Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed.
Glenora Single Malt Whisky

Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.
Scottish Review

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Notes on Highland Woods, Ancient and Modern
Taken from the Transactions of the Gaelic Society

Inverness-shire is not only the largest county in Great Britain, but the best wooded, and whether taken from an archaic or a modem point of view, it affords us the most interesting illustrations of what the ancient forests of Scotland were, and what modem plantations have become. In its glens and straths there are many evidences to be found of the great forests of oak and fir which constituted the primeval grandeur of our country ; in other places, on its heaths and moors, we can vividly imagine what a naked and desolate land Scotland must have been in the seventeenth century when, as the result of centuries of waste and wanton destruction, the forests had disappeared, and the nation cried out for more timber; and now, the flourishing plantations which grace our straths, glens, and hillsides suggest to one the silvan glories of a thousand years ago. These remarks indicate the lines upon which I propose dealing with my subject—and it is one which, by the way, has not yet found a place in the Transactions of the Society. This latter circumstance reminds me that a little latitude might be taken with the earlier and more general aspects of tree history, especially as I have found the literature of the subject scarce and fragmentary. It will be interesting to glance at the condition of Scotland prior to and during the dark ages; the middle ages, when the nation was consolidating itself, and laying the foundation of its agricultural and commercial importance, are instructive, chiefly through the enactments of Parliaments which had became distracted over the treeless condition of the country; while the disappearance and re-appearance of the woods within the last two centuries form a curious chapter in Scottish history. In Inverness-shire itself, with its 163,000 acres of woods, it will only be necessary to deal with the leading estates, so far as they illustrate the matter. In Strathspey, we have on the Scafield property the greatest planting experiment on record, viz., 50,000 acres; the Lovat country it is important to deal with as a noted instance of perpetuating woods by natural reproduction ; and on the Lochiel estate we will find, perhaps, more relics of byegone ages, and better examples of the fir in its native fastnesses, than can be found elsewhere in Scotland.

Historians invariably remind us, in a poetic form of language, that at the dawn of our history, when the Roman legions made their advent, Scotland was one dark and dreary forest, as. impenetrable as that of Central Africa, and inhabited by a race only a little bigger and scarcely less savage. I am not disposed to adopt that extreme view of our ancestors, nor do I think the country was so densely tree-grown as some imaginative writers represent. The red haired, large limbed, naked, and bare-footed Caledonians of Tacitus fought in chariots, with themselves, and when they opposed the Roman hosts. Chariots suggest large open spaces; the rearing of black cattle required pasture. But, generally speaking, Scotland was then a tree-grown country, with its greatest forest extending into Badenoch and Strathspey, and ramifying into every Highland strath until it spread over Sutherlandshire, and vanished in the sterility of Caithness. Let us pass this early chapter of forest history in hurried review. As the eye dwells on the natural pine forests of Strathspey, their vast expanse swelling boldly up the mountain sides, the contrast of the dazzling snow patches on the Cairngorms deepening the hue of their sombre green, the imagination takes a roving excursion far into the retreating centuries, and one is speedily entranced with the kaleidoscope of a silvan romance. First comes Scotland in its primeval grandeur of mountain, forest, and flood, the war cry of the sturdy aborigines finding an echo in the woods wherever the tribal battle was waged; or the shout of the barbarian sportsmen as they merrily, with bow, sling, and lance, pursue the crusade against the wolves, and the bears, and the reindeer in the fastnesses. Here is Scottish freedom in embryo ; and what a curious picture the imagination makes of that mysterious period. The peaceful scene changes, and there is commotion in the forest, and a rendezvous by the river of Spey. Tribal differences are forgotten, and the wild denizens of the wood are allowed to range unmolested. The long heard of invader has at last planted his foot on Caledonian soil, and the ancient race of the Highlands gather, in their rude panoply of war, to make common cause against the foe. Blood flows freely in the Grampian forests, and many brave deeds are done, but steadily the Roman legions cut their way through the pathless tracks of Strathspey, and bye-and-by they stand victorious on the gently-lapped shores of the Moray Firth. Victorious ! but at what a cost. Sullenly, the native warriors seek the silent forest glades, happy only in the thought that 50,000 men of the invading hosts have fallen as the trees they felled, and that their carcases make sleek the wolves of Strathspey and the Don. Time has passed, and there is again a gathering of Caledonians in Strathspey. The instruments of war have been laid aside. Huge carcases of the native bull, the elk, and the reindeer are brought in, and fires are ablaze; the plunder of war is exhibited, and preparations are made for a feast such as has not yet been witnessed by Spey’s marshy banks. For the strongholds of the Roman invader are deserted, the forests no longer resound to their martial tread, and the mighty firs of Duthil cease to bend to their axes. Barbarian tactics and courage have succeeded, in the long run, against the gleaming battalions of Rome, and North Scotland is once more a free country. Another period passes, and the warriors of the Highland forests march westward to fight an invader who defies them and refuses to be shaken off. The clash of battle is heard through the whole century long; forest fires blacken and desolate the country; gradually the turmoil ceases, and there is a mingling and an absorption of races. The scene ends peacefully at Scone, in the heart of a forest, where the clans gather to do homage to the Scottish king. Caledonia retains its pine woods in diminished plenty ; and the foundation of its rude agriculture is to be laid ; but the times are still rude, and the early kings have rough work before them. The struggles in which they engage with the Vikings and the Danes slowly weld the kingdom into unity and consistency, and Scottish nationality emerges a concrete thing. And so we glide into the middle ages; and nothing seems so permanent as the Strathspey pine forests in the midst of so much revolution and change. But they, too, give way, as in other parts of the country. At last the law comes to the rescue of the outraged forests, now threatened with extinction, except in the remote Highlands, by the cry for more land and less timber. It was a hard struggle, this one about timber, against evil design and accident, carelessness and cupidity ; and as the eye rests to-day on the forests of Duthil, and Abernethy and Rothiemurchus, one feels thankful that remnants of the primeval pines survived the destructive centuries to associate the present with the past silvan glories of the land.

During the two hundred years which intervened between the death of William the Lion and the ascent of King James the First to the throne of Scotland, the woods and forests of the country suffered great destruction. From the time John Baliol servilely sold the independence of his country, revolted, and, attired in his shirt and drawers, again abjectly submitted to the haughty King Edward in the kirkyard of Strickathrow—fit place for such a circumstance—the country was being almost perpetually wasted by the ravages of war. Wallace, Robert the Bruce, his son David II., the false Albany, and King Blearie (Robert II.) rose in succession and acted their eventful and chequered parts ; the tide of war flowed and ebbed over the land; and, latterly, outrage and violence prevailed, and security for life and property was unknown. When King James reached Scotland in 1424, happy in the restoration of his freedom, and in the possession of his “milk-white dove,” now become his Queen, he found his kingdom in a wretched condition. The feudal nobles, accustomed to a weak and feeble Government, kept the whole country in confusion with their feuds and revenges, their fierce wars on one another, and their cruel oppressions of the people. The law was a dead letter, and theft and robbery were acts almost licensed by custom. James in his second Parliament found it necessary to pass, among other beneficent laws, an Act for the preservation of forest trees and greenwood, a proof that the immense forests which had once covered the face of the country, and were so strictly guarded by William the Lion, were fast disappearing, and that a scarcity of timber had begun to be apprehended. The houses of the people were in those days for the most part constructed of wood, and if there was growing timber in the vicinity paterfamilias did not scruple to provide himself with the best of materials in the shape of matured oak, without reckoning with the owner. The first enactment was directed against the stealers of greenwood and fruit, the breakers of orchards, the peelers of trees, and the destroyers of wood. Such depredations were generally committed under cover of darkness, and under the statute here referred to a modern lawyer would have no difficulty in getting off his client if the offence happened to have taken place during the day time, dear and to the point, so far as they went, those ancient laws were, however, suited to the rough administration of the times. Technical objections as to relevancy and irrelevancies were then unknown; but as the nation grew in civilisation- and intelligence it is interesting to observe the increasing complexity with which the legal net was woven. The penalty attached to any of the crimes mentioned in the Act described was forty shillings to the King should a conviction be obtained before the justice, and the stealers of wood had, in addition, to indemnify the party “skaithed.”

The year after the discovery of America, James the Fourth, considering “the great and unnumerable riches that is tinte in fault of schippes,” set himself to create a Scottish fleet. All burghs and towns within the realm suitably situated were ordered to build, according to their substance, ships of not less than twenty tons, properly equipped for fishing and commerce, for the desire of the king in the first place, though he had “policie and conquest” as his ulterior aim, was to create a nursery of skilled and hardy seamen. Shipwrights and cannon founders were brought from abroad, and the king, in his enthusiasm, personally superintended the building of ships of war. In course of time he made the navy of Scotland a powerful one for that period, and the Scottish flag inspired respect in all seas. The construction of so many ships was an enormous drain upon the woods and forests of the country; and some ten years afterwards we find another law on the statute book “anent the artickle of greene wood, because that the wood of Scotland is utterly destroyed.” Strangely enough, however, the scarcity of timber is not even partly referred to the building of a navy, but to the circumstance that the fine for the malicious felling or burning of it was so little Henceforth the penalty was to be five pounds, and the old Act was renewed with this exception. That this was not exactly the policy required in the circumstances is proved by subsequent enactments. For the protection of trees a heavy fine was all good enough if vigorously enforced, but as regards the restoration of the woods and forests that had been destroyed it was of no practical moment. In the course of some thirty years the general barren condition of the country called into existence a law for the planting of woods, forests, and orchards. This was in the fourth Parliament of King James the Fifth (1535). It was ordained that every man, spiritual or temporal, having lands of the value of a hundred pounds, and in whose lands there was no timber, was to plant trees to the extent of three acres, or under, “as his heritage is mair or less;” and tenants of such lands were to plant yearly “for every marke land ane tree.” The penalty for non-compliance was ten pounds. At the same time the crime of destroying green wood by cutting, peeling, burning, or felling was to be more seriously punished. For the first offence a fine of ten pounds was to be exacted, for the second offence twenty pounds, and if a person broke the law a third time he was to suffer death ! The adoption of these extreme measures indicates the straits to which the nation was reduced for timber. Even the King’s own forests had suffered, and it became necessary to pass an Act for their better preservation and protection for the pasturing of wild beasts and hunting. Horse, sheep, and cattle found trespassing in the Royal forests in future were to be escheated to the King. Timber now came to be imported, and in 1540 a law was passed empounding the Provosts, Bailies, and Councils of Burghs to fix the prices of wine, salt, and timber at all ports at which cargoes were landed, including Inverness. The cause of this enactment was “the exorbitant dearth and prices of wine, salt, and timmer.” A reasonable price having been fixed, the King was to be first served, then the nobles of the realm, such as prelates and barons, and afterwards the lieges of lower degree. In order that the civic functionaries might be able to act as arbiters in the matter of prices, they were required to make inquiry as to how timber, wine, and salt were selling in other countries. The Parliament of Queen Mary amended this law in so far as the price fixed had to be published for four days before any sales could be effected.

The forest laws of King James the Sixth consisted of three Acts, all having particular reference to the destruction and decay of the royal forests. As to the necessity for, and the tenor of those statutes, they form a significant comment on the character of the period. It would seem that the people continued to study their own convenience and perpetuate their habits in preference to the royal commands, for in no other department of law-making in the olden times was there so much enacting, and re-enacting, and confessions of failure than in forest legislation. The three Acts to which we allude are an illustration iu point. In 1592 James the Sixth passed a law for the better keeping of the royal parks and forests. The preamble states that great skaith had been done to such property in consequence of the liberty “every man” usurped by putting all kinds of “guddes” in them. The parks and forests had been utterly destroyed, and rendered unprofitable for his Majesty’s use. It was therefore ordained that whatever animals were pastured in the forests without a licence were to be forfeited to the King, and proclamation of the law was ordered to be made in the parochial kirks and at the market crosses in the burghs next adjacent to the parks and forests. Instead of being diminished, the evil increased, and so in the short space of two years after, Parliament is again found legislating on the subject more comprehensively and severely. It was observed, says the new statute, that the woods, forests, deer, and fowl were daily decreasing, by reason of the Acts and statutes set down against the destroyers of woods and forests, and slayers of wild beasts, not being put into execution. Persons took the liberty to destroy and slay “at their awin appetites.” The burden of the new Act was that, “for the better entertainment of his royal pastime in the time coming,” persons who cut timber or green wood within his Majesty’s woods or parks, or should slay deer, pheasants, fowls, partridges, or other wild fowl with gun, cross-bow, handbow, dogs or gim, without special licence and tolerance, or who killed deer which had strayed in times of storms to barnyards, were to have their whole goods escheated, and a criminal prosecution instituted. All animals found pasturing within the confines of the forests were to be confiscated. Hunting or shooting within even a radius of six miles of the royal woods, parks, castles, and palaces were to be punished with a fine of a hundred pounds, or imprisonment if the person was not good for that amount. These sweeping measures did not, however, restrain the law-breakers, and twenty-three years afterwards, for the third time in the reign of James the Sixth, Parliament again had forest legislation under review. The tone of this Act was even more bewailing than the others. It is regretted that the forests within the realm in which deer are kept are altogether wasted and decayed by shiellings, pasturing of horses, mares, cattle, oxen and other bestial, cutting of woods within the said forests, shooting and slaying of deer, venison, and wild fowl, and that divers “ loveable ” Acts, laws, and statutes for the punishment of transgressors had not been put duly into execution in time gone bye. The reason mentioned for the inefficacy of the laws is that the keepers of the forests and others having right thereto had no power or jurisdiction to punish, and accordingly in all time coming foresters have conferred on them full power, privilege, and jurisdiction to call, convene, and pursue before them all transgressors of the Acts and statutes, hold courts, and inflict punishments.

