John Murray (Firm).

Handbook for travellers in Scotland online

. (page 61 of 73)
Online LibraryJohn Murray (Firm)Handbook for travellers in Scotland → online text (page 61 of 73)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

like a Montague Eusse. A consider-
able amount of caution must be
exercised in climbing it, as the
smoothness of the steep floor gives but
little footing, and the wetness of the
surface makes it still more unpleas-
ant. It is not fit for ladies, but a
rope fastened above would remove
much of the difficulty. Arrived at
the summit, the visitor finds that a
" facilis descensus" of corresponding
height and smoothness awaits him,
and that if he makes a false step on
this side he will end his glissade
in a rather deep pool of water, be-
yond which is another small cave.
The stone on each side, but esi^ecially
on the rt., has assumed several fan-
tastic shapes, which, seen by the dim
light of the candles, Avill afford full
scope to a lively imagination. But
the stalactites which once formed
the great beauty of the cave have
been carried away or mutilated to
satisfy the acquisitive propensities
of tourists. On the whole, the cave
is curious, particularly to the geolo-


Route 58. — Loch Scavaig ; Loch Coniish.


gists ; Lilt otlienvise it is scarcel}^
Avortli the visit, and ladies will liiid
it partieulaiiy disagreeable. Tiie
Spar Cave is directly opposite the
inlet of Loch Eishort.

Then the boat rounds the point of
Strathaird, passing between the clitis
on the mainland, which are much fre-
quented by seals, and a small island
tenanted by rats. Once the corner
is turned, and the boat is fairly within
Loch Scavaig, a view faces the tour-
ist not to be surpassed in Britain.
A huge amphitheatre of peaked hills
girdles the blue sea, thg centre being
formed by a serrated line of jagged
peaks, which, if the weather is clear
— a rare thing in this district — cut
the sky like so many lancets. Be-
low is a deep dark mass of purple
colour, often relieved by drifting
wreaths of vapour. As the boat neai's
the laud, the hills grow upon the
sight until we imagine that we are
entering a huge hall, and we land at
the head of Loch Scavaig. This is,
beyond doubt the finest approach to
Coruisk. Boats must, however, be-
ware of sudden squalls, llings are
let into the rock for mooring yachts,
lit. and 1. rise up directly from the
water's edge the rough peaks of
Sgor-na-Stree (Peak of Strife) and
Gairsbheinn, down wliich the Mad
Cataract comes dashing with a loud
roar. The visitor lands on the spot
Avhere the Bruce is said to have
landed, and after a short climb up
the 1. bank of the stream, which dis-
charges the waters of the lake into
the sea after a course of 300 yds.,
he stands on a rocky dam, from
which he looks upon the marvellous
wilderness of Loch Coruisk, or Coir-
uisge, i.e., the water cauldron, from
Coire (Gael.), a cauldron or hollow,
and uisgc, water. A small boat
may easily be carried across and
launched on the lake, which contains
quantities of small trout. It is not
deep except in one place, 20 fathoms,
and seems to be filled with gravel.

"Picking your steps carefully over
huge boulders and stepping-stones,
you come upon the most savage
scene of desolation in Britain. Con-
ceive a large lake tilled ^\itll dark-
green water, girt with torn and
shattered precipices, the bases of
which are strewn with ruin, and
whose summits jag the sky Avith
grisly splinter and peak. There is
no motion here save the white
vapour steaming from the abyss."
Loch Coruisk is about 5 m. round,
and the little valley at its upper
end is bounded by a barrier of per-
pendicular rocks, some of which
are considered inaccessible. They
are composed of hypersthene. The
jagged peaks are black and angular,
and the points which occasionally
protrude from the sides are so sharp
as to convey the impression of their
being composed of iron rather than
stone. A mist generally rests upon
the summits, and little verdure re-
lieves the sombre blackness of the
sides which is reflected in the water.
Only near the Avaterside occur a lew
grasses and an occasional stunted
shrub, and in nooks and crannies of
the rock does heather or bog-myrtle
grow. The weathering of a thousand
years has no power to disintegrate
the surfiice of the hypersthene rock,
it only causes the liornblende crys-
tals slightly to project from its sur-
face. An awful silence reigns in
this Avernus of the Noi-th, where
all is hard, dark, and motionless.
The geologist will notice the frequent
occurrence of glacial striations and
perched boulders.

