Fortingal

   FORTINGAL, a parish, in the county of Perth, 8½ miles (W. S. W.) from Aberfeldy; containing, with part of the late quoad sacra districts of Foss, Glenlyon, and Rannoch, 2740 inhabitants. This place, of which the name is of very doubtful origin, is historically distinguished only for the conflicts of hostile clans, and for a battle that occurred at Glen-Sassun, between the forces of Robert Bruce and those of Edward of England. The parish is forty miles in length, from east to west, and varies from thirty to thirty-five miles in breadth. It is bounded on the north by the parish of Laggan, in the county of Inverness, and on the north-east by that of Blair-Atholl; on the east, by the parish of Dull; on the south, by the parishes of Kenmore and Killin; on the west, by the parish of Appin, in Argyllshire, and part of Weem; and on the south-west by the parish of Glenorchy. It occupies a large portion of the north-western district of the county, including a considerable part of the great Caledonian forest, and comprising an area of nearly 130 miles in circumference. The surface is strikingly diversified with mountains and valleys, deep sequestered glens, and lakes of various extent, the whole forming one of the boldest and richest combinations of scenery in the country. Exclusively of the lofty mountains that inclose the parish on the north and south sides, one vast and continuous range intersects the whole area, in a direction from east to west, dividing it into two nearly equal portions, of which the northern comprehends the district of Rannoch, and the southern those of Fortingal and Glenlyon. In addition to the principal chains which circumscribe and divide the parish, there are numerous mountains of considerable magnitude that rise to a great height in detached situations; and from the summits of them most magnificent views are obtained of the amphitheatre spread beneath, abounding with every variety of picturesque and romantic beauty. The chief mountains, of which there are more than ten or twelve connected with the parish, have elevations varying from 3000 to 3800 feet above the level of the sea; the range that intersects the parish is not less than seven miles in breadth at the base, and many of its heights are more than 3000 feet above the sea.
   Of the valleys the principal is Glenlyon, extending in a western direction for more than thirty miles, and inclosed by mountains on each side, which in some parts of it obtrude so greatly as scarcely to allow sufficient breadth for the channel of the river that flows between their bases. There were formerly several lakes in this glen, of which Loch Lyon, nearly at the head, is the only one now remaining, and is that in which the river Lyon has its source. The valley is almost a perfect level, affording excellent pasturage for sheep, of which about 20,000 are generally fed; the sides of the mountains, also, are covered with verdure to their very summits. Numerous dells branch off from the glen, of which some are nearly four miles in length, and watered by various streams, forming tributaries to the Lyon. One of these streams, called Allt-da-ghob, from the dell of that name, has, when viewed from the hill on the opposite side, a truly grand appearance: on being swollen by rains, it rushes down the sides of an abrupt precipice, nearly 500 feet in height, with tumultuous impetuosity, then is totally lost in a chasm invisible to the spectator from its great depth, and, after successive reappearances as if issuing from the brow of the mountain, runs violently down a second precipice, of 200 feet, in one continued sheet, to the level of the glen, from which it flows with a tranquil course into the Lyon. The valley of Glenmore, situated between Rannoch and Fortingal, anciently formed part of the forest of SithChaillinn, of which the only vestiges now remaining are the roots of trees once existing, which are dug up in great quantities for fuel, and also for affording light, for which purpose the roots of the fir-trees are well adapted. Many trunks of old oaks are also found in this glen, of a black hue, and which, though soft when first found, harden on exposure to the atmosphere; they are split, and sold in the markets for sharpening scythes, for which they answer well. The valley of Fortingal, whence the parish takes its name, is a fine level tract about half a mile in breadth, and six miles in length, communicating by defiles with the roads to Loch Tay and Glenlyon, and with the turnpike-road to Crieff and Inverness: with the exception of these passes, it is completely surrounded with mountains. The vale is ornamented with residences and demesnes tastefully arranged, and enriched with woods and plantations; and from its great diversity of features it is one of the most picturesque and interesting in this part of the country. The mountains by which it is inclosed are clothed with verdure to their summits, and contrast finely with the level tracts of luxuriant pasturage, and the expanse of fertile lands in the highest state of cultivation.
