Sutherlandshire, pp.730-735.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   SUTHERLANDSHIRE, a Highland county, in the extreme north-east of the continent of Scotland. It is bounded on the north by the North sea; on the east by Caithness-shire; on the south-east by the Moray frith; on the south-south-west by the counties of Ross and Cromarty; and on the west by the Atlantic ocean. Its boundaries on three of its five sides are thus, in the highest sense, natural or geographical; and on the east side they consist of a continuous and often lofty mountain-range, which, from end to end, form a water-shed. The county lies within 57° 53′, and 58° 33′ north latitude, and between 3° 40′ and 5° 13′ longitude west of London. Its sides, measured in straight lines, give a circumference of 215 miles; the north side extending 50 miles, the east side 37½, the south-east side 32½, the south-south-west side 52½, and the west side 42½. Its area is 2,925 square miles, or 1,872,000 English acres. This area – which is that assigned by Captain Henderson’s General View of the Agriculture of Sutherland, published in 1812 – is distributed by the same authority into 18,125 English acres of arable land, – 43,750 of meadow and green pasture, with some shrubbery, – 1,170 of plantations, – 1,571,400 of heathy and rocky moors and mountains, – 176,100 of peat-moss, – 31,360 of sea-lochs, – and 30,080 of fresh-water lakes. Though the relative proportions of arable land, green pasture, and planted woodland, have undergone some change, these measurements may probably be regarded as indicating, with proximate correctness, the real condition of the county. A modern popular Annual makes the area only 1,754 square miles, or 1,122,560 acres; and manages to distribute it into about 150,000 acres cultivated, 600,000 uncultivated, and 372,560 unprofitable. 

   Excepting a very narrow and interrupted belt of low ground along the coasts, and some ribbony stripes of alluvium along the banks of the principal streams, the whole county is boldly upland, and lies upon a basis of probably 1,500 feet of mean altitude above sea-level. The mountains along the east are a towering and well-defined chain, – and those along the south-east rise, in every place, within a distance of not more than 2 miles from the sea; and, in both cases, they stretch away, in innumerable ranges and masses, quite to the German ocean. A sort of central chain commences at Ben-Griam-More and Ben-Griam-Beg, about 14 miles from the north-eastern extremity, and extends south-westward to Ben-Suilven, very nearly at the south-west extremity; and this chain divides the county into almost equal parts, – forms over its whole length a water-shed between the streams which flow to the north and west, and those which flow to the south-east, – and lifts up numerous summits of from 2,500 to nearly 3,300 feet in altitude, and of remarkable and singular varied contour. The ranges and masses which agglomerate with this, or which wander away in compact or straggling detachments over the rest of the area, are so irregular and mutually dissimilar as to defy the uniting of force and succinctness in any attempt to describe them. Some are solitary, sharp-featured, abrupt and soaring heights with picturesque and occasionally curious outlines; more are broad-based and lumpish masses, spreading their huge bulk in long, broad lines, over a large area; some are so melted and flattened into one another as to form widely-extended stretches of alpine table-land, drearily covered with heath and moss, and unrelieved by a single feature of picture or variety; and most, though at different and sometimes wide intervals, are cloven through their centre, or separated from their fellows, by rugged glens and hollows, by bold passes and openings, or by beautiful and romantic valleys. The western district, comprising Assynt, Edderachylis, and part of Durness, is one of the most remarkable in the kingdom for constant inequality and ruggedness of upland surface, and for a profuse and rapid interlacing of rocky heights and fresh-water lakes. The northern district, comprehending part of Durness, all Tongue and Farr, and the Sutherland part of Reay, possesses to some extent a similar character to the former; but goes off in the interior into broad, smooth, and moorish upland expanses, and is relieved along the coast by an open tract of arable land in Durness, by the exquisitely scenic semicircular vale of Tongue, by the long and beautiful valley of Strathnaver, and by the green and bounteous though tame valley of Strath-Halladale. The south-eastern district, while exhibiting more or less of the various features which we have ascribed aggregately to the county, possesses a large extent of rich pasture-ground, and, in a general view, is cut into five somewhat parallel elongated sections of high hills by the long and pleasant, valleys or glens of Helmsdale, Brora, Shin, and Oikel. The south-east sea-board, over a breadth of from one-fourth of’ a mile or less to 2 miles, is an opulent tract of low ground, luxuriant in produce, beautiful in cultivation, and exultant in embellishment. – The chief mountains of upwards of 2,000 feet in altitude, are Ben-More-Assynt, 3,431 feet high; Ben-Klibreck, 3,164; Ben-Hope, 3,061; Fionaven, 3,015; Ben-Hie, 2,858; Ben-Spiunnue, 2,566; Ben-Laoghal, 2,508; and Ben-Armin, 2,306. 

