Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Urquhart and Glenmoriston

Urquhart and Glenmoriston, a large parish of Inverness-shire. It is bounded N by the parishes of Kilmorack, Kiltarlity, and Inverness, SE along the centre of Loch Ness by the parishes of Dores and Boleskine, S by Boleskine and Kilmonivaig, W by Ross-shire and the parish of Kilmorack, and NW by the parish of Kilmorack. The boundary is largely natural. From the NE corner, 2 miles NE of Temple Pier on Urquhart Bay on Loch Ness, the boundary line passes south-westward along the centre of Loch Ness to the mouth of the river Moriston, and, after following up the course of that river for 4¾ miles, it strikes up a small stream south and south-eastward to the watershed, first between the river Moriston and the river Oich, and then between Glen Moriston and Glen Garry. The chief heights here are Ceann a Mhaim (2203 feet), Meall Dubh (2581), Clach Crioche (2211), and Meall Leac Ulaidh (1760). From the latter hill the line follows the Riabhach Burn to Loch Loyne (760 feet), passes up the centre of Loch Loyne till near the upper end, and thence follows the county boundary across Loch Clunie (606), and on as far as Sgurr nan Conbhairean (3632). From this hill it strikes first northward and then E by N along the line of watershed between Glen Affric and Glen Moriston by Tigh More (3222 feet), Aonach Shasuinn (2901), Carn a Choire Bhuidhe (2778), Carn a Chaochain (2314), and Carn a Choire Leith (2118), from the last of which it strikes down across the centre of Loch na Beinne Baine, up a small burn entering it on the E side, and thence round the high ground E of Loch nan Eun to the Allt nam Faogach near Loch nam Faogach, follows this stream downwards for 1 ¼ mile, and then strikes northward to the burn that rises between Carn Bingally (1273) and Meal a' Choire (1000). It follows this burn downward to its junction with the Enrick near Corriemony, and then the Enrick for a short distance to a point 1 mile W of Loch Meiklie (372 feet), where it again turns off first to the N up to the watershed between the basin of the river Beanly and that of Loch Ness, and then along this watershed by Meall nan Caorich (1401) and Meall Gorm (1355), whence it winds first N, then S, and finally E back to the starting point on Loch Ness. The greatest length of the parish, from this point south-westward to Sgurr nan Conbhairean, is a little over 28 miles; the average breadth at right angles to this is about 8 miles; and the area is 129, 204.673 acres, of which 6500.092 are water. The whole parish may be said to consist of the two glens, Glen Urquhart and Glen Moriston, of which the latter is separately noticed. From the SE border along Loch Ness the ground rises steeply, and attains its greatest height at the well-known Meall Fuar-mhonaidh (Meal Fuarvounie; 2284 feet) midway between Glen Urquhart and Glen Moriston, with Glasbheinn Mhor (2000), Carn na Fiacail (1913), Carn Tarsuinn (2000), and Meall na Criche (2224) stretching away to the W from it. The heights on the outside of the glens have been already given in describing the boundary line. Scattered all over the parish, especially N of the middle and lower parts of Glen Moriston, are -a large number of lakes and lochans, of which the chief, besides those already mentioned, are Loch nam Deirisdean (1750 feet; 3 x 1 furl.), Loch na Ruighe Duibhe (1600) about twice the size, and Loch nam Meur (1580), also about twice the size, all on the Allt Seanabhaile, a tributary of the Enrick; another Loch nam Meur (1573; 4 x 3 furl.) and Loch Aslaich (1360; 3 x 1 furl.), both on the upper waters of the Coiltie; Loch nam Breac Dearga (1500; 5 x 1½ furl.) W of Meall Fuar-mhonaidh, and a large chain of lakes to the W, all draining to the Allt Sigh flowing to Loch Ness; and Loch na Criche (1667; l 1/8 x ¼ mile), Loch an Staca (1604; 8 x 3 furl.), and Loch Liath (1500; 3 x 2 furl.), all on two tributaries of the river Moriston. The drainage is carried off by the Enrick, the Coiltie, and the Moriston, with their tributaries, as well as by a number of smaller burns flowing direct to Loch Ness. There is good fishing in almost all the streams and lakes. The heights are rocky and bold, and some of the scenery is remarkably pretty and picturesque. The falls of Divach on a tributary of the Coiltie are well known. The bank of Loch Ness, Glen Urquhart, with the lesser hollow of the Coiltie, and Glen Moriston are all well-wooded, but