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

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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 2 of 37)
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and violence, those bonds of union which have, unfortu-
nately, a natural tendency already to dissolution. The
same species of attachment which existed centuries ago,
can exist no longer, because circumstances have changed.
It is, simply, impossible ; and it is therefore folly to
regret the loss, and injustice to blame the individuals.
These censures, however, such as they are, have been
passed by these persons themselves, on each other, and
in the warmth of excited feelings. It is Highlander who
is armed against Highlander; and an independent spec-
tator who can see and appreciate the merits and faults
on both sides, is not only the fittest umpire, but will be
found the truest friend to both. I should be happy in-
deed could any thing that I have said, tend to make
the contending parties better satisfied with each other,
could it make them learn to discover and value their
mutual virtues, and forget those faults which, not them-
selves, but the tyranny of uncontroulable events has pro-

Among the high and the low, in the baronial castle
and in the dark hut, I have found many estimable friends;
persons whom I should have esteemed in any country
and in any place. To that esteem, there has been in-
separably united a warmer and a more romantic feeling.


o-enerated and fostered by ancient tales and recollections,
by early associations, and by the wild beauties of this
wonderful and lovely country. Never yet have 1 quit-
ted its bright lakes and blue mountains without regret,
nor returned to them without delight, though I quitted
them for comparative repose, to return again to labour
and fatigue ; and it is not a small source of regret, that I
can no more hope to revisit those scenes where some of
the happiest of my days have been passed. I am too
sensible of the impropriety of introducing the names of
individuals, to yield to a practice, too easy, and at the
same time, too common ; and peculiar, it has also been said,
to our own countrymen : highly blameable when censure
is to be passed, and, when praise is to be given, too
vulgar, too suspicious, to be valued. Those whom it
has been my happiness to know, will supply, from their
recollections, what I have not thought proper to express :
but it is not in my power to prevent the few who prefer
pain to pleasure, who delight in finding causes of com-
plaint, from extracting, out of the general mass of
praise and admiration, such remarks as may gratify
that unhappy turn of mind which delights in suffer-
ing and in complaining; which finds pleasure only
where it thinks it has succeeded in proving that it has a
right to be offended, a reason for feeling pain and dis-
playing indignation. I shall always, at least, have the
consolation of knowing that no such feelings Avill enter
the mind of him who, whether he be the parent of Brad-
wardine and Dalgetty, of Jarvie and Jenny Deans, or
not, has shewn, in his acknowledged character, that his
disposition is to look on the right and the bright side of
every thing, to be slow in believing offence where no
offence is designed ; and who possesses that enviable


quality which represents, even vice and wrong', without
inflicting unnecessary pain.

And now, my dear friend, I am about to give you
an opportunity of exerting another virtue : patience. Arm
yourself with as much as you may ; for there are four
octavos now lying uncut on your table. Read when you
can, and stop when you list ; but, be your labour what it
may, it will be but a feeble shadow of that which was the
cause that all this ink has flowed, which attended and
carried your correspondent and friend through foul and
fair, over the rude mountain and the rougher wave,
dnring many a Highland summer.

I am your's, &c. &c.



As there are many ends in the skein which I have
undertaken to unravel, there is no one, of course, that
will run the thread off to its termination. It is tolerably
indifferent therefore at which 1 begin ; for, begin where
I may, I shall often be compelled to seek for a new one.
It is a drama of many acts ; and it is one too which does
not admit of attention to the unities. Do not therefore
be shocked if you find me occasionally annihilating both
time and space, like the Winter's Tale or your friend
Guy Mannering. I do not pretend to produce either a
logbook or a journal; and you will therefore not expect
to read one. Thus, balancing the pen in my hand, look-
ing now at the point, and now at the paper, and now and
then trying whether the ink is dry, I have at last pitched
on Dunkeld, for no better reason than that which is the
best of all reasons, because, as the dear sex knows, it is
a reason for every thing, and an unanswerable reason.
Our Highland friends, who have adopted the same line
of argument, state it with an enviable brevity. " Why
did you do this?" " Because."

But I shall neither commence with Abbotsford nor
with " your own romantic town ;" nor need I tell you of
the Queen's-ferry, nor of Loch Leven, nor of Perth : not
because these are known to every driver of a stage coach.


but because my business, like my heart, is in the High-
lands. I have made a convention ; and though standing,
myself, alone, as the two high contracting parties, I am
bound to adhere to it. When therefore I introduce you
first to the pass of Birnam, I am not, like the epic poet,
plunging you in medias res, but placing you at the gate
and portal whence bold Highland Caterans once issued
in dirked and plaided hostility, sweeping our flocks and
herds, and where (such are the changes of fashion) their
Saxon foes now enter in peace, driving their barouches
and gigs, and brandishing the pencil and the memoran-
dum book.

