W. J. (William John) Loftie.

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be,' fled to England by sea. When the wars between the Bruce
and Baliol factions again broke out in the reign of David II., the



Kilchurn Castle. 77



Lords of Lorn were again found upon the losing side, owing to
their hereditary enmity to the house of Bruce. Accordingly, upon
the issue of that contest, they were deprived by David II. and his
successor of by far the greater part of their extensive territories,
which were conferred upon Stewart, called the Knight of Lorn."
In another passage of the same book, Scott further writes :
" Kobert Bruce, after his defeat at Methven, being hard pressed
by the English, endeavoured, with the dispirited remnant of his
followers, to escape from Breadalbane and the mountains of Perth-
shire into the Argyleshire Highlands. But he was encountered
and repulsed, after a very severe engagement, by the Lord of Lorn.
Bruce's personal strength and courage were never displayed to
greater advantage than in this conflict. There is a tradition in the
family of the Macdougals of Lorn, that their chieftain engaged in
personal battle with Bruce himself, while the latter was employed
in protecting the retreat of his men ; that Macdougal was struck
down by the king, whose strength of body was equal to his vigour
of mind, and would have been slain on the spot, had not two of
Lorn's vassals, a father and son, whom , tradition terms Mackeoch,
rescued him, by seizing the mantle of the monarch, and dragging
him from above his adversary. Bruce rid himself of these foes by
two blows of his redoubted battle-axe, but was so closely pressed
by the other followers of Lorn, that he was forced to abandon the
mantle, and brooch which fastened it, clasped in the dying grasp
t>f the Mackeochs. A studded brooch, said to have been that
which King Robert lost upon this occasion, was long preserved in
the family of Macdougal, and was lost in a fire which consumed
their temporary residence."



78



Kilchnrn Castle.



Bruce died in 1329, and in 1440, during the reign of his
descendant, James II., the earliest portion of the existing remains
of Kilchurn Castle was built by Sir Duncan Campbell.

It stands on a space of level land close to the lake, and consists,
besides the main building, of northern and southern wings, added
as late as 1615. It is well described in a charming volume the
Painter's Camp by the accomplished Philip Gilbert Hamerton,
from which we borrow the accompanying illustration.




He says (p. 171) : "One bright evening, late in September, I
set out, after dinner, for Kilchurn, to get a series of observations on
moonlight colour ; for I had studied Kilchurn closely enough to re-



Kile hum Castle. 79

member the ordinary daylight colour of every part of it. . . When
we got to Kilchurn, and had safely passed the bar at the entrance
to the bay, we floated quietly out into the midst, and Kilchurn
stood before us in the full mellow light of the moon. . . The
old castle, like most old buildings, has been ruined by man, not by
time. Henry the Eighth, Oliver Cromwell, blundering stewards,
and apathetic proprietors, are the real authors of most of the ruins
in Britain. "With a little friendly care and attention a strong
building will last a thousand years, but a fool will demolish it in a
day. Kilchurn is a ruin, merely because an economical steward
thought the roof timber would come in very well for the new
castle at Taymouth, and so carried it thither. But he had
omitted to measure the beams, which turned out to be too
short, and therefore, of course, useless. Then when the roof was
off, the old castle became a general stone quarry, and furnished
stones ready cut to all the farmers who chose to steal them. And
the new inn at Dalmally, and the queer little sham Gothic church
over the bridge, being erected some time afterwards, the now
ruined castle furnished hewn stones to both those edifices. There
is not a fragment of wood in all Kilchurn ; there is not one step
left there of all its winding stairs. Yet in the '45, the building
was garrisoned against the Prince ; and in the latter end of the
last century there were tapestry on the walls and wine in the
cellar, and a casque and shirt of mail still hung on the walls of the
armoury. Alone with these relics lingered one old servant as
housekeeper. She was the last inhabitant. Some domestics might
have objected to the situation. Fancy a London housekeeper shut
up alone in a great ghostly feudal castle on a narrow island rock,



80 Kilchurn Castle.



with waves roaring round it in the long northern winter nights, and
the sobbing wind flapping the figured tapestry, and rattling the
armour in the armoury."

