John Macculloch.

The Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, containing descriptions of their scenery and antiquities, with an account of the political history ... present condition of the people, &c. ... founded on a series of annual journeys between the years 1811 and 1821 ... in letters to Sir Walter Scott, bart (Volume 1) online

. (page 1 of 37)
Online LibraryJohn MaccullochThe Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, containing descriptions of their scenery and antiquities, with an account of the political history ... present condition of the people, &c. ... founded on a series of annual journeys between the years 1811 and 1821 ... in letters to Sir Walter Scott, bart (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 37)
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Columbia (intt)ers(itj)



















■ - &xi. 8ic. Sec:








Josejih Mallctt, Printer,
59, Wardour Street, Soho,


Introductory Letter I

Dunkeld — Lochs ofthe Lowes — Chinie — Blairtiow-
rie — Grampian Hills — Dunnotier 15

Dunkeld — Strath Tay — Flemish Architecture of
Scotland — Moness — Aherfeldie — Kenmore 41

Glen Lyon — Fortinrial-^-Military Usages of the
Highlanders 68

Glen Lyon — Taymoiith — Gardening — Loch Tay-—
Ben Lawers — Killin — Glen Dochart. . 90

Loch Earn — Dunira — Comrie — Glen Lednach—-
Glen Almond — Loch Lubjiain 120

Callender — Stirling — Doune — Castle Campbell —
Loch Venachar — LochAchray — Loch Cateran. . 150

Highland Dress 176

Aberfoyle — Loch Ard — Loch Chon — Loch Lomond. W2

Drawing , 222

f^och Long — Inveraray— 'Tyndrnm — -Glenorchy —

Loch Aioe — Tyanuili — Cruachan 242

Appin — Ardmncknish — Berigonium — Dun Mac

Sniochain * 271

Vitrified Forts 287

1 V&boV


Appin — Loch Leven — Glenco — Moor oJ'Rannoch. . 302

Beti J^evis — Fort William — Inverlochy 322

Glen Roy 340

Arasaik — Glen Finnan — LochOich — Fort Augustus 356

Fyers — Inverness — Beauley — Moy 373

Spey — Kinrara — Glenmore — Cairn Gorm — Bal-

venie 390

Loch Alvie — Pitmain — Dalwhinnie — Loch Laggati

—Blair 408

Tumel — Loch Tumel — Schihallien — Rannoch 421

Highland Generosity and Extortion — Distinctions

and Exceptions — Loch Ericht 439

Glen Tilt— Mar— The Dee O • • • • ^^^


Vol. I. Page 175 last line but one for maze read mazes.

179 line 23/or trouser read troussei-

187 15 after plate add or

271 title for Bengenium read Berigonium
416 line 12 for character read characters
422 4 from bottom /or side read ride

Vol. II. Page 85 line 1 /or appar read appear

217 8 after some one add probably

383 10 from bottom /or toher read other

Vol. III. Page 29 line 3 from bottom erase I

73 9 from bottom erase yet

116 —— 19 for whom read which

149 15/or Tesca read Tecsa

240 6 from bottom for om read atom

273 — — 3 after on ac?(i uidiscriminate

Vol. IV. Page 88 line 3 from bottom/or ra^ciprooe read reeiprocae

108 23/or tales read tale

321 14/or seems read seem

349 9 for feasts read feast

350 8/or drank read drunk

374 1 for judical read judicial

402 4/or Cestrus read Oestrus

The severe illness under which this work was written, and which often also prevented the
author from superintending the press, is the only apology for the following oversights, as for
some repetitions and errors which cannot now be amended, arising from the printing of passages
in the MS. which had been erased.

Vol. I. Page 460 line 14/or Purcell read Dryden

II- 330 7/or Ephori read Reguli

447 11 for Gygen read Gyan

III. 286 7 from bottom/or Paniell read Pomfret

251 13 from bottom' /or Elianus read JEMus

IV. 326 16/or Amrad read Agib

Bromton— His literary character is misstated, and the word O Duihne has been somewliere
printed by mistake for Clan CoUa.



