Britannia, by William Camden


Vacomagi Sinus Vararis.
Big B BEyond the mountain Grampius, (which by a continual range of neighbouring hills, extends its ridge with many risings and sinkings as far as this country,) the Vacomagi in ancient times had their habitation, upon the Bay of Vararis, where now Murray lies, in Latin Moravia; noted for its fertility, pleasantness, and the profitable product of fruit-trees. ⌈It comprehends the Shires of Elgin and Nairn. Upon the north, it hath Murray-firth and the water of Nesse, which separates it from the shire of Invernesse; to the east, it is separated from Bamf-shire by the River of Spey; to the South it hath Badenoch; and to the west, part of Lochabyr. It is about thirty miles long, and twenty broad. The shire of Elgin comprehends all that part which lieth to the east of the River Findorne; and the shire of Nairne, that which is upon the West-side of the said River. They have an air very wholsom, and winters mild: the Low-country bears very much Corn, which is soon ripe; but the High-country is fitter for pasture. They have many great woods of Firs and other trees, especially upon the River of Nairne.⌉

The Spey, a noble river, ⌈famous for the incredible number of Salmon taken in it,⌉ opens a passage through this country into the sea; wherein it lodges it self, after it hath watered Rothes-Castle; whence the Family of Lesley derive their title of Earl, ever since King James the second advanced George Lesley to the honour of Earl of Rothes; ⌈of which Family John, Earl of Rothes, High Commissioner for King Charles the second to the Parliament, was created Duke of Rothes by the said King, to him, and the heirs male of his body; for want of which the Dukedom expired, but the title of Earl still remains.⌉ Of the river Spey, thus our Poet Necham:

Spey loca mutantis præceps agitator arenæ
Inconstans certas nescit habere vias.
Officium lintris corbis subit, hunc regit audax
Cursus labentis nauta fluenta sequens

Great Spey drives forward with impetuous force
Huge banks of sand; and knows no certain course.
Here for a boat an Osier-pannier, row’d
By some bold peasant, glides along the flood.

Loxa. The river Loxa, mentioned by Ptolemy, and now call’d Losse, hides it self hard by in the sea. Elgin. Near this, we have a sight of Elgin, ⌈a Royal-Burgh, where are the ruins of an ancient Castle, as also of one of the most stately Churches in the Kingdom.⌉ In this Town (as also in Forres adjoining) J. Dunbar of Cumnock, descended from the House of the Earls of March, * * Admini­sters, C.administered justice as hereditary Sheriff; ⌈whose descendant, is Alexander Dunbar of Westfield, Sheriff of Murray; the title of Cumnock being left, upon selling the Barony thereof about the year 1600; which now belongs to the Countess of Dumfries.⌉ But when the Losse is ready to enter the sea, it finds a more plain and soft soil, and spreads it self into a lake well stored with Swans, wherein the Herb Olorina grows plentifully. Upon it, stands Spiny-Castle, of which, Alexander of the House of LindsayBarons Spiny. was the first Baron, ⌈but the title is now extinct.⌉ Baron Kinloss. As also Kinloss, a near neighbour, and formerly a famous Monastery (call’d by some Kill-flos, from certain flowers miraculously springing up on a sudden, when the Corps of King Duff, murdered and hidden there, was first found ** In the year 972.;) which † † Hath, C.had for its Lord, Edward Brus, Master of the Rolls in England, and of His Majesty’s Privy Council; created by King James the sixth Baron Brus of Kinloss, ⌈whose Son was created by King Charles the first Earl of Elgin, and his Son, by King Charles the second, Earl of Ailsbury in England. In this Shire also, Sir Alexander Sutherland of Duffus,Duffus. an ancient Cadet of the family of Sutherland, was created ¦ ¦ Now forfeited by Attainder.Lord Duffus, in the beginning of the reign of King Charles the second.

