CAITHNESS-SHIRE, a county, in the north-east of Scotland, bounded on the north by the Pentland Firth; on the east and south-east, by the North Sea; and on the west and south-west, by the county of Sutherland. It lies between 58° 10' and 58° 40' (N. Lat.), and 3° and 3° 65' (W. Long.), and is about forty-three miles in length, and thirty miles in breadth; comprising an area of 618 square miles, or 395,520 acres; 6965 inhabited houses, and 216 uninhabited; and a population of 36,343, of whom 17,135 are males, and 19,208 females. On account of its remote situation, Caithness had little intercourse with the principal parts of the country, and is consequently connected with few historical events of importance, except occasional hostilities with the Danes and Norwegians, of which there are some memorials in various monumental relics. From ancient records, it appears to have been erected into an earldom in 875; the title, after being for a long period in abeyance, was revived in favour of William Sinclair, a descendant of Robert II., in 1455. Many of the men of Caithness attended James IV. at the battle of Flodden Field, under the Earl of Caithness; and scarcely an individual of the number survived that fatal conflict. Before the abolition of episcopacy, this county, with Sutherland, constituted a diocese, of which the cathedral and episcopal palace were situated at Dornoch; it is at present in the synod of Sutherland and Caithness, and comprises one presbytery and ten parishes. For civil purposes it is divided into the districts of Wick and Thurso, where the quarter-sessions and other courts are held alternately, Wick being the seat of the sheriff court. It contains the royal burgh of Wick, which is the county town; the town of Thurso; and a few inconsiderable villages.
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