William Thomson.

A tour in England and Scotland, in 1785 online

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lord might raife his rents without oppreffmg
the tenant, and thofe people who are now, to
all appearance, truly miferable and wretched,
rendered comfortable and happy. The op-
pofite plan to this is frill the prevailing cuf-
tom in moil parts of the Highlands. The
chieftain lets the land in large lots, to the
inferior branches of the family, all of whom
muft fupport the dignity of lairds. Thefe
renters let the land out in fmall parcels, from
year to year, to the lower clafs of people,
and, to fupport their dignity, fqueeze every
thing out of them they can pofftbly get,
leaving them only a bare fubfiftence. Until
this evil is obviated, Scotland can never im-

That part of the Lochiel eftate which goes
down from Fort- William to the ferry at Bal-
ly-huliih, contains a quantity of very good
grazing land, and will produce any thing
that may be wifhed for, fuch as carrots, tur-
nips, or cabbages, for feeding cattle in win-

ter, &c. Creat quantities of very fine po-
tatoes are now growing upon it, as flourifh-
ing as any in England. By the culture of
fuch plants and roots, more black cattle may
be fed : for the great drawback in this bufi-
nefs at prefent, is the want of provender in
winter. Near Loch-Leven is a veiy good
flate quarry, which in fome meafure fupplies
the neighbouring country, and fome of it is
lent coaftways to different parts. Mr. Seaton
has two on the oppofite more, which rather
diminifh its value : however, it may be
turned to a very good account, by adopting
a new and more comfortable ftile of habi-
tations in the Highlands, for the poor peo-
ple, who cannot now be faid to live in houfes.
No Kamlkatka hut can be worfe than a
Highlander's. Thofe dreadful abodes muft
often be the caufe of difeafe and death.

The farm of Bcnnevis is a very good one
for grazing, and other purpofes. On the
banks of the River Lochy is a great extent
of flat land, feveral hundred acres. This is


at prefent covered with a fort of mofs, but
has a fandy foil under it, which, by means of
fea-weed or lime, may be converted into
good land in the courfe of two or three years.
Thofe manures deflroy the mofs in one
year : the next, tolerable potatoes may be
raifed ; and the third, oats or barley. It
may then be laid down in grafs. At the
upper end of Lochiel is a falmon fifhery :
but nets only are ufed, and few fifh are

Wednefday, I3th July. The town of
Maryborough has a good many tolerable
houfes in it, and contains about 500 people,
who have actually no employment, but a
little herring-fiihing in the feafon. The
only mode, in my opinion, which can be
adopted to make them induilrious, Is, to ef-
tabliih amongft them a woollen manufactory.
This country produces a great quantity of
wool, which is now fent to Glafgow and
Liverpool to be wrought into cloth, &c. A
manufactory of wool would render the ar-

( "143 )

tides of drefs much cheaper, and give activity
to a fet of men, loft to the world and to
themfelves in the moft torpid and miferable
indolence. The communication from hence
to the fea is too obvious to admit of any il-
luftration. Ships of any fize may come up
to Fort- William : but the pafTages among
the iflands are dangerous, from rapid tides
and currents, and thofe ftorms and hard
fqualls to which all mountainous. countries
are fubjccl. Yet it certainly may be navi-
gated, and, in the fummer months, with
eafe. At Fort-William there is great abun-
dance of peat for fuel, particularly on the
Lochiel eftate, not three miles from the
town, whither it is brought in boats. ' Coals
alfo may be landed here tolerably cheap.
Fifli of various forts are caught here in great
plenty : falmon, turbot, herrings, haddoclis,
whitings, &c. &c.

