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 12 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 12 of 37)
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and misplaced economy which has constructed a Cale-
donian canal for little other purpose but to enrich con-
tractors and engineers, and which rescinded a grant not
amounting to one-tenth of its annual expenditure, every
farthing of which was productive of valuable results to
the country. Except that lake and Amulrie itself, a
pleasing little spot, there is nothing in this line of road
to induce the mere traveller to follow it; nor is there
more attraction in the lateral branch which leads through
Strath Braan to Dunkeld. The Rumbling Bridge, the
only object much worthy of notice, has already been
mentioned in speaking of this last place ; and I may
therefore terminate my proceedings in this quarter, and
return to Comrie. Hence there is a mountain road to
Callander ; but I cannot recommend it. If it be shorter
than that by Loch Earn and Lubnaig, it compensates for
that by its badness ; occupying at least as much time,



and being utterly without beauty or interest of any

After leaving Loch Earn head for Callander, it is
easy, by diverging about two miles to the right, to see
Loch Voil and Loch Doine, nearly united, and situated
among the Braes of Balquhidder. They are pleasing
little lakes, appearing together to be about five miles
long, and are surrounded with cultivation. But I cannot
say that they offer any picturesque scenes ; not much at
least that can be made a subject of painting, as the valley
in which they lie is so open, that the hills are at a con-
siderable distance from the water, while these are also
without any very marked features. Nor is there any
temptation to penetrate further in this direction ; the
country presenting no beauty, and that extremity of
Loch Cateran which may be reached from this quarter,
being utterly void of attraction. The church of Balqu-
hidder is celebrated in Highland legendary lore, as the
scene of one of the noted exploits of the Mac Gregors,the
children of the mist : a story which has been often told,
like the Raid of Cillechrist and many others which I have
not thought it necessary to repeat, and which is to be
found, among other places, forming a part, as you well
know, of the fabric of " The Legend of Montrose." That
these g-entlemen of the mist should have cut off Drum-
mond's head, in return for the heads of their friends,
seems justifiable enough, as matters were conducted in
those days ; but he must have a considerable tenderness
towards these descendants of King Alpin, who chuckles
at the good taste which placed the head on a sister's
table, with a piece of bread and cheese in its mouth, and
as a return for her hospitality. There is nothing much
worse than this in the history of cannibalism; and really


if Glenstrae and his followers thought fit to produce the
head in the church and avow their intention of protecting
the authors of this joke, they cannot have much to com-
plain of, if their declaration of war was met by a counter
declaration in the shape of a commission of fire and sword
to Montrose.

The road towards Callander is sufficiently dull till we
approach Loch Lubnaig; a lake remarkable for its sin-
gularity, and far from deficient in beauty. It is rendered
utterly unlike every other Scottish lake, by the complete
dissimilarity of its two boundaries : the one being flat and
open, and the other a solid wall of mountain, formed by
the steep and rocky declivity of Ben Ledi. Though long,
it therefore presents little variety ; but its best land-
scapes are rendered very striking by their great simpli-
city, and by the profound and magnificent breadth of
shade which involves the hill, as it towers aloft, impend-
ing over the black waters on which it casts a solemn
gloom. Nor is it deficient in all those minute ornaments
of rock and tree and cultivation, and of sinuous and pictur-
esque shores, which serve to contrast with and embellish
this breadth and grandeur of character. Ardhullary, the
seat of the Abyssinian Bruce, has acquired a sort of clas-
sical reputation, as having been the place where he is
said to have secluded himself for the purpose of concoct-
ing his Opus Magnum. Enviable dog вАФ when we un-
lucky scribblers are obliged to work when we can, not
when we will ; amidst physic, and law, and children, and
wives, and the ringing of bells, and visitors, and facheux,
and the thunder of wheels : in cabins of ships, and in
carriages, in gout, and ague, and rheumatism, in sick-
ness and in noise, in vexation, and sorrow, and distrac-
tion. But the charitable world cares not for these dis-
tinctions : it looks to the end, without enquiring about

L 2


the means ; considering only itself. It cares not that the
vanquished general wanted troops or ammunition ; and,
like the Egyptian task-master, demands the same pro-
duce from him who has the means and the materials, and
from him who is in want of every thing.

