PERTHSHIRE, Scotland - History and Description, 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]

"PERTHSHIRE, an extensive inland county in the centre of Scotland, lying between 56° 41 and 56° 57' N. lat., and between 3° 4' and 4° 50' W. long. It lies on the Highland border, connecting the northern Highlands with the southern Lowlands, and the Highlands of the W. with the Lowlands on the E., thus comprising almost every variety of soil and climate to be found in Scotland. Its geographical boundaries are for the most part defined by natural barriers of lofty mountain ranges, forming parts of the northern and western Grampians and of the Ochill hills. On the N. and N.W. it is bounded by the counties of Aberdeen and Inverness; on the E. by Forfarshire; on the S.E. by Fifeshire, the Frith of Tay, and Kinross-shire; on the S. by Clackmannan and Stirling shires; on the S.W. by Stirling and Dumbarton shires; and on the W. by Argyllshire. The form of the county is compact, but a small section of it, comprising the parishes of Culross and Tulliallan, on the N. side of the Frith of Tay, is separated from the main body by a belt of the counties of Clackmannan and Fife, and another small detached section is almost surrounded by Stirlingshire. Its extreme length from Invergowrie on the E. to Benley on the W. is 77 miles, and its extreme breadth from the source of the Tilt on the N. to Culross on the S. is 67 miles. Its superficial extent is variously estimated between 2,588 and 5,000 square miles, but the measurement now commonly received is 2,835 square miles, or 1,814,063 acres, of which about 32,000 are lakes. In the earliest times of which we have record this county seems to have been inhabited in the eastern portion by the Vennicontes, or Vecturiones, of Ptolemy; in the S. by the Horestii mentioned by Tacitus; and in the Highlands of the W. by the Damnii Albani, whom Richard of Cirencester describes "as a people wholly secluded among lakes and mountains." It was overrun by the Romans under Agricola in A.D. 83-4, and by Severus in 206, when it was included in the Roman province Vespasiana. Of the occupation of the Romans there are still many traces, including a military road which traversed the eastern part of the county from the neighbourhood of Stirling to Orrea, near Perth, where one branch approached the coast, and the other went across the Grampius Mons to the Moray Frith; also the remains of several fortified stations or camps, as Lindum, now Ardoch in Strathearn, Alauna, probably Kier on the Stirling border; Victoria at Dealginross on the Earn, where the famous attack was made by the Caledonians on the ninth legion; Ad Hiernam, at Strageth on the Earn, also Ad Tavum, and In Medio, mentioned by Richard of Cirencester, besides other stations at Invergowrie, and at Fortingal in Glen Lyon, at which last place the prætorium is still complete. Upon the departure of the Romans this country became the seat of the Pictish kingdom of Abernethy, and afterwards passed into the possession of the Scots. In the latter part of the 10th century the Danes arrived at the mouth of the Esk with a large fleet and were marching for the sack of Perth, when they were met by the Scottish king, Kenneth III., at Loncarty, near Perth, and completely routed. In 1054 Macbeth, whose stronghold was at Dansinane Hill, was here defeated by his competitor Malcolm, assisted by his Saxon allies. The subsequent history of this county is briefly referred to under the article [Perth], which city ranked as the capital of Scotland till after the assassination of James I. The ancient divisions of the county comprised the stewartries or subordinate territories of Athole in the N., Balquhidder in the S.W., Breadalbane in the W. and middle, Gowrie in the E., Menteith in the S., Perth in the S.E., Rannoch in the N.W., and Stormont and Strathearn in the middle, each of which was under the jurisdiction of a distinct sheriff or steward. The Act of 1748, abolishing hereditary jurisdictions, put an end to these divisions, though the names are still popularly applied to the districts, or retained in the titles of the nobility.;In 1795 an Act of Parliament was passed dividing the county for special purposes into the ten districts of Auchterarder, Blairgowrie, Carse of Gowrie, Crieff, Culross, Cupar-Angus, Dunblane, Dunkeld, Perth, and Weem, but the sheriff-depute exercises rule over all the county, and appoints two substitutes, the one of whom