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 21 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 21 of 37)
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of the Highland fairy tales, there are also the ruins, now
trifling', of a castle which is said to have been a royal
one, and to have been granted by Alexander III to
Mac Naughtane, on the condition of entertaining the


King whenever he should pass that way. Two other small
islands in this lake, are also marked by ancient ruins :
Innis Hail, as the seat of a nunnery of the Cistercian
order, and Innis Eraith, containing the remains of a

The hereditary family of blacksmiths, Mac Nab, that
'^sempiternal artist who, like the Lama, never dies, and the
tombs of Glenorchy burying ground, have so often been
described by all the tourists, that I may safely pass them
over. Not so the magnificent scenery which occurs before
entering the rugged and deep pass of Loch Awe, where
the road winds high along- the face of the hill amid over-
hanging woods and rocks, looking down over the sum-
mits of the oaks on the black and deep water far below.
The remainder of the pass, conducting the road and the
river, is singularly wild ; particularly near the bridge
which is here thrown across this boisterous and rude
river. Here was fought the celebrated action between
Briice and John Lord of Lorn ; the ratification, if not the
original cause, of the downfal of that great family, for-
merly noticed. This chief had taken the side opposed to
Bruce, and the impulse on the part of the king seems to
have been revenge, as he had already gained the con-
tested ascendancy. A detached party of archers having
taken a commanding position on the hill, annoyed the
Argyll men so much that they retreated ; and, having
attempted in vain to break down the bridge across the
Awe, they were defeated with great slaughter. John
escaped by means of his boats on the lake. This defeat
argues little for the military tactics of John and his fol-
lowers ; as the pass of Loch Awe might easily be de-
fended by a handful of men against a very superior force :
it is a stronger position than even Killicrankie.

There is no longer any beauty after arriving at Tyan-


uilt, which forms the intermediate stage to Oban, and is,
at the same time, the alehouse of the workmen employed
at the iron furnaces of Bunawe. As here also I have
arrived at the spot which I shall reach hereafter from
another quarter, I need proceed no further in the descrip-
tion of the country round Oban. This is the most con-
venient place whence to ascend Cruachan, though still at
a considerable distance from its base. While strolling
about these wild moors, my eye was caught by a huge
erect stone, which 1 concluded to be, of course, the grey
stone of Ossian, or Carril, or Rhyuo, or of some of the
bards or heroes of old. No; it was the monument of a
hero to whom even Fingal must bend ; whose deeds have
eclipsed those of the Cuchullins and the Oscars and of
the Norwegian ploughers of the deep. It was an obelisk
to Nelson, erected by the labours of the workmen of
Bunawe. Of all the monuments which have been
placed to this great name, there is not one, of which
the effect is so striking* : striking, from its very rudeness,
and from the simplicity of the testimony, from the con-
dition of those who erected it, and from its unexpected
occurrence in this wild and vacant country, which we
might fancy the sound of his deeds had never reached.
It was here indeed that I could feel that his name had
gone out into all lands; while the huge, grey and rude
fragment, lifting its head among these wild mountains,
the scenes of the exploits of the heroes of other days,
seemed already to have ranked him among the worthies
of the past and poetical ages, a name long consecrated to
history ; as it is a name which will descend to posterity
till these rocks and mountains shall pass away.

I was amused with the disappointment of the fierce
antiquary who happened to accompany me. He had ex-
pected to find it a Druidical monument, and had scram-


bled over bog and heath with much energy to reach it.
When he had attained it, he turned round with great con-
tempt ; not deigning another look. As if it was the only
merit in the eyes of these learned personages to possess
none; the only fame, to retain no record. He must have
been a powerful Druid or a formidable Celt, let his stone
be shewn where it may, who has lived to better purposes
and higher fame than Nelson ; whose name shall descend
louder and further to posterity. He must have per-
formed other deeds than even the poetical Fingal, if his
arm has been in more battles than that of Nelson, if the
nations have been more humbled beneath it. The an-
tiquary who shall succeed to my friend a thousand years
hence, will not turn his back on the stone of the mighty
warrior which lifts its grey head on the skirts of Cruachan.
The ascent of Cruachan is tedious, but not difficult ;
and, from its position no less than its altitude, it presents
some of the finest and most extensive mountain views in
Scotland. Compared to Ben Lomond it is a giant ; and
its grasp is no less gigantic. From the bold granite preci-
pices of its sharp and rugged summit, which is literally
a point, we look down its red and furrowed sides into the
upper part of Loch Etive and over this magnificent group
of mountains, which, extending northward and east-
ward, display one of the finest landscapes of mere
mountains in the Highlands. Its commanding position
not only enables us thus to bring under our feet the whole
of this group as far as Appin and Glenco, and even to
Ben Nevis, but opens a view of the whole of the eastern
ocean of mountains, reaching from Rannoch as far as Ben
Lawers and Ben Lomond, and, beyond them, to lands
which only cease to be visible because they at length
blend with the sky. So marked also are their characters,
so rocky and precipitous their summits, and so varied