The unique proceeding of constituting keepers of forests judges in breaches of forest laws appears to have been effectual in checking theft, trespass, and poaching. At all events, the suppression of such offences was not again made the subject of exceptional legislation. By the time Charles the Second came to the throne in 1661, all the ancient Acts, including the one last quoted, had fallen into desuetude. Henceforward legislation had for its object more the encouragement of planting than the punishment of thieves and poachers. The first Parliament of Charles revived the Act above noticed for the planting of woods, forests, and orchard's, passed by the fourth Parliament of James the Fifth, and not, as the Act in question has it, by the fourth Parliament of James the First. At this period a small beginning had been made in planting the country, and the little that had been done only showed how expedient and necessary it was that more be accomplished in this line, alike for the purposes of shipping and building and the improvement of the country. According to Sheriff Barclay, the Act of Charles the Second is still partly in observance. It was ordained that every heritor, life-renter, and wodsetter within the ancient kingdom of Scotland, with £1000 of yearly valued rent, shall enclose four acres of land yearly at least, and plant the same about with oak, elm, ash, plain, sauch, and other timber at three yards distance. The enclosing of lands by planting and ditching was also provided for; and for the better encouragement of heritors, and for the preserving of the planting and enclosures, it was farther enacted that whoever cut or broke trees should pay the heritors £20 for each tree, and in the event of the offending party not being able to meet the fine, he was to be liable to labour for the space of six weeks to the heritor, in return for “meat and drink allanerly.” It will be observed that tree cutting was again lifted out of the category of crime, and no doubt at the state of civilisation the country had reached, the penalty of death attached by James the Fifth to such offences was considered barbarous. Various other laws were passed in the seventeenth century for the punishment of timber thieves and malicious destroyers of trees, but the fine does not exceed £10 Scots. About the end of this century proprietors had taken up tree planting with something like earnestness, but there is reason to believe that they were induced to do so by considerations of profit more than by the statutes anent planting.


The history of every country shows that forests have decayed before the advance of civilization, by a law which was perhaps never in more vigorous operation than at the present time, when colonisation is proceeding briskly, and vast tracts of country are being cleared for the plough. But there is a material difference between decay and total disappearance. Colonists of to-day foresee the suicidal policy of clearing the country of their adoption entirely of timber, but our forefathers seem to have been charmingly oblivious to the ultimate result of continually cutting down, and never growing, either by guarding the natural forests, or by planting. However, the circumstances were extenuating. National wars and intestinal broils for centuries absorbed the attention and the energies of the nobles, and prevented them giving much attention to the beautifying of their estates, or to the future wants of the nation, particularly in the Highlands. It was only after the Crowns had been joined by the accession of Jamies the Sixth of Scotland to the throne vacated by Queen Elizabeth, that plantations began to be formed sparingly, and the ecclesiastical peace of Scotland had been secured before anything like a taste for planting was general. By this time the eighteenth century had been ushered in. England was far in advance of this country in respect of planting, thanks to such men as Evelyn, who took up the cause of tree culture with enthusiasm. For in England the clearances of timber had been no less remarkable than they were in Scotland. In the extensive transference of property on the seizure of Church lands by Henry the Eighth (1537), much timber was sold by the new owners, for the cowled occupants of the monasteries in the fertile districts in which they settled, both in England and Scotland, took a pride in surrounding their establishments with silvan beauty. Some of the oldest and most noted trees in Scotland, such, for instance, as the Capon Oak at Jedburgh, reared themselves under the shadows of the monasteries and abbeys. Hollingshead states that so much timber was thrown into the market after the downfall of the monasteries that cottagers who formerly built their dwellings of the willow and other cheap and common woods now constructed them -of the best oak. The demand for timber constantly increased, and the value of arable land rising at the same time, the natural forests became greatly circumscribed, till at last timber came to be imported. Then, and not till then, did proprietors of lands think of protecting the native woods, and afterwards of enclosing waste ground and allowing it to be naturally sown. Planting was not general in England till about the middle of the seventeenth century, half a century and more sooner than in Scotland.

John Evelyn was, as has been said, the first who, in 1664, rendered an extremely important service to the cause of arboriculture by the publication of his Silva, a quaint and interesting work which excited much interest at the time, and is now regarded as a valuable curiosity. He pleads the national importance of timber-growing with all the force of argument and eloquence at the command of a facile pen, and cites some strange things in support of his contention. “I have heard,” he says, “that in the great expedition of 1588 it was expressly enjoined the Spanish commanders of that classical Armada that if, after landing, they should not be able to subdue our nation and make good their conquest, they should yet be sure not to leave a tree standing in the forest of Dean.” This by way of showing that the country’s enemies appreciated the value of timber to a nation so much that they planned its destruction as a means of weakening the British Empire. Coal had not come into anything like general use in Evelyn’s time, and much wood was consumed as fuel. The increase of “devouring iron mills,” or foundries, he accordingly condemns as a sore drain on the timber of the country, and he exclaims in his indignation, “Oh that some of them were even removed into another country,” as they threatened to ruin old England. It would be better, he thinks, for the nation to purchase its iron ready-made from America than to exhaust the woods at home in its manufacture. He also mentions with approval a curious statute passed by Queen Elizabeth against the converting of timber trees into charcoal or other fuel for the use of iron mills if the trees were one foot square and grew within fourteen miles of the sea or navigable rivers. King James the First of England granted a patent to one of his subjects in 1612 for a scheme which the patentee estimated would effect a saving of £300,000 a year in timber. His secret was to melt iron and other metals with pit coal and sea coal (the name coal first went by in London, as it was mostly conveyed to the metropolis in ships), but, like many another patent, it did not succeed. That is a great pity, says Evelyn. At one time, he says in another part of his discourse, the whole island was one vast forest, and wood was so abounding that the people got as much as they liked for the carrying, whereas as he wrote it was so scarce that it was sold by weight. Even the great Caledonian Forest of Scotland had been demolished, so that there was not a single tree to show for it. His lament in this particular is, by the way, an exaggeration of the case. So much for John Evelyn; he died in 1706 at the age of 86, thus proving, as he says in his book, that the planting or many trees conduces to long life. Let us hope that it was also equally true of him, as he ventures to predict of others, that his plantations ensured his entrance into “those glorious regions above, the celestial Paradise planted with perennial groves and trees, all bearing immortal fruit.”

In 1727 a very curious book bearing on the bleak and barren aspect of Scotland was issued from the Edinburgh press. A pencilled note on the copy before us states that it was written by Brigadier Mackintosh of Borlum, while a prisoner in the Castle of Edinburgh. We believe there is no reason to doubt the statement, though there is no clue to the authorship on the title page, which simply bears that it is the work of “a lover of his country.” The title of the volume is, after the fashion of the time, ample and explanatory — “An essay on ways and means for ' enclosing, fallowing, planting, &c., Scotland; and that in sixteen years at farthest.” On the same page is the announcement that the volume was “ printed and sold at Mr Fairbaim’s shop in the Parliament Close (Edinburgh); and at Mr Millar’s, over against St Clemen’s Church in the Strand, London.” The author gives many evidences of a classical education; indeed, the allusions to Greek and Roman literature are somewhat pedantic and obtrusive in a work devoted to the discussion of practical agriculture. However, there is a great deal of shrewd thinking and pointed speaking in the essay, and whatever its influence may have been, the policy advocated for improving the appearance of the country, the system of agriculture, and the condition of the people, was timeous, and proceeded on correct lines, barring perhaps his proposal that his scheme should be carried out by force of statute. It appears to have been the case that in the reafforesting of the country, enlightened sentiment had greater effect than the terrors of the law, and by the time this publication saw the light, proprietors had begun to turn their attention both to planting and fallowing. The essay is addressed to the British Parliament, and it would seem, from the opening sentences of the dedication, that the author in his retirement had some doubts concerning its reception in high quarters. “No doubt,” he says, “but some of your lordships’ too officious friends in Scotland, to show how zealous they are to serve you, and how watchful against any attempts may touch your interest or dignity, may not only anticipate but endeavour to give to your lordships a wrong turn of my only design in writing this little essay ; and by the first post write :—Here is an anonymous and saucy fellow has writ a piece, and pretends improvements, but in it he squints at your superiorities: we advise your lordships you knock this plausible pamphlet on the head, and not allow it a motion in Parliament.” While repudiating any attempt against superiorities, he boldly states his opinion that if he was superior he would prefer “the solid greatness of enlarging his estate, to the empty, very often useless, one of being superior.” Vassals, he points out, are unsuited to the altered circumstances of the times. In days gone by they were useful in the hunting field, but the word hunting was now obsolete, for there was a standing law against such convocations; and even if there was not a law, there was nothing to hunt, as the few mountains and wastes left to red deer were rented by the superiors themselves for the raising of black cattle.

Our author describes Scotland as barren and uninteresting. Generally speaking, the country was destitute of woods, and some shires were entirely without a bush or stake in them. But he observed a more general disposition among the gentry towards improving than formerly, and in many shires some “virtuous and generous gentlemen ” had already given a good example in planting and enclosing. Those worthy patriots who had begun to give a new aspect of beauty to their beats, he considers worthy of having their names transmitted to posterity in letters of gold. Among others he mentions the Duchess Gordon; Sir William Gordon of Invergordon; a Mr Murray, who had reclaimed many acres of rich meadow out of a large lake in Moray; and General Ross, the laird of Balnagown, “a favourite of the virtuous and beneficent goddess Ceres, as well as of the martial and eloquent gods Mars and Mercury, for in his retirement he has convinced the world that he can, in a remote country seat, make himself conspicuous ns well as iu the army and senate house.” Since the union of the two kingdoms, proprietors had generally been in the habit of spending their time and money in London, and as their estates were entrusted, as regards management, to chamberlains and factors, whose principal object was to supply their employers with money, there was not much incentive to rapid improvement. Mr Mackintosh regrets the indolence of the proprietors, and reminds them of the industry of the people of former ages. Had the people of a former period not torn the land then ploughed out of moors, woods, and even rocks, and that at a time when they were constantly in arms, they of the later ages would, he thought, certainly have starved. On what estate had a rig of arable land been added since the union of the two crowns, though there had been better opportunities for improving the acres left by industrious predecessors? Forests and woods which formerly covered so much of the country had disappeared, and left room for the enlargement of the patrimony left by industrious ancestors, but things went from bad to worse, and luxury and spend* thriftiness held sway. The land was slovenly tilled, the system of agriculture wretched, and the country starving for wood—truly a terrible state of things for a patriotic mind to contemplate.

