Coigach & Loch Broom – Summary Text

Coigach and Loch Broom


Principal Sources


OSA Vol 10 No 32


RMS II (3202) 1507-8, (3313) 1508-9, (3578) 1511

RMS III (1924) 1538-9, (2957) 1543

RMS IV (204) 1548, (2019) 1571-2, (2273) 1574 on original of 1572

RMS VII (298) 1610 on original of 1607

RMS VIII (410) 1623

RMS IX (2140) 1649

RMS X (440) 1655

RSS V Pt 1 (1560) 1563-4

RSS V Pt 2 (3173) 1566-7

RSS VI (767) 1569, (2243) 1573, (2761) 1574


ALI No 76 1462-3, No 81 1463-4


ER XX p 418 1571


GD1/400/2/3 Section B p 29 1573

GD1/400/2/3 Section I p 1 1668, pp 24-25 & 28-29 1671, p 33 1672, pp 35-36 1674

GD1/1149/11/1 1700

GD46/14/1 1463, GD46/18/127 1543


GD93/7 1370, GD93/8 & 10 1370-1, GD93/19 1453, GD93/32 1501, GD93/46 1524, GD93/124 1590, GD93/147 1608, GD93/165 1617

GD128/23/1/3 1594

GD305/1/20/6 1561

GD305/1/1/1 1576, GD305/1/1/3 1576, GD305/1/1/4 1588, GD305/1/1/5 1573, GD305/1/5/2 1617, GD305/1/5/4 1646, GD305/1/5/5 1654, GD305/1/5/7 & 8 1681, GD305/1/18/4 1672, GD305/1/18/5 1672, GD305/1/18/9 1696, GD305/1/28/4&5 1600, GD305/1/37/1&2 1637, GD305/1/37/3 1640, GD305/1/37/4 1671, GD305/1/37/6 1673, GD305/1/78/5 1749, GD305/1/108/317 c. 1660-69, GD305/1/112/378 1673, GD305/1/144/4 1651, GD305/1/145/1 1654, GD305/1/162/264 1643, GD305/1/162/293 1680, GD305/1/162/297 1683, GD305/1/162/322 1720, GD305/1/166/7 1463



RS36/2/94r 1606, RS36/2/221r 1607, RS36/2/274v 1607, RS36/2/369v 1608

RS37/5/256r 1635, RS37/5/309v 1636

RS38/2/148r 1664

RS38/3/366v 1669

RS38/3/445v 1669

RS38/4/13r 1670, RS38/4/15r 1670

RS38/4/15v 1670, RS38/4/156v 1672, RS38/4/478v 1677


CS229/MC/11/5 1825


NLS MS 19308 1739


E746/189 Farm plans 1775

RHP 978 c. 1850

RHP 1728 1787

RHP 2991/1 & 2 1866

RHP 3038/1-2 1860, RHP 3067 1829, RHP 3099/1 1914, RHP 3099/2 1920, RHP 3350 1865, RHP 3399 c. 1770, RHP 3400 1757, RHP 3401 1756, RHP 3426 1775, RHP 3428 1775, RHP 3429 1775, RHP 3442 c. 1775, RHP 3478 1756

RHP 3668/1, 3668/2-5 1829

RHP 4286 1854

RHP 85395 >= 1758


Retours (Ross) (44) 1617, (79) 1633, (83) 1635, (108) 1655, (124) 1669, (154) 1693, (159) 1695, (170) 1589

Highland Papers II pp 284-8 1576


HH Mackenzie, The Mackenzies of Ballone, Inverness, 1941.


JR Baldwin, (ed.), Peoples & Settlement in North-West Ross, Edinburgh, 1994, pp 355-7



Loch Broom parish is extremely large and contains the distinct district of Coigach in the north. It may well represent a combination of earlier separate parishes as suggested by OPS. (Pennant states it had seven places of worship. RS38/3/366v 1669 refers to the parish of Inverew). For the purposes of this table I have only distinguished between Coigach and Loch Broom.


Pennant also writes:


Land is set here by the Davoch or half Davoch; the last consists of ninety-six Scotch acres of arable land, such as it is, with a competent quantity of mountain and grazing ground. This maintains sixty cows and their followers.


Pennant had a keen eye for the agricultural systems in place in the Highlands and Hebrides so it is significant that he classes Loch Broom in terms of davachs rather than pennylands. He indicates that the half-davach included grazing as well as arable and gives us the souming quota.





Coigach belonged earlier to the Macleods of Lewis and, according to RMS II (3202) 1507-8 was forfeited by them to the King. However James IV granted it back in 1511 (RMS II (3578)). In GD305/1/1/5 1573 the lands of Coigach are listed as 1 davach of Daweachenehard (Achnahaird), 2 davachs of Strathannort (Strathkanaird), ½ davach of Chorre (Corry) and ½ davach of Achechall (Achall). (See too GD1/400/2/3 Section B p 29 1573). JR Baldwin (citing M Bangor-Jones) also states Coigach came to 4 davachs. However this means we must account for a different davach to merkland ratio in Coigach. Retours (Ross) (44) 1617 refers to the davach of Auchnahard having an Ancient Extent of 26s 8d or 2m (i.e 1 davach = 2 merklands). In Retours (Ross) (79) 1633 the lands of Coigach are given an Ancient Extent of £5-6s 8d or 8m. If these lands totalled 4 davachs then the davach to merkland ratio is here also 1:2.


