Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ross and Cromarty
Ross and Cromarty was until 1975, an administrative county, and was originally formed in 1889 from the merger of Ross-shire and Cromarty. Despite this, it is normally counted as a traditional county in place of the original two counties. Between 1975 and 1996 it was a district of Highland Region, but this was made a unitary authority in 1996, thus abolishing Ross and Cromarty District Council. However, the area of the former district remains in use for an area committee.
The incarnations of Ross and Cromarty all had slightly different boundaries.
The formation of the district in 1975 involved the separation of the Isle of Lewis from the area, to become part of the separate Western Isles Island Area. This area is that covered by the Ross and Cromarty area committee.
The mainland portion of Ross and Cromarty inland from Kyle of Lochalsh became a separate district of Highland Regional council (along with Skye and Raasay) – Skye and Lochalsh. With Skye and Lochalsh it forms a lieutenancy area of Scotland.
Please note: The following descriptions are based on the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Ross and Cromarty lies south of Sutherland and the Dornoch Firth, west of the North Sea and the Moray Firth, north of the Beauly Firth and Inverness-shire and east of The Minch. There are also a number of other smaller islands off the region’s west coast, amongst which are:
- Gillean (lighthouse) in the parish of Lochalsh
- Croulin in Applecross
- Horisdale, Dry and Ewe in Gairloch parish
- Martin and Tanera More, of the group of the Summer Isles in the parish of Lochbroom.
The area of the mainland comprises 6,363 km².
On the North Sea (eastern side) of the area the major firths are the Beauly Firth and the (Inner) Moray Firth, which mark off the Black Isle from Inverness-shire, the Cromarty Firth, which bounds the districts of Easter Ross and the Black Isle, the Moray Firth, separating Easter Ross from Nairnshire, and the Dornoch Firth, dividing north-east Ross from Sutherland.
On the Atlantic (western) coastline - which has a length of nearly 500 km - the principal sea lochs and bays, from south to north, include Loch Duich , Loch Alsh , Loch Carron , Loch Kishorn , Loch Torridon , Loch Shieldaig , Upper Loch Torridon , the Gairloch, Loch Ewe , Gruinard Bay , Little Loch Broom and Enard Bay .
The chief capes include Tarbat Ness on the east coast, and Coigach , Greenstone Point , Rubha Reidh , Redpoint and Hamha Point on the west.
Almost all the southern boundary with Inverness-shire consists of a rampart of peaks, many of them Munros:
- An Riabhachan (1127m),
- Sgurr na Lapaich (1150m),
- Carn Eige (Càrn Eighe) (1182m),
- Mam Sodhail (Màm Sabhail) (1177m),
- Ben Attow (Beinn Fhada) (1031m),
- Scour Ouran (Sgurr Fhuarain) (1068m), famous for its view from the summit,
- Ben Mohr (A' Bheinn Mhòr) (1088) and The Saddle (An Diollaid) (1011m).
To the north of Glen Torridon occur the masses of Liathach (Liathach), with peaks of 1053m and 1024m, and Ben Eighe (Beinn Eighe) and Ben Alligin (Beinn Ailiginn), with two Munro peaks each. On the northeastern shore of Loch Maree rises Slioch (981m), while the Fannich group contains six peaks of Munro status (914m). The immense isolated bulk of Ben Wyvis (Beinn Uais)(1045m), and its subordinate peaks An Socach (1004m) and An Cabar (947m), forms the most noteworthy feature in the north-east, and An Teallach in the north-west with peaks of 1062m and 1059m appears equally conspicuous, though less solitary. Only a small fraction of the west and south of the area is under 300m in height. Easter Ross and the peninsula of the Black Isle are comparatively level.
The longest stream of the mainland portion of Ross and Cromarty is the Orrin , which rises in An Sithean and pursues a north-easterly course to its confluence with the Conon after a run of about 42km, during a small part of which it forms the boundary with Inverness-shire. At Aultgowrie the stream rushes through a narrow gorge where the drop is considerable enough to make the Falls of Orrin. The Blackwater flows from mountains in Strathvaich southeast for 30km till it joins the Conon, forming soon after it leaves Loch Garve the small but picturesque Falls of Rogie. Within a short distance of its exit from Loch Luichart the Conon pours over a series of graceful cascades and rapids and then pursues a winding course of 19km, mainly eastward to the head of the Cromarty Firth. The Falls of Glomach, in the south-west of the region, are the highest waterfalls in the United Kingdom. The stream giving rise to them drains a series of small lochs on the northern flanks of Ben Attow (Beinn Fhada) and, in an almost unbroken sheet well over 1m wide, effects a sheer drop of 110m, and soon afterwards ends its course in the Elchaig. The falls are usually visited from Invershiel 11km to the south-west. 19km south-east of Ullapool, on the estate of Braemore, stand the Falls of Measach, formed by the Droma, a headstream of the Broom. The cascades, three in number, are close to Corriehalloch Gorge. The Oykel, throughout its course, forms the boundary with Sutherland.
