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 2) online

. (page 1 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 2) → online text (page 1 of 37)
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JOHN MACCULLOCH, M.B.. y.jl.^- L.S. G.S.

&c. &c. &c.


' Vol- h.. . '- ^






Joseph Mallctt, Printer,
59, Wardour Street, Soho.


Clyde — Dumbarton — Greenock — Helensburgh —
Rosneath — Gare Loch — Loch Long — Loch Goyl

— Hoh) Loch — Dunoon — Bute 1

A rran — Lamlash 25

Cumbray — Ailsa — Loch Fyne — Campbelltown* . . 48

Sanda — Cemeteries and Funerals 67

Mull of Cantyre — Loch Tarhet — Loch Killisport
— Inch Cormac — Loch Stein — Crinan — Loch

Craignish 82

Loch Melfort — Shuna — Luing — Torsa — Seil —

Garveloch Isles 106

Kerrera — Oban — Dunolly — Dunstaffnage — ? Loch

Etive 132

Highland Castles. X 155

Morven — Loch Aline — Loch Sunnrt — Strontian —
Airdnamurchan — Loch Moidart — Loch Morrer

— Loch Nevish , 171

Ossian 190

Loch Hourn — Winds — Education 226

Glen Elg — Pictish Towers 245

A 2

- i-v ,-• /w -' ; )
j^ a \^ vj 'V W


Loch Dutch — Loch Long — Loch Carrori — Loch Kis-

horn — Loch Torridon — Gairloch 259

Pol Ewe — Loch Ewe — Gardening — Loch Maree. . 282
Loch Greinord — Little Loch Broom — Kea Cloch —

Loch Broom — Ullapool 304

Tanera — Herrings. . y. 319

Loch Inver — S?iil Ve'inn — Fairies — Coul Beg 342

Kylescuagh -^Assynt — Loch Laocford — Loch In-
chard — Handa — Cape Rath — Diurness — Stack

and Skerry — Loch Eribol 356

Loch Hope — Tongue — Bagpipe — Harp — Musical

Instruments of the Highlanders 371

Highland and Caledonian Music 396

Loch Shin — Loch Merkland — Thurso — Houna —
John O^Groai's House — Wick — Helmsdale —
Dornoch — Tain — Cromarty , 452


" Give me but a little leave," my dear Sir Walter,
" and I will now set before your eyes the stupend infinite
ocean, a sea full of rockes and shelves, sands, gulfes,
Euripes, and contrary tides ; full of fearful monsters,
uncouth shapes, roring- waves, tempests, and Siren calmes,
and Halcyonian seas." The anchor is up, the fore sheet
draws, the mainsail fills, and Ben Lomond is sinking in
the blue horizon. Cato repented that he had gone by
sea when he might have gone by land : what else he re-
pented of, is too ungallant to be told. But had his journey
lain from Cantyre to Cape Rath, he would have preferred
the mountain wave to the mountain shore ; a home on the
deep, to the want of one among rocks and bogs, amid
fords and ferries, through dub and learie and labour and
starvation. You must now therefore prepare to accompany
me over the rude billow, to plough the salt deep, dipping
your wing in the wave, like the sea gull, by day, and,
like him, seeking refuge from the storm and the night
among the various and bright scenery of the western

If a man had nothing else to do than to make tours,
I know not where or how he could better spend hismoney
and his time, than in wandering up and down and about
the shores of the Clyde and those of all the lochs that open
into it, and in ferreting out the endless corners and nooks

VOL. 11. B


in which it abounds. Castles, towns, ships, islands, rocks,
mountains, bays, creeks, rivers, cascades, trees, lakes,
cliffs, forests, country seats, cultivation, what is there, in
short, which may not be found on the shores of the Clyde,
and what is there of all these which is not beautiful.
Scotland has not such a house as Rosneath, and scarcely
such a park as the park of Inveraray. Few of its towns
are so beautifully situated as Greenock and Campbell-
town, and not many of its sea lochs exceed Loch Long
and Loch Fyne. Dumbarton Castle has not many equals,
the Kyles of Bute resemble nothing on earth, Ailsa, is
unmatched, perhaps in the world, and if Arran, in parts,
has more than a rival in some parts of Sky, it has none,
as a whole, throughout all the Western Islands. But every
inch is beautiful, even from Dumbarton Castle to the
Mull of Cantyre ; nor is there a creek or a point in all
this long space, that does not present something new and
something attractive. He, however, who would see it
as it deserves, must learn to be familiar with the shore,
and must examine every thing as he would the alleys
and walks in his own garden. It is not by blazing along
in a steam boat, with the velocity of a rocket, that the
beauties of the Clyde will be discovered.

