INVERNESS-SHIRE, a highland county of Scotland, bounded N. by Ross and Cromarty, and the Beauly and Moray Firths, N.E. by the shires of Nairn and Elgin, E. by Banff and Aberdeen shires, S.E. by Perthshire, S. by Argyllshire and W. by the Atlantic. It includes the Outer Hebrides south of the northern boundary of Harris, and several of the Inner Hebrides (see Hebrides) and is the largest shire in Scotland. It occupies an area of 2,695,037 acres, or 4211 sq. m., of which more than one-third belongs to the islands. The county comprises the districts of Moidart, Arisaig and Morar in the S.W., Knoydart in the W., Lochaber in the S., Badenoch in the S.E. and the Aird in the N. Excepting comparatively small and fertile tracts in the N. on both sides of the river Ness, in several of the glens and on the shores of some of the sea lochs, the county is wild and mountainous in the extreme and characterized by beautiful and in certain respects sublime scenery. There are more than fifty mountains exceeding 3000 ft. in height, among them Ben Nevis (4406), the highest mountain in the British Isles, the extraordinary assemblage of peaks forming the Monadhliadh mountains in the S.E., Ben Alder (3757) in the S., and the grand group of the Cairngorms on the confines of the shires of Aberdeen and Banff.
In the north-west the Beauly river (16 m. long) is formed by the confluence of the Farrar and the Glass. The Enrick (18 m.), rising in Loch-nan-Eun, takes a north-easterly direction for several miles, and then flowing due east falls into Loch Ness, just beyond Drumnadrochit, close to the ruined keep of Castle Urquhart. The Ness (7 m.), a fine stream for its length, emerges from Loch Dochfour and enters the sea to the north of Inverness. The Moriston (19 m.), flows out of Loch Clunie, and pursuing a course E. by N.E. falls into Loch Ness 4 m. south of Mealfourvounie (2284 ft.) on the western shore opposite Foyers. The Lochy (9 m.), issuing from the loch of that name, runs parallel with the Caledonian Canal and enters Loch Linnhe at Fort William. The Spean (18 m.), flowing westwards from Loch Laggan, joins the Lochy as it leaves Loch Lochy. The Nevis (12 m.), rising at the back of Ben Nevis, flows round the southern base of the mountain and then running north-westwards enters Loch Linnhe at Fort William. The Leven (12 m.), draining a series of small lochs to the north-west of Rannoch, flows westward to Loch Leven, forming during its course the boundary between the shires of Inverness and Argyll. The Dulnain (28 m.), rising in the Monadhliath Mountains, flows north-eastwards and enters the Spey near Grantown, falling in its course nearly 2000 ft. The Truim (152 m.), rising close to the Perthshire frontier, flows N.N.E. into the Spey. Three great rivers spring in Inverness-shire, but finish their course in other counties. These are the Spey, which for the first 60 m. of its course belongs to the shire; the Findhorn (70 m.), rising in the Monadhliath Mountains a few miles N.W. of the source of the Dulnain; and the Nairn (38 m.), rising within a few miles of Loch Farraline. The two falls of Foyers - the upper of 40 ft., the lower of 165 ft. - are celebrated for their beauty, but their volume is affected, especially in drought, by the withdrawal of water for the works of the British Aluminium Company, which are driven by electric power derived from the river Foyers, the intake being situated above the falls. Other noted falls are Moral on the Enrick and Kilmorack on the Beauly.
The number of hill tarns and little lakes is very great, considerably more than 200 being named. Loch Ness, the most beautiful and best known of the larger lakes, is 222 m. long, 14 m. broad at its widest point (Urquhart Bay), has a drainage area of 696 m., and, owing to its vast depth (75r ft.), uniformity of temperature, and continual movement of its waters, never freezes. It is the largest body of fresh water in Great Britain, and forms part of the scheme of the Caledonian Canal. A few miles S.W. is Loch Oich (4 m. long), also utilized for the purposes of the Canal, which reaches its summit level (105 ft.) in this lake. To the S.W. of it is Loch Lochy (92 m.), which is also a portion of the Canal. Loch Arkaig (12 m.) lies in the country of the Camerons, Achnacarry House, the seat of Lochiel, the chief of the clan, being situated on the river Arkaig near the point where it issues from the lake. The old castle was burnt down by the duke of Cumberland, but a few ruins remain. After Culloden Prince Charles Edward found shelter in a cave in the "Black Mile," as the road between Lochs Arkaig and Lochy is called.