More years than either you or I are fond of remem-
bering, have elapsed, since first, on the borders of
Sydenham common, we compared a few of our observa-
tions on the subject of the Highlands, since we discussed
their wonderful scenery, and since we lamented together,
how imperfectly that country, all that belongs, and all that
ever did belong to it, was known, even to its immediate
neighbours, even, I may fairly say, to its own inhabitants.
These days can return no more. You are still deliditina:
the world, and so is Campbell ; but our excellent friend
Lord Selkirk is gone to receive the reward of his benevo-
lence and his virtues. My own tenure has long been pre-
carious ; the foot of time is stealing on, but not noiseless
and inaudible ; and as I feel that the night is coming
when it will be too late to do what I then neither intended
nor thought to have done, and too late to repent of it un-
performed, I have at length undertaken to collect all that
has not been forgotten, and much that you will now hear
of for the first time. It is but another consequence of the
same train of unforeseen circumstances that led to my
intimacy with this country, which has thus caused the
record of what those unexpected events forced on my



From whatever causes these recollections have as-
sumed their present form, under whatever circumstances
that Avhich was about to vanish has been embodied, to
disappear now, only with the paper on which it is written,
1 know not to whom these letters could better have been
addressed than to him who has so often stepped forward
in this very career ; to the Poet of the Highlands, to him
who has revived the rapidly diminishing interest of a
covuitry as singular in its romantic beauties as its people
are in their history, in their position in society, and in
their manners and feelings.

The world knows much of the interest which you have
taken in this people, and of the illustration which you have
bestowed on them: it knows what you have'acknowl edged,
and it believes what you have not confessed. Had I been
acquainted with the author of Waverley, of Montrose,
and of Rob Roy, I might have balanced in my choice
between him and the poet of the Lord of the Isles and
of the Lady of the Lake. But the Poet is a substance,
and the Novelist is a shadow. To that I could not have
addressed myself; yet, as we judge of the presence of
the sun by the shade which it casts, and as the midnight
robber is detected by his image on the wall, I must trust
that, in laying hold of the substance, I have secured the
shadow also. More dexterous, however, than the noted
Greek litigant, you have contrived, like the German ma-
gician, to separate your shadow from yourself, to give it
a local habitation and a name, and to erect it into your
own rival; eclipsing, like the moon in its darkness, the
very luminary on which it depends. Thus I have gained
as my correspondent, him whom I should, above all man-
kind, have chosen ; for by whom could I hope to have
been so well understood as by him who, while he is the
poet of the Isles and of the mountains, of Macdonald and


Clan Alpin, is, at the same time, the poet of Waverley,
and Montrose, and Rob Roy, of the Cearnach and the
Clans, of Highland chivalry and Highland feelings.

If, however, you expect much order in what follows,
you will expect what I never intended, and what, if I
had even desired it, I could not have accomplished.
Many years, a fearful period of retrospect, have elapsed
since first I was enchanted with Loch Lomond and
Loch Cateran, since first my heart used to beat at the
name of Macdonald and Campbell, since I wandered
an enthusiast among the visions of Ossian, since no me-
lodies had charms like the melodies of Lochaber and
Strathspey. After a long interval, I returned to find
beauties never forgotten, in every blue hill and bright
lake, in the wild woodlands and foaming torrents : to see
a friend in every tartan, and once more to feel the joy
that was wafted in every mountain breeze. Chance, ne-
cessity, duty, each, all, I need not now say what, com-
pelled me to cultivate, for many successive years, an ac-
quaintance thus unexpectedly renewed; and the same
necessity compelled me to visit more of the country, and
that more minutely, than it has fallen to the lot of any
person existing to do.