presides at Perth and the other at Dunblane. This county is almost entirely comprehended in the basin of the Tay, except the district of Menteith in the S., which forms part of the basin of the Forth, and a small district in the S.W., which is drained by streams flowing into Loch Lomond. The great watershed of the country declines from the lofty summits of the Grampians in the N. and W. gradually towards the S. and E., where the numerous streams unite their waters in the copious flood of the Tay, which discharges a greater volume of water into the ocean than any other river of Great Britain. This monarch of British rivers, however, is so far obstructed by sandbanks in its channel, and a bar at its mouth, as to have been only navigable for vessels of 100 tons as high up as Perth, previous to 1834, when extensive works were undertaken to deepen the channel of the river, and to construct a harbour and wet docks at Perth, so as to admit vessels of 380 tons to come up to any harbours at spring tides, and vessels of 130 tons at neap tides. The navigation is also somewhat impeded by the strength of the tides, which renders the time of ascending precarious. The whole length, from its source on the border of Argyleshire to the Frith or estuary of Tay, is 105 miles, in the course of which it receives the waters of the Fillan, the Dochart, and the Lockie before entering Loch Tay. This loch is a long narrow lake, about 14 miles in length by 1 mile broad, and entirely embosomed in mountains, having Ben Lawers on its north-western bank. After leaving the loch the Tay flows through Strath Tay, receiving on its left bank the considerable rivers Lyon and Tumel, fed by numerous mountain streams, some of which form falls and rapids, and about 6 miles lower down, on the right bank, the Braan or Bran; it then flows for about 12 miles through Strathmore to its junction with the Isla, where the united streams take a southerly direction, and being swollen by the Airdle, the Shochie, and the Almond, pass Perth, a little below which town the Tay is joined by the river Earn on the right bank, bringing to it the waters of the Lednoch, Ruchil, Turret, Powaffray, Machony, Shaggie, Ruthven, May, and Farg. After its junction with the. Earn the Tay gradually widens for about 20 miles, till it forms the estuary of Tay. The other rivers of Perthshire are the Forth, which flows just within the southern boundary of the county, draining the district of Menteith, so named from the Teith, a tributary of the Forth, rising just within Argyleshire border, and forming Loch Katrine, a sheet of water about 8 miles long, immortalised as the subject of Sir Walter Scott's "Lady of the Lake." The Allan and Devon are also feeders of the Forth; on the latter stream are the celebrated falls and rapids known as the Deil's Mill, the Rumbling Bridge, and the Cauldron Linn. The lakes are both numerous and of considerable size, including lochs Tay and Katrine, mentioned above; Loch Earn, at the head of the river Earn, in Breadalbane; Loch Rannoch, a long narrow sheet of water, over 9 miles in length by 1 mile broad, and abounding in trout; Loch Ericht, on the border of Inverness-shire, extending in length 14 miles from N. to S. by 1 mile in breadth; Loch Lydoch, a large sheet of water on the border of Argyleshire, the source of the river Tumel; Loch Garry, a narrow lake 3 miles long by half a mile broad, lying between Rannoch and Athole; Loch Tumel, a lake, about 2 miles from W. to E. and half a mile broad, formed by the river Tumel, in Athole; also lochs Venacher, Monteith, and Lubnaig, each about 5 miles long, in the district of Menteith, Loch Voel, in Balquhidder, besides numerous smaller lakes, as Achray, Ard, Butterstone, Chon, Cluny, Dochart, Doine, Drumellie, Freuchie, Lyon, Lows, Ordie, Tilt, Turret, &c. In all the hilly districts springs are abundant, and Pitcaithley is specially noted for its mineral waters; but in the level tracts of Monteith and the Carse of Gowrie pure water is scarce, occasioning in dry seasons considerable sickness and scarcity, while in wet seasons the same districts are almost inundated and the soil converted into a miry expanse. The rivers, which flow from the mountains in the N. and N.W. towards the Tay, run for the most part in an easterly or southerly direction, giving name to a scries of straths, or broad valleys, which open in the same aspect, and to the glens, or narrow vales, through which they pass in their upper