Argyllshire

   ARGYLLSHIRE, a maritime county, in the south-west of Scotland, bounded on the north by Invernessshire; on the east, by the counties of Inverness, Perth, and Dumbarton; and on the south and west, by the Atlantic Ocean. It lies between 55° 21' and 57° (N. lat.), and 4° 15' and 7° 10' (W. long.), and is about 115 miles in extreme length, and about 55 miles in average breadth, comprising an area, including the various islands connected with it, of about 3800 square miles, of which, what may be considered as the continent, contains about 2735 square miles, or 1,750,400 acres. There are 19,207 houses, of which 18,552 are inhabited; and a population of 97,371, of whom 47,795 are males, and 49,576 females. The county appears to have been occupied, at an early period, chiefly by the Scots, who, emigrating from the Irish coasts, settled in the peninsula of Cantyre, and, after the subjugation of the Picts, and the union of the two kingdoms under Kenneth Mc Alpine, became identified with the general population of the country. In the legends of romance, this part of Scotland is celebrated as the principal scene of the exploits of the heroes of the race of Fingal, and as the birthplace of the bard Ossian, whose poems are still the subject of deeply-interesting research among the learned. Ossian is said to have been born in the valley of Glencoe; and the county, which abounds with numerous localities connected with the achievements of his heroes, still retains, in a very high degree, that spirit of feudal vassalage for which it was, for ages, pre-eminently remarkable. The family of Campbell, long distinguished as the principal of that extensive and powerful clan, and ancestors of the dukes of Argyll, for many generations possessed an absolute and sovereign authority over their vassals, who, on all occasions, rallied round the standard of their chieftain, with all the fidelity of kindred attachment, and tendered the most arduous services with implicit submission to his controul.
   Prior to the Reformation, the county was, for centuries, the seat of a diocese, of which the bishop resided on the island of Lismore, between the main land and the isle of Mull, where the cathedral church was situated; and the jurisdiction extended over all the adjacent islands, including those of Bute and Arran. Since that period, it has constituted the chief part of the synod of Argyll, comprising the presbyteries of Inverary, Dunoon, Cantyre, Islay and Jura, Lorn, and Mull, and about fifty parishes. For civil purposes, the county is divided into the districts of Argyll, Cowal, Islay, Cantyre, Lorn, and Mull; and is under the jurisdiction of a sheriff-depute, by whom three sheriffs-substitute are appointed, who reside, respectively, at Inverary, which is the county town, at Campbelltown, and Tobermory. The courts of assize and general quarter-sessions are held at Inverary; and courts for the recovery of small debts, are held, four times in the year, at Oban, Lochgilphead, Dunoon, and Bowmore; and twice in the year, at Strontian. The royal burghs are Inverary and Campbelltown; and in addition to the others above noticed, the county contains the small town of Ballichulish, and some inconsiderable hamlets. Under the act of the 2nd of William IV., the county returns one member to the imperial parliament.
   The surface is generally wild and mountainous, especially towards the north, where it borders on the Grampian range; and even along the coasts, of which there is an extent of more than 600 miles, and where the land is lowest, there are numerous hills of very considerable elevation. The most mountainous parts of the county are, however, interspersed with pleasing and fertile tracts of valley, watered by streams, on the banks of which are some productive arable lands; and the slopes of the hills, in many places, afford good pasture. Of the numerous Islands which are included within the limits of the county, the principal are, Mull, Jura, Islay, Coll, Tiree, Colonsay, Lismore, and Oronsay, with smaller islands, all of which are noticed under their respective heads. The coasts are deeply indented with arms of the sea, forming Sounds between the mainland and the several islands, and some of which penetrate deeply into the land, constituting salt-water lakes of considerable extent. Of these, the principal are, the Sound of Mull, between the island of that name and the mainland; the Sound of Jura, separating that island from the continent; the Sound of Islay, between the isles of Jura and Islay, and the Frith of Clyde, separating the peninsula of Cantyre and the district of Cowal, from the islands of Arran and Bute. The most prominent Mountains are, the Cruachan, rising from the north-eastern extremity of Loch Awe, to the height of 3390 feet; the Cruachlussa, in the district of Knapdale, attaining an elevation of 3000 feet; Benreisipoll, in Ardnamurchan, 2661 feet in height; Buchael-Etive, near Loch-Etive, towards the north, rising 2537 feet above the sea; the Paps of Jura, in the isle of Jura, 2476 feet in height; and Beininturk, in Cantyre, which has an elevation of 2170 feet.
