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Cromdale, Elginshire

Historical Description

CROMDALE, a parish, partly in the county of ELGIN, but chiefly in that of INVERNESS, 18 miles (S. W.) from Rothes; containing, with the village of Grantown, 3561 inhabitants. It is supposed to have derived its name from the Gaelic words crom, signifying crooked or curved, and dail, a plain or meadow, a portion of land being made semicircular by the winding course of the river Spey. This disrrict, consisting of the three ancient parishes of Cromdale, Inverallan, and Advie, has from an early period been possessed by the Grant family, who were very powerful in Scotland in the thirteenth century, and the first of whom mentioned in old records was Gregory de Grant, sheriff-principal of Inverness, Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness, in the reign of Alexander II. Among the many sanguinary conflicts in the neighbourhood, a battle fought on the haughs of Cromdale, on the 1st May, 1690, is the most celebrated. It took place between General Buchan, with a large party from different clans, on the side of the Stuarts, and Sir Thomas Livingstone, who commanded the royalists; and the Highlanders, after fighting bravely, were routed with considerable slaughter. The castle of Lochindorb, situated in the parish, on an island in a loch of the same name, afforded a retreat for the lady of the Earl of Athol, when the latter had been killed in an engagement with the Earl of March, in 1335, at Kilblair: Sir Alexander Gordon shortly laid siege to the fort, but was obliged to withdraw in the following year.

The PARISH is very irregular in its outline. It is about twenty miles in length, and ten miles at its greatest breadth, comprising, according to a survey made in 1810, an area of 54,744 acres, of which 5306 were arable, 3283 in wood, 396 in lakes, and the remainder hill, moor, and moss. The lands are separated into two distinct portions by the Spey. Those on the northern side are much varied by slopes, stretching down to the river, and covered with thick forests of pine, oak, and larch; on the south the most prominent feature is Cromdale hill, a lofty mountain ridge about seven miles long, covered with heath, extending to the east and west, and separating this parish from that of Kirkmichael. Most of the high grounds abound with grouse and different kinds of game, and with brown and white hares; and ptarmigan have been shot in some places: the Spey is well stocked with salmon. The SOIL is in general favourable; but the vicissitudes of the climate, the site of the parish being 600 feet above the level of the sea, often expose promising crops to ruin from cold and frost. Agriculture is, however, on a very respectable footing; the rotation of crops and other approved usages of modern farming are followed, and lime is prepared on almost every allotment of land, however small. The sheep are mostly the black-faced, with a few Cheviots; and the black-cattle, which are very superior, are of the West Highland breed. The annual value of real property in the parish is £5849. Primitive limestone of excellent quality is abundant, and is extensively wrought by nearly all the tenants: granite of a superior kind is also found, with various other rocks of the primitive class.

The parish is famous for its large and flourishing plantations, which are said to exceed those of any other parish in this part of the country: above 5000 acres are covered with larch, fir, and various other trees, half of which have been planted within the last thirty or forty years. Many trees among the older plantations are of great bulk and value, especially in the vicinity of Castle-Grant, whence very large cargoes have been and continue to be taken to Garmouth. The natural wood comprises a considerable extent of oak, birch, and alder; and in the churchyard is a magnificent beech-tree, the branches of which are capable of overshadowing more than 1000 persons. The mansion of Castle-Grant is situated on an eminence on the northern side of the Spey, about two miles from the river, and is encompassed with forests of ancient and noble trees. This splendid edifice, the seat of the Grant family from remote ages, is now the property of the Earl of Seafield, sole proprietor of the parish, who is directly descended from the family of Grant, and chief of that clan. The house was built in the fourteenth century, but has since been frequently altered and improved, especially within the last few years. It consists of a quadrangular pile of several stories, with lower wings; and the apartments, which are spacious and handsomely furnished, contain many valuable paintings by the ancient masters, and one by Hamilton, of superior merit, representing the Death of Patroclus. In the front hall are placed between thirty and forty portraits of different members of the Grant family; and there is also an extensive armoury. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Abernethy, synod of Moray, and in the patronage of the Earl of Seafield, the minister's stipend is about £250, with a manse, and two glebes, one at Cromdale, and the other at Advie, valued at £22 per annum. The church, situated on the southern bank of the Spry, was built in 1809, and will accommodate about 900 persons. There are four parochial schools affording the usual instruction; the masters receive each £12. 16. per annum, with fees, and the master of the school at Advie also shares in the Dick bequest. The chief relics of antiquity are, the ruin of the castle of Lochindorb, already mentioned; and that of Muckcrach Castle, built by Patrick Grant, about the year 1598. Sir James M'Grigor, Bart., the head of the medical department of the army, was born here in 1771. -See GRANTOWN.

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