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Strathnairn Heritage Association

Daviot & Dunlichity Pt 1

The Parish of Daviot and Dunlichity By Rev. J. Macpherson, M.A., PhD (Part 1)


The Parish of Daviot and Dunlichity is about 23 miles long, and about 6 miles wide at its broadest and 1½ miles at its narrowest point. The boundaries are very irregular. On the east and south-east it is bounded by the parish of Moy and Dalarossie; on the south-west by Boleskine and Abertarff; on the west and north-west by Inverness and Bona; and on the north by Petty and Croy and Dalcross. On 15 May 1891, the area of the parish was increased by the transfer of the following portion of the parish of Croy and Dalcross: ‘So much of the main portion of the said parish [Croy and Dalcross] as lies to the west and south of a line starting at a point on the boundary between the said parish and the Parish of Petty at Feabuie, and running thence in a south-easterly direction along the present boundary between the counties of Inverness and Nairn until it reaches the river Nairn at a point near Kinrea Mill, thence in a southwesterly direction up the medium filum of the said river until it reaches the march between the farm of Dalroy on the estate of Cantray and the farm of Croygorston on the estate of Culloden, and thence in a generally south-easterly direction along the said march until it meets the boundary of the Parish of Cawdor’. In 1891 the county boundary was also altered, so that the part of Daviot and Dunlichity, which formerly lay in the county of Nairn, is now in the county of Inverness. The present area of the parish is 59,223 acres.

The River Nairn, which has its source at Cairn Gregor in the south-west of Dunlichity, flows through the united parish, entering the Moray Firth at Nairn in the neighbouring county, 36 miles from its source. The name, Nairn, is doubtless connected with the Gaelic snàmh, meaning ‘swimming’ and the Latin, natare, ‘to swim or float’. The river is famous for its salmon and sea-trout fishing. Four lochs in the Dunlichity area - Duntelchaig, Ruthven, Coire and Clachan - are also noted for trout fishing.

The name Dunlichity has no connection whatsoever with the Clan Chattan, as was claimed in the Old and New Statistical Accounts. It is derived from the Gaelic words flichead, meaning moisture. or fliuch, ‘wet’ ; Dun means ‘a hill or fort’ . Dunlichity, therefore, is ‘the hill of the wet place’, which is a very good description of this part of the parish.

Daviot comes from an old Pictish word, Deveth. The root of the word is dem, ‘sure or strong’ - Gaelic deimhin. The name, therefore, has no connection with David, Earl of Crawford, who built a stronghold near the present House of Daviot.


During the two World Wars many large woodland plantations were felled, but in recent years the Forestry Commission has replanted large areas with quick-growing trees. Scots fir, larch, ash, oak, beech and spruce seem to suit the soil of this parish and grow well. Near the manse, there are some hazel trees and during the season the children gather the nuts.

The following statistics relate to Strathnairn forest, which comprises the moors of Farr and Dunmaglass: area of forest, 3,924 acres; under plantation 1,014 acres; plantable 760 acres; agricultural and unplantable 2,150 acres. The species already planted in the forest, include Scots pine, Sitka spruce, Norway spruce, Japanese, European and hybrid larch, and Douglas fir. The number of men employed in forestry in the parish in 1952 was 23.
Fern, nettle dock, foxglove, St John’s wort, lichen, nettle, and maiden hair fern are all found in the parish. In spring-time, primroses grow in abundance along the banks of the River Nairn and at the roadside, while in late summer people come in cars to gather for jam-making, such fruits as blackberries, cranberries, brambles and raspberries which are found all over the parish.

Meallmore Moor, near the main road and Daviot railway station is one of the most famous moors for game in Scotland. The late King George V used to shoot over it, when he was a guest of MacKintosh of MacKintosh at Moy Hall.

