Description(s) from Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1896)
"CAWDOR, a village in Nairnshire, and a parish formerly partly also in Inverness-shire. The village stands on Cawdor Burn, near its influx to the river Nairn, 5½ miles SW by S of Nairn town, under which it has a post office. At it is a good inn.
In 1891 the Inverness-shire portion of the parish, while remaining part of Cawdor, was transferred by the Boundary Commissioners to the county of Nairn; and a detached part of the parish bounded by the parishes of Auldearn and Nairn was transferred to the parish of Nairn; while the Nairnshire portion of Moy and Dalarossie parish was transferred to Cawdor. The parish varies in width from E to W between 1¾ and 5 miles; its greatest length from N to S is 9¼ miles, exclusive of a SSE wing 5¼ miles long beyond the Findhorn. The river Nairn runs 5 miles north-eastward along or near the Croy and Dalcross border, and the northward-flowing Allt Dearg and Riereach Burns unite at the village to form its short affluent, the Cawdor Burn; whilst the FINDHORN winds 2¾ miles through the SE corner of the parish. The surface sinks to less than 80 feet above sea-level in the furthest N, thence rising southward to 328 feet near Whinhill, 564 near Riereach, 698 near Clunas, 1000 in Cairn Maol, 1180 in Creag an Daimh, 1314 in *Carn a Chrasgie, 1380 in *Carn Sgumain, and 2013 in *Carn nan tri-tighearnan, where asterisks mark those summits that culminate on the boundary; beyond the Findhorn are Carn a' Gharb glaic (1523 feet), *Carn an t-Seanliathanaich (2706), and *Carn Glas (2162). To the breadth of about 1 mile along Nairn river extends a cultivated plain, for some distance from which the hill-slopes are either under tillage or covered with fine plantations; and all thence onward to the south-eastern boundary is a wide expanse of brown and barren heath. The arable and planted portions occupy little more than one-sixth of the entire area; the remainder is pasture or moor. Devonian rocks prevail on the lower grounds; grey gneiss, much shattered and contorted by veins of granite, predominates over the uplands; and the two kinds of rock make a junction in the bed of Cawdor Burn. The soil of the plain is mostly an alluvial loam, resting on a substratum of sand and gravel, and rarely of great fertility; elsewhere the soil is generally moorish and poor. Near the Allt Dearg are remains of a vitrified fort and of St Barevan's church; but the chief artificial object - and one of high interest - is Cawdor Castle, perched on the rocky brow of Cawdor Burn, amid magnificent oaks and other venerable trees. The Calders of Calder were said to be descended from a brother of Macbeth, to whom, on his assumption of the crown, he resigned the thanedom of Calder. They were constables of the king's house, and resided in the castle of Nairn, but had a country seat at what is called Old Calder, ½ mile N of the present seat. They received a licence in 1454 to build the Tower of Calder, the nucleus of the present castle; and they ended, in 1498, in a young heiress, Muriella Calder. In 1499 she, still a child, was walking with her nurse near the Tower of Calder, when she was captured by a party of 60 Campbells. Her uncles pursued and overtook the division to whose care she had been entrusted, and would have rescued her but for the presence of mind of Campbell of Innerliver, who, seeing their approach, inverted a large camp-kettle as if to conceal her, and, bidding his seven sons defend it to the death, hurried on with his prize. The young men all were slain, and when the Calders lifted up the kettle no Muriella was there. Meanwhile so much time had been gained, that further pursuit was useless. The nurse, at the moment the child was seized, bit off a joint of her little finger in order to mark her identity - no needless precaution, as appears from Campbell of Auchinbrek's answer to the question, What was to be done should the child die before she came of marriageable age? 