A great deal of evidence as to the breakdown of settlement in Coigach is to be found in John R Baldwin’s article ‘At the Back of the Great Rock: Crofting and Settlement in Coigach, Loch Broom’ in ‘Peoples & Settlement in North-West Ross’ edited by the same author, Edinburgh,1994, pp 290-389. The various maps, tables and rentals given there help us to pin down the individual farms but many of their valuations remain hidden. There is not always a ready match between the names given us in 1573 and the farm-names listed in the mid eighteenth century. The former is an overall view of extent; the latter is a detailed map of occupation. It is difficult to be sure how farms like Drumrunie, Sionascaig and Eishbreaky fitted within the overall valuation. (See Fig 14.54 p 353). The place-name Kerrowgarve (‘the rough quarterland’ probably originally described a quarter of a davach. (Fig 14.61 p 367 suggests Eisebrecky, and perhaps Ruenabreage & Knockbreck, were considered parts of it). Agriculture was such a challenge in this district that quite large areas might be described as only fractions of a bovate or oxgang.


GD305/1/144/4 1651 refers to ‘pecks’ (i.e. subdivisions of a boll) in Coigach. This is comparable to the pecks we find in Talladale, Gairloch and Glen Docherty, Kinlochewe. We also meet bolls, firlots and pecks functioning as subdivisions in Easter Ross. Since there were 16 pecks to a boll such a system allowed a greater degree of refinement when dealing with extensive subdivision. However we have to distinguish between bolls ‘sowing’ and bolls ‘pay’. (See note on bolls and pecks in Ross Summary Text).


See RSS V Pt 1 (1560) 1563-4 for place-names.



Loch Broom


The same volume (Baldwin) also provides evidence for farms in other parts of Loch Broom parish. (See in particular Fig 5.1 p 81, Fig 5.3 p 84, Fig 7.1 p 136, Fig 7.2 pp 138-9 and accompanying articles)


The only definitive statement on the total number of merklands in Loch Broom parish comes in some notes made by Riddell on a transumpt of 1524 among the Glengarry papers (Munro, ALI No 76 pp 117-9). Reference is there made to the 46 merklands of Lochbroom. (This would not have included Coigach). Assuming 4 merks to the davach as in Glenelg and Skye this would equate to 11½ davachs. There is some further support for an exchange rate of 4m to the davach in Loch Broom from the records of farms like Auchlosk at the head of Loch Maree. However whilst there are plenty of davachs in Loch Broom parish, merklands are largely absent. It seems that the older system of davachs was much more deeply embedded. I have found no trace of pennylands either in the documents or in place-names.


The ‘de Insulis’ text file and table show how the massive ‘de Insulis’ estate was divided up between the Dingwalls of Kildun and the Glengarry family after the death of Donald of the Isles in 1519. The Dingwalls only held their Loch Broom lands until 1543 when they sold them to Mackenzie of Kintail. Glengarry’s half-share was apprised to James Grant of Freuchie in 1548 as compensation for a devastating raid on Glen Urquhart in 1545. The lands are given with names and values in RMS IV (204) 1548 and the total value was 17m 40d (i.e. 17¼m) Old Extent. Since the Glengarry family only had half of each property we must double each of the individual holdings – and the total – to work out their full value.


RMS IV (2273) 1574 confirmed a contract between John Grant of Freuchie and Colin Mackenzie of Kintail dated 25 April 1572. This concerned the sale of Freuchie’s half of Loch Broom to the Mackenzies of Kintail. The lands are named, valued and given a total Ancient Extent of 17m 40d (i.e. 17¼m) – just as in 1548. When a very similar list is given in Retours (Ross) (79) 1633 the lands are given a total Ancient Extent of £23 (34½m) which is exactly double. This shows that both halves of the ‘de Insulis’ lands of Loch Broom had now been reunited under the Mackenzies of Kintail. In the table therefore I have doubled the extent of each of the farms listed in 1548 on the grounds that only half of each farm was then stipulated.


There are, of course, problems. We can only use these documents as general guides because there is an arithmetic issue with the davach to merkland ratio. 17¼ merks should be just over 4¼ davachs whereas the farms listed in 1548 come to a little over 5⅜ davachs. (We know this because their davach valuations are given). Moreover not every property in Loch Broom parish is given in these lists and I suspect some church properties may be missing. Nevertheless it is still useful to know that the ‘de Insulis’ estate in this parish comprised between c. 8½ and 10¾ davachs.


The table totals 16⅜ davachs which would be just over 65m. However I am possibly missing some valuations for Mellon and Gruinard and I am uncertain whether one or two places like Craigour have been double-counted. We have some evidence from 1670 that Loch Broom was regarded as 10 davachs. It may originally have been a 10-davach estate or parish but accrued extra lands over time. Kinlochewe (2 davachs) and Inverlael (1 davach) are two possible examples.


Bookmark and Share
Posted in LochBroom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *