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Cawdor, Inverness-shire

Historical Description

CAWDOR, a parish, partly in the county of INVERNESS, but chiefly in that of NAIRN; containing 1150 inhabitants, of whom 146 are in the village of Cawdor, 5½ miles (S. S. W.) from Nairn. This place was anciently called Barewan, or Barivan, partly from the situation of the original church, of which there are some remains in the braes or hilly parts of the parish; and partly from its patron saint, Ewan. It has for several centuries, however, been distinguished by the appellation of Calder, or Cawdor, the name of a tributary stream flowing through it into the river Nairn, and the banks of which, richly wooded, and crowned with a stately baronial castle, have long been celebrated for their romantic beauty. Connected with the Fortress, for the erection of which a royal license was obtained in 1393, are some highly interesting historical allusions. The murder of Duncan, King of Scotland, has been traditionally referred to this place, and the room is still shewn in which it is said to have occurred; but the date of the building sufficiently contradicts this opinion, which may have been erroneously derived from the circumstance of Macbeth's inferior title being Thane of Cawdor. During the rebellion in 1745, Lord Lovat, who had taken an active part in that transaction, found refuge from his pursuers in a retired apartment of this castle, in which he lay concealed for a considerable time.

The PARISH, which is bounded on the north by the river Nairn, is about four miles in length, and of very irregular form, varying from one mile to five miles in breadth, with a narrow strip extending southward for nearly sixteen miles, and crossing the river Findhorn. It comprises 35,313 acres, of which more than 3000 are arable, upwards of 5000 acres woodland and plantations, and the remainder pasture and moor. The surface, for nearly a mile from the bank of the Nairn, is a continued plane, rising towards the south into hills of considerable elevation, of which the acclivities near the base are in excellent cultivation, the higher portions richly planted, and the summits covered with heath. In the plains the soil is a loam of moderate fertility, resting on sand and gravel, and the hills afford tolerable pasture for cattle; the lower hills are composed chiefly of old red sandstone, and in the higher are beds of gneiss, interspersed with veins of granite. The system of agriculture has been greatly improved, under the auspices of the Nairnshire Farming Society, who hold annual meetings here, at which they award premiums for the best specimens of stock; the crops consist of grain of every kind, potatoes, and turnips, and the rotation plan of husbandry is predominant. The annual value of real property in the parish is £2370. Timber attains a luxuriant growth; oak, ash, fir, alder, and birch are indigenous to the soil, and the plantations consist mostly of beech, larch, lime, sycamore, and elm. The prevailing character of the scenery is beautifully picturesque.

Cawdor Castle, the seat of Earl Cawdor, and his occasional residence, is a stately structure in good preservation, and of much strength; the walls, which are of great thickness, and crowned with battlements, are defended by a lofty tower, which is the most ancient portion of the building, and the whole presents a fine specimen of baronial grandeur. The village, which is neatly built, obtained a charter of incorporation in the reign of Charles I.; but it never exercised any of the privileges conferred upon it, or rose into any importance. The only manufacture carried on is that of whisky, in the well-known Brackla distillery; a sub-post has been established under the office at Nairn, and the roads are kept in good repair. This parish, which has been augmented with portions of those of Nairn and Auldearn, is ecclesiastically within the bounds of the presbytery of Nairn and synod of Moray. The minister's stipend is £156, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £7; patron, Earl Cawdor. The church, built in 1619, and repaired and improved in 1830, is a neat structure containing 681 sittings; the service is performed alternately in the English and Gaelic languages. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £34, and the fees average about £10. A school, lately established, is supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, who also support a school for females; and another female school is endowed by the Countess Cawdor.

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