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Cortachy and Clova, Forfarshire

Historical Description

CORTACHY and CLOVA, a parish, in the county of FORFAR, 4 miles (N.) from Kirriemuir; containing 867 inhabitants. The former of these ancient parishes, which were united in 1608, is supposed to have derived its name, anciently Quartachie, from a Gaelic term descriptive of the situation of its church and castle in a small valley surrounded with elevated lands. Of the latter parish the name is of very uncertain derivation. The barony of Cortachy belonged at a very early period to the family of Ogilvy, ancestors of the Earls of Airlie, and whose baronial castle here has for many generations been their chief seat, and is still the residence of the present earl. The district of Cortachy is about ten miles in length and nearly four in average breadth, of somewhat triangular form, narrow at the southern extremity, where it is bounded by the confluence of the rivers South Esk and Prosen, and comprising about 23,700 acres. Clova, which is nearly of equal length, and varies from two to almost four miles in breadth, is situated to the north-west of Cortachy, and comprises an area of 19,000 acres; making a total in the whole parish of nearly 43,000 acres, of which ahout 3540 are arable, 1000 woodland and plantations, and the remainder mountain pasture and waste.

The surface of the parish is boldly diversified, and embellished with features of picturesque beauty and majestic grandeur in striking contrast. The south-western portion embraces part of one of the Grampian ranges, extending nearly through the entire length of the district, and declining on the south and south-west towards the river Prosen, and on the north and north-east towards the South Esk. Opposite to this mountainous range is another of greater elevation, stretching through the whole of the parish; and between them are the beautiful and richly-cultivated vales of Wateresk and Clova. The latter vale is divided on the north by a lofty mountain into two narrow glens, one of which takes a north-western, and the other a south-western direction. From these glens the adjacent mountains appear in all their towering grandeur, varying in height from 1500 to more than 3000 feet, and presenting a combination of bold and precipitous masses of barren rock, immense heights covered to their very summits with various kinds of grasses, and hills of stupendous elevation, affording excellent pasturage for both cattle and sheep. The river South Esk has one of its sources in Loch Esk, and others, of still greater power, in the stream of Falfearnie, &c.; it flows through the parish for nearly twenty miles, receiving in its course numerous tributary streams, among which is the Whitewater. Loch Esk, situated among the mountains, six miles north-west of the vale of Clova, is about half a mile in circumference, of comparatively inconsiderable depth, and surrounded with scenery rather of bleak and rugged character. Loch Wharral, in the heart of the mountainous district at the north-eastern boundary of the parish, and about 1000 feet above the level of the Esk, is a mile in circumference, and of very considerable depth. About two miles to the north-east of Loch Wharral is Loch Brany, on the same side of the mountain range, and nearly at a like elevation; it is about a mile and a half in circumference, and in some parts of great depth. These lakes abound with trout, and many trout are also found in the river, of large size and good flavour, as are sea-trout during the summer. Salmon, too, are found in the Esk, towards the middle of September.

The SOIL is very various. The greater portion of that in the arable lands is sharp and gravelly, inclining in some parts to a fertile loam, and in others to a thin stony sand. In the southern districts of the parish it is much mixed with clay, and along the bases of the hills, partly a fine deep mould, and partly hard and stony, alternated with moss. In the valleys there is a rich deposit of alluvial soil, inclining to sand, with alternations of moss, and in other parts a deep sandy loam. The principal crops are oats, barley, wheat, turnips, and potatoes; the system of agriculture is improved, and the rotation plan of husbandry is generally practised. Great attention is paid to the management of live stock. The cattle chiefly reared are the Angus breed; they are of middling size, and generally disposed of when two or three years old. The mountains afford pasture for great numbers of sheep, mostly of the black-faced and Cheviot breeds; and in addition to those reared in the parish, numbers are bought when young, and fed till three or four years old, when they are sold at high prices. In this parish the woods consist of oak, ash, mountain-ash, elm, plane, beech, chesnut, alder, and birch; and the plantations, of larch, Scotch, spruce, white and black American, and silver firs. Much attention is paid to pruning and thinning at proper times, especially on the lands of the Earl of Airlie, to whose father the gold medal of the Highland Society was adjudged in 1830, for his extensive improvements. The rocks are of red sandstone, pudding-stone, whinstone, serpentine, mica-schist, gneiss, clay-slate, quartz, and granite; limestone is also found, but unless taken from a considerable depth, it is not of very good quality. The annual value of real property in the parish is £3887.

Cortachy Castle, a seat of the Earl of Airlie's, is a spacious and ancient structure with modern additions, beautifully situated in a small valley on the south side of the river Esk: the date of the more ancient part, and the name of the original founder, are both unknown. Of the castle of Clova but little remains; it is said to have been destroyed by Cromwell, during the parliamentary war. Facility of communication with the neighbouring towns is afforded by good roads, of which that to Strathmore passes through the whole length of the parish. Fairs for cattle and sheep are held on the farm of Collow, on the last Friday in April, and fourth Monday in October; the latter is one of the largest sheep-markets in the country, and the number of sheep sold is generally from 8000 to 12,000. For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Forfar, synod of Angus and Mearns. The minister's stipend is about £173, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £15 per annum; patron, the Earl of Airlie. The present church of Cortachy, situated near the southern extremity of the parish, was erected on the site of the former edifice, in 1829, by the then earl, at an expense of more than £2000; it is a handsome structure, containing 550 sittings, all of them free. Clova church, about ten miles distant from the church of Cortachy, is an ancient structure, repaired and enlarged by the erection of a gallery in 1731, and lately repewed. It contains 250 sittings, all of which are free, except the gallery, which is let for the benefit of the poor. Near it is a good house for a missionary, who officiates alternately in this church and the chapel of Glenprosen, and who has a regular stipend of £30 from Royal Bounty, £30 from the inhabitants of the districts, and £21 from the Earl of Airlie. The parochial school is situated near Cortachy church; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average £15. The parochial library has a collection of 200 volumes, chiefly the gift of the Ogilvy family.

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