Red deer are found on the hills of Flichity and Farr and in snow storms descend from the heights to low ground in search of food. Roe deer frequent the woods along the banks of the River Nairn. Recently badgers have been caught at Nairnside, their skins being used for making Highland purses and their bristles for shaving brushes. During the Second World War, when many of the gamekeepers were away on war service, foxes increased in number and now abound on the moors of Flichity, Farr, Inverernie, Dunmaglass and Aberarder. Wild cats, 2½ feet long and dark brown in colour, with bushy tails, also roam the moors. Brown squirrels are still found in the woods, while weasels are numerous and attack game and poultry. Wild goats used to be seen in large numbers high up near the summit of Brin Rock, but their numbers have become reduced in recent years, probably owing to the shortage of butcher meat. Grouse also used to be very plentiful on all the moors in the district, but in recent years there has been a sharp falling off in the number of birds and the bags have been small. This has been caused by disease and the increase in pests during the war years when the young gamekeepers were away on service. Rabbits and white and brown hares are found throughout the parish, although by 1955 most of the rabbits had been killed by myxomatosis. Partridges frequent the low ground but are not numerous, while woodcock can be seen, especially in springtime. Otters are sometimes found in the River Nairn and usually feed on the salmon.


At the east end of the parish is Culloden Moor, the scene of the last battle fought on British soil. Here, on 16 April 1746, the hopes of Charles Edward Stewart, the Pretender, were for ever dashed. The Highland army was utterly defeated, and the Duke of Cumberland earned for himself the name of ‘Butcher’, because of his merciless slaughter of fleeing and wounded clansmen. The prince, accompanied by a few faithful followers, fled westwards from the field.

Among the brave Highlanders who fell was young MacGillivray of Dunmaglass, who led the Clan Mackintosh in place of their chief, a loyal supporter of the Hanoverians and at the time of the battle serving with Loudon’s regiment in the Black Isle. Lady Ann MacKintosh, however, was an ardent supporter of the prince, and had raised a regiment from her husband’s clan and followers. On that fatal day the Clan Chattan regiment bore the brunt of the battle and the heroic Dunmaglass fell as he wielded his broadsword among the Royalists. In the morning he was found on the battlefield beside the well, known to this day as the ‘Well of the Dead’. It is said, that about 400 of the clan Mackintosh were buried in one grave. It should also be noted that MacCrimmon, the great Skye piper, was killed in this battle. He had a premonition of death and before leaving home composed the famous pibroch, ‘No more returning’.

The graves of the different clans are marked. The battlefield was cared for by the Gaelic Society of Inverness for some years, but it has now been taken over by the National Trust for Scotland. There is a resident warden in charge, who can give information to the many thousands of people visiting the battlefield every year.


There are remains of Druidical temples at Daviot, Gask, Tordarroch and Farr. On the summit of the hill at Dunlichity is a large upright stone, called the ‘watching stone’. No doubt it served in olden times as a signalling station, its signals being noted and passed on by other stations on neighbouring hills.

Mention might be made of another large stone in the Dunlichity district. This stone, situated at the side of the road about 300 yards south-east of Dunlichity Church, has a hollow or basin cut into it, about 4 inches deep and 9 inches in diameter, and appears to have been used as a baptismal font when the Episcopal Church was dominant in the country. According to tradition, credulous people used to bring their sick children to have them cured by being washed or sprinkled with water out of the basin. The water in the basin had preferably to be rain direct from Heaven, or dew. Not far from this stone is a natural circular hollow in the gravelly soil, which was for long used as a conventicle by the episcopalians. Little now remains of the castle, built by David, Earl of Crawford, near the House of Daviot. This castle, erected at the beginning of the fifteenth century, was an imposing square building with a tower at each corner and passages in the middle of its walls. It commanded an extensive view of the countryside all around and could not easily be attacked because of its dominating position. In course of time, parts of the walls were knocked down and the stones used to build a modern farmhouse and steading at Daviot Mains. The remainder of the building was finally demolished about 1750, the stones then being used for the building of a walled vegetable garden and the lime and rubbish to enrich the owner’s dunghill.


The following are the census figures for the parish: (1801) 1,818; (1811) 1,634; (1821) 1,750; (1831) 1,788; (1841) 1,681; (1851) 1,857; (1861) 1,741; (1871) 1,598; (1881) 1,252; (1891) 1,106; (1901) 999; (1911) 907; (1921) 853; (1931) 810; (1951) 694; (1961) 683. In the first part of the nineteenth century, the population of the parish fluctuated, reaching a peak of 1,857 in 1851. Since that date it has declined steadily, and for the last fifty years has been less than half the 1851 figure.

Until 1891, part of the parish lay in the county of Nairn. The figures of population for this part were recorded, along with the part of the county of Inverness, in the census report for Inverness-shire for the years 1801-21, but thereafter until 1901, part of the population was recorded in the Census Report for Nairnshire and part in the Report for Inverness-shire. The parish now lies wholly within the boundaries of Inverness.