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 26 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 26 of 37)
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hands in their pockets. To build hives for drones, was
never reckoned good policy: and that contagion which is
most condensed, is commonly reputed to be the most
active. To form these into communities, is to provide
for their perpetuity, and to diffuse and extend it by re-
verberation aud example. It is a premium also for popu-
lation, as well as for idleness: and, to borrow from the
argument of the nominalists against universals, " Entia
non sunt multiplicanda prseter necessitatem."

In the case of country towns, where a Highland laird or
a speculating society has not interfered, it is matter of
analysis, for the fashionable science of political economy,
to discover how one of them has grown, or by what ce-
ment it is united. There is a church ; that is the ordinary
foundation. Where there is a church, there must be a


parson, a clerk, a sexton, and a midwife. Thus we account
for four houses. An inn is required on the road. This pro-
duces a smith, a saddler, a butcher, and a brewer. The
parson, the clerk, the sexton, the midwife, the butcher,
the smith, the saddler, and the brewer, require a baker,
a tailor, a shoemaker, and a carpenter. They soon learn to
eat plum-pudding ; and a grocer follows. The grocer's wife
and parson's wife contend for superiority in dress, whence
flows a milliner, and, with the milliner, a mantua-maker. A
barber is introduced to curl the parson's wig and to shave
the smith on Saturday nights ; and a stationer to furnish
the ladies with paper for their sentimental correspon-
dences : an exciseman is sent to gauge the casks, and a
schoolmaster discovers that the ladies cannot spell. A
hatter, a hosier, and a linen-draper, follow by degrees; and
as children are born, they begin to cry out for rattles and
gingerbread. The parson becomes idle and gouty, and
gets a curate, and the curate gets twenty children and a
wife ; and thus it becomes necessary to have more shoe-
makers and tailors and grocers. In the mean time, a
neighbouring apothecary, hearing with indignation that
there is a community living without physic, places three
blue bottles in a window; when, on a sudden, the parson,
the butcher, the innkeeper, the grocer's wife, and the
parson's wife become bilious and nervous, and their chil-
dren get water in the head, teeth, and convulsions. They
are bled and blistered till a physician finds it convenient
to settle : the inhabitants become worse and worse every
day, and an undertaker is established. The butcher
having called the tailor prick-louse, over a pot of ale,
Snip, to prove his manhood, knocks him down with the
goose. Upon this plea, an action for assault is brought
at the next sessions. The attorney sends his clerk over
to take depositions and collect evidence : the clerk, find-


ing a good opening-, sets all the people by the ears, be-
comes a pettifogging attorney, and peace flies the village
for ever. But the village becomes a town, acquires a
bank, and a coterie of old maids; and should it have ex-
isted in happier days, might have gained a corporation,
a mayor, a mace, a quarter sessions of its own, a county
assembly, the assizes, and the gallows.

The Fort is not dismantled nor absolutely abandoned,
as was intended ; the Duke of Wellington, with his usual
steadiness of character and contempt of idle clamour,
having opposed this design as to all the Highland gar-
risons. Originally it was built by Cromwell, at Monk's
suggestion ; and it was then called the garrison of Inver-
lochy, being calculated for 2000 men. It was rebuilt on
a smaller scale, but on a stronger plan, by William,
whence the present name: yet it is still a feeble work.
It was besieged in 1746 for five weeks, but that siege
was abandoned. I need not however dwell on matters
known to every one, nor describe its military details. I
need only add that the town was originally built by
James VI with the intention of " civilizing the High-
lands;" Campbelltown and Stornaway having also been
made boroughs with the same view. It is said that
Corpach, where the canal basin has been formed, is
the place where the bodies of the kings were deposited
before their final journey to lona. The same has been
said of Pencross in Ayrshire: we may let that question
cool for the present.