Mr. Hamerton has spent much time at Loch Awe, and is, as a
descriptive writer of the first class, the best guide to its beauties.
He has not been content to celebrate its charms in prose alone.
The Isles of Loch Awe is a volume full of poetical beauty and
power, and a charming pocket companion in this part of the High-
lands. We must return to it presently for a legend of the place,
but pause meanwhile at the name of one whom Mr. Hamerton will
allow us to call a greater poet. Wordsworth visited Scotland in
1803 and 1814, and a third time in 1833. The record of his
journeys has lately been published, and we venture to quote the
following passage, adding in full the poem of which the first three
lines only are given in Miss Wordsworth's Journal (p. 139):

" When we had ascended half-way up the hill, directed by the
man, I took a nearer footpath, and at the top came in view of a
most impressive scene a ruined castle on an island almost in the
middle of the last compartment of the lake, backed by a mountain
cove, down which came a roaring stream. The castle occupied
every foot of the island that was visible to us, appearing to rise out
of the water ; mists rested upon the mountain side, with spots of
sunshine between ; there was a mild desolation in the low grounds,
a solemn grandeur in the mountains, and the castle was wild, yet
stately not dismantled of its turrets, nor the walls broken down,
though completely in ruin. After having stood some minutes, I
joined William on the high road ; and both wishing to stay longer
near this place, we requested the man to drive his little boy on to



Kilchurn Castle. 81



Dalmally, about two miles further, and leave the car at the inn.
He told us that the ruin was called Kilchurn Castle ; that it
belonged to Lord Breadalbane, and had been built by one of the
ladies of that family for her defence during her lord's absence at
the Crusades, for which purpose she levied a tax of seven years'
rent upon her tenants : * he said that from that side of the lake it
did not appear, in very dry weather, to stand upon an island ; but
that it was possible to go over to it without being wet-shod.
We were very lucky in seeing it after a great flood ; for its enchant-
ing effect was chiefly owing to its situation in the lake a decayed
palace rising out of the plain of waters I I have called it a palace,
for such feeling it gave to me, though having been built as a place
of defence a castle, or fortress. We turned again and re-ascended
the hill, and sate a long time in the middle of it, looking on the
castle and the huge mountain cove opposite ; and William, address-
ing himself to the ruin, poured out these verses :

" Child of loud-throated War ! the mountain Stream
Roars in thy hearing ; but thy hour of rest
Is come, and thou art silent in thy age ;
Save when the wind sweeps by and sounds are caught
Ambiguous, neither wholly thine nor theirs.
Oh ! there is life that breathes not ; Powers there are
That touch each other to the quick in modes
Which the gross world no sense hath to perceive,
No soul to dream of. What art thou, from care
Cast off abandoned by thy rugged Sire,
Nor by soft Peace adopted ; though, in place
And in dimension, such that thou might'st seem
But a mere footstool to yon sovereign Lord,

* Not very probable.



r

82 -Kilc/mnt Castle.



Huge Cruachan (a thing that meaner hills
Might crush, nor know that it had suffered harm) ;
Yet he, not loth, in favour of thy claims
To reverence, suspends his own ; submitting
All that the God of Nature hath conferred,
All that he holds in common with the stars,
To the memorial majesty of Time
Impersonated in thy calm decay !

Take, then, thy seat, Vicegerent unreproved !

Now, while a farewell gleam of evening light

Is fondly lingering on thy shattered front,

Do thou, in turn, be paramount ; and rule

Over the pomp and beauty of a scene

Whose mountains, torrents, lake, and woods unite

To pay thee homage ; and with these are joined,

In willing admiration and respect,

Two Hearts, which in thy presence might be called

Youthful as Spring. Shade of departed Power,

Skeleton of unfleshed humanity,

The chronicle were welcome that should call

Into the compass of distinct regard

The toils and struggles of thy infant years !

Yon foaming flood seems motionless as ice ;

Its dizzy turbulence eludes the eye,

Frozen by distance ; so, majestic Pile,

To the perception of this Age, appear

Thy fierce beginnings, softened and subdued

And quieted in character the strife,

The pride, the fury uncontrollable,

Lost on the aerial heights of the Crusades !"

This last line refers to a legend which Mr. Hamerton has made
the subject of a poem on Kilchurn. We venture to quote a few
lines, but our readers must look for the complete story, of which



Kilchurn Castle. 83

this is the commencement, in the book itself (p. 39). Mr.
Hamerton says :

" Sir Colin Campbell was a knight of Khodes.
For seven years lie risked continually
His life in foreign warfare. Seven years
Waited the Lady Margaret, his wife,
Like a poor widow, living sparingly,
And saving all the produce of his lands
To build an island fortress on Loch Awe,
There to receive Sir Colin, and so prove
Her thrift and duty. Little more we know
Of what she did to occupy her time :
Perhaps a narrow but perpetual round
Of mean and servile duties, too obscure
To be recorded, kept her nerves in health.
And truly it is well to handle life
Not daintily. The best resource in grief
Is downright labour. This at least we know,
That the good spouse of that brave Highland chief
Looked to her husband's interest and hers,
When from her quarries silently before
Loud blasting tore the layers of the rock
The clansmen ferried loads of idle stones
Across the water ; and on what was then
An island, and is yet in winter floods,
Made them most useful servants trusty guards
Of all the treasure of a Highland chief
His wife, his tail, his cattle, and his goods."

