William Charles Maughan.

Annals of Garelochside, being an account historical and topographical of the parishes of Row, Rosneath and Cardross online

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Online LibraryWilliam Charles MaughanAnnals of Garelochside, being an account historical and topographical of the parishes of Row, Rosneath and Cardross → online text (page 10 of 31)
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play, and hagbuts, harquebusses, culverins and pistolets, formed part
of the defensive covering worn by warriors. This secluded glen
must have resounded with the warlike clangour of the mustering
followers of the proud Earls of Lennox, and, where now the peaceful
swain tends his flocks and herds, there would be seen the armed
bands of the chief, gathering round the long silken pennant of war
as it fluttered in the breeze.

From the moor above the glen of Faslane there is an easy ascent
to the summit of Mhaol-na-Fheidh, which rises to the height of 1934
feet above the loch, and the equivalent of which in English is " round
hill of the deer." No doubt the easier and more direct road up to
the summit is from the village of Garelochhead, commencing the
ascent from beyond the railway station. Very soon you find your-


self on the springy heather, after passing some rough grassy stretches,
thickly covered in parts with rushes and bog myrtle. Here and
there will be noticed some of the ice boulders which are encountered
in this locality, one in particular, is deeply grooved with glacial
marks on its surface. Birch trees cover the lower glades of the hill,
and traces of an old drove road may be seen, while an occasional
whirr of the grouse, or cry of the moorcock, falls upon the ear as the
birds are startled from their repose. After a time the climb becomes
more arduous, and one rounded height succeeds another until, not
far from the top, there is a stretch of peat hagg, strewn with shells
and white quartzose stones. Then a steep grassy face leads up to
the summit, and from its broad eminence there is a grand view over
the adjacent valley and surrounding mountains.*

A far reaching and varied prospect is gained both over the Gare-
loch district and away to the distant confines of Perthshire, in one
direction, with the remoter islands beyond Argyllshire in the other,
and Loch Long and Glenfruin at your feet. A grand expanse of
mountain, moor, loch, and heathery glade, steep corries and boulder
strewn glens. Specially striking are the lofty, jagged peaks of Arran
and Mull, the former looming dark and shadowy against the sky line,
while the rugged outline of Mull seems like a solid mass of dense
purple clouds. On some of the distant peaks the sun rays are sleep-
ing, giving a pyramid of light against the encircling shade, while
others are scarce seen in their gloomy sublimity amid the haze of the
horizon. Gleams of bright lustre indicate the smooth lake with its
silvery strand, and waving woods of dark firs clothe the rounded
outlines of the lesser heights. Right down below there are the steep
pastoral slopes, dotted with sheep, that rise from the winding Glen
Macarn, lonely and green, the road leading towards Luss showing

* Birds. Ptarmigan are sometimes seen in this district, but especially in
Glenfalloch direction, on Ben Duchray and Ben Oss, and also in Glen Douglas,
near Arrochar, peregrine falcons used regularly to build on the summit of a
lofty inaccessible crag. The stately and splendid osprey, with his graceful
aerial flight, used to frequent the ruined towers on one of the Loch Lomond


like a narrow thread in the quiet valley. It meets the upper reaches
of Glenfruin, whose lower part blends with the meadow lands on the
banks of the river. Loch Lomond is partly descried, from Luss to-
wards its southern end, and the islands which chequer the calm
waters of this beautiful loch. Balmaha, with its craggy sides and
rocky heights, shows across the loch, the woods around Buchanan, the
great expanse of open country towards Stirling and the Ochills.
Casting the eye round by Fintry and the high hills in that direc-
tion, the glance rests upon the shores of the Clyde in all their beauty.
Ardmore, that dusky headland, stands out, with the fainter outline
of Dunbarton rock beyond, and on the opposite point is Rosneath
Castle and grounds, with a gleaming stretch of water between. Only
the lower part of the Gareloch is visible from the summit, but the
long unbroken ridge of the Rosneath peninsula, intervenes between
the former loch and Loch Long, with two shining patches of water
on the higher ground.

Away towards the Cowal mountains, round the Holy Loch and
Dunoon, there is more of shadow, and Bute and the Cumbraes seem
blended together in a mass of darkening haze. Through a gap in
the ranges of Loch Goil, there emerges the crest of Ben Cruachan,
and the grey granite crags of that stern landscape tell of its desolate
wildness. Sweeping round by the high peaks, near the head of
Glenfalloch, Ben More, Ben Lui, Ben Ledi, and mighty Ben Lawers,
are standing in isolated grandeur. There is that sense of freedom
and vastness which an extended view, such as this, yields to the
lonely spectator, who surveys from his coign of vantage a sight so
noble and diversified. The name of this hill shows that, apparently,
at one time the deer had ranged up and down these deep glens and
wooded straths, but they have long ceased to frequent these heights,
and the valleys are given up to sheep and cattle.

Beneath the dark shadows of some of these stately peaks, towering
over the undulating country below, strange scenes have been enacted,
and the memory kindles at the thought of many moving deeds.
What from afar seems a hollow, wreathed in blue mist, placid and
undisturbed, long centuries ago witnessed an awful struggle amidst


the din of clan warfare and the riot of predatory foray. Beneath
these distant precipices there sleeps the dark tarn, over whose coldly
gleaming surface the lambent sunlight rarely plays. Perchance the
suicide's despairing frame may have sunk to dreary repose beneath
the icy wave, as with desperate resolve he plunged into those depths
that gave not up their dead. While but a little way down the un-
frequented valley, past winding meads bordered by mossy sward,
gay with flowers and spangled with irridescent dewdrops, beneath
ivied towers and vernal groves of clustering trees, there leaps
joyously to the ocean a sparkling, foaming river. Lightly floating
amid the evening breeze, the airy gossamer flings its filmy tissue
over the quivering tendrils of the tiny harebell and wild sweet briar.
Fine pictorial effects of alternate light and shade are seen on some
of the bracken-circled lochs, as the sunlight falls upon grey streaks
of rocky veins, blended with softer knolls of grass and fern, while
the white sail of a solitary yacht for a moment arrests the eye.

