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 9 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 9 of 37)
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would satisfy the greatest stickler for roughness and
rudeness, without incommoding the workmen or imped-
ing the cultivation. The shrubs and trees for use may
be grouped, or they may conceal any part which is judged

Nor are we limited, either to merely useful trees or to
merely useful plants, nor even to uniformly level ground.
If the ancient terraces and inequalities are to be rejected
for ever, as they have been, the ground may undulate in
any manner that nature may have made it, or art may
choose. So may mere ornament be intermixed with
utility. It is by no means necessary that the shrubbery
and the flower garden should be utterly distinguished
from the garden of use. They may form its ornaments,
in any mode and on any scale. They may be used, even
for concealment. We may have a dressed and an orna-
mented kitchen garden ; or we may have a flower garden
and shrubbery containing fruit-bearing trees and vege-
tables. Thus pleasure and utility may be combined;
nor does it require any vast effort of taste to render such
a garden a fit companion for the house ; the hourly and
commodious, as well as the pleasurable, resort of its in-
habitants. If the sight of onions offends, it may be
counteracted by sweet pease and carnations. Rose bushes
may conceal the cabbage bed ; and even the potagerie of
aromatic herbs may aid in ornamenting the borders, in-
stead of being pushed and heaped into a remote corner,
unseen and unknown. The lily of the valley, and the
violet, lavender, pinks, sunflowers, larkspurs, asters, a
thousand flowers succeeding from spring to autumn, may


deck and grace the beds, as the lilac, the laburnum, and
the barberry, may be used to group the forms, and to
produce sweetness and effect united. Nor would any
great exertion of taste or ingenuity be required to render
our gardens the most attractive objects and the most
hourly and convenient sources of amusement in our
pleasure grounds. Let us hope that common sense will
at length resume its sway, and that fashion may be con-
fined where it is comparatively inoffensive, to the taylor*s
shopboard and the milliner's secret room.

Though Loch Tay is a spacious and a splendid piece
of water, and though its hills are lofty and its margins
are wooded and cultivated and enlivened by houses, it
scarcely affords one landscape from Kenmore to near
Killin ; nor do I know any place in Scotland which, with
so much promise, produces so much disappointment.
Nor is this disappointment limited to the artist, or to him
who is dissatisfied unless he can mark and define the
composition of a specific landscape; as, to all, though
pleasing, it equally palls by the want of variety ; leaving,
after a transit of nearly fourteen miles, with a bright lake
bounded by mountains on one side, and a continued
range of wood and cultivation on the other, no recollec-
tions on which we can dwell, and affording no one picture
which we can readily distinguish from another.

This remark must, however, be confined to the north-
ern bank, the ordinary rout of travellers. It would have
been far otherwise had the road been conducted at a
lower level ; at the level which the engineer (any en-
gineer but Marshal Wade's) and the man of taste would
have chosen, along the margin of the lake, and among
the intricate and beautiful promontories and bays by
which it is bounded. But the Marshal's law was the
rule of the Norwegian crabs : and certainly neither the


Medes and Persians, nor this inveterately mathematical
army of mailed chivalry, ever stuck more religiously to
their edicts, than the Field Marshal's soldiers when they
spent a vreek in removing that hundred tons of stone,
called Ossian's tomb, in Glen Almond, lest they should
diverge one yard from the true line laid down by the
canon law of this Prsefectus viarum and rival of Hannibal.
At present, the artist and man of taste who is condemned
to travel the dull up and down of the north Loch Tay road,
will find another powerful ally in the unlucky post-horse :
and even the innkeeper forgets to "bless Marshal Wade,"
when he recollects that, but for his inveterate rectili-
nearity, the present fifteen miles might have been twenty.
It is far otherwise on the southern shore ; since few
roads offer greater temptations, or are more productive
of a succession of picturesque landscapes. Nor is the
cause of this difference difficult to be seen. While the
northern road is continued on a nearly uniform, though
undulating, level, high above the margin of the water,
the southern frequently runs near the shore, and follows
all the inequalities of the ground. It happens also that
the declivity of the northern hills is not marked by much
variety ; while that of the southern is very intricate.
Besides this, the bold outlines of the northern hills, in-
cluding Ben Lawers, form the extreme distance of the
views from the south side ; while, to those from the
northern bank, the southern hills present an uninterest-
ing distance. It is the character of the landscapes on
the southern side of Loch Tay, to be rich, and full, and
various in the middle grounds, and to present also a great
variety of foreground. The lake thus becomes rather a
portion of the picture than the picture itself; and thus
these views escape that appearance of vacuity which forms
the leading fault of our lake scenery. As these middle


