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Glenelg, Inverness-shire

Historical Description

GLENELG, a parish, in the county of Inverness, 188½ miles (N. W.) from Edinburgh; containing, with the island of Rassay, 2729 inhabitants. The name of this place, according to some, signifies "the valley of hunting", and according to others, "the valley of the roe", each of which descriptions is appropriate to the character of the district. The parish is about twenty miles in length, and of nearly the same breadth. It is bounded on the north-east and east by the parish of Glenshiel, in the county of Ross; on the south-east and south by Glengarry and Lochaber; on the south-west by the lake of Morir, dividing it from Ardnamurchan; and on the west and north-west by the Sound of Sleat, separating it from the Isle of Skye. The coast is abrupt and rocky, except in the bay of Glenelg and in the lochs, where good anchorage may be obtained. The interior consists of three districts, namely, Glenelg proper, Knodyart, and North Morir, which are formed by the intersection of two arms of the sea, called Loch Hourn and Loch Nevis. Its surface is diversified with hill and glen. In the district of Glenelg are two valleys, through each of which a river pursues its course; and the inhabitants reside in villages on each side of the streams, and along the shores, the arable land extending along the river-banks, and on the acclivities of the hills. In Knodyart the people live near the sea: North Morir is but little inhabited, being rocky and mountainous, and chiefly adapted for pasture. Loch Hourn and Loch Nevis are about four miles wide at the entrance, and are navigable for twenty miles; the former is celebrated for the beauty of its scenery and the well-wooded mountains rising from its margin. There are also several freshwater lakes, which, as well as the rivers, contain a tolerable supply of fish.

The SOIL in Glenelg proper is loamy and fertile; that in the district of Knodyart is much lighter, but when well cultivated produces good crops. The parish, however, is chiefly pastoral, being unfit for extensive agricultural operations from the rockiness of the surface, and from the great quantity of rain to which the lands are subject at all seasons, exposing the farmer to much loss of crop. Sheep are the staple live stock, the arable land not being able to supply a sufficiency of winter provender for any other; the few cattle kept are of the pure Highland breed, and the sheep the black-faced and Cheviots. About 2000 acres are occupied by wood; and the annual value of real property in the whole parish amounts to £6442. The rocks are chiefly gneiss, with mica-slate, quartz, hornblende, granite, syenite, and serpentine. There are also several beds of limestone; but it is not wrought, as the scarcity of proper fuel renders the operation too expensive, and as the shells which abound on the coast are found to be a good substitute. Impure plumbago is to be met with in considerable quantities. The only mansion-house in the parish is that of Inverie, on the property of Glengarry, in the district of Knodyart; it is beautifully situated on the banks of Loch Nevis. The chief village is Kirkton, which, with its circumjacent scenery, has excited the admiration of most visiters to this part of the country, and is conveniently seated upon a bay affording good anchorage with the wind south-east, north-east, or east. Its principal street consists of slate-roofed houses, having some good shops, with numerous dirty and squalid cottages in the vicinity. The roads leading from the village are beautified with rows of trees; and these, together with the extensive bay and the interesting back-ground, form a very agreeable and striking picture. The village of Arnisdale, situated at the southern extremity of the district of Glenelg proper, on the banks of Loch Hourn, is also rendered attractive by its imposing Alpine scenery. There is a herring-fishery connected with the parish, which produces about £250 a year; and three annual fairs are held in the months of May, July, and September, respectively. The inhabitants enjoy good means of communication. The parliamentary road towards the Isle of Skye passes through the principal glen to the ferry of Kyle Rhea; it is kept in proper order, and has excellent bridges over the mountain streams. A steam-boat, also, visits the parish weekly, except in the most stormy weather; and post-offices have been established under Lochalsh and Fort-Augustus.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Lochcarron, synod of Glenelg; patrons, the family of Baillie of Kingussie. The stipend is £237. The manse, which was built recently, is a large and handsome edifice, beautifully situated, more than a mile from the church. The glebe is of great extent, comprehending 360 acres, nearly thirty of which are arable, the rest being pasture: this tract, subject to a rent of £19. 10. per annum, was received in lieu of the old glebe, which was comprehended in a portion of land sold to government for building a fort and barracks, subsequently to the rebellion of 1715. Glenelg church contains about 400 sittings, and is in good condition, having been repaired and re-seated about 1827. In the districts of Knodyart and Morir, the population of which is almost entirely Roman Catholic, a missionary labours under the patronage of the General Assembly, also preaching every third Sunday at Arnisdale, on account of its distance from the parish church. Two Roman Catholic priests officiate in Knodyart and Morir. The parochial school affords instruction in English and Gaelic reading, with the common branches of education, and sometimes in Latin; the master has £30 a year, with £9 in lieu of a house and garden, and about £5 fees. Other schools are supported by the General Assembly's Education Committee and the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The chief relics of antiquity are two duns or Pictish towers, situated in the valley of Glenbeg; they are the finest specimens of their class in this part of the Highlands, and are supposed by many, not to be the workmanship of any purely Celtic tribe, but to have been raised by the Danes or Norwegians. Glenelg gives the title of Baron to the family of Grant, a dignity created in 1835, in the person of the Hon. Charles Grant, who had been representative in parliament of the county of Inverness for some years previously, and was at that time secretary of state for the colonies: this nobleman is proprietor of Glenelg proper.

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