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Kinross 1629

On 5th November, 1629, Sir Christopher Lowther of
Whitehaven, a young English squire, set out with
two friends on one of the earliest recorded tours of
Scotland. The journey, as usual in those days, was made
on horseback and lasted three weeks, in the course of which the travellers visited the Borders, Edinburgh, Fife, Kinross and Perth. Lowther, who was little over twenty, possessed an observant eye, and he had the happy idea of keeping a journal of his tour, which, as can be imagined, throws many interesting sidelights on the Scotland of the early seventeenth century.

On Saturday, 14th November, the tourists left Edin-
burgh, crossing the Forth to Burntisland and thence pro-
ceeding to Kinross via Dowhill. They had some difficulty
in crossing the River Ore, which is described as “narrow, but deep and fierce, we rid it the height of the horse’s mane, and the fierceness of it turned the horse off its feet.” The Gairney, then the boundary between Kinross
and Fife, presented less difficulties and the County town
was reached in safety. Kinross, we are told, was a
Borough of Barony and a market town situated at the
west end of Loch Leven, and was the property of “my
Lord of Morton,” that nobleman possessing a house there, as well as Loch Leven Castle.

The town was governed by a Baillie and two officers, and boasted of a Church and a Tolbooth. The Church, although Lowther does not say so, was then situated in the present East Churchyard, while the Tolbooth was the old County Building at the Cross, which, although not yet adorned by Robert Adam, was already in existence.
Lowther was greatly interested in Loch Leven, which
he tells us was four miles square and sixteen miles about,
and was already unrivalled in Britain for its fishing. The
variety of fish seems to have been greater then than now. We are told “the general kinds of fishes to be there, the pikes, of which many were as big as a man, eels, gelletoughes, chars, perches, camdowes, kapin, a kind of trout which have have not scales, grey trouts, gelletough is the he char, sysbinge the she.

There is a river they call the Leven running out of it eight miles into the sea, and in it is salmon.” At that time the fishing was carried on all the year round and was, of course, not a sport hut an industry. The inhabitants of Kinross kippered many of the fish in their chimneys like red herring.

Besides fish there was great store of almost all kinds
of wild fowl, ‘of wild geese there being continually seen
3000 or 4000, and swans many, the swans will not suffer
any foreign swans to be with them ; in stormy weather
the old swans will carry the young ones on their wings
off the water.”

It is interesting to note that the Castle was then not
yet ruinous, being “well fortified with good ordnance, the
walls being three yards thick.” A visit of King James VI.
and his Queen to the Castle many years before is recorded.

The spinning of linen yarn and hand-loom weaving
were then the most important local industries and they
did not escape the attention of our indefatigable visitors.
An interesting account of the primitive method of bleaching then in use is given.

 

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