   Among the salt-water lakes is Loch Fine, which is of very great depth, nearly 60 miles in length, and varying from two to three miles in breadth, and on the shore of which is situated the town of Inverary. Loch Linnhe lies between the districts of Morven and Lorn, and is the source of most of the inland lakes which form the Caledonian canal; the scenery on both its shores is strikingly romantic, and the borders are thickly interspersed with the remains of ancient fortresses, and enlivened with numerous handsome residences. Loch Long extends from the Frith of Clyde, for nearly 22 miles, into the land, separating the county from that of Dumbarton, from the north-west of which branches off the Loch Goil, crowned on its precipitous banks with the ruins of Castle Carrick, a royal residence, of which the Duke of Argyll is hereditary keeper. Of the principal inland lakes, one is Loch Awe, the most extensive in the county, about 28 miles in length, and from one to two miles in breadth; it abounds with salmon, eels, and trout, and from it issues a stream called the Awe, which flows into the loch Etive, at Bunawe ferry. Loch Etire, a lake of much smaller extent, communicates with Loch Awe by the river Awe, and, on the west, with the Sound of Mull, from which it forms an inlet, nearly opposite the island of Lismore; on the north shore, are the ruins of the ancient priory of Ardchattan. There are several smaller lakes, but none of sufficient importance to require particular notice; also numerous streams intersecting the lands in various places, few of which, however, have been rendered navigable.
   The quantity of land which is arable and in cultivation, is little more than 100,000 acres; about 30,000 acres are in woodland and plantations, and the remainder, nearly 1,300,000 acres, with the exception of about 25,000 in inland lakes and rivers, is principally heath, and hill and mountain pasture. The soil of the arable land is extremely various: along the coasts, it is generally a light gravelly loam, resting upon a clayey bottom, and differing in fertility in different places; on the lower grounds, in some parts, is a mixture of clayey loam; in others, a kind of black mossy earth; and on the slopes of the hills, a light gravelly soil. The system of agriculture is moderately improved, and the rotation plan of husbandry is growing into use; the chief crops are, oats, bear, and potatoes, with peas and beans, and various green crops; the cultivation of turnips has been extensively introduced. Wheat of excellent quality has been raised, but, though the soil, in many parts, is favourable to its growth, very little attention is paid to its culture; flax, for domestic use, is raised in considerable quantities. The cattle are principally of the black West Highland breed, and, being in much demand, on account of the superior beef they afford, are reared to a great extent throughout the county, especially in the islands, though sheep form the principal article of trade. The sheep-farms are, in general, very extensive, and the stock is principally of the Linton or black-faced breed, though gradually giving place to the Cheviot breed, which has been lately introduced, and found equally well adapted to the pastures, and more profitable. The rateable annual value of the county is £261,920.
   The chief Substrata are, limestone, which is very abundant, and freestone of various kinds and colours, of which some fine specimens are found in Cantyre, and also in Glenorchy. Slate is abundant in the neighbourhood of Easdale, and is also wrought in the district of Appin; near Inverary, is a kind of granite which is susceptible of a high polish, resembling spotted marble; and there are quarries of marble in Lorn, on the estate of Lochiel, and in the island of Tiree, which last is of very beautiful quality. Coal is found near Campbelltown, and is wrought for the supply of that district; and there are indications of coal in Morven, and in the isle of Mull. Lead-ore has been wrought at Strontian, and found in other places; a copper-mine has been opened in the parish of Kilmalie, and there are, in the mountains, numerous vestiges of ancient iron-works, though no ore of sufficient quality to remunerate the expense of working it, is now found. The greater portion of the county was anciently covered with Woods, of which there are at present but very small remains, though the deficiency has been partly supplied by modern plantations, especially on the lands of the Duke of Argyll. The soil and climate are well adapted to the growth of timber of every kind; the most flourishing at present are, oak, beech, elm, plane, birch, ash, chesnut, larch, and Scotch, spruce, and silver firs; and within the last few years plantations have been gradually increasing. The principal manufacture is that of wool, which has been made into carpets, under the auspices of the Duke of Argyll; but it is limited to a very small extent. The spinning of flax is carried on, solely for domestic use; there are several distilleries, tanneries, and some bleachfields; and the herring-fishery in Loch Fine is on an extensive scale. Facility of intercourse has been obtained by the formation of roads in various directions, and canals; and from the inlets from the sea, every advantage of steam navigation is obtained. There are numerous remains of ancient castles, forts, Danish encampments, monasteries, and other religious houses, cairns, tumuli, Druidical remains, vitrified forts, many Fingalian relics, and other monuments of antiquity, all of which are noticed in the articles on the several localities where they occur. The county confers the title of Duke on the celebrated family of Campbell, who were created Earls of Argyll in 1457, advanced to the Marquessate in 1641, and made Dukes in 1701, and who also bear several dignities named after different divisions of the county.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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