Scott has not unfrequently made passing allusions to Loch
Awe ; but Kilchurn figures under another name in his Legend of
Montrose. As Mr. Hamerton says :-

" This is Sir Walter's pile of Ardenvohr,
Changed since Dalgetty criticised its strength."



84 Kile hum Castle.



The whole scene is too amusing, and has become too famous now
to be omitted here ; but the judicious reader may perceive that it
will not exactly fit in all particulars what even in its ruins Kilchurn
professed to be. Sir Walter rather magnifies it :

" ' This house of yours, now, Sir Duncan, is a very pretty defen-
sible sort of a tenement, and yet it is hardly such as a cavaliero of
honour would expect to maintain his credit by holding out for
many days. For, Sir Duncan, if it pleases you to notice, your
house is overcrowed, and slighted, or commanded, as we military
men say, by yonder round hillock to the landward, whereon an
enemy might stell such a battery of cannon as would make ye glad
to beat a chamade within forty- eight hours, unless it pleased the
Lord extraordinarily to shew mercy.'

" ' There is no road,' replied Sir Duncan, somewhat shortly,
'by which cannon can be brought against Ardenvohr. The
swamps and morasses around my house would scarce carry your
horse and yourself, excepting by such paths as could be rendered
impassable within a few hours/

" ' Sir Duncan/ said the Captain, ' it is your pleasure to
suppose so ; and yet we martial men say, that where there is a
sea-coast there is always a naked side, seeing that cannon and
munition, where they cannot be transported by land, may be right
easily brought by sea near to the place where they are to be put in
action. Neither is a castle, however secure in its situation, to be
accounted altogether invincible, or, as they say, impregnable ; for
I protest t'ye, Sir Duncan, that I have known twenty-five men, by
the mere surprise and audacity of the attack, win, at point of
pike, as strong a hold as this of Ardenvohr, and put to the sword,



Kilchurn Castle. 85



captivate, or hold to the ransom, the defenders, being ten times
their own number.'

" Notwithstanding Sir Duncan Campbell's knowledge of the
world, and his power of concealing his internal emotion, he
appeared piqued and hurt at these reflections, which the Captain
made with the most unconscious gravity, having merely selected
the subject of conversation as one upon which he thought himself
capable of shining, and, as they say, of laying down the law,
without exactly recollecting that the topic might not be equally
agreeable to his landlord.

" ' To cut this matter short,' said Sir Duncan, with an expression
of voice and countenance somewhat agitated, * it is unnecessary for
you to tell me, Captain Dalgetty, that a castle may be stormed if
it is not valorously defended, or surprised if it is not needfully
watched. I trust this poor house of mine will not be found in any
of these predicaments, should even Captain Dalgetty himself choose
to beleaguer it.'

" ' For all that, Sir Duncan,' answered the persevering com-
mander, ' I would premonish you, as a friend, to trace out a sconce
upon that round hill, with a good graffe, or ditch, whilk may be
easily accomplished by compelling the labour of the boors in the
vicinity ; it being the custom of the valorous Gustavus Adolphus
to fight as much by the spade and shovel, as by sword, pike, and
musket. Also, I would advise you to fortify the said sconce, not
only by a foussie, or graffe, but also by certain stackets, or
palisades.' (Here Sir Duncan, becoming impatient, left the apart-
ment, the Captain following him to the door, and raising his voice
as he retreated, until he was fairly out of hearing.) ' The whilk



86 Kile hum Castle.



stackets, or palisades, should be artificially framed with re-entering
angles and loopholes, or crenelles, for musketry, whereof it shall
arise that the foemen The Highland brute I the old High-
land brute ! They are as proud as peacocks, and as obstinate as
tups, and here he has missed an opportunity of making his house
as pretty an irregular fortification as an invading army ever broke
their teeth upon. But I see,' he continued, looking down from the
window upon the bottom of the precipice, c they have got Gustavus
safe ashore. Proper fellow 1 I would know that toss of his head
among a whole squadron. I must go to see what they are to
make of him.'

. . . .

" He had no sooner reached, however, the court to the seaward,
and put himself in the act of descending the staircase, than two
Highland sentinels, advancing their Lochaber axes, gave him to
understand that this was a service of danger.

" ' Diavolo,' said the soldier, ' and I have got no pass-word. I
could not speak a syllable of their salvage gibberish, an' it were to
save me from the provost-marshal.'

" * I will be your surety, Captain Dalgetty,' said Sir Duncan,
who had again approached him without his observing from
whence ; ' and we will go together, and see how your favourite
charger is accommodated.'

"He conducted him accordingly down the staircase to the
beach, and from thence by a short turn behind a large rock, which
concealed the stables and other offices belonging to the castle.
Captain Dalgetty became sensible, at the same time, that the side
of the castle to the land was rendered totally inaccessible by a



Kilchurn Castle. 87



ravine, partly natural and partly scarped with great care and
labour, so as to be only passed by a drawbridge. Still, however,
the Captain insisted, notwithstanding the triumphant air with
which Sir Duncan pointed out his defences, that a sconce should
be erected on Drumsnab, the round eminence to the east of the
castle, in respect the house might be annoyed from thence by burn-
ing bullets full of fire, shot out of cannon, according to the curious
invention of Stephen Bathian, King of Poland, whereby that Prince
utterly ruined the great Muscovite city of Moscow. This inven-
tion, Captain Dalgetty owned, he had not yet witnessed ; but
observed ' that it would give him particular delectation to witness
the same put to the proof against Ardenvohr, or any other castle
of similar strength;' observing, 'that so curious an experiment
could not but afford the greatest delight to all admirers of the
military art.' "

The point of view chosen by our artist is on the eastern shore
of the loch, looking towards Ben Loy, which raises its tall head
beyond and above the castle. Dalmally, the usual resting-place of
tourists, is about half-way between the castle and the mountain,
and from it, as a base of operations, the ascent of Ben Cruachan is
most easily made. There are few such views in Scotland as that
to be had on a clear day from the summit. Although some six or
seven hundred feet lower than Ben Nevis, the situation of Ben
Cruachan affords a nearer sight of the beautiful islands of the
west, the bay of Oban, and even beyond " the sandy Coll " and
the "wild Tiree" the distant hills of Rum and Skye. To the
north and east, Loch Etive and Glencoe, Glen Strae and Glen
Orchy, seem just beneath our feet ; while farther into the blue



88 Kile hum Castle.



distance all the mountains of the Scottish Highlands roll wave
after wave of solid rock towards the German Ocean. Again we
have recourse to Scott for the expression of feelings almost unutter-
able in the presence of such scenes :

" Stranger ! if e'er thine ardent step hath traced
The northern realms of ancient Caledon,
Where the proud Queen of Wilderness hath placed,
By lake and cataract, her lonely throne ;
Sublime but sad delight thy soul hath known,
Gazing on pathless glen and mountain high,
lasting where from the cliffs the torrents thrown
Mingle their echoes with the eagle's cry,
And with the sounding lake, and with the moaning sky.

" Yes ! 'twas sublime, but sad. The loneliness

Loaded thy heart, the desert tired thine eye j

And strange and awful fears began to press

Thy bosom with a stern solemnity.

Then hast thou wished some woodman's cottage nigh,

Something that showed of life, though low and mean ;

Glad sight, its curling wreath of smoke to spy,

Glad sound, its cock's blithe carol would have been,
Or children whooping wild beneath the willows green.

" Such are the scenes, where savage grandeur wakes
An awful thrill that softens into sighs ;
Such feelings rouse them by dim Rannoch's lakes,
In dark Glencoe such gloomy raptures rise :
Or farther, where, beneath the northern skies,
Chides wild Loch-Eribol his caverns hoar
But, be the minstrel judge, they yield the prize
Of desert dignity to that dread shore,
That sees grim Coolin rise, and hears Coriskin roar."





HERE is always a feeling of disappointment excited by
the first sight of a place of which we have heard much.
The traveller who sets out from Salisbury for Stone-
henge, and ascends the long succession of dusty chalk hills
in the blinding glare of the summer sun, can hardly believe his
eyes when, slowly toiling up one more "down," he suddenly
sees the object of all his trouble on the grassy slope before him.
It is just far enough from the road not to look great, and just near
enough to be recognised with a certainty which would willingly
think itself deceived. The case is the same with remarkable objects
of natural scenery. The Giants' Causeway, for example, and even
Niagara, do not strike the beholder at first sight. They need to
be examined, to be measured, to be compared, mentally, with other
objects, before their vastness, their strangeness, their real pre-
eminence is discerned.

