Sleat, or Slate

   SLEAT, or SLATE, a parish, in the island of Skye, county of Inverness, 16 miles (S. by W.) from Broadford; containing 2706 inhabitants. This parish, the name of which is supposed to be of Danish origin, is situated in the south-eastern part of the island, and is twenty-five miles in length and five in average breadth, comprising 24,056 acres; 1335 are arable, 3956 green pasture, 18,265 hill pasture, and 500 wood. It is chiefly a peninsula. The northern part, reaching to Kyle-Rhea, a ferry separating Skye from the main land of Glenelg, comprehends but a small proportion compared to the southern or peninsular district, which is separated from it by a narrow isthmus formed by the approximation of an arm of the sea on the east, called Loch-in-daal, and another on the west, called Loch Eishart. The whole of the eastern boundary is washed by the channel which runs between Skye and the counties of Ross and Inverness; and though the shore is not so deeply indented as that in many other parts of the island, it is yet very irregular in its outline, particularly in the southern portion. The interior displays considerable variety of scenery; and the eastern side, where most of the cultivated ground is situated, is ornamented with the thriving plantations of Armadale Castle, and exhibits specimens of superior husbandry in its arable and pasture lands. Westward are tracts of low bleak moorland, forming a contrast to the bold elevations of Strath, and especially to the lofty and pinnacled range of Cuillin beyond. The lochs are of small extent, and principally in the moorlands; they only contain trout, which are sometimes taken by anglers; but the paucity of fish in these waters is compensated by the supply of various kinds in the neighbouring seas, comprehending herrings, cod, ling, skate, mackerel, salmon, flounders, and many others.
   The soil is mossy towards the middle of the parish, furnishing the inhabitants with plenty of good peat for fuel; in the portion under tillage it is clayey, but on account of the humidity of the climate and the wetness of the ground, the crops are late. The farmers consist partly of a superior order here called tacksmen, who hold their lands by lease, generally for fifteen years, and partly of crofters or small tenants, who hold at will, and cultivate mere allotments of ground; and these two classes are so entirely different in circumstances, and in the results of their agricultural labour, that they form a perfect contrast to each other. The tacksmen pursue a regular system of husbandry, including a rotation of crops; pay much attention to the rearing of sheep and cattle; and have convenient and comfortable farm-buildings. The crofters, on the contrary, are chiefly anxious to raise potatoes, which having planted in the spring, and manured with sea-ware, they leave home, and proceed to the south in search of employment, there being but little demand for labour in the parish: at the end of harvest they return; appropriating their summer earnings to the payment of their rent, and the relief of those who are sick or infirm; and remaining throughout the winter entirely unoccupied. Most of this class have cattle and sheep grazing on the hills; but their numbers being far too great for the quantity of pasture, they are lean and stunted, and contribute only in a small degree to the means of subsistence. The crofters are thus extremely poor; they are all clad in home-made apparel, rarely taste butchers' meat, and consider oatmeal a luxury; a depressed state arising from over-population, and the consolidation of several tracts, and their conversion into sheep-farms. The rateable annual value of the parish is £2097.
   The substrata consist of gneiss, intersected with trap dykes: the stone used in building the castle of Armadale, the property of Lord Macdonald, proprietor of the parish, was brought from quarries in the adjoining parish of Strath, freestone being used for the more massive, and granite for the ornamental portions. This structure, built about thirty years since, is particularly admired for its hall and staircase, which are beautifully finished, and the latter ornamented with a window of stained glass by Egginton, of Birmingham, containing a fine portrait of Somerled, Lord of the Isles, who was the founder of the family, represented in full Highland costume. The rooms are all commodious and well proportioned, and some exceedingly handsome. There are several good roads connecting different parts of the parish; and a parliamentary road runs through it, communicating between Armadale and Broadford. Steam-boats plying between Glasgow and Portree touch here every day in summer, and once every fortnight in winter. The chief produce exported consists of herrings and cod sent to the district of the Clyde, of sheep sent to the Falkirk trysts, and of black-cattle conveyed to Broadford, to which places purchasers come from the south of Scotland. A post-office is established under Broadford. The parish is in the presbytery of Skye, synod of Glenelg, and in the patronage of the Crown: the minister's stipend is £158, of which £96 are paid by the exchequer; with a manse, built about forty years since, and a glebe valued at £6 per annum. The church, situated at Kilmore, near the centre of the parish, is a plain structure bearing the date of 1631; it has lately been repaired, and contains sittings for about 500 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches; the master has a salary of £30, with a house, and £3 fees. There is also an Assembly's school at Tormore; another is supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge; and a school has been established by the Gaelic School Society, at the the ferry of Kyle-Rhea. An ancient building called Dun-scaich, situated on the west side of the parish, and another, called the Castle of Knock, on the east, are supposed to have been at a very remote period residences of the barons of Sleat. Sir John Macpherson, who held a high appointment in India, was born here. The place confers on the Macdonald family the title of barons of Sleat.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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