   The principal bays and sea-lochs on the western coast, enumerating them from the south northward, are Loch-Inver, Loch-Row, Clashnessie-bay, Loch-Assynt with its offshoots, Loch-Nedd, Loch-Ardvare, Kyle-Scow, Loch-in-Oban, and Edderachylis-bay, Scourie-bay, Loch-Laxford, Loch-Dougel, Loch-Inchard, and Sandwood-bay. The principal on the north coast, reckoning eastward, are the Kyle of Durness or Grady, Loch-Eriboll, the Kyle of Tongue, the bay of Torrisdale, Farr-bay, Armadale-bay, the bay of Strathy, and Port-Skerry. The only noticeable indentations on the south-east coast are a small creek at Helmsdale, and the large inlets of Loch-Fleet, and the Dornoch frith. – The coast along both the west and the north presents headlands and numerous cliffs of the boldest character, often picturesquely grand, and sometimes highly impressive and even terrific. Ru-Store and the Point of Store, in near vicinity to each other, are the chief headlands on the west; Cape-Wrath forms the north-west point of Sutherlandshire, and, at the same time, of the continent of Scotland; and Far-Out-head, Whiten-head, and Strathy-head, are the chief promontories on the north. The south-east coast, except at the boundary with Caithness, where the stupendous Ord falls precipitously down from mountain-altitude to the depths of the sea, is all flat, with a prevailing sandy shore, and, in general, departs from the straight line only in brief and gentle curvatures. – The sea-girt islands belonging to the county lie all within the sea-lochs, or along the western and northern coasts, nowhere at a distance of more than 2 miles; and, though very numerous, and in some instances inhabited, they are all so small as aggregately to possess a very inconsiderable area. Handa, which is the largest, is also the most remarkable: see HANDA. This island, though composed chiefly of old red sandstone, presents the appearance, at a little distance, of columnary basaltic cliffs, whose columns are disposed in horizontal lines parallel with water-level, and possessing all the regularity of artificial formation. 

   The streams of Sutherlandshire are very numerous; but as they are all indigenous, and, excepting those on the southern boundary, receive no other affluents than such as rise and flow like themselves in the interior, they possess, in dry weather, but a small body of water. Only the Oikel and the Fleet, and these but for short distances, are navigable; but all the larger ones are valuable for their salmon-fishings. Those which flow westward to the Atlantic have short courses through wildly broken districts, and along shelving and disrupted beds, and are remarkable chiefly for their turbulence, impetuosity, and display of cataract and cascade. The principal are the Kirkaig on the boundary; the Inver in Assynt; and the Laxford and Inchard in Edderachylis. The streams which run northward to the North sea are more various in character; and in the instances which we shall name, they perform runs of from 12 to 30 miles, – the Dionard or Grady, and the More or Hope in Edderachylis and Durness, – the Borgie or Torrisdale, between Tongue and Farr, – the Naver and the Strathy in Farr, – and the Hallodale in Reay. The streams in the south-east, flowing to the Moray frith, drain very nearly one-half of the county; and, in several instances, are comparatively large and long, and not a little beautiful. The chief are the Helmsdale, with its affluent the Ellie; Brora, with its grand tributary formed of the united streams of Skinsdale and Strathbeg; the Fleet, opening into the cognominal sea-loch; and the Oikel, swelled by the rival river Shin, and by the large affluent, the Cassley. – The lakes of Sutherlandshire are very numerous; several are large; many are romantic, picturesque, beautiful, or otherwise scenic; most are well-stored with trout,1 and a few are curious either from position or from traditional association. Those of the first class as to size are Lochs Shin, Hope, Laoghal, Assynt, More, and Naver; – those of second class size, or of length from 2 to 4 miles, are Lochs Vattie, Faun, Cama, Merkland, Stack, Maddie, Ullaball, Na-Cayn, Baden, Furan, and Brora. A chain of these lakes, consisting of Shin, Merkland, More, and Stack, together with a smaller lake called Griam, almost continuous with Shin, extends north-westward from a point within 10 miles of the navigation of the Dornoch frith, to a point within 3 miles of the head of Loch-Laxford; and as it leaves intervals of land, none of which