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Glenisla, Forfarshire

Historical Description

GLENISLA, a parish, in the county of Forfar, 10 miles (N. by W.) from Alyth; containing 1134 inhabitants. This very extensive parish, which comprehends the north-western portion of the county, derives its name from its spacious and picturesque valley watered by the river Isla. It is about eighteen miles in length and nearly six in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 39,776 acres, of which 3960 are arable, 4500 undivided common, about 500 woodland and plantations, and the remainder mountain pasture and waste. The surface is strikingly diversified: on the north the parish is separated from the county of Aberdeen by a barrier of mountainous elevation, from which there extend towards the south two ranges of nearly equal height, that bound the parish on the east and west. Between these ranges, for a short distance from the northern boundary, the surface is divided into three small vales by intervening ridges; and farther towards the south is the height of Kilry, which intersects the parish from west to east, leaving only a narrow interval, through which the Isla pursues its course. The range of mountains forming the eastern boundary divides, for some few miles, into three nearly parallel ranges, inclosing two small vales watered by the rivulets of Pitlochrie and Glenmarkie. The lowest of the mountainous ranges of Glenisla has an elevation of 1400 feet above the level of the sea: towards the north they greatly increase in height, terminating in the mountain of Glassmile, 3000 feet high, on the western verge of which is raised a heap of stones, whose base lies in the three parishes of Glenisla in the county of Forfar, Kirkmichael in that of Perth, and Crathie in the county of Aberdeen. Mount Blair, on the western boundary, has an elevation of 2260 feet; and from its summit is obtained a commanding view over the adjacent district, with the Lammermoor, Pentland, and other hills of almost infinite variety. The river Isla, which has its source in the heights of Caanlochan, flows in a southeastern direction, through an extensive tract abounding with truly romantic scenery, and forms some picturesque cascades. Near the bridge of Milna Craig, being arrested in its course by immense masses of projecting rock, it rushes with impetuous violence along its contracted channel, and falls from a height of eighty feet into a wide gulph beneath. About two miles from this, again confined within a narrow channel, scarcely three yards in width, by towering cliffs of precipitous rock, it forces its way through a frightful chasm, and descends in a torrent into a deep and spacious ravine lined on both sides with walls of perpendicular rocks, crowned with trees of every variety of foliage. This pass, which is called the Slug of Auchrannie, is much admired for the grandeur of its scenery.

The SOIL is partly clay alternated with gravel, and, though tenacious of moisture, is, when properly drained, productive of grain of every kind; the upper lands are chiefly moss, with some portions of gravel. The crops are mostly oats and barley, with the various green crops; and the hills afford good pasturage for sheep and cattle, especially towards the head of the parish: the system of agriculture is improved, and the rotation plan of husbandry generally prevalent. The lands are well drained, and partly inclosed; and the farm-buildings, many of which are of modern erection, are substantial and convenient. In this parish, the cattle, of which the number kept is about 1800, are of the Angus and Highland breeds; and the sheep, nearly 10,000 of which are pastured on the hills, are chiefly of the black-faced kind. The annual value of real property in the parish is £4009. The plantations, which are of modern growth, are larch and Scotch fir, and thrive well. The substratum in the southern part is of the old red sandstone formation, with some portions of trap rock and porphyry; the sandstone is excellent for building, and there are quarries of blue limestone, which is burnt for agricultural use. Communication is afforded by roads kept in repair by statute labour, of which one leads to Alyth, where is a branch post-office, and another forms part of the Kirriemuir and Castletown road: there are several bridges over the river, two of which are of stone, one of iron, and another of wood, the two last for foot passengers only. Fairs for cattle, sheep, and horses are held on the first Wednesday in March and the first Wednesday in August, O. S. For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Meigle, synod of Angus and Mearns. The minister's stipend is £159. 12., of which about one-third is paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum: patron, the Crown. Glenisla church, erected in 1821, and situated nearly in the centre of the parish, is a neat structure containing 700 sittings. The parochial school is well conducted; the master has a salary of £29. 18. 10., with a house and garden, and the fees average about £10 per annum. Another school is supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, who allow the master a salary of £16 per annum. There are some small remains of the castles of Fortar and Newton, ancient baronial seats of the Earls of Airlie; the former was destroyed in 1640, by the Marquess of Argyll. In 1841 a silver coin or medal, with a half-length figure of Anselm Casimer, Archbishop of Mentz, and silver coins of Elizabeth and James VI., were found in a field on the farm of Bellaty.

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