General > Mill Inn Stonehaven
Mill Inn Stonehaven
Prior to 1850 when the first Caledonian Railway train passed Stonehaven on its way north, Stonehaven occupied a place of considerable importance in the itineraries of long-distance travellers. The old stage coaches which were the only means of transport available to those whose business took them any distance, and which were used for the conveyance of mails, plied along the main roads which had undergone great improvements about the end of the 18th century. Every such coach on its journey from north to south and vice versa passed through Stonehaven which, situated almost half-way between Aberdeen and Montrose, naturally became the end of the first or penultimate stage according to the direction of the journey.
The citizens of Stonehaven suffered from no lack of transport provided, of course, that they did not wish to deviate from the main roads. Certainly the Aberdeen and Edinburgh Fly that plied between Aberdeen and Edinburgh in 1794 was a leisurely vehicle. It took 34 hours to cover the 129 miles, which averages 3.3 miles per hour. The single fare was two guineas.
By 1830, however, this route could boast of the finest service in the British Isles for in that year the famous athlete, Captain Barclay of Ury, started operating the noted stage coach, Defiance. Barclay never did things by halves, and his coach, carrying four passengers, two coachmen and a guard, made light of the road, streaking through the Howe of the Mearns at an average of little short of 11 m.p.h. for the whole journey to Edinburgh which was accomplished in 12 hours. An authority on British coaching regarded the Defiance as the fastest and best conducted coach in the three kingdoms.
Local services from Aberdeen to Stonehaven operated about four times weekly at first and, as time went on, on a daily basis, a couple of dozen four-in-hand coaches everyday dashing out from Aberdeen. Later a service was commenced to Inverbervie which, because of the lack of railway facilities between the two burghs, survived when its predecessors were all but forgotten. The coast road from Stonehaven to the south may not unduly trouble modern transport, but in its initial stage it provided quite a problem to a heavily laden, horse-drawn vehicle. One can visualise the coach halted at the foot of the long bare, the horses bathed in sweat, and the guard jumping down to shout so that every passenger could hear.
First class passengers sit still, second class passengers come oot an' walk, and third class passengers get doon an' shove. So slow, indeed, did the mail coach progress from the old Toll House at the southern extremity of the town to what today is Redcliff corner that the guard used to carry the heavy mailbags from the Mill Inn to the Post Office in the Old Town, kept at the time by a baker whose premises were near the old Market Cross, and exchange them for bags of south-bound mail which he would carry up the steep pathway to the road above the harbour.
There he had time for a breather before his coach caught up to take him on board. The Mill Inn was redeveloped in the late 90’s and is now a block of quality flats.