The scheme here propounded for the planting and enclosing of the nation was simple enough. Proprietors and tenants were to be compelled to enclose and plant so many acres of their lands yearly, the former obtaining the means for estate improvements by staying at home, free from the importunate attacks of “ duns and harpies,” and so retrenching their expenditure; the latter affording the moans in return for being relieved of all manner of service to his landlord, except the furnishing of firewood. “ For in Scotland, the nation being entirely destitute of forest, or, indeed, any quantity of woods to furnish bumwood, and pit-coal being found but in a little corner of it, both of which firing might be carried by a few loads; and a cellar of coals, or a moderate stack of bumwood, will serve for firing to a gentleman’s house in England or in the south of Scotland a year; whereas 20, yea 40, that bulk or number of loads will not serve of the dried moss they use in the most parts of Scotland; wherefore, I am afraid my farmer must serve his landlord in firing as formerly.” Besides throwing some light on the household economy of the beginning of the eighteenth century, this passage illustrates the strange literary style of the book. At this period, it was one thing to resolve upon planting, and quite another thing to obtain plants. Transit was not only difficult and expensive, but plants were exceedingly scarce. At a much later period, when planting was begun in Strathspey, we believe the plants were carried in baskets on people’s backs all the way from Perth. At the time of which our author speaks, the country had been so denuded of woods, forests, and even hedgerows, that quicksets were not obtainable. Speaking to this great obstacle to a policy of planting, the laird of Borlum suggests that the quicksets must be procured from England or Holland until this nation could raise nurseries of its own. There were but few nurserymen in Scotland then, and scarcity gave rise to extortion. To obviate this drawback, he proposed the formation of nurseries in each shire, to be managed by a well skilled gardener, who was to be allowed a competent salary by public contribution until he raised trees sufficient to sell at a profit, procuring the seedlings from England or Holland, where they were sold at a cheap rate, with public money. In England much had already been accomplished in the way of planting, and our author proposes the employment of English labourers in the beautifying of Scotch acres, so that it might be said that Scotland, from being one of the poorest, ugliest, and most barren countries of Europe, had become in a very few years one of the richest, most beautiful, and fertile of the nations of the earth. It was a strange circumstance that the general population regarded enclosing and planting with aversion, and did everything they could to prevent the improvement. The public seemed to view the new policy with alarm, as threatening their liberties and privileges, and weakening their hold on the land. On this point, Borlum says If we don’t procure their concurrence we shall very hardly improve either our mains or some. parcels of our estates, much less the whole; for generally these men, women, and children have conceived such aversion to enclosing, that they will and do, and I have felt it, destroy by night what you do by day ; they’ll drive their cattle and break down your new and unsolid bank, break, yea, cut your trees, and that so cunningly that next day he who did, or ordered the doing of it, shall bestir himself the most active to find out the wicked folks that last night broke so many of the laird’s planting.” Several Acts were passed to prevent such enormities, and there was a continual hunt for criminals. Money was scarce too, consequent in a great measure on a more luxurious style of living introduced since the Union, and there were many objections to the planting policy on the ground that it cost money, and that there was more necessity for encouraging the native industries, the herring fishing for example, and so create wealth before going in for ornament. But as Defoe says in his Caledonia :—

“With wealth and people happy, rich, and free,
You’d first improve the land and then the sea."

About half-a-century later (1773) Dr Samuel Johnson made his celebrated tour to the Hebrides. In the interval between this famous journey of the lexicographer and the publication we have just given an account of, a great deal had been accomplished, and was still being accomplished, in the beautifying of the countryside, but such had been the nakedness of the land that an enormous amount of planting had to be done before the appearance of the country was much altered. Dr Johnson seems to have overlooked the comparatively young plantations, and countenanced only old trees, remnants of the silvan grandeur of a former age. Such monarchs were, of course, few and far between. Bearing this in mind, the Doctor’s observations on the want of trees are more intelligible:—

“From the bank of the Tweed to St Andrews I had never seen a single tree, which I did not believe to have grown up far within the present century. Now and then about a gentleman’s house stands a small plantation, which in Scotch is called a policy, but of these there are few, and those few all very young. The variety of sun and shade is here utterly unknown. There is no tree for either shelter or timber. The oak and the thorn is equally a stranger, and the whole country is extended in uniform nakedness, except that in the road between Kirkcaldy and Cowpar, I passed for a few yards between two hedges. A tree might be a show in Scotland as a horse in Venice. At St Andrews Mr Boswell found only one, and recommended it to my notice; I told him that it was rough and low, or looked as if I thought so. This, said he, is nothing to another a few miles off. I was still less delighted to hear that another tree was not to be seen nearer. Nay, said a gentleman that stood by, I know but of this and that tree in the country. The lowlands of Scotland had once undoubtedly an equal portion of woods with other countries. Forests are everywhere gradually diminished, as architecture and cultivation prevail by the increase of people and the introduction of arts. But I believe few regions have been denuded like this, where many centuries must have passed in waste without the least thought of future supply. Davies observes, in his account of Ireland, that no Irishman had ever planted an orchard. For that negligence some excuse might be drawn from an unsettled state of life, and the instability of property; but in Scotland possession has long been secure and inheritance regular, yet it may be doubtful 'whether, before the Union, any man between Edinburgh and England had ever set a tree.”

Scotch proprietors had begun to feel a little proud of their plantations, and Johnson’s “Journey” was much abused on account of what was said on the subject of trees. Boswell smoothed matters considerably in his “Journal,” published after the death of Johnson, by explaining his friend’s mental attitude on the subject. He expected to find a landscape similarly clothed in foliage to that of England, and was disappointed, for, comparatively speaking, Scotland was naked, even in the estimation of the conscientious biographer of the great man. When Dr Johnson refers to the country in the neighbourhood of Fort-Augustus, he again remarks that the country is totally denuded of its wood, but that stumps both of oaks and firs showed that there had once been a forest of large timber. Curiously enough, Boswell did not come across quite so much desolation; but then he is more correct in detail, and Johnson is delightfully general in what he says of his journey, excepting perhaps when he speaks of his dinner. “ It was a delightful day,” says Boswell, “ Loch Ness, and the road upon the side of it, shaded with birch trees, and the hills above it, pleased us much.” The woods, had he penetrated some of our Highland glens, would have pleased him as much as the magnificence of the scenery; for, as will be shown farther on, there were at this time many large areas of natural forest in existence. The Doctor generalised too much in his narrative. When leaving Fort-Augustus he must have passed through a fringe of the old forest of Dalcattack, which lies on the west of the Moriston River, and facing Loch Ness, where many old trees should have been visible. On the Loch Ness side, this extensive forest was composed of oak and birch ; and on the shady side of the glen the native fir flourished and still flourishes, some of the trees being at least 150 years old. In 1665, we are told that a ship of prodigious bigness, for bulk and burden—never such a one had been seen on the north seas—was built at Inverness from fir and oak wood supplied from Dalcattack by Lord Lovat, who still owns the property. The antiquity of the forests of the Caledonian valley is attested by the circumstance that while Loch Dochfour was being deepened in connection with the construction of the canal, a piece of oak tree was dredged up which measured 30 feet round, and it appeared to be a small portion of the original tree, which probably contained 220 cubic feet of timber. It was black as ebony, and perfectly fresh at heart. Trees of a size never seen growing in this country have been dug up on the mainland of Scotland, and also in the islands, where nowadays a tree will not grow.


In the latter half of the seventeenth century, the little planting effected in Scotland, and particularly in the Northern Counties, consisted principally of ornamental avenues and clumps to beautify the ancestral homes of the landed gentry. The taste for these embellishments was mainly acquired in England. After the union of the English and Scottish Crowns in the person of James the Sixth, the nobility and gentry followed the Court to London, and there spent the incomes their estates yielded, and from which Scotland was wont to be benefitted. The Highland Chiefs tasted the gaieties and luxuries of metropolitan life when they journeyed thither with loyal or business motives, and gradually they fell in with the fashion of their day. At the period of which we speak, the hoary clansman might have said—

“Mansions once
Knew their own masters.
Now the legitimate and rightful lord
Is but a transient guest.”

But undoubtedly one beneficial result of this intercourse with England was the spread of more enlightened views regarding tillage and planting. The homes of old England were generally enshrined in a wealth of silvan beauty, and tree culture was becoming an important department with English landholders, who had a view both to profit and embellishment. Arboriculture was now a distinct science, and a progressive one too. As far back as the middle of the sixteenth century new trees had been extensively introduced into England, among others the spruce fir, the stone pine, the evergreen cypress, the sweet bay, and the walnut Some time later the evergreen oak and arborvitse made their appearance. The first accounts we have of the introduction of many of the timber trees are given by botanists and apothecaries in London, who gathered together every description of foreign herbage, and formed the most extensive collections of medicinal plants extant at the time. Botanic gardens began to be established throughout England about the middle of the seventeenth century, and the introduction of hardy trees was thus greatly facilitated.

In Scotland the Botanic Garden was formed in 1680, and in 1683. the cedar of Lebanon was one of the trees introduced into it. The most important foreign trees which made their appearance in this country during the seventeenth century were the cedar, the silver fir, the larch, horse chestnut, American plane, black and white American spruce firs, scarlet oak, Norway maple, weeping willow, and many others. During the eighteenth century the number of species of foreign plants introduced was very large, amounting to nearly 500, but three-fourths of these were shrubs. The timber trees consisted chiefly of oaks, pines, poplars, maples, and thorns, species or varieties of trees formerly introduced. It will be seen from these extensive importations that the British arboretum stood much in need of improvement, enlarged though it had been to some extent by the Romans, and the monks of the middle ages. In their intercourse with England, Scotch lairds came into full contact with the new enthusiasm for tree planting, and they could not but notice the beneficial effect produced on the country, both from a beautifying and a commercial aspect. Scotland, as we have seen, was experiencing a timber famine, the natural forests having been destroyed through indiscriminate cutting and the pasturing of cattle in them, for the young trees were eaten up as they appeared. Had this practice of pasturing flocks been put a stoppage to sooner than it was, the native forests of Scotland would have been of much greater extent than they are to-day. When once the Scotch nobility took up planting in earnest, they carried out their ideas with characteristic vigour. They were no longer content just to see their castles

“Embosomed deep in tufted trees,”

but set about making the most of the ground on their respective estates considered suitable for the growth of profitable wood. Notwithstanding the numerous importations of foreign trees, it is remarkable that the introduction of the larch into Scotland from England (where it had existed for a century) in the early part of the eighteenth century, was the greatest acquisition of the time, and distinguished the period beyond any other circumstance connected with British arboriculture. A writer on this subject states, that between 1730 and 1740 larch plants were in great request by many of the Scottish landowners, who planted them to a small extent as an experiment, and generally ruined them by inserting them in soil too rich and cultivated for their future success. The only distinct account we have of the planting of these trees, however, is given in a statement published in the Transactions of the Highland Society, which says that the first larches planted in Athole were brought from London by Mr Menzies of Migevy in 1738, and consisted of sixteen plants. Five were planted at Dunkeld and eleven at Blair. Of the five, two still grace the lawn at Dunkeld, and are known by the name of “the parent larches.” The largest of them at present measures 22 ft. in girth at one foot from the ground. Of those planted at Blair, one 106 ft. high was cut down, from which a coffin was made for the celebrated Duke of Athole, who planted the tree so extensively. About 10,000 imperial acres of larches were planted on the Athole estate between 1738 and 1826.

The Laird of Culloden seems to have been among the earliest planters in Inverness-shire, having completed a considerable plantation of Scotch fir between 1730 and 1740. About 1760 an extensive planting was begun on the estate of Kinmyles, where every acre of land that was incapable of being improved to arable land was planted. The utilisation of ground that is unimprovable, by planting trees suited to the character of the soil, is the great Becret of the profitable growth of timber, and we are told that other proprietors followed the example given at Kinmyles. “One gentleman in particular,” says the writer of the Statistical Account of the parish of Inverness (1794), “who kept an account of his operations, planted 15,000 forest trees of the following kind, elm, birch, oak, and sycamore, which occupied a space of 800 acres on Dunean, one of the Drumalbin range of mountains; in short, the face of this range to the east, and as far as the property of this gentleman in this parish extends to the west—with the exception of what was fit for arable—in all, about six miles is covered with thriving plantations. Planting is still going on with little remission, so that in a few years there will probably not be a single acre useless in this parish.” The woods here referred to are still perpetuated, and contain much valuable timber.

Hugh Rose of Kilravock is mentioned by the writer of the second Statistical Account (1845), the Rev. Alex. Campbell, minister of the parish of Croy and Dalcross, as one of the earliest planters in Inverness-shire. He must have made the plantation referred to in the following paragraph about 1740, if Mr Campbell is correct:—“About 100 years ago" says our authority, “Hugh Rose, the thirteenth of that name, planted a considerable extent of moor to the north of the castle; and such was the state of the •country and want of roads that the fir plants were carried from Perth in creels suspended from crook saddles. They have grown to a large size, and are of the best quality. It appears, however, that in the same place there had been a plantation of the Caledonian pine, some of which are still standing, and of uncommon dimensions, serving for years as landmarks to mariners in the Moray Firth. Their lateral branches are equal in size to planted fir of forty years’ growth. One lately cut down shewed the venerable age of 180 years, and there are some remaining apparently much more ancient; whereas, the fir of Canadian origin, now generally planted, seldom lives above 80 years, and, in most cases, shows before that period symptoms of decay. It were well that the seeds of our ancient forest pines were sown, as they are more congenial to our soil and climate. About the year 1776, Mr Davidson of Cantray planted about 300 acres on a useless and arid waste not worth 6d per acre, the proceeds of which, being carefully marked from the time of thinning, till the whole waa sold about twelve years ago, were found to exceed the simple fee of that part of the Cantray property, yielding now about £1000 of rent, by nearly double the original purchase price; besides, the moor, formerly useless, is now, by the foliage of the trees, converted into excellent pasture. That venerable patriot, at various periods, planted nearly 1000 acres. Plantations were made to much the satfie extent, and much about the same time, by the late Mrs Rose of Kilravock—a lady remarkable for all those graces and accomplishments that adorn the female character, as well as for high literary acquirements and practical good sense. The proprietors of Culloden, Holm, and Leys contributed their share in beautifying the country by planting ; and lately the proprietor of Inshes has planted upwards of 400 acres with larch, oak, and other kinds of wood.”

Leaving the eighteenth century and scanning the present, we find that the Highland and Agricultural Society, by offering various premiums for the introduction of new timber trees, and for extensive planting, has done much to increase the tree acreage throughout the country. The Seafield plantations are the most remarkable achievement of the kind in Scotland, not omitting those of Athole. We are indebted to Mr Thos. Hunter’s “Woods, Forests, and Estates of Perthshire,” an admirable book lately issued, for our account of the Highland Society’s operations in the way of encouraging planting between 1809 and 1823. “When the Highland and Agricultural Society was founded in 1784, another decided advance was made. In 1809 the Society, convinced that there was a good deal of ground, especially on the north-west coast of Scotland, which it would be advantageous both for proprietors and the country to have planted, offered honorary premiums to proprietors in this part of the country who should, betwixt February, 1810, and 10th April, 1812, plant the greatest extent of ground, after being properly enclosed ; one half of the plants to be larch or hardwood. The premiums excited considerable attention, and the result was that a gold medal, bearing a suitable inscription, was awarded to each of the following gentlemen:—Alex. Maclean of Ardgour, Alex. Maclean of Coll, Ranald Macdonald of Staffa, Hugh Innes of Lochalsh, M.P., and John Mackenzie of Applecross, all of whom had formed extensive plantations on their properties. In 1821 and 1822 honorary premiums were awarded for the greatest extent of ground planted and enclosed within the county of Dumbarton, the Isle of Skye and small islands adjacent, as well as the Black Isle in Ross-shire. The first premium (a piece of plate valued at 15 guineas) for the islands was awarded to Lord Macdonald of the Isles (who thus in part redeemed a promise made in 1616 at Edinburgh, when he was engaged to build civil and comlie houses, and have planting about them), who planted 149,600 trees; and a similar premium for the mainland was awarded to Colin Mackenzie of Kilcoy, who planted 501,000 trees, on about 379 acres. A piece of plate, value 15 guineas, was also awarded to H. Macdonald Buchanan or Drumakill, Dumbartonshire, and Sir James Colquhoun of Luss. The first premium awarded to a tenant for planting appears to have been in 1823, when eight guineas were granted to Lachlan M‘Lean, tacksman of Tallisker, Isle of Skye, as a mark of the Society’s approbation for his having planted a considerable extent of ground, after being properly enclosed, upon his farm. In the following year we note that a piece of plate, valued 15 guineas, was voted to Colonel M‘Neill, of Barra, for extensive planting.” With reference to the last-mentioned undertaking, we believe Colonel M‘Neill transplanted his trees, which were doing extremely well, in ground about his mansion-house, as an embellishment; but they had not the same shelter, and, the soil being light sand, they pined away.

So much has been accomplished, <and is still being accomplished, in Inverness-shire by planting, that the county at the present moment contains about 60,000 acres of wood more than any other county in Scotland. According to a return obtained in 1812, the acreage then under wood in Scotland was 913,695. Writing in 1727, Mr Mackintosh of Borlum, already referred to, remarks :— “ Generally our country is destitute of woods, some shires entirely without a bush or a stake in them so that the energy of Scotch proprietors in beautifying the country was something remarkable during the eighteenth century. In a state of nakedness at the opening of one century, when it entered upon the next, every Scottish hill, dale, and plain was richly and luxuriantly bestowed with that silvan scenery which never palls. The demand for timber lessening about the year 1815, proprietors preferred to reap what profit they could rather than commence new undertakings, and the consequence was that the timber began to disappear, and was not replaced to the same extent, nor so much with a view to profit. Sixty years elapsed ere Government called for another return for woods, and then, that is in 1872, it appeared that there had been a falling off to the extent of 179,205 acres in Scotland since 1812. The next return shewed that plantations in Scotland had again rapidly recovered lost ground, there being an increase of 95,000 acres in nine years, but that progress has not been maintained. A comparison of four of the returns obtained for Scotland during the century gives the following result:—

According to the acreage of the two countries it is interesting to observe that Scotland, notwithstanding its mountainous surface, is equally well wooded as England. The following extract from the returns for Scotland will show the relative positions of Inverness and the Northern Counties in respect of woods, orchards, and nursery grounds:—

The four counties which head the list in the Agricultural Returns for 1888 are as follows :


Upper Strathspey would, in remote times, form about the centre of the great Caledonian forest, which is said to have: extended from Glenlyon and Rannoch to Strathspey and Strath-glass, and from Glencoe eastward to the Braes of Mar. Rothie* murchus derives its etymology from the Gaelic IZath-mor-gius or the great stretch of fir, a designation not inappropriate at the present time. In many parts of Strathspey, now bleak and bare, labourers in the course of excavating operations have turned up trunks of trees, enormous in their dimensions, from the moss— which is, as everybody knows, remarkable for its preservative qualities—where they had lain for centuries. From its inland, inaccessible situation—speaking of times gone by—Strathspey must have been less exposed to the ravages of the invading foe,, who, in ancient days, waged incessant war against the aboriginal inhabitants of the Caledonian mountains, and hence the Spey portion of the historic forest remained for a much longer period comparatively intact. The extreme suitability of the soil in Strathspey also favoured the perpetuation of the forest, new generations of the pine springing up quickly on ground which had been cleared either by fire or axe. As civilisation progressed, and the growing population took to the peaceful pursuits of husbandry, the Strathspey forests, like those in other parts of Scotland, disappeared before the plough, neglect, and the other human agencies at work in tree destruction. Had the land been more adapted than it is. for agriculture, the pine tree might, nay would, have been unable to hold its ground against the encroachments of the farmer. But there were vast stretches, some of them now peaty bogs, where the pine was nature’s best and only crop, and there it was left in all its wild glory. The farmer demanded, however, that his flocks should have the liberty of the forest herbage, which added another danger; for the naturally sown seedlings were eaten up or trampled upon, and the younger generations of pines were neither so numerous nor so grand as their ancestors. Sometimes, too, devastating fires would break out and lay bare whole districts. Such fires, says Mr W. Fraser in his “Chiefs of Grant,” were of frequent occurrence. One occurred accidentally in the forest of Abernethy in the year 1746, and resulted in the destruction of near 2½ million trees before the progress of the conflagration was arrested. On the occasion of another forest fire, said to have taken place about 1770, and to have threatened disastrous consequences, the laird sent the “fiery cross” through Glen-Urquhart, to summon his dependants. These assembled to the number of 500, armed with axes, but they succeeded in arresting the progress of the flames only by cutting a gap 500 yards in width between the burning wood and the rest of the forest. In the days of the clan feuds, it can well be imagined that forest fires were not always accidental in their origin. It was always a sweet revenge to see the sky ruddy with the glare of flames in an enemy’s country, and the deed was easily and quickly done, without a hostile marshalling of the clan. The forests on the Urquhart estate of the Grant family were peculiarly liable to such revengeful visitations, and the lairds bad frequent recourse to the powers of law, and the more effectual power, in these days, of arms, in defence of the extensive woods which then, as now, beautify the glen. Nor did such dangers all come from without.

The people of Urquhart, whom the Government were so anxious that the lairds of Grant should civilise, appear to have subjected the woods to very harsh measures, the depredators no doubt feeling secure because of their remoteness from the home of the chief in Strathspey. A case arising out of these practices was settled by the Earl of Moray in the Sheriff-Court at Inverness, on 17th October, 1563. Quite a trade in stolen wood seems to have sprung up, and William Fraser of Stronie, son-in-law of the laird of Grant, who appears to have had charge ofv Urquhart aud some of the Lovat property, adopted as a repressive measure the expedient of stopping the passage of Loch Ness. One Donald M‘Innes Mor complained of the blockade, and the question went into Court. The defender, in his reply, aidmitted the charge, and gave as his reason the damage done to the woods “pertenying to him. to my Lord Lowet, and the Laird of Grant, of the quhilkis he beris in charge, continuallie cuttit, pelit, and destroiit be the travellores upon the said loucht” The decision in the complaint was— First, that the passage of the loch should be “frie and unstoppit” in all time to come, and that no impediment be made to any of the lieges. Secondly, to prevent the woods being “cuttit pelit, and destroiit,” a power of search was henceforth given to the provost and bailies of Inverness, that they might arrest all green timber and bark brought to the town’s market for sale, in any way, and from any place, unless the bringer of the wood could produce a certificate from the baron on whose lands he had got the trees. Failing such certificate, all such wood, sold or unsold, was to be forfeited, and any one who had bought the wood before the official inspection was to lose his money if the wood was arrested. This Act was to come into operation on 1st November, 1563; and stringent provisions were also made for staying the transit of all timber from the port of Inverness. From the thorough nature of these precautions, the offence seems to have developed into a very serious one ; but the effect was not lasting on the timber thieves of Glen-Urquhart. Probably also the Magistrates of Inverness got tired of certificate-collecting; at all events, ten years after, we find the laird of Grant again complaining that his woods of Urquhart, which he had been at great pains to preserve, were being wantonly destroyed by the tenants. It is said that Highlanders never counted it a theft to take a tree from the forest or a fish from the river; and it seems from the terms of the complaint, that in this instance the Urquhart people were simply enforcing an old right, including forest pasturage, which had belonged to their ancestors in the loose times in which they lived. The enclosing and preserving of the forest of Clunie would very probably be regarded as an unwarranted withdrawal of an important privilege, and we can imagine the lieges of that glen as much incensed over the new fangled ways of the laird as any small crofter in Skye feels over the deer forests of the present day. The laird’s petition drew a letter of inhibition from King James the Sixth, dated 13 March, 1573. It sets forth that “Johne Grant of Frewchye,” that being then the name of the Grant estate in Strathspey, had been at great expense in  dyking, parking, and haining of the green woode and gowand trees and raedoes,” within Clunie parish, but that the tenants and occupiers, having their steadings in the vicinity, had been as busy “be day as vunder scilence and cloude of nycht,” in breaking down the dykes, and allowing their cattle and horses to destroy the growing trees, which were also cut down and appropriated to the purposes of the tenants. As a “scharp remid thereto,” the King oniamed that the names of the offenders were to be proclaimed in public in their parish kirks; and a further proclamation was to be made at Inverness, inhibiting all from destroying the woods, under pain of the penalties already enforced by Parliament for their protection.

These cases are worth mentioning, as local illustrations of the causes which were at work in the destruction of woods during this period, notwithstanding the energetic efforts that were made to preserve them.

The Highland forests began to acquire a more distinct commercial value, such as it was, about the beginning of the 17th century. Scotch and English merchants became the purchasers of vast stretches of wood in the north, and the bulk of the timber found its way into the shipbuilding yards and the smelting furnaces both in England and Scotland. The foundation of the great British Navy was being laid in England. After the struggle of the Spanish Armada, the tonnage of English, ships was steadily increased, and the style of building revolutionised. The lofty forecastles and poops, which had made earlier ships resemble Chinese junks, were abolished, and the modem two-deckers, which, between then and the era of iron ships, rendered such effective service in British battles, came in their place. These shipbuilding operations gave an impetus to the trade in timber, and as the English forests had been very much eaten up by this time between shipbuilding and ironworking, Scotland must have benefitted to a considerable extent by the demand for wood. About this period, it would also appear, several ironworks were founded in various parts of the Highlands in convenient proximity to the native pine forests. How the promoters of these enterprises were induced to enter upon such undertakings in remote Highland glens are geological and economical mysteries which have not yet been satisfactorily explained. A minimum of ironstone and a maximum of wood, which was the only fuel then used, for smelting, must have been the general conditions which a little experience revealed. Highland ironworks had a shortlived career, and tradition knows very little about the mining operations connected with their working. In an estate settlement entered into by Sir John Grant in the year 1634, he reserves “liberty to draw dams and passages to the ironworks in Urquhart, with liberty to put and build the said ironworks on the lands, providing Sir John and his foresaids upheld the rental of the lands where through and whereon the said dams, passages, and ironworks should be drawn and built, and reserving in the same way the use of the whole woods thereof for the use of the ironworks, *except to serve the use of the countrey furthe of the woodis of Lochliter, Inshebreines, Gartalie, and Dulsangie,’ at the will of the tenants and inhabitants.” The minister of Urquhart makes no mention of ironworks in his statistical account, and his geological remarks do not favour the supposition of their having existed, at least owing to ore found in the glen. “No beds of cromate of iron or other useful minerals have as yet been discovered,” he says, speaking of a formation of unstratified serpentine rock. Probably the explanation is that Sir John* Grant was about this time prosecuting* a diligent search for ironstone on his estates as a profitable means of disposing of his pine forests. Three years before the settlement just mentioned he concluded a big sale of wood in Strathspey with one Captain Mason, and the contract bears that if any ironstone or minerals shall be found during its fulfilment within the lands described, Sir John binds himself to join in co-partnership with Captain Mason, and to furnish half the charges for erecting ironworks. No discovery of this nature appears, however, to have been made.