course-as Strath Tay and Strathmore, forming the valley of the Tay; Strathearn, extending almost across the centre of the county from W. to E., and forming the channel of the Earn; Strathallan, or the Vale of the Allan, in the southern part of the county, separating the Ochills from the Western Highlands; Strath-Airdle, in the north-eastern part of the county, forming the basin of the Airdle, and a branch of the Isla, which rises at the foot of Cairn Gower, in the Ben-y-Glue mountains. Some of the smaller valleys, or glens, are these of the Beg, Shee or Ericht, Feral, Bruar, Tilt, and Erockhie, in the N., and of the Lyon, Lochy, Dochart, Falloch, and Artney, in the W. These valleys bear but a small proportion to the aggregate area of the county, contrasting strikingly by their warmth and luxuriance with the barren summits which environ them. About two-thirds of the whole county, from Loch Ericht, or the Moor of Rannoch, on the Aberdeen and Inverness border, south-eastward, is comprehended in the Grampian or Highland region. This district is formed of ridges of rocks rising in Alpine grandeur one above another, with their bare and weatherworn summits almost hidden in the clouds. Among the loftiest peaks are Ben-Lawers near Loch Tay, rising 3,945, or, according to others, 4,015 feet above the sea-level; Ben More, 3,819; Beny-Gloe, near Glen Tilt, 3,690; Schihallian, or Schichalleon, 3,564; Ben Uammore, 3,589; Ben Scarsoch, 3,390; Ben Ledi, between Lochs Katrine and Lubnaig, 2,863 or 3,009; Ben Venue, 3,000; also Glas Mhiel, Bruochcarravan, Ben Chualach, Ben Chonzie, and Duntchmore. The passes and other spots on the verge of the Highlands command fine views. The Ochill hills traverse the south-eastern part of the county, separating the basins of the Forth and Tay, and attain an altitude of 2,359 feet at Ben Clench. The Sidlaw hills traverse the eastern part adjoining Forfarshire and section of the rich district of the Carse of Gowrie from the broad plain of Strathmore, attaining an altitude of 1,500 feet at Birnham Hill. The detached hill of Dunsinane, celebrated in Scottish story as the site of the castle of Macbeth, is a spur of this range, and has an altitude of 1,114 feet. A line through the passes of Aberfoyle, Leny, Comrie, and Killiecrankie divides the lowlands from the highlands. The Carse of Gowrie, between the Sidlaws and the Frith of Tay, differs from every other part of the county, excepting a portion of Strathearn and the district of Monteith, in being nearly a dead level, highly fructiferous, and everywhere abounding with orchards and wheat-fields. Old Red sandstone is the prevailing rock in the lowlands, and mica slate in the highlands, skirted by clay, chlorite, and horneblende slates, which pass insensibly into mica slate, with occasional beds of quartz, sandstone, and greywacke, and some patches of granite, as at Rannoch Moor, which is 1,000 feet above sea-level; and at Glentilt a highly elevated range of breccia, or puddingstone, may be traced in various places, separating the primitive district from the secondary district in the S.E. of the county. A bed of limestone extends from Leny, near Callander, in a north-easterly direction towards Braemar, and coal measures underlie a large part of the Culross district, and extend from near Crieff in the direction of Dumbarton, coming up to the south-eastern skirts of the Ochills, on the Fife border. The Ochill Hills and the Sidlaws in the S.E. consist of a mixture of sedimentary and erupted rocks, the former chiefly porphyry and amygdaloid, and the Sidlaws principally sandstone and greenstone. The hill of Kunioul, near Perth, is amygdaloid interspersed with nodules of agate and cornelian. The principal minerals worked are roofing slates, of various colours, at Birnam and in other parts of the island, coal and fine clay at Fossaway and Tulliallan, ironstone at Culross, and in the coal regions W. of the Ochills, blue marble at Leny and Glentilt, sandstone at Longforgan, Auchtergaven, and Errol, and very good building-stone at Kin goodie, in the Carse of Gowrie, and at Longannat on the Forth. Limestone is burnt both for cement and manure, but both it and coal are scarce in parts of the county from the difficulty of carriage. Copper ore occurs among the southern Ochills, and lead in Breadalbane, chiefly at Tyndrum, Benledi, and Glenlyon, also nodules of sulphate of barytes in the bed of the river Shaggy, in Strathern. Peat fuel is cut in