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Kirkmichael-Highland inns-Ancient and present state of
the district of Strathardle-Glenfernate-GlenbriarchanMoulin-Athol-Logierait-Strathtay, description of itAgricultural improvements, roads, &c.-Highland mansionhouses-- Weem-Aberfeldie.
In the village of Kirkmichael there are two inns, which are much frequented during the grouse-shooting season, and at either of them tolerably good accommodation may be had for travellers and their horses. The same observation applies to the inns on the whole of the route, and on most, if not all, of the great roads
in the highlands. The foundation, which the defects of highland accommodation afforded for much serious complaint and humorous remark, has now almost entirely vanished. Since the communication with the highlands has, by the formation of so many excellent roads, been completely opened, and since the fashionable taste for highland tours, and other causes, have rendered the roads so well frequented, the judgment of proprietors, and the very efficient motive of individual interest, have produced in almost all quarters places and means of accommodation, comfortable enough to satisfy those, who
possess a power of reflection and a fund of good temper sufficient to enable them to bear, without repining or murmuring, the incon. veniences of a journey; which are sometimes unavoidable, particularly on the most frequented highland routes, where the inns are liable to be often over-crowded at certain seasons of the year.
It is a curious and remarkable fact, that, in this district, a hill-stream about three or four miles above the bridge of Cally, constituted, till no very remote period, -as far back as the memory of the oldest men extended as to what they knew and had heard,—the boundary between the highland and lowland languages,
notions, manners, customs, and habits. The prospect was in a great measure changed when the traveller entered the Grampian defile, at Blairgowrie, and particularly after he passed the bridge of Cally; and, instead of the spacious fertile plain, covered with the abundance of its agricultural produce, bis eye
rested on the lofty mountain, the deep glen, the barren moor, the rapid river, the dark rock, impending over the roaring cataract, in every variety of wild but strong and impressive scenery. But,' on passing the bridge of Cally to the north, or the stream already mentioned to the west, the people seemed to be in language, dress, and manners, entirely different from those behind in their immediate vicinity; and the traveller, from every thing he then saw and heard, appeared to be transported at once, as if by magic, into some remote foreign region. The distinction as to dress, notions, and habits, is in a great measure gone, as has happened in most parts of the highlands : but it still subsists in a high degree as to the language; that which is usually spoken to the east of the stream, being the lowland Scotch, and that usually spoken by the country people, on the west of it, being the Gaelic. This district was not, like most of the highland divisions, con
sidered as the patrimonial territory of any particular clan. The population consisted of persons of almost all the various names known in the highlands; and, as the country is on the borders of the lowlands, and was at all times more accessible to the authority of the general government, than most other divisions of the highlands, the clanish system, in its full spirit of union and vigour for internal government, and external defence, was neither so much required nor so strongly felt. But the general connexion with the great body of the highland population was decidedly marked, not only in the language, but in the notions, habits, and manners of the inhabitants of this district, who in all these particulars exactly resembled the people of the neighbouring district of Athol. While the heritable jurisdictions subsisted, courts of justice were held in the western part of the valley, by the representatives of the Athol family, and in the eastern portion by the Spaldings of Ashintully, who, in the reign of King William, were mentioned, for a commission, by Lord Braidalbane, in his plan for attaching the highland chiefs to the general government. That family, now extinct, and the Athol family, could then have directed the power of the district.
This valley, like the rest of the highlands,
was formerly peopled to the utmost extent of its productive capability; and the mode of occupation, and plan of farming, were exactly similar to those which prevailed generally among these mountains. A space of arable ground, which, if properly cultivated, might have afforded employment for one plough, was divided among several occupants, who had their cottages or huts near each other, without any regard to arrangement; and this cluster of cottages, with the farm belonging to them, was called a toun. The walls of the cottages were built of such rough unhewn stones as could most readily be procured, without cement, or of alternate layers of stones and turf, to the height of about six feet, inclosing a space of about eight feet broad, and of about three times that length. The natural wood of the country easily supplied the little timber required for the huts, which were thatched with straw, fern, or heath, the thatch being secured with hay or straw ropes ; called, in the language of the country, siaman. A hole was left in the roof above the part of the earthen floor intended for the fire place; and another square hole, near the fire place, of the size of two ordinary glass panes, in the wall, by way of window; which in bad weather was seçured with a board, or, where that piece of lux