Sir John Grant, who succeeded to the Grant estates in 1622, entered into several important transactions in Highland timber, the principal one being the sale of his own woods in Strathspey, which indicates that the forests there still existed in luxuriance in the seventeenth century. A sale was concluded with Capt. John Mason, who seems to have represented the Earl of Tullibardine, of a strangely unbusiness-like character. It included the woods of the parishes of Abemethie, Kincardine, and Glencairnie (or Duthil), which were placed at the pleasure of the purchaser for a period of forty-one years, the only stipulation being, that the rights of Sir John and his tenants to cut and transport as much wood as they required should be respected. The purchase price was £20,000 Scots, or £1666 of our. money,, a figure which shows the low value of timber in Strathspey over 250 years ago, owing, to want of facilities for transport. Sir John guaranteed the purchaser “free transport, carriage, and convoy of the said woods and timber throw and doune the river of Spey to the sea, without paying toll or tax to ony persone or persones,” and liberty to build a house and a timber wharf at the mouth of the river. Shortly after his accession to the estate, Sir John entered into a contract with the Laird of Lundie, whereby he became purchaser of the woods of certain lands in Morar. Lundie, it may be mentioned, was one of the principal actors in the historical “raid of Gillechriost,” which took place in 1603. By his agreement with Lundie, Sir John became possessor of all the woods and growing trees on the lands of “Killeismorache, Kilnamuk, Swordelane, Arethomechanane, and Brakegarrowneintoir”—names it is scarcely possible now to recognise—on lease for 31 years, he undertaking to sell the timber and give two-thirds of the price he obtained to the laird of Lundie. The contract relates that the woods here mentioned were altogether unprofitable; that hatred and deadly feuds had been incurred in guarding them from molestation, and that no merchant would buy the woods owing to the risk of losing his life. The latter sentence forms a singular comment on the state of Glengarry at this period; and the fact that the laird of Lundie could not sign his name to the above contract, but had to get his hand guided by the notary, also throws some light on the educational acquirements of Highland proprietors of the time. Sir John—a love for trees appears to have run in the family—had also a transaction in timber which has a connection with the three century quarrel between the Mackintoshes and Lochiel for the possession of Glenlui and Locharkaig. He was the means of bringing about a temporary understanding with Lochiel. while the young chief of clan Mackintosh, to whom Sir John was tutor and uncle, was in his minority. The terms of agreement were that, in the meantime, Lochiel should obtain a lease of the lands of Glenlui and Locharkaig, until The Mackintosh was in a position to deal with the dispute himself, and that all the woods on the lands so leased should be reserved to the laird of Grant, who expressed his intention of selling them for the benefit of his nephew’s estate. Security was given by Lochiel that the purchasers and workers would be respected, he receiving the tenth part of the price for which the woods should be sold. He bound himself to defend the merchants, cutters, and transporters, not only from molestation by his clansmen, but “frae all vither forraine peopill,” as Lords Lovat and Kintail were bound to the merchants that had bought their woods.

The woods of Strathspey were nature’s own sowing in the 17th and 18th centuries, there being no attempt at forest management. The contracts with wood merchants were cheap, loose in their terms, and prolonged, and the tenants of the adjacent lands had their own sweet will of the forests, both in respect of grazing and taking timber. That the forests, in these circumstances, should have yielded even the fitful revenue they did says a good deal for nature, and the capabilities of the tree and the soil. By the beginning of the 18th century, timber had acquired a very much greater value, and the transactions were of a more business-like character. This appears from a sale effected in 1728 by Sir James Grant with the great York Buildings Company. By the terms of the contract this Company was granted a lease of the forests of Abemethy for fifteen years, during which they were to cut and transport to sea 60,000 fir trees. For this right the Company were to pay the sum of £7000 sterling in the course of seven years. The principal station of the Company .was at Coulnakyle, which was also leased to them, and they began by erecting sawmills and iron furnaces, and making roads and bridges in the woods. Their chief agent and superintendent was Mr Stephens, who resided at Coulnukyle. He had previously been a member of Parliament, and such, we are told, was the credit and influence of the Company, that for some years his notes of hand passed readily for cash in Strathspey and the neighbourhood, as bank notes now do. Rev. Mr Grant, in his Statistical Account, 1794, designated the Company as “ the most profuse and profligate sets that were ever heard of in this country.” “They used to display their vanity by bonfires, and opening hogsheads of brandy to the country people, by which five of them died in one night.” The Company ultimately became insolvent, leaving the place without clearing off their debt to the laird of Grant, but also leaving among the inhabitants a knowledge of their improved system of working the forests, the effect of which was, in some respects, beneficial. One of the improvements introduced was the making of rafts, whereby large quantities of timber were floated down to the sea. Before this time, Mr Grant observes, some trifling rafts were sent down the river in a very awkward and hazardous manner. Ten or twelve dozens of deals were tied together, and conducted down stream by a man, sitting in what was called a currach. This vessel was made of a hide, in the shape and about the size of a brewery kettle, broader above than below, with ribs or hoops of wood, and a cross stick for the man to sit on, who, with a paddle in his hand, went before the raft, to which the currach was attached by a rope. Currachs were so light that men carried them on their backs home from Speymouth. The Grants of Tulchan are reported to have been the first to attempt the transport of timber from the rich pine forests of Rothiemurchus, Abemethy, and Glenmore to the river’s mouth by the currach. It may here be mentioned, in 1730, The Chisholm sold to the York Buildings Company, “ his wood of whatever kind, lying, standing, and growing on his lands and estate for the space of thirty years, together with all mines and minerals that may be discovered on the said lands, with power to the Company to manufacture, use, and dispose upon the subjects disposed as their property at pleasure,” for the sum of £2000. But by this time the Company had got into difficulties, and the contract was not fulfilled. Soon after it was signed wood cutters set to work, and cut down 2,400 great trees, which were allowed to lie and rot, and all the return received by The Chisholm was a decree, in absence, for payment of the contract price.

After the failure of the York Buildings Company, in 1731, contracts were frequently entered into by the lairds of Grant for the sale of woods; and one made by Sir James Grant with two London merchants, for the sale of 100,000 of the best pines of Abemethy and Duthil, stipulated that his eldest son, Mr Ludovick Grant, should become partner with them. A still later contract was made, in 1769, for the sale of one million choice fir trees of Abemethy and Dulnan, to be cut during the ensuing fifteen years. Other evidence is extant that Scotland was not so destitute of woods as was represented. So late as 1790 the Glenmore fir woods sold for £\0,000, and shipbuilding was busy at Speymouth, from timber here supplied. But while this is so, it was, as we have said, only in these remote places (Glenmore defied many a wood contractor before then) it survived in any quantity. Abernethy Glenmore (Duke of Gordon), Rothiemurchus, and Glenfishie (Mr Mackintosh) were, in 1790, said to contain more wood than was to be found in Scotland altogether.


After the extensive clearances incessantly carried on during the 18th century, Strathspey looked bleak and naked, and the eye sought in vain for that silvan charm which was its native glory, but had passed away under the woodman’s axe. But a new era was about to dawn ; and just as last century is noted for the disappearance of Speyside woods, so will the 19th century be memorable for their re-appearance in even greater luxuriance. Planting seems to have been commenced on the Strathspey poses-sions of the Hcuse of Grant in 1811; at least the memoranda do not go farther back than that year, and if any planting had been effected before then it must have been on a small scale. Sir Francis W. Grant—1840-53—was the largest planter of trees in Great Britain in the present century. By 1847, it is recorded that he had planted 31,686,482 young trees—Scotch fir, larch, and hardwoods- -an extent which had not been approached by a British landowner since the vast plantations made by the Duke of Athole, in the middle of the previous century. For these plantations, which were effected in the districts of Cullen, Strathspey, and Glen-Urquhart, he was awarded the gold medal of the Highland and Agricultural Society. His successor continued these operations even on a more gigantic scale, and with the intention of extending the whole area of woods on the property to 60,000 acres. But death stepped in ; two chiefs were laid in the grave in rapid succession; and when 50,000 acres had been placed under wood the policy of the estate was in this matter changed. Tree planting was entirely and abruptly stopped. On a rough estimate, the number of trees planted on the Seafield estates during the last half century cannot be much short of two hundred millions. The three great divisional forests are those of Duthil, Grantown, and Abemethy, where crops of grand timber are being reared, such as never before clad the hillsides in this old home of the pine. Tree planting may be a slow method of making a fortune, but it must be a marvellously sure one. Between thirty and fifty years hence, the revenue these mighty forests will yield should prove tremendous, and a wood-cutting industry will be set up such as was never eclipsed even in the palmy days of the famous York Company. With planting on such a magnitude in progress, the establishment of a nursery was a necessity on practical as well as economic grounds. One, over twelve acres in extent, was established in 1854, the site selected being at Abernethy, where, on the occasion of our visit, in 1884, there were considerably over two million plants preparing for transference to the hillsides. Although the nursery was so large, the wood manager, Mr J. G. Thompson, who entered the service of the estate in 1859, was seldom able to grow all the plants he required for the plantations, for the well known reason that it is impossible to keep ground continuously under a crop of fir plants. In buying in plants, the wood manager had necessarily to be careful, for the native fir of Strathspey is an altogether superior tree, and it would never have done to give a degenerate species a habitation alongside it. In alluding to this point, Grigor remarks that “ several instances are known of plantations grown from seeds during last century from the celebrated native forests on the Spey, and although they occupy 9oil of various qualities, the timber in all these woods has been famed for its quality, while, in several instances, adjoining woods of the same age, and on the same description of soil, grown from degenerate plantations, yielded wood very inferior, the march boundary of the lauds sometimes forming the line between the good and the bad timber.” About twenty years ago, when planting on the Strathspey estates had reached its period of greatest activity, upwards of two millions of plants were put into the ground each year. Planting was begun in October, and continued till the spring. By this arrangement the plant suffers no check in its growth, for it is transferred when in a ripened state, and, if it takes at all congenially to its home, it responds to the impulse of the next season as usual. When a piece of ground was to be planted, the operations consisted always of enclosing, and generally draining. Sometimes the natural drainage was so good that the expense of artificial drainage was not necessary, but when such work was required, it was usually done a summer or two before the planting began, in order that the soil might have time to dry, for the fir likes a well-drained bed; hence its magnificence in Strathspey, where the character of the soil is a dry gravel, with a porous sub-soil, and very little in it •of the nature of pan. “There is no other tree that grows so freely,” says Grigor, “and produces timber so valuable on poor soil of very opposite qualities. It luxuriates on the dry and gravelly heath-covered moors, its roots penetrate among the fissures and debris of rocks, and support the tree in the most scanty resources of almost every formation.” This has been the wood manager’s experience of the pine tree in the great undertaking he has so successfully managed during the last thirty years. The plantations have generally been formed on moor ground, previously used for grazing purposes, and some of it very poor even for that. But there the pine flourishes. The process of planting is not so tedious as one would suppose. Two foresters, assisted by a woman, will, in fair ground, plant 1400 trees per day <each, which is sufficient for an acre, placing the plants 4J feet Apart. Planting is commonly done with a garden spade, with which the ground is generally cut in the form of, as nearly as we can here describe, "If, the plant- being inserted in the intersection of the cuts while the turf is raised by the spade. The forester then withdraws the spade, presses down the turf with his foot, and leaves the young fir to take care of itself. Frequently as many as 1000 acres have been planted in one year on the Seafield estate by this simple and rapid method. It is remarkable that plants which have been reared in excellent soil and carefully tended for three or four years, should take so kindly to the bleak and impoverished moorland; but the tens of thousands of acres of flourishing pines in Speyside proclaim that this is the valuable nature of the tree. While the Seafield estates have become famous as the scene of the greatest planting experiment on record, and attract practical men and forestry students from all quarters of the globe, it must not be considered that the tree propagation is entirely confined to artificial means. Here, as at Lovat, the forests are perpetuated on a considerable scale by natural sowing; and with the greatest success. Writing on this subject in 1881, a French Professor says:—“It is easy in Scotland to perpetuate a forest by natural means, and of this a practical proof was given us in two forests which we visited, one near Grantown, and the other at Beauly. In these the resulte obtained, under the skilful and intelligent direction of the gentlemen who manage these forests, form a striking example of what may be done in the way of reproducing forests by natural means.” Arboriculturists have nothing but praise to bestow upon the management of Inverness woods; and it is matter for prideful gratification to think that Inverness-shire is not only the greatest tree bearing county in Britain, but is also the home of the best and most scientific system of forestry. Many years must still elapse, however, before the Strathspey forests attain their period of greatest interest to the arboricultural student.