" Birnam wood," says Pennant, " has never recovered
the march its ancestors made to Dunsinane." That is odd
enough : I do not mean the fact, but the remark. When
I was a white-haired boy at college, I made a tour to
Dunkeld, with a little red book in my pocket, and thought
myself extremely witty to have entered this very remark
in those very words. I had neither seen Pennant's book,
nor ever heard the name of that worthy gentlenan, and
was surprised, some ten years afterwards, to find that he
had stolen my good thing- from me. Thus unwittingly
do greater men become accused of plagiarisms, when
they have only stumbled on coincidences.

There are few places, of which the effect is so strik-
ing, as Dunkeld, when first seen on emerging from the
pass of Birnam ; nor does it owe this more to the sud-
denness of the view, and to its contrast with the long pre-
ceding blank, than to its own intrinsic beauty; to its
magnificent 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 ; present-
ing, at the same time, many distinct and perfect land


scapes produced 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 furthest dis-
tance, which often renders the whole a confused and ad-
hering 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 differences of elevation for the point of sight,
all of them producing foregrounds unusually rich and
constantly changing-, the leading object in this magnifi-
cent landscape, is the noble bridge striding high above
the Tay, here a wide, tranquil, and majestic stream.
The cathedral, seen above U, relieved by the dark woods
on which it is embosomed, and the town, with its con-
gregated 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 va-
ried 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,

VOL. I. c


without breach or interruption of character, with the
equally rich foregrounds.

If I were thus to point out all the scenes which Dun-
keld furnishes, I should write a book instead of a letter ;
and as the book is written already, why should it be
written again? I never thought, when philosophy for
my sins first dipped me in ink, to have become the rival
of Margate Guides and of Guides to the beauties of Win-
dermere ; the West and Gilpin of Dunkeld and Blair. But
when a man once gets astride of a pen, no one knows
where he will stop. However that may be, I owed them
both a heavy debt of gratitude ; and far heavier ones are
every day paid with words.

The Duke of AthoU's grounds, no one need be told,
present a succession of walks and rides in every style of
beauty that can be imagined ; but they will not be seen
in the few hours usually allotted to them, as the extent
of the walks is fifty miles, and that of the rides thirty.
It is the property of few places, perhaps of no one in all
Britain, to admit, within such a space, of such a pro-
longation of lines of access ; and, everywhere, with so
much variety of character, such frequent changes of
scene, and so much beauty. 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 dis-
pensing 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

Though I have pointed out some exquisite landscapes,


admirably adapted for painting, and could easily point
out many more, it is necessary to premise that the mere
artist, who only contemplates Dunkeld as a prey from
which he can fill his portfolio, will be a disappointed
spectator; but he will probably be the only one. I
know no place where it is so necessary to abandon this
system of measuring all beauty by its capacity for paint-
ing, to forget all the jargon of the picturesque gentle-
men, 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 them-
selves to form every thing into a distinct landscape, and
to be solely on the watch for subjects of painting. If I
have said, elsewhere, that no one who has not made art
his study, will extract from nature all the beauty of which
it furnishes the subjects or the materials, I am also
bound to add, that even this power may be abused, and
that he who would enjoy all that nature affords, must
also learn to see and to appreciate a thousand things
which defy imitation, and scorn to assimilate, even in the
remotest manner, to any rules.

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 multiplicity of orna-
ment; still more, that contrast of colour and of dis-


tance 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, Dunkeld is
perfect, even in the nearer grounds of its deep valley ;
nor, in its remote parts, is it wanting in all the circum-
stances 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 enjoy-
ment produced by its sheltered and secluded walks, its
river banks, its groves and gardens and alleys and
bowers, 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.

