Historical description of Kinross-shire, Scotland

KINROSS-SHIRE, an inland county, in the south-east of Scotland, bounded on the north-west by the Ochils, which separate it from Strathearn, in the county of Perth; and on the east by the Lomond hills, on the south-east and south by the Henarty range, and on the south by the Cleish hills, which divide it from the county of Fife. It lies between 56° 9' and 56° 18' (N. Lat.), and 3° 14' and 3° 35' (W. Long.), and is about eleven miles in length and nine miles in extreme breadth; comprising an area of seventy square miles, or 44,800 acres; 1928 houses, of which 1812 are inhabited; and containing a population of 8763, of whom 4195 are males and 4568 females. Prior to the year 1426, the greater portion of the county was part of that of Fife; and for a considerable time after its separation, it contained only the parishes of Kinross, Orwell, and Portmoak; but in 1685 were added the parishes of Cleish and Tullichole, and some small portions of the county of Perth. It remained, however, notwithstanding this accession of territory, under the jurisdiction of the sheriff of Fifeshire till the year 1807, when, conjointly with Clackmannan, it was erected into a sheriffdom. Before the abolition of episcopacy the county was included within the archdiocese of St. Andrew's; it is at present in the synod of Fife, and presbyteries of Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, &c. For civil purposes it is under the superintendence of a sheriff-substitute, who resides at Kinross, the county-town, where all the courts are held; it contains the populous village of Milnathort, and a few hamlets. The shires of Kinross and Clackmannan unite in sending a member to parliament.

The SURFACE, though hilly towards the boundaries, is generally level in the interior, and is divided into several extensive plains. Of these the chief are, Blair-Adam, between the Benarty and Cleish hills, through which the great north road passes; a wide level opening towards the Crook of Devon, on the road to Stirling; and another between the Ochil and Lomond hills, to the north-east, leading towards Cupar of Fife. The principal river is the Leven, which issues from Loch Leven, and flows through a narrow valley into the Firth of Forth at the Fifeshire town of Leven. Several rivulets rise in various parts, and flow into Loch Leven, the only lake in the county. This noble sheet of water, which has an elevation of nearly 360 feet above the level of the sea, is of oval form, and twelve miles in circumference, covering about 4000 acres, and abounding in trout, pike, perch, and eels. There are some small islands in it, one of which, near the shore at Kinross, is five acres in extent, and contains the remains of the castle in which Mary, Queen of Scots, was detained a prisoner, and which is supposed to have been originally founded by Congal, King of the Picts, in the fifth century, and subsequently enlarged. Another island, called St. Serf's, from the foundation of a priory dedicated to St. Serf, or Servanus, at a very ancient period, is 100 acres in extent, and affords pasturage to a number of cattle and sheep. An act of parliament was obtained within the last few years, for partly draining this lake, which has been carried into effect, at an expense of £40,000; and about 1000 acres have been recovered from it; but the soil, contrary to expectation, is poor and sterile, and not likely to afford any equivalent remuneration. Before this diminution of its size, the lake was fifteen miles in circumference.

About four-fifths of the land are in profitable cultivation, and divided into farms varying from 50 to 300 acres in extent; the soil is partly light and dry, partly a rich loamy clay, and partly moor. The system of agriculture is greatly improved; the lands have been well drained and inclosed; and excellent crops of oats and barley are produced, and, in the best soils, fine crops of wheat. The pastures on the low lands are principally for cattle; and considerable numbers of sheep are fed upon the Cleish and Ochil hills. Above 3000 acres are in woodland and plantations, of which latter the most important are those on the lands of Blair-Adam, 1300 acres in extent, consisting of oak, ash, larch, elm, spruce, and silver and Scotch firs; all, except the Scotch firs, in a thriving condition. The minerals are not extensive. Coal is found in the south, but it is not wrought; freestone of excellent quality is quarried in the parish of Cleish, and whinstone is every where abundant. Red sandstone prevails in the district to the north of Kinross, and limestone may be obtained in abundance on the Lomond hills. The manufacture of cutlery, which was formerly carried on to a great extent, has been discontinued; and the only branches now pursued are, the weaving of cotton for the manufacturers of Glasgow, and the manufacture of tartan shawls and plaids, for which there are some large establishments at Kinross and Milnathort. Facility of communication is afforded by excellent roads in every direction. The annual value of the real property in the county is £44,010, of which £38,892 are for lands, £4375 for houses, £210 for fisheries, £93 for mines, £29 for quarries, and the remainder for other descriptions of real property not comprised in the foregoing items.

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