The valley which has as its centrepiece the massive pile of Beaufort Castle derives much of its beauty from the dense woods which clothe its slopes, and dispute for supremacy with the green fields of the plain. There is no doubt that here, as in other Highland glens, the Scotch pine has found a natural home from early times, but the statement may be hazarded without grievous risk that the valley never possessed more silvan charm than it does at the present day. During the past century the area under timber on the Lovat estate has been greatly augmented by planting, while the natural pine woods have been rendered more productive and valuable by the scientific practice of regeneration by natural sowing, a system carried out in the great forests of Europe, India, and the Colonies. For this reason the Beaufort woods possess a unique interest to the student of forestry. There are a few fine old beech, oak, and pines in the neighbourhood of the Castle, which indicate that in times before Culloden the chiefs of Clan Fraser found opportunities, amid warlike pursuits, to beautify their property with trees, but the first extensive plantings carried out were made while the estate was under the management of a Government Commissioner. When a chief of the clan again took possession of the ancestral acres, the example thus shown bore excellent fruit. The Right Hon. Thomas Alexander Fraser, in whose person the title of Baron was again revived, became one of the most enthusiastic and intelligent arboriculturists the north has seen. During his long tenure of the estate, 10,000 acres were planted with Scotch pine and larch, and the system of natural regeneration was introduced in the old woods, and practised with a success which is still the admiration of scientific foresters. For about a quarter of a century the woods have been managed by Mr D. Dewar, and under his practical skill they have attained a high degree of perfection. As to the relative merits of planting versus natural afforestation, those who advise planting say that a more uniform crop of plants is obtained, whereas by allowing the trees to sow their own seed the element of uncertain cropping has to be considered. It is possible that the natural crop may not be satisfactory for a year or two, and time is thereby lost; but at Beaufort the disadvantages of natural sowing are not apparent, the plants being as a rule well distributed and regular, while the uniformity in the ages of the trees is remarkable.

The most interesting and instructive illustration of the natural reproduction of the pine is found in Balblair Wood, some sixty or eighty acres of which have been regenerated. This wood stands in the vicinity of picturesque Kilmorack. Lord Lovat began the work of regeneration here nearly half a century ago, and the process was carried on systematically for over twenty years. The result is now seen in a full crop of healthy, well-developed trees of different ages, the youngest having about 28 years’ growth. Owing to the light, gravelly character of the soil, the rate of growth has not been so rapid as on other portions of the estate where the ground is richer. The height of the trees is, however, satisfactory, and in course of time the wood will possess all the value that attaches to slow-grown fir. In accordance with a well-established rule in forestry, the regenerating process was begun at the east end of the ground, so as to work against the prevailing winds, which in this part of the country are westerly in the months of June an^ July, when the fir sheds its seed. Fir seed being of the “winged” variety, as the cones open under the rays of the sun, it is blown away and spread over the ground prepared for its reception. No one who inspects this wood can entertain a doubt as to the efficacy of natural reproduction. The seedlings came up in thousands, covering the ground like a crop of grass, and in the more advanced sections the management has been so excellent that better results could scarcely have been obtained by artificial planting. Sir Dictrich Brandis, late inspector-general of forests in India, and who may be said to have created the Indian forest department, made an inspection of the Lovat woods 25 years ago, and was particularly interested in the Balblair one, which he declared to be the best example of natural reproduction he had seen in this country.

It has been observed that in all the natural pine forests in the Highlands, as for instance in Glengarry, Glen-Urquhart, Achnacarry, Glen-Moriston, Strathglass, and other valleys branching off from the Great Glen, the Scotch fir is invariably found on the north or shady side of the hills, while on the opposite side oak, birch, and other trees find a congenial situation. This shews that the pine germinates best in shaded, moist ground. Shaw, in his History of Moray, notes with characteristic shrewdness, a habit of the Scotch fir, which Mr Dewar has verified on the Lovat estate. He cays :—“ Here I cannot but observe, as peculiar to. fir woods, that they grew and spread always to the east, or between the north and the south-east, never to the west or the south-west. The cause of this seemed to be that in the months of July and August the great heat opens the fir apples then ripe, and the winds of that season blowing from south west to west south-west, drives the seed out of the open husks to the east and neighbouring 'earths.”

With regard to the larch, some interesting experiments have been made on the estate to test the suitability of the timber for house carpentry. There is a prejudice against using larch timber for constructive purposes, on account of its tendency to warp, and its utility is very much confined to railway sleepers and other heavy planking ; but the late Lord Lovat, desirous of making use •of some of his fine trees, introduced the wood with considerable success into the new castle. Care was taken to steep the trees in the mill pond for three months, and when thus seasoned the adaptability of the wood for open roofing and such work appears satisfactory, while its appearance is ornamental. The larch appears to thrive exceptionally well at Beaufort. At the forestry exhibition, held in Edinburgh, a section of a tree which had been cut down for the new castle was shown and attracted attention as An instance of remaikable tree growth. Though only 64 years of age, the tree contained 112 cubic feet of timber, some of the Annual increments being quite half an inch deep. It was used for one of the main beams in the grand hall of the castle. Another interesting fact is that this tree was selected, among others, from a wood planted by the present Lord Lovat’s grandfather, who died in 1875, so that it must have contained not less than between 80 and 90 cubic feet of timber during the lifetime of the Baron. Even in the case of such a fast timber producing tree as the larch, that circumstance is rare.

One of the finest pine woods on the estate is that of Boblainie, which covers the incline in the back-ground of the valley to the extent of over 2000 acres. The oldest portion of this forest was. planted while the estate was in the hands of Government. Many of the original trees still survive, and are easily distinguished by their massive trunks, but the majority have succumbed to the woodman’s axe to make room for a younger generation. The naturally sown trees are of various ages, and all have obtained growth enough to make the wood safe as a resort for deer. Sporting considerations have produced many change in Highland estate management, and at Beaufort they have completely arrested the further increase of the forests either by planting or natural reproduction. The moment deer get access to a wood the seeding trees have not the remotest chance of escape, their tender shoots, forming a dainty morsel eagerly sought after during the winter months. It thus appears that the excellent system of forestry which has distinguished the Lovat estate for the last half century has, for economic reasons, lost its continuity—a contingency which will always be liable to arise so long as the woods and forests in the country are private property.

Mr Dewar maintains that cattle are an excellent medium for preparing a seed bed, as they keep down the heather and grass, and assist in breaking up the ground and making it suitable for the reception of the seed, which is also trampled in, and thus germinates rapidly. The larch belt we inspected strongly corroborates this opinion; and the fact that a piece of ground near by, to which the cows had no access, bears little or no larch at all, although similarly exposed to the fall of seed, gives it further weight. With sheep it is otherwise. The extension of many of the natural forests which beautified the hillsides ceased with the introduction of sheep-farming, as this otherwise useful animal devours the young pine roots with avidity. In Fanellan wood, the greater portion of which was formed by the present laird’s grandfather some eighty years ago, there are some grand fir about a hundred years old. On an average these fir trees, it is estimated, contain from sixty to eighty cubic feet of timber. Selecting a few at random, we found that a few feet from the ground they girthed from seven to ten feet.

A characteristic of the Lovat woods is the entire absence of disease among both larch and fir. On the occasion of Professor Schlich’s inspection the other year of the Little Wood, which consists mostly of larch, the remarkably healthy state of the trees was commented upon, and contrasted with the deplorably diseased condition of some larch plantations in another Highland county. Some discussion took place on that occasion regarding the origin of the larch disease, known as the canker, or blister, which is worth noting, seeing there is a considerable diversity of opinion on the subject amongst foresters. Mr Macgregor, who has an extensive experience of the disease in the Athole forests, where it has done very great damage, attributes blister to the insect coccus larices, which occasionally appears in young plantations, and affects the trees very injuriously. Professor Schlich, again, believes that it is caused by the spores of a minute fungus establishing itself in the tissues of the trees where a branch has been broken or blown off, or any injury otherwise done to the plant. On the other hand, Mr Dewar maintains that the coccos is a result and not a cause of the disease. Severe frosts, planting in situations unfavourable to the healthy development of the tree, or anything else that affects its constitution or vitality, may, he thinks, be the primary cause of the canker, just as unhealthy animals were more subject to the ailments of their species, such as vermin, than those in robust health. This seems a very sensible solution of the problem, and harmonises with human experience, that insects flourish on a subject which is already diseased.

Those interested in forestry were much concerned, some time ago, by the appearance of a kind of caterpillar which attacked the young shoots of the Scotch fir so voraciously that the trees were in a short time entirely denuded of their leaves. About twenty years ago the insect attacked fifteen acres of fir on the Lovat estate at Beaufort. Strangely enough the insect confined its feeding operations to the old leaves, so that although the development of the trofes was retarded, they ultimately recovered, and no real damage was sustained. Had the current shoots been attacked, the trees would of course have been doomed. The insect disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as it had arrived, and has not been seen again till the other summer, when it made a raid in a young plantation of some ten years’ growth in the neighbourhood of Fort-Augustus, and with much the same results. It is the larvse of the Sophyrus pint, or pine saw fly, and is common to the pine woods in the north of Europe, but has hitherto been little known in this country. The summer of some twenty years ago was similar to the one just experienced, so that its appearance seems to depend upon drought and heat.

The finest larch tree on the property, and perhaps the best example of the species in the north of Scotland, stands by the side of the Bruiach Bum. It girths fully 12 feet at sixty inches from the ground, carrying its circumference well up, and has a grand stem about 100 feet high, while the spread of its branches is graceful. Besides its stately proportions this tree is noteworthy; it has in fact a history which carries us back to the introduction of the larch into Scotland. It was one of the Belladrum lot, which, as all interested in the larch will have read, were obtained surreptitiously in Athole about the year 1738, when the “planting Duke” of that Ilk began the extensive larch plantations for which the Athole estates are famous. The story related in Perthshire regarding the Belladrum trees differs entirely from the version that has been handed down in the Lovat family. Hunter states, in his “ Woods, forests, and estates of Perthshire,” that the then proprietor of Belladrum, who possessed keen arboricultural tastes, visited the Duke of Athole at Dunkeld House when the planting of the larch was going on, and that, by the potent means of a dram, he induced the gardener to part with a bundle of the plants, which he carried North in quiet triumph. The other tradition is that the factor on the Lovat property chanced to be crossing one of the ferries on the Tay, there being no bridges at that period, while a quantity of larch plants were in course of transit to the Athole plantations, and naturally displayed much interest in the new tree. Observing his master’s curiosity, and surmising that he would like to possess a few plants, his servant managed to appropriate a bundle, and conceal it in the conveyance, while the Athole men were being treated to a dram in the inn. He did not disclose what he had done till home was reached, and the enormous difficulty of travelling in those days precluded all idea of restoring the trees to their ducal owner. Such, at any rate, is the excuse given. The trees were planted out in Belladrum, where the factor resided, and also on the Bruiach Bum. Those trees are therefore contemporary with some of the oldest larches on the Athole property, and may be termed the parent larches of the North Highlands.


When the forfeited estates reverted to Lochiel, over a hundred years ago, it was reported that there were 10,000 acres of natural wood on the property, or a fourteenth part of its whole extent, notwithstanding that while the estates were in the hands of the Crown their management was entrusted to a commissioner, named Butter, whose policy seems to have been highly unpopular in Lochaber, and not conducive to its tree growing interests. A Gaelic song, composed about the time the estates were restored to the family, laments that the pine wood, one of the glories of the estate, had, under his management, become a tangled desert. There is no doubt a magnificent quantity of pine and other timber had been cut down by the commissioner, for what purpose is not precisely known. The song alluded to contains the following verse. It bewails the disappearance of the pine wood and the scattering of the clan, but hopes that the old order of things, at least as regards the Cameron people, will be resumed when the long-lost chief returns to his paternal home:—

“Dh’ fhalbh do Ghuiseach na duslach fhasaich,
’S tha do dhaoin’ air sgaoil’s gach aite,
Aig a Bhutrach ga ’n cuir o aiteach:
Nuair thig thu dhachaigh gu ’n cuir thu aird orr.”

During the century which has elapsed since Lochiel’s advent, a considerable amount of mature timber has also been cut down, but the planting accomplished will, in a great measure, counterbalance this loss. The hillsides, from the march with Invergarry to Clunes, grow some fine hazel and other trees. From Clunes, along Loch Arkaig by the public road, to a distance of nearly thirteen miles, birch, ash, alder, and oak give river and loch a deep silvan fringe, with the exception of a short interval between Auchnasoul and Ardachie. On the south side of the loch, from the shores of Loch Lochy to the tops of Glen Meallie and Loch Arkaig, a stretch of about sixteen miles, there are deep belts of pine and other trees. Again, on the north side of Loch Eil, from the farm of Annat, the wood—principally oak, birch, and alder, with a few Scots fir and spruce—extends for upwards of ten miles, each of the numerous glens having a considerable quantity of timber lining their sides. Turning towards the march at Ballachulish, we find excellent ash, oak, birch, and older growing nearly all the way to Fort-William.

