James Johnson.

The recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides online

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attachment to his own family his father, mother, sons, daughters,
uncles, aunts, and cousins, to the ninth generation. It is within these
limits that a Scotchman's social affection expands itself, never reach-
ing those which are outermost, till all means of discharging itself in
the interior circles have been exhausted. It is within these circles that
his heart throbs, each pulsation being fainter and fainter, till, beyond
the widest boundary, it is almost unfelt. And, what is worst of all,
could you surmount all these concentric outworks, you have an inner
citadel, deeper, higher, and more efficient than them all a Scotchman's
love for himself."

The above character may appear somewhat exaggerated or severe,
though drawn by a Scot ; for, although put into the mouth of Rash-
leigh, a great villain, yet it evidently conveys the sentiments of Sir
Walter himself. Rashleigh is allowed to be well acquainted with
Scotland, and far from being an enemy to Scotchmen.

If we critically examine the portrait here drawn, we shall probably
come to the conclusion, that in those points where it differs from the
portrait of an English or Irish man, the balance is in favour of the Scot.
The latter is accused of strong selfishness ; yet this same selfishness is
the first and the strongest passion implanted by the great Creator, not
only in the human breast, but in that of every animated creature on
earth. The first law of nature is, " eat, or be eaten." If the stronger
animals did not devour the weaker, the latter would devour them. If
man did not destroy or eat all other animals, they would eradicate
him from the soil, and still continue to prey on one another. Selfish-
ness, therefore, is the instinct which preserves the individual the bond
which holds together the members of a family, a clan, or a whole

If the Scotchman's selfishness be narrowly scrutinized, it will be
found to differ in no other respect from the selfishness of his neigh-
bours, the English and Irish, than in being more intimately combined
with, or rather composed of, industry, prudence, and economy. A
Scotchman knows the difficulty of acquiring property, and is INDUS-


TRIOUS : he knows the value of it, when acquired, and he is PRUDENT
in the management of it : he sees how often and how easily it is
squandered, and he is ECONOMICAL.

The concentric circles are ingeniously drawn round the Scotchman,
as barriers to confine any wide dissemination of his charity or benevo-
lence. But surely it must be granted that, if our bounty bursts the
first barrier of self, it should be expended on our nearest relatives then
on the more distant and lastly on our clan or country. Whenever
this mode of distribution is disturbed or reversed, the law of nature is
infringed, and evil is the result.

But Sir Walter Scott has omitted one of the most striking traits of
Caledonian character, in his brief but graphic delineation of it. It is
not the parsimony, but the partiality not the tenacity with which a
Scotchman clings to his pelf, but the innate desire, the inflexible deter-
mination which he evinces, on all occasions, to further the interest of
his countrymen when it does not trench on his own. This partiality
or prejudice, whichever we may call it, leads a Scotchman sometimes to be
rather unjust, although his moral sense of right and wrong, on other points,
be remarkably keen. Thus, if he have a place of trust or emolument in
his gift on the banks of the Ganges or the Delaware, and there are three
candidates for the office an Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotch-
man, he will give the preference to the latter, although the claims or
merits of the other two may preponderate. Sir Walter Scott himself
would not have denied that this is PARTIALITY but it is a partiality or
prejudice (perhaps good policy) which is born with him ; or, if not, is
imbibed with his mother's milk, and is as much a part of his moral
character, as a high cheek-bone or a hairy leg is a part of his physical
organization. It is as innate and hereditary as his physiognomy ; and
will not be obliterated by amalgamation with his neighbours of the
south and west, till long after his language and features are undistin-
guishable from theirs.

The Killin innkeeper exhibited a remarkable illustration of the inner
and stronger fortification by which a Scotchman is surrounded the
love of SELF. The interest of his neighbour of Kenmore could not be
thought of, while there was any chance of furthering his own. The
lame mare was dragged from the mountain, rather than the return
horses of Mr. Allen should have a job ! It is true that the Killin Boni-
face overshot the mark. He ruined his own horse, in his anxiety to
grasp fifteen or twenty shillings !

But, after all, in what does the Scotchman differ from his neigh-
bours, east or west, north or south? In nothing, except that his
entrenchments are deeper, his stockades more bristly, and his lines of
defence better manned, than those of other people.