There are many freshwater lochs, the largest being Loch Maree. In the far north-west, 74m above the sea, lies Loch Skinaskink (Loch Sionascaig), a loch of such irregularity of outline that it has a shore-line of 27km. It contains several wooded islands, and drains into Enard Bay by the River Polly. Lochan Fada (the long loch ), 306m above the sea, is 6km in length, and covers an area of 4.5km², and is 76m deep, with a mean depth of 31m. Once drained by the Muic (Allt na Muic), it has been tapped a little farther west by the Abhainn na Fhasaigh, which has lowered the level of the loch. Other lochs are Loch Fionn (the white or clear lake), 13km long by 1.6km wide, famous for its herons, Loch Luichart towards the centre of the area (13km long and between 1-1.6km wide), fringed with birches and having the shape of a crescent, the mountain-girt Loch Fannich (1.6km wide); and the wild narrow Lochs Monar (6.5km long) and Mullardoch (8km long), on the Inverness-shire boundary.
Of the straths or valleys the more important run from the centre eastwards, such as Strathconon (19km), Strathbran (16km), Strathgarve (13km), Strathpeffer (10km) and Strathcarron (22km). Excepting Glen Orrin (21km), in the east central district, the longer glens lie in the south and towards the west. In the extreme south Glen Shiel (14km) runs between five mountains (The Five Sisters of Kintail (Na Còig Peathraichean Chinn Tàile)) to its mouth on Loch Duich. The A87 passes down the glen. Further north lie Glen Elchaig (??km), Glen Carron (19km), and Glen Torridon (10km).The railway from Dingwall runs through Glen Carron to Kyle of Lochalsh.
The central portion of this county is occupied by the younger highland schists or Dalradian series. These consist of quartzites, mica-schists, garnetiferous mica-schists and gneisses, all with a gentle inclination towards the southeast. On the eastern side of the county the Dalradian schists are covered unconformably by the Old Red Sandstone. The boundary runs southward from Edderton on Dornoch Firth, by Strathpeffer, to the neighborhood of Beauly. These rocks comprise red flags and sandstones, grey bituminous flags and shales. An anticlinal fold with a southwest-northeast axis brings up the basal beds of the series about the mouth of Cromarty Firth and exposes once more the schists in The Sutors (The Sutors of Cromarty) guarding the entrance to the firth. The western boundary of the younger schist is formed by the great pre-Cambrian dislocation line which traverses the county in a fairly direct course from Elphin on the north by Ullapool to Glencarron. Most of the area west of the line of disturbance is covered by Torridonian Sandstone, mainly dark reddish sandstones, grits and shales, resting unconformably on the ancient Lewisian gneiss with horizontal or slightly inclined bedding. The unconformity is well exposed on the shores of Gairloch, Loch Maree and Loch Torridon. These rocks, which attain a considerable thickness and are divisible into three sub-groups, build up the mountain districts of Applecross, Coigach and elsewhere.
Within the Torridonian tract the older Lewisian gneiss occupies large areas north of Coigach, on the east of Enard Bay, between Gruinard Bay and Loch Maree. Between the last named and Gairloch, on both sides of middle Loch Torridon and at many other spots smaller patches appear. The Lewisian gneiss is everywhere penetrated by basic dikes, generally with a northwest-southeast direction; some of these are of great breadth. The Torridonian rocks are succeeded unconformably by a series of Cambrian strata which is confined to a variable but, on the whole, narrow belt lying west of the line of main thrusting. This belt of Cambrian rocks has itself suffered an enormous amount of subordinate thrusting. It is composed of the following subdivisions in ascending order: falsebedded quartzite, Pipe Rock quartzite, fucoid beds and Olenellus band, serpulite grit, Durness dolomite and marble, Durness dolomite and limestone: but these are not always visible at any one spot. So great has been the disturbance in the region of thrusting that in some places, as in the neighborhood of Loch Kishorn and elsewhere, the rocks have been completely overturned and the ancient gneiss has been piled upon the Torridonian.