Achnacarry Castle is situate close by the outlet of Loch Arkaig, in a valley which, for picturesque beauty, is not easily matched in the Highlands. The front Windows command a glimpse of Loch Lochy and a panorama of mountains beyond; north and south it is hemmed in by densely-wooded hills and pine-grown ridges; and westwards, Loch Arkaig extends in a silvery stretch of fifteen miles, environed by forest and mountain. Within a hundred yards of the building, the Arkaig, fresh from the loch, and its torrent swollen by the flow of the Kaig, rushes impetuously on its short career to Loch Lochy. In the immediate vicinity of the Castle there is a variety of old and remarkable trees, which must have been planted some time before the destruction of the ancestral residence in 1846. The story of the beech walk is beautifully told in Lady Middleton’s “ Ballad of the Beeches,” which we take the liberty of quoting :—

Oh! I have stood by the river side
When the spate came rolling down ;
And marked the rush of the rolling tide,
In volume frothed and brown.
Oh! I have wandered beneath the shade
Of the stately avenue,—
Ere the summer green begins to fade
To its gold autumnal hue.
And mingling with the waters’ roar,
And sough of wind-stirred leaves,
A waft of old ancestral lore
My listless sense receives.


Commands the Chief: My woodmen all
Attend me in the vale,
And bring me saplings straight and tall
To brave the wintry gale.
“I would erect upon the plain
A stately avenue:
Shall pass each Cameron chief and train
In after-time there-through.
“To lead in sport of wood or field,
To meet his clan for war;
Or home be borne upon his shield
With coronach before!”
They marked the standing for the trees
On spots apart and wide,
That each might vaunt him to the breeze
In isolated pride.
But lo! arose a mighty cry
Across the lovely land—
“Our rightful king doth straightly hie
To claim each loyal brand
“From foreign shores to seek his own:
Now up and follow me,
For never was a Cameron known
Could fail in loyalty I”
So spake Lochiel in high command—
“Leave all, for ill or weal!
The king may claim each heart and hand
That vassal to Lochiel.
“Then dig a trench upon the bank
Where Arkaig rolls along,
And set my beechen babes in rank,
To ligten to her song.
“And set them close to keep them warm
All through the lengthy days,
Till back I come, in fitting form,
Mine avenue to raise!”
They dug a trench upon the bank
Where Arkaig rolls along,
And set the saplings all in rank
To listen to her song.
But o’er them time and seasons passed,
And by them sang the stream;
Nor might that chief return at last
His purpose to redeem:
For drear the coronach did soundI
O’er all the west countree,
And a nobler plant was laid in ground
Than a sapling beechen tree.
Ochone it is ! for the great and brave,
For the hapless Stuart race,
For the cause such followers might not save,
And the rule they deemed disgrace.
Surely no grander monument,
Can rise, Lochiel, to thee,
Than the beechen bower of branches-bent
In homage proud and free?
For closely grew the trees in rank,
As close as they could grow,
Within their trench upon the bank
Beside the river’s flow.
Their clasping boughs in clanship twine,
Like souls of the ’parted brave,
That ever whisper in words divine
Through the music of wind and wave.
Fair bides the light on a golden throne
Of their autumn leaves at even;
And that golden warrior soul is gone
To shine with the leal in heaven.

The “beechen babes” form a belt ten yards broad, and -extending along the river side for nearly 400 yards. There are three breaks in the line, in two of which the original trees probably failed to grow. Their places were supplied with other beech saplings, which are growing well, but are considerably less in height and girth. While six of the largest of the original •“babes” girth respectively 9 ft., 8 ft. 6 in., 8 ft., 7 ft. 10 in., 7 ft. 6 in., and 7 ft. 4 in., the younger trees measure from 2 ft. 6 in. to 4 ft. 3 in. The third gap was caused by seven splendid trees coming to grief during the memorable gale which •caused the Tay Bridge calamity. The trees have attained a height of about 70 feet, and they give shelter to a beautiful avenue running along Arkaig’s banks. In summer the foliage is so dense that protection is afforded from the heaviest rain shower. 1 We scarcely think there is another instance of so much valuable timber being produced on so small an extent of ground. The stems of the trees, in consequence of the closeness with which they grow, are tall and bare to an unusual height, and they swing to the gale with an ease which ensures their existence as vigorous trees for many years. When Cumberland’s soldiers visited Achnacarry, the beeches would be too insignificant to attract their notice, but it is said they gratified their destructiveness by blowing to pieces with powder many of the large trees about the place. We trust that the Beech Walk may long escape every destructive influence—flourishing to preserve the memory of a chivalrous and a good man.

The avenue itself stands in the Park in front of the Castle, to which it has never been used as an approach. Nearest the house the beeches were cut down some years ago in order to open up the view, but the avenue still contains a considerable number of magnificent trees. They grow in double rows, and their massive stems and spreading branches form a conspicuous ornament in the surroundings of the Castle. Having reached their full growth, which the fag as sylvatica attains in about 158 years, several of the trees have been damaged by the gales which sweep down the valley of the Arkaig. One of the beeches measures 17 feet in circumferenee at five feet from the ground, but it has a deformed appearance in consequence of the loss of one of its principal branches. The best specimen for girth and spread of branches stands at the eastern extremity of the north row. Near the roots it girths 18 ft. 6 in., and three feet up it is 14 feet. The trunk, which is not more than 5 feet in length, splits itself into eight or nine great limbs, which ramify in the most wonderful way. In height the tree stands about forty feet, and the spread of its branches covers a radius of 230 feet. Close by this fine beech there is a clump of three beeches growing close to each other as if the order of their planting had been disturbed. The largest of the three measures 13 feet, but a big branch has been wrenched off by the wind, and the trunk is split almost to the roots.

On the south side of the castle there are several fine avenues of the classical plane tree. The Lochiel of the ’45, by whom these trees must have been planted, appears to have had a partiality for this tree, in the embowering shade of which Plato delighted to discourse to his pupils, and which was much associated with the intellect of Athens. One of the avenues forms the approach to the castle. The trees in the avenue measure 6, 7, and 8 feet in circumference, and exhibit all the gracefulness of stem and leafy canopy for which the plane tree is noted. A short avenue of this tree, standing at right angles to the castle approach, is distinguished by the name of the Cumberland planes. The story goes that the Duke of Cumberland’s soldiers, at the burning of the old castle in 1746, hung their cooking utensils on these trees. Their appearance favours the tradition. Some of the trees are very distinctly marked by a deep hollow strip, to a height of between three and four feet, as if the parts had been injured by fire. Notwithstanding the injury done these planes when young, they have grown into immense trees of beautiful shape. They measure- from 7 to 10 feet in circumference, the average girth being nearly 9 feet. In the vicinity of this avenue there are a few planes of even bigger growth, the largest measuring 12 feet in circumference. These specimens of the plane tree probably rank among the best to be found in Scotland.

On the bank of the Arkaig, close to the site of the old castle —the only trace of which is a small piece of blackened ivy-grown wall—there still stands a portion of what formerly was a fishing tower. Tradition has it that there was a cruive at this part of the river, and when the salmon got in, it, by some ingenious mechanical contrivance, the secret of which has evidently been lost, caused a bell to ring in the tower, by which the attendant was summoned to secure the fish. The arch and walls of the tower are still there, but the upper and principal portion of the building and the roof are gone. In the centre of what was the tower there grows a splendid ash tree. It must have been self-sown. In the memory of an old man not long dead, its dimensions were those of an ordinary walking stick, and its circumference is now 8 ft. 9 in. at 3 ft. from the ground. It has a clear bole of about 30 ft., beautifully proportioned, and a bark of the finest texture we ever remember seeing on an ash tree. Its favourable situation—close by a running stream, and under the shelter of the old tower—has favoured its rapid and graceful development.

Pursuing the walk along the bank of the river, we enter a chestnut grove, in which there are a group of Spanish chestnuts, and a horse chestnut known by the name of “ the hanging tree.” The latter is an inferior specimen of the common species, and accords in appearance and shape with the melancholy purpose to which it is said to have been devoted, viz., for hanging caterans and others in the olden time. From the root there springs four dejected stems, one of which stretches itself in bow shape to a length of about 40 feet, and with sufficient height to serve the mournful purpose of a gibbet. It is now propped up. Three of the Spanish chestnuts, at 3 ft. from the ground, measure 12 ft. 4 in., 9 ft., and 8 ft. 4 in. respectively. Being thriving trees, they will attain a much greater thickness, if their close relationship is not against their development. The largest chestnut we have heard of in Scotland stands on the lawn at Castle Leod, Strath-peffer. At the height of 3 ft. it girths over 20 ft. in circumference ; but Gregor describes a Spanish chestnut on the property of Lord Ducie, in Gloucestershire, which some years ago measured 45 ft. in girth.

Among the other noteworthy trees near the Castle is a splendid larch about 100 feet in height, and measuring at follows—at the base, 13 ft. 8 in.; 3 ft. up, 9 ft. In the park, not *far from the beech walk, there is a birch of remarkable dimensions—perhaps the largest tree of the birch kind in Scotland. The stem is 6 ft. high, and at the centre ic has a circumference of 13 ft., and still higher of 14 ft. 6 in. Three enormous branches spring from the trunk, one measuring 7 ft., and another 6 ft. in girth. It is a veritable “ Silvan Queen,” with charming display of branch ; and it does not seem at all out of place in the policies near the chaste plane tree, though arborists have sentimentally relegated it to the rugged scenes of nature.

In the considerable portions of ancient pine and oak forests surviving in the neighbourhood of Achnacarry, there are a number of extremely old oak trees. They are to be discovered here and there—time-whittled and storm-shattered remnants of their former selves—interesting memorials of the departed glory of the ancient forest that has been al! wede away. The freshest of the three we visited stands within a few hundred yards of the public road as it approaches the policies of the Castle, in the part of the old forest occupying the shoulder of the hill overlooking Loch Lochy. Before it lost its top, which appears to have succumbed to the recurring gale a considerable time ago, it must have been a magnificent tree. The trunk as thus divested stands about 30 feet high, and from its upper part spring two main limbs, each of which at their junction with the parent stem girth 6 feet or more. These branches have still a thriving appearance, and evidence an amount of vitality in the tree which the aged trunk somewhat belies.

Life still lingers in thee, and puts forth
Proof not contemptible of what she can.

The circumference of the tree at 3 feet from the ground is 21 ft., and at 6 ft. it measures 23 ft., which is nearly its thickest part. Around there is some fine oak and fir timber, but, in comparison with this antiquity, they are of tender growth. The two other venerable trees, or rather relics, for they are much decayed, are found in the old wood of Craigunish, on the north side of Loch Arkaig, and within a short distance of the Castle. They are the remains of what, in some remote time, were evidently stately trees. A series of large, knotty growths disfigure the almost bare trunks* the circumference of which is greater at 5 feet high than immediately above the roots. There is no visible spreading basis of roots, a thick, boggy accumulation of centuries concealing every vestige of the foundations. The largest of the stumps measures 24 feet round. Internally the tree is rotten, but the rind bptokens the presence of lingering life by sending out a few branches and offshoots. The remarkable thing about these trunks is, that young birch and oak trees spring from their lifeless hearts. In the one we have more particularly described, a thriving birch tree of at least 18 inches in circumference shoots healthily from the top of the decayed trunk, and appears at a first glimpse to have become identified with the upper part of the old tree. But a rift in the side of the trunk enables the birch to be traced as a distinct tree until it buries itself in the roots of the oak. The young oak is of a smaller growth than the birch, and like the other, it derives its whole sustenance from the roots of the old trunk. These curiosities are frequently to be met with in old forests.

An interesting question is the probable age of these ancient relics of former silvan grandeur. We are disposed to give them an antiquity of about a thousand years. Nor do we think this an exaggeration; in fact, on consideration, it is more likely to be under the mark. Some of the most remarkable oaks in England— and there the tree finds a far more congenial home than in these northern latitudes—which girth but a few feet more, are reported to be a thousand years old. The king oak at Windsor forest is said to have been a favourite tree of William the Conqueror; it measures 26 feet in circumference at three feet from the ground (our best specimen girths 23 feet at six feet above the ground), and has stood upwards of 1000 years. The “Capon Tree,” one of the most celebrated oaks in Scotland, and growing in a sheltered valley close to the old abbey of Jedburgh, in Roxburghshire, girths 26 feet, and is said to have been a large tree and a favourite one with the monks of the abbey in the thirteenth century. It would seem a moderate computation, therefore, to credit the Achnacarry oaks with an existence of ten centuries. Their decayed condition must also be taken into account; and the fact that

To time
Was left the task to whittle them away.

