Britannia, by William Camden


Small T THE utmost Coast of all Britain, which with the front of the shore looks full against the North-pole, and hath directly over its head the middle of the tail of Ursa Major, that, as Cardan thought, causes Translations of Empires; was inhabited, as we may see in Ptolemy, by the Cornabii.Cornabii. Among them, he places the river Nabeus;Nabeus a River. and these two names are so nearly related in sound, that the People seem to have taken their name from the river upon which they dwelt. Neither is the modern name Strath-Navern, that is, the Valley by the Navern, altogether unlike them in sound. ⌈The Earl of Sutherland is superiour of this Country, and his eldest Son is stiled from it Lord Strathnavern. The chief Inhabitants are the Mackays; of whom Sir Donald was by King Charles the first created Lord Rae, from a place belonging to him in the Country of Cathnes.⌉

The Country hath little cause to brag of its fertility. By reason of the sharpness of the air it is * * Minus culta.very thinly inhabited, and thereupon extreamly infested with the fiercest of † † No Wolves now in Scotland.Wolves; which, to the great damage of the Countrey, not only furiously set upon the Cattle, but even upon the Inhabitants themselves, to the manifest danger of their Lives. Insomuch, that not only in this, but in many other parts of Scotland, the Sheriffs and respective Inhabitants are bound by Act of Parliament, in their several Sheriffdoms, to go a hunting thrice every year, to destroy the Wolves and their Whelps. But (if in this northern Climate, it may be any comfort to them) these People, of all Britain, have the shortest nights, and longest days.The longest Day. For by its being distant fifty nine degrees and forty minutes from the Equator, the longest day is eighteen hours and twenty five minutes, and the shortest night five hours and forty five minutes. So that the ancient Panegyrist was in the wrong, when he said that the Sun did not set at all here, but slip’d aside, and glanced upon the Horizon; relying upon the authority of Tacitus, who says, That the extreme points and plain levels of the earth having low shades, rais’d no darkness at all. But Pliny speaks more truth and reason, where he treats of the longest days, according to the inclination of the solar Circle to the Horizon: The longest days, says he, in Italy, are fifteen hours, in Britain seventeen; where the light nights in Summer prove that by experience, which reason obliges one to believe, That at the Solstice, when the Sun approaches nearer to the Pole of the World, the places of the earth under [the Pole] have day six months, * * Angusto Lucis ambitu.through the light’s having but a narrow compass; and night for so long, when it is far remote in Winter.

In this utmost tract (that is carried further to the East by Ptolemy, whereas indeed it bears full North; for which Roger Bacon, in his Geography, taxed him long ago,) Tacitus says, That a prodigious vast space of Land runs out in length, and grows narrow like a wedge. Here, three Promontories shoot out into the Sea, which are mentioned by ancient Writers. Berubium. Berubium, now Urdehead, near the Village Bernswale; Virvedrum,Virvedrum. now Dunsby, otherwise Duncans-bay, which is look’d upon as the remotest Promontory of Britain; and Orcas, now Howburn, which is placed by Ptolemy over-against the Orcades, the utmost of all the Islands. This is likewise called by Ptolemy Tarvedrum and Tarvisium,Tarvisium
for this reason (if I guess aright) because it determines Britain. For Tarvus,What Tarvus signifies. in the British tongue, signifies an ending; with which give me leave to make an End of this Book. I shall treat of the Orcades, Ebudes, and Shetland, in their proper places.

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