and foregrounds are produced, partly by the irregularity
of the shore line, broken into bays and promontories of
various character, and partly by the undulations of hills
containing much irregular wood and many fine and in-
dependent trees, there is a frequent change of scene, and
as much variety as could well be, where the distance un-
dergoes no very conspicuous alterations. I need not
attempt to specify any particular landscape, where the
whole is a succession of landscapes.

Of the few objects on the northern side, the wooded
island containing the remains of a priory, naturally at-
tracts the first attention. This was an establishment
dependent on Scone, founded in 1722 by Alexander I,
whose queen Sybilla, the daughter of Henry I, is buried
here. It possesses another kind of celebrity, from having
afforded a retreat to the Campbells in Montrose's wars.
It was taken, and surrendered to General Monk in 1654.
Being a picturesque object, it adds much to the beauty
of this part of the lake.

The most interesting part of Loch Tay, however, is
Ben Lawers, one of our highest mountains, since it is
supposed to exceed 4000 feet. It is often a fine object
at a distance, particularly from Killin ; but it is much
more interesting as a mountain to ascend. It has the
additional advantage, to travellers, that the ascent is so
easy as to permit riding to the summit. I have ascended
almost every principal mountain in Scotland, since I have
made almost as many ascensions as Monsieur Garnerin,
and have no hesitation in giving the palm to Ben Lawers.
Ben Lomond alone can compete with it for the view from
the summit; but there is a much greater variety of
country seen from this hill, and the range is also greater.
It is also a great advantage in this case, that Ben Lawers
towers over all the hill^ immediately near it, by more


than a thousand feet, and that it has no competitor in
altitude nearer than Ben More, whicli, while it is also
inferior, is so remote as not to obstruct the view. It is
impossible to describe the variety and splendour of this,
the most magnificent of our mountain views ; but a con-
ception of it may, perhaps, be formed from the geography
which it embraces. To the south, we look down on the
lake, with all its miniature ornament of woods and fields,
terminating westward in the rich vale of Killin, and unit-
ing eastward with the splendour of Strath Tay, stretching
away till its ornaments almost vanish among the hills and
in the fading tints of the atmosphere. Beyond the lake
the successive ridges of hills lead the eye over Strathearn
which is however invisible, to the Ochills, and the Camp-
sie, and hence, even to Edinburgh ; the details of this quar-
ter, from Perth, being unexpectedly perfect and minute,
and at the same time well indicated by the marked charac-
ters of the Lowmont hills. The place of Dunkeld, and the
peculiar style of its scenery, are also distinctly visible;
and it is equally easy to make out the bright estuary of
the Tay, the long ridge of the Sidlaw, and the plain of
Strathmore. Westward, we trace, without difficulty, the
hills of Loch Lomond and Loch Cateran ; and, in the
same manner, every marked mountain, even to Oban ;
Cruachan and Buachaille Etive being particularly con-
spicuous. To the north. Glen Lyon is entirely excluded ;
the first objects, in this direction, being Schihallien and
its accompanying mountains, leading us to the vale of the
Turael and Loch Rannoch, and even to Loch Laggan, seen
as a bright narrow line : and thus, on one hand, to Glenco
and Ben Nevis, and, on the other, to Ben-y-gloe, lifting-
its complicated summit above the head of Ferrogon;
beyond which the mountains at the head of Dee, of Marr
and Cairngorm, marked with perpetual snow, were the last


objects which I could satisfactorily determine. So great
a range of view, with so many and such marked objects,
is unexampled in any other spot in Scotland. From al-
most every other mountain, there is some obstruction in
the neighbouring hills, which cuts off a portion of the
horizon ; and, from Ben Nevis, where the view around is
quite open, the objects are so little marked, and so un-
interesting, that no advantages for the view are derived
from its great elevation.

