Historical description of Perthshire, Scotland

PERTHSHIRE, an inland and most extensive county, nearly in the centre of Scotland, bounded on the north and north-west by Inverness-shire; on the east by the county of Forfar; on the south-east by the counties of Fife and Kinross; on the south by the Firth of Forth, and the counties of Stirling and Clackmannan; on the west by Argyllshire; and on the south-west by the county of Dumbarton. It lies between 56° 4' and 56° 57' (N. Lat.) and 3° 4' and 4° 50' (W. Long.), and is about 77 miles in length and 68 miles in extreme breadth; comprising an area of 5000 square miles, or 3,200,000 acres; 30,796 houses, of which 28,993 are inhabited; and containing a population of 137,390, of whom 64,978 are males and 72,412 females. This county, the name of which is of doubtful and disputed origin, was anciently inhabited by the Caledonians, and, from its situation on the north side of the wall of Antonine, was among the last of those portions of the kingdom which the Romans attempted to add to their dominions in Britain. The latest struggle for the independence of their country made by the Britons against their Roman invaders, was the battle near the Grampians between Agricola and the Caledonians under their leader Galgacus, who, after having routed the ninth legion of Agricola's army, was at length finally subdued. For centuries the county of Perth was the metropolitan county; its chief town was the residence of the Scottish kings till the reign of James III.; and the abbey of Scone, from a very early period to a comparatively recent date, continued to be the place of their coronation. But the history of the county is so identified with the general history of the kingdom, that any further detail would be superfluous.

It was anciently divided into the districts of Monteith, Gowrie, Perth, Strathearn, the Stormont, Breadalbane, Rannoch, Balquhidder, and Atholl, all of which were stewartries under the jurisdiction of the great landholders to whom they gave titles, but which, since the abolition of heritable jurisdictions, have ceased to be under any peculiar authority. Prior to the fall of episcopacy the county formed two large sees, the bishops of which had their seats respectively at Dunkeld and Dunblane; but from that period, it has been almost wholly included in the synod of Perth and Stirling. It comprises several presbyteries, and sixty-nine parishes, besides parts of other parishes. Two sheriffs-substitute are appointed by the sheriff, who reside respectively at Perth and Dunblane; and for civil purposes the county is divided into the districts of Perth, Blairgowrie, Weem, Culross, Auchterarder, Crieff, Dunblane, Carse of Gowrie, and Cupar-Angus, in each of which petty-sessions are held by the magistrates, and quarterly small-debt courts by the sheriffs-substitute. Perth (the county-town) and Culross are royal burghs; and the county contains the towns or villages of Alyth, Auchterarder, Blairgowrie, Bridge-of-Earn, Callander, Crieff, Cupar-Angus, Doune, Dunblane, Kincardine, Stanley, and other places; several of which are burghs of barony.

The SURFACE is remarkably varied. It comprehends a highland and a lowland district; the former, to the north and north-west, constituting a considerable portion of the Grampian range; and the latter, which is the more extensive, lying to the south and south-east. Perthshire abounds with the richest scenery of every variety; is beautifully diversified with mountains and valleys, wide and fertile plains in the highest state of cultivation, rising grounds, and gentle undulations; and is enlivened with numerous streams and picturesque lakes. The principal mountain is Ben-Luwers, on the north side of Loch Tay, rising by a gradual ascent from the margin of the lake to an elevation of 4015 feet above the level of the sea; it is cultivated around its base to a considerable height, and clothed nearly to its summit with rich verdure, affording pasturage for many flocks of sheep. Benmore, at the head of Glen-Dochart, has an elevation of 3903 feet, and commands a richly-varied prospect of unbounded extent, embracing both the German and Atlantic Oceans. Schihallion, at the foot of Loch Rannoch, rises in a conical form to the height of 3564 feet, presenting a vast mass of sterile rock, relieved only by occasional tufts of heath. This mountain was selected by Dr. Maskelyne, the astronomer royal, for his observations on the influence of attraction upon the vibrations of the pendulum. Ben-Ledi, near Callander, has an elevation of 3009 feet, comprehending on the east a fine view of the whole tract of country through which the Forth takes its course to the German Ocean, and on the south a prospect of the beautiful vale of the Clyde. It appears to have been used in ancient times as a place of devotion, and on the summit are some Druidical remains. Ben-y-gloe, in the forest of Atholl; Benchonzie, at the head of Glenturret; Ben-Voirlich, on the south side of Strathearn; and others in different parts of the county, have elevations varying from 3000 to 4000 feet. The Sidlaw Hills, a fine range nearly parallel with the Grampians, inclosing that portion of the vale of Strathmore which lies between Montrose (in Forfarshire) and Perth, also attain a considerable elevation. Among the eminences of this range are, Dunsinnan Hill, the stronghold of the usurper Macbeth, whose castle stood upon its summit, rising to the height of 1040 feet, and commanding richly-diversified prospects; and Birnam Hill, near Dunkeld, 1580 feet in height, and still retaining some portions of the forest from which the army of Malcolm marched to dethrone the usurper. Turleum, in the rear of Drummond Castle, rises to the height of 1400 feet; and among the hills of Drumuachder is a defile of singularly romantic character, leading to the castle of Blair-Atholl. The pass of Kilhecrankie, in which the forces of William III. were defeated by Lord Dundee in 1689, is about half a mile in length, between rugged and precipitously steep mountains, and so darkened by the woods growing among the impending rocks that the Garry river, which flows along this dangerous pass, is in many parts of it invisible.

