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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Urquhart (oldest known form Urqwhard; present form dating from the early part of 16th century; Gaelic form Urchadain, but the derivation is uncertain), a coast parish, containing a village of the same name, in the NE of the county of Elgin. It is bounded NNE by the Spey Bay portion of the Moray Firth; at the NE corner it is separated from Banffshire for 1¾ mile, partly by the present and partly by the former course of the river Spey;* and it is bounded SE by the parish of Speymouth, and SW by the parishes of St Andrews-Lhanbryd and Drainie. Except for 27/8 miles at the NW corner, where the river Lossie forms the whole boundary, from Arthur's Bridge at Inchbroom to the sea, along the NNE side, and at the mouth of the Spey, the boundary line is almost entirely artificial. In shape the parish is triangular-one side lying along the coast from the mouth of the Lossie to the month of the Spey; another from the mouth of the Lossie in an irregular line south-eastward to the point on the extreme S where the parishes of Urquhart and St Andrews meet; and the shortest side from this point in an irregular line north-eastward to near the present mouth of the Spey. The first side measures 7½, the second 8½, and the third 5½ miles, all in straight lines; and the area is 13,660·765 acres, of which 70·988 are water, 501·810 foreshore, and 22·174 tidal water. The coast is low and sandy, and rising from the sand are a series of bent-covered hillocks and pebble beaches, the peculiar features of which have been already noticed under Elginshire. Part of these to the NW, extending over an area of from 2 to 3 square miles, and covered with heathy scrub, forms a flat tract very little above sea-level, and known as the Links of Innes. The rest of the surface is undulating, but nowhere reaches any great height, the highest point being the Bin Hill or Black Hill of Moray (223 feet), close to the sea-coast W of Garmouth. The small Loch of Cotts (400 x 200 yards) was at one time much larger, but has been reduced by drainage. In the NW the drainage is carried off to the Lossie by means of the Innes Canal, and elsewhere by small streamlets to the Spey or the sea. Much of the surface is well wooded, but more than half is under cultivation, though towards the NW there is a good deal waste. The soil is light and sandy, but kindly, and the climate is early and warm. The underlying rocks are Old Red Sandstone, but the beds are deeply covered by alluvial deposits, and mixed with the soil and clay there are in many parts large numbers of small fragments of rocks belonging to different beds of Jurassic age. There is a well-preserved though small stone circle on the farm of Viewfield, N of the village, and on the side of the road leading from it to the E gate of Innes House; and at many points cists and flint and stone implements of neolithic age have been found, as well as some fine gold armlets. A particularly large and interesting find of these was made in 1870 on the farm of Meft near the SW border. The place seemed to be an abandoned manufactory of flint implements. All the best of the specimens found are now in the Antiquarian Museum in Edinburgh, and an interesting account of some of them and of all the pre-historic antiquities of the parish will be found in a paper by the Rev. James Morrison in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland for 1871. It seems to have been in this parish that Malcolm IV. defeated the Mormaer of Moray and his followers in 1160, when the lands of Innes between Lossie and Spey were granted to Bereowald of Flanders, and large settlements of 'peaceful' Flemings introduced. Prior to this David I. had attempted to introduce civilisation among the Celtic natives of the district, by the foundation of a priory, which stood on low ground to the ENE of the village. No remains of the buildings have existed since 1654, when the material was carried off and used for the construction of a granary at Garmouth and the repair of the manse and churchyard wall. The site can still be traced. Founded in 1125, the priory was a cell of Dunfermline Abbey, the Benedictines who were its first inmates coming from Canterbury. It was united to Pluscarden by a bull of Pope Nicholas V. in 1453, and the buildings seem thereafter to have fallen into decay. In 1866 some oak beams and a curious bronze vessel were found on the site. The former are in the Elgin Museum, and the latter is at Duff House. The possessions of the priory were extensive, and included the lordship of Urquhart, Fochabers, lands in Durris, Auldearn, and Dalcross, and fishings on the Spey. The S and E parts of the parish were in 1591 erected into a temporal lordship in favour of Alexander Seton, Commendator of Pluscarden, Baron Urquhart, afterwards Earl of Dunfermline. They were purchased by the Duke of Gordon in 1730, and in 1777 passed by excambion to the Earl of Fife, who had acquired the estate of Innes in 1767. An old ruined church, dedicated to St Margaret, wife of Malcolm Ceannmor, which stood at the village, is said to have been pulled down and the materials used in the construction of the present Free and Established churches in 1844. The village of Urquhart, in the SW, 1¾ mile NE of Lhanbryd station, is a small place, occupied mostly by crofters and labourers. The parish, which contains also the villages of Kingston and Garmouth at the mouth of the Spey, is traversed for 1¾ mile on the S by the Forres and Keith section of the Highland railway, and for 4 miles near the centre by the Elgin and Buckie section of the Great North of Scotland railway, with stations at Urquhart village and Garmouth, the former 5 and the latter 8 miles E by N of Elgin; and there are a number of good district roads. The parish is in the presbytery of Elgin and the synod of Moray, and the living is worth £350 a year. The villages of Garmouth and Kingston, though in the civil parish, are quoad sacra in the parish of Speymouth. The parish church, on high ground to the N of the village, is a good building, with a high square tower, erected in 1844 and reseated in 1878. There are Free churches at the village and at Garmouth. Under the school board, the Urquhart public school, with accommodation for 195 pupils, had in 1884 an attendance of 151, and a grant of £158, 5s. 2d. The school at Garmouth is under the Speymouth school board. The largest proprietor is the Earl of Fife, and the Duke of Richmond and Gordon holds an annual value of more than £1100, 2 other proprietors hold each between £500 and £100, 6 hold each between £100 and £50, and 10 hold each between £50 and £20. Mansions are Innes House and Leuchars House. Valuation (1860) £6970, (1883) £8052, 14s. Pop. (1801) 1023, (1831) 1019, (1861) 2532, (1871) 2368, (1881) 2139, of whom 1187 were in the ecclesiastical parish.—Ord. Sur., sh. 95, 1876.

* Some authorities hold that the line ought to follow the present channel of the Spey entirely.

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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