- FARR, a parish, in the county of Sutherland, 19 miles (W. by S.) from Thurso; containing, with the late quoad sacra district of Strathy, 2217 inhabitants. The name of Farr, or Far, as it is sometimes written, may be derived from the Gaelic word Faire, implying a "watch" or "sentinel," and doubtless arose in reference to the Dun, or circular tower, standing on the coast, about half a mile north of the parish church, and which formed the first and most important of a regular chain of such ancient buildings extending for more than twentyfour miles into the interior. These towers are thought to have been erected by a race called in Gaelic Cruinnich, from a word signifying "circular," or one denoting "a gathering together." There are also numerous tumuli in the neighbourhood, which are generally considered to have been the burying-places of invaders, especially Danes, who fell in the fierce and bloody conflicts so frequent with the native inhabitants; the sepulchres of the chieftains are usually at a little distance from the ordinary burying-places, and marked out by some signal and more permanent memorial. In the churchyard of Farr, for example, is a large erect stone, curiously sculptured with pagan devices, and traditionally reported to note the burial-place of some Dane of distinction, by many supposed to be a prince; it is two feet in breadth, six feet above the ground, and as many beneath. Several of the tumuli are said to be the depositaries of those who fell in the battle between Reginald, King of the Isles, and Harold, Earl of Orkney and Caithness. In times less remote, the ancient clan of the Mackays made a very considerable figure here, their principal residence during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries being Strathnaver, of which Farr formed a part. Subsequently, upon the marriage-alliance between the earls of Sutherland and the Gordons, some of the latter came to reside in the district; and about one hundred years ago there were few persons in the parish but Mackays and Gordons, which names, indeed, are still the most numerous among the population. The ancient castle, probably built by the Norwegians, is supposed to have been the seat of the Mackays of Farr before they were created barons under the title of Lords Reay.The parish lies in the northern extremity of Scotland, and is about forty miles long, varying in breadth from eight to twenty miles, and containing 300,000 acres; it is bounded on the north by the Northern Ocean. The general aspect of the parish is mountainous, the surface having in most parts a very thin shallow soil, and in others exhibiting only bare rock. The principal mountain is Bein Chlibrig, of conical shape, and the loftiest in Sutherland, of which the southern side is partially covered with heath and grass, but the northern is bare and rocky; it is situated in the south-western part of the parish, and attains to 3200 feet above the level of the sea, attracting great numbers of ptarmigan, who locate themselves about the summit. The other hills, nearer the sea-coast, reach different degrees of elevation, but are all inferior in height to the Chlibrig. There are several picturesque valleys, also forming striking features in the scenery; the chief are those called Strathnaver and Strathrathy, which both in extent and beauty far exceed all the rest. The former extends from the coast in a south-west direction for about twenty-eight miles, including the ground along the river Naver, the loch of Naver, and the water of Mudale, beyond the loch; and is considered, for the richness of its pasture and the variety of its scenery, the most interesting Highland vale in the county. Strathrathy runs immediately south from the sea for twelve miles, and lies about ten miles north-east of Strathnaver, between which and this valley are situated the less commanding but still pleasing straths of Kirktomie, Armidale, Swordly, and Clachan, in the last of which stand the church and manse. The parish comprises about thirteen miles of sea-coast, reaching from Naver bay in the west to Baligil burn in the east; it is for the most part abrupt and precipitous, and dangerous to mariners, but contains the bays of Naver, Farr, Kirktomie, Armidale, and Strathy, where boats may safely land in moderate weather. The headlands are, Airdniskich, Aird of Farr, Aird of Kirktomie, and Strathy head, from the last of which the lights of Cape Wrath and the promontory of Dunnet Head are seen on a clear day. There are, besides, numerous caves, natural arches, and fissures, along the coast, as well as in the interior, some of which are visited with considerable interest by the curious; the chief caves by the sea-side are those in the Aird of Kirktomie and Strathy-point, and at Farr is a very fine natural arch.There are many springs of excellent water in the parish, and several fresh-water lakes of considerable extent and beauty, the largest of which are, Loch Naver, Loch Coir-na-fearn, and Loch Strathy. The first of these, seven miles long, about a mile and a half broad, and in some parts thirty fathoms deep, is by far the most striking and important; its shore at different parts exhibits all the varieties of rock, pebbles, and sand. The rivers are the Naver, Borgie, and Strathy, the first of which, the largest in the county, issuing from the loch of the same name, is joined near Achness by a stream rising in Loch Coir-na-fearn, and, after receiving many other waters in its meandering, and sometimes rapid and sometimes apparently quiescent, course through the strath, falls, about eighteen miles from its source, into the sea. The river Strathy flows from Loch Strathy, and, when augmented by the swellings of its tributaries from the several hills and marshes, becomes a powerful stream. The Borgie, which issues from Loch Loyal, in the parish of Tongue, forms a boundary of this parish, and joins the ocean within a mile of the Naver, at Torrisdale; there are salmon-fishings in it, which for a long time past have belonged to the Sutherland family. Indeed, all the larger lakes and rivers contain a plentiful supply of salmon; and in the smaller, trout are taken in considerable quantities.The soil differs greatly; a very large portion of it in the interior, especially in the vicinity of the lochs, except Loch Naver, is a deep moss; while that on the borders of the rivers Strathy and Naver consists of sand, gravel, and moss. Along the coast it is found to be light and sandy, and in the neighbourhood of the bays, in addition to this, to contain some alluvial deposits. About 800 acres in various parts are under wood, and about 700 on the coast are cultivated by small tenants: with these deductions the whole land is laid out in extensive sheep-walks. The herbage is of many kinds, varying principally according to the elevation of the land. The common red heather, deer-hair, and the long tough grass called flying-bent are commonly found on the mountains, hills, and moors; and in the softer marshes is a profusion of the species known by the name of cotton-grass. The trees growing here are of much variety, and, with some trifling exceptions, are indigenous; the alder attains a considerable size on the grounds watered by the Naver, where, also, the birch is most flourishing and abundant. About 22,000 sheep of the Cheviot breed are annually grazed in the parish. The land occupied by the small tenants is generally uneven in the surface, and capable of great improvement by draining, inclosing, and ploughing; the crops consist of oats, bear, and potatoes. The rateable annual value of the parish is £808. The rocks and stone in the district, which are abundant in every direction, are chiefly coarse granite, gneiss, and sandstone. On the coast near Kirktomie is a considerable quantity of red sandstone, mixed with conglomerate, and in the vicinity of Strathy is some superior limestone, from which lime is obtained; also a large quarry of white sandstone, easily convertible to purposes of utility from the readiness with which it is dressed by the chisel. At Strathy the strata of freestone and limestone are horizontal; in the rest of the parish the strata of rock are nearly vertical, or form an angle of from five to thirty degrees with the perpendicular. Cattle trysts are held at Aultnaharrow on the 14th September, and at Bettyhill on the first Wednesday in November. Salmon are taken in considerable quantities at three stations on the coast, and about eighteen boats are engaged in the herring-fishery during the season, from May till September; the salmon are sold to a company who have a curing establishment here. Turbot, cod, ling, haddock, and other fish are also obtained. There is a post-office connected with the market-town of Thurso, thirty-two miles distant; and the inhabitants have some facility of communication by means of a mail-diligence carrying four passengers, which runs to and fro, three times a week, between Thurso and the neighbouring parish of Tongue, between which places there is also a weekly carrier. The road from Bonar-Bridge to Tongue passes through the heights, and about sixteen miles of the line from Tongue to Thurso near the coast: on the river Naver is a chain-boat, and over the different parish roads are two bridges of three arches each, and twelve of one arch.The ecclesiastical affairs are subject to the presbytery of Tongue and synod of Sutherland and Caithness; patron, the Duke of Sutherland: the stipend of the minister is £167, with a good manse, built in 1818, and a glebe valued at £8 per annum. The church, situated near the coast, is convenient for the population, the greater portion of whom reside in its vicinity, the remoter district being peopled only by an inconsiderable number of shepherds in the employ of the great sheep-farmers. It was erected in 1774, and is a plain building, with substantial walls, and seats about 750 persons. There is a government church at Strathy, ten miles east from the parish church, built in 1826, and accommodating about 350 persons. The members of the Free Church have also a place of worship. There is a parochial school, in which instruction may be obtained in the classics, mathematics, and all the ordinary branches of education; the master has the maximum salary, with about £5 fees, a house, and £3 in lieu of a garden. Three other schools are supported respectively at Strathy, Armidale, and Clarkhill, in all which the classics, mathematics, and the usual branches are taught, with the exception of the school at Clarkhill, which is under a female teacher. The master of the school at Strathy, a parliamentary one, has a salary of £25, with about £4 in lieu of fees. The Committee of the General Assembly give a salary of similar amount to the teacher at Armidale, the fees being £3; and the mistress of Clarkhill receives £5 from the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and the fees. The masters have excellent accommodations, including each a house and garden, and a croft of land from the heritor. The Duke of Sutherland derives his title of Baron Strathnaver from the vale in this parish: the dignity was conferred upon his Grace's ancestor as early, it is supposed, as the beginning of the 13th century.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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