their forms, that this landscape excels, in variety as in pic-
turesque character, all other landscapes of mere mountains,
excepting perhaps that from Ben Lair in Rossshire. The
view which it yields, of the opener country, is not much
inferior to that from Ben Lavvers, if indeed it is inferior;
and, in this respect, it can only be compared with that
mountain and Ben Lomond. While it looks down on the
long sinuosities of Loch Awe and over the irregular
lands of Lorn, bright with its numerous lakes, it displays
all the splendid bay of Oban and the Linnhe Loch, with
Jura, Isla, and all the other islands of this coast : com-
manding, besides, the horizon of the sea, even beyond
Tirey and Coll, together with the rude mountains of
Mull and the faint and blue hills of Rum and Sky ; a
scene as unusual as it is rendered various by the inter-
mixture of land and >vater, by the brilliant contrast of
these bright and intricate channels with the dark and
misty mountains and islands by which they are separated,
and by the bold and decided forms of all the elements of
this magnificent landscape.

If I did not choose to tell you how I breakfasted at
Callander, at Mrs. Maclarty's inn, that is no reason why
I should not tell you how you may breakfast at Tyanuilt.
I admit that the inn at Tyanuilt is a vile pot-house ; but
the fashion of a breakfast here is not so singular but that
the resemblance may be found in more places than one
in this country. Have I not undergone it myself.

The morning is fine, it is seven o'clock, and you are
in a hurry to depart for the top of Cruachan, which you
know will occupy you nine or ten hours. Consequently,
you have no time to lose ; nor can you afford, either to
wait, or to go without your breakfast, as you will find no-
thing to eat till night. You order it immediately — immedi-
ately ; having ordered it, the preceding night, to be ready


at six, having- ordered it again when you got up, an hour
before. After ringing, stamping, and knocking nine times,
that is, three of each notice, up comes a bare-footed wo-
man again, half dressed, without a cap, and her hair hang-
ing about her ears like a mermaid ; wondering what you
want. Yourepeat, breakfast, immediately. "Aye," says
she, " is it breakfast you was wanting," and down she
goes. In another quarter of an hour, you repeat the same
complicated notice. The maid re-enters. " Is it break-
fast you want." " Yes, to be sure, did I not tell you so an
hour ago." " It is coming," says she. You must not be
angry with the fair sex, and therefore you wait patiently
another quarter of an hour ; assuming much merit to your-
self. At length she walks in, with a look of much self-
approbation and a table-cloth : having evidently made no
common exertion to deserve your praise.

All this time the sun is shining temptingly brio-ht
on the summit of Cruachan, as it may not shine again
for six months, and another period of patience is passed
in wishing yourself there. Lo, the tea-board arrives ;
displaying a tea-pot never washed since it issued from
the furnace, a milk-jug containing half as much milk
as you are likely to want, and a tea-canister holding-
a mixture of black dust and little white sticks. In
the mean time you are carrying on two new wishes be-
sides the wish to be on Cruachan ; one, for the tea-
kettle, and the other for some peats to repair the fire,
which is at its final gasp. As the maid enters, the last
spark is extinguished. You console yourself that at
least the kettle is come; behold, it is the sugar-dish. You
point to the fire and ask for the kettle. She returns after
the usual time ; not with the kettle, but with an apron-full
of wet peats. You sigh, first at Cruachan and then at
the peats; but the kettle really comes; think of that.
With the kettle, there arrives a delicious herring, hot from


