NAIRNSHIRE - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868

"NAIRNSHIRE, a small maritime county in the N.E. of Scotland, lying between 57 20' and 57 40' N. lat., and between 3 40' and 4 6' W. long. It comprises a main body and several detached districts in the ancient province of Moray, and a detached district in the earldom of Ross. It is bounded on the N. by the Moray Frith, on the E. by Elginshire, and on the W. and S. by Inverness-shire. Its greatest length from N. to S. is 19 miles, and greatest breadth 16 miles, but its mean breadth not over 8 miles, being at the southern extremity of the county only 3 miles. The area of the whole county is about 200 square miles, or 128,000 acres, of which about 70,000 are cultivated, 30,000 unreclaimed, and 28,000 unprofitable. The population in 1851 was 9,956, and in 1861, 10,065. The line of sea-coast, which is low and sandy, extends about 9 miles, with the town of Nairn upon it near the mouth of the river Nairn. To the eastward are the Maviston sand-hills, whence the great sand-floods which about two centuries ago overwhelmed a large tract of fertile land to the eastward are supposed to have been blown by the strong north-westerly winds; while to the westward the sea-shore is low and bare, sheltered by a raised beach or terraced bank, which runs nearly parallel with the coast, and is composed of gravel, sand, and boulders, intermixed with sea-shells of existing species. The surface of the county, like that of the other parts of the province of Moray, consists of two entirely distinct portions, the lowlands and highlands. The former, or sea-board district, forms a continuation of the rich alluvial plain of Moray, with a breadth of from 1 mile to 5 miles from the coast, the surface being in general low and flat, and characterised by a light and gravelly soil, resting upon Old Red sandstone, with some deposits of clay and protruding rock. This portion is occupied by cultivated fields, gardens, and orchards. The latter, or highland district, occupies above two-thirds of the county, extending from the southern boundary to within a few miles of the sea, consisting chiefly of mountain ranges or primitive rock, comprehending granite, gneiss, mica slate, primary limestone, and quartz. The summits are in general bare, and frequently cloven; but the slopes are covered with heath or moorland pasture, and abound with thriving plantations of Scotch fir, larch, and hardwood, particularly on the Earl of Cawdor's estate. This highland district is ploughed throughout its entire length by the vale of the Findhorn, on the banks of which are some extremely fertile spots, but the arable land bears but a small proportion to the waste. There are several quarries of freestone, and one of a dark blue stone in the estate of Boath, much used for ornamental building, and possessing the peculiar property of combustion in the fire, but does not lose bulk. The small loch of Conan and the moss of Lilty yield shell marl in abundance, and coal is supposed to exist, but has not been worked. The climate and agricultural productions closely resemble those of Elginshire, the distribution of lands under crop being in the following order in 1855, viz: oats, 7,753 acres; turnips, 4,467; barley, 3,044; wheat, 1,714; potatoes, 1,542; rye, 255; peas, 101; here, 87; vetches, 70; besides 10,321 in grass and hay, and 165 bare fallow in the course of the rotation of the farm. Of late years agriculture has much improved, by the introduction of a scientific system of farming, and better agricultural implements. Much improvement has also been effected in the breeding of cattle, horses, and sheep. The properties are in general large, there being only fifteen landowners, and 29,553 acres of cultivated land in the county. The farms are small, varying from 30 to 200 acres each of arable land. The universal term of lease is nineteen years; and in 1855 the number of occupiers of land paying a yearly rental of 10 and upwards was 428, exclusive of tenants of woods, mills, &c. Of the remainder of the county not in waste and moorland, there are 8,000 acres of natural woods, and about 4,000 in plantations. The only manufactures are those of woollen cloth and whisky, besides which a remunerative fishery is carried on at Nairn, the sole seat of commerce in the county. The only rivers are the Nairn and Findhorn, with their tributaries, including the burn of Cawdor, which flows through the richest part of the country, and abounds in salmon and trout. The lochs are numerous, as Cranloch, Loch Lilty, Loch of the Clans, Loch Bellivat, and Loch Lee, several of which are the resort of wild fowl. The leading lines of turnpike road are those from Nairn to Forres; Nairn to Inverness; Nairn to Fort George, Campbeltown, and the Ferry; and Nairn to Grantown. Within the present century internal communication has been much facilitated by the construction of good cross roads in every direction, especially in the lowlands; and there is now constant steamboat communication between Nairn and Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Cromarty, and Inverness; also a railway which connects the town of Nairn westward with Inverness. The only royal burgh is Nairn, the capital of the county; the only burgh of barony Auldearn, and the principal villages Calder or Cawdor, Seatown-of-Delnies, and Newtown, besides 15 villages or hamlets. Nairnshire unites with Elginshire in pageing one member to parliament, and in 1855 had a constituency of 132. It is governed by a lord lieutenant, 6 deputy-lieutenants, and a sheriff in common with Elgin. The sheriff and other courts are all held at Nairn. The county contains only four entire parishes -Ardclach, Auldearn, Calder, and Nairn; and parts of five others-Croy, Dyke, Moy, Petty, and Urquhart belonging to the surrounding counties. All the parishes are assessed for the poor. It constitutes the presbytery of Nairn, which, however, does not include the whole of the county, and is comprised within the synods of Moray and Ross. The principal seats are Cawdor Castle and Delnies House, of the Earl of Cawdor; Boath, of Sir J. A. Dunbar, Bart.; Ivybank, of Gordon; Geddes House, of Mackintosh; Kilravock, of Rose; Kinsteary Lodge, of Gordon; Lethen House, of Brodie; Milbank, of Colonel Findlay, Nairn Grove, of Macfarlane; Nairnside, of Falconer; and Viewfield, of Grant; besides which there are several modern villas near Nairn, and shooting lodges in the highlands. There are remains of Cawdor Castle, the greater part of which was built in 1454, though the popular tradition makes this the castle in which King Duncan was murdered by Macbeth; also of Kilravock Castle, which dates from 1460, and of the chapel of Raith Castle, which belonged to the Cummines. The vitrified fort called Castle Finlay is situated in a hollow part of the hill of Urchany, and Dun Evan on the summit of a hill in the parish of Cawdor. Roman coins have been found, and many stone circles and cairns are scattered over the county."

Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003