Bidding adieu to the noble mansion (" a church built on the top of a
castle") and elegant grounds of the King of the HIGHLANDS (Marquess
of Breadalbane) and the hater of " mountain dew" (two strange qua-
lities united in one personage) , we wind through Strath-Tay, considered,
and perhaps with justice, the most beautiful and romantic valley in Scot-
land. The Falls of Aberfeldy, pronounced by Pennant to be " an epitome
of every thing that can be admired in waterfalls," was only deficient
in one item WATER ! The weather being hot, it had all, or nearly all
run away to bathe in the Tay. Still we had many good things left.

" The hoary cliffs are crown'd \vi' flowers
White o'er the linn the burnie pours,
And, rising, weets wi' misty showers
The birks of Aberfeldy."

A modern author, of great weight, avers that this fall, though a nar-
row stream, gives life to the surrounding landscape. By this he does
not mean the bustle and the noise, and the roaring, which are the ordi-
nary sources of attraction to the vulgar ; but " a more delicate prin-
ciple of life, which may exist without foam and without sound, with
little perceptible motion, and without producing either surprise or
amazement." The following is a more tangible explanation of this
" life" of a waterfall without noise or motion: "The rays of the sun
do not penetrate it, but every object is illuminated by a general sub-
dued light, and by the reflections proceeding from the water, and rever-
berated from rock to rock. Under these lights are seen all the rich
browns of the dripping stones, the deep black chasms and fissures, the
broad grey faces of the rocks, the brilliant golden mosses that cushion
every projection, and the light airy green of the ferns, and of the tender
foliage of a thousand shrubs, feathering from above ; while aloft, the
trees throw their branches across, tinging with green the transmitted
light, and adding to that general effect of tranquillity, which distin-
guishes this cascade from every other."

The drive from Kenmore to Dunkeld (a distance of twenty-six miles)
presents some of the finest views in Scotland. A clear river winds
through a well-wooded and cultivated country, with a lofty mountain
boundary, and containing all the elements of picturesque scenery, with
the giant BEN-LAWERS always presiding over the whole. The geolo-
gical, and even the philosophic traveller will feel interest in knowing
that all the lower part of STRATH TAY was once a lake. There are flat
alluvial terraces, as well as other marks on each side of the Strath, that


prove the water to have heen once, at least, one hundred feet higher
than the present surface of the river, and consequently that, at the
narrow pass of Dunkeld, there was once a magnificent cascade, where,
at present, stands a handsome bridge over a placid river.

We are now in Dunkeld the most beautiful spot that I have seen
in Scotland. But as I am no adept at description, I shall here introduce
some passages from a work which is too little known to Southron
readers, and even to Scotchmen themselves, for reasons into which I
shall not enter.

" There are few places, of which the effect is so striking as Dunkeld,
when first seen on emerging from the Pass of Birnam ; nor does it owe
this more to the suddenness of the view, and to its contrast with the
long preceding blank, than to its own intrinsic beauty ; to its magnifi-
cent bridge, and its cathedral, nestling among its dark woody hills, to its
noble river, and to its brilliant profusion of rich ornament. But it is
seen in far greater perfection, in approaching from the Cupar road, pre-
senting, at the same time, many distinct and perfect landscapes pro-
duced by the variations of the foregrounds. To the artist, indeed, these
views of Dunkeld are preferable to all which the place affords ; because,
while they form many well- composed pictures, they are tractable sub-
jects, a circumstance which is here rare, owing to the want of sufficient
variety, and to that incessant repetition of trees, from the foreground
even to the farthest distance, which often renders the whole a con-
fused and adhering mass of unvaried wood. With many changes,
arising from the winding of the road, from the trees by which it is
skirted, from the broken and irregular ground, and from the differ-
ences of elevation for the point of sight, all of them producing fore-
grounds unusually rich and constantly changing, the leading object in
this magnificent landscape is the noble bridge striding high above the
Tay, here a wide, tranquil, and majestic stream. The cathedral, seen
above it, relieved by the dark woods on which it is embosomed, and
the town, with its congregated and grey houses, add to the general mass
of architecture, and thus enhance its effect in the landscape. Beyond
rise the round and rich swelling woods that skirt the river, stretching
away in a long vista to the foot of Craig Vinean, which, with all its
forests of fir, rises, a broad shadowy mass, against the sky. The varied
outline of Craig-y-barns, one continuous range of darkly-wooded hill,
now swelling to the light, and again subsiding in deep shadowy recesses,
forms the remainder of this splendid distance, the middle grounds on
each hand being the no less rich and ornamented boundaries of the
river, relieving, by their spaces of open green meadow and hill, the
continuous wood of the distances ; while the trees which, in profusion


