Search The Best Scottish Search Engine

Custom Search

Best Scottish Ancestry Research

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Best Scottish Tours of Portree

Tour Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland, on an Ancestry Tour of Scotland. Best Scottish Tours, Best Scottish Food, Best Scottish Hotels, Small Group Tours of Scotland. Rent a Cottage in Scotland. Portree in 1846. Portree, a parish, mostly in the Isle of Skye, and wholly in the county of Inverness; including the islands of Fladda, Raasay, and Rona; and containing 3574 inhabitants, of whom 510 are in the village of Portree, 25 miles (N. W.) from Broadford, 21 (E.) from Dunvegan, 80 (N. by E.) from Tobermory, 110 (N. by W.) from Obau, and 109 (W. by S.) from Inverness. This place was formerly called Ceilltarraglan, a compound Gaelic term which signifies "a burying-ground at the bottom of a glen," and which was particularly appropriate; but after the visit of King James V. to the northern portion of his dominions, and his putting into the bay here, where he remained for some time, the name was changed to Portree, or Port-roi or righ, "the King's harbour." The parish consists of the portion properly called Portree, and the islands of Rasay, Rona, and others of small extent, separated from the main body by a branch of the Atlantic Ocean, called Rasay sound. It measures seventeen miles in length and twelve in breadth, and is principally a pastoral district, the quantity of land under tillage being but very small in comparison with the part uncultivated. On the east is an arm of the sea dividing Rasay from the parishes of Gairloch and Applecross. The long line of coast exhibits great diversity of appearance: its lofty and almost perpendicular rocks are succeeded in some places, especially at the heads of the lochs, by sudden depressions sinking almost to the level of the beach; and the shores are intersected by numerous breaks and fissures. Among the bays are those of Loch Inord, Loch Sligichan, Camistinavaig, and several small bays in the island of Rasay; but that of Portree is by far the most considerable, and is capable of containing several hundred sail, shelter on all sides being afforded by very high lands, and its tenacious clayey bottom supplying excellent anchorage. The Rasay branch of the Atlantic, which washes the parish throughout its whole length, is sufficiently deep for the passage of a first-rate ship of war. It receives a large influx of fresh water from the hills on each side, bringing down earthy deposits which, from the rapidity of the currents in its friths, render it turbid and dark in wintry or stormy weather; but in the tranquillity of summer it is beautifully clear.

The surface in the interior is varied with hills, valleys, and plains, interspersed with innumerable springs of the purest water, several lakes and rivulets, and some highly ornamented cascades, which together render the scenery deeply interesting. The district is circumscribed by a most circuitous and irregular outline, approaching in its general form to an oblong, and is traversed from south to north by a glen, skirted on each side by a range of hills greatly differing in height and dimensions. The most striking elevation is that called Aite Suidhe Fhin, "the sitting-place of Fingal," where that celebrated hero is traditionally reported to have sat to direct his followers in the chase, and which, rising gradually from the head of Loch Portree, reaches 2000 feet above the level of the sea. Near this, on the east side of the harbour, and of almost equal height with the former, rises the hill of Peindinavaig, or "the hill of protection;" while much to the south are the hill of Beinligh, and that of Glamaig, with the loch of Sligichan between them. The latter is crowned with a verdant tract, and has a spring sending forth an immense quantity of clear water: indeed all the elevations, with slight exceptions, are covered to their summits with excellent pasture for sheep and cattle, and are well watered with springs and rivulets. There are six fresh-water lochs, most of which abound in good trout; and though of no great extent, the largest not being above a mile long, they exhibit much picturesque and beautiful scenery, enriched, in Rasay, with clumps of natural wood, or grotesque rocks. From their vicinity may be seen the celebrated hills of Cullins, in the parish of Bracadale, and of Store, in the parish of Snizort; and from a loch in Rasay, in favourable weather, a very fine prospect may be had of all the hills in the district, to the point of Hunish. with the expanse of sea to the island of Lewis. The climate is one of the most variable to be found, many descriptions of weather being frequently experienced within the space of a day and night; and diseases arising from the sudden changes of temperature, are often prevalent.