the fire, anil you perceive that Peggy takes no small praise
to herself for having- brought two things at once. Hav-
ing poured the water on the tea, it floats. Why would
you not give the kettle time to boil. This is, however, a
minor evil, and you turn up the top plate and regale your-
self with the smell of the herring. That is a consolation
for the want of knife, fork, and bread. You have ordered
the bread ; you hear her heavy foot on the stair, you draw
the herring close to you ; when she enters — with a couple
of eggs. You ask again for bread. " Is it bread you was
wanting?" To pass the time, you crack an egg, and it is
hard. You pour out a cup of tea, and, going' to sweeten it,
find, in the sugar bowl, a dingy mixture of white and
brown sugar, damp and melancholy. You ring, some-
what violently perhaps, for white sugar. " There was
some last month, but its a' dune." You wonder where
the bread is. " She should have brought it, but she
thought you rang for something." You then discover at
last, that although you can bring up Peggy, you cannot
bring up what you want at the same time. You pour the
milk into your tea : it curdles. You go on drinking it
nevertheless ; now out of hope. But she comes. With
the bread? No, with the salt. The herring is now cold,
but you eat your herring and your salt, and when it is
done, the bread arrives ; a musty damp loaf. You desire
to have it toasted. " The toast is making." It comes,
half brown on one side and more like paste than before.
You resort to the oat cake. It sticks in your throat for
want of butter : you call for butter : she brings a plate-
full of cheese, and another of salt butter pulled out of a
pot by her fingers and plastered into it. You depart for
the top of Cruachan, and arrive just with a cloud that re-
mains there the whole day, and will probably remain till
you come this way again.

\iPPiN. 271


There are few parts of the Western Higblands more
beautiful than the district of Appin; and travellers, par-
ticularly the g-entlemen and ladies who drive gigs and
barouches, have only to lament that the two ferries of
Connal and Shian are, not only wide and boisterous, but
not so convenient for exit and entrance as a few pounds
spent on landing places might make them. The former
is in fact abominable. Are ferries always to be bad be-
cause it is classical. Because there was a villainous one
across the Styx, must there be a bad one at the Shian ;
and because the gentlemen whom Achilles dismissed to
this navigation, were obliged to wait shivering in the
cold till Charon chose to admit them, must we wait, in a
Highland shower, on a naked rock, till he of the Connel
chooses to see or hear. He who comes to the Connel ferry,
will require a large share of the patientia ferry boatica :
it might be well to take a previous course in South Wales.
To say nothing of a landing place where you can neither
enter nor land, since there is no landing place at all ; or
of being landed, or rather tumbled out, two or three miles
out of your road, under a precipice, or in a bog. As if it
was not enough to have a Highland horse who does not
choose to take his seat in a boat — neither recte nor
retro, nor blindfolded ; and whom, even the hat, which, by
a sort of figure of speech, is assumed to contain corn,
cannot entice. The Athenians committed a blunder when

272 APPiN.

they made Neptune the piog-enitor of horses : and if I
was condemned to live among Highland ferries, I Avould
feed my horse on pitch and tar till he had learnt to hand,
reef, and steer. I wish they would take pattern by Bala-
hulish ; but I have praised the general management of
Highland ferries elsewhere, and if I pick out two or
three for blame, it is from the wish to see every thing in
this country such as to enable it to defy censure.

As to the want of civility, generally speaking, those
who have met this, must have provoked it ; which is
not very unusual among- the gentlefolks who wander
hither from the precincts of Cheapside. At Ulva, I met
a party who were indulging themselves, for the honour
of Oxford, if they were rightly entered in Mr. Macdo-
nald's album, with abuse and noise, and with coarse jokes
on the barefooted girl who attended, and who received it
all with a silent contempt, and with that proud air of High-
land breeding which you know so well. She came to
apologize for some deficiency ; assuringus that when these
English gentlemen (with an emphasis) were gone, it
should be rectified. Really, we have little reason to com-
plain if we are not always very particularly respected ;
here or elsewhere. It is absurd enough sometimes, to
meet these bucks, as they consider themselves, blowing
bugle horns, wearing Highland bonnets, drinking whisky
in the morning, talking of the " Heelands," provided
with stores of biscuit, wine, and hams, in their gig seats,
as if they were come into Churchill's land of famine,
and looking at every hand they see, in expectation of
that which must not be named. Then out comes the
memorandum book, with a tour or a guide, written forty
years ago by some one who knew and saw as much of
the country as themselves; and, in due time, we have
the old stories fresh hashed, manners that have become

APPiN. 273

a dream, and a race of people that are now at least as
rare as that disorder itself; which he who would find,
had better g-o into an English barrack.