   Of the rivers, the Tummel has its source in Loch Rannoch, and, while flowing through that district, is called the Water of Rannoch; it is smooth and tranquil for some miles, but becomes an impetuous and rapid current on leaving the glen, and, being joined by the Foss, afterwards obtains its general appellation. The river Gamhair rises in the southern part of Glen Etive, and, after a course of several miles, in which it forms some smaller lakes, expands into Loch Laoidean, on issuing from which it obtains its name: pursuing its way for about five miles, it enters an extensive tract of meadow land, which in rainy seasons it completely inundates, and having flowed through the inhabited portion of the glen, it falls into Loch Rannoch. The river Lyon has its source in the loch of that name, and, after watering Glenlyon, and receiving in its course of nearly forty miles almost innumerable streams from the mountains, falls into the Tay below Taymouth Castle. The Erochd issues from the lake of that name, and, after a peaceful progress of about two miles, becomes, from the accession of mountain-streams, a rapid and impetuous torrent, sometimes bursting its banks with resistless violence, till it forces its way into Loch Rannoch. There are many smaller rivers in various parts of the parish; and from the mountainous character of the lands through which they pass, and the consequent accumulation of their waters from mountain torrents, they are all diversified in their appearance, and, from the powerful obstructions to their course, exhibit waterfalls in numerous places. The falls of the Tummel, on the confines of the parish, of the Lyon, in the glen of that name, of the Gamhair and Duibhe, at the head of Glen Rannoch, of the Conait, and of the Keltney, are beautifully picturesque. Of the lakes in this extensive parish. Loch Erochd, to the north-east of Glen Rannoch, is sixteen miles in length, and about one mile in average breadth; it is inclosed on both sides by lofty and precipitous ranges of rugged and barren mountains, occasionally softened and enlivened by fertile spots in rich cultivation, and by the sporting boxes of the gentry who resort to this place for shooting the various kinds of game with which the mountains abound. Loch Laoidean is about eight miles to the west of Glen Rannoch; it is six miles in length, and little more than half a mile in breadth, and is studded with several picturesque islands, richly wooded. Its shores are indented with numerous small creeks, and diversified with boldly-projecting promontories; and near the western extremity of the lake is an island of yew-trees, among which the red deer frequently shelter, and the eagle rears its young. Loch Lyon, which is romantically situated in the glen of that name, is about three miles in length, and half a mile broad; its shores abound with agreeable scenery, and though less bold, it is more pleasing in its features, being beautified with luxuriant verdure and enriched by cultivation. Loch Garry, on the border of the parish, eight miles from Glen Rannoch, is about four miles in length, and half a mile in breadth; its scenery is bold and varied, but differs little from that of some of the other lakes. In the rocks, and the sides of the various mountains, are many caves of natural formation, which, in the earlier periods of the history, afforded shelter to the chiefs of hostile clans in their frequent conflicts, and in some of which Sir William Wallace and King Robert Bruce, during the war with England, concealed themselves while watching for opportunities of attacking their enemies, or waiting after a defeat to recruit their forces, and concert new enterprises for the deliverance of their country. They also provided a secure asylum for numerous depredators.
   The soil varies according to the elevation of the lands; in the lower valleys it is generally dry and gravelly; on the acclivities of the mountains it is thinner, but affords excellent pasturage for cattle and sheep; nearer the summits it is a bleak sterile moor, producing but little grass, and abounding with heath; and the summits of the mountains are covered with moss. The number of acres in the parish is 448,000; but comparatively little is under regular cultivation, the arable lands bearing only a small proportion to the pastures, and the principal object of the inhabitants being the feeding of cattle and sheep, the latter chiefly of the black-faced kind, which are more hardy, and thrive well on the mountain pastures. Particular attention is paid to the improvement of the breed, and also to that of the cattle, which are all the West Highland, and at the sales that occasionally take place sell for high prices. Considerable improvements have been effected in the system of agriculture; the farm-buildings and offices are substantial and commodious; the lands are well inclosed, and the fences kept in good repair. The rateable annual value of the parish is £13,300. The woods are chiefly the remains of the ancient Caledonian forest, which at one time was more than eighty miles in extent; they consist mainly of birch and native fir. The plantations, scattered over various parts of the parish, are not, in the aggregate, of any very great extent; they comprise native fir, larch, and spruce, with some oak, ash, beech, elm, and birch. The substrata are limestone, forming part of the Grampian range, which crosses the eastern part of the parish; it is of superior quality, and is wrought for agricultural purposes and for building. A bed of fine blue stone has been found, and a quarry opened on the lands of Mr. Menzies, of Chesthill; marble of various colours also occurs in several parts, and rock crystals, spars, and agates of great variety and beauty are obtained in the mountains. A vein of lead-ore of considerable richness was discovered in Glenlyon, and formerly wrought with success; near the village, also, lead-ore appears; and slate is supposed to exist in some places, but has not been yet explored. In the district of Bolfracks, in a detached portion of the parish, is an extensive quarry, the stone of which is of superior quality for building; it is very compact and durable, and susceptible of a high polish, in every respect resembling the stone of which Taymouth Castle is built.