measures more than 2 miles, and at the same time sends off a large connecting stream with the navigation of the Dornoch frith, it forms a deep water-line between the eastern and the western seas quite similar in character to that which occupies the Glenmore-nan-Albin, and forms the natural and chief part of the Caledonian canal. Assynt alone contains about 200 lakes of noticeable size, besides numerous ponds and tarns; and most of the other districts of the county abound more with them than almost any other part of continental Scotland. The most scenic of all the lakes are Assynt, Brora, Hope, Shin, Maddie, and some small ones in the district of Assynt. A remarkable subterranean lake occurs in the great and wondrous cave of Smoo: see DURNESS. – In every part of this rocky county are numerous springs of pure, limpid, salubrious water. The most singular bursts from the mountain Glasvein, on the north side of Loch-Assynt, 500 feet above the level of the lake; it never freezes, and discharges, all the year round, a nearly uniform volume of water; and it emits, even at midsummer, a rapid current 15 inches deep, and 3 feet wide. 

   Though Sutherlandshire is so wildly mountainous, and lies three degrees farther north than East Lothian, it almost bears comparison, in some properties of its climate, with that genial and balmy county. The spring may be a fortnight later in commencing, and the autumn may terminate a fortnight earlier; but the summer is quite as warm, if not warmer, and the winter is not colder. The south-east coast, not only along the sea, but up the Dornoch frith and the lower Oikel, is so well-sheltered by the frontier Highland hills from northerly and westerly storms, and so amply protected by the stupendous umbrella of the whole uplands from the moistures of the North sea and the Atlantic, that the inhabitants complain, during the summer-months, of having too little rather than too much rain, and see their crops growing up with such little atmospheric disturbance as often to attain an insufficient height of stalk for the free operation of the sickle. The interior of the county, and the western and northern coasts, are exposed to frequent rains and storms from the oceans, and have a raw coldness proportionate to their humidity. The prevailing winds blow from the north-west and west, and bring rain to the districts which they first sweep, but dry weather to the great seat of the population, the south-east sea-board. Winds from the Moray frith, as they blow in the opposite direction, make a reverse distribution of humidity and drought. 

   Granite is a comparatively scarce rock in Sutherlandshire; and occurs rather in dikes and veins than in independent masses. Its presence occasionally, as at Cape-Wrath, is part of a singular lapideous compound, in which a schistose or stratified rock, akin to gneiss, is intersected in all directions with granite veins of probably different ages. Syenite, though more frequent and less subordinate, is not plentiful. Hornblende rock and hornblende schist occur in the west; and, besides being there beautiful substances in themselves, contain such interesting minerals as tremolite, actynolite, tourmaline, shorl, and garnet. Gneiss is greatly the prevailing rock throughout the uplands; and, in general, it forms the great chains of round-backed and broad-based mountains, yet shoots out on the north-west coast into bold and precipitous headlands. Micaceous schist is extensively developed in Tongue and Durness. Primary granular limestone abounds in Assynt and Durness, and exists, in considerable quantities, generally in the west. The marbles here formed by this rock display a considerable variety of colour, streak, and cloud; yet have not obtained much reputation among marble-cutters. Quartz rock forms detached mountains in the west; and, as well as the gneiss and the micaceous schist, is occasionally veined with granite and porphyry. Primary or old red sandstone extends in a wildly rugged band along the west coast to near Cape-Wrath, forming stupendous mural-faced heights, or hugely-volumed broken mountains; and, after being cut off for a brief space by gneiss, it immediately reappears on the north coast, shoots ruggedly up at several points along the broken line of that coast, and, after becoming united at Port-Skerry to a coarse conglomerate, passes on the confines of Caithness into continuous fields of stratified sandstone, – the basis of the Caithness geognostic formations. The primary, or old red