Freedom Lands and Marches

This is the story of how Aberdeen acquired its boundaries and ultimately established itself as the city we know today. Walking or riding this boundary by following stone markers was an important tradition in Aberdeen.

The information below is a shortened version of the March Stones Trail leaflet, which explores the history of the Freedom Lands.

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, members of the public can get access to stones that are 'off the beaten track'. Nevertheless, some stones are not publicly accessible and in such cases, the right of responsible access does not apply.

 

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 City.

 

Whilst enjoying the outdoors, please ensure that you behave responsibly by respecting the interests of others, caring for the environment and taking responsibility for your own actions. Please ensure you follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code when enjoying the outdoors:


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