To the weft ward of Lochiel is a confidera-
ble eftate, called Clanronnald, belonging to
Macdonald, who alfo porTdfes the greater


( H4 )

part of the ifland of South Uift, which, by the
article of kelp alone, produces 1500!. a year.
Thurfday, i4th July. Leave Fort- Wil-
liam, and go to Letter-Findlay, fourteen
miles of very bad road, and rather hilly.
Pafs over High-Bridge, built by General
Wade over the River Spean : two of the
arches are ninety-five feet high. This is a
very rapid river, running between high and
perpendicular rocks into Loch-Lochy, which
is fourteen miles long, and two broad. This
loch empties itfelf into the weftern fea, at
Fort- William, as Loch-Oich does through
Loch-Nefs, into the eaftern, at Invernefs.
From Fort-William to the weft part of Loch-
Lochy, there is a great quantity of good
grazing land, the gras being of a moderate
height. The mountains on the north of the
loch are of vaft height, and barren, except
near the bottom, where there is fome good
grafs. On the fouth fide of the loch there are
good fheep-walks, and the land is, in various
places^ covered with wood. When you firft


come upon Loch-Loehy, you have a view
into Loch-Arkek; and upon the oppofite
fhore, near the entrance into Loch-Arkek,
flood Achnacarrie, the feat of Lochiel, burnt
in 1746. The road from this place flretches
eight miles, on the fide of Loch-Lochy, and
is fometimes carried through very beautiful
woods of aller and birch. After patting
Loch-Lochy, a very fhort diflance brings
you to Loch-Oich, a narrow lake, prettily
indented, and adorned with fmall, wooded
iflands. On the north fhore, near the mid-
dle of the lake, is Glen-Garie, the feat cf
Mr. Macdonald, a modern, though odd-built
houie. Near this ftand the ruins of an old
cattle, fituated on a rock. This place is
prettily wooded, and the land up the glei\
iecms to be well cultivated.

After leaving this loch, you travel about
four miles to Fort-Auguftus, which is fitu-
ated on a plain at the head of Loch-Nefs,
between the Rivers Tarff and Oich, Over
'the lad of thefe, there is a bridge of three

K arches,

( '46 )

arches, well built, which opens a comma-
nication with the north. Fort-Auguflus is
a fmall fortrefs, formed by four baftions, and
is capable of containing about 400 men. It
is not capable of any defence, being command-
ed by feveral places at no great diftance.
Near the fort is a fmall village, and a to-
lerable inn > and below it, a little pier, which
affords flicker for fmall veflels and boats,
that come from Invernefs to fupply the gar-
rifon. The mountains on each fide of Fort-
Auguftus are very rocky and barren : nor is
there much grazing or corn-land in the bot-

Friday, July 15. Leave Fort-Auguftus,
and afcend a very long hill to the fouth of
the fort, which is near three miles to the
top 5 on reaching the fummit of which, you
are prefented with a view of numberlefs hills
and mountains of almoft barren rock. In
the vallies, or rather pits, may be feen a
few acres of grazing land, and a fmall quan-
tity of corn. On the top of this mountain,


( '47 )

is Loch-Tarff, about a mile wide, with fe-
veral fmall iilands in it, on fome of which
you fee a few fhrubs. This loch fends forth
the River TarfF, which runs down to Fort-
Au^uftus, fwelled in its paffage by feveral
fmall ftreams. Rido nine miles over this
barren country, and arrive at the celebrated
fall of Foyers, at the upper part of the glen,
which is beautifully covered with birch-
trees. Above the fall is-a bridge built over


the river upon two perpendicular rocks, the
top of the arch near i oo feet from the level
of the water ; and juft above the bridge, the
whole body of the Tarff falls near fifty feet
perpendicular into the glen. Near a quarter
of a mile below this bridge is the large fall,
which is near two hundred feet, and the wa-
ter afterwards runs into Loch-Nefs, over
large and rugged rocks. On a promontory
clofe by this river, a gentleman of the name
of Frafer, has a houfe pleafantly fituated,
which commands a good view of the loch,
and the mountains on each fide. About a
K 2 mil?

( 148 )

mile from the Fall of Foyers, the road is
carried through a very beautiful birch wood,
to the General's Hut, a very indifferent pub-
lic houfe, where we were obliged to dine on
very bad fare. Near this are the remains of
an old kirk, where many of the Frafers lie
expofed to the rude infults of man and
bead. After leaving the General's Hut, the
road goes for twelve miles by the fide of
Loch-Nefs, through a beautiful fhrubbery of
birch, oak, and allers. The oppofite fide
of the loch is formed by very high moun-
tains, moftly covered with heath. At the
lower part of the loch, which is twenty-four
miles long, and at fome places a mile wide,
are many plantations of fir, fome of them
very extenfive, but none of the trees above
fifteen or twenty years old. Some hollies,
and a great deal of juniper and furze, grow at
the lower part of the loch. This furze is th.e
firfl I have feen in the Highlands. The
plantations of fir are continued all the way
to Invernefs, which is about five miles from


( H9 )

the lower end of Loch-Nefs, where it
a river which falls into the Murray-Firth.

On the north fide of this great expanfc of
water, where it is indented by a promontory of
folid rock, ftands Caftle-Urquhart, once the
feat of the Cummins, at one period the moft
powerful clan in Scotland. The lake, with
its woody borders, the lofty mountains with-
in which it is embofomed, and the eafy tran-
fition of ideas, by means of the lake, to the
forts, and to the town of Invernefs, render
this fpot one of the moil charming that the
imagination can conceive. The foil between
the lower part of Loch-Nefs and Invernefs
is veiy fandy, but produces tolerable cprn.
In the River-Nefs much falmon is caught.
The filhery is let to the London fifhmongers.

Invernefs is a town of confiderable magni-
tude, faid to contain about 1 1 ,000 inhabi-
tants. Some of the houfes in it are tolerably
built, but the ftreets narrow and dirty. It
is fituated on a plain between the Murray
Firth and the River Nefs. Ships of 4 or 500
K 3 tons

t vns can ride within a mile of the town, and,
at high tide, vellels of 200 tons can come up
to the quay, which, though fmail, is made
fafe and convenient. Ths principal bufmefs
carried on here is the fpinning of thread,
making linen and woollen cloth for their own
confumption, and facking for exportation.
Several large buildings have been erected for
thofe purpofes, and much bufinefs is carried
on in private houfes. On the north, near
the town, are the remains of Oliver's Fort,
which was made of mud. Three of the
baftions are frill remaining. This fort was
well fituated, for it commands the whole
itown, and might at any time be furrounded
by water. Several of the factory houfes are
now built within it, and a part of it forms
the bafon for the reception of vclFels. On
the fouth fide of the town, on an eminence,
flood old Fort-George, taken and blown up
by the Highlanders in 1746. Juft below
this place is a. handfome bridge of feven
arches over the River Nefs. Several places


round Invernefs command beautiful views,
particularly a hill covered with firs called
Tomnaheurich. From this hill you may fee
the whole town, the Murray-Firth, the River
Nefs, and a variety of neighbouring moun-
tains. There is a great deal of corn raifed
about Invernefs, particularly oats and beans.
The foil is light and fandy, and there are great
complaints here of the want of rain : fo very
different from, and yet fo near is the climate
to that about Fort-William. The want
of rain, in this part of Scotland, may be
accounted for as follows: the mountains
on the fouth-weft, from which the rain ge-
nerally comes, are fo exceedingly high, that
the clouds are arrefted, and fhed among them
the greatefl part of their moifture. Thofe
'weftern mountains are alfo Ib ftrangely
formed, and heaped up to the fky in fo many
perpendicular points, that they naturally
occafion eddies round them, and draw the
wind in various directions, making as it were
Jnd of vortex : fo that the clouds cannot
K 4 pofli-

( '5* )

poflibly efcape them. By this means the ea-
ftern part of Scotland, which lies in their
direction, is prevented from receiving the
quantity of rain by which it would be wa-
tered. This part of the country, at prefent,
bears evident marks of drought, from the
top of Loch-Nefs all the way to the eaft-
ward, while every part of the Weil Highlands
is refrefhedwith rain even in fuperabundance.
The ifland of Great Britain, between In-
vernefs and Fort-William, aflumes a form
that is very extraordinary and curious. It
is deeply indented on either fide, and near-
ly divided by water, which is moftly, and
might eafily be made navigable all the way.
But a confiderable commerce alone could
make a return fuitable to the expence of do-
ing fo. Loch-Nefs, Loch-Oich, and Loch-
Lochy, which are all navigable, might eafi^
ly be united with each other, by canals, and
form a communication between the two feas.
The land which feparates thefe lochs is low,
and a canal might eafily be made from one to


( '53 )

the other. Thefe lochs, from Inverness to
Fort- William, are bounded by high moun-
tains on each fide, and from both the weftera
and the eaftera point of view, exhibit the
appearance of the ifland being interfected
by water.

Saturday, i6th, July. Leave Invernefs,
and ride fifteen miles, part of it over Cullo-
den Moor : pafs by Culloden-Houfe, the feat
of Mr. Forbes, and the ruins of Cauder-
Caftle j and have a very good view of Fort-
George, a ftrong and regular fortrefs. The
barracks here are handfome, forming feveral
good ftreets. This fort is fituated on a low
and narrow neck of land, running into the
Murray-Firth, and compleatly commands the
entiance into the harbour. The land be-
tween Invernefs and Nairn is quite low and

Nairn is a fmall town, fituated on an emi-
nence near the fea. The houfes arc built of
ftone, and fome of them pretty good. The
north-earl end of the town is compofed of


miferable Highland huts. Many boats be-
long to the people of this town, the prin-
cipal employment of the men being fiming.
The boats are large, and, from their con-
ftruclion, capable of bearing a great deal of
fail. They are made rather lharp before,
and continue their breadth nearly to the
flern. This is a good country for corn -, but
the foil being fandy, the want of rain has
kept the crops very backward.

Sunday, i7th July. Leave Nairn, and
ride moil part of the way, on the beach, by
the fea-fide, to Torres, a fmall well-built
town, pleafantly fituated near fome little
hills, and, as it lies on an eminence, ca-
pable of being kept very clean. The coun-
try about it has a chearful appearance, hav-
ing a few gentlemen's feats, with fome plan-
tations about them. On a hill weft of the
town are the remains of a caftle, and a melan-
choly view of a number of tad-hills, that
now cover that tract of land which was
formerly the eftate of a Mr. Cowben, in the


( '55 )

parifh of Dyke. This inundation was oc-
cafioned by the influx of the fea, and the
violence of the wind. It had been the cuf-
tom to pull up the bent, a long fpiry grafs,
rear the fhore, for litter for horfes, by
which means the fand was loofened, and gave
way to the violence of the fea and wind,
which carried it over feveral thoufand acres
of land. The people having been prevented
from pulling up any more of the grafs, the
progrcfs of the fand is now nearly flopped,
and the fea has retired : but the wind has
. blown fome of the fand from the hills over
Colonel Grant's land, and deftroyed near one
hundred acres. A fand-bank, which is all
dry at low water, runs out from this place
for feveral miles, into the Murray-Firth.
Some of the land, which has been long for-
faken by the water, is now beginning to be
ufeful again, and is turned into grazing land.
At Forres, coarfe linen and fewing-thread are
made. About a mile from the town, on the
left-hand fide of the road, is a ftone near


( '56 )

twenty feet high, called King Sweno's Stone,
creeled by the Scots in memory of the final
retreat of the Danes. On a moor, about
four miles further, Shakefpear places the
rencounter of Macbeth and the Wierd Sif-
ters ; and it is judicioufly chofen, for all the
women in this part of the country have the
appearance of midnight hags, They only
want the cauldron and the broom-ftick to
compleat them for the flage. In our vyay
from Forres to Elgin, pafs by the ruins of
Kinlofs- Abbey, founded by David I. in 1 150.
Near this place Duffus, King of Scotland,
was faid to be murdered by thieves. All the
country between Forres and Elgin is very
barren j moftly black heath and land mixed
with gravel. In fome places there is a tole^,
rable crop of beare, which is a poor fort of
barley, and oats : but the ground much in want
of rain. Near Elgin is a large moor, or mofsj
which theporTeiTor is draining ; by which he
employs a great number of people, and in time
may probably reap fome benefit to himfelf.


( '57 )

For where a mofs grows over fand, it may,
in a few years, be brought into good grazing
land. About half a mile from Elgin is a very
large plantation of firs, called Quarry-Wood.
Elgin, a town about the fize of Forres, has
a few good houfes in it. Of the cathedral, a
yery beautiful old ruin, part' of two towers,
the weft entrance, and the chancel, flill re-
main, though much mutilated : however,
there is enough to fhew the exquifite work-
manmip with which it was formed, and who-
ever fees it, muft lament the rude violence of
the Reformers, that brought it to defolation.
On the weft of the town, on a hill, ftood an
old caftle, which, from its fituation, would
command the town. Of this ftracliure, a
few heaps of ftones are now only remaining.
The people here, as in all the little towns on
this coaft from Invernefs, are employed in
making thread and linen cloth, chiefly for
their own confumption. All thefe towns,
Invernefs, Nairn, Forres, and Elgin, have a
very difmal appearance, being all built of


dark ftone : nor can they claim the merit of
being very clean, and Elgin, in filthinefs, ex-
ceeds them all.

Monday, iSth-'July. Leave Elgin, and go
to Fochabers, through feveral miles of very
good corn land ; the foil fandy ; the crops
now on the ground chiefly beare and oats,
with fome few acres of wheat. About five
miles from Elgin, on the left, is a gentle-
man's feat, with very extenfive plantations
of firs, upon land which, in a few years,
might be made very fit for any kind of grain.
By alloting certain portions, rent free, for
eight or nine years, to poor families, they
would be able to maintain themfelves, im-
prove the land, and promote population. It
is impoffible to avoid obferving the inju-
dicious manner in which the Scots have
made plantations : nor can I poffibly account
for it in any other way than by confidering
it as the effect of pajTion. They have been
coatinually ridiculed by the Englifh, for hav-
ing no trees in their country. Some men,


( '59 )

therefore, determined to be laughed at no
longer, have gone home, and infread of plant-
ing a variety of trees, and placing them fo
as to be a icreen to the land, and an orna-
ment to the country, they have turned great
portions of their eftates into forefts of Scotch
firs, which are but ugly trees at beft, and
which grow fo nearly of a height, and are
placed fo clofe together, that the country
Hill looks, at a diftance, as if there was not
a tree in it. The particular plantation I
have juft mentioned, is at a fufficient dif-
tance from the houfe, to admit of converfion
into corn-land without interfering with the
pleafure-ground : therefore, I would recom-
mend it to the owner to cut all the trees
down, and make the ufe of it I have men-
tioned. It is a melancholy reflection, that
people are leaving the Highlands daily, and
transporting themlelves to America, while
thoufands of acres are lying wafle, which
might be made produclive to the owner, and
maintain numberlefs families.