Loch Quoich (6 m.) lies N. by W. of Loch Arkaig, and Loch Garry (42 m.) a few miles to the N. E.; Loch Morar (112 m. long by i a broad) is only about 600 yds. from the sea, to which it drains by the river Morar, which falls over a rocky barrier, at the foot of which is a famous salmon pool. The loch is 1017 ft. deep and is thus the deepest lake in the United Kingdom. It contains several islands, on one of which Lord Lovat was captured in 1746. Loch Laggan (7 m.) and Loch Treig (52 m.) in the south of the county are both finely situated in the midst of natural forests. The principal salt-water lochs on the Atlantic seaboard are Loch bourn ("Hell's Lake," so named from the wild precipices rising sheer from the water), running inland for 14 m. from the Sound of Sleat and separating Glenelg from Knoydart; and Loch Nevis (14 m.), a few miles farther south.
The parallel roads of Glen Roy, a glen with a north-easterly to south-westerly trend, a few miles east of Loch Lochy, presented a problem that long exercised the minds of geologists. At heights of 1148 ft., 1067 ft. and 835 ft., there run uninterruptedly along each side of the glen terraces of a width varying from 3 to 30 ft. Local tradition ascribes them to the Ossianic heroes, and John Playfair (1748-1819) argued that they were aqueducts. The fact that they, occur also in the neighbouring Glen Gloy and Glen Spean, however, disposes of an artificial origin. John MacCulloch (1773-1835) propounded the theory that they were lacustrine and not marine, and Agassiz followed him with the suggestion that the water had been held up by a barrier of glacier ice. This view is now generally accepted, and the roads may therefore be regarded as the gently sloping banks of lakes dammed up by glacier ice. Glen More-nan-Albin, or the Great Glen, is a vast "fault," or dislocation, 62 m. in length, through which Thomas Telford constructed (1804-1822) the Caledonian Canal connecting Loch Linnhe and the Moray Firth. Glen More is said to be liable to shocks of earthquake, and Loch Ness was violently agitated at the time of the great Lisbon earthquake (1755).
Among the glens renowned for beauty are Glen Urquhart and Glen Moriston to the west of Loch Ness, Glen Feshie in the east, and Glen Nevis at the southern base of Ben Nevis. Glen Garry, to the west of Loch Oich, gave its name to the well-known cap or "bonnet" worn both in the Highlands and Lowlands. In Glen Finnan, at the head of Loch Shiel, Prince Charles Edward raised his standard in 1745, an incident commemorated by a monument erected in 1815 by Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale. The great straths or valleys are in the north and east, the chief among them being Strathfarrar, Strathglass and Strathnairn, and the heads of Strathearn and Strathspey.
|Table of contents|
Almost the entire area of this county is occupied by the younger Highland schists and metamorphic rocks. East of Loch Ericht and the rivers Traim and Spey as far as Airemore and between there and Duthel there are quartzites and quartzose schists; on the remaining area the various kinds of schistose and gneissose rock have hardly been worked out in detail. Granite masses occur in numerous isolated patches; the largest is on the eastern boundary and includes the flanks of Cairn Gorm, Cairn Toul, Braeriach, Carn Ban and Meall Tisnail. Other smaller ones are found at Ben Nevis, where the lower part of the mountain is granite, the upper part porphyritic felsite; between 1VIoy and Ben Buidhe Mhor; E. of Foyers, including Whitebridge, Aberchalder and Loch Farraline; at Ben Alder, W. of Loch Ericht and another between that loch and the river Pattack; at Banavie on the W. of the river Lochy; around the upper end of Loch Clunie and at several other places. The dioritic mass of Rannoch Moor just enters this county between Loch Ericht and Loch Ossian.