   In Glen-Fortingal are several handsome residences, beautifully encompassed by richly-wooded and pleasant demesnes; and in Glen-Rannoch are likewise some good seats, one of which is situated in a demesne comprising about 70,000 Scotch acres. Communication with the neighbouring towns is afforded by roads kept in repair by statute labour; the nearest great towns are Crieff and Perth, the former about thirty, and the latter forty, miles distant. A penny-post has been established at Kinloch-Rannoch, which communicates with Pitlochry; and at the western extremity of GlenRannoch is a handsome bridge over the river Gamhair, erected by Sir Neil Menzies. Fairs are held at Kirkton in the beginning of December, continuing for three days, for the sale of cattle, sheep, and goats, and the transaction of general business; in the end of April, for lint and clover seeds; and in August, for lambs, the first being the principal market in this part of the country. Fairs are also held at Kinloch-Rannoch, in April, for cattle; in August, for lambs; and in October, for cattle; and at Inverwick, in the district of Glenlyon, annually for sheep. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Weem and synod of Perth. The stipend of the incumbent is £255; the manse is a handsome and commodious residence, and the glebe is valued at £10 per annum. The church, a very ancient and substantial structure, was repaired in 1821, and is adapted for a congregation of 376 persons. There are two government churches, situated respectively in Glenlyon and Glen-Raunoch. The parochial school affords a good course of instruction; the master has a salary of £34, with a house, and an allowance in money in lieu of garden, and the fees average about £21 per annum. There are also two schools under the patronage of the General Assembly, and two under that of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge; the masters of each of the former have a salary of £20, with a house, and a portion of land; and those of the latter have a salary varying from £15 to £20, with an allowance in money for fuel. Seven other schools, in distant parts of the parish, are supported by general subscription of the inhabitants. The parochial school-house is a very handsome and commodious building, recently erected by the heritors.
   To the west of Fortingal are the remains of a Roman camp, in which the site of the general's tent is still marked out by the fosse with which it was surrounded; the prætoriurn is in good preservation, and north-west of it is a tumulus sixty feet in length, and about twenty feet wide at the base, raised over the remains of those who fell in battle. A little to the west of the general's tent are two obelisks, the one, about six feet in height, yet standing, and the other, eight feet, long since fallen to the ground. This encampment occupies an area of nearly ninety acres. There are some remains of Druidical circles near the parish church, and in various parts of the parish are others; also numerous forts of circular form, of which the walls, built of loose stones, are of great thickness; the diameter within the walls averages about sixty feet, and the area is divided into various halls and smaller apartments. These forts are generally referred to the time of Fingal, and are traditionally said to have been castles belonging to the heroes of that chieftain. There are two ancient castles, though of later date, the baronial residences of chiefs in feudal times; one of these is situated on the summit of a rock in the east portion of the parish, and was the seat of the brother of the Earl of Buchan, ancestor of the Stewarts of Atholl. The other, situated in Glenlyon, is on a lofty and precipitous bank, and was defended by a drawbridge; it was, till the middle of the 16th century, the residence of Duncan Campbell, of Glenlyon, who was equally renowned for his valour and his hospitality. On the lands of Inverchadain are the remains of a mound of turf and stones, called "Sheomar-na-Staing," where Wallace, on his route from Argyll, remained for several days, attended by a few of his faithful adherents, and where he was joined by the men of Rannoch, who marched with his forces to the battles of Dunkeld and Perth. In the churchyard of Fortingal is a very ancient yew-tree of remarkable growth, the trunk of which is divided into two stems, between which is an interval of several feet: at a distance it appears like two distinct trees, and though partly injured at an early period of its growth, it has attained to such a size that the branches spread over an area of nearly sixty feet in circumference.
   See Rannoch, &c.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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