Of no place in the whole of the three kingdoms is this more
true than of Ben Nevis. The tallest mountain in England is
Scawfell, with its three thousand one hundred and sixty feet, but
Ben Nevis is more than a thousand feet higher. Snowdon is the



92 Ben Nevis.

highest peak of Wales, but Ben Nevis is eight hundred feet
higher. Carrantuohill, in Kerry, exceeds all other Irish hills,
but Ben Nevis is nine hundred feet higher. Yet it may safely be
asserted, that any one who has seen them all would have thought,
apart from ascertained measurements, that Ben Nevis was less than
the least.

Much of this feeling is caused by the absence of anything like a
peak or point to mark the summit Ben Nevis has no single point,
but three ridges at the top are of nearly equal height, and it thus
presents a rounded aspect to the spectator below. The great mass,
and, so to speak, the weight of the whole mountain is sufficiently
grand and striking ; but this is a thing of which the eye alone can
hardly judge. When the traveller wakens up the morning after his
arrival at Fort- William, he hastens to take a look at the highest
mountain in Great Britain ; but it is not by its height that he is
first impressed. It is massive, great, even magnificent ; but com-
pared with Ben Lomond, or Moel Siabad, far from beautiful.
After a little this feeling of disappointment subsides, and a climb
to the top is amply rewarded by a most extensive view over some
of the loveliest scenery in Scotland.

Perhaps the best account of Ben Nevis will be found in the
Scenery and Geology of Scotland, by Mr. Geikie, of Edinburgh.
He says (p. 99) :

" If one would grasp at once the leading features of Highland
scenery, let him betake himself to some mountain-top that
stands a little apart from its neighbours, and looks over them
into the wilds beyond. A better height could not be chosen than
the summit of Ben Nevis. None other rises more majestically



Ben Nevis. 93



above the surrounding hills, or looks over a wider sweep of moun-
tain and moor, glen and corry, lake and firth, far away to the
islands that lie amid the western sea. In no other place is the
general and varied character of the Highlands better illustrated ;
and from none can the geologist, whose eye is open to the changes
wrought by sub-aerial waste on the surface of the country, gain a
more vivid insight into their reality and magnitude. To this, as a
typical and easily accessible locality, I shall have occasion to refer
more than once. Let the reader, in the meantime, imagine himself
sitting by the side of the grey cairn on the highest peak of the
British Isles, watching the shadows of an autumnal sky stealing
over the vast sea of mountains that lies spread out as in a map
around him. And while no sound falls upon his ear, save now
and then a fitful moaning of the wind among the snow-drifts of
the dark precipice below, let him try to analyse some of the chief
elements of the landscape. It is easy to recognise the more marked
heights and hollows. To the south, away down Loch Linnhe, he
can see the hills of Mull and the Paps of Jura closing in the
horizon. Westwards, Loch Eil seems to lie at his feet, winding up
into the lonely mountains, yet filled twice a-day with the tides of
the salt sea. Far over the hills, beyond the head of the loch, he
looks across Arisaig, and can see the cliffs of the Isle of Eigg, and
the dark peaks of Rum, with the Atlantic gleaming below them.
Further to the north-west the blue line of the Cuchullins rises
along the sky-line, and then, sweeping over all the intermediate
ground, through Arisaig and Knoydart and Clanranald's country,
mountain rises beyond mountain, ridge beyond ridge, cut through
by dark glens, and varied here and there with the sheen of lake



94 Ben Nevis.

and tarn. Northward runs the mysterious line of the Great Glen,
with its chain of lochs. Thence to east and south the same billowy
sea of mountain-tops stretches out as far as eye can follow it the
hills and glens of Lochaber, the wide green strath of Spean, the
grey corries of Glen Trieg and Glen Nevis, the distant sweep of
the moors and mountains of Brae Lyon and the Perthshire High-
lands, the spires of Glen Coe, and thence round again to the blue
waters of Loch Linnhe.

"In musing over this wide panorama, the observer cannot
fail to note that while there are everywhere local peculiarities


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Online LibraryW. J. (William John) LoftiePicturesque Scottish scenery → online text (page 5 of 7)