sandstone, also constitutes some of the loftiest mountains in the interior, and imparts to them a sharpness, ruggedness, and boldness of contour, which contrast picturesquely with the prevailing gneiss heights in their vicinity. A series of politic and has deposits commence immediately south of the Ord of Caithness, and extends along the south-east sea-board; and a great mass of them have been so upraised by immediately subjacent granite, while neighbouring masses lie upon brecciated old red sandstone, as to indicate a priority in the date of their own formation to that of the upheaving of the granite. These deposits occupy a tract of about 20 miles in length, and 3 miles in extreme breadth; and are cut into three sections, in the valleys respectively of Navidale, Loth, and Brora, by the advances upon them of the mountains which skirt their landward side, and consist partly of red conglomerate, and chiefly of unstratified porphyritic granite. More geological interest attaches to this tract, especially to that part of it which lies in the south, and has obtained the name of the Brora coal-field, than probably to any other in Scotland; and a series of interesting papers descriptive of it, were written by those eminent geologists, R. J. Murchison, Esq., and the Rev. A. Sedgewick, and published in the Transactions of the Geological society. 

   The soils of Sutherlandshire are less various than those of most territories of its size in Scotland. Loam, as a primitive earth, or in any other sense than as a vegetable mould, occurs only on the farms of Dunrobin, Skelbo, and Skibo. A deep bluish clay carpets part of the vale of Loth; clay of various complexions and depths occurs in small patches in several low lying farms; and clay, covered to the depth of a foot with dry, barren sand, occurs in many parts of Strathfleet. A purely alluvial or haugh soil carpets some low grounds upon the margin of streams; and, in general, is light and sandy. A reddish gravel, a light hazelly vegetable mould, a shallow gritty sand, an ochre-coloured unproductive clay, a diluvium of gneiss mixed with peat, and a moorish or sandy peat earth, all differing less from one another than these designations might seem to imply, and reducible in classification to sandy and light hazel loamy soils, variously cover the low grounds of the interior straths and glens. Sand, with or without a mixture of small pebbles, and worked by culture and manuring into a dark-coloured vegetable mould, is the prevailing soil on the thickly-peopled south-eastern sea-board. Moss or peat, from 18 inches to 10 feet deep, all covered with heath, and lying at too great a height upon the levels and hollows of the mountains to admit of much or any georgical improvement, covers no less than 580 square miles, or 371,200 acres. A very large proportion of the vast mountain-district may be regarded as an irretrievable Highland wilderness. A band, 10 miles broad, and situated next the south-eastern belt of lowland, is covered with a stunted brown heath, slightly intermixed with ling or moss, and has, in general, a subsoil of gneiss or conglomerate; but, on some of the declivities skirting the straths, it has such a subsoil of sand, or of a gravelly kind of clay,  as might sufficiently bear plantation. A broad band along the south, going off at right angles from the former, and extending far to the west, and also a large part of central districts of the county, have a considerable proportion of coarse grass, esculent heaths, ling, and grass, among the coarse strong heaths, and afford good pasture for sheep and cattle. The greater part of the west is so rugged, rocky, and stern, that, except in the wild ravines and glens, very little vegetation of any sort can be discovered; and, in particular, 300 square miles or upwards, in the south-west, are a tract of all but utterly naked mountains, so torn in themselves, and so intersected by rocky gorges and hollows, that they look as if they had been shattered by some great convulsion of nature, and consigned to terrific and perpetual sterility. The northern mountains, though less naked, are often bare near the summit, and exhibit elsewhere a studding of crags among their heath. The 18,125 English acres, or 14,500 Scottish acres, which Captain Henderson estimated as arable in 1812, are distributed by him into 190 Scottish acres of clay, 1,120 of sandy soil, 100 of peat-moss, and 13,090 of a mixture of sand, gravel, and black earth, which may be deemed a light hazel loam. 

