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The name Aberdeen can be translated "at the mouth of the Dee." The city of Aberdeen has always been between the Don and Dee rivers, and Aberdeenshire takes its name from this principle city.


seven sons map

As legend has it, an early king of Pictland named Cruithne (who was a son of Cinq) divided his land amongst his 7 sons, as illustrated on the map, Seven Sons of Cruithne, below. (On this map, just look at the names, because the geographic boundaries refer to a later division of lands.)

Seven Sons of Cruithne

One of those sons was named Fotla or (Foclaid) who received land including what would later be considered (northern) Atholl. While this is difficult to date, another son, Fib, is said to have ruled between 715 and 691BC. Some variation exists because the timing for Picts is variously reported as a period starting between the Mid to Late Iron Age (400BC to 250AD) and ending in the Early Medieval period (approx 900AD).

Kenneth MacAlpin  united the Scottish kingdoms in 843AD, and over time, areas of land were re-divided, combined, and re-divided again.

Mormaers were rulers of areas smaller than all of Scotland. For example, Dubdon of Atholl (active 960s AD) was Mormaer of Atholl during the reign of King Dub of Scotland.(reigned 963 to 967AD).

Malcolm III (reigned 1058 to 1093) appears to have introduced the idea of shires, governed by shire-reeves (sheriffs) as part of a policy of replacing previous forms of government with Norman feudal structures. This policy was continued by Edgar (reigned 1097 to 1107), Alexander I (reigned 1107 to 1124), and in particular David I (reigned 1124 to 1153). For example, Stirlingshire appears in a charter of 1150 under the name Striuelinschire.

Map of Mormaerdoms

Around this time, Atholl became an earldom. The first recorded Earl of Atholl was Matad, some time in the 1100's.

In 1305 Edward I of England, who had deposed John Balliol issued an Ordinance for the Government of Scotland. This document listed the twenty-three shires then existing and either appointed new sheriffs or continued heritable sheriffs in office.


In 1305, the land of Atholl was also known as Perth County or Perthshire.

In 1703, Atholl was made a dukedom (with a  Duke) which has higher status than an earldom (with an Earl).

In 1746 , the right of the Earls of Atholl to hold courts for the area were ended by the Heritable Jurisdictions Act, and the province was subsequently only subject to the jurisdiction of the sheriff of Perthshire. 

Area of Atholl

in dark blue


Counties Until 1890

18. Stirlingshire                               26. Roxburghshire

19. Clackmannanshire                   27. Dumfriesshire

20. Kinross-shire                             28. Kirkcudbrightshire

21. Fife                                              29. Wigtownshire

22. Linlithgowshire                         30. Lanarkshire

23. County of Edinburgh               31. Selkirkshire

24. Haddingtonshire                      32. Peeblesshire

25. Berwickshire

In 1889, counties were created by the Local Government (Scotland) Act which replaced the ancient provinces by new Counties (shires), aligned to sheriffdom boundaries. Hence, Atholl formed the northern portion of the new Perthshire, shown on the map SHIRES from 1890 to 1975, below, as #24.

SHIRES from 1890 to 1975

  The 1947 map below includes

   -Counties and Districts, 


   -Large and Small Burghs

For more clarity: Try your View tab and  Zoom 150%

In 1975, shires ceased to be used for local government purposes, and local government regions were developed. Today local government is based upon Council Areas. The Council Areas have adopted some shire names but the boundaries are not necessarily the same as the shires were. Atholl forms the northern part of the Council Area of Perth and Kinross, which itself is made from the 2 older shires (counties) of Perth and Kinross.  The remainder of Atholl is approximately in the present day council area of Stirling.

Towns and villages in the area previously was called Atholl include Aberfeldy, Ballinluig, Blair Atholl, Dunkeld, Kirkmichael, Logierait, Pitlochry and Weem.

               Present Day

Council Areas and their Capitals

Present Day


Cruick Water at Stracathro

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