The name of Strathire is known to all the readers of
your poetry, and indeed I am now arriving on classic
ground, and I may add, ticklish ground; about to tell
you what you have been telling to other people, to the
the whole world. But as I have also been obliged to
fight my way through the same career as the Lord of
the Isles, I must do the best I can in the regions that
have been occupied by the Lady of the Lake. There is
no remedy, at any rate, unless you will take the pen out
of my hand and fill up this great blank yourself: for it is
too serious a tract to be left as a hiatus in MS. But
as this is an event more to be wished than expected,
and as yourself and Blanche and Malcolm Groeme may
look at things in one way, a lucky exemplification of
lunatic, lover, and poet, and as I am but a jog trot proser,
contemplating them in another, I must even throw the
reins on the neck of my own humble grey, in hopes that
he may pick out a path somewhat different from his gal-
lant predecessor. As in the case of my friend the tra-
velling cutler, we have all our several ways of envisager-
ing the world : chacun a ses lunettes. No one who has
seen the pass of Lenie will ever forget it ; but he who
has seen it will forget the rest of Strathire, Kilmahog
and all. As a specimen of a mountain pass, it can scarcely
be exceeded in grandeur and romantic beauty: as a
specimen of river landscape, it has few rivals : uniting
both, it produces a picture, unequalled, inasmuch as it has
no parallel in character, and not often equalled in mag-
nificence and power of effect, in an union of appropriate


ornament and alpine sublimity. This is one of those feli-
citous compositions to which the artist can add nothing,
and from which he can take nothinar. The river is all
that we can desire ; broad and majestic, while rapid and
rocky, and fringed with wood ; suited to the breadth and
elevation of the noble precipices of Ben Ledi that rise
to the sky in one solid grey mass, and to the cliffs of
wild forest that unite to foiin this romantic scene, and,
which, while they are the gate, seem to refuse all further
access, an impenetrable barrier to the Highlands.



Though, in the course of my g-eography, I have
brought you to Callander from the Highlands, it will
happen to the far greater number to reach it from Stir-
ling, and thus to have an opportunity of seeing what well
claims a visit, Doune castle. The noble trees that sur-
round this building, the magnitude and variety of the
ruin, the river, the position, the country around, all unite
to render it one of the most picturesque of our ancient
castles. Here, however, I am again transgressing ray
bounds; but having got thus far beyond them, why
should I not go yet a step further, if it will teach those
who may follow me, what I should have been thankful
to have been taught myself when I began my career.
But it is not Stirling of which I need speak, the glory
of Scotland ; for who does not know its noble rock, ris-
ing, the monarch of the landscape, its majestic and pic-
turesque towers, its splendid plain, its amphitheatre of
mountain, and the windings of its marvellous river : and
who that has once seen the sun descending here in all
the blaze of its beauty beyond the purple hills of the
west, can ever forget the plain of Stirling, the endless
charm of this wonderful scene, the wealth, the splendour,
the variety, the majesty of all which here lies between
earth and heaven. It is for the purpose of pointing out


the true road hither, that I have thus far encroached on
my limits; and chiefly for the sake of Castle Campbell ;
scarcely known, though known to exist; named, but
named as if it was an every-day sight, and passed every
day, by hundreds who are satisfied with knowing- that
they are near it, and with hearing a few wretched puns
upon its name.

But I ought to be silent about the puns : for the Dea
of puns, if there is such a one in Varro's list, seemed to
have pronounced a judgment on me for my contempt.
Certainly Dollar was a cause of dolour to me ; as I was
condemned to lie still for a week, and wonder at what par-
ticular hour 1 should be choked with a squinancy. The
throat is an awkward contrivance ; because, as legislators
know, it is easily stopped up. Fortunately, Dollar, or
Dolour, contained no doctor. The landlady, however,
was the howdie of the village, and came to tender her
services, producing Dr. Young's certificate. I assured
her that my case was not in her line ; but, by dint of the
Napoleon practice, I was rescued from this tedious sub-
stitute for a halter ; and, in a week, was able to receive
the congratulations of all the auld wives, and young ones
too, of the neighbourhood. 1 must agree with you. Sir
Walter, that it is an odd sex in our hours of ease: and
the rest follows. Half of the whole sex of Dollar, kind
creatures, came out of their houses when they saw the
stranger gentleman crawling up the hill, like a spectre
from the vaults of Castle Campbell, to offer him seats,
and milk, and what not; and when I returned many
years afterwards, to see and again to thank my obstetric
hosts, I was received, not as one who had been a source
of trouble, but as an old friend. Certainly, when I can
choose the inn in which 1 am to have a fever, it shall be
at Dollar.


What a piece of work is man ! He certainly is, master
Shakspeare. Because his pulse takes a fancy to beat 82
instead of 72, he is unable, in twelve hours, to sit up in
his bed ; and, when he gets out of it at length to enjoy
the fresh air, must hold fast by the wall he could have
jumped over a few days before. If the pulse continues
rebellious, the carpenter comes and nails him up in a
box, and all his half-finished schemes are at an end.
Some one says, that if a watchmaker's productions did
not go belter, he would get very little practice. How-
ever that may be, the sun never shines so warm, the flies
never hum such sweet music, the mossy bank never looks
so green, and never does the air breathe such perfume,
as when he first returns from the edge of the grave to
smell the breeze that blows from the wallflowers of Castle
Campbell ; or of any other castle.

To the traveller, there can he no choice between the
road to Stirling by Linlithgow, and that by Dunferm-
line and Dollar : yet the former is commonly adopted,
and if the latter is trod, it is by chance, or by the iew
who may know this lovely part of Fife. Dunfermline
itself, Saline, Torryburn, the Devon with its rumbling
bridge and its cascades, the whole country, in short, is
one continued scene of beauty, rendering this portion of
Fife one of the most delicious parts of Scotland. From
the gates of Muckhart, along the foot of the Ochills, is a
ride exceeded iu beauty by very few lines in Scotland
of equal length ; singular too as it is beautiful, bounded
on one hand by a lofty and continuous wall of green and
cultivated and wooded mountain, and, on the other, look-
ing over a wide and open expanse of country which daz-
zles the eye by the richness of its wood and cultivation.
It is in a summer evening, however, that this ride is to be
enjoyed in perfect beauty; when the rich purple and


yellow haze of the west relieves the majestic rock of
Stirling, and when the light is glancing along the end-
less objects, the towns and waters and trees and hills
and woods and rocks that fill this wonderful picture ;
throwing its full yellow gleam on the long and lofty per-
spective of the Ochills, as they stretch away from the eye,
varied by deep shadowy valleys and wooded dells and
hanging forests, and streaming down their bright cas-
cades to glitter in the sun-beams.

But it is for Castle Campbell that I have brought you
here ; not for scenes among which days and weeks might
be occupied without thinking them long. The general
glimpse of this place, as it is seen from the village of
Dollar, is sufficiently striking; but those who are satis-
fied M'ith this superficial view, will form a very inade-
quate idea indeed of the grandeur and variety of this
extraordinary scenery. In advancing towards the ra-
vine, the importance and interest of this first picture
becomes materially increased ; as the castle is now
more distinctly seen, perched on its lofty conical hill,
and embosomed deep in the surrounding- mountains
that appear to overhang it, shadowing it with a per-
petual gloom ; continuous woods sweeping up the steep
acclivities on each hand, and the wild river burst-
ing- out from the deep and mysterious ravine amidst
overhanging trees and rocks, as if it had suddenly sprung
from the centre of the earth. Many magnificent land-
scapes of this strange and wonderful spot may be procured
from different stations at the bottom of the valley, and
by changing from one side to the other of the river; the
essential parts of the picture continuing the same, while
the lofty side screens of wood alter their form and po-
sition, and the features become varied by new trees
and banks and rocks, and by the changes in the aspect


of this picturesque and winding river. But, in every
position, it maintains its gloomy and solemn character ;
a depth and a breadth of shadow, at all hours of the day,
in singular harmony with the noble sweep of the woods,
the towering majesty of the mountains, and the bold and
simple form of the hill which rises with inaccessible
steepness from below, crowned with its romantic castle ;
a mountain in itself, yet overtopped by the vast amphi-
theatre around, which, lifting itself to the sky, impends
over it in all the sublimity of shadowy twilight and repose.
, But whatever grandeur or variety Castle Campbell
may present from below, these are far excelled by the
views from above, which offer scenes of magnificence
and sublimity not surpassed in Scotland, and possibly
not surpassed any where. It adds no small interest to
this scenery, that it bears not the slightest resemblance
to any thing in the country, nor to any thing that an
imagination, however conversant with Scottish landscape,
could have conceived. Various as are the pictures from
different positions, one general character pervades the
whole. The eye, from whatever point, here takes in the
whole sweep of this noble amphitheatre of hill and wood ;
plunging, in inaccessible steepness, beneath our feet,
down to the invisible depths below, in one sheet of wild
forest, and towering aloft and over head, a range of sim-
ple and majestic mountain summits. In the midst, arises
the conical mountain, now seen below us, and bearing its
romantic fortress, insulated in the deep hollow; its inac-
cessible sides being lost to the eye as they tend down-
wards to the dark depths of the surrounding chasms be-
neath, where the river struggles amid its rocks and woods,
unseen and unheard. From some points, this landscape,
wonderful as it is, receives a great accession of splendour
and magnificence, by admitting, on one side, a distant


view of the richly ornamented country which extends
from the foot of the Ochills to the Forth ; the water itself
gleaming bright in the distance, and the horizon terminat-
ing in the hazy forms and long, retiring, hilly range of
the opposite shore. But it would be vain to attempt to
describe scenes fitted only for the pencil, and, by a sin-
gular felicity of composition, admirably adapted to its
powers, even where, from occupying so high a point of
view, the landscapes might be expected to lie beyond its
scope and means. With a perfect unity and balance of
composition from all points, a characteristic foreground
is never wanting; while, without breach of perspective,
all the objects follow each other, in that succession, from
the very nearest foreground to the remotest distance,
which is so rarely found in this class of elevated land-
scape, and which is so essential to a perfect composition.
There is nothing baseless, nothing tottering, nothing of
that obliquity of line, and defective balance, and violent
contrast between the nearer grounds and the distance,
which form so general a character of elevated landscape,
and which so commonly render them unfit for painting,
however striking or grand they may be in nature.

There is access to the castle at the only point where
its hill is connected with the surrounding mountains;
where some ancient and noble sycamores, the remains of
an avenue, add much to the picturesque effect of the
building. While its extent is such as to be adequate to
the grandeur of the landscape by which it is surrounded,
its forms are picturesque in a high degree ; and it is in
that precise state of ruin which is sufficient to add to its
beauty and interest without destroying its importance.
From the very narrow area around it, the views are fear-
fully sublime : while it is also impossible to quit its walls
but for a few yards, without the risk of being hurled into


the unknown depths of the surrounding valley. So steep
is the declivity all round, that the eye sees not the slope
of the ground on which it is standing; looking down on
a dark and interminable chasm between the opposing
woods, and striving in vain to penetrate those deep re-
cesses which even the light of day reaches not. A fright-
ful chasm in the hill itself, guarded by an outwork,
appears once to have served the purpose of giving access
to the water below : it is called Kemp's Score, and still
bears some marks of a staircase. It is -said that Castle
Campbell was originally called the Castle of Gloom, and
that these lands were given by a Bishop of St. Andrew's
to an Earl of Argyll, as a reward for his assistance in a
dispute respecting precedency with the See of Glasgow.
The date of the building is, however, uncertain ; though
the estate was possessed by the Campbells in 1465. In
1644 or 5, it was burnt by Montrose ; since which it has
remained a ruin.