On the summit of Ben Lawers, the rare Lichen crocatus
abounds ; but this mountain indeed, is, to the botanist,
a perfect botanical garden of alpine plants. Lochan-na-
chat, a small lake on its north eastern declivity, is the
chief place for these treasures ; but I need not give you
a catalogue of my discoveries, as they are probably well
known to every Scottish gardener : at least I ought to
conclude so ; as I met two missionaries from the Edin-
burgh garden, with huge tin boxes slung over their
shoulders, who seemed to be in a perfect ecstacy of hap-
piness. The whole of this ridge is also remarkable, hence
even to Killin, for producing large quantities of a metal-
lic mineral, which, though it occurs in many parts of
Scotland, is, every where else, scantily found. This is
Rutile, an ore of Titanium ; the specimens being also no
less beautiful than abundant.

Whenever you may be tempted to ascend Ben Lawers, 1
recommend you to Peter Mac Naughton's inn. Not merely
because it is convenient, but because of Peter himself,
who is a pattern Highlander, whatever his house may be.
Yet that is a pattern house too : for it is a pattern of what
is here called a " kind of a white house ;" a species, of
which I remember another, performing the same office,
in Glen Roy, I have had occasion to notice the generic


difference between a black house and a white house, else-
Avhere: but the former has its species. The genuine,
pure black house is built entirely of turf; walls and roof:
it is a " good black house" when the roof is of thatch.
The true white house consists of masonry and slate, as all
the world knows ; but the heteroclite, " kind of white
house," is covered with thatch, and, what is much more
essential, possesses a chimney. But Peter's house was
decorated with a cognizance of Breadalbane, which had
suffered as severely from the blasts of Ben Lawers as the
great Sir Colin's could possibly have done in the holy
wars. What was of more value, it contained excellent
port wine. We reconcile ourselves to our fate, and nestle,
without grumbling-, in a " good black house," or even in
the worst black house that ever was flead off the com-
mon, when we are travelling in a land of black houses :
and there we hail the " sclate house" as we should the
house of that very civil gentleman at Newark, of whom
honourable mention is made in Kenilworth. But, in a
land of white, slate houses, Peter Mac Naughton's house
did look very black indeed. Still blacker looked the
truly Augean stable, in which cows and horses had been
indiscriminately sojourning together, without even a hint
from shovel or broom, since immemorial time. Was there
any hay — yes, rushes. Corn — yes, in the sheaf, or grow-
ing in the field. Any ropes, to tether the cows, and to
prevent them from tickling the Saxon horse with the ends
of their sharp Highland horns. But what were all these
wants when balanced against the good humour, and ac-
tivity, and contrivance of Peter Mac Naughton and his
wife and his two tall daughters. In a trice they " shooled
the gruip" as clean as ever did Hercules ; and Mrs. Mac
Naughton produced her best blankets and whitest sheets,


and every body did every thing that could possibly be
done for the strang-er's accommodation. I declare 1
would have slept, like the bride in the song, without
blankets or sheets either, and my gallant chesnut should
have lain in the embraces of the Highland cows, rather
than I would have left Peter's house, to have insulted its
blackness and his povert3\ It was his only fault; and if
I was my Lord Breadalbane, he should have a better
house to manage to-morrow. He seemed ashamed, both
of it and of himself, and looked surprised when I had
settled myself to remain. Nor did I take my leave of it
and him, till I had convinced him that, as his poverty
but not his will consented, so it was my time and not
my repugnance to his house that drove me from him.

English travellers are apt to complain that they do
not meet with this species of Highlander ; and it cannot
be denied that a different one is somewhat more promi-
nent ; as is always the case where merit and demerit
compete for notice. But he may be found by those who
choose to seek him : and I fear that, if he is often spoiled,
we have only ourselves to blame, and that, in more ways
than one. In ascending Ben Lawers, I had met with a
young shepherd boy, who eventually proved to be
Peter's son. I asked him to accompany me, for the sake
of conversation, and, when about to part, offered him a
shilling. This he refused : but it was forced on him,
and, in so doing, I am sure I did wrong ; for it is likely
that he will never refuse one again, and will possibly
end by demanding five. Certainly he will never ascend
the hill again with a stranger without expecting a re-
ward : and if he does not receive it, he will be disap-
pointed. I have probably taught him to sell the civility
which he was accustomed to give. It is thus that English-
men assist in corrupting the Highlanders, as they have



long since corrupted each other: by an ostentatious dis-
play of that wealth which, to a genuine Englishman, is
the substitute for all the virtues; nay, is virtue itself.
The condition of society is wrong where every thing has
its price ; when even the common charities of life, the
friendly intercourse of man with man, is matter of barter
and sale.

