Torphins is an attractive village that sits astride the A980 some 6 miles north-west of Banchory and 22 miles from Aberdeen. Neither quite Deeside nor Donside, yet conveniently placed for both, Torphins is somewhere you are very likely to find yourself passing through during any stay in Aberdeenshire.
Torphins lies just three miles south-east of Lumphanan, where Macbeth was killed on 15 August 1057. There has been an attractive suggestion made that the name of Torphins comes from the name of a cousin and sometime ally of Macbeth's: Earl Thorfinn of Orkney, also known as Thorfinn Sigurdsson or Thorfinn the Mighty. Sadly this seems unlikely. The village first appeared on a map in 1750 as "Turfins", and most sources agree that the name comes from the Gaelic torr fionns meaning "white hills", perhaps a reference to the Hill of Fare, to the east.
Having, literally, first appeared on the map in 1750, Torphins seems to have remained an extremely small settlement until the mid 1800s. The change came with the arrival of the Deeside Railway which linked Aberdeen to Ballater in the 1850s. For most of its length, the railway ran within sight of the River Dee. The exception came for the stretch west of Banchory, where the line first curved north through Torphins and Lumphanan before returning south to rejoin Deeside at Aboyne.
The station built by the Deeside Railway, on what is now the north side of the village, took the name of the nearest settlement, Torphins, and within a short period of time the modern village began to grow around it. What is today the Parish Church was built as the North Church in 1875, and the Learney Arms Hotel took on its current form, possibly built around an earlier inn, in 1874. The Torphins golf Club, with its challenging 9-hole course, was founded in 1891. In 1899 the impressive grey-stone Learney Hall was built towards the north-west end of the village, to mark the golden wedding anniversary of the local laird, Thomas Innes of Learney. In 1905 what is now known as the South Church was added on the south side of the main road through the village, originally serving as a Free Church.
The presence of the Learney Arms Hotel and the Learney Hall in the village highlight the way the developers of Scotland's railways were often very arbitrary in their choice of station names, perhaps unaware of the impact they would have on future development. Two miles north of Torphins is Learney House, built in 1747 and largely reconstructed in the mid 1800s following a fire. Between the house and Torphins, a detailed map shows the tiny settlements of East and West Learney and Milltown of Learney. You could certainly be forgiven for thinking that the issue of names might have gelled more neatly had the proprietors of the railway named their station Learney rather than Torphins.
The Deeside railway ceased operations in 1966, and the station in Torphins is long gone. Today the physical memory of the railway remains only in the name of Station Road, and in the shape of "Platform 22", a studio gallery on Station Road. Torphins itself contracted following the demise of the railway, but only briefly, before expanding, like so many of Aberdeenshire's settlements, following the beginning of the North Sea oil boom in the 1970s.