Copyright
Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

. (page 15 of 66)
Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 15 of 66)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


summit, they slew the sentinel before he had time to give the alarm, and
easily surprised the slumbering garrison, who had trusted too much to
the security of their position. Some of the climbing irons used are
shown within the castle.

[Illustration: DUMBARTON CASTLE]

We now set out from Dumbarton, with its old castle, and the old sword
worn by the brave Wallace reposing in the armoury, at the same time
leaving the River Clyde and its fine scenery, which, owing to the fog,
we had almost totally missed. We proceeded towards Stirling, where we
hoped to arrive on the following day; but we now found ourselves passing
through a semi-manufacturing district, and gradually it dawned upon us
that we had now left the Highlands and were approaching the Lowlands of
Scotland. We thought then and many times afterwards of that verse of
Robbie Burns's: -

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild deer and following the roe -
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

We passed through Renton, where there were bleaching and calico
printing works. A public library graced the centre of the village, as
well as a fine Tuscan column nearly 60 feet high, erected to Tobias
Smollett, the poet, historian and novelist, who was born in 1721 not
half a mile from the spot. The houses were small and not very clean. The
next village we came to was Alexandria, a busy manufacturing place where
the chief ornament was a very handsome drinking-fountain erected to a
member of the same family, a former M.P., "by his tenants and friends,"
forming a striking contrast to its mean and insignificant surroundings
of one-storied houses and dismal factories. We were soon in the country
again, and passed some fine residences, including the modern-looking
Castle of Tullichewan situated in a fine park, and reached Balloch at
the extreme end of Loch Lomond, from which point we had a momentary view
of the part of the lake we had missed seeing on the preceding evening.
Here we paid the sum of one halfpenny each for the privilege of passing
over the Suspension Bridge, which gave us access to a very pleasant part
of the country, and crossed one spur of a hill, from the top of which,
under favourable conditions, we might have seen nearly the whole of Loch
Lomond, including the islands and the ranges of hills on either side -

[Illustration: MAINS CASTLE, KILMARONOCK]

Mountains that like giants stand
To sentinel enchanted land.

But though it was only about a mile and a half from our path to the
summit, and the total elevation only 576 feet, 297 of which we had
already ascended, we did not visit it, as the mist would have prevented
an extended view. It stood in a beautiful position, surrounded by woods
and the grounds of Boturich Castle; why such a pretty place should be
called "Mount Misery" was not clear, unless it had some connection with
one of the Earls of Argyll who came to grief in that neighbourhood in
1685 near Gartocharn, which we passed shortly afterwards. He had
collected his clan to overthrow the Government of James VII (James II of
England) and had crossed the Leven at Balloch when he found Gartocharn
occupied by the royal troops. Instead of attacking them, he turned
aside, to seek refuge among the hills, and in the darkness and amid the
bogs and moors most of his men deserted, only about five hundred
answering to their names the following morning. The Earl, giving up the
attempt, was captured an hour or two later as he was attempting to cross
the River Clyde, and the words applied to him, "Unhappy Argyll,"
indicated his fate. We passed Kilmaronock church in the dark and, after
crossing the bridge over Endrick Water, entered Drymen and put up at the
"Buchanan Arms" Inn, where we had been recommended to stay the night.

(_Distance walked twenty miles_.)


_Thursday, October 5th._

We were up early this morning and went to have a look round the village
of Drymen and its surroundings before breakfast. We were quite near
Buchanan Castle, and took the liberty of trespassing for a short time in
the walks and woods surrounding it. The Duke of Montrose here reigned
supreme, his family the Grahams having been in possession for twenty
generations; among his ancestors were Sir Patrick de Graham, who was
killed at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, and Sir John de Graham, the
beloved friend of the immortal Wallace, who was slain at the Battle of
Falkirk in 1298. The village had been built in the form of a square
which enclosed a large field of grass called the Cross Green, with
nothing remarkable about it beyond an enormous ash tree supposed to be
over 300 years old which stood in the churchyard. It measured about 17
feet in circumference at 5 feet from the ground, and was called the Bell
Tree, because the church bell which summoned the villagers to worship
was suspended from one of its branches. The tree began to show signs of
decay, so eventually the bell had to be taken down and a belfry built to
receive it.

[Illustration: THE SQUARE, DRYMEN]

We finished our breakfast at 8.30, and then, with the roads in a
fearfully muddy condition owing to heavy downfalls of rain, started on
our walk towards Stirling. The region here was pleasing agricultural
country, and we passed many large and well-stocked farms on our way,
some of them having as many as a hundred stacks of corn and beans in
their stack-yards. After walking about seven miles we arrived at the
dismal-looking village of Buchlyvie, where we saw many houses in ruins,
standing in all their gloominess as evidences of the devastating effects
of war. Some of the inhabitants were trying to eke out their livelihood
by hand-loom weaving, but there was a poverty-stricken appearance about
the place which had, we found, altered but little since Sir Walter Scott
wrote of it in the following rhyme which he had copied from an old
ballad:

Baron of Buchlivie,
May the foul fiend drive ye
And a' to pieces rive ye
For building sic a town,
Where there's neither horse meat
Nor man's meat, nor a chair to sit down.

We did not find the place quite so bad as that, for there were two or
three small inns where travellers could get refreshments and a chair to
sit down upon; but we did not halt for these luxuries until we reached
Kippen, about five miles farther on. Before arriving there we overtook
two drovers who were well acquainted with Glencoe and the Devil's
Stairs, and when we told them of our adventures there they said we were
very lucky to have had a fine day when we crossed those hills. They told
us the story of the two young men who perished there, but thought their
death was partially caused through lack of food. Kippen, they informed
us, was on the borders of Perthshire and Stirlingshire, and when we told
them we intended calling for refreshments they advised us to patronise
the "Cross Keys Inn." We found Kippen, or, as it was sometimes named,
the Kingdom of Kippen, a pleasant place, and we had no difficulty in
finding the "Cross Keys." Here we learned about the King of Kippen, the
Scottish Robin Hood, and were told that it was only two miles away to
the Ford of Frew, where Prince Charlie crossed the River Forth on his
way from Perth to Stirling, and that about three minutes' walk from the
Cross there was a place from which the most extensive and beautiful
views of the country could be obtained. Rising like towers from the
valley of the Forth could be seen three craigs - Dumyate Craig, Forth
Abbey Craig, and the craig on which Stirling Castle had been built;
spreading out below was the Carse of Stirling, which merged into and
included the Vale of Monteith, about six miles from Kippen; while the
distant view comprised the summits of many mountains, including that of
Ben Lomond.

[Illustration: OLD BELFRY, KIPPEN]

As usual in Scotland, the village contained two churches - the Parish
Church and the United Free Church. In the old churchyard was an ancient
ivy-covered belfry, but the church to which it belonged had long since
disappeared. Here was the burial-place of the family of Edinbellie, and
here lived in olden times an attractive and wealthy young lady named
Jean Kay, whom Rob Roy, the youngest son of Rob Roy Macgregor, desired
to marry. She would not accept him, so leaving Balquidder, the home of
the Macgregors, accompanied by his three brothers and five other men, he
went to Edinbellie and carried her off to Rowardennan, where a sham form
of marriage was gone through. But the romantic lover paid dearly for his
exploit, as it was for robbing this family of their daughter that Rob
forfeited his life on the scaffold at Edinburgh on February 16th, 1754,
Jean Kay having died at Glasgow on October 4th, 1751.

[Illustration: QUEEN MARY'S BOWER, INCHMAHOME.]

We were well provided for at the "Cross Keys," and heard a lot about
Mary Queen of Scots, as we were now approaching a district where much of
the history of Scotland was made. Her name seemed to be on everybody's
lips and her portrait in everybody's house, including the smallest
dwellings. She seemed to be the most romantic character in the minds of
the Scots, by whom she was almost idolised - not perhaps so much for her
beauty and character as for her sufferings and the circumstances
connected with her death. The following concise account of the career of
this beautiful but unfortunate Queen and her son King James greatly
interested us. She was born at Linlithgow Palace in the year 1542, and
her father died when she was only eight days old. In the next year she
was crowned Queen of Scotland at Stirling, and remained at the Castle
there for about four years. She was then removed to Inchmahome, an
island of about six acres in extent situated in the small Lake of
Monteith, about six miles north of Kippen. In 1547, when six years old,
she was sent to France in a Flemish ship from Dumbarton, and in the
following year she was married to the Dauphin of France, afterwards King
Francis II, who died in the year 1560. Afterwards she returned to
Scotland and went to Stirling Castle, where she met her cousin Lord
Darnley and was married to him at Holyrood in 1565, her son being born
in 1566. Troubles, however, soon arose, and for a short time she was
made a prisoner and placed in the Castle of Loch Leven, from which she
escaped with the intention of going to Dumbarton Castle for safety. Her
army under the Earl of Argyll accompanied her, but on the way they met
an opposing army commanded by the Regent Murray, who defeated her army,
and Queen Mary fled to England. Here she again became a prisoner and was
placed in various castles for the long period of nineteen years, first
in one and then in another, with a view probably to preventing her being
rescued by her friends; and finally she was beheaded in 1587 in the
forty-eighth year of her age at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire,
by command of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth.

Her son James VI of Scotland, who subsequently became James I of
England, was baptised in the Royal Chapel at Stirling Castle in 1566,
and in 1567, when he was only about thirteen months old, was crowned in
the parish church at Stirling, his mother Queen Mary having been forced
to abdicate in favour of her son. The great Puritan divine John Knox
preached the Coronation sermon on that occasion, and the young king was
educated until he was thirteen years of age by George Buchanan, the
celebrated scholar and historian, in the castle, where his class-room is
still to be seen. He succeeded to the English throne on the death of
Queen Elizabeth, and was crowned as King James I of England in the year
1603.

Leaving Kippen, we passed through Gargunnock, with the extraordinary
windings of the River Forth to our left, and arrived at Stirling at 5.15
p.m., where at the post-office we found a host of letters waiting our
arrival and at the railway-station a welcome change of clothing from
home.

(_Distance walked twenty-two miles_.)


_Friday, October 6th._

Stirling is one of the most attractive towns in Scotland, and we could
not resist staying there awhile to explore it. It is the "key to the
Highlands," and one of the oldest of the Royal burghs. It was a place of
some importance in the time of the Romans, as it stood between the two
great Firths of the Clyde and the Forth, where the Island of Britain is
at its narrowest. The first Roman wall was built between the Forth and
the Clyde, and the Second Roman Legion was stationed at Stirling.
According to an old inscription on a stone near the Ballengeich road,
they kept a watch there day and night, and in A.D. 81 a great battle
was fought near by against 30,000 Caledonians, who were defeated.
Stirling has a commanding geographical position, and all the roads
converge there to cross the River Forth. It was at Stirling Bridge that
Wallace defeated the army of 50,000 soldiers sent against him in the
year 1297 by Edward I, King of England. The town had also a lively time
in the days of Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie," whose
father, during his exile in France, had been encouraged by the French to
return and lay claim to the English Crown. Landing in Inverness-shire in
1745, Prince Charlie was immediately joined by many of the Highland
clans, and passed with his army through Stirling on his way towards
London. Not finding the support they expected from the south, they were
compelled to return, followed closely along their line of retreat by the
English Army, and they were soon back again at Stirling, where they made
a desperate but unsuccessful effort to obtain possession of the castle,
which was held for the English. The Duke of Cumberland's Army by this
time was close upon their heels, and gave them no rest until they caught
them and defeated them with great slaughter up at Culloden, near
Inverness.

[Illustration: STIRLING CASTLE AND NECROPOLIS.]

There was much in Stirling and its environs that we wished to see, so we
were astir early in the morning, although the weather was inclined to be
showery. First of all, we went to see the cemetery, which occupies a
beautiful position on a hill overlooking the wonderful windings of the
River Forth, and here we found the tomb of the Protestant martyrs
"Margaret and Agnes," the latter only eighteen years of age, who were
tied to stakes at low water in the Bay of Wigtown on May 11th, 1685,
and, refusing an opportunity to recant and return to the Roman Catholic
faith, were left to be drowned in the rising tide. Over the spot where
they were buried their figures appeared beautifully sculptured in white
marble, accompanied by that of an angel standing beside them; the
epitaph read:

M. O A.

MARGARET

VIRGIN MARTYR OF THE OCEAN WAVE
WITH HER LIKE-MINDED SISTER

AGNES.

Love, many waters cannot quench! GOD saves
His chaste impearled One! in Covenant true.
"O Scotia's Daughters! earnest scan the Page."
And prize this Flower of Grace, blood-bought for you.

PSALMS IX., XIX.

[Illustration: THE PROTESTANT MARTYRS]

We stayed there for a few solemn moments, for it was a sight that
impressed us deeply, and then we went to inspect an old stone with the
following curious inscription cut on its surface:

Some . only . breakfast . and . away:
Others . to . dinner . stay .
And . are . full . fed .
the . oldest . man . but . sups:
And . goes . to . bed:
large . is . his . debt:
that . lingers . out . the . day:
he . that . goes . soonest:
has . the . least . to . pay:

We saw another remarkable structure called "The Rock of Ages," a large
monument built of stone, on each of the four sides of which was a Bible
sculptured in marble with texts from the Scriptures, and near the top a
device like that of a crown. It was a fine-looking and substantial
building, but we could not ascertain the reason for its erection.

There were two churches quite near to each other standing at one end of
the cemetery, and these, we were informed, were known as the East and
West Churches, and had been formed out of the old Church of Stirling,
formerly noted for its bells, which were still in existence. One of
them, a Dutch bell, was marked "Rotterdam, 1657," and inscribed "Soli
Deo Gloria"; the only pre-Reformation bell was one that was said to have
come from Cambuskenneth Abbey, measuring 8 ft. 6-1/2 in. round the
mouth, 4 ft. 6 in. over the neck, and 2 ft. 1-1/2 in. in depth, and
bearing a Latin inscription, in Old English characters, which was said
to be the angelic salutation from St. Luke i. 28: "Hail, Mary, full of
grace, God is with thee; blessed art thou among women and to be
blessed." This bell, dating from the fourteenth century, was perfect in
sound, and had been the tone bell in the old abbey. The remainder of the
bells of Cambuskenneth had been lost owing to the swamping of the boat
that was bringing them across the river.

[Illustration: THE GATEWAY TO THE CASTLE.]

We now went to view the castle, and as we approached the entrance we
were accosted by a sergeant, whom we engaged to act as our guide.

The ramparts of the castle command the noblest prospect
imaginable - Grampian, Ochil and Pentland Hills, the River Forth,
through all its windings, and "Auld Reekie" in the distance - twelve
foughten fields are visible - the bridge where Archbishop Hamilton was
hanged, the mound on which the Regent, Earl of Levenax, was beheaded
on May 25th, 1425, along with the Duke of Albany, his son-in-law, and
his grandson - the chamber where the Scottish King James II was
assassinated - a noble valley, where tournaments were held, and the
hill, whence Beauty viewed "gentle passages of arms" and rewarded
knights' valour with her smiles, lie just below the ramparts. Here
James I lived, and James II was born, and it was a favourite
residence of James III. From these walls the "Good Man of
Ballangeich" made many an excursion, and here James V and James VI
were indoctrinated at the feet of that stern preceptor, George
Buchanan, and the seventh James and the second of England visited
here in company with the future Queen Anne and the last of the
Stuarts.

[Illustration: THE PALACE, STIRLING CASTLE.]

[Illustration: STIRLING BRIDGE. "At Stirling Bridge Wallace defeated the
army of fifty thousand soldiers sent against him by Edward I; ... it was
a battle won by strategy."]

[Illustration: STIRLING CASTLE. "The ramparts of the castle command the
noblest prospect imaginable - from the top of the walls the sites of
seven battlefields were pointed out to us."]

Such was the official description of the place we were now visiting. As
our guide conducted us through the archway into the castle, he showed us
the old chains that worked the portcullis. We noted how cautious the old
occupants of these strongholds were, for while one of the massive doors
was being drawn up the other went down, so that the inner entrance was
always protected. From the top of the walls the sites of seven
battlefields were pointed out to us, including those of Bannockburn and
Stirling Bridge. The Battle of Stirling Bridge was won by Wallace by
strategy; he had a much smaller army than the English, but he watched
them until they had got one-half their army over the narrow bridge, and
then attacked each half in turn, since the one could not assist the
other, the river being between them. In the following year he was
defeated himself, but as he retreated he reduced Stirling and its castle
to ruins. The Bridge of Allan, which could be seen in the distance, was
described as a miniature Torquay without the sea, and the view from the
castle on a clear day extended a distance of nearly fifty miles. We were
shown the aperture through which Mary Queen of Scots watched the games
in the royal garden below, and of course we had to be shown the exact
spot where "our most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria with the Prince of
Wales" sat on a much more recent date. The castle stood on a rock,
rising precipitously on two of its sides, and was now being used as a
barracks. It was a fine sight to see the soldiers as they were being
drilled. The old Chapel Royal was used as the armoury, and our guide
told us of many objects of interest which were stored there; but we had
no time to see them, so, rewarding him suitably for his services, we
hastened back to the town to refresh the "inner man."

It appeared that in former times none of the members of the Town Council
accepted any gift or emolument while in office; and, before writing was
as common as it is now, the old treasurer kept his accounts in a pair of
boots which he hung one on each side of the chimney. Into one of them he
put all the money he received and into the other the vouchers for the
money he paid away, and balanced his accounts at the end of the year by
emptying his boots, and counting the money left in one and that paid
away by the receipts in the other. What a delightfully simple system of
"double entry," and just fancy the "borough treasurer" with a balance
always in hand! Whether the non-payment for services rendered by the
Council accounted for this did not appear; but there must have been some
select convivials even in those days, as the famous Stirling Jug
remained as evidence of something of the kind. It was a fine old vessel
made of brass and taken great care of by the Stirling people, who became
possessed of it four or five hundred years before our visit.

We then walked some distance to see Wallace's Monument, the most
conspicuous object for many miles round, and which had only just been
erected to perpetuate the memory of that great warrior, having been
opened by the Duke of Atholl in 1869. We paid twopence each for
admission, and in addition to climbing the hill to reach the entrance
to the monument we had to ascend a further 220 feet by means of a flight
of 246 steps before we could reach the top. There were several rooms in
the basement, in one of which we found an enthusiastic party of young
Scots who were vociferously singing:

Scots, wha hae wie Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has often led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victorie.

* * * * *

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do or die!

These were the first and last verses of the poem written by the immortal
Burns to represent Robert Bruce's address to his army before the Battle
of Bannockburn. We did not reveal our nationality to the uproarious
Scots, but, after listening to the song, which we had never heard sung
before, and the cheers which followed it, in which we ourselves joined,
we went quietly past them, for fear they might treat us as the
"usurpers" named in the last verse and "lay _us_ low."

[Illustration: WALLACE MONUMENT.]

On reaching the top of the monument we had a magnificent view, which
well repaid us for our exertions in climbing up the craig and ascending
the tower, and we lingered awhile to view the almost fairy-like scene
that lay below us, with the distant mountains in the background. On
descending, we entered our names in the visitors' book and took our
departure.

Just as we were leaving, our attention was attracted by a notice which
informed us that Cambuskenneth Abbey was only one mile away, so we
walked along the banks of the Forth to that ancient ruin. The abbey was
supposed to have taken its name from one Kenneth, who fought a
successful battle with the Picts on the site where it was built. A
Parliament was held within its walls in 1314 by King Robert Bruce, but
the abbey was destroyed, with the exception of the tower, in 1559. The
chief object of interest was the tomb of James III, King of Scots, and
his Queen, the Princess Margaret of Denmark, who were buried near the
High Altar. The tomb, which appeared quite modern, recorded that King
James died June 11th, 1488, and that "This Restoration of the Tomb of
her Ancestors was executed by command of Her Majesty Queen Victoria,
A.D. 1865."

We now walked back to Stirling, and were again among the windings of the
River Forth, which are a striking feature whether viewed from Wallace's
Monument, the Castle walls, or the cemetery. To follow them in some
places, the traveller, it was said, would have to go four times farther
than by the straighter road.

[Illustration: ST. NINIANS CHURCH TOWER.]

Recovering possession of our bags from the hotel, we resumed our march
along the road to Falkirk, eleven miles distant, and, on the way, came



Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 15 of 66)