The Old Red Sandstone extends into this county from Nairn through Culloden Moor past Inverness and down Loch Ness to a point south of Foyers; it occurs also on the south-east side of Loch Oich, and around Beauly, where it forms the falls of Kilmorach. These rocks consist at the base of coarse breccias and conglomerates passing upwards into chocolate-coloured sandstone and flags, with the shaly series containing limestone nodules known as the fish bed from the abundance and importance of its fossil contents; it is well exposed in the Big Burn and near Loch Ashie. At a higher horizon come more purple flags and grits. The Great Glen which traverses the county is an old line of earth fracture along which displacements have been produced during more than one geological period. Roches moutonnees, glacial striations and moraines and other evidences of the great Ice age are abundant, besides the parallel roads of Glen Roy to which allusion has already been made. The lowest of these terraces is prolonged into Glen Spean. At numerous places on the coasts the remains of old marine terraces occur at too ft. and 25 ft. above the sea.
Of the small isles belonging to Inverness-shire those of Rum and Eigg are of the greatest interest. The northern part of Rum is made of Torridonian rocks, shales below and red sandstones above; altogether over 10,000 ft. are visible. These rocks have suffered thrusting and the shales are thus made in places to overlie the sandstones. A few patches of Torridonian occur in the south. Tertiary peridotites in laccolitic masses cover a large area in the south of the island and form the highest ground. These are penetrated by eucrites and gabbros, followed later by granites; and the whole has been subsequently crushed into a complex gneissose mass. Still later, dolerite sills and sheets and dikes of granophyre and quartz. felsite followed in the same region. Eigg is mainly built of great basaltic lava flows with intrusions of doleritic rocks; these were succeeded by more acid intrusions, and again by a more basic series of dikes. Pitchstones occur among the later rocks. The Sgurr is capped by a thick intrusion of pitchstone. Jurassic rocks, including the Estuarine Lower Oolite sandstones, shales and limestones and Middle Oolite Oxfordian rocks are found in the north of this island; there is also a small trace of Upper Cretaceous sandstone. Canna, Sanday and Muck are almost wholly basaltic; a small patch of Jurassic occurs on the south of the last-named island. (See also Skye.) Forests and Fauna. - Deer forests occupy an enormous area, particularly in the west, in the centre, in the south and south-east and in Skye. From the number of trees found in peat bogs, the county must once have been thickly covered with wood. Strathspey is still celebrated for its forests, and the natural woods on Loch Arkaig, in Glen Garry, Glen Moriston, Strathglass and Strathfarrar, and at the head of Loch Sheil, are extensive. The forests consist chiefly of oak, Scotch fir, birch, ash, mountainash (rowan), holly, elm, hazel and Scots poplar, but there are also great plantations of larch, spruce, silver fir, beech and plane. Partof the ancient Caledonian forest extends for several miles near the Perthshire boundary. Red and roe deer, the Alpine and common hare, black game and ptarmigan, grouse and pheasant abound on the moors and woodlands. Foxes and wild cats occur, and otters are met with in the lakes and streams. There are also eagles, hawks and owls, while great flocks of waterfowl, particularly swans, resort to Loch Inch and other lakes in Badenoch. Many of the rivers and several of the lochs abound with salmon and trout, the salmon fisheries of the Beauly, Ness and Lochy yielding a substantial return.
