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Airlie, Forfarshire

Historical Description

AIRLIE, a parish, in the county of FORFAR, 4 miles (W. S. W.) from Kirriemuir; containing 868 inhabitants. The name of this place, written in ancient records Errolly, Erolly, Irolly, and Airlie, is altogether of uncertain derivation: by some it is supposed to come from the Gaelic term Aird, signifying the "extremity of a ridge", which description is applicable to the locality of Airlie Castle. The parish is situated at the western extremity of the county, bordering on Perthshire, and measures in extreme length six miles, from east to west; while the breadth varies from half a mile to four miles; the whole comprising 8600 acres, of which 6843 are cultivated, 1365 in wood, and 387 in pasture, waste, &c. The southern part of the district lies in the vale of Strathmore, from which the land rises towards the north in a succession of undulated ridges, forming a portion of the braes of Angus, and the southern Grampians. In this direction, the Isla pours its waters through a deep rocky gorge, out of the higher into the lower country; and the ravine, separating at Airlie Castle into two channels, makes courses respectively for the Isla and Melgum streams. The scenery about this spot, which is highly picturesque, is to a great extent indebted for its attractions to the romantic Den of Airlie, extending for above a mile from the confluence of the two streams. The pellucid stream of the Isla, sweeping in some places over a rocky channel, pursues its winding course among the thickly-wooded and precipitous braes; and the pleasing landscape in this part is completed by the interesting feature of the Kirktown, situated about one mile and a half south east from the castle, and less than a mile east of the river. All the streams are famed for their abundance of fine, trout, and are the favourite resorts of anglers; the Isla and Melgum are also much visited by salmon. In the Dean is found the fresh-water muscle, often mistaken for the pearl oyster so common in the South Esk; and some of the rivers are frequented by numerous migratory birds, some of them being of very rare species. The Den of Airlie is distinguished for its botany, containing some plants that are not to be found in any other place in Scotland.

The SOIL runs through the several varieties of fine brown and black loam in most of the better portions of the district. There are also gravelly, sandy, and clayey tracts in different places, varying in quality from very fertile to unproductive: on the sand and gravel is a considerable tract of inferior soil which, if allowed to remain long in grass, becomes overspread with broom. In the northern part is a thin barren earth on a tilly subsoil. But though much of the land is either very poor or only of moderate fertility, there are some rich tracts in the parish, particularly a long and broad strip of deep alluvial loam, along the whole course of the Dean river. The agriculture of the parish has been greatly improved since the beginning of the present century, and deep and extensive drains have been constructed; furrow-draining, with tiles and stones, has been practised, and shell-marl is much used as manure. The number of sheep and cattle, and the superiority of the breeds, furnish a striking contrast to the state of the district in these respects about thirty or forty years since. Most of the thinner soils are now covered with flocks of native black-faced sheep, besides regular stocks of Leicesters in other parts; and in addition to the Angus, a very fine description of cattle is to be seen on several of the larger farms, which is often crossed with the Teeswater. Since the introduction of steam navigation, large numbers have been sent to London, exclusively of those sold at Edinburgh and Glasgow, and they obtain the highest prices.

The strata consist entirely of the old red sandstone, with the exception of a trap-dike crossing the channel of the Isla, near Airlie Castle. The upper beds are in general too friable for use, crumbling almost as soon as they are exposed to the air; but those at a considerable depth are of tenacious consistence, and, having several varieties of fine and coarse grain, are capable of being applied to many purposes. Most of the rocks are overlaid with debris, of different depth, and above are usually beds of sand and gravel. At Baikie is a bed of marl once covering forty acres, and extending from one to six or seven yards in depth, but which has been much employed for agricultural use: it lies under a surface of peat. Antlers of deer and horns of oxen have been found in the moss. Many plantations have been formed in the present century, comprising the usual kinds of trees; but they are to a great extent in a pining state, especially the larch, numbers of which have been entirely destroyed by blight and canker. The annual value of real property in the parish is £7434.

Airlie Castle, a plain modern residence, situated at the north-western point of the parish, on a lofty precipice, is the property of the family of Ogilvy, who became connected with the parish in 1458, when Sir John Ogilvy of Lintrathen, received a grant of the barony from King James II. The family were created Barons Ogilvy in 1491, and Earls of Airlie in 1639. One side only of the ancient castle remains, the rest having been burnt down by the Earl of Argyll, in the year 1640, during the absence of the Earl of Airlie, a zealous supporter of the royal cause, which event is celebrated in the popular ballad entitled "Bonnie house of Airlie". The present peer succeeded to the titles and property in 1849. Lindertis House is a handsome edifice of recent date, beautifully situated on the northern slope of Strathmore, and commanding fine views of an extensive range of country. A considerable number of the inhabitants of the parish are engaged in weaving coarse linens for Dundee houses. Several public roads, leading to some of the great thoroughfares, pass through the place; and the Midland Junction railway passes along the south-eastern border. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Meigle, synod of Angus and Mearns, and in the patronage of the Earl of Strathmore; the minister's stipend is £219. 1. 5., with a manse, and a glebe of nine acres valued at £12 per annum. The church is a very neat edifice, built in 1781, and substantially repaired in 1844. A Free Church place of worship has been erected in the southern part of the parish, with a manse. The parochial schoolmaster has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house, and £13 fees. Near Cardean are the remains of a Roman camp, and also of the great Roman road which ran from this spot along the valley of Strathmore.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis