- CRAIGNISH, a parish, in the district and county of Argyll, 16 miles (N. N. W.) from Lochgilphead; containing 873 inhabitants. This place, though known in modern times only by its present appellation, was anciently called both Craignish and Kilmhorie. The former name, which is a compound Gaelic term signifying a rocky peninsula, is descriptive of the southern portion of the parish; and the latter, meaning a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was applied in reference to an ancient structure, the ruins of which yet remain in the principal burial-ground. The parish is washed by the Atlantic on the west and south, and is separated on the east, by Loch Craignish, from the parishes of Dalavich and Kilmartin. It measures a little more than eleven miles in length, and about two in average breadth, comprehending, for a highland district, a considerable portion of land under cultivation. The coast, on account of its numerous indentations, is supposed to form a line of sixteen or seventeen miles in extent, and is exceedingly rocky on the south and west, and also marked in the latter direction by several small bays with fine white sandy shores. Loch Craignish is about three miles wide at a small distance from the entrance; in other parts it varies considerably in breadth, and towards its head, narrows itself to less than a mile, the depth averaging about twelve fathoms. On each side of the loch, at the distance of about half a mile from the land, is a chain of verdant islets, some of them ornamented with oak, ash, birch, and fir trees; and at the northern extremity, the water expands into a spacious harbour, with good anchorage, and secured by the surrounding hills from the violence of winds. There is also a very convenient harbour in a creek called Little Loch Craignish, on the west of the parish, about a mile from the southern extremity of the peninsula; it is much frequented by vessels in stormy weather, or when waiting for a favourable tide. The most considerable of the islands just alluded to are those of Mc Niven and Mc Larty; and near the southern point of the peninsula, in a south-westerly direction, are five others, of which that called Garrarissa, the largest of the whole, forms the Sound named Dorus-mor.The surface of the parish in the Interior is much diversified. Lofty hills covered with heath are alternated with tracts of flat land, ornamented in some parts by verdant declivities and valleys, interspersed with lochs, and shrouded with beautiful foliage. The northern extremity of the parish is marked by a chain of rugged hills, rising about 700 feet above the sea; they are mostly covered with a kind of heathy pasture, and skirted at the base with a belt of level land about a quarter of a mile broad. The surface along the eastern boundary of the peninsular portion of the parish is distinguished by a series of verdant eminences, attaining in some parts an elevation of 300 feet; at the base is a narrow strip of land stretching to the margin of the loch, and forming a variety of interesting points and bays on a flat clayey shore. A range of hills, covered principally with heath, also characterises the peninsula, stretching from north to south, and commanding from the chief heights beautiful views of Loch Craignish and its islets, the mountains of Mull and Morven, the hills of Knapdale, and the sound and island of Jura. There are likewise twelve lochs in the parish, besides numerous rivulets; trout is abundant, and char is found in one of the lochs. The Soil in some places is sterile; that under tillage chiefly consists of two distinct kinds, the one a hazel mould resting on rock, and the other a darker earth incumbent on clay, and the whole is interspersed with sandy tracts. The cultivated lands, though small in extent, are of average fertility, producing chiefly crops of oats and potatoes; live stock is much attended to, but the dairy produce is inconsiderable. Husbandry has made comparatively but few advances; the lands are mostly under the old system of cultivation, and many tracts of good quality, for want of draining, are suffered to lie waste. A superior state of things is, however, observable in a few farms held on lease, which are inclosed and well drained. The sheep are the black-faced, with a few Leicesters and Cheviots, and the West Highland breed of cattle prevails, mixed with a small proportion of lowland milch cows. The prevailing rock in the peninsular district is clay-slate, assuming frequently a sandy character, and sometimes running into a hard inferior sandstone. The rateable annual value of the parish is £3207.Castle Craignish, situated in the south, is an ancient structure with modern additions, and contains, in the lower portion, a vaulted apartment said to have been formerly used as a dungeon. The house of Barbreck, in the north-eastern quarter, a commodious mansion, and that of Dail, on the western coast, are both modern residences, and, like the castle, have demesnes ornamented with clumps of plantations, covering together about 300 acres, which comprehend nearly the whole wood in the parish. The population are employed in agriculture, except those occasionally engaged in fishing. The parish is in the presbytery of Inverary and synod of Argyll, and in the patronage of the Duke of Argyll. The minister's stipend is £169. 10., of which about a quarter is received from the exchequer, with a manse, and a glebe of about fifteen acres, valued at £18 per annum. The church is a neat structure, erected in 1826, and conveniently situated on the eastern side of the parish. The parochial school affords instruction in English and Gaelic, the latter being the ordinary language, and in the usual branches of a plain education, with Latin if required. The master has a salary of £25. 13., with a house, and £20 fees. The remains of numerous Danish forts are still visible in the parish. The ruins of a religious house, supposed to have been an oratory, and of another, formerly, it is said, the parish chapel, may also yet be traced; and there is a small bay called the Port of the Athollmen, which received its name from the circumstance of several of the Marquess of Atholl's men having been drowned there, after a defeat by the natives in the seventeenth century.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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