On the shore of Moray Firth at Rathie a small patch of Kimeridge shale occurs, and beneath the cliffs of Shandwick there is a little Lower Oolite with a thin seam of coal. Glacial striae are found upon the mountains up to heights of 1000 m, and much boulder clay is found in the valleys and spread over large areas in the eastern districts. Raised beaches occur at up to 33 m or so above the present sea-level; they are well seen in Loch Carron.
Climate and agriculture
On the west coast considerable rainfall occurs, averaging for the year 50.42 inches at Loch Broom and 62 inches at Strome Ferry (autumn and winter being the wettest seasons), but on the east coast the annual comprises only mean 27 inches. The temperature for the year is 46.5 F., for January 38 F. and for July 57 F.
The most fertile tracts lie on the eastern coast, especially in Easter Ross and the Black Isle, where the soil varies from a light sandy gravel to a rich deep loam. As of 1911, among grain crops oats were most generally cultivated, but barley and wheat were also raised. Turnips and potatoes were the chief green crops. On the higher grounds there is a large extent of good pasturage which carried heavy flocks of sheep, blackfaced being the principal breed. Most of the horses, principally half-breds between the old garrons (hardy, serviceable, small animals) and Clydesdales, were maintained for the purposes of agriculture. The herds of cattle, mainly native Highland or crosses, were large, many of them supplying the London market. Pigs were reared, though in smaller numbers than formerly, most generally by the crofters.
Owing partly to the overcrowding of the island of Lewis and partly to the unkindly nature of the bulk of the surface - which offered no opportunity for other than patchwork tillage - the number of smallholdings was enormous - Sutherland alone amongst Scottish counties showing an even larger proportion of holdings under 5 acres (20,000 m²); while the average size of all the holdings throughout the county did not exceed 20 acres (80,000 m²).
As of 1911 about 800,000 acres (3,200 km²) were devoted to deer forests, a greater area than in any other county in Scotland, among the largest being Achnashellach with 50,000 acres (200 km²)), Fannich with 20,000 acres (80 km²), Kinlochluichart with 20,600 acres (83 km²), Braemore with 40,000 acres (160 km²), Inchbae with 21,000 acres (85 km²) and Dundonnell with 23,000 acres (93 km²). At one time the area under wood must have been remarkable, if we accept the common derivation of the word "Ross" as from the Old Irish ros, a wood, and there was until recent times a considerable extent of native woodland, principally pine, oak, ash and alder.
The fauna was noteworthy. Red and roe deer abounded, and foxes and alpine hares were common, while badgers and wild cats were occasionally trapped. Winged game was plentiful, and amongst birds of prey the golden eagle and osprey occurred. Waterfowl of all kinds frequented the sea lochs. Many rivers and lochs were rich in salmon and trout, and the pearl mussel was found in the bed of the Conon.
Tourism is a major industry in the region, with over 20% of the workforce employed in the wholesale, restaurant and hotels sector, second only to the public service sector. A little over 5% of the workforce are employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing, traditionally major industries in the region. The oil industry, which spurred a rapid increase in industrial development in the 1970s, is in decline, although still a major employer.
The Glen Ord and Glenmorangie distilleries are prominent whisky distilleries.
The Highland railway enters the county to the north of Beauly and runs northwards to Dingwall. From there, lines head north-east following the coast, and south-west to the Kyle of Lochalsh.
Population and administration
Until 1983, mainland Ross and Cromarty returned one member to parliament. In 1997 the boundary changed to bring in the Isle of Skye, and Raasay, to form the new parliamentary constituency of Ross, Cromarty and Skye. Further reorganisation of the boundaries for 2001 produced the Ross, Skye and Inverness West constituency, represented by Charles Kennedy, the leader of the Liberal Democrats. Part of the east of the area is in the constituency of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, which is represented by John Thurso, also a Liberal Democrat. For the 2005 UK General Election, Ross and Cromarty will be divided between the Ross, Skye and Lochaber and Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituencies, but with the latter extending further south, to include Alness .
In the Scottish Parliament, as of 2004, Jamie Stone represents Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, whilst the MSP for Ross, Skye and Inverness West is John Farquhar Munro. Both are Liberal Democrats.
