Kilmuir Easter

   KILMUIR EASTER, a parish, in the county of Ross and Cromarty, 6 miles (S. S. W.) from Tain; containing, with the villages of Barbaraville, Milntown, and Portlich, 1486 inhabitants, of whom 1023 are in the rural districts of the parish. This place, which is situated on the shore of the Frith of Cromarty, derives its name from the dedication of its ancient church to St. Mary, and the adjunct by which it is distinguished, from its relative position with reference to the parish of Kilmuir, in the district of Wester Ross. The lands formed part of the ample possessions of the earls of Cromarty, of whom George, first earl, obtained the privilege of erecting his estates in this parish, and in the adjacent parts of Ross, into a separate county, called after him Cromarty. These estates became forfeited to the crown on the attainder of George, third earl, for his participation in the rebellion of 1745; and the baronial mansion, Tarbat House, which had been the family residence, was suffered to fall into a state of neglect and dilapidation. The forfeited estates were, however, restored, in 1784, to the late Lord Macleod, son of the last earl, who erected the present house of Tarbat, and extended and improved the ancient demesne, which was one of the most splendid and magnificent in the country; and the lands of Kilmuir are now the property of his descendant, John Hay Mackenzie, Esq., the principal landed proprietor.
   The parish, which is bounded on the south by the Frith, is about ten miles in extreme length and four miles in breadth, comprising 21,500 acres, of which 3500 are arable, 5600 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, and moorland. The surface near the shore is generally level; in other parts, diversified with rising grounds; and towards the north, skirted by a range of hills of moderate elevation, cultivated nearly to their summits. The Balnagown, a small stream, after bounding the parish on the north-east, flows into the Frith of Cromarty; it abounds with trout, and salmon of small size are sometimes found in its waters. The higher grounds command extensive views of the Moray Frith and country adjacent, which are seen with beautiful effect in the opening between the rocks called the Souters, at the entrance of the bay of Cromarty, in which the ships passing and repassing form an interesting feature in the landscape. The prevailing scenery of the parish, enriched with wood, and enlivened with the highly-ornamented grounds of Tarbat House and other handsome mansions, is generally pleasing, and in some parts strikingly picturesque. The coast, however, is flat and sandy; and at low water, the bay, which is here from three to four miles in breadth, is almost dry, and quite fordable to the opposite coast of Nigg. The sands on the sea-shore abound with cockles and muscles of fine quality; and there are some oysterbeds, which are tolerably productive, yielding a considerable revenue.
   The soil is various; in most of the low lands, of a light gravelly quality, which has been greatly improved by careful management; in the higher lands, principally moor; and in others, alternated with tracts of moss. The crops are, oats, wheat, barley, potatoes, turnips, peas, and beans; the system of husbandry has been steadily improving; the lands have been partly drained and inclosed, and the farm-buildings generally are substantial and commodious. The sheep, of which more than 2000 are reared, are of the black-faced, Cheviot, and Leicestershire breeds; the cattle, of which about 1000 are fed on the hills, are of the Aberdeenshire black breed. A considerable number of swine are also reared for the markets; and large quantities of butter and cheese are made on the dairy-farms. There are very considerable remains of natural wood, though, during the continuance of the forfeiture, vast quantities of timber were cut down in the grounds of Tarbat House. On the demesne attached to it are still some groves of venerable and stately trees; and on the estate of Balnagown is a splendid avenue of oak, elm, birch, and chesnut, all of ancient and majestic growth. The more modern plantations consist chiefly of larch and Scotch fir. The substrata in the parish are principally red and white sandstone. White freestone of fine texture, resembling the Craigleith stone, and susceptible of a high polish, is quarried at Kenrive, on the lands of Kindace; and there are also several quarries of red sandstone, but of inferior quality. The rateable annual value of Kilmuir Easter is £3391.
   Tarbat House, on the shore of the Frith, the seat of Mr. Mackenzie, is a handsome structure, beautifully situated in an extensive and richly-embellished demesne, and has been greatly improved since the date of its erection. Within the grounds are some inconsiderable remains of the old castle, the seat of the earls of Cromarty. The plantations have been extended, and the place is rapidly recovering its ancient magnificence. Balnagown Castle, the seat of Sir Charles W. A. Ross, Bart., is an old structure, originally the residence of the earls of Ross, and has been much improved by the present proprietor, who has erected some additions in a very elegant style; it is seated in a demesne adorned with stately timber, and commanding an extensive view over the surrounding country. Milnmount House, near the village of Milntown, a well-built edifice, was pulled down in the year 1845. Kindace House, in the upper part of the parish, and Rhives, are both handsome mansions. The villages of Barbaraville, Milntown, and Portlich are separately described. At Parkhill, in the village of Milntown, is a post-office, which has a daily delivery; and facility of communication is maintained by the high road from Tain to Inverness, and other good roads which intersect the parish. At Balintraid, on the shore of the Frith, is a small harbour affording accommodation for vessels from Leith and Aberdeen, and others, which bring supplies of coal and various kinds of goods, and considerable quantities of grain from Easter Ross, and fir timber for the use of the collieries, are annually shipped from the pier. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Tain and synod of Ross. The minister's stipend is £211. 13., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £12 per annum; patrons, the Mackenzie family. The church, erected in 1798, is a substantial structure, containing 900 sittings; at the east end is a round tower, used as a belfry, on which is the date 1616. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school affords instruction to more than sixty children; the master has a salary of £32, with a dwelling-house, and the fees average about £12 per annum. On a small hill covered with wood, on the lands of Kindace, were the remains of a Druidical circle, of which the stones were removed some few years since by the farmer, to afford materials for building a dyke. The hill of Kenrive, on the same property, is supposed to have been so called from a king who was killed in a battle near the spot, and over whose remains was reared the large cairn which crowns its summit.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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