   We have stated, in our article on the HIGHLANDS, [Vol. I. p. 792,] at how late a date agricultural improvements were commenced in Sutherlandshire, how energetically they were carried on, and bow speedily they were brought to a noble maturity. The county’s total want of roads, the excessive ruggedness of its surface, its frequent intersection by dangerous friths, and by rapid hood-bearing rivers, its nearly total encompassment by strong natural boundaries, and its position in the far north, away from every point of landward access, rendered it greatly more secluded than any other Highland county, and at once repelled the approach of strangers, and greatly limited the internal intercourse of its own people. The feudal power which elsewhere lingered long in the Highlands, and was with difficulty subdued, had necessarily superior energy and wider scope in Sutherlandshire, and continued to be unbroken long after some other Highland districts were totally revolutionized. The Earls of Sutherland and Caithness, though fiercely and often engaged in their own particular feuds, seldom and slightly, during the early periods of Scoto-Saxon history, took part in the kingdom’s concerns, or seemed to be affected by its excitements and changes. The abolition of hereditary jurisdictions, the diffusion of the English language, the introduction of manufactures, the encouragement of fisheries, the dissemination of enlightened views on sheep and field husbandry, the drafting of population as emigrants to foreign countries, the opening up of territory byroads, the introduction of carts and improved implements of culture, and the diffusion of general knowledge and sound principles of social order, which had effected complete ameliorations in some parts of the other Highland territories; and were in the course of effecting them in the rest, continued, for some years after the commencement of the present century, to be quite or nearly as far from affecting Sutherlandshire as in a comparatively remote age. When the Earls of Sutherland no longer required to levy troops for prosecuting feudal contests, they raised for the service of Government one of those corps which have been aptly designated family regiments; and being far from the seat of royal or ministerial influence, and all but totally inaccessible by its instruments, they continued, from the very necessity of their position, to be the feudal, or at least the patriarchal chiefs of their people. A super-abundant population continued in consequence, to be maintained and fostered; the cessation of feuds, and the reign of peace and social security, greatly quickened the ratio at which the native population increased; and the enlargement of farms, and conversion of arable grounds into sheep walk, in the Highland counties on the south, drove hither as refugees not a small extraneous population, who were averse to emigrate, and possessed in the aggregate much less than the mean proportion of industrious and enterprising habits which characterized their countrymen. The county could not fail, from these causes alone, to be very rapidly and quite destructively over-peopled; and, in addition, it became the retreat of numerous Highlanders from the south, who were expatriated for idleness or misdemeanours, and of numerous tenants in Ross-shire and other adjoining counties, who dishonourably removed in order to escape the payment of due or arrear rent. Exactly those evils which had for centuries half barbarized the Highlands, thus became rampant and violent in Sutherlandshire at the very time when they were elsewhere becoming tamed or subdued. A hardy but indolent race swarmed up the straths and over the mountain sides; they lacerated and scourged almost every spot of earth which could be made to yield a miserable crop of oats for the support of life, or a stinted crop of bear for the distillation of whisky; they lounged lazily on the heath or around their stills, leaving to their wives and daughters most of the heavy work of both house and field; and, except in building a hut, in breaking ground for the reception of seed, in cutting turf for fuel, and in doubtfully pursuing the moorland game, they were unserviceable to their families, and mere incumbrances to themselves and their country. Misery, in its most squalid and haggard aspect, could not fail to make the speedy and thorough acquaintance of such a people. Even the cultivation of the potato, which might have seemed to promise valuable aid by the abundance of the root’s produce, and the facility with which it adapts itself to poor and bleak soils, only for a time provoked a greater density of population, and a more reckless indulgence