In this county the principal RIVERS are the Tay, the Forth, the Earn, the Almond, the Isla, the Ericht, the Bran, the Garry, the Tilt, the Tummel, the Lyon, and the Teith. The Tay has its source in the district of Breadalbane, in the western extremity of the county, and flowing in an eastern direction, under the name of Fillan, along the vale of Strathfillan, increases in breadth, forming Loch Dochart, and continues its course as the river Dochart through Glen-Dochart for nearly eight miles. Then, again expanding its waters, it forms Loch Tay, from which issuing at the village of Kenmore, it flows under the name of the Tay for the rest of its progress, and after receiving numerous tributary streams, makes a wide firth, and loses itself in the German Ocean. The Forth has its source in some small streams on the north of Ben-Lomond, in this county, and passing through the south-west portion of Perthshire for a few miles, enters Stirlingshire, to which it more properly belongs, and between which and Perth, in many points, it constitutes a boundary. The Earn has its source in the loch of that name; flows through Strathearn in an eastern course for nearly thirty miles; and receiving a great number of tributary streams, falls into the Tay a few miles below Perth. The Almond rises in a deep glen among the Grampians, in the parish of Kenmore; and after a winding course of eighteen miles, in which it has some picturesque cascades, joins the river Tay about two miles above Perth. The Isla has its source also among the Grampians, but in the county of Forfar, and after entering this county, and receiving the river Ericht (formed of the Ardle and the Shee), runs into the Tay at Kinclaven. The Bran has its commencement in Loch Frenchie: taking a north-eastern course, and flowing through the grounds of the Duke of Atholl, where it makes a beautifully romantic cascade, it falls into the Tay at Inver, near Little Dunkeld. The Garry issues from the loch of that name, in the north-western part of the county; it pursues a south-eastern direction, and, being joined by the Tilt near the castle of Blair-Atholl, runs through the pass of Killiecrankie into the Tummel. The Tummel has its source in Loch Rannoch, in the northern part of Perthshire, and taking an eastern course, forms Loch Tummel; it then pursues a southern direction, and falls into the Tay at Logierait. The Lyon issues from Loch Lyon, on the western border of the county, and, watering the narrow vale of Glenlyon, joins the Tay about two miles below Kenmore. Exclusive of the Forth, the only river of any importance in the county that is not tributary to the Tay is the Teith, which has its source in two distinct branches, uniting in the parish of Callander; the northern branch rises in the western extremity of the parish of Balquhidder, and the southern issues from Loch Katrine. This river, after receiving the waters of the Ardoch, flows through the pleasure-grounds of Blair-Drummond and the lands of Ochtertyre, and falls into the Forth at the bridge of Drip.

