Sutherlandshire


Sutherlandshire
   SUTHERLANDSHIRE, a county, in the north of Scotland, bounded on the north by the North Sea; on the, east and north-east, by Caithness-shire; on the south, by Ross-shire and the Frith of Dornoch; on the south-east, by the Moray and Dornoch Friths; and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. It lies between 57° 53' and 58° 33' (N. Lat.) and 3° 40' and 5° 13' (W. Long.), and is about 62 miles in length and 49 miles in breadth; comprising an area of 2875 square miles, or 1,840,000 acres, of which about 32,000 acres are inlets of the sea, forming salt-water lakes. There are 5157 houses, of which 4977 are inhabited; and the population amounts to 24,782, of whom 11,384 are males, and 13,398 females. This county is supposed to have derived its name from its forming the south division of the old diocese of Caithness. It appears to have been early visited by the Romans, over whom Corbred I. obtained a signal victory, being assisted by the Murrays, a family of Germans who had been expelled from their native country by the Romans, and to whom, in consideration of their services, he granted all the lands to the north of the river Spey. In the reign of Corbred II., another body of the same people, who were called the Cattii, came over from Germany, and settling in these lands, contributed to the victory which that monarch, called by the Roman historian Galgacus, achieved over the Roman invaders previously to their subjugation of the kingdom. The Murrays early became proprietors of Sutherland; and from their chieftains, first distinguished by the title of thanes, or earls, in the former part of the 13th century, the estates and title have lineally descended to the present Duke of Sutherland.
   Previously to the Reformation, the county was part of the see of Caithness, of which the cathedral church was at Dornoch; it has since that time been included in the synod of Sutherland and Caithness, and now comprises two presbyteries, and thirteen parishes. For civil purposes, the county, which was once a portion of the sheriffdom of Caithness, has within the last century been separated from that shire, and erected into a distinct sheriffdom under the jurisdiction of a sheriff-depute, who holds his courts at Dornoch, the county town, and who appoints a sheriff-substitute. Besides Dornoch, which is the only royal burgh, the county contains the villages of Golspie, Brora, and Helmsdale, on the eastern, and some smaller villages on the northern and western coasts. By the act of the 2nd of William IV., it returns one member to the imperial parliament: the constituency amounted in the year 1844 to 169, being an increase of sixteen over the year 1840.
   The surface presents a general assemblage of mountainous heights, valleys, and moors, in continuous succession; the coasts are deeply indented with inlets of the sea, running far into the land, and forming, as already remarked, extensive lakes. The interior is naturally divided into three districts, the characteristic features of which are strongly marked. The land in the south-eastern or level district, towards the sea, is flat, and sheltered on the north-west by a ridge of hills varying from 300 to 800 feet in height, and containing some rich pasturage. The middle district comprises nearly all the straths of Helmsdale, Brora, Fleet, and Oikel, each watered by a river from which it takes its name; it has some pleasant valleys in good cultivation. The north-western district, bordering on the Atlantic, is of more wild and mountainous aspect, abounding with lakes and with Alpine scenery, and containing some tracts of table-land. The principal mountains are, Ben-More, in Assynt, which has an elevation of 3431 feet above the level of the sea; Ben-Clibrig, which rises to the height of 3164; Ben-Hope, near the lake of that name, and Fionaven, which are respectively 3061 and 3015 feet high; Ben-Hee, Spionnadh, and Benarmine, which range from 2800 to 2300 feet in height; and numerous other mountains, varying in elevation from 1935 to 1282 feet.
   Among the chief rivers is the Oikel, which has its source in Loch Aish, near the eastern base of Ben-More, and flowing in an eastern direction through a pleasant and well-wooded vale, forms a boundary between this county and Ross-shire. After a course of more than forty miles, in which it receives the waters of Loch Shin, and numerous streams, whereof the principal is the Carron from Ross-shire, it constitutes the Kyle of Sutherland, and falls into Dornoch Frith, from which it is navigable for a small distance. The Cassley and the Shin are both fine rivers, the former flowing through the strath of that name, and the latter issuing from Loch Shin: after a course of not more than six miles, they both fall into the Oikel. The river Fleet, flowing through Strathfleet with great rapidity, acquires a considerable breadth, and joins the Dornoch Frith at the Little Ferry; while the Brora, issuing from Loch Brora, after a course of about five miles runs into the sea at the village of Brora. The Helmsdale rises in Loch Baden, in the parish of Kildonan, and after a course of about twenty miles, falls into the sea at the village of Helmsdale, about three miles to the south of the Ord of Caithness. In the northern part of the county are, the river Halladale, which rises also in the heights of Kildonan, and after a course of about twenty miles, flows into the Pentland Frith at the Tor of Bighouse; the Strathy, which has its source in the parish of Farr, and watering the Highland vale of that name, falls into the sea at the small village of Strathy; the river Naver, which issues from a loch, and passing through Strathnaver, after a course of thirty miles falls into the sea at the bay of Torrisdale; and several smaller streams, of which the Borgie, the Hope, and the Dionard are the chief. On the western coast are the rivers Inchard, Laxford, Inver, and Kirkaig, all of which, after flowing from ten to fifteen miles, through wild and romantic tracts of country, fall into salt-water lakes, or inlets of the sea.