With respect to the disposition of the grounds, consi-
dered as an ornamented landscape, or an English garden,
as the phrase is, it is necessary to say that it is disposed
on no system; nor, with the exception of a few remains of
the ancient formal arrangements, is there any trace of arti-
fice, beyond that which is necessary for use and comfort, to
be seen. Even the most formal fragments of art disap-
pear in the predominance of careless nature ; or such as
are yet remaining, are ornaments instead of defects. It
might not have been easy to deform nature here by arti-
fice, and yet the inveteracy of system can do much mis-
chief. Even Dunkeld might have been rendered absurd
by the gardeners of King William's time; nay, Brown


could have ruined it. But it has fortunately escaped the
fangs of the whole detestable tribe of capability men ;
and after art has done all that it can, and all, in truth,
which has been done, we imagine that we see no other
hand in the woods and the lawns than that hand which
founded the mountains and taught the river to flow.

Within the home grounds, on the minute details of
which I dare not here dwell, the cathedral deserves the
attention of the antiquaryas well as of the artist. Want-
ing only the roof, it wants nothing as a ruin ; and, as a
Scottish ecclesiastical ruin, it is a specimen of consider-
able merit. The choir has recently been converted into
the parish church : but as the restorations, with very little
exception, have been made from the original design, no
injury to the building has followed ; while much advan-
tage to its preservation has been gained, by supporting
with fresh masonry such parts as were falling to decay,
and by removing such ruin as produced disorder with-
out embellishment.

Though the early history of this ecclesiastical esta-
blishment is obscure, it is understood that there was here
a monastery of Culdees. Kenneth Macalpine is said to
have brought the bones of St. Columba hither from lona.
Mylne asserts that there was a religious foundation esta-
blished here by Constantino the Pictish king in 729, and
that David the first converted it into an episcopal see in
1127; Gregory, then abbot, having been made the first
bishop. The death of Gregory took place in 1169; and
as there are other traditions which say that Cormac was
its bishop in the time of Alexander the First, there is yet
a hopeless obscurity respecting the early history of Dun-
keld. It appears, however, that it was once the primacy
of Scotland, till that was transferred to St. Andrews,


After Gregory, or Cormac, there is a recorded saccession
of thirty-eight bishops, commencing with Gregory the
Second, and terminating with Robert Crichton, in 1560.
Among these, Gavin Douglas is a name not to be for-
gotten in Scottish literature, nor William Sinclair in the
history of Scottish independence. The monument of the
former is in his works ; more imperishable than brass or
marble ; but the latter demands some better monument
than the tablet of grey stone which was inscribed to his
name. His spirit was worthy of his age; of the proud
period of Bruce and Wallace. It was he who, collecting
sixty men of his own people, joined a detachment of five
hundred belonging to Duncan Earl of Fife ; defeating a
party of Edward the Second's troops at Dunnybirsel,
and displaying a character alike fitted to command in the
army and in the church.

Of the early building, nothing is known, but the re-
cords of the present have been preserved. The original
church seems to have consisted of the choir alone, and
was built by Bishop Sinclair in 1330. Bishop Cairney,
the 18th, commenced the great aisle, and it was finished
under Raulston, the 24th, in 1450. In 1469, the chapter
house was built, and the foundation of the tower was laid
by Lauder ; the latter being completed by George Brown,
the 29th bishop, in 1501. There are, besides these,
marks ,of alterations, of which there are no records ;
particularly in the addition of a gateway at the western
end. The church militant demolished all that it conve-
niently could, in 1599; and another set of reformers,
who formed the garrison in 1698, destroyed its monu-
ments, with the very few exceptions that remain. The
history of Dunkeld, as well as those of Dornoch, Elgin,
and St. Andrews, serve to prove that it is a matter of in-


difference whether the spirit of mischief is let loose under
a red coat or a black one.

There is much more uniformity in the architecture of
this cathedral than was usual in our Gothic ecclesiastical
buildings. Nevertheless, like most of the Scottish spe-
cimens, it is compounded of several styles; including
the Norman, together with every one of the varieties of
the three periods of Gothic architecture which followed it.
1 have elsewhere remarked, that unity of style had seldom
been preserved in the Scottish buildings of this nature,and
have attempted to explain the reason : the present work
is a proof of the truth of that statement. The arts, in this
part of our island, had not made much progress, and the
distinctions of styles were probably not understood ; so
that, in borrowing or imitating, the artists naturally co-
pied from all which they knew, and thus introduced con-
fusion. At the same time, following what was then be-
come obsolete in England, we receive little or no assist-
ance from the architecture of our churches, in determin-
ing their dates, where the records have been lost.

