The Ballater we know today is of
fairly modern origin. The village began when in the 18th
century accommodation was needed to deal with the overflow
of visitors from Pannanich Wells, on the south side of
the Dee and this became possible when a bridge was built
over the Dee as an alternative to the ferry crossing. Ballater
then was the ideal place to relax. It is still a mecca
for visitors and for those retiring.
The name Baladar (baile challater)
- settlement at the wooded stream, or perhaps, stream
at the Pass, was used
in Kirk records from the end of the 16th century to the
middle of the 18th for a few houses at the east end of
the Pass of Ballater, behind Craigenddarroch and near to
the Baladar burn. The settlement appears on Bleau’s
map that was published in Amsterdam in 1654. Kirk records
indicate that in 1692 there were eight tenants and one
tradesman (job unspecified) living in the hamlet.
The ecclesiastical and civic centre of a wide area was
Tullich (tulach, a knoll or hillock). As with other Deesside
settlements, it grew up at a meeting of routes - in this
case where the Aberdeen to Braemar road met the North-South
route of Glen Muick, crossing the Dee near Tomnakeist and
going on to Donside. Roads were mere tracks and bridges
few in number, so the ferry over the Dee at Dalmuickeachie
was vitally important.
Tullich, the oldest inhabited centre on Upper Deeside
has a long history. It was inhabited prior to 100 BC and
an earth house or souterrain probably comes from that time.
The Pictish dwellers in the area would have lived in huts
and used the souterrain for storage. It runs in a semi-circle
for almost 20 ft. and was built of stone, without any mortar,
with a roof of granite slabs
The Church of Tullich was founded in the seventh century
by Nathalan and was for generations the mother-Church of
a considerable area. Like most Celtic missionaries, Nathalan
picked an excellent site and put his wattle and daub on
the knoll, hence Tulachnathlak, the knoll of Nathalan.
In the 16th century, at the time of the Reformation, the
Saints name was dropped, leaving Tulach or Tullich. Celtic
missionaries were men of many skills: they were teachers,
doctors, farmers and social workers.
There are many legends about Nathalan, the miraculous
element increasing as time went by. As a penance when he
had cursed the weather that was ruining the crops he padlocked
his hand to his leg and threw the key into the Pool of
the Key (poll na hiurach) below his Church. He went to
Rome on pilgrimage and one day bought a fish for his supper.
Inside he found his key, unpadlocked his hand and leg and
returned to Tullich. As a farmer, he cultivated the fields
but at the time of famine, with no seed-corn left, God
told him to sow sand. He had a good crop at Sluivannachie
( the moor of blessing) west of Ballater. While legends
abound, the Aberdeen Breviary states that Nathalan was
born in 678 and buried at Tullich. His Church would not
last long, but other buildings on the same site succeeded
it. One was mutilated by the Reformers, but a 14th century
doorway still stands and the Pictish Symbol stones, now
gathered into an enclosure. There are 16 of these stones
including a rare pre-800 AD stone, probably contemporary
with Nathalan. It bears the somewhat indistinct carving
of a double disk, Z rod, elephant and mirror. A large early
granite font with drain hole is there too.
|History of the Clan Farquharson