The finest view on the north side of Loch Tay, occurs
at its upper extremity, where Killin first comes distinctly
in sight; this rich valley being displayed in a continua-
tion of the lake, and a noble sheet of solid and ancient
oak forest sweeping down the deep declivity in one
dark mass, from the road to the water, which is stretched
out far below. A little industry and attention will also
discover, hence to Killin, many beautiful landscapes,
and many of them well adapted for painting, of a closer
character ; particularly when we first become entangled
in the valley of the Lochy. Here too we first meet the
extensive and ancient woods of Finlarig, itself a ruin ;
one of the seven castles of these Lairds of Lochow, whose
present estate has the merit, often told, of being the
longest in Scotland. Finlarig was built by Sir Colin in
1520; and it was a Sir Colin also, but I know not if the
same, (Douglas not being at my elbow,) who originally
built Taymouth, in 1580.

If you know Killin, you also know that it is the most
extraordinary collection of extraordinary scenery in
Scotland, unlike every thing else in the country, and
perhaps on earth, and a perfect picture gallery in itself,
since you cannot move three yards without meeting a
new landscape. A busy artist might draw here for a
month and not exhaust it. If you do not know this already,
I may now tell you so. You will not be disappointed
when you come ; as my friend, whom I must not name,


was. This discerning personage, a man of reputed edu-
cation and, by grace, a philosopher, and, as he doubt-
less flattered himself, a man of taste, since he was travel-
ling in pursuit of the picturesque, came up to me at the inn-
door, after having spent the preceding day there, in great
indignation and wrath. " He had been told that Killin
was a beautiful place" — " he had come out of his way to
see it" — " he never saw an uglier place in his life" — " he
knew that I was a person of taste and understood these
things, and he wished 1 would shew him what there was
to look at." I might have said, Circumspice ; but to what
purpose. I might have said, shall I lend you my fiddle-
stick ; but to what purpose ; to him who could not see the
fiddle. So I even consoled him in the best way I could,
by telling him that his friends had been hoaxing him.
And these are the people who travel and write tours, and
tell the world what they have — what they have not seen,
I should say. The first art to be learnt is the art of see-
ing: not landscapes only, but many other things besides.
Unless the Doctor found a cascade, or a cave, or an echo,
I dare say he returned from his Highland tour as well in-
formed on all points as he was on the subject of Killin.
But this will not prevent his travels from being written
and published : and thus the world jogs on.

Mac Nab's burying ground might have attracted even
this Doctor's eyes ; for it is surely remarkable enough,
and there has been enough written and said about it. It
is a central object amid this extraordinary scenery ; but
there is a congruity among all these strange things, which
is no less admirable than the novelty of the whole. It is
scarcely possible to conceive so many distinct and marked
objects collected within so small a space, and all so
adapted to each other as always to preserve one character,
and, at the same time, to produce so endless a nimiber of



distinct and beautiful landscapes. To find, however, all
that Killin has to give of this nature, it is necessary to
pry about into corners, like a cat; as the separate scenes
are produced by very slight changes of position, and are
often found in very unexpected places. Fir trees, rocks,
torrents, mills, bridges, houses, these produce the great
bulk of the middle landscape, under endless combina-
tions ; while the distances, more constant, are found in
the surrounding hills, in their varied woods, in the bright
expanse of the lake and the minute ornaments of the dis-
tant valley, in the rocky and bold summit of Craig
Cailleach, and in the lofty vision of Ben Lawers, which
towers, like a huge giant, to the clouds, the monarch of
the scene.

