Kyle of Sutherland Heritage Society

KINCARDINE, a parish, in the county of Ross and Cromarty, 14 miles (W. N. W.) from Tain; containing 2108 inhabitants, of whom 316 are in that part of the parish which formed the late quoad sacra parish of Croich. This place perhaps derives its name, of Celtic origin, signifying “the termination of the heights,” from its situation at the extremity of some ranges of lofty hills. It appears to have been, at a very early period, the baronial residence of the chiefs of the clan Ross, and to have been the scene of various hostilities between them and rival clans, of which the most sanguinary was the battle of Tuiteam-Tarbhach, about the year 1397. In 1650, the Marquess of Montrose arrived at Orkney with a force of 1500 men, and, crossing the Pentland Frith, landed at the northern extremity of Caithness, and took possession of the castle of Dunbeath, whence he advanced to Ross-shire. The Earl of Sutherland, his opponent, at first retired before him, but afterwards passed over into Sutherland, to intercept his retreat to the north; and Colonel Strachan advancing to meet Montrose with a force of 230 cavalry and 170 infantry, a battle ensued near the pass of Invercharron, on the borders of this parish, which terminated in the defeat of the Marquess, and the slaughter of nearly the whole of his men. The spot where the battle was fought has been since called “Craigachaoineadh,” or the Rock of Lamentation. Montrose, after the engagement, throwing off his embroidered cloak, and changing clothes with a Highland soldier, swam across the Kyle, a sheet of water dividing part of this parish from Sutherland, and effected his escape from the field of slaughter. But, after wandering for several days in Strath-Oikell, and concealing himself in the woods of Assynt, he was at length discovered by Neil Macleod, the proprietor of that place, who had been formerly one of his followers, and to whom, in the hope of finding protection, he made himself known. Macleod, however, being either afraid to conceal him, or tempted by the large reward offered for his apprehension, betrayed Montrose to his pursuers, who sent him, by order of General Leslie, to Skibo Castle, whence he was removed to Braan Castle, and afterwards to Edinburgh, where, after suffering the most barbarous indignities, he was publicly executed, and his head placed on the Tolbooth. There are still some vestiges of the ancient residence of the family of Ross, whose territories were, in the eleventh century, erected by Malcolm Canmore into an earldom, which remained in that family till the death of William, the last earl, without issue male, in 1371, after which the dignity continued to be held by various claimants till the year 1478, when it was finally annexed to the crown. The present representative of the title, and of the chieftainship of the clan, is George Ross, Esq., of Pitcalnie, a descendant from the brother of the Earl William, who died in 1371; and the chief proprietor of the lands in the parish is Sir Charles W. A. Ross, of Balnagown, Bart.

The parish, which is bounded on the north-east mainly by the Frith of Tain, is about thirty-five miles in length, and varies from three to sixteen miles in breadth, comprising an area of nearly 230 square miles, of which but a very small portion is arable. The surface is strikingly diversified with hills of various elevation, and with open valleys and narrow glens; and near the western extremity is the ancient and extensive forest of Balnagown, in which are deer of unusually large size. The most lofty of the hills are, Cairnchuinaig, on the lands of Dibbisdale, in which are found cairngorms of great beauty; and Sithain-a-Charra, in Balnagown forest, in which, though it is at a very considerable distance from the sea, have been discovered shells of different kinds. The principal river is the Oikell, which has its source in the adjoining parish of Assynt, and, after a course of thirty miles, in part of which it forms the northern boundary of the parish, falls into the Kyle Frith; it is navigable for nearly twelve miles. The river Carron intersects the parish from west to east, and joins the Kyle at Bonar-Bridge. There are also numerous lakes, some of which contain trout of excellent quality, especially Loch-a-Chorry, in which are trout weighing six pounds; but none of these lakes are of great extent, or distinguished by any interesting features. The rivers Oikell and Carron abound with salmon; there is likewise a salmon-fishery at Bonar-Bridge, and flounders are taken at ebb-tide. The fisheries are all the property of the Duke of Sutherland.