The soil between the hills is to a great extent peatmoss, whence the inhabitants are amply supplied with their ordinary fuel; but that most general is a gravelly earth, abounding in springs. These render the land raw and unproductive; and in addition to the natural sterility of the soil, the poverty of the inhabitants, and their necessarily imperfect system of husbandry, the vicissitude of the weather, either in seed-time or in harvest, and sometimes in both, often destroys at once the hopes of the year. The whole of the main land part of the parish belongs to Lord Macdonald; and the island of Rasay, with its subordinate isles, to Macleod, of Rasay. The former proprietor, about the year 1811, for the accommodation of the rapidly increasing population, caused all the farms held by small tenants to be subdivided into allotments or crofts. This has tended still further to increase the number of persons here located; and the inhabitants now so far exceed the productive capabilities of the soil, as to place the tenants upon the lowest possible scale with respect to the comforts of life, as well as to keep the land far below the average state of that in neighbouring districts. The crooked spade is used, and is well suited to the peculiar character of the surface, the arable portion frequently hanging on steeps and precipices, and being set with rocks or large stones; and after the seed is sown the hollows and inequalities are neatly raked over, and smoothed with a hand-harrow. Even were the tenants competent to the undertaking, the land is incapable of successful draining, as its fixed watery nature, arising from springs, would soon cause it to revert to its original spongy character. The crofters live in huts of the meanest condition, and are often without proper food and clothing; this however is in no way attributable to any want of disposition to promote improvements, but to poverty and destitution which they are unable to controul. Their sobriety and general character are spoken of in the highest terms; and this circumstance has induced the proprietor, for these few last years, to expend considerable sums of money in sending part of the population to the British colonies in North America.

A large tract in the parish is undivided common, consisting of hill pasture which is covered in the summer months with cattle, which are small but hardy, and mostly out of shelter for the whole year. They are supported in the winter on straw; but after feeding at the return of spring on the pasture, which is chiefly mossgrass, they acquire strength and flesh, and are carried off by the south-country dealers in large numbers, to fatten for the markets of England, where they are much esteemed, and fetch a high price. The sheep are a cross between the native stock and the black-faced of the south; the horses, though very small, are hardy. The breeds of cattle and sheep are much attended to; and great improvements have recently taken place in consequence of the stimulus given by the premiums of the Highland and local agricultural societies, and especially by the facilities of conveyance to the leading markets by steam navigation. Coal was wrought about the beginning of the present century by Lord Macdonald; but the expense, after a regular system of operations had been for some time carried on by experienced colliers from the south, proved so great that the quantity raised was not sufficient to remunerate the proprietor, and the work was abandoned. Excellent granite is found in several places, particularly in Rasay, and, being of very hard texture, is formed into millstones for grinding oats and barley, which are sold at from £9 to £12 per pair, and supply all the mills in Skye and the neighbouring parishes. Limestone is abundant; and at Portree, on both sides of the harbour, freestone is found in very large quantities in the lofty rocks, which are nearly perpendicular. Stone of the same species, but of far superior quality, is obtained in great plenty in Rasay; and some of it was used in building, a few years since, the elegant mansion of the proprietor of the island, the only gentleman's seat in the parish. Near this residence are some fine old trees; but the other wood in the parish is only plantation of Scotch fir, larch, birch, ash, and oak, of recent formation, and situated principally in the island of Rasay and the village of Portree.

The village, in which the population amounts to above 500, is ornamented by some pretty plantations, and contains several good houses and shops, and a branch establishment of the National Bank of Scotland. The sheriff-substitute of the district of Skye holds his courts in the court-room of the gaol here, as the superintendent of the judicial affairs of the place; and there is a post-office having a regular delivery of letters three times a week. A road has been formed through the whole length of the parish, under the direction of the parliamentary commissioners for building bridges and making roads in the Highlands and islands; and Glasgow steam-boats, weekly in the summer, and monthly in the winter, come into the harbour, by which means the cattle and other produce are sent to the southern markets. Salmon, also, the fishing of which belongs to a small company from the south, is cured in the village, and forwarded by the same conveyance to Glasgow and London. Three fairs are held, respectively in May, July, and November, the two former for the sale of black-cattle, and the latter for the hiring of servants and for other business. The rateable annual value of the parish is £3195. It is in the presbytery of Skye and synod of Glenelg, and in the patronage of the Crown: the minister's stipend is £150, of which about one-half is received from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe, consisting principally of moss and hill pasture, and valued at £11 per annum. The church, built about the year 1820, for the accommodation of 800 persons with sittings, is situated in the village, but on account of its distance from the southern boundary, which is fifteen miles off, is inconvenient for a considerable portion of the population. A missionary is stationed in the parish, on the establishment of the committee of the General Assembly, and receives a salary from the bounty allowed by the crown for the benefit of the Highlands. The parochial school, also situated in the village, affords instruction in Latin, Greek, geography, book-keeping, and English, in addition to the elementary branches; the master has a salary of £34. 4., with a house, an allowance for a garden, and £5 fees. There is a branch parochial school in Rasay, in which the elementary branches only are taught; also two schools where the instruction is in Gaelic, this being the vernacular tongue.

No comments: