This extensive archive traces the fortunes of the Burnett family of Leys and Crathes Castle from the late 14th to early 20th centuries. It is known by 2 names, Burnett of Leys, or the Crathes Castle papers. A survey list compiled by the National Register of Archives in 1986 (NRA(S) 2847) which divides the papers into 4 sections presently serves as finding aid for the collection. For a detailed description see Rachel M. Hart in Reports and Surveys of Archives in Northern Scotland, in Northern Scotland, 12 (1992), 133-134.
Section One covers the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. The material described therein includes writs and charters relating to the acquisition of different parts of the estate; title deeds to property in and around Banchory and Muchalls; papers dealing with relations between the Burnetts and neighbours such as the Irvines of Drum; the development of the town of Banchory, and its school (including mortifications, 1650 (GB 231 MS 3361/ I/21/7 - 8) and poor; material concerning patronage and teinds of the church of Banchory Ternan (GB 231 MS 3361/I/10/23 - 24); family papers, including marriage contracts from 1509; and military and personal papers concerning the Covenanting period (GB 231 MS 3361/I/38) and of Major William Burnett of Balfour (also GB 231 MS 3361/II/42 - 59).
Section Two contains mainly seventeenth to nineteenth century papers and correspondence of legal and financial interest, together with many accounts. There is also important domestic material relating to the castle and estate, together with personal, family and executry papers. Rentals, farm plans, tacks, etc. are included with material concerned with the administration of the estate. There are interesting items on nineteenth century forestry (GB 231 MS 3361/II/89), drainage (GB 231 MS 3361/II/94) and roads, and some small amount of mainly printed material on the Dee Salmon Fishing Improvement Association, 1878 - 1902 (GB 231 MS 3361/II/92) (more material on fishing is to be found in Section Three). There are items of political interest, including papers relating to Kincardineshire elections, 1832 - 1874 (GB 231 MS 3361/II/103), and the local development of the Banchory area continues to be well covered with nineteenth century material, for example, on Crathes Station, the Deeside Railway (GB 231 MS 3361/II/117) and Banchory Lodge (GB 231 MS 3361/II/144).
Section Three covers modern estate and legal records, and includes plans, rentals, details of the sale of timber, papers relating to Crathes Castle and school, improvements to roads and bridges, and the fishing of the Dee.
Section Four mainly comprises volumes, including a court book of the Barony of Leys, 1621 - 1709 (v 88); cash books, 1877 - 1938 (v 63 - 73); estate ledgers, 1889 - 1941; rentals, 1762 - 1895; valuations; wood books, 1884 - 1919 (v 40, 51); a family and domestic account book, 1798 - 1809 (v 37); and diaries of Burnett family members, 1820 - 1852 (v 10 - 13, v 5, v 57) and of an unidentified female author, 1817 - 1842 (v 16 - 24).