It will be rememliered that upon
the shores of this lake Bruce and
the Lords of the Isles met Cormack
Doil and his companions. The de-
scription of the scene by Scott is
wonderfully accurate and spirited.
It cannot be improved, and needs no
addition : —

" Rarely human eye has known
A scene so stern as that dread lake,
With its dark ledge of barren stone.


Route 5§. — SligacJian to Coruisk Sect. VI.

Seems that primaeval earthquake's sway :
Hath rent a strange and shattered way

Through the rude bosom of the hill ;
And that each naked precipice.
Sable ravine and dark abyss,

Tells of the outrage still.
The wildest glen but this can show
Some touch of Nature's genial glow ;
On high Benmore green mosses grow,
And heath bells bud in deep Glencroe,

And copse in Cruachen Ben :
But here— above, around, below,

On mountain or in glen.
No tree nor shrub, nor plant nor flower,
Nor aught of vegetative power

The weary eye may ken.
For all is rocks at random thrown,
Black waves, bare crags, and banks of stone

As if were here denied
The summer sun, the spring's sweet dew,
That clothe with many a varied hue

The bleakest mountain side."

Lord of the Isles.

Instead of returning by boat to
Camasunary, the stout pedestrian,
by kee])ing a short distance along
the E. side of L. Coruisk as far as a
tumbling torrent, may clamber up
its precipitous rocky bed till he
reaches the source of the burn, a
small tarn in the lap of the moun-
tain, called Loch Dhu. A second
climb in a slanting direction Avill
bring him, after a good hour's walk,
to the shoulder of the mountain
Scoor-nan-Damff, a part of the black
mountain wall which encircles the
lake, whence he may look down upon
Coruisk, and after enjoying the gi-and
scene pursue his way down the oppo-
site side to Sligachan Inn, a \ca\k of
9 m., as described below.

The carriage-road from Broadford
to Sligachan follows a very circuitous
course ; ascending 3 hilly promon-
tories and bending round 2 inlets of
the sea. It commands fine views
seawards, first of Scalpa Island, next
of the still larger island Itaasay,
14 m. long, on which is the already
mentioned modern house, and Bro-
chal Castle, a picturesque ruin on a
rocky slope, on the opposite (E.) side
of the Island. A long and steep
descent brings the road down to the

level of the sea at Loch Ainort, the
resort of the heron and of herds of
red deer. Winding round its head
we again ascend to come down to
the sea at Sconcer, a poor scattered
hamlet near Lord Macdonald's shoot-
ing-lodge, at the mouth of the
gloomy sea-loch Sligachan. The
road round it skirts the base of Ben
Glamaig — a grand mountain of
syenite seen from far and near.

15 m. Sligachan. Inn, not first-
class but very tolerable, homely ac-
commodation and fare, civil host. It
stands at the junction of the roads
from Dunvegan, Portree, and Broad-
ford, at the mouth of the glen, up
which runs the rugged path to Cor-
uisk, 9 m.

The view from the Inn is backed
by the grand form of Scooi^-na-Gil-
Ican (Peak of the Youths), most pic-
turesque of the Coollin range, sur-
mounted by 3 peaks. Its summit,
3220 feet high, was first attained by
the late Prof. James Forbes, 1836.
It may be reached, with a guide, in
3 hrs. from the Inn, not less. It is
somewhat difficult, and requires a
steady head. There is no beaten
path. It is not suited for ladies ;
and, when mists arise, is dangerous
for strangers to the mountain.

The Mail Coach from Portree
stops at Sligachan inn.

Ponies and guides, Sligachan to
Coruisk, 9s. each. It is a walk or ride
of 2^ hrs., crossing the bridge and
turning rt., by a path as rough as any
in Scotland, intersected by frequent
water-courses. It skirts at first the
base of Marscow (1,), but Scoor-na-
Gillean (rt.) is still the grand feature
of the view. As soon as it is passed,
the deep mysterious corrie, called
Hart-a-Corrie, like a cirque in the
Pyrenees, is seen opening out behind
it (rt. ), surrounded by jagged peaks,
at Avhose base rises the stream of the
Sligachan, Up its flanks lies the
ascent of Scoor-na-Gillean, one of no

Skye. Routes 58, Sligachan. — 59, Portree to Stornoicay. 393

trifling difficulty. [From Hart-a-
Corrie it is possible to scale the
steep ridge of Druim-na-Rabm, de-
scending upon Coruisk — wearisome
work. ]

Leaving this opening of Hart-a-
Corrie ou rt., you reach a watei'shed,
and find another rivulet running
with you to feed 2 small lakes. As
soon as these come into sight the
traveller must bend to the rt. across
the stream and valley, over the green-
sward, towards a conical peak. The
path to Loch Coruisk may be dis-
cerned as a streak on the hillside.
Make for this alongside of a rambling
burn, which falls into the lakes, and
it will bring you up to a neck or de-
pression in the ridge. Here you
stand at the topof Druim-na-Eahmon
the edge of the deep oval basin, 2000
ft. below, filled by Loch Coruisk, shut
in all round by an abrupt wall of
mountains, black as ink, and herb-
less, cutting the sky with their fan-
tastic jagged outline. Half-way
down, in the green lap or recess on
the mountain side lies the small
tarn of Loch Dhu ; following the
stream issuing out of it, you may
descend in an hr.'s hard scramble to
the margin of Loch Coruisk ; but the
view is finer from above. Out to
sea it extends to Loch Scavaig and
the Isles of Eigg, Eum, and Muck.
It embraces the whole succession
of the Coollin peaks, topped by
Scoor-na-Gillean, between which
and the observer intervenes the
mysterious Hart-a-Corrie.

The ponies may be left at the
bottom of the steep ascent on the
Sligachan side. Thence there is a
path to

Camasunary (4 m.) on the sea,
keeping Loch-nan-Damff" and Loch-
na-Creach on thert., and following
the stream flowing out of them un-
der Blabhein {see p. 390) to its mouth.

Distance from Sligachan to Portree,
94 m. Coach daily.

Mr. A. Nicolson recommends the

excursion from Sligachan to Coire-
nan-Crich, a gi-and corrie, command-
ing fine views over L. Bracadale.

Coach daily in summer to and from
Sligachan to Portree.

Except the views of the Cool-
lin range, it is a dreary and unin-
teresting drive to Portree, until
within 2 or 3 m. of it, when the dis-
tant Storr Rock and the harbour
appear in view.

9^ m. Portree (in Ptte. 57).


Portree to Stornoway and the
Outer Hebrides.

The bi-weekly Steamer to Portree
from Glasgow proceeds, after landing
her cargo, to Stornoway twice a
week, varying its course and calling
at Tarbert (Harris), and Loch Maddy
in Uist, and Loch Boisdale. There
is also a steamer direct from Glasgow
to Barra and Benbecula, and a steamer
once a week from Strome Ferry to

The Outer Hebrides, commonly
called "The Long Island," extend
from the Butt of Lewis, the most
northerly extremity of that island,
to Barra Head, a distance of 130 m.,
separated from the mainland by the
Minch. They include Lewis, Harris,
N. and S. Uist, Benbecula, lying
between these two, Barra, Pabbay,
etc. To the IST.W. part of Scotland
they form a sort of breakwater. By
the tourist these islands are seldom
visited, although the accommodation
is much improved. There are fair
Inns at Stornoway, Tarbert, Barvas,
Garry-na-hine, and Loch Maddy.
There is also a good road through
the whole Long Island ; also from
Stornoway to Uig, from Stornoway
to Ness, through Barvas (a small
inn), and from Stornoway to the
Aird. The scenery is monotonous,
from the comparative absence of
bold features, except in Harris and


Route 59. — Lcifis ; Stornmmy.

