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to an astonishing height, so that at times the whole firth is one sheet of white foam. If it happens that the current runs hard against the wind, or if a severe storm blows, it would not be advisable for any vessel to venture out into the firth. In the gales of winter, particularly from the north-west, the sea rises to such a height where the huge swell of the Atlantic is inclosed between the Orkneys and Scotland, and beats against the coast with such force, that the foam is driven far into the country, even over cliffs that stand more than four hundred feet above the sea! The Island of Stroma (Old N., "Straumsey"), which has obtained its name from the current, lies 'about the middle of the firth; and by the eastern entrance of it are the Islands of Pentlandskerries (Old N., "Petlandsker;" or Danish, "Pentlandskjsere;" Eng., sunken rocks off the Pentland Firth), near which the waves form whirlpools that are still called by the inhabitants "Swelchies" (or Svselg: Old N., " Svelgr;" Eng., gulf).

The old Sagas, indeed, expressly point out the dangers of the Pentland Firth. Thus, when Olaf Trygveson came from the West to the Orkneys with the intention of Christianizing the islands, he was obliged to run into the harbour of Asmundarvag (now Osmondwall) in the south of Hoy, because Pentland Firth was not navigable; and on the return of King Hakon Hakonson from the Hebrides in 1263, one of his ships was lost in the Host, and another escaped only with the greatest difficulty. Nevertheless the ancient Norwegians and Danes navigated this dangerous firth regularly, and do not seem to have considered it as forming any real boundary between the Orkneys and Scotland. At an early period the Norwegians had settled themselves along the south coast of the Pentland Firth, and founded colonies there which soon became so preponderatingly Norwegian that they might almost be regarded as inseparable, parts of the Orkney jarldom. On this account the two most northern counties of Scotland, both of which united originally bore the Gaelic name of Catuibh, are still called after the original Norwegian forms, " Caithness" (Old N., " Katanes," the naze of Catuibh) and "Sutherland" (Old N., Suftrland), or the land in the south; that is, as regards the Orkneys. It would be perfectly inexplicable, in any other way, why the northwestern part of Scotland should be called the south land, or Sutherland. It is, moreover, a remarkable proof of the Norwegian origin of these names, that even the present Gaelic inhabitants do not adopt them, but always call Sutherland, after the old fashion, "Catuibh." For the sake of distinction, however, they call Caithness "Gallaibh," or the stranger's land, because so many Norwegians immigrated to, and settled in, that county in preference to Sutherland.

The district of Caithness, or, as it was often called in ancient times, "Nsesset," forms a real naze, shooting out into the sea in a north-eastern direction. Its farthest point towards the north-east is called Duncansby Head (formerly "Dungalsnypa"), from the neighbouring Duncansby (formerly "Dungalsbcer "). The broadest bay on the north coast trends in between the promontories of Dunnet Head and Holburn Head; the latter of which, by protecting Thurso Bay from western and north-western gales, renders it a tolerably good harbour, in a place where good harbours are scarce on this northern coast. Supposing, now, that we land in the Bay of Thurso, by the town of that name, we soon discover the outlet of the rivulet called Thurso Water (Old N., " porsa," or Thorsaa, Thor's rivulet), which has given the easily-recognised Scandinavian name both to the town and bay. The town and its immediate environs afford a great number of Norwegian memorials. The Norwegian king Eistein imprisoned the Orkney jarl Harald Maddadson in Thurso itself. Close to the eastern side of the town stands a more recent monument, "Harald's Tower," erected over the body of Jarl Harald, who fell there in a battle in 1190. Not far from thence is the mansion called Murkle (formerly "Myrkholl"), where, in the tenth century, Ragnhilde, the daughter of Erik Blodoxe and of Guuhilde, caused her husband, Jarl Arnfin, to be murdered. Immediately to the west of the town, near Scrabster (" SkarabolstaSr "), are to be seen the ruins of the palace formerly inhabited by the bishops of Caithness and Sutherland. In the twelfth century Bishop Ion was blinded and mutilated there, at the instigation of Jarl Harald. Five miles west of Scrabster, and close by a foaming waterfall, stands the mansion of "Forss," by the river Forss Water. The rivulet called Thorsaa runs through a valley in ancient times called Thorsdal (" porsdalr"), adjoining another valley " Kalfadalr," or Calf-dale (either the present Calder or Cuildal), in which Jarl Ragnvald was attacked and killed by Thorbjorn Klserk. In the "Dales of Caithness" (probably near Dale and Westdale, by Thurso Water) a battle was fought in the tenth century between Jarls Ljot and Skule, in which the latter fell.

