Auchtavan is Gaelic for the field of the two kids. Traditionally, the rental paid for the land to the laird of Invercauld was two young goats.
The people who lived at Auchtavan were farmers. They grazed their sheep and their cattle on the steep hillsides and grew cereals in the thin mountain soils. They had no gas or electricity, no telephones, and no running water. There was no central heating, just the fireplace under the hinging lum. They had to walk miles to go to school and to church, and the nearest shops would have been down in the glen at Braemar.
Located at the head of Glen Feardar (the glen of high water), the settlement sits some 450 metres above sea level and looking across the River Dee to Lochnagar. The lands around the Dee are very fertile and good for agriculture. Even this high up on the mountainside the farmers could grow corn and raise livestock.
People farmed here for at least two hundred years before the last occupant left in the mid-1900s. In 1861, William and Margory McHardy were living here with their seven children, a ploughman and two farm servants. Life at Auchtavan would never have been easy, and eventually everyone would have left to find jobs in the towns. Many people emigrated to find new opportunities in places like America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The Hingin Lum Cottage
The cottage would originally have been divided in two, one side for the animals, the other half for the family where the hinging lum (wooden chimney) is. Because it is such an important building, the cottage is kept locked. For access, please contact 01339741219 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The Horse Mill
Next to the cottage sits the Horse Mill which is open at all times and houses and Interpretation Board. Outside you can see the horse walk where the horse (or sometimes a donkey or a cow) would be harnessed and would walk around turning the threshing machinery inside the mill. You can go inside and read more about the community on the information pane. Please remember to close the door securely behind you.
Queen Mother's Picnic Cottage
The 20th cottage on the site was the residence of that last farmer at Auchtavan and with its stunning outlook across the valley towards Lochanagar, was subsequently use by HRH Queen Elizabeth the queen Mother as a Picnic Cottage.
The cottage is now used to accommodate educational visits to Auchtavan and to complete the picture of how the site has been used over the centuries.
Life at Auchtavan would always have been hard, but with its views across to the legendary mountain of Lochnagar, there are surely few more beautiful places to live. The unspoiled landscape of Upper Deeside is world famous, and its ancient castles show how important the area was to the kings and clan chiefs in medieval times.
The area is also one of the great wildlife treasures of Scotland. During your walk you might see red deer, roe deer, red squirrels, mountain hares, pheasants, grouse, golden eagles and buzzards maybe even the shy and secretive wildcat. On the ground grow alpine flowers and plants, hardy enough to live through the snows and storms of winter, but producing beautiful, delicate flowers in the summertime.