the bogs and mosses. The soils are extremely various, but maybe described as till, sand, and gravel, with rich clay in the Carse of Gowrie, loam in the highland valleys, and in the upland extensive tracts of moor, bog, and moss, though these last are gradually diminishing. Only about one-third of the whole surface is under cultivation, the remainder being mountain, sheep pasture, moss, or irreclaimable waste. Some remains of the old forests are left in Breadalbane and Monteith, but the greater part of the present woods have been planted since the middle of the last century. The late Duke of Athole alone planted 27,000,000 trees, chiefly larch and spruce fir, with some oak, ash, elm, and birch. The most valuable tracts are the Carse of Gowrie, which rivals in fertility the richest land in Scotland-the lower part of Strathearn, the valley of the Tay above Perth, the district of Monteith, and the vale of the Forth. All these tracts yield abundant crops of wheat, beans, turnips, and potatoes, of which last great quantities are yearly sent to London by railway. The carse of Gowrie is also very rich in orchards, but in the midland districts fruit is but rarely cultivated, and oats and barley are the principal grain crops. There is little cultivated land in the highland districts. Mosses of various extent, depth, and firmness, according to the time they have been in formation, are scattered over the plains or flats, and not unfrequently cover the slopes of the higher hills. Many of these, formerly valueless tracts, including the famous Flanders moss in the vale of the Forth, have recently been the scene of grand georgical experiments, which have rendered the localities of Blair Drummond and Kincardine famous in the history of agriculture. All the appliances of draining, special manuring, and improved rotation of crops, have been adopted with great success by the enterprising farmers and landowners of this part of Scotland. The estates are in general entailed, and many large, but there are also numerous smaller proprietors, the total number on the new valuation rolls of 1856 being 5,064, of whom 525 were returned as qualified to be commissioners of supply. The valued rental of the county according to the old Scotch valuation in 1674 was £339,192, and the real rental under the new Valuation Act in 1856 was £680,611. Arable farms range from 50 to 500 acres, and in the lowlands, where great advances have recently been made in agriculture, are universally held on lease, commonly for 15 or 19 years, but some of the small highland occupiers are yearly tenants. The miserable farmhouses of a former period, without light or ventilation, have within the present century been almost universally superseded by substantial, slate-roofed houses of two stories, surrounded by improved farm buildings; but this is not the case in the highlands, where mean hovels are frequently to be met with. Many farms on the mutual confines of the lowland and the uplands comprise small tracts of arable ground in connection with large tracts of hill pasture or moorland; but the highland farms are mostly sheep farms for Tweeddale and Cheviot breeds with some Southdowns and Leicesters, recently introduced. There is no breed of cattle peculiar to the county, the West Highland breed being that most commonly fed on the highland pastures, but Ayrshire cows for the dairy have been successfully introduced into the lowlands. The native animals include the red deer, roe and fallow deer, fox, wild cat, badger, weasel, black cock, ptarmigan, partridge, blue hare, and the eagle. Although Perthshire is generally considered a pastoral and agricultural county, more persons are returned as engaged in trade, commerce, and manufacture than in agriculture. The linen trade has long been established, and cotton-spinning and paper-making were introduced towards the close of the last century, the principal cotton-mills being at Deanston on the Teith, Stanley on the Tay, and Cromwell Park on the Almond; but most of the papermills have been abandoned. There are also flax spinning-mills, fulling mills, linseed oil-mills, several small woollen manufactories for shawls, blankets, and other woollen fabrics; extensive bleach-fields round Perth, and in Strathmore, besides a considerable number of weavers, employed by the Glasgow manufacturers, chiefly resident at Auchterarder, Crieff, and Dunblane; also leather-dressers, miners, and colliers, besides other trades, chiefly