The soil is exceedingly various. On the arable lands, which are under good cultivation, producing favourable crops, it is tolerably fertile; but the hills and other parts are heathy and barren. The hills afford, however, good pasture for sheep, of which great numbers are reared, and sent mainly to the Falkirk trysts and to Edinburgh: the cattle, which are generally of the Highland black breed, are grazed in large herds on the pastures, and forwarded chiefly to Leith and to London, by the northern steamers. There are some considerable remains of ancient wood; and extensive plantations have been formed on some of the lands, consisting chiefly of oak, birch, and firs, all of which are in a very thriving state. The prevailing rocks are of the granite or the conglomerate kind, alternated with gneiss and whinstone; mica-slate and greywacke are sometimes met with; and at Knockierny, on the confines of the parish of Assynt, white and variegated marbles of the purest quality are found. The rateable annual value of the parish is £5172. Invercarron House, on the north bank of the river Carron; Gladefield House, the property of the Duke of Sutherland; Braelangwell Lodge, belonging to Sir Charles W. A. Ross, beautifully situated on the Carron, which forms a picturesque cascade near the house; and Amat Cottage, the occasional residence of George Ross, Esq., of Pitcalnie, near the confluence of some small rivulets with the Carron, are all handsome residences. The parish is connected with the coast of Sutherland by a substantial and elegant bridge across the Frith at Bonar, erected in 1812, to supersede the dangerous ferry, previously the only means of communication. This important structure, which cost £14,000, consists of three arches: one, on the Sutherland side, is of cast iron, 150 feet in span; and the others, which are of stone, are of fifty and sixty feet respectively. There are no manufactures; but some trade is carried on here in the exportation of grain, wool, oak-bark, and salmon, and in the importation of coal, lime, salt, meal, and other articles for the supply of the district. Many fishing-boats, also, visit the Frith during the season. A good pier of stone was constructed at Bonar some years since, by Mr. Ross, late of the Balnagown Arms inn, at his own expense; and the harbour affords safe shelter and accommodation to vessels not exceeding sixty tons’ burthen, which can come up to the bridge. A postoffice at Bonar has a daily delivery: the mail is conveyed from Tain by a post gig, which carries also four passengers. A fair is held annually, generally in the last week of November, but sometimes in the first week of December; it continues for three days, and is numerously attended by dealers from all parts of the adjacent districts. On the first day there is a fine show of Highland cattle; and on the two others, large quantities of dairy and agricultural produce, and various kinds of merchandise, with home-spun webs in abundance, are exposed for sale, and general business to a great extent is transacted.

The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Tain and synod of Ross. The minister’s stipend is £278, with a manse, and a glebe valued at about £15 per annum; patron, John Hay Mackenzie, Esq., of Cromarty. The church is a neat substantial structure, erected in 1799, and containing 650 sittings, all free: in the steeple is a fine-toned bell which was found in a French ship of war of 74 guns, captured in 1775 by Admiral Sir John Lockhart Ross, of Balnagown. A church was erected by parliamentary grant, in 1827, at Croich, a remote pastoral district; and another portion of this extensive parish is under the care of a missionary connected with the Established Church, whose charge also extends over a part of the parish of Criech, in the county of Sutherland, where his station is, at Rosehall. The chapel for the mission, erected by Dunning, Lord Ashburton, and repaired in 1832, contains 300 sittings; and the missionary, who is appointed by the Royal Bounty committee, receives a stipend of £60, to which £5 are added by the Duke of Sutherland. The members of the Free Church have also a place of worship. The parochial school, situated near the church, is attended by about 100 children; the master has a salary of £34, with a house, and an allowance of £2. 2. in lieu of garden, the fees averaging £20 per annum. A parochial library, consisting chiefly of religious books, is supported by subscription. There are numerous circular forts in the parish, supposed to be of Pictish or Danish origin; but most of them are in a very imperfect state, from the removal of the stones as materials for building. In the churchyard is a stone five feet in length, and about two feet in breadth and thickness; it has been hollowed into two unequal cells, and is elaborately sculptured with various figures, among which are a man on horseback in the act of darting a javelin, an imperial crown, and what appears to be a camel. This relic is supposed to be part of a sarcophagus in which, according to tradition, the remains of a warrior who died here of the wounds he received in battle, were deposited. There are also some remains of Druidical circles in different parts of the parish.

Samuel Lewis, ‘Kilsyth – Kingussie’, in A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (London, 1846), pp. 61-82. British History Online

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