The old forest of Glenmeallie proper covers the southern slope of the glen for a distance of about four miles, but, in reality, the forest begins at Loch-Lochy, and is, therefore, fully six miles long. In the glen it ascends the mountain sides to an altitude of close upon 1000 feet, and presents to the eye a wide and dense expanse of dark green that contrasted dismally, on the occasion of our visit, with the snow-clad mountains towering above.

“This is the primaeval forest; the murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of old, with voices sad and prophetic;
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest in their bosoms.”

Speaking of the pines, Gregor says:—“It is an alpine tree, preferring the elevated situation, a northern exposure, and a cool climate.” Glenmeallie forest possesses all these requisites to a degree, and the fine development of the trees, as well as the excellent quality of the timber, attest that the situation accords perfectly with the nature of the pine. The wood of the Glenmeallie pine is beautifully coloured, finely grained, and extremely durable. Touching the latter quality, we noticed some pine wood furnishings in one of the offices at Achnacarry, which are as fresh to-day as when newly constructed forty years ago. We scarcely think there is another pine forest in Scotland to rival Glenmeallie in the size and perfection of its timber. It contains some giant trees, which could only, one suspects, be equalled by such trees as grew in the famous forest of Glenmore. The latter forest, in the beginning of the present century, furnished timber to build forty-seven sail of ships, of upwards of 19,000 tons burthen. A deal cut from the centre of the largest tree measured 5 feet 5 inches broad, and the layers of wood from its centre to each side indicated an age of 235 years. The girth of this tree, which was named “The Lady of the Woods,” would be about 19 feet. There are trees of equal magnitude in Glenmeallie forest. We had only time to take a run through the Invemieallie end of the forest on the occasion of our visit—a tempestuous day—and within a radius of half-a-mile we came across trees of striking grandeur. The most notable, principally on account of its magnificent ramifications, is named “Miss Cameron’s tree,” or more poetically, “The Queen of the Old Forest.” It appropriately stands amidst the most rugged beauty of the primaeval forest, guarded by the massive and umbrageous proportions of its juniors. The girth of this pine, at its narrowest part, 3 feet from the swell of the roots, is 18 feet. It bifurcates into seven enormous limbs. About the point where those spring from the parent stem the circumference is fully 24 feet. Four of the limbs are of themselves, as regards girth, very large trees. The thickest tapes 13 feet; the next, 12 feet; a third, 10 feet 6 inches; and the fourth was not within reach, but its girth cannot be less than 12 feet. Taken together, those limbs give a total girth of 47 feet 6 inches, without including the other three branches, which are by no means weaklings. The spread nf the branches or the height of the tree could not be calculated with anything like certainty; its magnitude in these respects can, however, be imagined from the figures given.

An extensive and valuable wood, called Gusach, or the Pinery, was cut down in the early part of this century by the grandfather of the present Lochiel, to whom the estates were restored in 1784. A few hoary old giants still remain to mark the site of this forest. The largest representative has a clean trunk of 12 ft. 6 in., and at mid distance it girths 22 ft. 8 in., and has thus a diameter of 7 ft. 8 in. If felled and cut up, this Gusach giant would yield a centre plank of at least 10 by 7, which excels the Glenmore tree considerably.

An ash tree in the churchyard of Kilmallie, the Parish Church of the Lochiel family, burnt down during the troubles in 1746, was long considered as the largest and most remarkable tree in Scotland. Its remains were measured in 1764, and at the ground its circumference was no less than 58 feet—(“ Walker’s Essays,” page 17). “This tree stood on a deep rich soil, only about 30 feet above the level of the sea, in Lochiel, with a small rivulet running within a few paces of it.” These particulars are taken from Loudon’s “Aboretum Fruticetum,” page 226, and it requires such authority to bring anyone in the present day to believe that there existed such a monarch of the woods. But Loudon’s mentioning it proves clearly that he believed in its existence. The destruction was, it need scarcely be said, the work of Cumberland’s soldiers, who committed many acts of barbarity, worse even than this piece of vandalism. There is not a trace of this majestic tree now to be discovered in the churchyard of Kilmallie or its neighbourhood, nor are we aware of the remains of any other trees on the Lochiel estate fit to stand beside it; but we may mention an interesting fragment of an oak tree standing on the bank of the river Luy, on the farm of Strone, about 1 \ miles above the public road. It is merely the outer shell of one side of it that remains. It stands 8 or 9 feet in height, and every year clothes a considerable number of short shoots in thick and fresh foliage, but these shoots do not seem to lengthen or shorten. For many years the •old tree has held its own, without gain or loss. Its circumference is said by competent authority to have been upwards of 24 feet when in its prime.


This sketch would not be complete without a reference to the tree-rearing industry which has been carried on at Inverness for the last half century, whereby the facilities for afforestation in the Highlands have been much increased. The first nursery established in the north for the systematic production of forest trees was at Muirtown, and was carried on by two brothers of the name of Fraser. This was about 70 years ago. They were succeeded by the Dicksons (James and George), who took a lease of suitable ground at Millburn, and carried on a large business successfully for a considerable period. Over half a century ago, at the time when the demand for forest trees was just beginning to make itself felt in the north, Mr Charles Lawson, late Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and nursery and seedsman to the Highland and Agricultural Society, re-established the nursery business at Muirtown, where it is still carried on. He was succeeded by the Messrs. Howden Brothers. Under them, and subsequently under Messrs Howden & Company, the business was extended, as increased facilities for the transmission of trees were established. Messrs Howden & Company now hold a considerable extent of the best land in Sir Kenneth J. Matheson’s Inverness property, and though added to lately, it is yearly being found more and more insufficient for the requirements of the trade. This plant-growing establishment is very well known, not only in the north, but also throughout the United Kingdom, and an hour or two may be well spent in it. The grounds are laid off and kept in a style which would do credit to any gentleman’s garden. While large spaces are devoted to the successful cultivation of hardwood and fruit trees, roses, and hardy flowering plants, the bulk of the ground is necessarily occupied by endless thousands of young trees of all ages for forest planting. To give some idea of the numbers of these produced annually, it is computed that of Scotch fir and larch alone, one and two years old seedlings, there are not less that 8,000,000 to 10,000,000. This does not include about 3,000,000 more, which have been transplanted, from one to three years, and are now ready to be sent out. These figures apply only to Scotch fir and larch ; other coniferous trees, which are not planted nearly so extensively, may be numbered by the hundred thousand—such as spruce, silver fir, Austrian, Corsican, and mountain pines. The annual output of forest trees from these nurseries may safely be estimated at close on 5,000,000. The half of this number is to be planted out permanently. Generally speaking, in hill ground planting, about 3500 plants are put into one acre. This represents, then, a total of about 700 acres planted every year with trees grown by this firm. The bulk of the plants, as may be expected, is dispersed in the Northern and Western Counties, but a goodly number find their way farther south, and even into England and Ireland

The forming of new plantations in the North within the last decade has not increased; has not, in fact, reached the average* The recent crofter agitation, and the consequent insecurity which landholders felt, effectually prevented the expenditure of any moneys in the way of estate improvement. This was the chief reason why so little was done. Trade of all description was paralysed, and investments which did not promise security and au immediate return were simply not within an area of consideration.. During the five years or so while this state of things lasted, tree-growing was nearly at a standstill. Nurserymen grew tired of cultivating young forest trees, which year after year had to be burned to make room for a younger stock. What were sold were disposed of at miserable prices. The purchaser could make his own price, and the grower was only too glad to get rid of his stock at anything it would fetch. One-year-old fir trees realised, in some cases, 8d; two years old, Is to Is 3d per 1000; trans planted trees, one and tw*o years, 2s and 3s 6d per 1000 were common prices. Larch w ere also exceedingly cheap, though they did not reach the starvation prices of fir. Within the last year or two, however, with a geneially reviving trade, and a better feeling of security in land, the prices of trees have gone up yery considerably, and what nurserymen were glad to sell ac 3s 6d five years ago, could last season much more easily be sold at 12s 6*1. The demand, mainly owing to the long severe winter, was not sufficient of itself to account for this abnormal rise in price—the demand for trees was comparatively good, but the scarcity of the article itself was the main cause. Growers for some years had studied how to keep down their stocks, and many of them had succeeded so well that when better times came they found themselves almost without the article in demand. The scarcity of Scotch fir seed for a season or two has had an effect in putting up the prices of this tree. In a year or two, when prices have become normal, the probable value of Scotch fir, 2 years’ seedlings, 1 year transplanted, will be from 6s to 10s per 1000. Larch being a very variable crop, subject as it is to frost blights in spring and early summer, which frequently destroys a whole crop in a single night, will always be dearer than fir, and their prices oven more fluctuating—15s to 18s per 1000 for the same age is about their real value. The late Mr John Grigor, Forres, mentions in his work on Arboriculture that on one occasion he supplied the trees, consisting of Scotch fir and larch half and half, and planted them out in moor ground, at the total cost per acre of something like 10s. Even with a plentiful crop of trees, and a desire to get rid of them at any price; even with cheap labour and a subject easy to plant; even with very young trees, which, besides being cheaper, are also much more easy to plant, 10s per acre is probably the lowest price at which such work was ever done, or ever will be done. A rough estimate of the cost per acre for plants and planting now, with transplanted trees, is from 40s to 50s per acre. Of course, if the area to be planted is a large one, the cost will be proportionally less. As we have stated, for some five or six years no appreciable increase has been made to the acreage of plantations in the North, or indeed anywhere in the kingdom. Within the last year or two plantations of considerable magnitude have been formed, chiefly at Inchbae and Gairloch in Ross-shire, and at Farr, Dunmaglass, and Inverlochy, in Inverness-shire. No doubt when railways and roads have been constructed throughout the Highlands, a much greater impetus will be given to this great and important question, not only to the landlord and to the labourer, but also to the nation itself, of planting up with such a remunerative and even weather-improving crop the boundless areas of waste lands—practically worthless in their present state—so common particularly in the Highlands of Scotland.

But there will always be two important retarding causes at work—sheep farming and sporting. In the beginning of the century the institution of sheep rearing on a large scale had a distinct effect upon the Highland forests. The area under wood ceased its natural expansion, the young seedlings being all eaten up, while the herbage got so rough that there was not a suitable bed for the seed to fall in. On the other hand, black cattle, which formerly occupied the hills and valleys in large numbers, were favourable to the production of forests, as they kept the herbage down and trampled the seed into the ground, the result being that wherever they fed in the proximity of a wood a luxuriant crop of trees invariably made its appearance. It may be mentioned that the first sheep farm in the north was established at Corrimony in 1797, the farmers coming from the south; the next was Knockfin. As the fashion spread the black cattle disappeared. Then came another enemy of the woods—deer—within the last half century. Natural reproduction can never go on in or about the forests where deer are present, as they destroy the young trees with avidity; and as long as deer forests pay their owners fabulous rents, there will be no incentive to any great general expansion of wood forests in the Highland Counties—the argument that such a policy would enrich as well as improve the country not being sufficient in itself. On several large estates where afforestation used to be carried on systematically, the sporting considerations which now govern everything have put a complete stop to tree-growing operations, and henceforth, in such instances, the area under trees must decrease, and not increase. It is a great pity that the golden rule of striking the medium course is not adopted in relation to sporting and tree growing. Trees are undoubtedly a grand investment to make with such land to work upon as is so plentiful in the Highlands. Thousands and thousands of acres under sheep are not worth more than a shilling or two shillings per acre. Under trees, these poor acres would ultimately develop into a mine of wealth to the owner, while the country would reap an advantage in timber which it can never do, from the same ground, in mutton. As regards the outlook for such estates as those of Strathspey, where so many millions of young trees are slowly approaching maturity, it is at the present moment nothing less than promising. Even Australia is now drawing upon the resources of the Baltic pine forests, which, under the excessive drain, will probably be worked to death within the next half century, if not much sooner. Railways are increasing, and as they increase the demand for timber must grow more urgent, and consequently the prices will improve. As foreign sources fail, the native wood must be drawn upon for building purposes And as a result of the modern tendency of things, trees will repay their growers at an earlier period than hitherto. It is now possible for a proprietor to see trees planted which will yield him a revenue in his old age. That in former times was scarcely possible for the planter, and his successor invariably reaped the financial benefits of his enterprise; but now our pine woods are cut down for railway purposes long before they reach maturity. Instead of being allowed to grow for 80 or 100 years, which is the time fir takes to reach mature dimensions, it is cut down at 40 or 60 years; so that it may be said that the age of old fir is passing away before the exigencies of the time, and that such grand forests as those which are the pride of Lochiel’s property, will be remembered with pride but rarely seen again. In conclusion, it need only be added that while Inverness-shire has reason for congratulation upon its arboricultural advancement, the forests, here as elsewhere, can never attain perfection until law or the State steps in and insists upon continuity in tree production.

Return to Scottish Historical Articles


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus