen. The outer march stones define a much larger area known as the Freedom Lands. These lands went on to become the right and responsibility of the medieval and later Royal Burgh of Aberdeen. The name 'march stones' derives from the 16th century meaning of march as a boundary.
The earliest boundary markers were probably natural features such as burns and stones, with the addition of small purpose-built cairns. The first description of the marches dates back to a 'riding of the marches' in 1525. The practice of riding the boundary lines was intended to ensure they were being observed and respected, and that no adjacent landowners had encroached onto the town's lands. These rides were accompanied by a great deal of ceremony and feasting.
Although the march stones of Aberdeen are easy to access, many are difficult to get to. In most cases, you can get access to stones that are off the beaten track. However, some stones are not publicly accessible so the right of responsible access does not apply.
The boundary stones trail leaflet has more information about the history of the Freedom Lands. You can download a copy below:
The Freedom Lands and Marches of Aberdeen 1319-1929
Known as the 'Blue Book', the book was published by the Aberdeen Town Council in December 1929 as a history of the Freedom Lands and Marches. It appears here courtesy of the City of Aberdeen Burgesses of Guild, who scanned the book as part of a digital record of the history of Aberdeen.