Omitting the choir, or present church, the length of
the great aisle is 122 feet, and its breadth 62; that of
each of the side ailes being 12, and the height of the
walls 40. The tower, 90 feet high, on a base of 24
squared, is placed at one of the angles, and merely in
contact. The body was divided from the choir by a
lofty Gothic arch, now built up. The main aisle is sepa-
rated from the side ones by six plain pillars of the Nor-
man style, and two half columns ; the height of the shafts
being 10 feet, and the diameter four and a half. Their
capitals are only plain mouldings, and they support
Gothic arches of the second style, with fluted soffits.
Above each is a plain semicircular window, of two bays,
with a trefoil in the interval. In the third stage, and above


the roof of the side ailes, there is an acute window over
each of these, also bisected, with two trefoils, and with
a quatrefoil in the intervals. The great western window
has lost all its mullions; but the remaining fragments
which spring from the arch, shew that it was of a hand-
some and florid design, appertaining to the second period
of the Gothic. It has a contrasted head-band terminat-
ing in a finial, so as to form a sort of canopy ; while it is
thrown on one side, with a strange but not unusual neg-
lect of symmetry, to make room for a very beautiful cir-
cular spiral window; the gable terminating with a hand-
some florid cross. At the southern angle of this western
gable, there is another anomaly, in the shape of an oc-
tagonal watch tower : but it forms a graceful ornament,
terminating in an enlarged parapet, supported on a rose-
carved moulding, and perforated on its eight faces by sunk,
or impanelled, quatrefoils, A staircase within it, communi-
cates with the tower, by an ambulatory through the wall.
The corbel table, which runs along beneath the roof, still
supports the remains of a handsome pinnacle, formed of
clustered tabernacle-work, which may be taken as a proof
of the former beauty of the whole. The principal door at
the western end, is evidently an alteration : a sharp arch
with a deeply fluted soffit, standing on clustered columns;
while, near it, there is a smaller door in a similar style, to-
gether with a circular-headed and ornamental one which
gives entrance to the tower. On the south face there is
also a door with a porch, which appears to have been con-
siderably ornamented, if we may judge by the remains of
two crocketed pinnacles, a canopy which has covered some
cognizance, and two niches for statues. The windows
which light the side ailes below, are remarkable, as well
for their beauty as the diversity of their designs; pre-
senting eight or ten different patterns, of the second age


of Gothic, chiefly produced by the intersections and com-
binations of circles. The tower is plain, excepting an
ornamental parapet of open trefoils standing- on a corbel
table, and three tiers of wrought windows; but it seems
formerly to have had pinnacles at the angles. The chap-
ter house, different from all the rest, is remarkable for
four tall lancet windows with trefoil heads. Within the
choir, there was recently a beautiful row of tabernacle-
work wrought in the wall ; but it has vexatiously and
tastelessly been destroyed by the interior decorations of
the new church ; two or three specimens alone remaining
to shew what it once was. Thus it must ever be, when
every stone-mason and carpenter undertakes the business
which belongs to the architect alone. Of the very few
ancient tombs which remain, the most remarkable is that
of Cumin, the celebrated Alister More-mac-an righ, better
known as the Wolf of Badenoch. It is a statue in ar-
mour, of somewhat rude workmanship, with a lion's head
at the feet, and with the inscription, " Hie jacet Alex-
ander Senescalus, filiusRoberti regis Scotorum et El iza-
bethe More, Dominus de Buchan et Badenoch, qui obiit
A. D. 1394." The reputation of this hero would not be
soon forgotten, though this monument had never existed.
The statue of a bishop in his full robes, lying under a
crocketed canopy, is unknown ; being assigned by
some to Sinclair, and by others to Cairney. It is pro-
bably, however, that of the latter ; as there was a tablet
to Sinclair.

Beyond the home grounds of Dunkeld, the cascade
at the Hermitage is far too well known to require more
than a bare notice, as is the deep chasm through which
the Braan runs higher up, beneath what is called the Rum-
bling Bridge. But near the summer-house, termed
Ossian's Hall, there are some round cavities in the rock.


produced by the cascade of former ages, which are par-
ticularly worth notice in this place, because of their
general connection with other similar appearances on the
Tay, which I shall point out shortly, and which in-
dicate the great revolutions these valleys have under-
gone. On this side of the water, it is, however, essential
to notice the magnificent views up the vale of the Tay,
as well as over the grounds towards Dunkeld House,
which may be procured from the various romantic walks
of Craig Vinean. No scenes more splendid can be
imagined than the former, where the Tay is seen flowing
deep below, amidst the noble oaks which skirt its banks ;

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 2 of 37)