Urquhart and Glenmorriston

   URQUHART and GLENMORRISTON, a parish, in the district of Mainland, county of Inverness, the former place 18 miles (N. E. by N.) and the latter 7 miles (N.) from Fort-Augustus; containing, with the villages of Invermorriston, and East and West Lewistown, 3104 inhabitants, of whom 2827 are in the rural districts. This parish comprises the ancient parish of Urquhart, of which name the etymology is given in the preceding article, and the ancient parish of Glenmorriston, the name of which, in the Gaelic language Glen-mor-essan, is derived from the falls of the rivers that flow through its picturesque valleys into Loch Ness. The castle of Urquhart, situated on a promontory overlooking the bay of Urquhart, in Loch Ness, was one of a chain of fortresses extending from Inverness to Inverlochy, most of which were erected by the earlier Scottish kings, for the protection of the country from invasion, and for the repression of the frequent internal commotions that disturbed their reigns. This castle was besieged in 1303 by a detachment of the English, sent by Edward I. from Kildrummie for the reduction of the adjacent country, and to whom, after a protracted defence, it surrendered, when the governor, Alexander de Bois, and the whole of the garrison, were put to the sword. The fortress was again assaulted in 1334, by the adherents of Baliol, against whom it was resolutely defended by Sir Robert Lauder, then governor; and subsequently, as a royal garrison, it was, together with the barony, granted by David II. to William, Earl of Sutherland. The remains of this fortress, which was capable of accommodating a garrison of more than 500 men, stand on a rock separated from the main land by a moat twenty-five feet broad and sixteen feet deep, and consist chiefly of the keep, a strong square tower three stories in height, with projecting turrets at the angles. The entrance was by an embattled gateway between two towers of massive strength, and was defended by a drawbridge and portcullis: the outer court was surrounded with walls of great height, inclosing a spacious area, and protected at the angles by platforms, on which were mounted batteries of cannon. The whole formed a structure of almost unrivalled strength, and in a style of architecture superior to that of the generality of Scottish strongholds. The lands attached to the castle, which had been for a time held by the ancient family of the Grants, of Grant, as chamberlains of the king, were, together with the barony of Glenmorriston, granted in recompence of his loyalty and important services, in 1509, by James IV., to John Grant of Freuchie, whose descendants are the present chief proprietors.
   The parish is bounded on the east by Loch Ness, is about thirty miles in length, and varies from eight to twelve miles in breadth; the superficial extent has not been accurately ascertained, but the lands that are arable and in cultivation evidently bear but a comparatively small proportion to the whole. The surface is, perhaps, more strikingly diversified with hills and mountains, and presents more features of sublimity and grandeur, contrasted with those of picturesque and romantic beauty, than any other part of the Highlands. It is intersected by two extensive vales, in nearly parallel directions, at a distance of almost eight miles from each other. Of these, the vale of Glen-Urquhart, towards the north, is about nine miles in length, and first expands from the shore of Loch Ness into a beautiful semicircular plain enriched with woods; while the acclivities of the hills that inclose it on both sides are cultivated to a considerable height from their bases. The river Coiltie flows along the south side of this glen, between banks crowned in some parts with plantations of birch, and in others with heath; and the river Enneric, on the west, passes through a tract of level ground, laid out in some excellent farms, and studded with rural hamlets, to a rocky pass leading into the inland portion of the glen. Nearly in the centre of this inland division of the glen, which is of circular form, is Loch Meikly, a fine sheet of water about one mile in length and half a mile in breadth, on the borders of which are gently rising lawns and richly cultivated grounds terminating in a high ridge of heath, beyond which is the table-land of Corrymony, having an elevation of 900 feet above the level of the sea, but nevertheless in a state of profitable cultivation. Glen-Morriston, in the southern part of the parish, is about twelve miles in length, and at the entrance level, and inclosed by steep hills clothed with plantations of pine and birch: beyond the entrance it gradually expands into great width, and is partially covered with a forest of birch, which extends far up the precipitous acclivities of the mountains on both sides. Towards the interior, the hills are crowned with pine and Scotch fir. The river Morriston flows nearly through the centre of this romantic glen, between rocky banks, which frequently obstructing its winding course, give to it the impetuosity of a torrent; and within a short distance from its influx into Loch Ness it forms a magnificent cascade.
   The interval between the two glens is occupied by a continued chain of lofty mountains, of which the highest, Mealfuarvonie, has an elevation of 3200 feet above the level of the sea. Its higher acclivity is nearly perpendicular on the north and south sides, and at the base is a small circular lake which, though long supposed to be of unfathomable depth, was some years since found by experiment to be comparatively shallow. From the western extremity of this lake issues a small stream forming a boundary between the districts of Urquhart and Glenmorriston. This rivulet, which is called the Aultsigh, or Resting burn, flows through a beautiful tract of rocky and woodland scenery, making in its course some romantic cascades, and falling from a stony channel, at the base of a cliff 1600 feet in height, into Loch Ness, within three miles of Invermorriston. The Divach, a stream tributary to the Coiltie, and enlivening a grove of birch-trees, also has a beautifully picturesque cascade, equal in every respect, except in the volume of water, to the celebrated fall of Foyers; and near the source of the Enneric, which flows from Corrymony into Loch Meikly, is the fall of Moral, of romantic character. The burn of Aberiachan, on the confines of Inverness, and that of Aultguish, or the Fir-tree burn, form a succession of cataracts. Of the numerous fresh-water lakes in the parish, the most considerable is that of Meikly, previously noticed; the others are of inferior dimensions, and not distinguished by any peculiarity of features. They all, however, abound with trout, perch, and pike; salmon are found in the Morriston, and in some of the other rivers, after floods: and in the burns and rivulets, trout are to be obtained in great plenty, and of good quality.
