Tarves is an extremely attractive village not much more than 15 miles away from Aberdeen as the crow flies, but a world away from the bustle of the granite city. This part of Aberdeenshire has been home to people for thousands of years, and today's village, despite some inevitable growth in recent years due to its proximity to Aberdeen, retains a sense of rural continuity it is increasingly hard to find in this day and age.
Much of the centre of Tarves is a Conservation Area, which means it is subject to a variety of controls designed to help retain its exceptional character. This will hopefully ensure that what is an especially charming village today will remain one into the future, despite the development pressures so prevalent across Aberdeenshire.
Tarves has a long history. A church seems to have been founded here in about AD 600 by the Irish monk St Murdebar (or Muirdebar) and the village was already ancient when King William I of Scotland granted the income from church lands in and around Tarves to help support his newly established Arbroath Abbey.
In later centuries, Tarves became heavily influenced by the important landowners in the area, especially the Gordons of Haddo House, two miles to the north of the village, who went on to become Earls and Marquesses of Aberdeen. Perhaps the best known member of the family was George Hamilton-Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen, who was British Prime Minister during the Crimean War. When the 4th Earl died in 1860 the local population subscribed to a memorial to him erected on a hill a mile to the east. This resembles a castle from a chess set and is known locally as the "Prop of Ythsie". Haddo House is now cared for by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public, as is part of the surrounding estate, which forms a country park.
A second influential family were the Forbes of Tolquhon Castle, another visitor attraction in the area, this time a mile and a half south of the village. William Forbes, the 7th Laird of Tolquhon was buried in Tarves kirkyard in what is now known as the Tolquhon Tomb in 1596. By the early 1700s the medieval church, described as a chancel flanked by burial aisles for the Gordons and Forbes, was in a poor state of repair. It was replaced in 1798 with the church you see today, on a site a few yards to the north of the church it replaced. The Tolquhon Tomb was left standing in the kirkyard.
Tarves had been made a burgh in 1673, and in 1797 was recorded as holding three fairs. But by the start of the 1800s it remained a very small settlement focused on the area around Kirk Lane to the north of the church. This all changed in the 1800s when the Gordons of Haddo funded its development into a much larger "planned village". The expansion included the creation of The Square, the open area which today remains at the centre of the village.
And it is around The Square that you still find much that is of interest about Tarves. At the north east corner is the Tarves Heritage Centre, outside which stands an antique petrol pump. The south side is home to the Aberdeen Arms Hotel. And at the west end is the Post Office and an excellent village shop. More shops and services, including a traditional butcher and the Melvin Hall & Carnegie Reading Room, cam be found along Duthie Road to the west of The Square.
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