Rain is heavy and frequent in the mountains, but slighter towards the northern coast; the fall for the year varying from 73.17 in. at Fort William to 43.17 in. at Fort Augustus, and 26.53 in. at Inverness. The mean temperature for the year is 47.2°F., for January 38.5° and for August 58°. Although since 1852 the cultivated area has increased greatly, actually the percentage of land under crops is still small. The Aird and Beauly districts, some of the straths and several of the glens are fertile. Oats are the predominant crop, barley is grown (mostly for the distilleries), but the wheat acreage is trifling. Of green crops turnips do well in certain districts, artificial manures being extensively used. In those quarters where the soil is dry, potatoes are successfully raised. An immense number of the holdings are crofts averaging 5 acres or under. About 50% are between 5 acres and 50; but few are above 50. The operations of the Crofters' Commission (1886) have been beneficial in a variety of ways. Not only have rentals been reduced Lonsiderably and arrears cancelled, but the increased sense of security resulting from the granting of fair rentals, fixity of tenure and compensation for disturbance has induced tenants to reclaim waste land, to enlarge their holdings and to apply themselves more thriftily and with greater enterprise and intelligence to the development of their farms. On the large holdings the most modern methods of husbandry are followed, the farm buildings are excellent and the implements up-to-date. The hills furnish good pastures. The flocks of sheep are exceptionally heavy, the chief varieties on the uplands being Cheviots and black-faced and in some of the lower districts Leicesters and half-breeds. Of the cattle the principal breed is the Highland, the largest and best herds of which are in the Western Isles. Polled and shorthorns are also reared, and Ayrshires are kept for dairy purposes. Great numbers of the hardy Highland ponies are raised on the hill farms, and the breed of agricultural horses was improved by the introduction of Clydesdale stallions. Where pigs are reared they appear to be kept, especially amongst the crofters, for domestic consumption.
Manufactures are few. Indeed, excepting the industries carried on in Inverness, they are almost entirely confined to distilling - at Fort William, Kingussie, Carbost, Muir of Ord and some other places - brewing, woollens (especially tartans, plaids and rough tweeds), milling and (at Kirktown near Inverness) artificial manures. The catering for the wants of thousands of sportsmen and tourists, however, provides employment for a large number of persons, and has led to the opening of hotels even in the remotest regions. The fisheries, on the other hand, are of great value, especially to the Hebrideans. The kelp industry has died out.
Owing to its physical character communication by rail is somewhat restricted, but the Highland railway enters the shire from the south near Dalwhinnie and runs to Inverness via Aviemore and Daviot. Another portion of the same system also reaches the county town from Nairnshire. The Dingwall and Skye railway passes along the southern shore of Beauly Firth. In the south-west the West Highland railway (North British) enters the county 2 m. N.W. of Rannoch station and terminates at Mallaig, via Fort William and Banavie, sending off at Spean Bridge a branch to Fort Augustus. There is also communication by steamer with the piers of the Caledonian Canal and with the Western Isles, and a considerable amount of shipping reaches Beauly and Inverness by way of Moray Firth. Coaches supplement rail and steamer at various points.
The population was 90,121 in 1891, and 90,104 in 1901, when 43,281 persons spoke Gaelic and English, and 11,722 Gaelic only. The only considerable towns are Inverness (pop. in 1901, 23,066) and Fort William (2087). The county returns one member to parliament, but the county town, along with Forres, Fortrose and Nairn, belongs to the Inverness district group of parliamentary burghs. Inverness forms a sheriffdom with Elgin and Nairn, and there are resident sheriffs-substitute at Inverness, Fort William, Portree and Lochmaddy. The county is under school-board jurisdiction, and there are voluntary schools (mostly Roman Catholic) in several places. The secondary schools in Inverness and some in the county earn grants for higher education. The town council of Inverness subsidizes the burgh technical and art school. At Fort Augustus is a well-known collegiate institution for the education of the sons of well-to-do Roman Catholics.
