Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654

Name: Blaeu, Joan, 1596-1673  
Title: Extima Ora Scotiae ... Rossia  
Pagination: 98-99
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Translation of text:

Earl of Seaforth, who rules far and wide through these provinces, the head of the family of MacKenzie. In it is Eilean Donan Castle on an island of the aforesaid strait, where the ancestors of this Earl had their first seat. Into it flow the moderate Rivers Shiel, Lyick[?], Connag[?], Elchaig, and Long. Glen Elchaig however reaches to the gulf of Carron, into which the river of the same name discharges. Afterwards, traversing the coast and passing over some less noteworthy gulfs, one comes to the gulf of Ewe, and a mile above it Loch Ewe, enclosed on all sides by thick woods, where in former years the working of iron was practised, but has possibly now stopped.

From here a little to the north is the gulf of Broom, a notable annual fishing ground, with plentiful herring. That gulf seems to be called Volsas by Ptolemy. The part of Ross inland above this is called Ard-Ross, which means the height or highest part of Ross, for lying among very high mountains it is totally rough and uncultivated. Above the last mentioned gulf follows the sub-region Coigach, which means fifth, for it was classed as the fifth part of the neighbouring region of Assynt, but has now been removed and belongs to another lordship.

Next is Assynt, stretched along the coast between the River Kirkaig and the gulf of Eddrachillis. The promontory Rubha Stoer Assynt here runs into the sea far beyond the rest of the coast. The River Traligill flows down from the very high mountain Ben More Assynt, and below Ardvreck, where the lord of the place has a castle, passes through the loch called Assynt and discharges into the sea. That mountain, with some neighbouring ones in the inland parts of Sutherland, is famous for veins of marble, or stone to which marble is related. But here everything is rough and uncultivated, and nothing is memorable except the herds of deer, cattle, horses and goats, since the poor region is scarcely able to sustain a few farmers. This sub-region was very long ago added to Sutherland and held as part of it, but later in an unknown way was removed from that and ceded to the lordship of others. And today the lord of the place recognises the Earl of Seaforth as superior; in truth however it scarcely looks to Ross, since it is part of the diocese of Caithness.

Now where Ross faces the estuary of Varar, although it frequently rises into mountains, yet on the coast and by the edges of the rivers (which are numerous) it is amazingly abundant in crops and those of the highest quality: there is here no lack of wheat, or rye, oats, peas, beans, or of garden herbs or fruits, beyond what one would believe in this location. Where the River Farrar merges into the gulf of its namesake, as I have said, is the beginning of this region; here is Lovat, an ancient castle, the old seat of the Barons Fraser who are powerful in these parts.

The peninsula between the two gulfs, Varar and that which takes its name from the town of Cromarty, is called Ardmeanach, which means medium height; from this I exclude the territory and neighbourhood of Cromarty, which is, as we have related, a separate Sheriffdom.

Here on the coast one comes to the town called Chanrie, spread out on the plains before the pleasant and fertile hills which surround it, quite well known for its castle and cathedral church, though the former is not complete. Once it was an episcopal seat; hence comes its name from the canons, for their seat is called by us Chanrie; so in Elgin, a neighbouring city in Moray, that part of it where they lived with their bishop, separated from the rest of the city, is even today called the Chanrie.

From this town there is a daily crossing to Moray; however there is no harbour in the town: ships land at the neighbouring Munlochy, three miles above. A mile below Chanrie on the same coast is Rosemarkie, marked from antiquity as the site of a city, but whose lights the neighbouring Chanrie so continuously obstructed that it never rose up. A little further again on the coast survive the ruins of Ormond Castle, from which our Princes derived part of their titles; quite correctly, for in these places in Ross and various others quite large estates belong to the public purse, and their annual registers hang in the Treasury.

Beauly, a lovely and rich former monastery, is situated at the beginning of the gulf not far from the mouth of the River Farrar; it is now a possession of the Barons of Lovat.

There follows the small city of Cromarty at the beginning of the gulf of the same name; one might truly say of it, that no such harbour is found from the Orkney Islands to Kent in England (1). For the approach for ships is very easy, and within it is totally safe and very capacious, free of sandbanks, shoals and shallows, in a word with all the good qualities of an exceptional harbour. On each coast on the low-lying shores wooden fences are frequent, and of great benefit; for as the tide recedes and the sand dries, fish are caught by hand.

In the furthest recess of this gulf a river called Connel or Conan discharges; it consists of different rivers, but ends up under this name. On its bank sits a castle of the Mackenzies, Kildun, and a little further up is Brahan, a noble castle of the most distinguished Earl of Seaforth, to whom no small part of the land in the neighbourhood belongs. This river is pearl-bearing; from it not infrequently fine pearls are gathered from oysters of this kind. But this distinction does not belong to this river alone: very many others, both in this area and in other different ones, are not behind in this gift, and these pearls are not lacking in the Dee, the Don, the Ythan, the Ugie and many streams even far from the sea in the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen; and many other rivers not here mentioned are full of these oysters.