Not far from hence, is an Obelisk of one Stone; a Monument of the fight between King Malcolm, Son of Keneth, and Sueno the Dane.⌉

Thus much for the shore. More inward, where Bean Castle now stands, (thought to be the Banatia,Banatia. mentioned by Ptolemy) there was found in the year 1460, a Marble Vessel very finely engraved, and full of Roman Coins. Hard by, is Nardin or Nairne,Nairne Sheriffdom. ⌈a Royal Burgh, and⌉ an Hereditary Sheriffdom of the Cambells of Lorn; where, in a Peninsula, stood a Tower of mighty height, and with wonderful works, and formerly held by the Danes. ⌈From this place, Robert Nairn was advanced by King Charles the second to the honour of Lord Nairn; whose only daughter marrying the Lord William Murray, this title descends to the issue of the said Marriage. Killernen. In the Parish of Killernen and Shire of Nairne, is a Grove, enclosed with a Trench or dry Ditch, having two Entries to it. All who live near it, account it sacred, and will not so much as cut a rod out of it; and it is observable, that in a field hard by, are several large stones, fallen down and lying out of order; such, as those MonumentsVid. Mernis. (that are elsewhere conjectured to have been Heathen-Temples) did use to consist of.⌉

A little way from Nairn, is Logh-Nesse,Logh-Nesse. a very large lake, three and twenty miles long; the water whereof is so warm, that even in this cold climate, it never freezes; ⌈as neither doth the water of Nesse:⌉ From that, by a very small Isthmus of hills, the Logh Lutea or Lothea (which by Aber lets it self into the western Ocean) is divided. Upon these lakes, stood anciently two noted Fortifications; called, from the Loghs, one Innerness, the other Innerlothy. Innerness hath the * * Marquiss of Huntley, C.Duke of Gordon for its hereditary Sheriff; who hath a large Jurisdiction hereabouts. ⌈The Sheriffdom comprehends Lochaber, Badinoch, and the South part of Roffe. To the South it hath the Brae of Marr and Athol; to the West, the Western-sea; to the North, Rosse; and to the East, part of Murray-frith. The length of it from Inverlochee to Invernesse, in a streight line, is fifty miles. It has plenty of Iron-Ore; and great woods of Firr, ten miles long; with some large woods of Oak: and that part called Badenoch, has many Deer.

Invernesse. Invernesse * * Theatr. Scotiæ, the head town of this Sheriffdom, and the Sheriff’s seat, where he keeps his Court. It is commodiously situated upon the South side of the River Nesse, on the very bank of it; which renders it exceeding convenient for commerce with the neighbouring places. It was formerly the seat of the Kings of Scotland; and has a Castle standing on a pleasant hill, with a fine prospect into the fields and town. Near the Castle, there is a Bridge built over the water of Nesse, consisting of seven Arches, all of hewn stone. It hath a harbour for smaller vessels. There are in it two Churches, one for the English, and the other for the Irish. Near the town of Innerlochie, is a fort with a garrison, upon the bay of Lochyol.⌉

But take here what J. Johnston writes upon these two places:


Imperii veteris duo propugnacula quondam,
Primaque regali mœnia structa manu,
Turribus oppositis adverso in limine spectant
Hæc Zephyrum, Solis illa orientis equos.
Amnibus hinc atque hinc cincta, utique piscibus amnes
Fœcundi, hæc portu perpete tuta patet.
Hæc fuit, at jacet heu, jam nunc sine nomine tellus,
Hospita quæ Regum, est hospita facta feris.
Altera spirat adhuc tenuis sufflamina vitæ,
Quæ dabit & fati turbine victa manus.
Dic ubi nunc Carthago potens? ubi Martia Roma?
Trojaque & immensæ ditis opes Asiæ?
Quid mireris enim mortalia cedere fatis
Corpora? cum videas oppida posse mori

Two stately Forts the Realm’s old guardians stood,
The first great walls of royal builders prov’d.
Their lofty turrets on the shores were shown,
One to the rising, one the setting sun.
All round, well stock’d with fish, fair rivers lay,
And one presents a safe and easie bay.
Such once it was; but now a nameless place,
Where Princes lodg’d, the meanest cattel graze.
T’ other survives, and faintly breaths as yet,
But must e’re long submit to conqu’ring fate.
Where’s haughty Carthage now with all her power?
Where’s Rome; and Troy that rul’d as great before?
Where the vast riches of the Asian shore?
No wonder then that we frail men should die,
When towns themselves confess mortality.

