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Sand, Silt, Flint: Walk Five: Forglen Estate

Sand, Silt, Flint is a studio album and song cycle project by Aberdeenshire electronic music composer, sound artist and avant-folk experimentalist Fiona Soe Paing. 

From the bleak expanses of The Lecht in the Cairngorms, to the dramatic Banffshire coast, the songs combine Fiona’s original electronica arrangements and mesmerising vocals with re-imaginings of traditional ballads, archive material, field recordings and traditional instrumentation, enveloping the listener in an immersive and unsettling re-imagining of ancient stories.

Each song isalso presented via a series of outdoor geo-located sound walks in the Echoes mobile app; using smart-phones and headphones, the audio is triggered by GPS, enabling audiences to experience the music in the environments which provided it’s inspiration.

Each walk is accompanied by text detailing the local folklore that inspired it and practical information on how to get to each location. 

Walk Five: Forglen Estate

Forglen’s Plantins Ballard 

The old North East ballad linked with Forglen Estate is known as Forglen’s Plantins or Forglen’s Wood – the word ‘plantins’ is Scots for a small wood. Through its lyrical versus an unknown writer weaves a picture of rural idyll as the backdrop for a tale rich with young love, the heartbreak of separation and the uncertainty of if a lover will remain faithful. 

While taking in the ‘fresh and fair’ air of the plantins one morning the writer is enjoying the beauty of the woods and lark songs when he comes across two young lovers locked in an embrace by the foot of a tree. The writer’s soft footsteps do not disturb the lovers and as he approaches he overhears the young man confessing to his love that, although he dearly wants to stay, he has no choice but to go away. As he breaks his sad new to his ‘dearest’ he showers her with romantic praise claiming she is ‘sweeter to me than the honey to the bee’ and that her cheeks are like roses and her skin as soft as silk. 

Despite his professed love, the young man isn’t convinced she will stay faithful during his absence. He predicates sleepless nights thinking about her while he is away, but proceeds to compare her love for him to the moon which ‘wanders up and down.’ The ballad concludes with the young man’s assurances that his love for her is much more like the constant sun as he promises to remain true to her while he’s away. 

Unfortunately, we don’t know her reply to both her lover’s praise and accusations, or if the writer was discovered eavesdropping on their conversation. However, we do know that the ballad and the young lovers it depicts have also been ascribed to other places in the North East such as Strichen, twenty miles east of Forglen. 

Forglen Estate Walk 

Forglen Estate is one the North East’s best kept secrets and it’s not hard to imagine the ballad’s unknown writer drawing inspiration for his tale of young love from its rural setting and aura of romance. Once you pass through the estate gates it takes no time at all to get lost in the peace of the pathways and trails which gently weave through acres of woodland and alongside the banks of the River Deveron. 

Originally Forglen belonged to the Ogilvy family through their claim on the Scottish peerage title of Lord Banff. However, following the death of the unmarried William Ogily the 8th Lord Banff in 1803, ownership passed to the Abercromby family through the marriage of the late Lord’s sister. They in turn sold up in the mid 1970s. Today Forglen remains privately owned and a working estate, growing barley for the region’s whiskey industry. Deer, Highland cattle and native birds of prey such as sparrow hawks and buzzards also all call the estate home and could well be spotted during a walk. However, one of the highlights of a visit is the magnificent Forglen House which sits about a mile from the entrance to the estate. Although only built in the early nineteenth century, the house stands on the footprint of a much older building and contains some of the features salvaged from its processor including a stone triple coat of arms which sits on one of its towers. Gothic in feel and style, the mansion was designed by Scottish architect John Smith who is also responsible for much of the architecture of Aberdeen. Although not open to the public, it’s well worth the walk to see it and take in the stunning river views that stretch out in front of the mansion’s wide lawns. 

Also take time to explore Forglen’s magical, glen garden which is landscaped around a small stream and reached through a gate close to the house. The looped walk through the garden’s rambling peace is about a mile long and features an old stone bridge and wooden benches tucked under the trees, which are perfect to enjoy the sounds of the stream and complete silence beneath it. The trail around the garden can be very slippery in wet weather. Other estate highlights include a Gothic mausoleum built in the mid 19th century. Ultimately, one visit to the estate isn’t enough and once you’ve discovered it’s beauty, like the young lover in the ballad of Forglen’s Plantins, you’ll be sad to leave and look forward to returning. 

Practical Information 

Getting There

Forglen Estate is located a couple of miles north west of Turriff. Follow the B9025 as it leads north and then west from the centre of Turriff until you come to the gates of the estate on the right hand side of the road. There is a small road and layby in front of the gates where cars can park. From here pass by the gate house and into the estate. It’s then a straight walk along the track through the woodland to Forglen House. You can either return the way you came or take a circular walk of around three miles around the estate which leads back to the layby by a track which emerges just past it. Forglen Estate is not accessible via public transport.

Toilets & Refreshments 

There are no amenities for visitors at the estate. Public toilets and places to eat or buy food can be found at nearby Turriff.  


This walk is not accessible for wheelchair users. 

Each walk is written and researched by Lesley Anne Rose.

You purchase Sand, Silt, Flint via Fiona’s Band Camp site. 

Image credit: Isla Goldie

Walk Disclaimer

We are not responsible for the maintenance of the pathways and tracks described in each walk. The responsibility lies with the landowner or public body that manages the land. Walks have been researched and written based on the conditions of the track or pathway when we undertook each one. We strongly recommend wearing appropriate walking shoes or boots and outdoor clothing for each walk. 

Dogs should be kept on a lead during lambing season (April to July) and be careful to check for ticks when returning from walks between March and October which can cause Lyme Disease. For more information, see: