Gairloch – Summary Text



Principal Sources


OSA Vol 3 No 7


RMS I (423, 437) on original of 1366

RMS II (147) 1429-30

RMS VII (2078) 1619

RSS I (3991) 1528

Robertson’s Index p 98 No 327


ER XVI p 597, 1535; p 602, 1535-6

ER XIX p 507, 1562-3; p 557, 1566-7

ER XX p 401 1569


RS36/2/92v 1606

RS37/6/161r 1638


NLS MS19308 f4 1739


RHP 6290 1871-2


Retours (Ross) (3) 1566, (4) 1569, (87) 1638, (130) 1673, (162) 1697



JH Dixon, Gairloch and Guide to Loch Maree, Edinburgh, 1886

A Mackenzie, History and Genealogies of the Mackenzies, Inverness, 2nd edition, 1894

JB Caird, ‘The making of the Gairloch crofting landscape’ in ‘Peoples & Settlement in North-West Ross’ ed. by John R Baldwin, Edinburgh, 1994, pp 137-158.



Our first document describing Gairloch (RMS I (423 or 437) on original of 1366) observes that it lies within Argyll. Fortunately RH1/2/696 1494 gives us an early and straightforward statement of extent. This document is printed, with modern spellings, in A Mackenzie, History and Genealogies of the Mackenzies, p 388. Gairloch, defined as lying between the waters of Inverewe and Torridon, extends yearly to 12 merks of old extent. (I am ignoring the word ‘yearly’ which often creeps in and probably reflects the fact that in early days extent and rent were matched). The evidence from the four first Retours, dated 1566, 1569, 1638 & 1673, supports this. They all give the Old Extent valuation of Gairloch as £8 (12m). If 1 davach was equal to 4m Old Extent then the area comprised 3 davachs. I have no proof that the davach to merkland ratio was 1 to 4 but that is what applied throughout the Northern Hebrides as well as in Glenelg, Kintail and Lochalsh to the south.


The lists of farms in the Retours and Exchequer Rolls (see Gairloch Farms table) establish that in medieval times Gairloch was smaller. Dixon’s nineteenth-century map of Gairloch parish covers a much greater area. In earlier centuries I think the 3 davachs likely comprised: the area between Loch Gairloch to the west and the River Ewe and Loch Maree to the east; the peninsula to the north with Loch Ewe on the east; the west bank of Loch Maree – but not as far as Kinlochewe; a southern boundary along the watershed above Diabaig. The area to the south was Torridon; to the east the parish of Loch Broom. This would explain why some of the farms listed in RMS IV (204) 1548 & (2273) 1574 are described as part of Loch Broom whereas they appear within the area of Gairloch in Dixon’s map. Equally Diabaig does not seem to have been part of the earliest form of Gairloch. The two davachs of Kinlochewe (see under Loch Broom parish) – which carried the boundary beyond the head of Loch Maree to Torran Cuilinn – were also a later addition.


RMS VII (2078) 1619 describes Gairloch as including Lochmouroy (Loch Maree) and its islands. The manor-place is said to be on Ilanrorie (Eilean Ruairidh Mor) which was presumably once an island stronghold.


The boundaries between Gairloch and Torridon were much disputed. (See ‘Old Torridon’ by Murdoch MacDonald p 94, pp 96-101).


NLS MS19308 f4 1739 refers to ‘The 4 Davoch of Garloch’ (see also f11). These are late references and suggest that by the eighteenth century the definition of Gairloch had expanded to include an extra davach. Was (some of) this the area round Diabaig – which was not part of the davach of Torridon?


I have found no documentary evidence for pennylands in Gairloch.


For some detail of farm boundaries see  JB Caird in ‘Peoples & Settlement in North-West Ross’ ed. John R Baldwin, Edinburgh, 1994, especially Fig 7.2 & pp 138-9.



Bookmark and Share
Posted in Gairloch

Leave a Reply

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