But I must return to Callander and to the Highlands,
leaving to those to whom it more properly belongs, the
description of all the particulars that relate to this inter-
esting road. The ancient manufactory of Highland fire
arms for which Doune was celebrated, has ceased ; as its
fairs, the resort of the western Highlanders in former
days, have been superseded. It is a mean little town,
but will always be a point of attraction to the traveller,
on account of its castle, and of the Teith, which is here a
fine river; and as giving a near and immediate prospect
of those Highlands to which his hopes and plans are
tending. I know not but that the first view of Ben Ledi
in thus approaching it, is more striking than any of the
ordinary approaches to the Highland border. Though of
no very great elevation, since it is not 3000 feet high, it
rises in graceful and almost solitary magnificence, broad


and blue, the chief of the surrounding hills ; thus con-
trasting more strongly with the open country to the south-
ward which we are leaving, and holding out the promise
of scenes yet unexplored, of the landscapes on which our
imagination has long been dwelling with hope, and of
gratification now in our own immediate grasp. Never
at least shall I forget the impression it made on myself,
when, after a long lapse of years, of absence from this
fair land of the mountain and the glen, all the recollec-
tions of boyhood, on which I had so long and so often
dwelt, were revived in all their freshness ; and the long-
protracted hopes seemed now at length on the very verge
of being gratified. It was a delicious July evening, the
bright blossom of the furze was perfuming the sweet still
air, and the cheerful note of the yellow hammer was re-
sounding from every hedge and bush around. Every
thing was at peace ; and as the sun, long delaying over
Ben Lomond, streamed through its gorgeous attendant
clouds of crimson and gold, as if loth to quit the lovely
scene, brightening the broad side of Ben Ledi, and gild-
ing the smoke which rose curling from Callander along
the plain, all the dreary past seemed to vanish, and I felt
for a moment that I was then wandering- as I had once
wandered among the blue hills and the glassy lakes of
the Highlands, when the world was yet new, and when
life held out a bright perspective of happiness.

The situation of Callander is rendered beautiful, no
less by the broad and majestic form of Ben Ledi and the
long range of mountains, which, vanishing in the west,
are crowned by the graceful cone of Ben Lomond, than
by the winding of the Teith through its spacious and
rich plain, and by the romantic and rude wooded hills
which rise immediately behind, screening it from the
blasts of the east and from the cold north. Among these,


is found the noted cascade of Bracklin, often described.
Imagination has discovered a Roman camp in the plain
of Callander: but the supposed works are the terraces
which the Teith has left in changing its position, and of
which the traces are far too conspicuous and decided to
have given any just ground for such a mistake. It was
not for want of making the attempt, that I did not see
whatever there is to be seen from the summit of Ben
Ledi. I reached it, but in vain ; and I need not conjec-
ture and describe, like Brydone on jEtna, what I did not
see. Did I choose thus to deceive you, I should at any
rate do it with comparative truth, or rather falsehood ;
since I sat myself down on its topmost stone, whereas
that personage, like Eustace in other cases, only ascended
with the pen, and in his closet. Heaven knows, it is
difficult enough to describe what we have seen, without
troubling ourselves by ^attempting to look through clouds
as dense as a millstone, and by stringing together epi-
thets with a map before us. Yet the views ought to be
fine, since Ben Ledi commands a very interesting variety
of country. That they are so in the direction of Stirling,
I can vouch ; as they also are over Loch Lubnaig to the
north : but, to me, it was like the vanishing of images in
a magic lantern : like the glance of the lightning in a
dark night ; gone before I could say, it is here. I thought
that I had known Highland rain in all its forms and mix-
tures and varieties ; in Sky, in Mull, in Shetland, at Fort
William, at Killin, on the summit of Ben Lawers, and in
the depths of Glenco. But nothing like the rain on Ben
Ledi did I ever behold, before or since. In an instant,
and without warning or preparation, the showers des-
cended in one broad stream, like a cascade, from the
clouds, and in an instant they ceased again. We have
heard, in an ode to Molly, of counting the drops of rain :


but there were no drops here to be counted ; it was one
solidsheet of water.

There is a peculiarity in these summer showers of the
Highlands, which a Lowlander knows not, but will not
easily forget when he has experienced it. If he carries
an umbrella, it will be useful for him to be told, that, like
his fowling piece when the dogs have scent, he must
keep it ready cocked. If there is but a button to undo,
or a ring to slip off, he will often be wet through before
he can get either effected. There is an interval of fair
weather : even the cloud which is to produce the rain is
not very obvious ; when, in an instant, and without a
sprinkling, or even a harbinger drop, the whole is let go
on your head as if a bucket had been emptied on it.

Perhaps the clouds and rain of this cloudy and rainy

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 12 of 37)