Ross and Cromarty
Ross and Cromarty is currently a lieutenancy area of Scotland. Until 1975, it was an administrative county, and was originally formed in 1889 from the merger of Ross-shire and Cromartyshire. Despite this, it is sometimes counted as a traditional county in place of the original two counties. Between 1975 and 1996 it was a district of the Scottish 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.
Please note: The following descriptions are based on the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Ross and Cromarty lies south of Sutherland and Dornoch Firth, west of the North Sea and Moray Firth, north of Beauly Firth and Inverness-shire and east of the strait of the Minch. The modern lieutenancy area includes the islands of Skye and Raasay. There are also a number of other smaller inhabited islands off the regionís west coast, namely:
The area of the mainland comprises 6,363 km≤, whilst Skye and Raasay have a combined area of 1,718 km≤, giving a total for the area of 8081 km≤
On the North Sea (eastern side) of the area the major firths are the Beauly Firth and Inner Moray Firth, which mark off the Black Isle from Inverness-shire; Cromarty Firth, which bounds the districts of Easter Ross and the Black Isle; Moray Firth, separating Easter Ross from Nairnshire; and 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, Tipper Loch Torridon, Gairloch, Loch Ewe, Gruinard Bay, Little Loch Broom and Enard Bay.
The chief capes include Tarbat Ness on the east coast, and Coygach, Greenstone, Reidh, Red and Hamha Points 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), Cam Eige (1182m), Mam Soul (1177m), Ben Attow (1031m), Scour Ouran. (1068m), famous for its view from the summit, Ben Mohr (1088) and the Saddle (1011m). To the north of Glen Torridon occur the masses of Liatach, with peaks of 1053m and 1024m, and Ben Eighe and Beinn Aligin, 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 (1045m), and its subordinate peaks An Socach (1004m) and An Cabar (947m), forms the most noteworthy feature in the north-east, and the Challich Hills in the north-west with peaks of 1062m and 1059m appear 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.
Skye consists of a series of peninsulas, including Sleat, Strathaird, Minginish and Duirinish to the south, with Waternish and Trotternish to the north west. The major hills of the island are to be found in the Cuillin, where there are 11 Munros, the highest of which is Sgurr Alasdair, at 992m the highest peak on any Scottish Island. The Cuillin are generally regarded as the most impressive range of mountains in Great Britain; composed of gabbro they are ideal for mountaineering, and most routes in the Cuillin call for scrambling ability at the very least.
Outwith the Cuillin there is one other Munro on the island in the shape on Bla Bheinn (928m). There are also two Corbetts: Garbh-bheinn (808m) and Glamaig (775m).
Raasay is about 22km north to south and 5km east to west (at its widest). The terrain is varied. The highest point at 444m is Dun Caan, an unusual, flat-topped peak. The village of Inverarish is near the southeast coast.
The longest stream of the mainland portion of Ross and Cromarty is the Orrin, which rises in An Sithean and 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 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 the gorge of Corriehalloch. The Oykell, throughout its course, forms the boundary with Sutherland.
The major rivers on Skye include the Brittle and the Sligachan. The Brittle flows southwards on the west side of the Cuillin, whilst the Brittle flows north on their eastern side. There are no waterfalls of note, nor are there any major watercourses on Raasay.
Returning to the mainland, there are many freshwater lochs, the largest being Loch Maree. In the far north-west, 74m above the sea, lies Loch Skinaskink, a loch of such irregularity of outline that it has a shore-line of 27km. It contains several wooded, and drains into Enard Bay by the 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, it has been tapped a little farther west by the 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 fine mountains 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 the Glen Carron to Kyle of Lochalsh.
The central portion of this county is occupied by the younger highland schists or Dairadian 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 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 )Out 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 3000 feet, and much boulder clay is found in the valleys and spread over large areas in the eastern districts. Raised beaches occur at 100, 50 and 25 ft. above the present sea-level; they are well seen in Loch Carron.
The western and central part of the island of Skye is occupied by igneous plateaux consisting of basaltic lava flows of Tertiary age alternating with intrusive sills of dolerite; they are penetrated by numerous basic dikes and by a smaller number of acid ones. The Cuillin hills owe their striking features to the intrusion of a great laccolitic mass of gabbro within the basalts. East of these hills a large area is covered by acid intrusion granite felsite, including the Red Hills; Marsco and Glamaig.
The western portion of the island has suffered the disturbances of the Northwest highland thrusting. Torridonian rocks occupy the whole of Sleat, with the exception of a strip between the Point of Sleat and Ormsay Island which is composed of Dalradian schists. In the north of Sleat the Torridonian Sandstones have been thrust on top of Cambrian Durness limestories. Soay is wholly Torridonian. In the narrow part of the island between Broadford Bay on the Northeast and Lochs Staffin, Eishart and Scavaig on the Southwest, and in a narrow strip on the east coast, also in Loh Bay, there is an interesting series of Mesozoic rocks beginning with Triassic conglomerates and marls, and passing upwards through Rhaetic, Lower Lias (Broadford Bay), Middle Lias and Upper Lias (Strathaird, Portsea, Prince Charlies Cove), to beds representing the Great Oolite and Oxford Clay (Loch Staffin, Uig, &c.). A lignite bed of Tertiary age has been worked in a small way at Portsea, and diatomite is excavated from some ancient lake deposits at Loch Cuithir, Loch Monkstadt, Loch Mealt and other places. There is abundant evidence of glacial action on the lower ground.
Climate and agriculture
Section requires updating
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 offers no opportunity for other than patchwork tillage - the number of small holdings was enormous - Sutherlandshire 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 shire 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 Irish ros, a wood, and there is still a considerable extent of native woodland, principally fir, oak, ash and alder.
The fauna is noteworthy. Red and roe deer abound, and foxes and alpine hares are common, while badgers and wild cats are occasionally trapped. Winged game are plentiful, and amongst birds of prey the golden eagle and osprey occur. Waterfowl of all kinds frequent the sea lochs; many rivers and lakes are rich in salmon and trout, and the pearl mussel is 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 on the mainland, whilst Talisker distillery is based at Carbost on the Isle of Skye.
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, whilst Skye and Raasay were linked with the Inverness-shire constituency. In 1997 the boundary changed to bring in the two islands forming 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.
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.
Ross and Cromarty elects 24 members to the 80-member Highland Council. The majority of councillors do not belong to any party, and sit as independents.
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, Tam, and others). At this time the country formed part of the great province of Moray (Latin: Moravia), which then extended as far north as Dornoch Firth and the Oykell, 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 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 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 Munroes 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, Coygach, and the district between Strome Ferry and Kyle of Lochalsh, and the Mackenzies the remainder.
The county of Ross was constituted in 1661, and Cromarty in 1685 and 1698, both being consolidated into the present county in 1889.
Apart from occasional conflicts between rival clans, the only battles in the shire were those of Invercarron, at the head of Dornoch Firth, when Montrose was crushed by Colonel Strachan on 27 April 1650, and Glenshiel, when the Jacobites, under the earl of Seaforth, aided by Spaniards, were defeated, at the pass of Strachel, near Bridge of Shiel, by General 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 aod handsomest of these three crosses - the clach-a-charridh, or Stone of Lamentation - stands at Shandwick. It is about 9 feet 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 thm, 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 Cadboll of Hilitown, 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 Dingwell Castle, their original seat; and Eilean Donain in Loch Alsh, which was blown up by English warships during the abortive Jacobite rising in 1719.
See 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).