Kyle of Sutherland Heritage Society

EDDERTON, a parish, in the Mainland district, county of Ross and Cromarty, 5 miles (S. W.) from Tain, containing 975 inhabitants. This place, which derives its name from its situation among hills that surround it on all sides except the north, was noted in the reign of William the Lion for its castle near the shore of the Frith of Dornoch, erected by that monarch to command the ferry between the counties of Ross and Sutherland. In 1227, Ferquhard, or Farquhar, Earl of Ross, having accompanied Alexander II. into England, challenged a renowned French champion whom he met at the court of Henry III. to single combat, and in gratitude for his victory founded here, on his return, the abbey of Fearns, which he amply endowed for Augustine monks. From the frequent annoyances to which the brethren were exposed in this situation, however, the founder, at the request of the abbot, removed the establishment, about the year 1246, to a more secluded spot about twelve miles distant, where it continued to flourish till the Reformation, when one-half of its revenues was granted to the bishopric of Ross, and the remainder to the Ross family of Balnagown. The parish, which is bounded on the north by Dornoch Frith and the Frith of Tain, is about ten miles in length, and nearly eight miles in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 41,760 acres, of which 1630 are arable, 710 woodlands and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, and moor. The surface is partly level, consisting of three successive ledges of table-land, and in other portions diversified with numerous hills, of which the most conspicuous are, Cambuscurry to the east, having an elevation of 600 feet above the level of the sea, and the hill of Struie to the west, rising to the height of 1000 feet, both which are wholly within the parish. Cnoc-an-t-Sabhal, on the southern boundary, is about 1000 feet in height; and Muidhe-Bhlarie, on the southwest border, has an elevation of 1300 feet above the sea. There are four small rivers, which have their source in the parish, the Edderton burn, the Daan, the Easter Fearn, and the Grugaig: during the dry season they are very inconsiderable streams, but after rains they become swollen and impetuous in their course, and have sometimes been known to sweep away the bridges built over them.

The soil in the higher lands near the sea is gravelly, in the lower a deep alluvial loam alternated with sand, and in other places a mixture of clay, gravel, and moss; the arable lands are in good cultivation, and the system of husbandry has been improved under the encouragement given to his tenants by the principal landholder, Sir Charles Ross. The rateable annual value of the parish is £1794. The plantations, some of which are of early date, are, oak, birch, and Scotch fir, of which last there are about 100 acres on the lands of Balnagown in a very flourishing condition, and chiefly of ancient growth. In the deeper mosses are found the trunks and roots of fir, oak, hazel, and birch, some of which are of great dimensions. The substrata are principally old red sandstone, conglomerate, of which the rocks are mainly composed, and limestone; and in the hill of Struie are found gneiss, quartz, granite, and whinstone. The chief residences are, Ardmore House, beautifully situated; Balblair; and Upper Edderton. There is no village in the parish: at Ardmore, on the Frith of Tain, is a good harbour accessible to vessels of 100 tons, and during the summer several arrive with supplies of coal, lime, and other merchandise. At Balblair is a distillery, commenced about forty-five years since; it consumes 120 bushels of malt weekly, producing 240 gallons of whisky, in very high repute. Facility of communication with Tain, from the markets of which the inhabitants are supplied with provisions, is afforded by the turnpikeroad to Bonar-Bridge.

The ecclesiastical affairs of Edderton parish are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Tain and synod of Ross. The minister’s stipend is £203. 14., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £16 per annum; patroness, the Hon. Mrs. Hay Mackenzie, of Cromarty. The former church, erected in 1743, and efficiently repaired in 1794, a neat plain structure, containing 350 sittings, being inconveniently situated, a new church was built in 1841 in a more centrical part of the parish. The members of the Free Church use the old edifice. The parochial school is not well attended; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average about £5 per annum. A female school, supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, was established in 1837, and a Gaelic school in 1840 by the Gaelic Society of Edinburgh. Behind the parochial school-house is an obelisk of rough whinstone, ten feet in height, on which is sculptured the figure of a fish, probably a salmon, with two concentric circles below it; and surrounding the pillar, at a distance of three yards from its base, is an intrenchment about two feet in height, inclosing an area within which a fight took place between some of the inhabitants and a party of Norwegian pirates, when Carius, the leader of the latter, was killed. The name of the place is from that event called Carry-Blair. In the churchyard is also a sculptured stone, on which is a warrior on horseback, with a large cross above, and on the other side various concentric circles and hieroglyphics. A complete chain of circular forts formerly surrounded the parish, but few at present are in any tolerable state of preservation: one of them, called Dune Alliscaig, about fourteen feet in height, and having a spiral staircase within the walls, was in the year 1818 demolished for the sake of the materials which it afforded.

Samuel Lewis, ‘Eaglesfield – Edenton’, in A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (London, 1846), pp. 349-361. British History Online

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