Crofs the River Spey at Fochabers, where
there is a ferry-boat, but no bridge. This,
I believe, is the moil rapid river in Scotland.
After heavy rains it carries everything before it.
At Fochabers is Gordon-Caftle, a very large
and elegant building. The centre of the
houfe is old. The north-eaft front is regu-
lar. The fouth-weft front has a fquare tower
in the middle, which is confiderably higher
than the top of the houfe j the wings, which
are new, are very elegant. The whole front
extends near 3 50 feet, and has upwards of 1 20
windows; The fituation of the houfe is low,
and rather damp. The park, though not ex-
tenfive, has many fine old trees in it, but
planted without tafte or judgment. All the
grounds about it are in a very unfinifhed
ftate. The hills above the houfe are all
planted with fir. As to the infide of the
houfe, I can fay nothing. The Duchefs be-
ing at home, we did not chufe to intrude upon
her. The old town of Fochabers confifts of
miferable huts, but a new one is begun, in


( 161 )

which are feveral good houfcs, and two to-
lerable inns. At this place there is an ef-
tabliihment for making fewing- thread, in
which about fifty girls are employed. From
Fochabcrs to Cullen is twelve miles, a very
fine corn country all the way, and the crops
of wheat, beare, and oats, very flourishing
and flrong. The foil, in this part of the
country, has in it a mixture of clay. Some
fields of grey peafe arc fown here, and feem
to thrive very well. On this road are a
number of fmall houfes, belonging to the
Gordons, being in the neighbourhood of the

Cullen is a fmall poor town, without one
good houfe in it, pleafantly fituated on the

le of a fmall hill, under which is Cullen-
houfe, a feat of the Earl of Findiater, {land-
ing on the edge of a glen. The planta-
tions round it are very extenfive. The houfe
is very antient and large, but there are no
good rooms in it, nor any pictures, except a
few tolerable, portraits. A bridge of one
L arch

arch, of feventy feet high, is thrown ovef
the glen juft by the houfe, at the bottom of
which runs a rapid ftream. In the evening
pafs by Portfoy, a neat little fifhery town,
on a fmall promontory, running into the
fea. Arrive at Bamff at night. The coun-
try between Cullen and Bamff is well culti-
vated, and inclofed, in fome places, by ftone
dykes. It produces a great quantity of beare
and oats, and a final! proportion of wheat and
grey peafe. The foil is remarkably good, and
the effe6ls of good hufbandry are very vifible.
Moil of the cottages, and particularly the
farm-houfes, are built of ftone, and covered
with tiles or flate: a comfortable fight, to
which we have not been accuftomed flnce we
entered Scotland. The poor people in all
the weftern part of it, are ftill living in mi-
ferable huts, a few of which are to be feen

Bamff is pleafantly fituated on the fide of
a hill, clofe to the fea. There are feveral
ilreets in it, and one which is very decent.


( 163 )

The hai bour is but indifferent. The falmon-
filhing here, in the River Divenon, amounts
to loool. per annum. Near the town is
Duff- ho ufe, the feat of the Earl of Fife, a
very large pile of building, with a fquarc
tower at each end. The front is richly orna-
mented with carving. The rooms are all
imall, and the bed apartments are not yet
finHhed. The plantation and walks about
this houfc are laid out with more tafte and
elegance, than any I have feen in Scotland,
A beautiful river, called the Dive, runs
through the grounds, and near the houfe is
an elegant bridge over it, of nine arches,
built by Government. All the neighbour-
ing hills are covered with pine. Oppofite to
Bamff is a little town, called Macduff, be-
longing to the Earl of Fife, who is taking
much pains to improve it, and is building a
pier for the coafting vcilcls, which, when fi-
nilhed, will befafe and commodious.

Tuefday, 1 9th July. Leave Bamff, and go

through two fmall villages, called New Deer

L 2 and

( 1 64 )

and Old Deer, to Peterhead. From Bamff ta
New Deer, about fixteen miles. The land
here belongs chiefly to Lord Fife j a great
part of it is in a high flate of improvement,
It is moftly corn land, though there is fome
fit for the fattening of cattle, to which ufe a
part of it is applied. Many of the bullocks
are fo large, as to amount, when fattened, to
the value of 25!. At Old Deer is the remains
of an old abbey, and near it is held a large
fair annually for cattle, for which they were

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Online LibraryWilliam ThomsonA tour in England and Scotland, in 1785 → online text (page 7 of 16)