Loth parish


Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, Samuel Lewis - 1851

LOTH, a parish, in the county of Sutherland, 11 miles (N. E. by N.) from Golspie; containing, with the villages of Helmsdale and Port-Gower, 2526 inhabitants, of whom 1764 are in the rural districts. The name Loth seems to be of Danish origin, like the names of most parishes in the county of Caithness. In 1198, King William the Lion, on his march into Caithness to retaliate upon Harold, Earl of Orkney, the cruel death he had inflicted upon the Bishop of Caithness, passed through this parish, which afterwards, from its situation on the border of the county, participated largely in the frequent hostilities that took place between the inhabitants of the adjacent districts. During the turbulent period that preceded the final establishment of legitimate government, the place also suffered much from the depredations of lawless fugitives, for whose concealment it afforded ample facilities in the solitary recesses of the Ord of Caithness, which here separates the counties of Sutherland and Caithness. In 1513, the Earl of Caithness marched through the parish, with a band of his retainers, to the battle of Flodden-Field; and in 1679, a body of Highland troops passed on their route to Caithness, to support the claims of Campbell of Glenorchy to the earldom. During the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, the inhabitants took up arms in support of the government; and in 1746, the Earl of Cromarty, with a considerable force, advancing to Caithness for the purpose of raising recruits for the rebel army, burnt the mansion houses of Kintradwell and Crakaig, in this parish.

The PARISH is bounded on the south by the Moray Firth, which is here forty miles in width, and on the north by a ridge of hills. It is about eleven miles in length, and varies from three-quarters of a mile to nearly three miles in breadth. The surface towards the coast is level, but rises by a gradual acclivity towards the hills which form its northern boundary, and of which the highest, Ben-Veallich, has an elevation of 1888 feet above the level of the Firth. The principal rivers are, the Helmsdale, which runs through the eastern portion of the parish into the Moray Firth at the village of Helmsdale; and the Loth, a rapid stream flowing through Glen Loth into the Moray Firth near the western boundary of the parish. Both the rivers are subject to sudden swells; but since the parliamentary roads were made in the Highlands, no danger can arise to passengers in crossing these rivers, as they have bridges erected over them. The Helmsdale abounds with salmon of a superior description; and near its influx into the Firth is a very lucrative herring-fishery. From the western extremity of the parish to Port-Gower, the coast is a level sandy beach, merely interrupted occasionally by low rocks which are covered with the tide; but from that point to the Ord, at the eastern extremity, is one continued chain of rugged limestone rocks. Of the lands in the parish, about 1200 acres are arable; and there are extensive tracts of meadow and pasture of excellent quality, and also of hill-pasture. The soil on the arable lands is luxuriantly fertile, producing abundant crops of wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and turnips; the system of husbandry is improved. The farms are conveniently divided, and under excellent management, and the smaller holdings are also cultivated with industry and skill; the farm-houses and cottages are substantial and commodious, and much of the waste land has been reclaimed. The horses, cattle, and sheep reared are very superior, and frequently obtain the highest prizes when exhibited at the cattle-show^s. Limestone is found in abundance, but the distance of fuel renders the burning of it more expensive than the importation of lime from England. The annual value of real property is £2380.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Dornoch, synod of Sutherland and Caithness: the minister's stipend is £162. 8. 7., with a manse, and a glebe of moderate extent; patron, the Duke of Sutherland. Loth church, recently erected, is a very handsome structure, situated nearly in the centre of the parish. At Helmsdale, also, is a church of recent erection, in which divine service is now performed by the incumbent of Kildonan parish. In the same village is a place of worship for members of the Free Church. The parochial school, situated at Port-Gower, is tolerably attended; the master has a salary of £34, with a house, and an allowance of £2. 2. in lieu of garden, and the fees average about £10 per annum. There are some remains of the ancient castle of Helmsdale, once a hunting-seat of the Sutherland family; it is apparently of the fourteenth century, and is memorable for the death of John, the eleventh Earl of Sutherland, and his countess, who were poisoned in 1567. The remains of several Pictish towers have disappeared within the last century; and there were also formerly chapels dedicated respectively to St. Ninian, St. John the Baptist, and others, of which only the sites are left. There are numerous barrows and cairns, in some of which latter have been found battleaxes of stone, and other military weapons. See Helmsdale, &c.