Kilmuir

   KILMUIR, a parish, in the Isle of Skye, county of Inverness, 18 miles (N. by W.) from Portree; containing, with nearly all of the quoad sacra parish of Steinscholl, 3625 inhabitants. This place, which forms the northern extremity of the Isle of Skye, is known to have derived its name from the dedication of its church to St. Mary. Its early history is involved in great obscurity; but it is generally supposed to have been inhabited, in common with the adjacent districts, by the ancient Caledonians, or Picts, and subsequently by a colony of Norwegians, whom the tyranny of Harold Harfager, their king, had induced to quit their native country and to settle here. From this and the surrounding islands the settlers made frequent piratical incursions upon the coast of Norway; and for the suppression of these, the king, in concert with his allies, assembled a powerful fleet, which he sent against his revolted subjects; and he ultimately succeeded in annexing the islands to the crown of Norway. After the defeat of the Norwegians in the battle of Largs, by Alexander III., the Western Isles were ceded to the kingdom of Scotland, but were still under the government of the lords of the Isles, who exercised a kind of sovereignty independent of the crown. Of these chieftains the most important were the Macdonalds, descendants of Somerled, Lord of Argyll, between whom and the Macleods of Dunvegan, and other clans, feuds prevailed to such an extent as to induce James V., in 1540, to arm a fleet to reduce them to subjection. The king in person visited the different islands of the Hebrides, and in the parish of Kilmuir was met by a number of chiefs who claimed relationship with the lords of the Isles. In 1715, Sir Donald Macdonald sent a strong body of his vassals from this and neighbouring parishes to the battle of Sherriffmuir; but neither he nor Macleod of Dunvegan could be prevailed upon to join the forces of the Pretender at the battle of Culloden. Of this family was the heroic Flora Macdonald, who, in the disguise of a servant, conducted Prince Charles from Long Island to Monkstadt, in this parish, and was sent as a prisoner to the Tower of London, from which, however, she was released at the intercession of Frederick, Prince of Wales.
   The parish is bounded on the north, east, and west by the sea, and on the south by the parish of Snizort; it is about sixteen miles in length, varying from six to ten miles in breadth, and comprises 30,000 acres, of which 5000 are arable, nearly the same quantity meadow and pasture, and the remainder chiefly moorland, hill pasture, and waste. The surface is intersected by a range of hills, of which the highest has an elevation of 1200 feet above the level of the sea; and there are several smaller hills, covered with verdure, and of picturesque appearance. Within the bosom of a mountainous height, of precipitous acclivity on the west, and on the north-east inaccessible on account of rugged rocks and masses of columnar basalt, is a fertile plain of singular beauty, designated Quiraing, of sufficient extent to afford pasture for a short time to 4000 head of cattle, and which was formerly resorted to as a place of safety in times of danger. The coast is indented with numerous bays, of which the principal are those of Cammusmore, Duntulm, Kilmaluag, and Altivaig; but Duntulm alone affords safe anchorage. The chief islands off the coast are, Iasgair or Yesker, Fladdachuain, Tulm, Trodda, Altivaig, and Fladda: of these, Fladdachuain, about three-quarters of a mile long and 300 yards in breadth, was the site of a Druidical temple. The isles are uninhabited, affording only pasture for cattle. There are some small lakes, in which are found black and yellow trout: one lake has been lately drained, and converted into good arable ground.
   The land in cultivation is principally a tract about two miles in breadth along the shores, and the soil in that part is tolerably fertile, though the system of husbandry is still in a very imperfect state; the chief crops produced are oats and potatoes. The sheep generally reared in the pastures, are of the black-faced and Cheviot breeds; and the cattle, of the Highland, with the exception of cows on the dairy-farms, which are of the Ayrshire, breed. There is no village of any importance: a post-office, under that of Portree, has been established, from which letters are conveyed to Kilmaluag and Steinscholl districts, by a private runner. A road along the south-east boundary of the parish was opened about the year 1830, and is kept in repair by statute labour. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Skye and synod of Glenelg. The minister's stipend is £158. 6. 8., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum; patron, the Crown. The church was built in 1810, and contains 700 sittings, which are all free. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £30, with a house and garden, and the fees average £3 per annum. There is also a school, of which the master has a salary of £15, with a house and a portion of land, supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge; and another school is maintained by the Gaelic School Society. The parish contains some interesting remains of the once magnificent castle of Duntulm, the ancient residence of the Macdonalds, situated on a lofty rock overlooking the bay of that name; and there are vestiges of Culdee cells, and numerous remains of ancient forts, supposed to be chiefly of Danish origin.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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