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Ardclach, Nairnshire

Historical Description

ARDCLACH, a parish, in the county of NAIRN, twelve miles (S. S. W.) from Forres; containing 1177 inhabitants. This place derives its name from its situation in a mountainous and rocky district, of which the Gaelic words are faithfully descriptive. The parish is bounded on the north by the parishes of Auldearn and Nairn, and on the west by the parish of Cawdor; it is nearly sixteen miles in extreme length, and twelve miles in extreme breadth. During the wars of the Covenanters, it shared largely in the hostilities of that distracted period; after the battle of Auldearn, in 1645, the lands here of Brodie of Lethen were plundered by the forces of the Marquess of Montrose, and in 1649 and 1653 were again desolated, after unsuccessful assaults of Lethen Castle, by the Marquess of Huntly and the troops under the Earl of Glencairn, respectively. The number of acres in the parish is about 40,000, of which nearly 4000 are arable, about 2800 woodland and plantations, and the remainder hill-pasture, moorland, and waste. The surface is mountainous, and some of the hills are considerable; that called the Shaw has a height of 800 feet, and the hill of Lethenbar of 862 feet, above the level of the sea. The lower lands are watered by numerous springs, and by the river Findhorn, which rises in the mountains of Inverness, and flows through the parish in a north-eastern direction into the Moray Firth. In its course it receives many tributary streams from the higher lands, the principal of which are, the burns of Torgarrow and Altnarie, forming in their descent beautiful cascades; the burns of Drunilochan and Tomnarrach; and the burn of Lethen, or Muckle-Burn, which flows for nearly ten miles through the parish, and falls into the Findhorn near its mouth.

The system of agriculture has been greatly improved under the liberal encouragement given to his tenants by Mr. Brodie of Lethen, and the rotation plan of husbandry is generally prevalent; the crops are oats, with other kinds of grain, and various green crops. In the lower lands, the soil is tolerably fertile, and has been benefited by the use of lime; the mountainous districts afford pasture for cattle and sheep, of which the former are chiefly of small size, but hardy and adapted to the pastures, and the latter have been much improved by a cross with the Lanarkshire breed. The natural wood is mostly Scotch pine, birch, alder, hazel, mountain-ash, and poplar; and the plantations are principally larch, interspersed with fir: the wood of Dulcie tbrras an extensive forest of fir, wholly indigenous, and there are ample and thriving plantations at Glenfairness and Lethen. The annual value of real property in the parish is £2373. The rocks along the course of the river Findhorn are mainly granite, gneiss, and quartz; the substratum in the western portion of the parish is the old red sandstone, with some of the schistose formation, in which are found impressions of plants, occasionally resting on a layer of conglomerate, with nodules containing imperfect marine fossils, and which, when burnt, produce excellent lime for agricultural use. The moors afford black game and grouse, partridges, snipes, woodcocks, and other birds; and hares and rabbits are found in great number. The lake on the lands of Lethen called Loch Belivat, which covers an area of twenty-seven acres, abounds with trout of three distinct species, weighing on the average about two pounds each; and in the centre is an island frequented by aquatic fowl of every kind. Salmon are taken in abundance in the river Findhorn. Coulmony House, the property of Mr. Brodie, is a handsome mansion, beautifully situated on the river. Glenfairness was purchased a few years ago by Mr. Dougal, who has carried out extensive improvements, and has built a new and handsome mansion on his estate.

This parish, which till 1773 was united to Edenkillie, in the presbytery of Forres, is within the bounds of the presbytery of Nairn and synod of Moray: the minister's stipend is £248, with a manse, thoroughly repaired in 1841, and a glebe of seven acres and a half, valued at £5 per annum; patron, Mr. Brodie. Ardclach church, situated nearly in the centre of the parish, and surrounded with a spacious cemetery, was originally built in 1626, rebuilt in 1762, and again in 1839 at a cost of £500; it contains 686 sittings, and the service is performed alternately in the English and Gaelic languages. A place of worship has been erected in connexion with the Free Church. The parochial school affords an ample course of instruction; the master has a salary of £36. 7- 3., including an allowance of £2 for a garden, with a good dwelling-house, and the fees average from £10 to £15 per annum. There are also, a female school for reading, knitting, and sewing, which receives £5 per annum from the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge; and a school at Fornighty, the master of which has a salary of £15 from the society, and receives £2 from a bequest by Mr. Dunbar, of London. About a mile below the bridge of Dulcie, on the lands of Glenfairness, is an ancient obelisk, on which are rudely sculptured two figures in the Highland costume, supposed to commemorate the fate of a Celtic princess who, eloping with her Danish paramour, was pursued to the hill of Dunearn, on the verge of the river, into which they precipitated themselves, and perished together. On the summit of the hill of Lethenbar is a very perfect Druidical circle; and in the neighbourhood are several tumuli.

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