LAGGAN, a parish, in the county of Inverness, 10½ miles (W. S. W.) from Kingussie; containing 1201 inhabitants. This parish, the name of which is derived from the Gaelic word Lag, signifying "a small round hollow or plain," is situated on the river Spey, and is twenty-two miles in length, from north to south, and of about the same breadth, from east to west, comprising 256,000 acres, of which 25,660 are under wood, 1700 under cultivation, and the remainder mountain and hill pasture and waste. The elevation of the district is nearly the highest in Scotland, and the surface is marked by the greatest possible diversity of features. There are several chains of very lofty eminences, enbosoming level and fertile tracts ornamented richly with wood and water; and in some places is a display of picturesque and romantic scenery almost unrivalled. The locality takes its principal character from the wild and imposing aspect of these mountains, of which, at a distance, it appears entirely to consist; but, upon a nearer approach, the interesting vale of the Spey is seen, dressed in verdure, stretching east and west for about twenty miles, and measuring between one and two miles in breadth. This vale is bounded on the north by the Monadlia, an immense ridge rising 3000 feet above the level of the sea, in some parts thirty miles broad, and reaching to the east for more than eighty miles. To the south is the interesting chain called the Benalder mountain, of equal height with the former, and once the resort of numerous herds of deer, which receded before the flocks of sheep that were till the year 1843 pastured upon its surface: it is now again a deer forest.
   These majestic elevations are relieved by the water of Loch Laggan, eight miles long and one broad, from which views are obtained of the peaks and forms of the different members and masses of the Benalder range especially. The hills of Drummond separate the vale of the Spey from that of this loch. The principal loch, however, in the parish is Loch Ericht, upwards of twenty miles in length, and nearly two in breadth, extending southward from Dalwhinnie, and dividing the ancient forest of Drumochtor, on the east, from that of Benalder, on the west: about one-third of it is in the parish of Fortingal. The Pretender, in 1746, was concealed for the space of two weeks near the banks of this sheet of water, with some of his companions, after their defeat at Culloden; and from this spot he set out for the ship which conveyed him to France. The mountain springs and rivulets are very numerous, and occasionally pour down their torrents with prodigious rapidity, swelling the burns and rivers below, to the destruction of crops, bridges, and tenements. The streams in general contain good trout, and with the lochs, in which there are pike, afford fine sport to anglers. Salmon come up to spawn as far as Loch Spey, where the river of that name rises, in the western part of the parish.
   The soil in the valleys is alluvial, in some places ten or twelve feet in depth, and, when the season is propitious, producing heavy crops of bear, oats, and potatoes, as well as sown and natural grasses. The climate, however, is highly unfavourable to agriculture; frost, snow, and rain often delaying the timely sowing, and destroying the fruits of the ground before they are ripe. No regular system of husbandry is followed; the short leases, and the precarious nature of the in-gathering, discourage the expenditure of capital and the labours of industry; and for the same reasons, the ordinary methods of improving land and recovering waste ground are neglected for the appropriation of the farms to pasture, which is found to be more profitable. About 40,000 sheep are usually kept, mostly the black-faced; blackcattle are also reared, and in general sold, when young, to the south-country dealers. The late Duke of Gordon possessed two-thirds of the lands, but this portion passed by sale to other proprietors. The rents are determined by the number of sheep pastured; the tenants generally expect the wool to pay the landlord, and they hold their farms either as tenants at will, or on leases for a few years only. The rocks in the parish comprise gneiss, an inferior kind of slate, and excellent limestone, a bed of the last running through the centre: peat is supplied by the mosses, and is the ordinary fuel of the inhabitants. Most of the wood is natural, consisting of alder, birch, hazel, and willow; the plantations are of Scotch fir, birch, and several hard-woods, and chiefly in the vicinity of Cluny Castle. This mansion, beautifully situated on the north side of the Spey, was erected at the beginning of the present century, on the site of the ancient castle burnt to the ground by the king's troops in 1746, soon after the battle of Culloden, Cluny Macpherson. the owner, having espoused the cause of Prince Charles Edward. The present proprietor is the chief of the Macphersons, and has in his possession, among many other relies of antiquity, several pieces of armour worn by the prince. The other mansions are, a splendid shooting-seat belonging to the Marquess of Abercorn, situated at Ardveirge, on the border of Loch Laggan, in the midst of richly-diversified scenery; Glentruim House, a modern structure; and a residence on the verge of a loch at Glenshirra. The rateable annual value of Laggan is £6951. The Highland mail passes and repasses every day through one extremity of the parish: there is also regular communication, by carriers, with Perth, Kingussie, Fort-William, and Inverness, to the two last of which places the marketable produce is sent. The roads have been much improved since 1820; and the parliamentary road from FortWilliam, meeting the Highland road at the bridge of Spey, near Kingussie, was made about that time. There is a good road from Dalwhinnie to Fort-Augustus. Near the church is a handsome wooden bridge over the Spey; there is a stone bridge on the line of the military road at Garvamore, and two or three others cross the smaller streams.
   The parish is in the presbytery of Abertarff and synod of Glenelg, and in the patronage of the Duke of Richmond. The minister's stipend is £158, of which nearly half is paid by the exchequer; he has a manse, of very recent erection, and a glebe of twenty-four acres of very inferior land, to which is attached the privilege of pasturage on the adjoining hills. The church was built in 1843, and contains about 600 sittings, all free. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship; and there is a chapel for Roman Catholics. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches; the master has a salary of £34, with a house, and £20 fees. At Ardveirge, or "the Height of Fergus," near the side of Loch Laggan, tradition reports that one or more of the kings Fergus were buried. They used to resort hither, as well as many others of the ancient kings, for the purpose of hunting; and it is said that the dogs were kept on an island in the loch, called Eilean nan con, or "Dogs' island," near which, in the same loch, is another isle called Eilean an Righ, or "Kings' island." A silver coin of the reign of Henry II. has been found in the vicinity. In the middle of the parish is a very lofty perpendicular rock, with the remains of a fortification on its summit; and at the east end of Loch Laggan, the ruins of the old church are still to be seen. Lachlan Macpherson, Esq., one of the coadjutors of James Macpherson in collecting the poems of Ossian, and also himself a very superior Gaelic poet, was born and buried in the parish. Mrs. Grant, the poetess, resided for some time in the place, with her husband, the Rev. James Grant, formerly parochial minister. She was one of the last survivors of those who met Dr. Johnson, in 1773, while on his tour, being at that time a resident at FortAugustus, and in her eighteenth year; and she frequently described to her friends the strong impression made on her mind by the bulky stature and singular appearance of the great moralist.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

Look at other dictionaries:

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