Historical description of Dumbartonshire, Scotland

DUMBARTONSHIRE, a county, in the west of Scotland, bounded on the north by Perthshire, on the east by the counties of Perth and Stirling, on the south by the Firth of Clyde, and on the west by Argyllshire. It lies between 55° 53' 30" and 56° 19' 40" (N. Lat.) and 3° 54' 50" and 4° 53' (W. Long.), and, including the detached parishes of Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld, which extend towards the east for 12 miles between the counties of Stirling and Lanark, is about 57 miles in length. It varies from 24 to 2 miles in breadth, and contains an area of 261 square miles, or 167,040 acres; 8369 houses, of which 7985 are inhabited; and a population of 44,296, of whom 22,542 are males and 21,754 females. This district was originally inhabited by the British tribe of the Attacotti, whose descendants retained their possessions long after the British kingdom of Strathclyde had been subdued by Kenneth Mc Alpine, and subsisted as a distinct race till the middle of the twelfth century. That part of the county bordering on the river Leven obtained the appellation of Levenach, afterwards corrupted into Lennox, and in the reign of William the Lion belonged to a powerful Saxon family, of whom Alwyn was by that monarch created Earl of Lennox. The earldom was subsequently raised to a dukedom; and on the demise of the sixth duke without issue, the title and estates were conferred upon Charles Lennox, whom Charles II. created Duke of Richmond. During the disputes relating to the succession to the throne after the death of Alexander III., the county was frequently the seat of war; and the castle of Dumbarton was alternately in the possession of the contending parties. In times of episcopacy the county was included in the diocese of Glasgow; at present it is in the synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and comprises a large part of the presbytery of Dumbarton, and a portion of that of Glasgow, the number of parishes being twelve. The various courts are held at Dumbarton, which is the county town, and the only royal burgh; there are four burghs of barony, and several villages. Under the act of the 2nd of William IV., the county returns one member to the imperial parliament.

The SURFACE is strikingly diversified with mountains and lakes, and displays an interesting combination of the most beautiful features of Highland scenery, embracing straths of rich fertility and pleasing appearance. The northern part of the county abounds with mountains of majestic elevation, and throughout the whole of that district, which comprises an area of nearly fifty square miles, not more than 400 acres have been subjected to the plough. In the less elevated southern district are two ridges of hills of considerable height reaching from east to west, between which is the picturesque vale of Glenfruin, more than five miles in length. The highest of the mountains are, Ben-Voirlich, near the north-western extremity of Loch Lomond, rising 3300 feet above the level of the sea; Ben-Cruachanstean, Corafuar, Shantron, Beneich, and Doune, some of which attain an elevation of 3000 feet; and Ben-Finnart, 2500 feet in height. The Kilpatrick braes, in the south of the county, are a beautiful range of hills intersecting an extensive tract of lowland in high cultivation, and have an elevation of 1200 feet, commanding from their summits richly-varied prospects over a most interesting district of the country. Loch Lomond, after intersecting a small portion of the county on the north, forms part of its eastern boundary, separating it from the county of Stirling. This noble expanse of water is about twenty-four miles in length from north to south, and seven miles broad in the widest part, and is studded with numerous picturesque islands, the chief of which are Inch-Murin, Inch-Lonaig, Inch-Tavanach, Inch-Moan, Inch-Couachan, and Inch-Galbraith, exclusively of other islands in that part of it included within Stirlingshire. The river Leven issues from the loch at its southern extremity, and after a course of about seven miles, flows into the Firth of Clyde. Of the other lakes in the county, Loch Sloy, in the parish of Arrochar, was the rendezvous of the clan Mc Farlane; it is about a mile in length, and half a mile broad. In the parishes of Old Kilpatrick and Cumbernauld are several of considerable extent. There are also two salt-water lochs. Loch Gareloch and Loch Long, between which the parish of Roseneath forms a peninsula; they both extend northward from the Firth of Clyde, the former intersecting the county for about six miles, and the latter forming its boundary on the west.

About one-third of the land is in cultivation, and the remainder is mountain pasture, wood, and lakes. Along the borders of the Firth and the river Leven the soil is a deep black loam; in some parts of the county there is a gravelly loam, and in others clay, resting on a tilly bottom. On the best farms the system of agriculture is equal to any in the west of Scotland: the land is well drained and inclosed; much waste has been brought into cultivation; the farm-buildings are substantial and commodious, and considerable improvement has been gradually taking place. The mountains afford good pasture: the cattle are chiefly of the Highland breed, and the cows pastured on the lowlands for the dairy are the pure Ayrshire, with a mixture of that breed and the Highland breed; the sheep are generally the black-faced on the hill pastures, and the Cheviot on the lowlands. In this county the substrata are mostly mica-slate, limestone, and coal; the mica-slate is wrought at the quarries of Luss and Camstradden, and the streams are frequently traversed by veins of quartz, and abound with pyrites of iron. The limestone is of a deep-blue or almost black colour, and is extensively wrought, as is the coal, which is found in seams nearly five feet in thickness. Sandstone and trap are also abundant, and columnar basalt occurs in several parts. The woods and plantations are in a thriving condition; the soil appears well adapted to the growth of timber, and the extensive tracts of wood add greatly to the appearance of the scenery. The seats are Cumbernauld House, Roseneath, Rossdhû, Cames-Eskan, Garscube, Balloch Castle, Tilliechewen, Strath-Leven, Broomly, Woodbank, Cameron, Ardenconnell, Auchintorlie, and Ardincaple Castle. There are extensive cotton-mills, calico-printing works, and bleachfields, a large manufacture of glass, and other works. Facility of intercourse is afforded by good roads, which have been greatly extended and improved within the last few years; by railways; by steam-boats on the Clyde, &c.; and by the Forth and Clyde Canal. The annual value of real property in the county is £140,753, of which £72,041 are returned for lands, £61,321 for houses, £5500 for mines, £1677 for quarries, and £214 for fisheries.

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