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History and Description

Inverness-shire - History and Description, 1868

"INVERNESS, one of the largest counties of North Central Scotland, comprising, besides a very extensive tract of mainland, the western portion of the Hebrides, the Isle of Skye, and a portion of the ancient province of Moray. It was in former times considered a kind of viceroyalty, and is mentioned in Acts of David I. as having a sheriff. Its present limits were determined about 1661. Its boundaries are the county Ross and the inner end of the Moray Firth on the N., counties Elgin and Aberdeen on the E., counties Argyle and Perth on the S., and the ocean on the W. It lies between 56° 40' and 57° 36' N. lat., and between 3° 50' and 5° 50' W. long. Its length from N.E. to S.W. is 85 miles, and its breadth from N. to S.E. is 55 miles. Its superficial measurement, including its insular district, has been estimated at 1,209 square miles, of which about 59 are lacustrine, and 500,000 acres under cultivation. The area of its Hebridean district is 1,150 square miles. Its mainland coast line is remarkably irregular. This county is divided into the following districts, viz: Lochabar, Badenoch, Moydart, Arisaig, Glenelg, and Strathglass. The county contains 29 whole and 7 parts of parishes. Its only borough is the county town, Inverness; Beauly and Grantown rank next in importance. Balloch, Broadford, Campbeltown, Connage, Clacknaharry, Culcabock, Fort-William, Fort-Augustus, Glenelg, Hilton, Invermorriston, Kyleakin, Kingussie, Lewiston, Lochmaddy, Lynchat, Newtonmore, Portree, Petty, Resandrie, Ralia Stein, Smithtown of Culloden, and Stuarton, are the principal villages. The surface of the mainland is extremely mountainous, and constitutes a very considerable portion of the Highlands of Scotland. The Glenmore-nan-albin, or "great glen of Scotland," traverses the county from S.W. to N.E., dividing it into nearly equal parts. The Caledonian canal is carried along the bottom of the glen. The Aird, the parishes of Ardersier, and the lordship of Petty, constitute the lowland district; Glengarry, Glenmoriston, and Glenurquhart, run parallel to, and Stratherrick flanks the Great Glen; Strathnairn, Badenoch, and Strathdearn, are the basins of the rivers Nairn, Spey, and Findhorn; the Hebridean portion comprises Skye, Harris, North and South Uist, Barra, and Eig. The general aspect of the surface is one of frowning grandeur, so primitive, indeed, that posts are frequently observed set up to mark the doubtful roads which thread their way through wild mountain ranges and sombre valleys. The Great Glen abounds in the grandest scenery. Along its course are stationed Fort-William, Fort-George, and Fort-Augustus. The latter, with Loch Ness, Glenurquhart, and Corrimony, present some very striking features. Strathglass has its attractions, and a very imposing prospect is enjoyed from Erchless Castle. A large part of the county is covered with heath, extensive fir woods, and other plantations, but the glens and straths are generally fertile and highly cultivated. The sea-lochs Hourn, Nevis, Mirrer, and Moidart, indent the mainland coast in the W., while on the S. side of the county axe lochs Shiel, Eil, Leven, Ericht, Laggan, and Treig. Among the numerous lakes of the W. the principal one is Loch Arkeg, which is connected with lochs Lochie, Oich, and Nesslie, in the N.E. The river Glass traverses the N.W. of the county, and, after receiving the waters of the Farrer, enters the head of Loch Beauly. The river Foyers, with its beautiful fall, after receiving the tribute of the Spey, the Findhorn, and the Beauly, empties itself into Loch Ness. The highest summits are those of Ben Nevis and Mealfourvounie. The geological formations vary according to the district, but primary rocks prevail throughout the county, especially gneiss; and among the Grampians and at Ben Nevis granite, trap, and porphyrity. In the lower lands sandstone and limestone are abundant, and the latter in the vicinity of Fort-William assumes the compactness of marble. In the Lochabar district are those remarkable natural terraces which are supposed to mark the line of the sea-beach during the glacial period. In this locality also is found a spotted marble intermingled with lead ore and copper pyrites. Iron ore in small quantities occurs in some parts of the county, as also lead and silver. The soil generally consists of a light sandy mould resting on a subsoil of clay or gravel, except in the valley of the Great Glen, where a rich alluvial soil occurs. The area of plantation has been on the increase latterly, and small farms are constantly being abandoned to make way for extensive sheep-walks, for which mode of farming the climate seems particularly adapted, being mild and rainy by reason of its mountainous character and its proximity to the ocean. The favourite breeds of sheep are the Cheviot and Linton, and of cattle the Skye and Kyloe breeds. The inhabitants generally speak the Gaelic language, and in the seclusion of their primitive mountain homes frequently retain the customs and display the spirit of their Celtic forefathers. The greater number are engaged in farming pursuits, and some few in trade and manufacture. In the western districts they direct their attention to fishing, the herring fishery being the most considerable. The county of Inverness returns one member to parliament, its constituency in 1854 being 932. The population in 1851 was 96,500, and the number of inhabited houses 17,536. The new valued rental in 1860-61 was £215,506. Sheriffs' courts for the county are held at Inverness twice a week during session, and sheriffs' small-debt courts at Grantown, Kingussie, Beauly, and Fort-Augustus. There are 27 police stations in the county, with three district and one county prison. The military roads, which were constructed in the early part of the 18th century, are monuments of industry and skill. The principal of these are, from Inverness to Dalwhinnie and to Fort-Augustus; from Fort-Augustus to Fort-William; and from Inverness to Fort-Augustus. Game is abundant, including the Alpine hare, wild cat, roe deer, red deer, otter, hawk, and eagle."

Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)