of idleness, and then, shrinking beneath the early frosts of the mountains, or driven into sterility by skillessness and excess of culture, frequently failed to fructify, and entailed on the multitudes who chiefly depended upon it the appalling disaster of a general famine. The noble family of Sutherland and Stafford – who may be said to own the county, and at least possess by tar the larger and more valuable part of its lands – afforded munificent relief to starving thousands during various years of famine; but they felt that, till a radical and sweeping change should be effected in the ruinous social system on their lands, they were only soothing misery with stimulants which would eventually increase it, and they boldly conceived, and energetically carried into execution, the plan which we have noticed in our article on the Highlands. Yet they drove to foreign countries and to the Lowlands probably no larger a proportion of the population than most other Highland improvers, and certainly a much smaller proportion than some; and they offered every facility and encouragement to the crowds who were expelled from the interior straths and the mountain sides, to settle comfortably on the coasts, and, at the same time, expended princely sums on the construction of roads, the building of neat houses, the georgical improvement of the warm and low lands upon the sea-shores, and various other means of ameliorating the condition of both the country and the people. The suddenness of the change, the disregard of private feeling with which it was accomplished, and the all but entire depopulation of many a fine glen which figured in the fancy of many an ardent constitution in all the brilliant tints imparted by love of country, were perhaps the only circumstances which might have profitably been softened. Though many of the quondam tenants of the hills who now inhabit the coast, still cherish feelings of irritation against the noble family who achieved  the revolution, “more impartial judges perceive a want of due consideration by them of all the circumstances of the case, and properly give weight to opposite statements, corroborated as they now unquestionably are, by a kind, liberal, and public-spirited course of conduct.” The change, in its great features and bold character, had as yet affected only the greater part of Sutherland proper, or that which excludes REAY’S COUNTRY: See that article. But in 1829, the Duke of Sutherland, then Marquis of Stafford, acquired by purchase the large estates of Lord Reay; and he promptly reacted in the west and north-west the same great scene which had figured all over the Sutherland estates. The system of agriculture now practised by tenants of the arable farms in any part of the county, is not excelled by that of the most favoured parts of Scotland; and even at an early stage of the Marquis of Stafford’s georgical innovations, results were so rich and indicative of skill, that lessons were carried from them for adoption in England. The improved aspect of the county, however, extends as yet to but a small distance from the coasts. The upland country, and its enclosed straths and glens, are now disposed in large pastoral farms, some of which let for from £2,000 and £3,000 of rent each, and are held by emigrants from the south of Scotland. Cheviot sheep are the staple produce, as to both fleece and carcass; and are variously estimated in number at 170,000 and 200,000. “The new modes of improvement,” say the Messrs. Anderson, in 1834, “have not yet had time to prove their efficacy; and it seems not yet sufficiently understood, whether the system of extensive grazings and sheep-farms have benefited either the landlords or tenants, or whether its present apparent advantages are likely to be permanent.”*

   The cotton manufacture was at one time introduced to Sutherlandshire; but it failed. See SPINNINGDALE. The importing of dressed flax from the Baltic, and the spinning of it into yarn, produced for a series of years about £3,000 a-year; but the trade was destroyed by Buonaparte’s continental system. The manufacture of woollen stuffs was conducted to a sufficient extent for home consumpt, and the partial supply of Caithness. Kelp was manufactured in the Reay country to the value of about £3,000 a-year. All manufacture, except in a very restricted sense, maybe regarded as now extinct. The commerce of the county consists principally in the exchange of sheep, wool, black cattle, and fish, for woven fabrics and colonial produce. The salmon-fisheries at the mouths of most of the rivers are of considerable value, and, in some instances, are particularly noted. The lobster-fisheries of the west have