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Avoch, Ross and Cromarty

Historical Description

AVOCH, a parish, in the county of Ross and Cromarty, 1¾ mile (S. W. by W.) from Fortrose; containing 1931 inhabitants, of whom 936 are in the village. This place apparently derives its name, said to signify in the Gaelic language "shallow waters ", from the small river on which the village is situated. The parish is bounded on the south and south-east by the Moray Firth, and on the south-west by the bay of Munlochy; and is about four miles and a quarter in length, and three miles in extreme breadth, comprising 6198 acres, of which about 2500 are arable, 1500 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, and waste. Its surface, though generally level, with a gentle acclivity from the shore of the Firth, contains a portion of the Milbuy hill, which has an elevation of nearly 500 feet; and is also intersected, in the lower parts, by several prominent ridges. The river from which it is said to take its name rises within its limits, near a pool called the Littlemilstick, and after a beautifully winding course, in which the stream turns several mills, falls into the Firth near the village. The coast extends for about three miles, and is bounded by a high ridge of rocks, projecting slightly in two points, between which is a beach of sand and gravel.

The soil, which comprises almost every variety, has been greatly improved, and the pastures are mostly rich; the crops are wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips, with the usual grasses. Considerable attention has been for some time paid to the rearing of live-stock; and the farms have been newly divided in portions adapted to the ability and resources of the various tenants, by which a much better system of management has been introduced. The annual value of real property in the parish is £3658. The substrata are generally of the red sandstone formation, interspersed with rocks of granite; and indications of limestone occur, though none has yet been wrought: there are freestone quarries in several places from one of which, affording stone of a deep red colour, it is supposed that the materials were taken for the erection of the cathedral church of Chanonry. Rosehaugh, the seat of Sir James J. R. Mackenzie of Seatwell, Bart., is an elegant modern mansion, beautifully situated on an eminence about half a mile from the sea, and embellished with woods and thriving plantations. Avoch House, a handsome mansion embosomed in romantic scenery, was destroyed in 1833 by an accidental fire. Bay Cottage is situated near, and derives its name from, the bay of Munlochy.

The village stands on the river Avoch, near its influx into the Moray Firth, which is here about four miles in breadth, and, between the promontory of Fort-George on the east and the town of Inverness on the west, has the appearance of a beautiful inland lake. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in fisheries, in which nine boats, having each a crew of ten men, are engaged in taking haddock, whiting, cod, and other fish, on the coasts of Sutherland and Caithness: in the Moray Firth are found oysters, flounders, and halibut. After supplying the neighbourhood, the remainder of the fish are sent to the Inverness market. During the season, commencing about the middle of July, the fishermen of this place send thirty-five boats to the herring-fishery at Caithness, from which they return some years with from £20 to £50 each of clear gain, while in other years few are able to cover the necessary expenses. In the intervals of the fishing season, the inhabitants are employed in making nets, not only for their own use, but also for the fishing-stations in the north and west Highlands. The harbour that is formed near the mouth of the river affords good anchorage and shelter for the boats, and a substantial pier has been constructed, at which vessels of considerable burthen land cargoes of coal from Newcastle; it is also safely accessible to trading vessels, which, from London, Leith, Aberdeen, and Dundee, regularly touch at the port. There are two salmon-fisheries, one on the estate of Rosehaugh, and the other on the estate of Avoch. In Munlochy bay, mussels are found in profusion. Facility of communication is afforded by the turnpike-road from Fort-George ferry to the western coast of Ross-shire, which passes through the village and the southern part of the parish, leading to Kessock ferry on the west, and to the town of Dingwall on the north-west. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Chanonry and synod of Ross: the minister's stipend is £249. 9. 6., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £7. 10. per annum: patron. Sir J. J. R. Mackenzie. The church, a neat plain structure, erected in 1670, enlarged in 1792, and repaired in 1833, is situated close to the village, and contains 600 sittings. There is a place of worship for Independents. The parochial school is well conducted; the master has a salary of £30, with a house and garden, and the fees average between £20 and £30 per annum.

There are some slight remains of the ancient castle of Avoch, consisting chiefly of the site, occupying a rocky knoll on the northern promontory of the bay of Munlochy, and distinguished by the rubbish of ruined walls which surrounded the summit of the hill. It was the residence of the lord of Moray, who died in 1338. The castle subsequently passed to the Earls of Ross, on whose forfeiture it was annexed to the crown, and was granted by James III. to his second son, the Marquess of Ormond, from which circumstance the knoll was called Ormond's Mount. The lower story, or dungeon, of the Tower of Arkendeith, supposed to have been built by the Bruces of Kinloss, is also remaining. Chambers of Ormond, the Scottish historian, was born in the parish; and Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who discovered the river in America which is called by his name, resided for many years at Avoch House, and was interred here.

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