confined to the town of Perth (which see). The principal commerce is carried on at Perth and Kincardine. The population is very unequally distributed, the Highland parishes, comprising two-thirds of its area, being very thinly peopled, while the Lowland parishes in the S.E. are comparatively densely populated. The population decreased in the decennial period between 1831 and 1841, from 142,166 to 137,457, owing chiefly to emigration, the incorporation of farms, and formation of deer forests, and has subsequently never recovered itself, having further declined from 138,660 in 1851, to 133,511 in 1861. The inhabited houses, also, in the last decennial period have declined from 22,528 to 22,056. Perthshire returns two members to parliament, one for the county, and one for the parliamentary borough of Perth; while Culross contributes to. Stirling and Tulliallan, and with four adjacent parishes have votes for Kinross. It is governed by a lord-lieutenant, vice-lieutenant, sheriff, and two substitutes, who reside respectively at Perth and Dunblane, and by about sixty deputy-lieutenants. For special purposes it is divided into ten departmental districts, as mentioned above, and is further divided into sixty-nine entire quoad sacra civilia parishes, with parts of eleven others; but these do not correspond with the present ecclesiastical parishes, which are continually being altered, both as to number and extent. The greater part of seven presbyteries in the synods of Perth, Angus, and Fife, are comprised within this county. Perth and Culross are royal and parliamentary burghs, the former being also the county and sessions town. Auchterarder, Abernethy, and Dunblane were formerly royal burghs. The ancient cities are Perth, Dunkeld, and Dunblane, the seats of bishoprics of the same name previous to the establishment of Presbyterianism. The burghs of barony are, Alyth, Abernethy, Auchterarder, Blairgowrie, Craig of Madesty, Crief, Kincardine, and Longforgan. The towns, containing upwards of 2,000 inhabitants, are, in order of population, Perth, Auchterarder, Blairgowrie, Crieff, Cupar-Angus, and Kincardine; besides about 200 smaller towns and inconsiderable villages. The mansions in the county are numerous, including Dunkeld House, and Blaircastle, of the Duke of Athole; Taymouth Castle, of the Marquis of Breadalbane; Doune Lodge, of the Earl of Moray; Duplin Castle, of the Earl of Kinnoul; Elcho Castle, of the Earl of Wemyss; Cluny Castle, of the Earl of Airlie; Scone Palace, and Logie-Almond, of the Earl of Mansfield; Gleneagles, of the Earl of Camperdown; Strathallan Castle, of Viscount Strathallan; Drummond Castle and Stobhall, of Lord Willoughby D'Eresby; besides numerous other seats of the nobility and ancient families. The roads are well constructed, and are kept in good condition. They include the main road from Edinburgh, by Queensferry and Dunfermline, which enters the county a few miles S. of Perth, the road from Glasgow, by Stirling, the road from Dundee, by Meginch; the road from Aberdeen, by Forfar and Brechin; the road from Inverness and the northern Highlands, by the Pass of Killiecrankie and the valleys of the Garry, Tumel, and Tay; and the road from Argyleshire, by way of the Dochart and Tay valleys; all which converge at Perth. Besides these, there are three roads leading from Stirling, through Monteith, into the western Highlands. The road-trusts are divided into the eleven districts of Aberfeldy, Auchterarder, Blairgowrie, Carse of Gowrie, Cupar-Angus, Creiff, Culross, Dunblane, Dunkeld, Perth, and Weem. Five main lines of railway-the Scottish Central; Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee; Scottish Midland Junction, or North-Eastern; the Inverness and Perth Junction; and the Dundee and Perth; all centre at Perth. The Scottish Central railway traverses the southern part of the county for about 28 miles, and has branches to Crieff and Callander. The Scottish Midland Junction railway passes through a portion of the south-eastern corner of the county, and has branch lines to Blairgowrie and to Dunkeld, at which latter place it joins the Inverness and Perth Junction; and another branch up the Almond to Methven. The eastern fork of the Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee, and the Dundee and Perth lines, also traverse part of the eastern district."

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

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