had some repute; the cod and ling fisheries of the north are of growing importance; and the herring-fisheries of Helmsdale are extensive and prosperous. Fairs are held at Dornoch, Torrisdale, Golspie, Brora, Bonar-Bridge, Duillish in Kildonan, Pitentrail in Rogart, and Knockglass in Clyne. – The only town or royal burgh is Dornoch, the capital of the county. The chief villages are Bonar-Bridge, Golspie, Brora, Port-Gower, and Helmsdale, all on the south-east coast. The smaller villages are Inver and Scourie on the west, and Tongue, Torrisdale, Strathy, and Port-Skerry on the north. But burgh, villages, and hamlets are all on a meagre scale. – The chief mansions are Dunrobin-castle, Tongue-house, the seats of the Duke of Sutherland [see DUNROBIN and TONGUE]; Rosehall in Strathoikel; and Criech, Skibo, and Embo on the south-east coast. – The chief antiquities are COLE’S-CASTLE [which see]; Dun-Dornadil, or Dornadilla’s-tower, in Durness; vestiges of dunes or Picts’ houses; and some large cairns and assemblages of tumuli. Sutherlandshire, though the last district on the continent of Scotland which was provided with roads, enjoys now the singular privilege of having excellent highways without so much as one toll. One road, sending off various transverse main lines, and numerous small ramifications, extends along the whole south-east coast, and is approached by way of both Meikle-ferry and Bonar-bridge; a second goes from Bonar-bridge, up Strathoikel, and through Assynt, to the west coast at Inver; a third branching off from the second, 3 miles above Bonar-bridge, passes up the Shin, and along the great chain of lakes, to the west coast at Scourie; a fourth, branching off from the third 1½ mile above the church of Lairg, runs northward to the head of Loch-Naver, and there forks into three lines which run respectively north-westward to Durness-bay, northward to Tongue, and north-north-eastward to Farr-kirk and bay; a fifth runs in the direction of north by east from Bonar-bridge to Port-Skerry, and is joined, in the earlier part of its route, by 4 lines from the south-east coast, and one from the roads in the interior; a sixth goes from Helmsdale, up the strath of Helmsdale river, is joined by a line from Loth, strikes, at 15 miles from Helmsdale, the northerly line from Bonar-bridge, and passes on to a junction with the Farr road in Strathnaver; a seventh comes in from Caithness on the north coast, and runs along to Tongue; and an eighth strikes off from the Durness road near the head of the Kyle of Durness, and passes along the west coast to Kyle Scow. The principal facilities for interior travelling and conveyance are wheeled vehicles for the mail and passengers along the south-east coast, on the Great North road, south to Wick and Thurso; along the north coast, on the road from Thurso to Tongue; and right through the country, between Tongue and Golspie. – Sutherlandshire comprehends the quoad civilia parishes of Assynt, Clyne, Criech, Dornoch, Golspie, Kildonan, Lairg, Loth, and Rogart, and the quoad sacra parish of Stoer, which constitute the presbytery of Dornoch; the quoad civilia parishes of Durness, Edderachylis, Farr, and Tongue, and the quoad sacra parishes of Kinlochbervie and Strathy, which constitute the presbytery of Tongue; and part of the quoad civilia parish of Reay, which belongs to the presbytery of Caithness; – all in the synod of Sutherland and Caithness. The Duke of Sutherland is joint patron with the Crown of Criech, and sole patron of all the other quoad civilia parishes in the presbytery of Dornoch, and of the parish of Farr. The Crown is patron of all the other parishes. In 1834, there were 13 parochial schools, conducted by 15 teachers, and attended by a maximum of 1,067 scholars, and a minimum of 430; and 43 non-parochial schools, conducted by 45 teachers, and attended by a maximum of 2,038 scholars, and a minimum of 701. – Sutherlandshire, till some time after the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions, formed part of the sheriffdom of Caithness. The county sends one member to parliament. Constituency, in 1838, 134. Quarter-sessions are held at Dornoch on the first Tuesday of March, May, and August, and the last Tuesday of October; justice-of-peace small-debt-courts are held on the first Tuesday of every month at Dornoch, and the first Wednesday of every month at Brora; and sheriff’s small-debt-courts are held in April and October at Tongue, Lairg, and Port-Gower. The valued rent, in 1674, was £26,093 Scottish; and the real property as assessed, in 1815, was £33,878. Population, in 1811, 23,629; in 1821, 23,840; in 1831, 25,518, in 1841, 24,666. Houses, in 1841, 4,821. 

