- TARBAT, a parish, in the district of Mainland, county of Ross and Cromarty, 10 miles (E. by N.) from Tain; containing, with the villages of Balnabruach, Portmahomack, and Rockfield, 1826 inhabitants. This parish, which occupies the eastern peninsula of the county, terminating in the narrow point of Tarbat Ness, is bounded on the east and south-east by the Moray Frith, and on the north by the Frith of Dornoch. It is about seven miles and a half in extreme length, varying from less than a mile to four miles in breadth; and comprises about 6400 acres, of which 3500 are arable, 200 woodland and plantations, 1000 meadow and pasture, and the remainder moor and waste. The surface, though varied, is tolerably level, in no part rising to an elevation of more than 200 feet above the level of the sea; it is, however, diversified with some few undulations. There are no rivers within the parish: among the springs of water are some that have a petrifying quality. The coast, which is upwards of fifteen miles in extent, is indented with numerous bays and creeks, of which that of Portmahomack forms an excellent and commodious harbour, affording shelter for vessels in easterly gales; the others are adapted for boats employed in the fisheries. There are several caves in the rocks that line part of the coast: to one, containing a spacious chamber surrounded with a naturally-formed bench of stone, the entrance is so low as to afford admission only to a person kneeling; while to another the entrance is by a stately porch, projecting considerably from the rock.The soil is generally light, and a great proportion of it sandy, but there are also large portions of rich black loam of great depth; among the crops are, barley, oats, rye, potatoes, and turnips. The system of husbandry has been greatly improved under the encouragement given by Mr. Mc Leod and other proprietors of land. The larger farms vary from 150 to 350 acres; the buildings are mostly substantial and well arranged, and on all the principal farms are threshing-mills, one of them driven by steam. Marl found under several of the mosses, and some of which is of very fine quality, and sea-weed, of which abundance is obtained upon the coast, are the chief manures; the lands have been partly inclosed, and are generally under profitable cultivation. Many cattle and sheep are reared in the parish; extremely good samples of each are to be seen on several of the farms, and some have been sold at remarkably high prices. The plantations consist of the common Scotch fir, interspersed with ash, beech, elm, oak, sycamore, hornbeam, and hawthorn; but from want of proper attention, the trees of the older plantations are mostly of diminutive growth. There are several valuable quarries of freestone of excellent quality, in active operation. Geanies, the seat of Mr. Murray, a landed proprietor, is a handsome modern mansion, beautifully situated on the shore of the Moray Frith, in a well-planted demesne. The rateable annual value of the parish is returned at £4168.The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Tain and synod of Ross. The minister's stipend is £251. 2. 10., with a manse, and a glebe of six and a half acres; patrons, the Crown and the Mc Kenzie family. The church was repaired about forty years ago. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £30, with a house, an allowance of £2 in lieu of a garden, and the fees, averaging £7 per annum. The first earl of Cromartie bequeathed twelve and a half bolls of barley annually, and the late Miss Margaret Mc Leod, of Geanies, £100 to the poor of the parish. Near the village of Portmahomack, on an eminence called Chapel Hill, a number of human bones have been found in rude coffins of flagstones, and, in the vicinity, several stone chests, each containing an entire skeleton of unusually large size. On a small creek on the north side of Tarbat Ness, called Port-Chaistel or Castlehaven, are some remains of an ancient castle, from which the first earl of Cromartie took one of his titles; and there are considerable remains of the castle of Balloan, on the shore of the Moray Frith, thought to have been originally built by the earls of Ross. Near the site of the lighthouse on Tarbat Ness, is the foundation of a monument said to have been built by the Romans for a landmark.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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