Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654

Name: Blaeu, Joan, 1596-1673  
Title: Vera Sovtherlandiae Chorographica Descriptio ... Nova Sovtherlandiae Descriptio  
Pagination: 108-109
Zoom view:         Click on the image to view in greater detail  
116 / 162
Scroll through pages:       First       Previous       Next       Last

Translation of text:

for human use. Half of the wood of Dirimoir, which faces the north, today belongs to Donald Mackay lord of Reay. In the same wood there is a mountain, in the vernacular Arkle, where all the stags which are nourished here have forked tails, conspicuous with a length of three thumbs or inches, by which they are easily distinguished from the other stags of this region. In Durness where it faces west from Dirimoir, there is a place famous for hunting, in the vernacular the Parbh; and there is in Sletdale in the parish of Loth a great amount of wildlife: these two places are very famous through the whole kingdom for their pleasant hunting.

The principal rivers are Uries or Fleet, Evelix, Brora, Loth, Helmsdale or Ullie, Shin and Cassley. There are two also on the edges, Portnaculter and Oykel, which separate Ross and Sutherland: and all are celebrated for catches of salmon and other fish. It also has harbours most suitable for taking in ships, which carry from here to various parts of the Kingdom grain, salt, coal, salmon, beef, wool, hides, skins, butter, cheese, tallow and other merchandise. In these rivers and on the whole sea-coast there is a large supply of seals, whales, sometimes shellfish of various (2) kinds, and sea-birds. There are valleys around these rivers, which here run over a long area from sea to mountains, and where they are close to the mountains, they are called in the native tongue ‘straths’. All are cultivated and full of people. Moreover in woods and groves, grass and grain, flocks and herds, and wild animals they are not only plentiful but delightful. Strath (or valley) Ullie extends from south to north; its length is twenty miles. Strath Brora, conterminous with Dirichat, spreads eighteen miles in length. Strath Sleitt or Strath Fleet from sea to mountains has a length of fourteen miles. There are many other valleys here, such as Strath Tirry, Strath na Seilge, Strath Skinidale, Strath-telleny, Strath-dailnarme, Strath-tolly, Strath-dail-nemeyin, Strath-ne-sin-ay.

In the parish of Criech there is a plain in the vernacular Slisly-chiles, also Ferincoscery [?], spreading eighteen miles in length, and having the rivers Portnaculter (or Tain) and Oykel lying to the south; here there are mountains of marble. There is also another part of Sutherland, in the vernacular Braechat, that is summit of Cattey, or Sutherland: it is all fertile with fruits and fish, pastures and trees; it is in the parish of Lairg. The length of Braechat is twenty-two miles, and the River Shin (which flow from a loch of the same name) divides it into two parts. The western part of this plain is in the vernacular named Baronia Gruids; in it is included Dirimeanach.

On the River Shin is a huge, sheer cliff, from which water pours with great force and noise and makes a very deep pool; here there is a profitable fishery of exceptionally large salmon. This river never freezes. In Sutherland there are more or less sixty fishing lochs; the largest of them all is Loch Shin, extending fourteen miles in length. In most lochs there are islands, well suited for habitation in the summer. In Loch Shin there are some islands which are rich in animals, swans and wild geese. There is an island in Loch Brora, appropriated to the habitation of the Earls of Sutherland, and pleasant for hunting deer, of which there is a great supply here in the woods which surround the loch on both sides. This island is three miles distant from the small town of Brora. In the lochs and rivers already mentioned pearls of great value are sometimes found in shells. In Sutherland there are some silver-mines and other underground riches, which still, because of the lack of interest, or rather of skill, of the inhabitants, have not yet been dug from the bowels of the earth.

The principal town of this province is Dornoch, notable for the castle of the Earls of Sutherland and the Cathedral church dedicated to the Holy Virgin. The founder of this church was Gilbert Bishop of Caithness, and for that reason it is designated by his name. On the right or south part of this church is the common tomb of the Earls of Sutherland. The parish church of this city was dedicated to St Barr. At the beginning of the Reformation it had long since been demolished. However this city is quite well known for the markets of St Barr, St Gilbert, St Bernard and St Margaret, to which each year gather a large number of men from the northern regions of Scotland; Lord Robert Gordon, Tutor of Sutherland, had the city erected into a royal and free burgh. In other towns too in this province there are frequent markets; the main one is that of St Andrew at Golspie, a town near Dornoch.

A quarry was recently discovered, from which [andulae] or layers of stone, suitable for building, are extracted. Here also plains stretch for long distances, very attractive for their flatness and closeness to the sea.