Of the LAKES the principal is Loch Tay, a magnificent expanse of water about sixteen miles in length, and varying from one to two miles in breadth. It is situated in the Western Highlands, and is from fifteen to 100 fathoms in depth, containing an abundance of salmon, trout, pike, and other fish. The surrounding scenery, though less remarkable than that of Loch Lomond, is generally striking, and abounds with features of grandeur and of beauty. Loch Ericht, in the north-west of the county, is nearly of equal length with Loch Tay, but of inferior width, being scarcely a mile in the broadest part; it is in the very heart of the Grampians, and inclosed with precipitous and rugged banks. Loch Rannoch, also in the north-west, near Breadalbane, is about ten miles in length and one mile in width; the shores are richly wooded, and the scenery around is singularly impressive. In the same district is Loch Lydoch, situated in the moors; it is as much as seven miles in length and a mile in breadth, but of uninteresting and dreary aspect. Loch Earn, a fine sheet of water in the district of Strathearn, is about eight miles long, varying from half a mile to a mile and a half in breadth, and encircled with scenery of strikingly romantic character. Its banks are rocky and precipitous; and the lofty hills by which it is inclosed are intersected with numerous deep glens and ravines, alternated with protruding masses of cliffs, and relieved by tufts of wood growing wildly on the acclivities. Loch Katrine, in the western part of the district of Monteith, between the parishes of Callander and Aberfoyle, is also very beautiful, of serpentine form, and extending for about nine miles, though scarcely one mile in width. Its banks are chiefly the lower acclivities of the surrounding mountains, and are thickly wooded; the scenery combines great beauty and variety, and is celebrated by Sir Walter Scott in his poem of The Lady of the Lake. Near its eastern extremity is a picturesque island; and an outlet connects it with the lochs of Auchray and Venachoir, and forms the river Teith. Auchray is a small lake, but of a very lovely character. Loch Venachoir, to the south-east of the two former, is a fine sheet about five miles long and a mile and a half wide; it is inclosed with banks sloping gently to its margin, and enriched with woods and plantations: on its surface is a small islet of romantic appearance. Loch Lubnaig, situated at the north-eastern base of Ben-Ledi, is about six miles in length, and from a half to three-quarters of a mile in breadth; it has its name from its sinuous form, and, owing to the lofty and precipitous height of the mountain, which casts a deep shadow over its surface, possesses a dignified solemnity of character, that powerfully predominates over its more picturesque features. Loch Dochart lies in a barren tract in the western part of the county, and is three miles long: the adjacent scenery possesses little interest. There are two islands in the lake, one of which, formed by the intertexture of the roots and stems of aquatic plants, floats before the wind; it is about fifty-two feet in length, and thirty feet in breadth, and affords pasture to a few sheep. Upon the other isle, which is stationary, are the remains of an ancient castle embosomed in woods, once the seat of the Campbells of Lochawe. In the county are also the lochs Tummel and Garry, the former measuring four miles in length; and many other lakes in various parts, most of which are formed by the expansion of rivers in their course to the Tay.

The SOIL is extremely various. In the Highlands the hills are intersected with numerous glens, watered by streams, and containing some tracts of fertile laud producing grain, or affording good pasture. In the wide straths between the Grampian and the Sidlaw hills, the soil is chiefly argillaceous earth, and clay of different colours, of which the blue is the most fertile. Along the shore of the Forth is a level tract extending for eighteen miles, chiefly a stiff clay. In Strathearn and the Carse of Gowrie is a deep clay, alternated with loam, and of extraordinary productiveness; and near the town of Perth, and towards Cupar-Angus, occurs a deep rich mould. On the declivities of most of the hills, a strong tenacious clay is the prevailing character. There are many extensive tracts of moss in the Highlands; and towards Monteith, a tract containing more than 10,000 acres, called Flanders moss. The system of agriculture throughout the straths, and in the Carse of Gowrie, is in the highest state of improvement: the farms here vary from thirty to 500 acres only in extent; but those of the Highlands are chiefly large sheep pastures. In the low lands, grain of every description is raised in luxuriant crops, with potatoes, turnips, beans, peas, and other crops; flax is cultivated to a considerable extent, and fruit of all kinds is abundant and of good quality. The lower lands are well inclosed, partly with stone walls, but principally with hedges and ditches: for the hedges, hawthorn is mostly used; but on some farms they are formed of larch-trees, planted on the face of ditches. In general the farm houses and offices are substantial and well arranged; and all the more recent improvements in the construction of agricultural implements have been adopted. The cattle are of the Galloway and Ayrshire breeds, with a few of the Angus and the Fifeshire, and some of the Devonshire, the last chiefly on the lands of the Carse of Gowrie, and of recent introduction. The numerous flocks of goats formerly to be seen have been almost entirely superseded by sheep. About 20,000 sheep are fed in the glens among the Grampian hills, 50,000 on the Sidlaw range, and on the Ochil and Campsie hills more than 170,000; making in the aggregate upwards of 240,000 in the county. The horses are mainly of the Highland breed, of small stature, but hardy and useful; and in the districts of Atholl, Strathardle, Glenisla, and Glenshee, great number of hogs are reared, for the markets of Kinross and Cupar.