and in every mode of disposition, are scattered and grouped about the
margin of the river and high up the hills, advance, till they blend with-
out breach or interruption of character, with the equally rich fore-

" There are scarcely any two walks which do not differ in their
character and in the objects which they afford ; and indeed, so far from
dispensing with any, numerous as they are, we could even wish to add
more. Nor is there one which does not, almost at every step, present
new objects or new sights, whether near or remote, so that the attention
never flags, and, what is the strongest test of merit, in nature as in art,
after years of intimacy, and days spent in succession in these grounds,
they are always interesting and always new."

" I know no place where it is so necessary to abandon this system of
measuring all beauty by its capacity for painting, to forget all the jargou
of the picturesque gentlemen, the cant of the Prices, and the Gilpins,
and others of this sect. Few are aware how much is overlooked by
persons of this class, how much natural beauty is wasted on those who
have adopted this system, and even on those who, without any system,
have accustomed themselves to form every thing into distinct land-
scapes, and to be solely on the watch for subjects of painting."

" It is easy here to see, that the very circumstances which render
Dunkeld the splendid collection of objects which it is, are those also
which cause it to be generally unfitted to the painter's art. Intricate,
and belonging more frequently to the character of close than of open
scenery, the profusion of wood prevents that keeping in the landscape
which is so essential in art ; while there is also commonly wanting the
contrast arising from vacancy, so necessary, in painting, to relieve mul-
tiplicity of ornament ; still more, that contrast of colour and of distance
which requires variety of open ground, of bare, green, and grey, and
brown ; and, above all, the haze of the vanishing woods and valleys,
and the blue of the misty mountain. Still, in its own character, Dun-
keld is perfect, even in the nearer grounds of its deep valley ; nor, in its
remote parts, is it wanting in all the circumstances that belong to other
classes of landscape. Thus, when properly examined, it contains, even
for the painter, stores of the most splendid scenery, in every style the
blue mountain distance, the wide and rich strath, the narrow and woody
glen, the towering rock and precipice, the dark forest, the noble river,
the ravine, the cascade, the wild mountain stream, the lake, and all
which art and cultivation can add besides to embellish nature. If to
this we join all the hourly sources of comfort and enjoyment produced
by its sheltered and secluded walks, its river banks, its groves and gar-
dens, and alleys, and lowers, its magnificent and various trees, its


flowers and its shrubs, we may with justice say, that it has no rival in
Scotland, nor, probably, in all Britain*."

The cascadef, the rumbling bridge, the walks, and the new palace,
will delight the most fastidious traveller while the celebrated cathedral,
" wanting only the roof, and wanting nothing as a ruin," will furnish
ample materials for reflection to the antiquary.

Had that indiscreet cicerone, Boswell, conducted Dr. Johnson through
the Duke of Athol's grounds, the lexicographer would hardly have
complained that he saw no tree in Scotland so big round the waist as
himself unless the Doctor measured fifteen feet in circumference,
which I can hardly imagine, however well proportioned his stomach might
be to his brains. The man of words and definitions would appear to
have inoculated his Caledonian neighbours, not merely with an itch,
but an absolute mania for trees. Wherever we look in this " land of
mountain and of flood," our eyes are saluted with the sight of planta-
tions, which seem to have come into the world just about the time that
the lexicographer went out of it. This may have been a mere coinci-
dence, but it is not unlikely that a people who showed themselves so
sensitive to Johnson's remarks on scarcity of wood, may have strained
every nerve to remove the stigma (if it were one) and disprove the
accusation. " The total number of trees planted by this very active
cultivator (the late Duke of Athol) amounts to about thirty millions;
and the plantations of Dunkeld alone, which are still in progress, cover
eleven thousand acres ! How the country has been converted, in this
place, from a brown rocky desert to what it now is, is too plain to be
indicated; and what it is yet to effect, will be obvious to those who
examine the young woods that are shooting up. It is something to have
done this, were it only for beauty; but it is much more thus to have
added to the public and private resources of the country. The larch
has already been used in ship-building, so that its value is ascertained ;
but it has been also discovered to possess an advantage that was un-
foreseen, in reducing the barren and brown hills to green pastures.
Within twenty years, all the heaths, rushes, and former vegetation of
the mountains disappear ; and the ground among the woods thus be-
comes green, and applicable to the feeding of cattle, so as, from a former
value of a few pence, to produce a rent of many shillings for the acre*."

The late noble possessor of this princely domain showed the ruling

* MacCulloch, vol. i. pp. 16 to 20.

! } In Ossian's Hall the cascade, by means of a reflecting mirror in the ceiling, is
reversed, or converted into a waterspout in the ascendant. This may be considered an
agreeable variety ; but the taste is somewhat questionable. An additional mirror would
have caused the water to fall agreeably to the laws of nature and gravity

J MacCulloch, vol. i. p. 43.


passion strong in death. At the age of seventy-five he was hi the habit
of sitting for hours every day, contemplating the gorgeous fane that was
rising under his direction, in a better situation than the original resi-
dence for commanding a fine view over the town towards Perth. Di-
rectly on the line of this prospect, and on a handsome eminence, stands
a neat house, the property, I understood, of a physician. This was a
great eye-sore to the late Duke, and he used every means in his power
to remove it and clear the perspective. He wheedled, threatened
bribed ; but all in vain. The Doctor stood as firm as one of the great
larch or spruce trees in the Duke's lawn; and he, whose ancestors
could bring an army of Caterans or slaves into the field, by a note of the
pibroch, was unable to dislodge a single tenant, by fair means or foul,
to embellish his castle ! Such is the difference between the olden and
the modern time !


Starting from Dunkeld on a beautiful autumnal morning, we ascended
the rocky King's Pass, where the valley of the Tay bursts on the view,
and the river itself is seen winding below among woods and rocks. This
Pass is not uninteresting in itself, while tradition lends its aid, by show-
ing us a fissure in the rocks, where DUNCAN HOGG, an ancient High-
land CACUS, used to drag those cows which he had lifted on his neigh-
bours' fields there'to devour them like a hyaena at his leisure ! From
this Pass to Logierat, and even to Blair Athol, the whole drive is one
continued, but ever-varying landscape, ever splendid in the distance,
ever rich and amusing in the proximate scenery of the road. The finest
view of this portion of Strath-Tay is considered to be from an elevated
spot near the Duke of Athol's farm. The Tay and the Tumel are here
in one stream, winding through bright meadows interspersed with trees,
till it rolls along, deep among its wooded banks, a majestic but silent
river beneath our feet. On each side rises a long screen of varied hills,
clothed with picturesque woods ; the whole vista terminating in the
lofty and remote mountains, softened by the blue haze of the distance,
as they close in about Killicrankie.

At Logierat, the traveller is sure to find a wedding, whatever day in
the year he may pass there the nuptials of the beautiful and accom-
plished Miss TUMEL to the feudal LORD TAY. This lady, after leaving
her paternal mansion, Loch Rannoch, runs a short but brilliant course
to the spot where she meets her future lord, and where she changes her
name for ever " With a total course not exceeding twenty-five miles,


it is thus, at its termination, the rival of many Scottish rivers of far
longer career. But the Tumel has no infancy no period of weakness
and uncertainty, struggling through moss and moor, and claiming,
rather from caprice than right, the honours of dominion over contending
streamlets. It rises in its vigour from Loch Rannock, already a river ;
yet a vassal, and owing feudal service to the all-devouring Tay, in which
its name and its waters are alike swallowed up at Logierat." The fate
of the Tumel is too often that of human life ; for, if merit and beauty
could have rescued it from a violent and premature death, it would have
borne its name to the latest hour, and only have terminated its existence
in that emblem of eternity, the ocean, at which both its lord and itself
finally arrive.