There is a good deal of military and historical interest
about this spot ; but it has been so often printed and re-
printed, that it is all a tale told. Of early and distant
events, one of the most remarkable is the battle of In-
verlochy, fought by Donald Balloch in 1427, against the
Earls of Mar and Caithness ; and another, is that fought


between Argyll and Montrose in 1645, when the former
was defeated. Whether the fame of this action, or that
of Major Dugald Dalgetty^ is to be the most imperish-
able, time must prove. The occurrences that took place
in this quarter also, during the days of Cromwell, in
which the energy and fame of the Camerons are so deeply
involved, add not a little to its interest ; but the memoir
of Sir Ewen, a name not soon to be forgotten by friend
or foe, having been printed by Pennant, they are toler-
ably well known. Every one has heard of Sir Ewen Dhu
and of his duel, and 1 need not chronicle again a ten-
times told tale.

The castle of lnverlocliy,however, possesses a distinct
interest; arising partly from its former magnificence and
the obscurity of its origin, and partly from the share which
it has been supposed to possess in the early fabulous his-
tory of Scotland. Those who choose to believe in that
arch fabulist, Hector Boethius, may continue to enjoy
their belief; but the doul)ts of profound historians and
laborious antiquaries, are surely far from deserving their
indignation. Romance and history, each possess their
separate kinds of merit: but the value of the latter would
be low indeed, were it founded on any other laws than
those which the judicious have, in all ages, acknow-
ledged. Scotland has ample stores of real fame and
honour, without wishing to augment them by such
means. She need not have recourse, as Pinkerton has re-
marked, to false history or false honours of any kind ;
the truth would render her far more illustrious. He
therefore who refuses his assent to the imaginary league
between King Achaius and Charlemagne, signed at
Inverlochy, may be permitted to indulge his doubts in
peace, even though he could not shelter himself under
the shields of Hailes and Chalmers.


But Inverlochy is not only the place where this vision-
ary treaty was signed, since, it is, like Berig-onium, the re-
puted capital of ancient Scotland. Nay, Dunstaffnage is
a third : so that the former kingdom of Scotland has no
less than three competing capitals, when it is, by the same
patriots, held to have been one undivided powerful king-
dom. The life of St. Columba, if that is held worthy of
regard on a historical question, further proves that Inver-
ness was the capital, and others assert the same of Aber-
nethy ; so that there are no less than five places claiming
the honour of a metropolis, when all the judicious and
acute antiquaries who have examined this question, deny
that there existed any. It is something to show that tra-
dition is at variance with itself; even though these anti-
quaries should have judged incorrectly on the bare ques-
tion. If tradition be authority, we must take it as it
exists; for if we only admit what suits our own hypothe-
sis, it might as well not have existed. But thus it always
involves itself in a chaos of moral, physical, and historical
contradiction, and then gravely calls on us to believe:
scarcely even gravely; as the indignation, in this, as in
all other cases, is commensurate with the feebleness of the

But not to quote Hollinshed and others, whose testi-
monies to this point have been adduced, and who are just
as good authority on Scottish history as the immortal
Xixofou would be, the Bishop of Ross, Lesley, pretends,
as does Boethius, that the Highlanders had a great
trade with France and Spain, in ancient times, from the
city of Inverlochy. He calls it " opulentissima civitas
Inverlothoea appellata." These foreigners, as he says,
came there with ships and carried away the valuable
commodities of the country. His indignation serves to
fix something like a date; since he is very angry that this


city was not restored after it had been burat and plun-
dered by the Danes. He should have told us whence he
derived his information and opinions ; what species of
commerce could have been carried on with these countries,
and what produce exported to them, from a region, which,
even in the present state of improvement, can do little
more than maintain its inhabitants, and which, in the days
of Highland independence, could scarcely do that. Ac-
cording to the Fingalian theory also,and the acknowledged
manners of the Fingalian sera, to which his date must al-
lude, Caledonia, if it was not here a forest, which, accord-
ing to the very theory of the Parallel roads, it was, was
then, in its mountains at least, said to be a nation of war-
like hunters : and that this stage of society is incompati-
ble with commerce, the Reverend author appears to have
forgotten, or never considered. It requires more know-
ledge of history and policy, of man and of morals, than
the Bishop of Ross or the natives of Glen Roy possess, to
construct theories and invent fables that will even hang