When they do not take the people for Fingalians, they
at least suppose them bare-legged savages with "plods ;"
and are astonished to see hats and breeches, and, still
more, to find a good dinner, and, that criterion of merit in
the eyes of a true Englishman, a bottle of port. One of
this tribe came up to me here at the inn door, with a fish-
ing basket on his back, containing, not fish but shirts ;
and, " pray, Sir," said he, " what is that for;" taking me,
I suppose, for a road surveyor. The end of the handle
was visible out of my pocket. " I'd thank you to take
that out. Sir," said the cockney, expecting to be obeyed
at a word. " Sir, I want to see that instrument." As
Donald is not at all accustomed to this style, except from
his chief, I declined. " I suppose, Sir, I am taking a li-
berty," said the man of the basket. " Really, Sir, I
think you are." «' Sir, I dont understand this usage. Sir.
Sir, I'd have you to know. Sir, I'm a person of conse-
quence in my own country." And these are the people
who go home and write tours. I suppose I have figured
in his journal as a savage Highland road-maker.

As to the Shian ferry-boat, it would not be amiss if
there was a step to the mast. The Charon made a step
of his foot, and held on with both hands. That answered
the purpose very well as long as it was not wanted ; but a
breeze came, and away went the mast and sail into the
water ; nearly carrying overboard Donald himself and
both the ponies. The scenery here is beautiful ; but
every thing is beautiful between these two ferries.
There are but five miles; yet it is a day's journey to a
wise man. The wooded and rocky intricacies of this
narrow strait produce endless pictures ; as does the whole


274 APPiN.

of Loch Creraii, from numerous points of view. I do not
suppose that the name of the ferry has any such allusion :
it is more likely to have one that I do not know ; but it is
fairy land, as far as scenery is concerned. Bercaldine
Castle is a heavy mass of building, and its exting-uisher
turrets are far from ornamental. But the views from it,
and near it, are magnificent ; and it is, with all its defor-
mity, an important and an interesting object in the pic-
ture. It is not, apparently, very ancient, but was, I be-
lieve, built by the same Sir Colin Campbell who built
Finlarig, though I do not know its date ; and it is the
only castle of this particular style that I have seen in the
remote Highlands. But, with its freshness and all its
living trees, it carries us back to the habits of times past,
with more vividness than most of these buildings that I
have met with.

The granite hills that bound Loch Creran, are equally
the boundary of Loch Etive, and are exceeded by few,
in elegance of form. They constitute the great features
of the outline ; but, on the opposite quarter, the moun-
tains of Mull are also visible. On this side, we catch a
glimpse of the Linnhe Loch ; and, from different points,
obtain views of the bay of Oban and of the distant is-
lands; the castles of Dunnolly and Dunstaffnage, and all
the shipping that frequent the sound, adding to the land-
scape that vivacity and living interest which so especially
belong to all the views of this inlet, from whatever quar-
ter. But the promontory of Ardmucknish, with all its
deep woods of oak, always a striking feature, is here also
the most characteristic and conspicuous part of this
varied and splendid landscape ; nor do I know a place
where all the elements, often incongruous ones, of moun-
tains, lakes, wood, rocks, castles, sea, shipping, and cul-
tivation are so strangely intermixed, where they are so

APPiN, 275

wildly picturesque, and where they produce a greater
variety of the most singular and unexpected scenes. I
need not say that wood abounds throughout the western
Highlands, in all the sheltered sea lochs and valleys; but
I know not many places or tracts of equal extent among
them, where the richness of woody scenery is more strik-
ing than here. It is not only that the great forests of
coppice, which cover the whole promontory of Ardmuck-
nish and skirt the declivities of the mountains, are con-
spicuous, from their extent, but their effect is heightened
by the contrast of their deep green with the surrounding
rocks, with all the grey and airy tints of the distances,
and with the bright expanse of sea and lake. This
strange intermixture, while it adds to the splendour of
the whole, gives often the effect of ancient wood to that
which is only coppice ; while that deception is aided by
the innumerable trees of fine growth which surround
Ardmucknish house and Airds, and are scattered up and
down in various places about the margins of the water
and the declivities of the hills.

There is something in the presence of ancient trees in
a country, which produces a greater impression on the
mind than can arise merely from their picturesque or or-
namental effect. The effect of such coppices as these,
and that of young wood, are often nearly the same, as to
the landscape ; but the impression is far different, and T
believe that we must seek it in those moral influences to
which the consequence of buildings, however mean, and
of castles and ruins, however insignificant or uninterest-
ing, is owing. The coppice conveys with it notions of
commerce, or of want, or waste : we foresee also the day
when it is to fall before the axe, and the prospect is that
of ruin and deformity. Young wood may excite hope ;
but that is to the possessor only. The spectator may be

T 2

276 AT'PIN.

pleased at the prospect of improvement or the sight of
industry ; but he contemplates, whether truly or not, the
upstart wood, as he does the upstart villa and the mush-
room proprietor. But ancient trees imply gentility, for
they are ancient wealth ; and that, according to Cicero's
definition, is gentility. They remind us of all the splen-
dour, the comfort, the protection, and the kindness, which
surrounded the baronial residence or the mansion of the
ancient gentleman : they are the marks of a country that
has long enjoyed peace and wealth, and they are the re-
cords, as they are the proofs, of an antiquity that had
looked forward to be perpetuated in a long posterity, and
that was solicitous about the preservation of all its usages
and fashions, of all its dignity and opulence.

It would be endless to specify all the points in this
neighbourhood which afford particular landscapes ; but
I cannot help mentioning the view from the tower above
Ardmucknish house, which, for magnificence and variety,
is scarcely rivalled in the Western Highlands. I am
among the unfortunate few now, who have not visited
Athens: I do not mean the modern Athens, formerly
called Auld Reekie, but that town which contrived to
unite the largest number of great and wise men with
something approaching to the worst government which
the world ever saw. But I have seen it in the Strand ;
and, judging by the Panorama, there is a correspondence
of character between Attica and Appin, which is quite
striking. Nor does the view from this point yield to that
of Athens in grandeur of style, whil^ it exceeds it both
in extent and variety.

It is time to enquire about some other matters, in
this narrow but amusing district, which must not be for-
gotten. It is the seat of Dun Mac Sniochain, which was
once a volcano but is now a vitrified fort ; and of a capital


city, which was once the capital of Scotland, and called
Berigonium, and is now nothing at all. Who Mr. Mac
Sniochain was, is rather an obscure point. He must
therefore wait till we elucidate the other, which is mar-
vellously clear. We have all seen antiquaries who could
find Roman camps on ground where a mouse could not
havejain in ambush, and discover a Gordian or a Galba
on an unminted Bromagem flat. Such optics may find
the streets of Berigonium. Tradition, for he is the steady
friend of the feeble historian, points out, or rather talks
of, a meal street and a market street, the Cowgate and
the Kyning-gate (not Canon-gate, mind that) of Beri-
gonium the capital of Scotland. The people also pretend
to point out a causeway. If there be one, it is likely to
have led to the vitrified fort ; for, in Aberdeenshire, that
is an appendage to these works. But when it is pre-
tended that wooden pipes for conveying water to this
capital have been discovered, we have nothing to do but
to believe or wonder; unless we have courage or scep-
ticism enough to deny or doubt. At what age the Beri-
gonites discovered the art of boring and laying wooden
water-pipes, it would be well to know ; while we must
lament, for the sake of some of our senses, that they did
not teach it to the rival capital of Dun Edin. When
water was conveyed under ground to a Highland city, it
must have been when there was no rain in Appin ; as
there is now every day. The world must have been very
dry three centuries before the Christian sera. Thus an-
tiquities prove history ; and we must now see how history
proves antiquities ; tradition proves them both, and they
all prove each other ; and it is pretty much the same how
the matter is managed.

The Highland name of Berigonium is Balenrigh, or
Bal-an-ree, the king's town ; which proves that it was


a capital city : exactly as Ossian's tomb does that he was

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 21 of 37)