The road from Moulinearn to the Garry-bridge owes all its charms to
the vale of the Tumel, which is among the most beautiful and romantic
in Scotland, though little known. Its distinguishing characters consist
in its narrowness and prolongation in the sudden rise and loftiness of
the boundaries in the great variety of their rocky outline in the won-
derful intricacy of their surfaces and of the woods, rocks, and ravines
which cover and intersect them, in the highly-ornamented course of the
river. The celebrated cascade of the Tumel is one of the lions of this
part of the country ; but no description of it will here be attempted.
The following curious reflexions on waterfalls in general, and this one
in particular, is more in accordance with the plan of this volume, and I
shall make no apology for introducing it here.

" I know not where the effects of cascade scenery can be more en-
joyed, the impression which it produces can be more felt than here. If
the principle of life, a principle that seems to animate all around, is one
of r the great causes of the effect which the cascade produces on the
mind, not a little also is owing to that image of eternity, which its never
beginning, never ending, flow conveys. Nor is that the eternity of the
river alone, which flows and will flow on, till time is no more ; but every
moment is a moment of power and effort, and every succeeding effort is,
like the former, unwearied, unabated. It is a tempest and a fury that
never cease. The other wars of the elements are transient ; the ocean
billows subside in peace, the thunder rolls away, and the leaves that
sounded to the tempest, soon glitter again with all their bright drops in
the sun-beam. But the cascade is eternal ; every instant is a storm
and a tempest, and the storm and the tempest are for ever. It is a
similar feeling which overwhelms the mind in contemplating the grander
efforts of machinery, the steam-engine and the tilt-hammer. It is not
only the power, the noise, the fire, and the magnitude and brilliancy of
these operations, which dazzle and astonish us. Every moment is a


moment of violence and effort, every instant seems the crisis of some
grand operation but every succeeding one is like the former, and the
unwearied storm of machinery is, like the cascade, the emblem of eter-
nity and of eternal power*."


In the far-famed Pass of Killicrankie, I confess I was much disap-
pointed. The recorded fact that a regiment of Hanoverian soldiers
refused to enter it, as it appeared to be the portal to some other world,
had raised my expectations to the highest pitch, and I had pictured to
my mind a frightful chasm, far surpassing that which separates the
Glisshorn from the Gantherhal, and through which the Saltine roars
and raves on its way to the valley of the Rhone from the icy summits of
the Simplon. So little remarkable, however, was there in this Pass,
that some of the travellers, even on the outside of the Inverness mail,
would never have imagined that they were traversing it at all, had their
attention not been directed towards it by the guard. I really thought,
at first, that the guard was hoaxing us, by pointing out a false Killi-
crankie, in order to enhance our admiration when the real one came in
view. But no ! I was doomed to experience what most people feel
every day the disappointment resulting from exaggerated representa-
tions and extravagant anticipations. Although this Pass must have
appeared more terrific to the Hessian troops, scrambling along the edge
of the river, than to us, gliding along an excellent road ; yet I venture
to assert that, if they entertained any fear of visiting another world, on
the north side of Killicrankie, it was on account of HIGHLAND BAYONETS !
This may afford some key to the panic.

" Omitting such scenery (says a celebrated writer) belonging to this
romantic and magnificent Pass as is visible from the high-road, the most
detailed and perfect conception of its general form must be sought from an
elevated spot in the grounds of Coilivrochan, a scene well detailed in Rob-
son's popular and accurate work. A totally different style of landscape
will be found by descending into the bed of the river, generally supposed
inaccessible, and consequently unknown. The bridge of the Garry here
affords a striking object from below, as it does from above ; but the most
interesting part is that where the river is seen from the high road,
struggling through rocks and forming a dark pool. At this part, and
for a considerable space, its course is under high cliffs and banks, and
amid obstructing rocks, sometimes forming cascades and rapids, at others

* MacCulloch, vol. i. p. 430-1.


a rippling and gentle stream now breaking like a miniature lake on

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Online LibraryJames JohnsonThe recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides → online text (page 16 of 28)