Britannia, by William Camden


Big S SOmewhat higher, lies Cathnes, ⌈called also the Shire of Wike;⌉ which butts upon the German Ocean, and is indented (as it were) by the many windings and breakings of the shore. ⌈To the South and South-west it is divided from Sutherland by the Ord, and a continued ridge of Hills, as far as the hill of Knook-finn: Then, along the course of the river of Hollowdail, from the rise to the mouth of it, and the Mountains Drumna Hollowdale: The same river is the bound between it and Strathnaver. To the East it is wash’d with the Ocean; to the North it hath Pentland-Frith, which divideth it from Orknay. Its length from South to North is thirty five miles; its breadth, about twenty. The Woods there are but few and small; being rather Copices of birch. In the Forest of Moravins and Berridale, is great plenty of Red-deer, and Roe-bucks. They have good store of Cows, Sheep, Goats, and Wild-fowl. Dennet. At Dennet, there is Lead; at Old-wike,Old-wike. Copper; and Iron-ore in several places.

The whole Coast, except the Bays, is high rocks; so that they have a great number of Promontories, viz. Promontories. Sandsidehead, at the West-end of Cathnesse, pointing North to the opening of Pentland-Firth. Holborn-head, and Dinnet-head, both pointing North to the Firth: Duncans-bay-head, which is the North-east point of Cathnesse, where the Firth is but twelve miles over; and near it is the ordinary ferry to Orknay, called Duncan’s-bay: Noshead, pointing North-east: Clytheness, pointing East.⌉

The Catini. Here, in Ptolemy’s time, dwelt the Catini, falsly written in some Copies Carini; amongst whom the same Ptolemy places the river Ila,The River Ila. which may seem to be the present Wifle. Grazing and fishing are the main income of the Inhabitants of this Countrey. The chief Castle therein is called Girnego,Girnego. the usual residence of the Earls of Cathnes. The Episcopal See is at Dornok ⌈(standing between the rivers of Portnecouter and Unes,)⌉ a Village otherwise obscure ⌈heretofore, but now a Burrough Royal;⌉ where King James the fourth appointed the Sheriff of Cathnes to reside, or else at Wik, as occasion should require.

⌈A little East of Dornok, is a Monument like a Cross, called the Thane or Earl’s Cross; and another near Eubo, call’d the King’s Cross, where one of the Kings, or chief Commanders of the Danes, is said to have been slain and buried.

Wick. Though Wick be a Royal Burgh, and the head Courts kept there; yet ThursoThurso. (only a Burgh of Barony) is more populous; where also the Judges reside. It is a secure place for Ships of any burthen to ride in, being defended by Holburn-head.

In these parts, are many foundations of antient Houses now ruinous; supposed to have formerly belonged to the Picts. Many Obelisks also are erected here and there, and in some places several of them together.⌉

Earls of Cathnes. The Earls of Cathnes were anciently the same with the Earls of the Orcades, but afterwards became distinct; and by the eldest daughter of one Malise, who was given in marriage to William Sincler the King’s * * Panitario.Pantler, his Posterity came to the honour of Earls of Cathnes, which they still enjoy.


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