If I were ever to turn printer's devil, I would manu-
facture a little book, and call it a guide to the beauties
of the Clyde ; for till that is done, nobody will think of
looking at Arran or Ailsa, as they pass by. Even
those whom the steam-boat compels to pause under the
wonderful and towering colonnades of the latter, only
say, " dear me — what a quantity of birds;" and if per-
chance residing a week at Brodick, it is only to discover
how provokingly the bridge is placed, that compels them
to go so far round. Thus also they pass through the
fairy mazes of the Kyles of Bute, as they would through


the Monkland canal ; because no one has ordered them
to admire. But I have said more than once, that ninety-
nine of an hundred among those who make tours, see
nothing, unless their eyes are absolutely pushed into the
show glass. Even then they scarcely know what they do
see; and as to the general thousand, there are nine
hundred and ninety-nine, to whom the world of landscape
is a place to produce corn and potatoes, fatten bullocks,
grow trees, maintain inns, and weary their horses. But
this is no cause for surprise ; still less for censure; as it
is a natural consequence of confined habits and pursuits.
Yet the principles of taste are often existing, though
dormant, and a word is sufficient to rouse them. That word
I long to give ; that all may enjoy what nature has pro-
vided for all.

Though Dumbarton Castle is an ingredient in the
ordinary route from Glasgow to Loch Lomond, forming
an object deservedly the most admired, even where every
thing is beautiful, it is not thoroughly seen unless viewed
also from the water. From its double peak, it assumes
various picturesque appearances when seen on these
sides,and well deserves to be thoroughly studied at various
distances, from the number of striking pictures which it
yields. Nature seems to have done every thing to render
this magnificent rock perfect in all its parts; and art
has exerted a degree of ingenuity which is absolutely
marvellous, to deform and mar it. Our beloved Scotia
has certainly never been suspected of architectural taste,
but, in Dumbarton Castle, she has really outdone her-
self. If the Governor's house would but crumble about
his ears, it would be a day to be marked with a white
stone; but unluckily it is founded on a rock. Were that
rock conscious of the insult, it would apply to its neigh-
bour Neptune for an earthquake, and, like a noble horse,

B 2


shake off the vile load that bestrides it. That this rock
has once been an island, is apparent to a geological eye;
and indeed we have positive evidence of this, as it is de-
scribed by Harding, in 1434, as having been surrounded
by the sea.

An ancient tower on the top of Dumbarton rock, is sup-
posed to have been a Roman pharos, I know not with
what truth ; but the history of this place is almost too
familiar to need repetition. It is said that it was a fort
and garrison of the Strath-CIuyd Britons, from that period
onwards, and that it was taken by starvation in 756, by
the Saxon king of Northumberland. The celebrated es-
calade of 1571 is described in all the tour books, and why
should T repeat these things for the twentieth time ; or
say what may be better found in Scottish history, or in
those newspapers which held up this place as the rival
to St. Helena, and as the retreat of a man to whose
personal character and individual conduct Europe has
been recently indebted, among much good, for more
human suffering, perhaps, than it had experienced before
him, since the days of Attila. If there is thus a visionary
connection between one of the most wonderful men which
the world has ever seen and the rock of Dumbarton, so
it preserves the memory of another who has had the merit
of making some noise in our own days at least, whatever
he may have made in his own. Once more we have fallen
on king Arthur, who, like Fingal, seems to pursue us
wherever we go. Dumbarton Castle appears to have
been the Castrum Artliuri, even before the time of our
David ; so that he is commemorated, not merely in
Arthur's Seat and in the Cobler. Nor are even these his
limits ; as Arthur's Oven can testify, known by that name
in the time of Alexander the second: while we have
Arthur's fountain in Clydesdale, and Arthur Lee in


Renfrewshire; besides which, his memory is attached,
in Angus, to more places than Meigle, since he is re-
membered at Cupar and at Dunnichen. There could not
hare been all this smoke without some fire ; and if he
" custodiebat le round table in Castro de Stirling, aliter
Snowdoun West Castell," as William of Worcestre says,
he must surely have figured as a living Arthur before he
did in the Morte Arthur. Apropos to which, I see that
Pennant must have learnt the tale of Meigle, and of
Venora, or Guinever, from Boece ; which i might have
discovered before, if I had taken the trouble to look
through all the pages of that worthy. Such it is to at-
tempt to write without books. The view from the summit,
extending' towards Loch Lomond, is fine: and the huge
mass of Ben Lomond is particularly striking to those who
are, for the first time, meditating this expedition, and to
whom its grey and misty summit, surrounded by the at-
tendant mountains, and clad in colours of the air, promises
delights yet untasted ; unwitting how soon all that softness
will be exchanged for rude heath and ruder rocks.

But I must not forget that I am in a boat, and on the
Clyde, and I ought not to forget that I am under a compact
not to step beyond the Highland boundary. Yet I cannot
and will not pass Greenock, without saying that no one
ought to pass it as if it were a mere receptacle of rum and
sugar. It is a splendid sea-port, and it is no less beautifully
situated; but to enjoy its picturesque beauties as they
merit, it is necessary to ascend the heights above the
town in various places. Hence, not only does the noble
screen of the Argyllshire mountains increase in conse-
quence, but the intricacy of its beautiful outline is aug-
mented, by being thus elevated on the horizon, and by
the introduction of new summits of hills, more and more
distant, till they entirely vanish in the sky. These moun->


tains, as singular in character as they are grand and
graceful, form a magnificent distance to a picture, in
which the middle ground is occupied, first by the broad
expanse of the Clyde, gay with shipping in every position
and in every variety of form, and still nearer, by the port
of Greenock, crowded with masts, and sails, and build-
ings; while the town itself, and the high rocky and
wooded banks that tower above it, produce foregrounds as
appropriate as they are various and picturesque. Those
who may have expected to find it a kind of Wapping,
deserve to be confined for their lives to that odoriferous
region, if they leave Greenock with the same impression
as they entered it.

The beauties of the shore on this side, whether along
the road which is so judiciously conducted near the
margin of the water, or from the water itself, are not
often surpassed ; while the whole coast, even as far as
Largs,is varied by villages and houses, by ordinary marine
villas or by rural ones of higher antiquity and claims, by
wood and by cultivation, and by land of ever-changing
forms. From a line of coast thus intricate, the Clyde,
always spacious and always covered with its shipping,
offers a scene of life and brilliancy, unparalleled on any
of our sea shores, and enhanced by the majestic screen of
mountains to the north, for ever varying under the changes
of a restless atmosphere, but, under all these changes, for
ever magnificent.

But I must return to my own side of the water, where
the recent and gay town of Helensburgh offers the first
object of attraction. This is one of the new bathing
places which serves to mark the increasing opulence, as
it does the increase of wants, and the increasing power
of the imagination over those who have the means of in-
dulging its vagaries. But the celebrated wells of Pan-


nanich, which we passed at Ballater without a notice, are
a better proof of what can be done by the united impulse
of water and the imagination. This has the reputation of
being a mineral water; and, doubtless, answers the pur-
pose quite as well ; though Erra Pater himself, or Van
Helmont, who was a better judge, would have been puz-
zled to say what it contains. Assuredly,the Highlanders
who frequent it, do ample justice to its healing springs ;
for they sit from morning to night by the side of the wells,
drinking as often as they can make room for a fresh supply.
If a man's carcase is to be scoured of all diseases as you
scour a house, their practice is perfect. You see that
even Donald is not exempt from that disease of the im-
agination, the reverse of hydrophobia, which annually
leads the citizens of Candlewick ward, and the weavers of
Leeds, and the workers in brass and iron from Sheffield
and Wales, and the spinners of cotton from Manchester and
Glasgow, to Margate and Barmouth and Scarborough
and Leamington and Buxton and Teignmouth and Sid-
mouth and Brighton, and Abergeley and Largs and Bute
and Portobello and Bath and Cheltenham, and hither to
Helensburgh; or wherever there is water to drink or
water to swim in ; since it seems indifferent whether this
first of all elements, as Pindar calls it, is applied to the
outside or the inside, to the stomach or the hide. And,
at all these places, you may find them, (for the one is as
good as the other,) picking cockleshells in the sand, riding
on asses, raffling at libraries, reading novels, buying
spars, wishing for dinner first and bed-time afterwards,
and labouring, strenua inertia, to be happy ; or to imagine
themselves happy.

But this disease is as old at least as Pindar himself,
and has classical authority in its favour; though the
Cheltenham of the Greeks was under the conduct of


Hygeia instead of Mrs. Forty, and that ^Esculapius pre-
sided in the place of Mr. Bettison or Beau Nash. It has
a curious connection with old superstitions; like many
other matters, of which the thread has been broken or
lost. Gods and Nymphs presided over the fountains of
Greece, and when these went out of fashion, their trade
was taken up by Saints ; just as the statues of Jupiter
and Minerva became converted into those of St. Paul and
the Virgin. The Saints too have had their day, and are
out of date; except at Holywell, as Dr. Milner maintains;
and the successors of Geber and Stahl are now the
patrons of fountains and wells. We seek for salts now
where we once prayed to saints, the apothecary has
thrust himself into the place of St. Neot, and St. Tudy,
and St. Fillan, and St. Collen ap Cowdra ap Caradog
ap Freichfras ap Lleyr Merim ap Einion Yrth apCunedda
Lledig, (he was a Welsh saint) : and as the sacrifices of
hecatombs were succeeded by pins, the latter have been
superseded by fees and long bills,^ and by all the other
sacrifices which he must make who would regale on the
healing springs, wherever they lie ; whether at the great
Cloaca of the Eastern and Western Inds, or at the
patrimony of St. Devi and king Bladud, and of the
worshipful corporation of pottingars. It is amusing
enough to observe the trouble which is taken to prove
why this spring is good, that fountain healing : iron, when
there is nothing else, or nothing at all, as at Pannanich ;
or gas, or some other thing; the unlucky saint who had
the original merit, having been forgotten. The old philo-
sophers, however, were more grateful to king Bladud, for
they gave him the credit, even of the chemistry; making
him a Santo and a Filosofo both, in spite of Giannone's
axiom. " Two tunne there beth of brasse. And other two
imaked of glas, Quick brimstone in them also, And other


things many mo, Sal albrod and sal alkiiie, Sal gemmae
is minged with him, And borneth by day and night" —
and so forth ; all laid in the ground by the Royal Chemist,
for the benefit of mankind and the Bath Corporation.
But it is all for the best ; and if we can be cured by
water, why should we swallow mercury and cantharides.
Let Glasgow scower itself in peace. Let Donald drink of
Pannanich till he bursts; for there, at least, he can drink
for nothing.

The Gare Loch must not be passed in silence, as it
affords much pleasing scenery from various points; re-
ceiving also a kind of dignity from the house of Arden-
caple on one side, and from Rosneath on the other. The
peculiar forms of the mountains which constitute this part
of Argyllshire, are nowhere more striking than from the
Gare Loch; Argyll's bowling green, as it is, catachreti-
cally, called, being the predominant feature. To be
thoroughly understood, this inlet ought to be circum-
navigated ; but I cannot pretend to dwell on each par-
ticular scene. Those who are interested in speculating
on the transmutations of lands near the sea, ought to
examine a spit of shingle near the entrance of this inlet,
which will lead them to some curious conclusions as to
futurity. He would be a clever geologist, however, who
could prove, retrospectively, that Rosneath had ever been
an island. How it happened to be so in the days of Cap-
tain Knockd under, is another matter. Loch Fyne pre-
sents a spit exactly similar, though much more extensive.
Of Rosneath I need not say much. The new house, from
the hands of an Italian architect, is unquestionably one of
the most chaste and elegant specimens of modern archi-
tecture which Scotland has yet produced ; but, in con-
sequence of the situation of the ground, the home do-
main derives no peculiar interest from the mountain


scenery that surrounds it, and rather resembles an ordi-
nary English park than such a place as Scotland might
have had to boast.

The tower of Rosneath house has been condemned for
its incongruity ; and justly, as far as the question of con-
gruity is concerned. But it is by no means clear, either
that its effect is bad, or that the principle is faulty. Those
who condemn the union of a Gothic castle-tower with a
Greek building, forget how long they have tolerated or
approved, or how they still tolerate and approve, a far
greater solecism; the union of Greek details in a Gothic
spire, and the application of such a structure to a Greek
church. Our business, in this matter, has been, like
ancient Rome and modern Italy, to recompose Greek
principles into a new style. Every thing is incongruous,
in a rigid sense, which has departed from the pure Doric
temple. The Coliseum is an incongruity; the Pantheon
is one ; St. Paul's, still more. As long as this principle
is admitted and adopted, there is no reason why we should
not unite the castellated Gothic to the Greek, as well as
the ecclesiastical Gothic : it being always provided that
the union is rendered harmonious, that the lines and
masses are well composed and united, and that the build-
ing does not appear a thing of shreds and patches. If
this union appears to us to err now, it is from want of
habit ; and time will teach us, first to endure and then to

A road from the Gare Loch leads to Arochar, partly
on the side of Loch Long ; but this was formerly men-
tioned, and belongs rather to the inland tour which in-
cludes Loch Lomond. Nor need a traveller cross any of
the hill-roads which lead between Gare Loch, Loch Long,
Loch Goyl, Loch Eck, and Inverara. In general, they
offer no scenery to compensate for their inconvenience,


since many of them are scarcely fit, even for pony roads.
Even the most arduous and ambitious tourist may aban-
don the whole of this interior mountain tract of Cowal
without regret. Loch Eck is not worth the trouble of
exploring; and as whatever beauty the country contains,
is limited to its intricate sea shores, most of which are
only accessible from the water, a boat, which is the most
convenient mode of conveyance, will also be the most
amusing and advantageous.

The entrance of Loch Long, for a considerable space,
is pleasing, but without much character ; and though all
along its shores, for many miles upwards on both sides,
the margins are generally picturesque, from intermingled
rocks and woods, it scarcely presents any decided land-
scapes. In a fine day, it is however a very interesting
navigation ; for we must always recollect that there is
often much beauty, even where we cannot lay our hands
on any particular scene, or where the mere artist can find
nothing. Where Loch GoyJ branches oflf from Loch
Long, the land is bold and fine ; high rocky cliffs start-
ing up immediately from the water, intermingled with
shrubs and trees, and varied in a thousand beautiful and
intricate modes. At the head of Loch Goyl also, there is
much wild and romantic beauty ; and beyond it, the deep
rude valley called Hell's Glen, will not be deficient in
attractions to those who are pleased with Glencro ; since
it equals, or perhaps exceeds, that well-known place, in
wildness and character. But the principal feature in
Loch Goyl is Carrick Castle, an ancient seat of the Dun-
more family, and, even now, a very perfect ruin. The
disposition of the building is sufficiently picturesque, and
it is situated in a most favourable manner on a nearly in-
sulated and high rock advanced into the water; the
mountains above impending in very fine forms, and the


shore being enriched by noble trees of ancient growth,
skirting some beautifully situated farms, where cultivation
and houses add much to the interest and variety of this at-
tractive landscape. The opposite sides of the loch are here
also particularly fine. Hence to the exit of Loch Long
into the Clyde, the shore, on this side, continues to be
marked by much variety and grandeur ; the hills, in many
parts, sweeping up in such a manner that the eye traces
them from the water even to the sky, often covered with
houses and trees and wild forest wood, in other places
richly cultivated, and presenting, moreover, some noble
and extensive park scenery, if it may be so called, apper-
taining to Ardentenny and the adjoining lands.

The inn at the Strone ferry, situated on the shore, at
the foot of the wild and bold hill that separates Loch
Long from the Holy Loch, is a convenient place of refuge.
Whoever may make this nautical expedition, should land
here; that by gaining the high ground where it is so
easily accessible, he may command the views of the
Clyde and the hilly country around. It is often neces-
sary to land for the same purpose in many other places ;
as from so low a position as the water necessarily gives,
much beauty will otherwise be unavoidably overlooked.
The Holy Loch penetrates but a short way into the
mountains ; but they rise high from it on all sides, while
the cultivation and population of its shores, added to the
fine wood and the coppices which skirt the declivities of
the hills, render it a scene alike ornamental and unex-
pected. The name has probably been derived from Kil-
mun, near the upper extremity, once a collegiate church,
and built by Sir Duncan Campbell in 1442. That, how-
ever, no longer exists ; but this spot is the burial place of
the Argyll family. The architecture of this mausoleum
is nothing, it being an ugly square tower ; and though at a


distance, some expectations of picturesque beauty are

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 2) → online text (page 1 of 37)