'She can never die,' said he, 'as long as a red-haired lassie can be found on either side of Loch Awe.' In 1510 she married Sir John Campbell, third son of the second Earl of Argyll; and from them there descended in a direct line the Campbells of Calder, created Baron Cawdor in 1796 and Earl Cawdor of Castlemartin in 1827. The present and second Earl, Jn. Fred. Vaughan Campbell (b. 1817; suc. 1860), holds 46,176 acres in the shire, valued at £7882, 12s. The Tower of Calder, after coming into the possession of the Campbells, received great additions, and took the name of Cawdor Castle. It was formerly a place of vast strength. Legend throws over it much mystery and romance, one tradition making it the hiding-place of Lord Lovat after Culloden. 'The whole of Cawdor Castle,' to quote Mr Fraser Tytler, ' is peculiarly calculated to impress the mind with a retrospect of past ages, feudal customs, and deeds of darkness. Its iron- grated doors, its ancient tapestry, hanging loosely over secret doors and hidden passages, its winding staircases, its rattling drawbridge, all conspire to excite the most gloomy imagery in the mind. Among its intricacies must be mentioned the secret apartment which concealed Lord Lovat from the sight of his pursuers. It is placed immediately beneath the rafters of the roof. By means of a ladder you are conducted by the side of one part of a sloping roof into a kind of channel between two, such as frequently serves to convey rainwater into pipes for a reservoir. Proceeding along this channel, you arrive at the foot of a stone staircase, which leads up one side of the roof to the right, and is so artfully contrived as to appear a part of the ornaments of the building when beheld at a distance. At the end of this staircase is a room with a single window near the floor. A remarkable tradition respecting the foundation of this castle is worth notice, because circumstances still remain which plead strongly for its truth. It is said the original proprietor was directed by a dream to load an ass with gold, turn it loose, and, following its footsteps, build a castle wherever the ass rested. In an age when dreams were considered as the immediate oracles of heaven, and their suggestions implicitly attended to, it is natural to suppose the ass - as tradition relates - received its burden and its liberty. After strolling about from one thistle to another, it arrived at last beneath the branches of a hawthorn tree, where, fatigued with the weight upon its back, it knelt down to rest. The space round the tree was cleared for building, the foundation laid, and a tower erected: but the tree was preserved, and remains at this moment a singular memorial of superstition attended by advantage. The situation of the castle accidentally proved the most favourable that could be chosen; the country round it is fertile, productive of trees, in a wholesome spot; and a river, with clear and rapid current, flows beneath its walls. The trunk of the tree, with the knotty protuberances of its branches, is still shown in a vaulted apartment at the bottom of the principal tower. Its roots branch out beneath the floor, and its top penetrates through the vaulted arch of stone above, in such a manner as to make it appear, beyond dispute, that the tree stood, as it stands to-day, before the tower was erected. For ages it has been a custom for guests in the family to assemble round it, and drink, " Success to the hawthorn; " that is to say, in other words, "Prosperity to the house of Cawdor!" , What is known as the chain armour of King Duncan is preserved at Cawdor Castle, which is one of three places assigned by tradition as the scene of that monarch's murder in 1040 by Macbeth, Mormaer of Moray. Admission to the Castle may be had by ticket, procurable at the inn. Earl Cawdor owns six-sevenths of the parish, the rest belonging to Rose of Holme Rose. Cawdor is in the presbytery of Nairn and synod of Moray; the living is worth £182. The church, erected in 1619, and enlarged in 1830, contains 638 sittings, and is an interesting building, with a curious lych-gate and some old inscriptions. There is also a Free church; and three public schools - Barivan, Cawdor, and Clunas - with respective accommodation for 37, 155, and 48 children, had (1891) an average attendance of 33, 104, and 41, and grants of £35, 17s" £84, 108. 6d., and £48, 148. 6d. Pop. (1801) 1179, (1831) 1184, (1861) 1203, (1871) 1027, (1881) 1070, (1891) 1026.—Ord. Sur.., 8h. 84, 1876. See The Book of the Thanes of Cawdor, A series of Papers selected from the Charter-room at Cawdor, edited for the Spalding Club by Cosmo Innes."