Phil. Trans. N.254. ⌈As to the Loch-ness beforementioned; upon it stood the famous Castle of Urqhart, consisting of seven great Towers, said to be built by the Cumines, and overthrown by King Edward the first. About four miles to the westward of which Castle, on the very top of a high hill, two miles perpendicular, is a Lake of cold fresh water, about thirty fathom in length, and six in breadth; no Stream running to it or from it. It could never yet be fathomed; and at all Seasons of the year, it is equally full, and never freezes; as on the contrary, about seventeen miles to the west, on the north-side of a Mountain called Glen-in-tea,Glen-in-tea. there is a Lake called Lochan-wyn or Green-lake,Green-lake. which is always covered with Ice, Summer and Winter; as is also the Lake StraglashPhil. Trans. N.114. at Glencanich, in the middle. Straherrick. Another Lake there is in Straherrick, which never freezes all over (in the most vehement frosts) till February; after which, one night will freeze it all over, and two nights make it of a considerable thickness. The same thing hath been observed also in two other Lakes, one of which is called Loch-Monar.

West from the end of the river Nesse, is an Arm of the Sea called Beaulie-Frith,Beaulie-Frith. which undoubtedly was heretofore firm Land, inasmuch as near the middle of it are found long oaken Trees, under the Sand, with the roots: and in it also are three great heaps of Stones, called Cairns; the greatest of which, being accessible at Low-water, appears to have been a Burial-place, from the Urns that are sometimes discovered in it.buried underground graves

Dr. Garden, to Mr. Aubrey. In this Shire, are many of the Stone-Monuments, spoken of more at large in the County of Mernis. And one of them, in the Parish of Enerallen,Enerallen. is full of Groves, and was, within the memory of the last age, an ordinary place of burial, at least for poor People; and continues to be so at this day, for Children who die without Baptism, and for Strangers. Another, in the Countrey of Strathspey, and Shire of Inverness, and Parish of Duthell,Duthell. consists of two Circles of Stones, and is called Chapel-Piglag,Chapel-Piglag. from a Lady of that name, who used to repair thither for the exercise of her devotion, before a Church was built in that part of the Country. Within half a mile of which, is a Bush or Grove of Trees, of no great bigness, which is reputed so Sacred, and held in such Veneration, that no body will cut a branch out of it; and the Women who dwell near, when they recover out of Child-bed, go thither to return their Thanks to God, as in other places of the Kingdom they repair to Churches for that end. This Grove is called, in their language; the Bush of the Chapel, and, the Bush belonging to Piglag; in the midst of which, is a Well or Fountain, call’d the Well of the Chapel; and this also is esteem’d Sacred.⌉

Earls of Murray. In the reign of King Robert Brus, Thomas Randolph, his sister’s son (a person that took infinite pains in the service of his Country, and met with great oppositions) was very famous under the title of Earl of Murray. In the reign of King Robert the second, John de Dunbar took the King’s daughter in marriage, as an amends for her lost virginity, and had with her the Earldom of Murray. Under King James the second, William Creichton, Chancellor of the Kingdom, and Archibald Douglass, had a violent contest for this Earldom; when, against the Laws and ancient Customs of the Realm, Douglass, who had married the younger daughter of James de Dunbar Earl of Murray, was prefer’d before Creichton, who had married the elder; by the power and interest that William Earl Douglass had with the King: which was so very great, that he did not only advance this brother to the Earldom of Murray, but another brother likewise to the Earldom of Ormond, and two of his Cousins to the Earldoms of Angus and Morton. But this his greatness (a thing never to be trusted-to when exorbitant) was his ruin soon after. Under King James the fifth, his own brother, whom he had constituted Vicegerent of the Kingdom, enjoyed this honour. And James, a natural Son of King James the fifth, had this honour conferred on him by his sister Queen Mary; who ill requited her, when, having got some few of the Nobility on his side, he deposed her; a most pernicious Precedent for crowned Heads. But the punishment of Heaven soon fell upon him, being quickly after shot through with a Musquet bullet. musket His only daughter brought this title to her husband James Steward of Down, ⌈(whose Father had been created Lord Down by King James the sixth,)⌉ descended of the Blood Royal, to wit, of the Dukes of Albany; which James being slain by some who envied him, left behind him his son James, the successor in this honour; ⌈and it still continues in the same Noble Family.⌉

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52