   The earldom of Sutherland, a title to which that of Duke of Sutherland in the peerage of the United Kingdom was recently added, is asserted to be the most ancient existing peerage in Britain, and at least has for ages been the premier earldom of Scotland. Hugh Freskin, the first undoubted figurant in connexion with it, or with its subsequent possessors, came into Scotland from Flanders, in the reign of David I., and obtained from that prince the lands of Strathbrock in Linlithgowshire. Hugh probably acted an astute and valorous part in subduing the Moraymen at their insurrection in 1130; and, in guerdon of his services, he acquired from his royal master some of the richest lands in the beautiful and fertile plain of Moray. William Freskin, the former’s eldest son and heir, received additional grants of land; and Hugh Freskin, William’s eldest son, acquired the broad estate of Sutherland, which was forfeited by the Earl of Caithness by his rebellion in 1197. Whether this Hugh obtained, along with the estate, the title of Comes or Earl, seems a matter of dispute. His son, however, “Willielmus Dominus de Sutherlandia, filius et hæres quondam Hugonis Freskyn,” unquestionably died Earl of Sutherland about the year 1248; and he is usually reckoned the 1st Earl, and is said to have obtained the peerage from Alexander II., about 1228, for assisting to crush a powerful northern savage, of the name of Gillespie. William, the 2d Earl, was with the Scottish armies at Bannockburn and Brigland, and wore his title during the long period of 77 years. Kenneth, the 3d Earl, fell at the battle of Halidon-hill in 1333. William, the 4th Earl, married the second daughter of King Robert Bruce; and made grants to powerful and influential persons of numerous lands which he held in the counties of Inverness and Aberdeen, to win their support of his eldest son John’s claim to the succession to the Crown. John was selected by his uncle, David Bruce, or David II., as heir of the throne; but he died in England, while a hostage there for the payment of the King’s ransom. William, the brother of John, and the 5th Earl, fought at the battle of Otterburn. Of the four succeeding Earls, nothing of public interest is recorded. Elizabeth, the sister-german of John, the 9th Earl, Countess of Sutherland in her own right, and the tenth person who held the earldom, married Lord Aboyne, and was succeeded by her son, John, who was poisoned in 1567 at Helmsdale. See LOTH. The next four Earls were each the son of the preceding. John, the 16th Earl, figured conspicuously both as a statesman and as a soldier, and obtained leave to add to his armorial bearings the double ‘tressure circonfeurdelire,’ to indicate his descent from the royal family of Bruce. Elizabeth, the infant daughter and only child of William, the 18th Earl, who died in 1766, succeeded in that year to the earldom, yet a sharp contest to her right was conducted, on the ground that the title could not legally descend to a female heir, and terminated in her favour by an adjudication of the House of Lords in 1771. The Countess, the nineteenth person in the line of succession, married, in 1785, George Granville Leveson Gower, Viscount Trentham, eldest son of Earl Gower, afterwards Marquis of Stafford, by his second wife, Lady Louisa Egerton, daughter of the 1st Duke of Bridgewater. His lordship succeeded to his father’s titles, became the second Marquis of Stafford; and, in 1833, he was raised to the dignity of Duke of Sutherland. The Duchess of Sutherland, Countess in her own right, held the earldom during the long period of 72 years and 7 months, and died in January, 1839; when she was succeeded by her eldest son, George Granville, the present Duke. As Marquis of Stafford, the Duke claims descent, by his father’s paternal line, from the Earls of Bath, and the youngest son of Rollo, Duke of Normandy, and, by his father’s maternal line, from the princess Mary, the second daughter of Henry VII. 

1  The trout differ from each other so much in the various districts, as to warrant the suspicion that more than one species is included under the common name of trout. By many ichthyologists, the different appearances of trout are all referred to S. Fario, with a most extensive range of variation; but the subject appears yet to require investigation. Many of the trout in these lochs are of very fine quality. In most of the larger lochs, particularly in the district of Assynt, the great lake trout, S. Ferox, was found. This fish is noticed by several of the British writers upon fish, but only as a variety of the common trout. It is distinct, and with good characters. It reaches a weight of 25 pounds. It inhabits only the larger Scottish lochs, – Loch-Awe, Shur, Loyal, Assynt, &c. Its food is almost exclusively fish; the flesh very coarse, of a yellowish white colour. 

*  I don’t feel it would be right for readers not to also know about the “improvements” from the perspective of those tenants who lived there during this time. Please refer to MacLeod’s ‘Gloomy Memories’ (1892) for first-hand witness testimony, the whos, wheres and whys of the terrible events that occurred, specifically in Sutherlandshire. 

2 thoughts on “Sutherlandshire, pp.730-735.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s