   The soil of Urquhart is generally a rich loam, of little depth, but of great fertility; that of Glenmorriston is of interior quality, light and sandy, but, under good management, producing favourable crops. The crops are, wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and turnips, with the usual grasses. The system of husbandry is in an improved state; and the lands have been rendered more fertile by a liberal use of lime, which, from the scarcity of coal, is brought from England at a cheaper rate than that at which it could be produced here. Nearly all the wheat raised in the parish, and a considerable quantity of the oats, are sent to the market of Inverness; and for some years past, a large quantity of potatoes has been exported for the supply of the London market. The cattle are mostly of the Highland black-breed, and great attention is paid to their improvement; the dairy-farms are well managed, and large quantities of butter and cheese are taken to Inverness and other places. Sheep of the native breed are kept on the Lowland farms, and more than 20,000 are reared in the Highland pastures; no horses are reared in Urquhart except what are necessary for the purpose of local husbandry, nor in Glenmorriston are any bred for sale. The plantations, which are very extensive, and in a thriving state, consist of oak, ash, mountain-ash, beech, elm, alder, poplar, sycamore, hazel, larch, pine, plane, firs, and walnut; and fruit-trees of every kind are to be seen in the gardens of the chief houses. The principal substrata are, old red sandstone and conglomerate, of which the rocks are mainly composed; porphyritic granite, in which are found crystals of felspar; limestone; and mica-slate. The sandstone was quarried for the works of the Caledonian canal, at Fort-Augustus, since which time the works have been occasionally opened to supply materials for paving the streets of Inverness. The mansion-houses are, Balmacaan, in the lower valley of Urquhart, the property and occasional residence of the Earl of Seafield; Invermorriston, the seat of James Grant, Esq., beautifully situated on the shore of Loch Ness; Lakefield, the residence of Patrick Grant, Esq.; Corrymony, the seat of Thomas Ogilvie, Esq.; Polmailly; Kilmore; and a few others. The rateable annual value of the parish is £6232.
   The villages of East and West Lewistown, and Invermorriston, are described under their respective heads. In the vale of Urquhart are several rural hamlets, of which the principal, called Milntown, contains 150, and the others collectively about 115, inhabitants: a few persons are here employed in the handicraft trades requisite for the accommodation of the neighbourhood, and in the cultivation of crofts of land attached to their several houses. At Drumnadrochit and Invermorriston are two inns; and facility of communication is maintained by good roads, formed under the superintendence of parliamentary commissioners for the construction of roads and bridges in the Highlands, and which are kept in tolerable repair. The ecclesiastical affairs of the parish, which originally formed part of the parish of Abertarff, are under the controul of the presbytery of Abertarff and synod of Glenelg. The minister's stipend is £249. 9. 6., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £6 per annum; patron, the Earl of Seafield. The church, erected in 1837, is situated in the lower part of the vale of Urquhart; it is a neat plain structure containing 1100 sittings. A chapel in connexion with the church, and containing 250 sittings, has been built at Meikly in which the minister of the parish officiates every third Sabbath. There is also a missionary station at Invermorriston, where a missionary officiates alternately with another in the upper part of the glen; he receives a stipend of £60 from the Royal Bounty, and £20 from the proprietors of the lands within the district. The parochial school is subdivided into three, of which one is within half a mile of the church, and is endowed with half the salary of £34. 4. 4.; the other two are at Invermorriston and Meikly, and the masters receive each one-half of the remainder. The principal master has the dwelling-house, and the fees of all collectively average about £50 annually. There are also two schools supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge.
   On a hill overlooking Loch Ness are the remains of a vitrified fort called Dunscriben, which communicated with other forts in the centre, and at the eastern extremity of the valley through which the Caledonian canal now passes. In Glen-Urquhart is the rocky eminence of Craigmoni, encircled round the summit with rude walls of stone, and which, according to tradition, was a place of execution, and also a signal station. A Norwegian prince named Moni is said to have landed in the district of Crinan, and to have been attacked and routed by the natives, from whose pursuit he retired to Craigmoni, and established himself for some time in the adjacent valley, called Dalmoni; but being still followed by the natives, he is reported to have perished at Corrymony, where his grave is still pointed out. On the east of the bay of Urquhart are some remains of a small establishment of Knights Templars, of whom some were probably governors of the adjoining castle; and there are several cemeteries in the parish formerly belonging to chapels, in one of which, called Kilmore, or "the great burying-ground," the present parish church was erected. There are also some cairns, and remains of Druidical circles, but in a very imperfect state; and the burn of Aultsigh is memorable as the site of a sanguinary conflict in the beginning of the 17th century, between the clans of the Macdonells of Glengarry and the Mackenzies of Ross-shire.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lewistown, East and West —    LEWISTOWN, EAST and WEST, a village, in the parish of Urquhart and Glenmorriston, county of Inverness; containing 183 inhabitants. These places are merely small clusters of cottages, and the population chiefly agricultural labourers …   A Topographical dictionary of Scotland

  • Invekmorriston —    INVERMORRISTON, a village, in the parish of Urquhart and Glenmorriston, county of Inverness, 21¾ miles (S. W. by W.) from Bonar Ferry; containing 94 inhabitants. This place is situated at the confluence of the river Morriston with Loch Ness;… …   A Topographical dictionary of Scotland

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