Similar memorials present themselves everywhere on the promontory, with the exception, however, of the most western and more mountainous part, adjoining the frontiers of Sutherland. This district is still inhabited by a Gaelic population, the remnant of the ancient inhabitants, as is sufficiently testified both by the Gaelic names of places and the Gaelic language of the people. In Caithness, as well as everywhere else in the British Isles, it has been the fate of the Gaels or Celts to be driven to the poor and mountainous districts, whilst more fortunate strangers have taken possession of the fertile plains. The whole of the northern and eastern part of Caithness is a rather flat and open country, over which the sea wind sweeps freely without being intercepted by woods. Fertile and wellcultivated arable land is mingled with heaths, marshes, and small lakes. Wherever the soil is capable of cultivation, both on the coasts and in the interior, a great number of undoubted Norwegian names of places are still found scattered about, of the selfsame form as those in Orkney and the Shetland Isles: as, for instance, those ending in toft (as Aschantoft, Thurdystoft, formerly " porEarjmpt "), seter (" setr"), busta, buster, or best (originally "bolsta'Sr"); but particularly in ster (sta^r). The bays, which are mostly small and narrow, are generally called goe (from "gja," an opening). The larger ones are called wick (Viig); whence the town of Wick, the most important hamlet in Caithness, derives its name; but they are never called, as in the islands lately mentioned, wall (" Vagr," or "Vaag"). Here and there a mighty barrow lifts its head, and sometimes—as, for instance, near Barrowston, parish of Reay— so extremely near the coast of Pentland Firth, that the spray washes over it. In general we shall not be mistaken in imagining that we have found in such barrows the last resting-places of the daring Vikings, who, not even in death, could endure to be far separated from the foaming maelstrom.

At times the common people dig up in these mounds pieces of swords and various kinds of ornaments, especially the peculiar bowl-formed brooches, of a sort of brass, which are very frequently discovered in the Scandinavian North, and particularly in the Norwegian and Swedish graves of the times of the Vikings. These are never found in England; and in Scotland they are discovered only in the Orkneys and Sutherland, as well as in some of the Western Islands, where the Norwegians also settled.


Tall bauta stones are to be seen in several places in Caithness, to which some legend about "the Danes" is generally attached; they now stand in a leaning position, as if mourning over the departed times of the heroic age. A monument of a somewhat later period, according to tradition that of a Danish princess, who suffered shipwreck on the coast, was also formerly to be found in a churchyard near Ulbster. Danish fortifications, consisting partly of square towers, once existed along the coast, principally near the navigable inlets; but these also have now, for the most part, disappeared.

With several intervals, Caithness was subject to Norwegian jarls until some time in the fourteenth century, or for about as long a period as Orkney and the Shetland Isles. After that time, however, it does not seem to have been oppressed to such a degree as those islands; which circumstance, in conjunction with the originally great number of Norwegian settlements in the country, is the cause that even in the present day we are not referred only to inanimate memorials of the ancient Norwegian population. The present living inhabitants bear a decided and unmistakable impress of their Norwegian descent. The language in the plains of Caithness, and in the open valleys, is the same dialect of the English as is spoken in Orkney and the Shetland Isles, because the transitions from Norwegian to English have been the same. The people have in some parts, as in the parish of Wick, pure Scandinavian names: Ronald (Ragnvald), Harold, Swanson (Svendsen), Manson (Magnuson), and others; and their tall and personable figures, as well as their light hair and broad faces, render them a striking contrast to the shorter and more swarthy Highlanders. As the descendants of an old Gaelic and of an old Norwegian population adjoin one another in Caithness, we have an excellent opportunity of observing, on a small scale, how the Norwegians and Danes have actually implanted in the British Isles a more seafaring spirit and greater nautical skill. Even to the present day the Gael, in Caithness, as well as throughout the Highlands, has a decided aversion to the sea, nay, a downright fear of its dangers. It is pretty well known that in general, and except on the most urgent necessity,

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