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Boleskine and Abertarff, Inverness-shire

Historical Description

BOLESKINE and ABERTARFF, a parish, in the county of Inverness; containing the village and post-town of Fort-Augustus, 131 miles (N. W.) from Edinburgh; and comprising 1876 inhabitants. The name of Boleskine has usually been traced to the Gaelic term Bail-os-cionn, which signifies "the town hanging above the loch" (Loch Ness). Another derivation, however, has been assigned to it, by which it is identified with the compound term Boile-eas-ceann; ceann signifying "height" or "summit," eas a "cataract," and boile "fury," which, taken together, would mean "the summit of the furious cascade," viz., the fall of Foyers. The whole of the parish, previously to the fifteenth century, was the property of the Lovat family; and at a still earlier period, it is supposed to have been possessed by the Cummins, a very powerful and warlike clan; Fort-Augustus being still called, in the common language of the district, Kilichuiman, or "the burial-place of the Cummins." Strath-herric, a district of Boleskine, was anciently possessed by the clan Grant, the time and cause of whose departure are uncertain. Before the year 1545, the parish is said to have been occupied by the tribes of Mc Gruer, Mc Imesheir, and McTavish, retainers of the Lovat family, and the principal of whom, having accompanied Lord Lovat, in his expedition to settle the heir of the Clanronald family in his father's estate, were, in their return from the Hebrides, intercepted at the east end of Lochlochy, by the clan Mc Donald, and almost extirpated. The numerous offspring descended from the Frasers killed in that engagement, in process of time spread throughout the parish; and Foyers is now the seat of the representative of this ancient and powerful clan.

The parish is twenty-one miles long, and about ten broad, and its surface is considerably diversified throughout. The district of Strath-herric consists of flat lands, with a few undulations, near which is a great extent of hilly ground, and in the eastern quarter is a range of high hills called Monadhliath: tracts of low land are to be seen in other parts, suited to the growth of oats, barley, and potatoes. Loch Ness, which is twenty-four miles long, and about one mile and a half broad, bounds the parish on the north for fourteen miles. This lake, in the middle, is from 106 to 130 fathoms deep, and near the sides from sixty-five to seventy-five; and, from its great depth, never freezes: the ground around rises to a considerable height, and is ornamented with a variety of trees. There are about twelve other lakes in the parish. In Abertarff, are two streams that fall into Loch Ness, named Oich and Tarff, which latter gives name to the district of Abertarff; and there are two celebrated cascades in the parish, formed by the same river, within less than half a mile of each other, and known by the name of the fall of Foyers, the grandeur and magnificence of which, increased by the sublimity of the surrounding scenery, can be adequately conceived by those only who have beheld the spectacle.

The soil exhibits all the varieties of gravel, clay, till, loam, and peat-moss, and is generally of a poor or middling character. The lands are mainly devoted to the rearing of sheep, of which about 30,000 are kept, all of the Cheviot breed, and the wool is sold chiefly to wool-staplers in the north of England. The greater part of the district is without inclosures, but good farm-buildings have been erected on the principal lands, where, also, good fences are seen. The rocks comprise blue and red granite, which exist in large quantities, and limestone is also plentiful, but not much wrought. The rateable annual value of the parish is £5887. There is a salmon-fishery, which lets for £30 a year. Annual fairs are held at Fort-Augustus, in the beginning of June and end of September, chiefly for the sale of cattle, but at which, also, some traffic is carried on by pedlers and others; and occasional trysts for black cattle take place in spring and autumn. The only turnpike-road is the old military road, which runs for about twenty-two miles on the south side of the parish, and is kept in good order. There are three district roads, in indifferent repair; and the Caledonian canal, which passes through the parish, opens a communication by means of steam-packets and other vessels.

For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Abertarff and synod of Glenelg; the patronage is exercised by Professor Scott of Aberdeen, and the minister's stipend is £238. 2. 2. There is an excellent manse, with offices, and the glebe comprises upwards of fifty-two acres, of which thirty-five are in good cultivation, and the remainder indifferent pasture. Till about seventy years since, there were two glebes in the united parishes, one near Fort-Augustus, and the other on the banks of Loch Ness, both eligible and desirable tracts of land, which were then exchanged for the present glebe. The church, conveniently situated for the bulk of the population, was built in 1777, and is a neat and well-finished building, seated for 560 persons. There is a missionary minister in connexion with the Established Church, who regularly officiates at Fort-Augustus; and in the same district is a Roman Catholic chapel. The parochial school affords instruction in Latin, Gaelic, and the ordinary branches of education; the master has a salary of £30, with about £13. 10. fees.—See Fort-Augustus.

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