A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Gairloch (Gael. gearr-loch, 'short loch'), a coast village and parish of W Ross-shire. The sea-loch, that gives them name, strikes 61/8. miles east-south-eastward from the North Minch, and measures 3½ across the entrance, where lies the island of Longa, whilst 3¼. miles higher up, near the southern shore, is the smaller island of Horrisdale. Gairloch village stands on its north-eastern shore, by water being 30 miles NNE of Portree in Skye, by road 6 SW of Poolewe, 9 WNW of Talladale or Lochmaree hotel, 18 WNW of Kinlochewe hotel, and 28 WNW of Auchnasheen station on the Dingwall and Skye section (1870) of the Highland railway, this station being 25¼. miles NE of Strome Ferry and 27¾ WSW of Dingwall. It communicates with Auchnasheen by a daily coach, with Portree by a weekly steamer; and has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch of the Caledonian Bank, a steamboat pier, and a good hotel, greatly enlarged in the last few years.

The parish, containing also Poolewe, Talladale, and Kinlochewe, is bounded NE by Greinord Bay and Lochbroom parish, E by Contin parish, SE by Lochalsh and Lochcarron parishes, S by Applecross parish and Loch Torridon, and W by the North Minch. It has an utmost length, from E to W, of 25 miles; an utmost width, from N to S, of 22 miles; and an area of 356 square miles, or 227, 8801/3 acres, of which 16891/3. are foreshore and 16,9961/6 water. The seaboard, 90 miles long, is bold and rocky, rising rapidly to 100 and 400 feet above sea-level, and deeply indented by Greinord Bay, loch Ewe, Gair Loch, and Loch Torridon. The river Coulin or A Ghairbhe, entering from Lochcarron parish, winds 6¾ miles northward, through Lochs Coulin and Clair, along the Lochcarron border and through the interior to Kinlochewe, where it is joined by a rivulet, running 3¼. miles north-westward down Glen Docherty. As Kinlochewe river, the united stream flows 23/8. miles north-westward to the head of famous Loch Maree (123/8. miles x 3 furl. to 2¼. miles; 32 feet above sea-level), and from its foot, as the river Ewe, continues 21/8. miles north-north-westward, till at Poolewe it falls into Loch Ewe. Lochan Fada (3¾ miles x 5 furl.; 1000 feet), lying near the Lochbroom border, sends off a stream 43/8. miles south-south-westward to Loch Maree, near its head; and Fionn Loch (53/8. x 1¼ miles; 559 feet), lying right on the Lochbroom border, sends off the Little Greinord along that border 5½ miles north-by-eastward to the head of Greinord Bay. These are the principal streams and lakes of Gairloch parish, whose very large fresh-water area (more than fifteen times larger than that of the whole of Fife) comprises the 7090¾ acres of Loch Maree, the 22382/5 of half of Fionn Loch, the 928 of Lochan Fada, the 203 of part of Dubh Loch (9 x 3 furl.) at the head of Fionn Loch, the 345½ of Loch na h-Oidhche (1¾ mile x 3½ furl.), the 166 of Loch Tollie (7½ x 5 furl.), etc. The surface is grandly diversified by tall pyramidal quartz mountains, the chief being Ben Airidh a'Char(2593 feet), Ben Lair (2817), Ben Sleoch (3217), and Ben a'Mhuinidh (2231), to the NE of Loch Maree; to the SW, Bus-bheinn (2869) and Ben Eay or Eighe (3309). The rocks are primary, of Laurentian, Cambrian, or Devonian age. Less than 5000 acres, or one-fortieth of the entire area, is returned as 'arable, woodland, or rough pasture,' the rest being all of it mountain, moor, and deer-forest. So that Gairloch depends far less on agriculture proper than on sheep-farming and the fisheries of the streams and lochs and neighbouring seas. In 1823 Hugh Miller was sent to Gairloch village with a party of fellow-quarrymen, and chapters xii. and xiii. of My Schools and Schoolmaster give a graphic description of his sojourn here. 'For about six weeks,' he writes, 'we had magnificent weather; and I greatly enjoyed my evening rambles amid the hills or along the sea-shore. I was struck, in these walks, by the amazing abundance of wild flowers which covered the natural meadows and lower hill-slopes. . . . How exquisitely the sun sets in a clear, calm summer evening over the blue Hebrides! Within less than a mile of our barrack there rose a tall hill (1256 feet), whose bold summit commanded all the Western Isles, from Sleat in Skye to the Butt of the Lewis. . . . The distaff and spindle was still in extensive use in the district, which did not boast a single spinning-wheel, a horse, or a plough, no cart having ever forced its way along the shores of Loch Maree. . . . They tell me, that, for certain, the fairies have not left this part of the country yet. 'The chief antiquities of Gairloch are described under Loch Maree, which, from the 12th to the 19th of September 1877, received a visit from Queen Victoria. Mansions, both noticed separately, are Flowerdale and Letterewe; and Sir Kenneth Mackenzie owns rather more than two-thirds of the entire rental. In the presbytery of Lochcarron and synod of Glenelg, this parish since 1851 has been ecclesiastically divided into Gairloch and Poolewe, the former a living worth £319. Its church, built in 1791, contains 500 sittings; in the graveyard lies buried the Gaelic bard, William Ross (1762-90), who was schoolmaster here for the last four years of his life. There are Free churches of Gairloch and Poolewe; and ten public schools - Achtercairn, Bualnaluib, Inverasdale, Kinlochewe, Laide, Mellon Udregle, Melvaig, Opinan, Poolewe, and Sand - with total accommodation for 820 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 380, and grants amounting to £373, 11s. Valuation (1860) £6849, (1882) £10,700, 9s. 11d. Pop. of civil parish (1801) 1437, (1821) 4518, (1861) 5449, (1871) 5048, ecclesiastical parish (1871) 2425, (1881) 2277; of registration district (1881) 4479, of whom 1461 were in the northern and 3018 in the southern division.—Ord. Sur., shs. 91, 92, 81, 82, 100, 1881-82.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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