Enough, and more than enough, of this. But such
is the extent of this belief, as even to cause the faithful to
assert that the present castle of Inverlochy was the very
palace of these imaginary kings. The date of this
building is not known ; but we have here, fortunately,
a species of evidence, which, within certain limits, is
quite satisfactory, and by which we can so far ap-
proximate to the sera of its erection, as to show that
it cannot be very ancient. It is, at the same time, as
a Highland castle, a specimen well meriting description.
Its situation near the river, and on the borders of the
great peat moss of Inverlochy, is a strong one; but is
scarcely such as a Highland chief would have selected, if
we may judge from the various examples dispersed all


over the country, and on nliicli I have made some general
remarks elsewhere. If its situation is not well chosen,
according to modern military systems, still it is more con-
sonant to these than the generality of the Highland castles,
as it also differs from them in the nature of its defences;
both marking, alike, a different set of military opinions,
and the engineering of a distinct people. It is also of
superior masonry and construction to most of the High-
land analogous works, and consists of a quadrangle, with
round towers at the angles. The walls are about nine
feet in thickness, and the measure of the curtains is about
an hundred feet; so that the flanking defences are here
perfect, and formed on a regular design ; while, in most
of the Highland castles, they are wanting, and, in many,
appear to have been accidental. That opinion is the more
confirmed by the prevailing want of loop-holes in the
towers of the latter, or of other means of defensive an-
noyance, in them. Here, on the contrary, there are both
loop-holes and sally-ports ; so that while its size proves
it to have been intended for a garrison, its defences show
that it was prepared for a siege : the whole of the sys-
tem being utterly different from that of most of the other
castles of the Highlands. Not to enter into details un-
necessarily minute, it is surrounded by a moat, and there
are the traces of a former drawbridge between the south
and the east towers ; circumstances in which it also differs
from the general plan of the Highland castles ; as I have
more fully shown elsewhere.

It is impossible for any one who is acquainted with
ancient castles, and who has studied the principles of
their fortification in England and Wales, not to detect
here, an imitation at least, if not the work of the English
engineers of that day. However various are the works
of Edward in Wales, and those of parallel date which
VOL I. z


may not have been his, they almost all develope sound
principles of defence ; often so very remarkable, that
Harlech, which might, in other respects, almost be
the work of a modern engineer, possesses a complete
fausse-bray ; a contrivance supposed peculiar to modern
fortification. Tnverlochy is palpably of the same school ;
and the nature and integrity of its ruins, bespeak also an
age that could not have been much higher than that of
Edward. It was probably therefore the work of the
Cumins, about that date. They were the possessors of
this territory, and the building bears the marks of an
opulence, and of a knowledge, of which, except at Kil-
churn, we see no display, and which is there accounted
for in a similar manner, by the wealth and the education
of bis Colin, the Knight Templar. The abilities or in-
formation of the Cumins, may be supposed, like their
wealth, to have been of a superior nature to those of the
age in this country, from obvious causes ; and their po-
litical connexion and history are too well known to require
mention in aid of this supposition. The probability there-
fore is, <hat Tnverlochy was not only built by this family
about the time of Edward, but with assistance or advice
from his engineers; nor is it even impossible that, as
Aylmer cle Valence both built and garrisoned Bothwell
castle, this work also was an English fortress and an
English garrison. But the records of friends and foes
have vanished alike, I need only add, that the western
tower is still known among the natives by the name of
Cumin's tower.

To him who is in search of picturesque beauty, this
neighbourhood affords little temptation besides those I
have already named. The road from Balahulish is pleas-
ing, without oifering any striking scenery ; as there is little
of character in the rude hills of Ardgower, which form



the western boundary of Locheil. There is as little
temptation in the western branch of this inlet, which, but
for the ebb and the sea weed, might be mistaken for a
fresh water lake. High bridge is a striking object; from
the depth of the ravine and the height of the arches above
the water, which is ninety-five feet ; nor is it wanting in
picturesque beauty. Of the surrounding country, how-
ever, Glen Roy most deserves attention ; not merely on
account of its singularity and its philosophical interest,
but of its truly picturesque beauty, and of the very strik-
ing and magnificent effect of the Parallel roads, as they
are called. The subject itself is, however, too intricate for
the tail of a letter, so that I must defer it. It is, un-
luckily, one of the Fingalian stumbling blocks ; but we
become habituated to this eternal contest, and must learn
to bear it as well as we may, in hopes that the age of
reason on these subjects will arrive at last. My hetero-
doxy, I grieve to say, cost me a dinner and a night's lodg-
ing : for, armed with the best of letters, I was not invited
into a house, at the door of which I stood, because it was
known that I was an unbeliever. Highland wrath must
be powerful, so to overcome Highland kindness. It was
far otherwise at good old kind-hearted Keppoch's : but he
is gone where my gratitude is alike useless and un-




The popular opinion to which I have alluded, respect-
ing the singular appearances in Glen Roy, is no proof
that they had been observed by the ancient Highlanders :
nor does the existence of that opinion prove that it is an
ancient and traditional one. I have already remarked,
what I shall probably have occasion to remark again, that
the personages who figure in the Fingalian drama, have,
since the time of Macpherson, been invested with a right
over all streams, caves, mountains, and stones, every
where; even where some of these objects have only been
brought to light in our own days. It may be doubted
whether the fancy in question respecting these Parallel
roads, is of much earlier date than the christening of the
stone in Glen Almond and of the cave in Staffa, which we
have ourselves witnessed. So little was known also, out
of the bounds of the Highlands, of their antiquities or
scenery, even at the time of Pennant's visit in 1772, that
the public was ignorant of the very name of Glen Roy,
until he printed a short notice of it in his appendix, from
the communications of a neighbouring clergyman; not
even having seen it himself. Ten years have indeed
scarcely elapsed since these very singular appearances
attracted any further notice : my own visit was among
the earliest; and, even now, I doubt if they have been
seen by twenty people beyond those of their immediate
neighbourhood, though so interesting and so accessible.

The scenery of Glen Roy, of its lower part at least,
is both pleaKiiig :uid picturesque; and indeed, indepen-


dently of its Parallel roads, it is among- the most beauti-
ful of the Hig-hland valleys ; being richly ornamented
with scattered wood, and its boundaries being marked
equally by simplicity and grandeur of style. The upper
portion, distinguished by the turn which it makes to the
eastward, is bare and wild, and the most remote, which
is only terminated by Loch Spey, the summit of the
eastern-flowing waters, is without any other interest than
that which belongs to the appearances under considera-
tion. It is a part of the geographical description of this
valley, required for understanding the nature and con-
sequences of these phenomena, to say that it terminates,
so as to be lost, in the great valley of the Spean, which
includes Loch Laggan ; a valley with which Loch Treig,
communicates : and that there is also a communication
with Glen Gloy, by means of Glen Turit ; while some
shorter valleys, such as Glen Glastric and Glen Fintec,
also open into it.

On entering Glen Roy, where the Parallel roads are
most remarkable, every one must be struck by their ap-
pearance and their effect. Nothing indeed that I have
ever seen in nature or art, is so striking. Ihere is a
magnificence, a grandeur of apparent eflibrt in them,
which excites more than wonder : incredulity : and we
look again and again, as if there was some deception, as
if that which is before us could not be. The impression,
in fact, is that of a work of art; because Nature pro-
duces nothing similar: yet we contemplate it as impos-
sible art. Nature deals not in mathematical lines and
forms : and thus, even though we know it is her works
that are here before us, we cannot shake off the impres-
sion that we are contemplating a work of man, and still,
that it is a work, of which the gigantic dimensions and
bold features exceed mortal power. We need not won-


der, if the Highlander should have attributed to the ideal
and poetical beings of his heroic ages, works which,
scorning the mimic efforts of the present race, hold their
undeviating course over the mountain and the valley,
heedless alike of the impassable crag and the destroying

The more calm impression is, that these traces, so
strongly marked, drawn with such mathematical exact-
ness and truth, so regular in the midst of irregularity, so
imlike every line by which they are surrounded and to
every form on which they seem to rest, are not in the
landscape. It is as if they lay between our eye and the
hills, as if they were drawn in the air, or as if they were
the transverse wires of a telescope through which we are
contemplating the scene before ns. Let it be added to
this, that the world has not yet produced, any where
e\se, a similar phenomenon; and while we may pride
ourselves on possessing what might once have ranked
among its seven wonders, let us also add to that wonder,
the still greater one, that it should hitherto have received
so little attention.