To the north of the boundary hills of the present counties of Argyll and Perth (beyond which the Romans attempted no occupation) the country was occupied by the Picts, the true Caledonians. The territory was afterwards called the province of Moray, and extended from the Spey and Loch Lochy to Caithness. These limits it retained until the 17th century, when Caithness (in 1617), Sutherland (in 1633) and Ross-shire (in 1661) were successively detached. Towards the end of the 6th century Columba undertook the conversion of the Picts, himself baptizing their king, Brude, at Inverness; but paganism died hard and tribal wars prevented progress. In the 11th century, after the death of Duncan, Scotland was divided between Macbeth and the Norwegian leader Thorfinn, who took for his share the land peopled by the northern Picts. Malcolm Canmore, avenging his father, defeated and slew Macbeth (1057), and at a later date reduced the country and annexed it to the kingdom of Scotland. In 1107, when the bishopric of Moray was founded, the influence of the Church was beginning to effect some improvement in manners. Nevertheless, a condition of insurrection supervened until the reign of David I., when colonists of noble birth were settled in various parts of the shire. After the battle of Largs (1263) the Norse yoke was thrown off. In 1303 Edward I.'s expedition to Scotland passed through the northern districts, his army laying siege to Urquhart and Beaufort castles. After the plantation the clan system gradually developed and attained in the shire its fullest power and splendour. The Frasers occupied the Aird and the district around Beauly; the Chisholms the Urquhart country; the Grants the Spey; the Camerons the land to the west and south of Loch Lochy (Locheil); the Chattan - comprising several septs such as the Macphersons, Mackintoshes, Farquharsons and Davidsons - Badenoch; the Macdonalds of the Isles Lochaber; the Clanranald Macdonalds Moidart, Knoydart, Morar, Arisaig and Glengarry; and the Macleods Skye. Unfortunately the proud and fiery chieftains were seldom quiet. The clans were constantly fighting each other, occasionally varying their warfare by rebellion against the sovereign. In many quarters the Protestant movement made no headway, the clansmen remaining steadfast to the older creed. At the era of the Covenant, Montrose conducted a vigorous campaign in the interests of the Royalists, gaining. a brilliant victory at Inverlochy (1645), but the effects of his crusade were speedily neutralized by the equally masterly strategy of Cromwell. Next Episcopacy appeared to be securing a foothold, until Viscount Dundee fell at Killiecrankie, that battle being followed by a defeat of the Highlanders at Cromdale in 1690. The futile rising headed by Mar in 1715 led to a colnbined effort to hold the clans in check. Forts were constructed. at Inverness, Kilchumin (Fort Augustus) and Kilmallie (Fort William); Wade's famous roads - exhibiting at many points notable examples of engineering - enabled the king's soldiers rapidly to scour the country, and general disarming was required. Prince Charles Edward's attempt in 1745 had the effect of bringing most of the clans together for a while; but the clan system was broken up after his failure and escape. Heritable jurisdictions were abolished. Even the wearing of the Highland dress was proscribed. The effects of this policy were soon evident. Many of the chieftains became embarrassed, their estates were sold, and the glensfolk, impoverished but highspirited, sought homes in Canada and the United States. As. time passed and passion abated, the proposal was made to raise several Highland regiments for the British army. It was entertained with surprising favour, and among the regiments then enrolled were the 79th Cameron Highlanders. With the closing of the chapter of the Jacobite romance the shire gradually settled down to peaceful pursuits.
The county in parts is rich in antiquarian remains. Stone axes and other weapons or tools have been dug up in the peat, and prehistoric jewelry has also been found. Lake dwellings occur in Loch Lundy in Glengarry and on Loch Beauly, and stone circles are numerous, as at Inches, Clava, and in the valley of the Ness. Pictish towers or brochs are met with in Glenbeg (Glenelg), and duns (forts) in the Aird and to the west and south-west of Beauly and elsewhere. Among vitrified forts the principal are those on Craig Phadrick, Dundbhairdghall in Glen Nevis, Dun Fionn or Fingal's fort on the Beauly, near Kilmorack, Achterawe in Glengarry and in Arisaig.
See J. Cameron Lees, History of the County of Inverness (Edinburgh, 1897); C. Fraser-Mackintosh, Letters of Two Centuries (Inverness,. 1890); Alexander Mackenzie, Histories of the Mackenzies, Camerons, eec. (Inverness, 1874-1896); A. Stewart, Nether Lochaber (Edinburgh, 1883);4Alexander Carmichael, "Grazing and Agrestic Customs of the Outer Hebrides" (Crofters' Commission Report, 1884).
- Please bookmark this page (add it to your favorites)
- If you wish to link to this page, you can do so by referring to the URL address below.
This page was last modified 29-SEP-18
Copyright © 2021 ITA all rights reserved.