These pictures are perhaps most remarkable where
this mountain and the lake form the distance, and where
the burying place, with its fir trees, occupies the further
middle ground. The three bridges which, in succession,
cross different branches of this wild and rocky river, are
objects no less conspicuous than ornamental : but, from
one point, five bridges are thus visible in a line ; removed
but a few yards from each other, and all in some way
distinguished by their variety of form or position. You
have seen the bridges of Cumberland and Westmoreland,
and must often have been struck by their picturesque
beauty, and by their adaptation to the character of the
surrounding scenery. This is frequently the result of
the angular outline of the parapet; but it is also often the
consequence of a certain carelessness, or rudeness, of
workmanship and design, and of an adaptation of the
work to the ravine or the river, arising from the attempts
of the workmen to gain their ends in the most economical
manner. Thus congruity and harmony of character are
attained, as if taste instead of convenience had guided


the artist's hand; and thus also there is produced a va-
riety of aspect and design, that mc could scarcely have
expected to find in an architectural form, so simple, and
which is, too commonly, so uniform. The same remarks
are generally true of the Highland bridges ; unless where
engineers have had the direction, or where some pert
contractor has attempted to display his taste and science.
The worthy and plodding-Donalds, who think no moreabout
the result than their trowels, turn and vary their arches as
if they themselves had been g-enerated of an ellipse or
a curve of equilibration; producing, at the same time,
beauty which might teach useful lessons to architects.
Of so much moment in art, are that congruity and that
variety, to which convenience and accident lead them,
and from which there is no artificial system or fashion to
direct them. I could easily point out to you examples of
good and bad, in illustration of these remarks ; and no
where better than about Blair in Atholl, where, with
specimens of beauty and fitness every where at hand,
in the ancient Highland bridges that abound in this
neighbourhood, a detestable Lowland Pontifex has lately
destroyed the beauty of the Tilt and of the Banavie in the
very middle of these splendid grounds. If I were to
point out more important instances of this nature, I
should offend more of our iiritable countrymen; and I
dare say I have made enemies enough already.

As I cannot pretend to detail the innumerable land-
scapes on the Dochart at this place, or even to mark the
points of sight, I shall content myself with naming one
only, because it might be overlooked, and because it is
among the most splendid landscapes which Killin affords.
The station is near a wooded ravine crossing the road
into Glen Dochart, which forms a noble foreground ; dis-
playing all the details of this extraordinary village in the


middle grounds, and succeeded by a magnificent vista
of the valley and the lake, terminated by the blue
and towering form of Ben Lawers. But all the beauty
of Killin is not comprised in the scenery of the Dochart;
as the Lochy, which here joins to produce Loch Tay, pre-
sents also many landscapes, equally various and attractive.
Nor can any two rivers be more strongly contrasted ; and
that contrast is the more striking from their proximity.
While the Dochart is a boisterous torrent, roaring among
its wild rocks, forming almost a continuous cascade, and
split into various parts by its islands and irregularities,
the Lochy flows without a ripple, placid as a lake, and
reflecting every leaf of the beautiful trees which over-
hang its lovely green banks. From the meadows near
the inn, it affords one river landscape in a style no less
uncommon than beautiful. Where the mysterious course
of the stream is concealed by the bend of the valley, the
mountain towers up, as if overhanging it ; varied by
woods and rocks and deep precipices, and terminating in
one bold and broad cliff". On the left hand rises another
wooded hill, descending suddenly to the water, where it
meets the green meadows and farms adorned by trees
of luxuriant growth, which skirt the river banks; while,
on the right, the rich woods of Finlarig constitute the
boundary, broken by intervening glades ; ash trees of
picturesque and varied forms advancing to the very edge
of the water, and hanging their branches over its tran-
quil surface. Nothing could be imagined capable of
adding to this picture of seclusion and repose ; the pas-
toral sweetness of which is the more striking, from its
contrast with the lofty and rude alpine scenery by which
it is enclosed.

Various beautiful pictures are found on this stream ;
marked in the same manner, by their richness, and by


the height and the sudden ascent of the including hills,
which give to the whole of them a peculiarity of cha-
racter unknown in any of the river scenery of the High-
lands. The declivity of Craig Cailleach also presents
much beauty in a different style : a mixture of noble and
ancient firs, skirting the ravines, the torrents, and the

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 9 of 37)