Where Dornoch faces the east, one may see a monument, in the form of a cross, in the vernacular Cras Worwair, that is, the Cross of the Thane or Earl. There is another one also not far from Embo, named Ri-Croiss, that is, Cross of the King; so called because a King or General of the Danes had been killed and buried there.

Beyond Dornoch, nine miles to the north-east, is situated Brora, at the mouth of the River Brora, for which John Earl of Sutherland, recently deceased, obtained from the King the rights and privileges of a Burgh of Barony. More or less half a mile from the mouth of this river, where it faces west, very good coal is dug, which is used in the salt-works to heat the salt; this not only supplies Sutherland and the neighbouring provinces, but also is exported to England and other regions.

Not far from the coal-works to the west is Latomia[?]; from here tufa is exported to other parts of the Kingdom. Mountains too of varied white marble are found in this province. Not far from Golspie Moir stones are found from which is made lime, for use in buildings. Here too in various places are iron-mines, where the very best iron is produced. In the whole region no dormice are to be seen; and if any happen to be conveyed here by ships, as soon as they have breathed in the air of this region, they perish. But, what is more amazing, in Caithness, conterminous with this province and not separated from it by either a river or the sea, there are infinite crowds of dormice. Sutherland is so cut into by estuaries of the Ocean and rivers, that there is in it no city, estate or farm which is not washed by sea or river water: hence it comes about that a huge supply of fish is available to the inhabitants. Creag Thoraraidh is about the highest mountain of this province, and almost impassable. It separates Sutherland from Caithness. Grain here (especially barley) is outstanding: so much so that it sells for more than the barley of Orkney, Caithness or the neighbouring regions. There are various castles here: the principal ones are Dornoch and Dunrobin, the main seat of the Earls of Sutherland; most commodious for its situation, gardens and orchards, full of varied flowers and trees, excellent saffron, a very deep fountain of sweet water, built from squared stone, and an enclosure stretching three miles in length and well stocked with rabbits.

There are also more or less twenty other castles here, for example [?] Skelbo, Skibo, Proncy, Polrossie, Invershin, Cuthill, Embo, Golspie Tower, Golspie Kirktoun, Aberscross, Ospisdale, Clyne Crakaig, Helmsdale, Torrisdale, Dun Creich, Caisteal nen Corr, Durness, Borve and Tongue; the last two are in Strathnaver. Dun Creich was built by one Paul Mactir.

The length of Sutherland, from west to east, is about fifty-five miles; and its width, twenty-two, from south to north: but if we include Strathnaver too, the width is thirty-three miles, from the sea in the south to the Northern Ocean. Assynt was once part of Sutherland, which the Lords of Kinnard owned with the barony of Skelbo.

OF SUTHERLAND (Section Note)

This province was once properly called Cattey and its inhabitants Catteigh; the name Sutherland is more recent. In antiquity however, under the name Cattey was recognised not only this province, but also the modern Caithness, Strathnaver, Eddrachillis and Assynt. The word Sutherland means southern land.

It is divided from Caithness, which is to its north and north-east, by a rough mountain called Creag Thoraraidh, which here plunges with steep edges to the sea, and in continuous ridges under various names crossing land towards the west, separates it also from Strathnaver; from Assynt three small lakes, and wilderness (3) beside them; it has Ross on the south and south-west, with that gulf which we have described thrust between; at its beginnings the River Cassley sets the boundary; above which the mountain areas which lie between the River Oykel and Loch Shin separate these provinces; the remaining parts are washed by the open Ocean.

This region rises in frequent inland mountains, which open into many valleys, fertile and suitable for pasture; from these very clear streams or rivers flow. These valleys have many attractive and commodious habitations, and also nourish innumerable kinds of all types of herds. An abundance also of game and woodland and domestic birds is present, so that where it touches the sea or the above-mentioned gulf, it is wonderfully fertile in fruits of the highest quality which ripen very quickly, and there is no scarcity of other things desired for good and sweet living. Proof of the goodness of the soil is that in the Earl’s garden at Dunrobin Castle, on the Ocean shore, saffron grows and ripens well, although that plant is late-ripening and dislikes cold soil.

There are three places in this county designated with the name of woods or forests, all in the mountain areas, apart from other groves and plantations scattered here and there. These woods are known by the names [?] Dirimore, Dirichat and Dirimeanach. In them as also in many other places there is pleasant and

  [Continuation of text]

Copyright           Enquiries & Copies           Help