Scarcely a mile from the mouth of this river sits the small town of Dingwall, of no great fame, but on a rich and happy soil; not far to the north of it, there rises with many ridges the huge and harsh Ben Wyvis; it occupies much land, and looks toward Tain (to be mentioned shortly); yet as it supplies grassy valleys and frequent streams, it is not entirely useless.

On the north side of the strait one comes to Foulis Castle, set back a little from the coast, an ancestral possession of the dynasty of Monro, a family whose branches have had quite large estates here from early times. Below on the same coast is Balnagown Castle, held by the head in these regions of the whole family of Rosses, and that surname is widely dispersed in these parts. A little further down one comes to Milton, a beautiful and pleasant residence of Baron Innes.

Already in ancient times the Earls of Ross were more powerful than others in this whole county. When they died out either all power moved to Donald of the Isles, the leading ruler of the Hebrides, or he seized it by relationship; when his right of succession was denied or purloined, he sought it back by force and easily held it. Then with enormous arrogance lusting for greater illicit conquests, he crossed the Varar and seized the neighbouring parts for himself; as there was no opposition he marched with his army to Aberdeen. This happened about the year 1411, when James I, after the death of his father, was being held prisoner in England against all international law, the kingdom in the meanwhile being governed by a regent. Donald was opposed by Alexander Earl of Mar, who slew his forces; fleeing from the field and charged with treason, he lost this county and many other estates, and his successors never regained such power.

There follows another gulf and another peninsula: from a town on it they call this gulf Tain Firth, it has no harbours and because of shallows is to be dreaded by ships. This gulf, reaching many miles inland, divides Sutherland from Ross, and ends at the promontory called Tarbat. Here there are fine and outstandingly productive fields. In it the monastery of Fearn is in a pretty location; there is too in an inlet of this gulf the town of Tain, with productive land around, in the old language called Bale-Guiche or Bale-Duiche (for it is pronounced in both ways), from Dothes or Duich held to be a saint; his church once had right of asylum, and to it frequent pilgrimages were organised in former times. Three miles above this city, a crossing to Sutherland is available, they call the place Portnaculter; some miles above the crossing, this strait, now quite narrow, runs in a shallow channel, where it takes in two rivers, the Carron on the south shore, and in the inmost recess the Oykel.

The Carron comes down from the highest ridges of the mountain Seana Bhraig, falls through mountainous and wooded country, and cuts the area called Strathcarron. This whole area is for the most part clothed in trees, especially noble firs, and supplies raw material to the neighbourhood and to foreign parts; rich also in herds of cattle and groups of horses, it has its mouth at Invercarron. The River Oykel is not at all equal in size, and flows, as I said, into the inmost part of the gulf. It cuts that area which is called from the river Strath Oykel, in which there are some villages but nothing worth mentioning here. Both of these areas belong to the family of Rosses. A little beyond the River Oykel, the boundary of the whole province is at the small River Cassley.

The mountains in this province are large, numerous and high, so that a great part of the ground is taken up by them; yet those in the interior (apart from the previously mentioned Wyvis which hangs over both straits) and those which are close to the sea in all the western part leave a small amount of land for cultivation; since their names can hardly be uttered in Latin, I omit to include them - any researcher must go to the map of the region.

A few islands gird this shore, but not worthy of notice apart from Skye, which merits its own description.

FROM CAMDEN (Section Note)

Ross, so called from an old word of the Scots which some interpret as promontory, others as peninsula; the people called Cantae, a word not dissimilar in its meaning, lived there in the time of Ptolemy. It is spread out widely and faces the ocean on both sides; on the Vergivian, rounded ridges and frequent woods rise up, and it abounds in stags, goats, deer and woodland birds; on the German, it is more blessed with fields and pastures and much more cultivated. At its very threshold the quite large region of Ardmanoch, which occurs in the title of the second-born sons of the Kings of Scotland, climbs in high mountains, very reliable for snow. About their height some have told me amazing things, although the old geometricians have stated that neither the depth of the sea nor the perpendicular height of mountains exceeds ten stades, that is 1250 paces (2). [Height of mountains and depth of the sea, Plutarch, Life of Aemilius Paulus, on Olympus.] However those who have seen Teneriffe in the Canary Islands rising to 15 leucas (3) and sailed in the ocean near them, in no way accept that this is true. Lovat in this area is a castle and barony of the famous family of Frasers; as they had served the kingdom of Scotland very well, James II, it is said, admitted them to the rank of Barons; and the most bloody race of Clan Ranald, when a conflict began, would have totally extinguished them, if by divine fortune eighty of the leading men of this family had not left their wives at home pregnant; they, giving birth to the same number of male children, restored the family.

At the mouth of the Ness Chanonry

  [Continuation of text]

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