- KNAPDALE, NORTH, a parish, in the district of Islay, county of Argyll, 8 miles (W. S. W.) from Lochgilphead; containing 2170 inhabitants. This place, of which the name, in the Celtic language, is accurately descriptive of the surface of the land, diversified with hill and dale, was in 1734 created a separate parish, as was also South Knapdale. The two districts previously formed one parish, called Kilvic-O-Charmaig after Mac-O-Charmaig, an Irish saint who, from his solitary retirement on a small island off the coast, founded several chapels in the neighbourhood. This part of the country was alternately subject, for a long period, to the aggressions of the Irish and the Danes, against whose invasions the inhabitants were continually on their guard; and on the approach of an enemy, a series of watch towers along the coast were instantly lighted up as a signal for the assembling of the military force of the district. The lords of the Isles exercised an independent sovereignty over their vassals here till, in the reign of Bruce, they were ultimately compelled to acknowledge the royal authority. The parish is bounded on the north by Loch Crinan and the canal of that name, and on the south and west by the sound of Jura; it is about thirteen and a half miles in length, and nearly six miles in breadth. The exact number of acres has not been ascertained; there are, however, 3400 acres arable, 22,126 meadow and pasture, 1925 in natural wood, and about 250 under plantation. The surface is beautifully diversified with hills and valleys, and in some parts with gentle undulations and gradual slopes. The principal hills are, Cruachlusach, which has an elevation of 2004 feet above the level of the sea, and Dunardary, Duntaynish, Ervary, and Arichonan, of which the lowest rises to the height of 1200 feet; they all command from their summits interesting and extensive prospects, but from Cruachlusach the view is unbounded and strikingly grand. There are not less than twenty inland lakes scattered over the surface; the largest is about a mile and a quarter in length, and nearly one-third of a mile in breadth, and all abound with trout. Several streams, likewise, intersect the parish; the most considerable is the Kilmichael, which has its source in the moor of that name, near the foot of Mount Cruachlusach, and, after a winding course, in which it forms a picturesque cascade, falls into the sea about 300 yards below the bridge of Kilmichael-Inverlussay. The streams of Dunrostan and Auchnamara are of less importance. The coast is deeply indented on the west by the inlet of Loch Swein, which is from about two to three miles broad, and intersects the parish for nearly ten miles in a north-eastern direction, almost dividing it into two distinct parts. The extent of coast, including the shores of Loch Swein, is almost fifty miles: the rocks in the north rise precipitously to a height of 300 feet; in some parts the coast is bounded by low ledges of rocks, and in others by a level sandy beach.The soil near the coast is light and sandy; in other places, a gravelly loam; towards the south-west, a rich friable mould of great fertility; and in other parts, an unproductive moss. The system of agriculture is improving; but the principal attention of the farmers is paid to the rearing of live stock. The chief crops are oats and potatoes; the lands have been improved by draining and the use of lime, and the arable farms are inclosed with stone dykes. The cattle are all of the pure West Highland breed, and in respect of size and quality are not surpassed by any in the country; the sheep are generally of the black-faced breed. The dairy-farms are well managed, and the produce abundant. The ancient woods consist of oak, ash, mountain-ash, willow, birch, alder, hazel, and holly; and the plantations, which are in a thriving condition, are oak, ash, larch, spruce, Scotch and silver fir, elm, and beech. The rateable annual value of the parish is £5891. The villages are, Bellanoch, in which is a post-office under that of Lochgilphead, with three deliveries weekly, and Tayvallich. Facility of communication is afforded by good roads: that from Lochgilphead to Keills passes for fifteen miles through the parish, and a branch of it leads to the church of Kilmichael. A road from Inverlussay to Loch Swein is in progress, which, when completed, will greatly promote the intercourse with the eastern portion of the parish. There are five vessels, of thirty tons each, belonging to this place, employed in trading to Greenock, Liverpool, and the Irish coast; and steam-boats from Glasgow to Inverness pass daily during the summer along the Crinan canal.The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Inverary and synod of Argyll. The minister's stipend is £164. 6. 10., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £22 per annum; patron, the Crown. There are two churches, in which the minister officiates alternately. The church of Kilmichael-Inverlussay is a neat structure, erected in 1819, and contains 432 sittings; the church of Tayvallich, on the opposite shore of Loch Swein, distant from Kilmichael three miles by sea and ten by land, was erected in 1827, and contains 700 sittings. There are three parochial schools, of which the masters have each a salary of £17, and fees averaging £10 annually; the whole afford instruction to about 240 children. At Keills, in the south-western extremity of the parish, are the ruins of an ancient chapel of Mac-O-Charmaig's, near which is an old cross; and on Drimnacreige are those of another religious house. Not far from the site of a chapel at Kilmahunaig, of which only the cemetery remains, is a conical mound, 120 yards in circumference at the base, and thirty feet in height, called Dun-Donald, where the lords of the Isles held their courts for dispensing justice. There are also numerous remains of fortresses, of which one, called Dun-a-Bheallich, on a hill near the church of Tayvallich, appears to have been raised to defend the pass from the bay of Carsaig to that of Tayvallich. On a rock close to the sea are the ruins of Castle-Swein, commanding the entrance of that loch, and of which the foundation is by tradition ascribed to Swein, Prince of Denmark; the remains consist of roofless walls 105 feet in length, seven feet in thickness, and thirty-five feet in height. A portion called Macmillan's tower seems to be of more recent date than the rest.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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