Sect. VI.

Barra, and tlieiiumber of little lakes
and sea-arms that intersect the coun-
try at every turn.

Lewis (pron. Lews), the N. part
of the principal island, belongs to
the county of Eoss, and the S. por-
tion, which is called Harris, to that
of Inverness. The climate is mild
and humid; annual rainfall 30 inches;
average temperature 40° to 46° 5", but
liable to violent storms. The surface
is flat, the soil is extremely poor, and,
though gi'eat efforts have been made
by the proprietor. Sir James Matlie-
son, to improve its powers of produc-
tion, they have as yet been attended
with but little success. The peat is
so soft and spongy that it is only by
continual repair that the drains
can be kept from closing up. The
division between Harris and Lewis
is partly arbitrary, and pirtly de-
cided by the approach of 2 fiords —
Loch Seaforth and Loch Resort.
The W. coast line from the latter
to Gallon Head consists of groups
of mountains of considerable height,
and frequently approaching the sea
in rugged precipices. To the N.E.
of this are a number of winding
fiords, all forming part of the large
bay of Loch Roag. ' ' The loch is hol-
lowed into bays, and interrupted by
passages of such variety and intricacy,
that it requires no ordinary degree of
attention and readiness in decerning
the true nature and bearings of the
land under such circumstances to
eifect its circumnavigation. With the
chart it is sufficiently difficult, with-
out that it would be almost impracti-
cable. The entrance by Loch Iloag in
particular is so obscure that a boat
ma}^ pass within a few hundred yds.
of the entrance without perceiving it.
The clifl"s which bound most of the
islands and shores are rugged, Avith-
out beauty, and with little elevation.
One or two detached rocks may,
perhaps, be exempt from this general
remark, and of these, Gariveilan,
placed at the mouth of the loch, is
the most interesting, displaying a

detached arch of gi^eat height, with
considerable simplicity and grandeur
of ettect." — Maccullodis Western

The only town in Lewis is Storno-
icay {Inn : Lewis Hotel, good) on
the E. coast, originally founded by
James VL Separated from it by a
narrow channel of the bay is Storno-
way Castle, the residence of Sir
James Matheson, Bart., who, to all
the other benefits which he has con-
ferred upon this property since he
purchased it from the Mackenzies
of Seaforth in 1844 for £90,000,
has added this, greater than all, the
building of a house upon it and living
there. Since Sir James became pro-
prietor of Lewis, a domain of 406,090
acres, he has spent there on education
and improvements in the island up-
wards of £200,000. Stornoway Castle,
his residence, is a large turreted build-
ing in the Tudor style, principally
of granite, with extensive conserva-
tories. Great skill and cost have
been laid out in the Garden, which,
by artificial soil, glass, and other
contrivances, is as productive as any
in the S. of England. The grounds
have been planted with suitable

Stornoway is a cheerful small town
of slate-roofed white houses, well
supplied with water and gas. There
is a commodious Pier, and an Episco-
pal Chapel. A Liglithouse marks the
entrance of the harbour : there is a
patent slip. There is also a court-
house and resident sheriti'-substitute.
It will interest those who have read
" The Princess of Thule."

Steamer, 4 times a week to Ulla-
pool and back (Rte. 67) ; twice a
week to Portree, Oban, and Glasgow.

About 2 m. from Stornoway, on
the banks of the Creed, are a range
of Furnaces for distilling oil from the
peat of the country by a chemical
process. They cost' £2 5, 000.


.J'U,/ 1 ! J I i_l< b

t ,ir n /s''//-

Online LibraryJohn Murray (Firm)Handbook for travellers in Scotland → online text (page 61 of 73)