It may be doubted whether the Romans ever effected even a temporary settlement in the area of the modern county. In Roman times, and for long afterwards, the land was occupied by Gaelic Picts, who, in the 6th and 7th centuries, were converted to Christianity by followers of Saint Columba. Throughout the next three centuries the natives were continually harassed by Norse pirates, of whose presence tokens have survived in several place-names (Dingwall, Tain, and others). At this time the country formed part of the great province of Moray (Latin: Moravia), which then extended as far north as the Dornoch Firth and the Oykel, and practically comprised the whole of Ross and Cromarty, excepting a comparatively narrow strip on the Atlantic seaboard.
When the rule of the Celtic maormors or earls ceased in the 12th century, consequent on the plantation of the district with settlers from other parts (including a body of Flemings), by order of King David I of Scotland, who was anxious to break the power of the Celts, the bounds of Moravia were contracted and the earldom of Ross arose. At first Ross proper only included the territory adjoining the Moray and Dornoch Firths. The first earl was Malcolm MacHeth, who received the title from Malcolm IV. After his rebellion in 1179 chronic insurrection ensued, which was quelled by Alexander II, who bestowed the earldom on Farquhar Macintaggart (Farquhar, son of the priest), then Abbot of Applecross, and in that capacity lord of the western district.
William, the 4th Earl, was present with his clan at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), and almost a century later (1412) the castle of Dingwall, the chief seat on the mainland of Donald, Lord of the Isles, was captured after the disastrous fight at Harlaw in Aberdeenshire, which Donald had provoked when his claim to the earldom was rejected. The earldom reverted to the crown in 1424, but James I soon afterwards restored it to the heiress of the line, the mother of Alexander Macdonald, 3rd Lord of the Isles, who thus became the 11th Earl. In consequence, however, of the treason of John Macdonald, 4th and last Lord of the Isles and 12th Earl of Ross, the earldom was again vested in the crown (1476). Five years later James III bestowed it on his second son, James Stewart, whom he also created Duke of Ross in 1488.
By the 16th century the whole area of the county was occupied by different clans. The Rosses held what is now Easter Ross; the Munros the small tract around Ben Wyvis, including Dingwall; the Macleods Lewis, and, in the mainland, the district between Loch Maree and Loch Torridon; the Macdonalds of Glengarry, Coigach, and the district between Strome Ferry and Kyle of Lochalsh, and the Mackenzies the remainder.
Apart from occasional conflicts between rival clans, the only battles in the county were those of Invercarron, at the head of Dornoch Firth, when Montrose was crushed by Colonel Archibald Strachan on 27 April 1650, and Glenshiel, when the Jacobites, under the Earl of Seaforth , aided by Spaniards, were defeated by a force under the command of General Joseph Wightman on 11 June 1719.
The principal relics of antiquity - mainly stone circles, cairns and forts - appear in the eastern district. A vitrified fort crowns the hill of Knockfarrel in the parish of Fodderty, and there is a circular dun near the village of Lochcarron. Some fine examples of sculptured stones occur, especially those which, according to tradition, mark the burial-place of the three sons of a Danish king who were shipwrecked off the coast of Nigg. The largest and handsomest of these three crosses - the Clach a' Charraidh, or Stone of Lamentation - stands at Shandwick. It is about 3 m high and contains representations of the martyrdom of St Andrew and figures of an elephant and dog. It fell during a storm in 1847 and was broken in three pieces. On the top of the cross in Nigg churchyard are two figures with outstretched arms in the act of supplication; the dove descends between them, and below are two dogs. The cross was knocked down by the fall of the belfry in 1725, but has been riveted together. The third stone formerly stood at Hilton of Cadboll, but was removed for security to the grounds of Invergordon Castle.
Among old castles are those of Lochslin, in the parish of Fearn, said to date from the 13th century, which, though ruinous, possesses two square towers in good preservation; Balone, in the parish of Tarbat, once a stronghold of the Earls of Ross; the remains of Dingwall Castle, their original seat; and Eilean Donan in Loch Alsh, which was blown up by English warships during the abortive Jacobite rising in 1719.
- D. Alston, Ross and Cromarty : a historical guide (Edinburgh : Birlinn, 1999 ISBN 1-874744-48-3), which, however, restricts itself to coverage of the mainland county;
- R. Bain, History of the Ancient Province of Ross (Dingwall, 1899);
- J. H. Dixon, Gairloch (Edinburgh, 1888);
- F. N. Reid, The Earls of Ross (Edinburgh, 1894);
- W. C. Mackenzie, History of the Outer Hebrides (Paisley, 1904).
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