There are extensive forests in the district of Breadalbane and Monteith, and in many other parts woods of ancient growth. Plantations, also, over wide tracts, have been made by the Atholl family and other proprietors, and have added greatly to the appearance of the country, and the improvement of its climate. They consist chiefly of larch, this description covering above 8000 acres. Of oak there are more than 1000 acres; and a large portion of the surface is planted with ash, elm, beech, birch, and plane; Scotch, spruce, and silver firs; laburnum, and various other ornamental trees. The minerals are chiefly coal, limestone, and ironstone. Coal has been wrought for ages at Culross, but, from the situation of the mines, they are comparatively unavailable for the supply of other districts. The Carse of Gowrie, and the country around Perth, obtain coal from Fife and the collieries of England, and the district of Monteith from the mines of Clackmannanshire; while in many parts peat is the general fuel, especially in the Highlands. The limestone is abundant in several places; but, from the scarcity of fuel, very little is burnt for the improvement of the soil, for which in some places moss is used to a considerable extent. In Monteith is a quarry of blue limestone variegated with streaks of white, of a density equal to marble, and susceptible of a fine polish; and marble of excellent quality is quarried on the lands of the Duke of Atholl, near Glen-Tilt. The ironstone is found in the district of Culross, on the Devon, and in various other places; but this also, from the scarcity of fuel for smelting, is not wrought. In the same neighbourhood are fire-clay and slate: blue slate is found on Birnam hill, and along the sides of the Ochils; and grey slate, of a harder texture, is diffused throughout the county. Near Drummond Castle, and at Callander, are rocks of breccia, parallel with which are beds of sandstone; and on the banks of the Tay is an extensive quarry of fine grey freestone, of very durable texture, called Kingoodie stone. The Grampian hills consist chiefly of granite. The only mineral waters in the county are at Pitcaithly, near Bridge-of-Earn; they are in considerable repute for their efficacy in the cure of scrofula and stomachic complaints. The seats are Blair-Atholl Castle, Taymouth, Methven Castle, Dupplin Castle, Drummond Castle, Ochtertyre House, Dunira, Blair-Drummond, Castle-Huntly, Castle-Lenrick, Belmont Castle, Arthurstone, the palace of Scone, St. Martin's, Castle-Menzies, Megginch Castle, Lynedoch House, Rednoch House, Cambusmore, Kippenross, Invermay, Murthly Castle, Delvine House, Craighall, and others.

In this county the principal manufactures are those of linen and cotton, both carried on to a considerable extent. The former, in which large numbers are employed in several parts, is also carried on in smaller towns and villages of the Carse of Gowrie; and cotton-works and printfields are established at Luncarty, Stormontfield, Stanley, Cromwell-Park, and various other places. There are paper-mills at Crieff, Auchterarder, and Bridge-of-Almond; numerous mills for the spinning of flax at Blairgowrie; also tanneries, breweries, distilleries, and other works. Facility of communication through the interior is afforded by excellent roads, and, for the export and import of goods, by the rivers Tay and Forth. On the former of these rivers is the town of Perth, the chief port in the county. The port of Culross, on the Forth, formerly carried on a considerable trade in the export of salt and coal, but has fallen into decay: that of Kincardine, in the neighbouring parish of Tulliallan, is in a flourishing condition, and does a large amount of business in the export of coal, for which it employs about seventy vessels, averaging from eighty to ninety tons; and also in ship-building, chiefly for the coasting-trade. For a notice of the railways in the county, see the article on the city of Perth. The annual value of Perthshire, according to a return of real property assessed to the income tax, is £613,168, of which amount £551,078 are stated to be for lands, £54,611 for houses, £6520 for fisheries, £677 for quarries, £272 for mines, and the remainder for other species of real property not comprised in the foregoing items. Among the antiquities are the remains of several Roman camps, of which the most important is that of Ardoch; and the Roman road towards Perth may still be traced in the vale of Strathearn. There are numerous remains of ancient castles, religious establishments, and Druidical altars, and various other relics of antiquity.

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