Ord of Caithness

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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Ord or Ord-of-Caithness, an abrupt, broad, lofty, granite mountain overhanging the sea, on the mutual border of Sutherland and Caithness, 4 miles by road NE of Helmsdale. The old road over it, formerly the only land ingress to Caithness, traversed the crest of its stupendous seaward precipices at a height and in a manner most appalling to both man and beast; and even the present road, formed in 1811, rises to an elevation of 726 feet above sea-level, and has very stiff gradients. ` The Ord-of-Caithness, ' says Miss Sinclair, ` was formerly pre-eminent for being the most dangerous bit of road in Scotland.. During the last century, whenever the late Earl of Caithness, my grandmother Lady Janet Sinclair, or any of the chief landed proprietors, entered that county, a troop of their tenants assembled on the border of Sutherland, and drew the carriage themselves over the hill, a distance of two miles, that nothing might be trusted in such a scene to the discretion of quadrupeds.. The mail-coach now rattles down the whole descent of the Ord, scarcely deigning even to use a drag! ' According to an old-world superstition, no Sinclair may, without fearful foreboding of evil, cross the Ord on a Monday; forty Sinclairs, led by the Earl of Caithness, having on that day ventured over the barrier on their way to the field of Flodden, where-with the exception of the drummer, who was dismissed before the battle began-all were cut down by the sword.—Ord. Sur., sh. 109, l878.

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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