   The principal lake is Loch Shin, the largest of a chain of lakes which, having merely intervals of land varying from two to three or four miles, like those in the line of the Caledonian canal, might afford a communication by water, between the eastern and western seas. It is about fifteen miles in length, and from one to two miles in breadth, but is not distinguished by many interesting features. The other lakes in this chain are, Loch Geam, at the western extremity of Loch Shin, and closely adjoining it, about three miles in length; Loch Merkland, two miles to the west of Loch Geam, and from three to four miles in length; Loch More, about a mile and a half to the west of Merkland, and five miles in length: and Loch Stack, one mile to the north-west of Loch More, of circular form, and about one mile in diameter. Loch Assynt, the principal lake in the Assynt district, in which are about 200 lakes of smaller dimensions, is nearly seven miles in length, and from one to two miles in breadth; the surrounding scenery is beautifully picturesque, and from the heights that crown its banks are some extensive and deeply-interesting prospects. The chief of the lakes in the immediate vicinity are Lochs Urigill, Cama, Veyatie, Nagana, Beanoch, Gormloch, and Culfreich, which are all of considerable extent, and some of them marked with features of romantic character. In Eddrachillis and Durness are also numerous large lakes, of which Loch Hope is the most interesting. It is situated at the base of the lofty mountain Ben-Hope, and is about six miles in length, and from one to two miles in breadth: from its northern extremity issues a small river which, after a course of little more than a mile, flows into the sea at Inverhope, not far from Loch Eribole. Loch Laoghal, on the eastern side of the mountain of Laoghal, is, with Loch Craigie, a continuation of it, about seven miles in length. To the south-west of this is Loch Maedie, about three miles in length, and having on its surface some picturesque wooded islands; and about five miles to the east of Maedie is Loch Naver, extending for six miles along the base of Ben-Clibrig. On the east side of this mountain are the secluded and picturesque Lochs Corr and Vealloch, the former three, and the latter two, miles in length; to the east of which are Loch Strathy, and various other lakes in the higher parts of Kildonan, whereof Loch Badan, Loch-na-Clar, Loch-na-Cuen, and Loch Truderscaig are the principal. In the south-eastern district are also numerous small lakes. The most interesting is Loch Brora, three miles and a half in length, in some parts contracting its width to half a mile, and in others expanding to a mile and a half; its banks display many of the most attractive features of Highland scenery.
   Only a comparatively small proportion of the land is in cultivation, the greater part by far being mountain pasture, heath, and moor. Of the arable land the prevailing soils are, clay, sand, peat-moss, and a mixture of sand, gravel, and black mould, forming a kind of hazel loam: the system of agriculture has been greatly improved, more especially since the opening of the interior by the formation of roads, and is now equal to that pursued in the most fertile parts of the country. The chief crops are barley and oats, mostly grown along the south-eastern coast: but little wheat is sown, though on the lands of Dunrobin, and at Skibo, some favourable crops have been raised. Peas and beans were formerly much cultivated, but since the introduction of potatoes, the latter have been discontinued: some acres were appropriated to the growth of flax. The mountainous districts afford good pasturage to blackcattle and sheep, of which great numbers are reared. On the dairy-farms, and on some other lands, cattle of the Argyll breed are kept, but the black breed is the most general: of these, many are sold, when young, to dealers who fatten them for distant markets. The sheep, of which more than 200,000 are fed on the mountain pastures, are usually of the Cheviot breed. The horses were principally of the Highland breed; but since the extension of the sheep-farming, the number has been greatly diminished. The lands have in many parts been drained; several inclosures have been made, and some few portions of waste brought into profitable cultivation. The farm-houses are in general substantially built and well arranged; and nearly every improvement in the construction of agricultural implements has been adopted.
   There are a few remains of ancient woods, consisting of coppices of oak, with some birch and alder: the plantations, most of which are of recent growth, are of Scotch fir, ash, beech, elm, and larch, with a few birch, alder, and hazel. The principal substrata are, coal, limestone, marble, and freestone; but no minerals of importance have been discovered. The seats are, Dunrobin Castle, Skibo Castle, Embo, Uppat, Clyne, Kintradwell, Cyder Hall, Crackaig, Tongue, and a few others. The only manufacture is that of kelp: the cotton-manufacture, formerly introduced, has been discontinued since the destruction of the works at Spinningdale, near Creich, by an accidental fire in 1806. The herring-fishery off the coast affords employment to a considerable number of persons; the chief trade of the several ports consists in the exportation of sheep, wool, salmon, and kelp. The interior of the county has been opened by excellent roads, affording great facility of communication, and tending much to the development of its natural resources, under the auspices of the Sutherland family, assisted by parliamentary grants. The rateable annual value of Sutherlandshire, according to returns made under the income-tax, is £36,113, of which £33,689 are for lands, £860 for houses, and the remainder for fisheries. The principal monuments of antiquity are, the interesting remains of Dornoch cathedral, and the ruins of Pictish castles, of which Coles Castle and Dun-Dornigil are the chief, with numerous cairns, encampments, and subterraneous buildings.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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