the rest of the parish is rock and bleak moor. The arable land is confined to some narrow slopes along Loch Ness and the two glens. The soil along Glen Urquhart is a good loam, which, though somewhat stony and not very deep, is fertile; that in Glen Moriston is much lighter and sandier, and not very productive, being mostly given up to pasture. The underlying rocks are metamorphosed Lower Silurian beds of mica schist, gneiss, crystalline limestones, and serpentine, except along the shore of Loch Ness from the NE corner of the parish to beyond Meal Fuar-mhonaidh, where a patch of Old Red Conglomerate comes in. In the lower part of Glen Urquhart a large number of minerals are to be found. (See Inverness-shire.) To what has been said of Glen Moriston in the separate notice it remains here but to add that it afforded shelter to Prince Charles Edward Stewart on 23 and 24 July 1746, and again on 11 and 12 August. On 24 July he was joined in the cave in which he was concealed by six faithful men of Glen Moriston, who continued with him as guides and guards till the 19th of the following month, when they were dismissed at Loch Arkaig a few days before the Prince set out for Badenoch to meet Lochiel. Glen Urquhart spreads out round Urquhart Bay in a fine semicircular flat well-wooded and cultivated, and both above and below Drumnadrochit -1 mile up the river Enrick from the Bay-but especially above, is a considerable amount of excellent haughland. Above this is a narrow rocky glen, beyond which there is good soil round Loch Meiklie, and again farther up the Glen at Corriemony. The whole length of the Glen, from Urquhart Bay to Corriemony, is 9 miles. In the moorland districts there is excellent shooting, and of the whole area over 90, 000 acres are set apart as deer forests, the chief being Balmacaan S of the upper part of Glen Urquhart, Ceannacroc at the head of Glen Moriston on the N side, Invermoriston at the mouth of the Glen on the N side, and Portclair at the mouth of Glen Moriston on the S side. The principal prehistoric antiquities are cairns, stone circles, and cup-marked stones and rocks. Culdee times are marked by a number of old buryinggrounds associated with the names of various saints, while near Temple Pier on the N side of Urquhart Bay was a small religious house belonging to the Knights Templars. The principal object of antiquarian interest now, however, is Urquhart Castle on the point called Strone on the S side of Urquhart Bay. The ruins of the castle occupy a boss of sandstone rock measuring about 600 feet from N to S, and 200 feet from E to W, the irregular rectangular form of which is followed by the walls. This is separated from the rising ground behind by a moat some 16 feet wide and 30 feet deep, but probably at one time much deeper. Whether this was ever filled with water is doubtful, as it is a considerable distance above the level of Loch Ness, and there is no appearance of any spring or stream that could have supplied the water. It was, however, spanned by a drawbridge leading to the principal entrance, consisting of an archway for a portcullis flanked by projecting towers. Within this is the guardroom, and beyond is the courtyard. The oldest portion of the castle seems to be to the N and E, and at the extreme N end is the most prominent part of the whole-the great keep 50 feet high, and 34 by 29 feet on the outside, with walls 8 feet thick. It consisted of basement vaulted chambers, three stories which seem to have had wooden joists, and a fourth top story which seems to have been vaulted. In the wall is a wheel staircase, and at each corner of the building was a square turret. This portion of the structure seems to date from the middle of the 13th century. There is traditional account, no doubt true, of a much earlier stronghold, but there must certainly have been here one of the strengths of Gillespie Macscoulane, who was defeated and put to death during a rebellion in the north in 1229, after which the lands of Urquhart and Boleskine, which had been claimed by him, were granted to Sir Thomas Dorward, who was succeeded by his son, Sir Allan Hostiarius. Shortly after the death of the latter, whose heirs were three daughters, the castle passed into the possession of the Cumins of Badenoch, who seem to have held it till the beginning of the great War of Independence, when a detachment of Edward's army occupied it, Sir John Fitzwarrenne being appointed governor. During the first struggle