UK Genealogy Archives logo

Golspie, Sutherland

Historical Description

GOLSPIE, a parish, in the county of Sutherland, 8 miles (N. N. E.) from the town of Dornoch; containing, with the village of Bachies, 1214 inhabitants, of whom 491 are in the village of Golspie. This place, anciently called Culmallie, and the present name of which is of doubtful etymology, formed part of the ample territories of the Thanes of Sutherland, of whom William was created Earl of Sutherland by Malcolm Canmore in 1067. Robert or Robin, the second earl, in 1100 erected here the castle of Dunrobin, which has since that time been the residence of many of his successors, and is now a seat of his descendant, the Duke of Sutherland, who is proprietor of nearly the whole county. In 1746, a battle took place on the north side of the Little Ferry, between the militia of the county and a party of the adherents of the Pretender, in which the latter were defeated with great slaughter, and the Earl of Cromarty and several other men of rank were made prisoners. The parish, which is bounded on the south-east by the Moray Firth, and on the south-west by the Little Ferry inlet and the Fleet stream, which separate it from the parish of Dornoch, is about eight miles in length, and six miles in extreme breadth. Its surface, though generally level, is diversified with hills, of which those in the direction of the coast are Bein-a-Bhragidh, having an elevation of 1300 feet above the level of the sea, and Silver Rock and Morvich, which are of inferior height: in the interior are Bein-Horn, 1712, and Beinlundie, 1464 feet high. In the centre of the parish is the valley of Dunrobin, which is richly wooded, and abounds in picturesque scenery; and towards the coast, and between the bases of the hills, are some level tracts of fertile land. On the summit of Bein-a-Bhragidh, a monument was erected by his tenantry in 1836 to the memory of the late Duke of Sutherland, who died in 1833. The rivers in the parish are, the Fleet, forming part of its western boundary; and the Golspie burn, which intersects the eastern portion of it, flowing through the picturesque glen to which it gives name, into the Firth, at the village. There are several inland lakes, the principal of which are Horn, Lundie, Farralarie, and Salachie; but none of them are more than half a mile in length and about one-third of a mile in breadth. The coast is indented by some small bays, and by the Little Ferry (an inlet from the Firth), at the head of which, and across the Fleet, is a strong mound of earth, connecting the parish with that of Dornoch on the opposite shore. This mound, which was erected in 1815 at an expense of £9600, towards which the Duke contributed £1600, is nearly 1000 yards in length, sixty yards broad at the base, and twenty on the summit; and terminates at the north end in a bridge of four arches. It forms an excellent road, over which the mail passes.

Of the lands in the parish about 2040 acres are arable, 800 in woodland and plantations, and the remainder hill moorland and waste. The crops are, grain of all kinds, with potatoes, turnips, and vegetables; the soil is in general light, but of good quality and fertile, and in some parts a deep loam mixed with clay. The system of husbandry has been brought to great perfection: the cultivated lands have been drained, and inclosed chiefly with stone dykes; and the farm-houses are substantial and commodious. The cattle principally reared are of the Dunrobin breed, originally introduced from Argyllshire: on some farms, however, the Highland black breed is preferred; upon one farm, Kirkton, is a stock of the black-polled Galloway, and on the dairy-farms the cows are chiefly the Ayrshire. The sheep, to the improvement of which great attention is paid, are of the Cheviot breed, and obtain a decided preference in the markets. A few horses, chiefly for agriculture, are also reared. The annual value of real property in the parish is £8959. The plantations have been greatly extended; and among the trees most prevalent in the Highlands, large numbers of forest-trees of every kind have been recently introduced with success. There are two quarries of red sandstone and one of white sandstone: the stone varies much in texture, some veins being much more durable than others, and better adapted for building, for which the stone is extensively quarried. Indications of coal have also been observed iu the parish. Dunrobin Castle, occasionally the residence of the Duke of Sutherland, is a spacious massive structure, situated on the summit of a rock rising from the sea: it occupies a quadrangular area, inclosed by walls of great thickness, and flanked at the angles by circular towers with conical roofs; and is surrounded with strikingly romantic scenery. The village of Golspie, which is pleasantly seated on the coast, is neatly built, and contains an excellent inn, a post-office which has a daily delivery, a branch bank, and various shops. Some of the inhabitants are employed in the usual handicraft trades, and there are some fishermen, with many agricultural labourers. A fair for cattle and for pedlery is held near the village in October. At Dunrobin is a pier for the use of small vessels. Great facilities are alforded by the Little Ferry, which in one part forms a secure harbour, and is frequented by vessels importing coal, lime, bone-dust, and various kinds of merchandise for the supply of the district, and returning with cargoes of grain, wool, and whisky. A smack plies regularly once a month between the Little Ferry and Leith, touching at Helmsdale and Aberdeen; and there is also a steamer from the Moray Firth to the south, which calls here. An act of parliament was passed in 1848 for constructing a harbour at Leek Robie, and for maintaining the harbour of Little Ferry, both in the county of Sutherland.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purijoscs the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Dornoch, synod of Sutherland and Caithness. The minister's stipend is £204, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £6 per annum patron, the Duke of Sutherland. Golspie church, erected in 1738 and enlarged in 1751, is a neat structure, situated in the village, close to the sea-shore, and containing 565 sittings. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average about £26 per annum. There are some remains of two Pictish castles, one at a short distance to the east, and the other to the west, of Dunrobin Castle: in the western ruin, the central circle and the gallery between it and the outer walls are still distinctly apparent. Near Morvich are some Druidical remains. A portion of the ancient church is yet standing, as well as part of the wall that inclosed the cemetery in which many of the Earls of Sutherland were interred: near these ruins have been found several brass rings and other relics, which are preserved in Dunrobin Castle.

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