I need scarcely tell you, that if the Highlanders have
their theory, so the philosophers have theirs. This is,
that they have been produced by the action of water. As
to the mode, however, in which this has acted, opinions
have differed. My own solution, of course, I consider
the only and the right one ; else, you know, I should not
be a true philosopher: while, having been the first to
investigate and describe them, I must also swagger and
assume the honour of a discoverer and a teacher; as is
usual among this race, not less watchful over their vision-
ary property than kings and nations are over their boun-
daries and rights, and not one whit less ingenious in
attempting to encroach on those of their neighbours.


Never let us hear, my dear Sir Walter, of the jealou-
sies and squabbles of the fair sex. Did they know us as
well as they oug^ht, now that they are become our rivals
in science and literature, they might retort on us our
academies and our societies, our geologists and our chen)-
ists, our Pinkertons and Ritsons and Scaligers.

I will not allow Donald, however, to be treated with
injustice: for, let his betters romance as they may, there
is a bottom of good sense and a sharpness of intellect
in him, which, while they may give to Fingal all that is
his .due, and to his ancient clans and chiefs as much re-
spect as they merit, will not suffer him to surrender his
own senses and his own reasonings to any one. I met
one of them here who entertained me much with his own
philosophy on the subject, and who smiled when I re-
marked that the roads had been made by Fingal. What-
ever the value of his priori arguments might be, he was
very deficient, poor fellow, a posteriori; yet I recom-
mend future travellers to apply to this Gymnosophist,
who held even his minister in great scorn on this point,
and whose theory was not so wide of the truth but that a
very few words sufficed to render it perfect. He was
delighted that he had found a partizan, and fresh argu-
ments ; and 1 doubt not, has, by this time, converted all
his neighbours to the true belief. Yet he too could point
out the Dal Sealg where the deer were killed, after hav-
ing thus been deluded into the mouse-trap, the kettles
where Fingal and Rbyno cooked their venison, and the
lee rock where Carthon, or Fillan, or some other hero of
the swift foot and the bright shield, was detected in an
intrigue with the " Wabster's dochter." So careful has
tradition been, and so delicately minute.

But before we enter on causes, it will be proper to
enquire a little further about effects. In the inferior part


of the valley, where these parallel lines are most perfect,
there are three, traced above each other. The correspon-
dence of each of these to its representative, or fellow, on
the opposite side, is such, that they are on an exact
water level, as determined by levelling. Of the three,
the vertical distance from the lowest to the second, or
middle one, determined in the same manner, is 212 feet;
and that from the second to the upper one 82 : and, these
distances being invariably preserved wherever they oc-
cur, hence arises that parallelism whence they have de-
rived their name, and of which the effect is so striking.
At the lower part of Glen Roy, the lowest line is about
600 feet, perpendicular, above the bottom of the valley,
or 633 above the junction of the rivers Roy and Spean ;
but as the bottom of the valley itself necessarily rises in
proceeding up the stream, the two lowest lines become,
in succession, excluded, and disappear ; the upper one
alone, continuing to be traced to its most remote ex-

These lines, however, are only found, in this perfec-
tion, in some places, and chiefly in the lower part of the
glen. There, the whole three are often to be seen, on
both sides, and for a considerable space; but, in other
places, they are interrupted or wanting, so that but two
are present, or only one is sometimes to be found ; while,
in a few, they are all deficient. In many cases, this can
be accounted for by circumstances in the nature of the
ground : a very steep acclivity, or a rocky bottom inca-
pable of receiving the impressions, or the sliding of the
loose surfaces of the hills, or the posterior action of
water; while, in a few remarkable cases, no apparent
cause for the deficiency can be assigned. In one or two
points moreover, there are errors of level, evidently
cauised by a descent of the loose ground ; and some frag-

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 26 of 37)