against English usurpation, under Sir William Wallace, it was besieged and captured by Sir Andrew Moray, younger of Petty, and remained in the hands of the national party till 1304, when it again passed into possession of the English after a long siege, in which the additions to the fortifications ordered by Edward in 1297 were the chief means of its prolonged resistance. These additions probably included the flanking towers at the gateway and the bastioned curtain walls. The castle was one of the few Scottish strengths that successfully resisted Edward Baliol's party after the death of Robert Bruce. In 1336 we find it in charge of Richard Cumin, but it was a royal castle, and as such was granted in 1359 to William, Earl of Sutherland, and again in 1371 to David, Earl of Strathearn, son of Robert II., whom failing, to Alexander, Wolf of Badenoch. The castle was, however, in 1398, placed by parliament under charge of a governor appointed by them, and in the Chamberlains Rolls for 1428-29 are records of sums expended on repairs, and from entries in 1448-50 we learn that the fabric and garrison seem to have been under the charge of the Thane of Cawdor. It was seized by the Earl of Ross during the rebellion of 1451; but notwithstanding an Act of Parliament of date 1455, annexing the castle and barony `to the Crowne perpetually to remane, the quhilk may not be giffyn away,' it was again granted by the king to the Earl of Ross, on whose forfeiture it once more returned to the crown. In 1475 it was granted to Hugh Rose of Kilravock, but towards the close of the century it was given to the Grants who had distinguished themselves on the royal side against Donald Dubh, Lord of the Isles. This clan had to fight for their hold, but they prevailed, and in 1509 a charter in favour of Grant of Freuchie was signed by the king, and in the possession of the Seafield Grants the barony and castle still remain. The destruction of the roof and woodwork seems to have taken place early in the 18th century. One vault is said to contain the plague which was somehow buried there, and another a concealed treasure. See a long article in the Builder for 17 Feb. 1872.

The parish is traversed by a good road along the shore of Loch Ness; by another up Glen Urquhart and across to Strath Glass, which is reached at Glenaffric Hotel at the mouth of the river Cannich; and by another up Glen Moriston, which continues by Glen Clunie to Invershiel and Kintail at the head of Loch Duich. The villages are Lewiston at the Established church and Millton farther NW at the Free church. The parish is made up of the old parishes of Urquhart and Glenmoriston, which were united at or shortly after the Reformation. The latter was formerly joined to Abertarff. Urquhart and Glenmoriston is in the presbytery of Abertarff and synod of Glenelg, and the living is worth £377 a year. The parish church is near the mouth of Glen Urquhart, about a mile from Urquhart Bay. It was built in 1836 in place of a previous church of 1630, and contains 850 sittings; and -there is a mission station at Glen Moriston. There are Free churches at Glen Urquhart and at Glen Moriston, and there is also an Episcopal mission station (St Ninians). Under the school board are Balnain, Bunloit, Dalchreichard, and Glen Urquhart schools and joint schools at Corriemony and Invermoriston, which, with accommodation for 97, 60, 63, 233, 60, and 55 pupils respectively, had in 1884 attendances of 41, 27, 30, 111, 15, and 25, and grants of £29, 6s. 8d., £12, 15s. 4d., £42, 5s., £82, 11s. 10d., £20, 2s., and £36, 6s. 6d. The chief proprietors are the Dowager-Countess of Seafield, the trustees of Grant of Invermoriston, Ogilvie of Corriemony, and Grant of Lakefield; and there are a few smaller landowners. The mansions are Balmacaan, Corriemony, Invermoriston House, Lakefield House, and Lochletter House. Valuation (1860) £8084, (1884) £13, 802. Pop. (1801) 2633, (1831) 2942, (1861) 2911, (1871) 2780, (1881) 2438.—Ord. Sur., shs. 73, 72, 83, 1878-81.

(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a large parish"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 4th order divisions")
Administrative units: Urquhart and Glenmoriston ScoP       Inverness Shire ScoCnty
Place: Urquhart

Go to the linked place page for a location map, and for access to other historical writing about the place. Pages for linked administrative units may contain historical statistics and information on boundaries.