Knowing therefore, as you do, that what follows was
the result of many successive journies, the recollections
of what had passed before me while occupied in far other
and graver pursuits, pursuits which did not often leave
me a choice of plan or of time, you will not expect either
geographical or chronological consistency. Such order
would have incurred the double evil of prolixity and of
repetition ; while the necessity of enormous elisions and
changes from what was seen and remembered, during
various seasons, without the hope or promise that the
observations of one summer would be completed or



amended in the next, has inevitably interfered in many
places with that simpler form and far different manner
which would have attended the records of a journey
made with the design of relating what is here related.
But we are all the slaves of circumstances: what we in-
tend is not often fulfilled, and much comes to pass which
we had never expected. And, after all, since chance has
so much to do in the affairs of this under world, I know
not why it may not produce an author and a book. It
operates stranger things every day. If I foresaw not that
the boyish wanderings of my college holidays were to
lead to a future intimacy that should become the cause of
an occupation, as little did I expect that the hours of rain
and storm, the days of imprisonment in ships and in High-
land cottages, and the far other imprisonment of many
weary and painful months, should ever conspire to produce
a book. But we sow the seed and forget it; we are sur-
prised at its increase, we water and trim the plant, with
little thought and less design, because we have com-
menced, and are at length surprised to find that it is
grown into a goodly bower, and that we can shelter our-
selves beneath its branches. Yet it is irregular and wild
and imperfect ; and, when too late, we regret that we had
not originally designed to plant the arbour under which
we are now compelled to sit, as best we can.

If these letters owe something in accuracy and extent
of detail to the intimacy of long experience, I know not
but that the advantages are counterpoised by the very
failings which flow from the same source. There is a
vividness in the first impressions of objects, which va-
nishes by repetition. It is not only to female beauty that
familiarity is death. Admiration, wonder, are transitory
feelings; and well has Nature so ordained it. Peculiarities,
also, cease to be peculiar by use : and he, therefore, who


neglects to record what he imperfectly knows, in the
hope that he will one day know it better, who waits for
the fulness of information, will find too late that he has
forfeited advantages for which no accuracy of knowledge
can compensate; that he is attempting to describe or
examine, with blunted feelings, that which owes its all
to the very imperfection of his knowledge. These are the
magical clouds of gold and crimson that vanish in the
glare of noon, the images of beauty which flit before the
fancy in the twilight of evening, and are dispersed at
the rising of the sun. But we cannot cull at once the
flower and the fruit, and must learn to be content with
what Nature allows us.

The picturesque beauties of the Highlands have now
for some time been acknowledged ; and, without the ne-
cessity of forming comparisons with other' parts of the
world, we know that this country has much to boast of,
that we have much to admire. It produces examples of
every style of scenery: mountains, lakes, rivers, cascades,
woods, rocks, sea-coasts, all the elements of landscape
are here displayed, and under every form of grandeur
and of beauty. All which wild cliflfs, and mountain bays,
and rocks, and islands, and open and cultivated shores,
can yield, are found on the western coast: in the interior,
innumerable lakes of every possible character, the placid
and the bold, the rude and the ornamented, are scattered
in unsparing profusion. The deep ravine and the wild and
rocky alpine glen are succeeded by the rich and open
valley, splendent with wood and cultivation; and the
cascade which thunders down the mountainside, becomes
the lovely river forcing its way amid rocks and trees,
chafing through its obstructed channel, and at length
meandering through the spacious vale or the wide-spread
and wooded plain. While the fading' tints of the blue


mountains, grouped in a thousand forms of wildness and
magnificence, occupy the distant landscape, their wood-
land declivities, their deep precipices, their lofty summits,
and all the profusion of trees, and rocks, and chasms, and
water courses, and torrents, which vary and ornament
their sides, are the unceasing sources of endless scenes
of beauty and of variety, of grandeur and of sublimity.

But if much of this is known, there is far more which
has remained unseen and unrecorded ; much which
human foot has scarcely trod. It has been my chief object
to bring these scenes to light, to render that justice to
the country which it has yet but sparingly and partially
received ; and to point out to others much that demands
their admiration. No accessible part of the country has
been untrodden : the islands and the mainland, all that lies
within the Highland borders, has been visited, and much
too has been examined that is little likely to be visited
again. On such unknown and unappreciated objects,
the chief attention has been bestowed ; as it was less
necessary to dwell on that which has long been familiar.
But, even in these places, I have endeavoured to guide
the traveller or the artist to such points as are most easily
overlooked by cursory observers, and which could only
have been discovered after much intimacy and by much
study. If I have not dwelt on them in greater detail, it
has been chiefly from the interminable length to which
such an attempt would have led, but partly from con-
sciousness of the insufficiency of mere description, and
of the fatigue which attends the reading of such conti-
nuous details of visible objects. It is a deep source of
regret, that I have not been able to accompany them
by engravings from the innumerable drawings that were
made for their illustration. On this point alone, the
public cannot partake of that which, on all others, belongs


alike to you and to tliera. To yourself alone, or to the
few to whom they can be opened, must these illustrations
remain confined.

If the local antiquities are neither numerous nor
splendid, they are still interesting- ; and nothing* of this
nature has been omitted on which I could hope to throw
any light. If much has been done by former observers,
there is much also which has been overlooked or omitted.
That they involve many points of doubt, and some of
controversy, are circumstances inseparable from the very
nature of this pursuit; but, like others, I would fain
imagine that, in these cases, I have had only one object ;

The historical antiquities are often much more obscure,
and have, still more, been subjects of hypothesis and ot
controversy. They have a wide bearing, since they in-
volve the antient political condition of the country.
Hence they are intimately entwined with many preju-
dices and many feelings. To have avoided collision on
some of these points, was therefore more than could
have been expected. I must, however, trust, that being
anxious only to ascertain the truth, my own Highland
prejudices and attachments have not materially influenced
my judgment; and that, on the other hand, where I
have differed from those who have engaged in the same
subjects, with a laudable, though injudicious, warmth
of feeling, and with a partiality to a fictitious and imagi-
nary state of things, I have been only desirous to rest
these claims, such as they are, on an unimpeached and
immutable basis, and thus to give them a firmness and a
support, which will be sought in vain in misplaced
enthusiasm and in unfounded tradition and belief.

In attempting to form a distinct idea of the present
state of the country, whether as to the manners of the


people or their political and agricultural condition, it has
been still more necessary to separate from what is actually
existing, an order of things long since passed away, and
which, though supposed still to survive, by those who
derive their notions from former accounts or from ro-
mantic tales, has so long vanished as to have become
matter of history. I need not tell you how truly this is
the case, nor how much the readers, not only of the tales
to which I have already alluded, but of many other
popular works, and of many recent books of travels, will
be disappointed, if they expect to meet a Helen Mac
Greg-or, a Dugald, or a Captain Knockdunder, at every
corner ; to be greeted, in lona or Sky, by a gifted Seer,
or to find every cottage and every stream and hill, re-
sounding with the songs of Ossian or the heroic deeds
ofFingal. The day is now some time past since these
delusions should have subsided : it is impossible to
maintain them longer without an unpardonable sacrifice
of truth ; but, to reasonable minds, these peculiarities
will not have lost their interest, though they are now but
the recollections of former days ; and truth demands that
the past should now at length be separated from the
present, and that things should be exhibited as they
really are, not as we have fondly dreamed of them. I
am aware that readers will find it difiicult to persuade
themselves that such is the present state of the country :
for it is very difficult, even for us, as you have doubtless
felt no less than myself, to avoid seeing things through
the delusive mists of our early and historical impressions,
and to avoid imagining what our reason tells us is no
longer true.

Time has already produced, or is fast completing, those
changes on the Highlands which were unavoidable ; and
which, considering their situation as a portion of one of


the most improved political societies of the world, it is
surprising- that they should so long have resisted. If,
among these, there is somewhat to regret, there is also
much to approve : but whatever the balance for good and
evil may appear to different minds, all may alike console
themselves with the reflection, that they were, and are,
inevitable. To unite the manners and actions of youth
with those of manhood or of decrepitude, belongs neither
to society nor to man : we must submit to what nature
has ordained, and learn to be content with such advan-
tages, and to suffer such evils, as she has allotted to each
state. To lament that they neither possess the peculiar
virtues, nor enjoy the peculiar happiness, which belong to
a low or early stage of civilization, is to regret the progress
of civilization. To desire that, to these, they should unite
all the virtues and blessings which arise from improve-
ment, is to wish for what the world never yet saw ; to
grieve that we cannot at the same instant possess the
promise of spring and the performance of autumn.

This general reflection applies equally to their poli-
tical condition as to their manners and feelings. That
has been hurried along by an irresistible torrent, by cir-
cumstances which could not be controuled. Yet superficial
observers see only, in this, the immediate agencies, the
proximate actors. Unable, therefore, to comprehend the
superior force by which these are directed and urged,
they attribute to these intermediate causes, those contin-
gent evils, which, among much good, have been the in-
evitable consequence of the uncontroulable progress of
events. Nor has it been unusual to see, or to imagine,
fictitious evils in addition to the real ones : while, by the
union of these imperfect views with unreasonable regrets,
and with a state of feeling, always in excitement, and often
additionally stimulated to anger by controversy, the most


simple propositions and the most obvious reasonings have
been obscured and perverted. If, where these questions
have forced themselves on my attention, I have not suc-
ceeded in extricating them from the confusion in which
they have been involved, I would still flatter myself
that they have been examined without passion or pre-

I will not however deny that my prejudices are in
favour of this people, and that I have often laboured hard
to reconcile my wishes to my conviction. I could weep
with all my heart over such distresses as I have witnes-
sed ; but I know, at the same time, that these will not be
remedied by making the people discontented with their
superiors or with their condition. I know also that they
will neither be diminished nor removed by attempts to
flatter or restore ancient feelings or ancient prejudices.
If even that were practicable, we ought to remember
that these are of a very visionary nature ; and that, in
indulging them ourselves, we are in the situation of
spectators, not actors ; contemplating, through the mists
of distance and of poetry, all that is beautiful or sublime,
and unable to see the ruggedness and asperities and bar-
renness of the mountain which fades in the far distant
horizon beneath all the softness and beauty of an evening
sun. Thus also we attribute to the people of past days,
feelings which exist only in our own imaginations; feel-
ings which they never knew, and happiness which they
never enjoyed ; as, in contemplating the heroic ages of
Greece, or the fancifully bright periods of Gothic chi-
valry, we forget the mass of suflTering and misery that
filled the times which produced, as a gleam through
the night, an Achilles or a Leonidas, a Richard or a

To the people as they now are, I do not scruple to


acknowledge an attachment which may possibly have
influenced my judgment in their favour. That very at-
tachment has also made me more anxious to point out
such faults in their character as are capable of amend-
ment. To be without faults, is not the lot of humanity ;
to overlook or suppress them where they exist, is either
wilfully to lose sight of truth, or is a proof of slender re-
gard and of a low estimate of merit, as well in the case
of a people as of an individual. It is the faults of those
whom we esteem that are the subjects of our notice and
regret : and to point them out, is at least the act of a
friend, and the first step towards a remedy. I am well
aware of the folly and difiiculty of generalizing on na-
tional character ; yet I cannot think that I am far wrong,
when I say that it has hitherto been the lot and the
praise of the Highlanders to have lost the vices which
belong to a rude and infant state of society, without ac-
quiring those which are the produce of civilization. If,
on the other hand, they have lost many of the virtues
peculiar to the early stages of political society, they have
only lost what it was impossible to retain ; while they
have, in return, acquired those which belong to its ad-
vanced condition. Exceptions, of course, there are, be-
cause there must be : as no national character can also
be the character of every individual. To have noticed
these, is to inspire confidence in the general truth of the
observations : to have omitted them, would be in itself,
a condemnation of the fidelity or of the discernment
of the observer. Such as these faults are, they are
neither numerous nor important. It will also be seen
how all those which are the relics of a former state ol
things, have originated and been preserved, and how
they must necessarily vanish at some future day ; while
those which are of recent introduction, are merely the


result of novelty, of new opportunities acting on noAv
wants ; evils which must subside as the new and the
old state of things shall acquire a more uniform level.

Nor, in thus estimating the mass of the people, would
it be just to withhold similar praise from their superiors.
I have already noticed the obloquy which, from a narrow
yiew of the progress of events, has been thrown on them.
That censure is unfounded : nor, were it otherwise, is
there good policy in exciting mutual discontent between
the upper and the lower classes, in loosening, by force

Online LibraryJohn MaccullochThe Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, containing descriptions of their scenery and antiquities, with an account of the political history ... present condition of the people, &c. ... founded on a series of annual journeys between the years 1811 and 1821 ... in letters to Sir Walter Scott, bart (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 37)