Returning to Faslane bay, the house known as Belmore appears in
the midst of a flourishing plantation, near the road. There stood
in the early part of the century two thatched houses at the turn of
the bay in front of Rowmore, and others at Chapelton, near the old
church, some of which were inhabited by weavers, and others by
farm-labourers. One of those at Belmore was the abode of a noted
smuggler, Campbell by name ; indeed, too many of the cottagers
were addicted to this illicit, but fascinating, employment. There was
a public-house beside an old ash-tree on the shore side of the road,
which was said, at one time, to have been kept by a descendant of the
Macaulays of Ardencaple. Belmore was originally built, soon after
1830, by a fisherman of the name of M'Farlane, and was a small
two-storeyed house, and some years afterwards was sold to Mr.
Honeyman, who added considerably to the plain structure. Subse-
quently it was acquired in 1856 by Mr. M'Donald, who remodelled
the mansion, giving it the handsome appearance which it now has.
In those days the loch side presented a wild scene of nature whins,
sloes, wild roses, and the indigenous copse woods and shrubs of the
district, abounded on the hillside, with a few older trees and belts of


plantations on the farms. Meikle and Laigh Balernock, Letrualt,
Blairvaddick, and Tor, the farms which succeed one another on the
way to Helensburgh, then showed none of the modern villa-resi-
dences which now are planted on their lands. West Shandon, where
now the palatial Hydropathic establishment stands, was then a small
cottage, added to by the eminent Kobert Napier,* who purchased it
and reared the fine Gothic mansion, so well known as the residence
for many years of that pioneer of the famous Clyde shipbuilders.
Shandon House, which lies beyond, fifty years ago was a plain, sub-
stantial structure, which had been built as a summer residence, on a
three nineteen years lease, by Mr. Ogilvie of Carron, with over forty
acres of land attached. Afterwards the late Walter Buchanan, so
genial and popular, and who for a number of years so worthily
represented Glasgow in Parliament, lived at Shandon, which had
been burnt down, and rebuilt in its present tasteful architectural

The earliest of the villas at Shandon was Linburn, built sixty
years ago by Samuel M'Call, well known as an honourable Glasgow
merchant, and also esteemed a good deal of a " character " by the
dwellers on that side of the Gareloch. His white silk stockings, old-
fashioned stock, long-tailed coat, and carefully starched ruffles,
bespoke the old beau of bygone years, so dear to the caricaturists of
the early Victorian days, and his cuisine had gained a reputation
which was confirmed by the aristocratic proprietor and guests at
Ardencaple Castle. The old gentleman was very particular in the
straight line of his avenue, the formation of his walls, and the
symmetry of his garden. A little previous to this the villa, known
as Berriedale, now occupied as a " Home " for poor children, had
been built by a Macaulay, and subsequently bought by Mr. Sinclair
of the Caithness family, who named it after the title of the eldest
son of that ancient house. It is on the shore, between the road and

* West Shandon. Mr. Napier got permission to alter the road at this point,
and at great expense built the high retaining wall, with its ornamental balus-
trade, concealing the road altogether from the house, and forming a conspicuous
feature as seen from the passing steamers on the loch.


the beach, on a narrow strip of ground, and Mr. Sinclair began,
though he did not finish, both Croy and Broomfield, now conspicuous
amongst the villas on that side of the loch. Above this, on the hill-
side, is seen the large mansion of Blairvaddick, which at first was an
old-fashioned, square, two-storeyed house, with attics, and was
enlarged by James Buchanan of Ardenconnell, who resided there ;
over thirty years ago it was pulled down by the late Sir James
Anderson, who reared the existing structure. Fiunnery, where
lived the well known family of Macleods, who have given so
many eminent scions to the Church of Scotland, is one of
the prettily embowered villas on the Shandon shore, and was
the loved abode of Dr. Norman Macleod. Broomieknowe, and
Altdonaig, near the entrance to the " Whistlers Glen," the
former where Sir James "Watson resided, an esteemed citizen of
Glasgow, and latterly its civic head, are passed as you approach
Kow. The two latter houses, at one time, formed the dwelling and
part of the extensive buildings of a large company of distillers,
and many a cargo of malt liquors has been taken from the little cove
which used to be at the mouth of the burn. The existing house of
Altdonaig was for a time, when it had ceased to be occupied as a
malt house, the place in which the early Free Church congregation
assembled for worship, in the stirring " Disruption " days. James
Glen, the joiner of that period, who also was a crofter, built the
middle portion of Broomieknowe, and the distillery was known as
Altdunnalt, and the coals, barrels, stores of malt, and other requisites
all used to be landed at the mouth of the burn, which was sufficiently
enlarged to admit of boats lying there at high water. At the back
of Altdunnalt was a row of workmen's houses, and two other cottages
stood near the road a little to the west of Broomieknowe, also the
house, shop, and stable of one of the proprietors of the distillery. At
the back of the cottages was an old, never-failing, spring of water, and
farther on was another well, known familiarly as the "Clash Well,"
from the fact of its being a place of resort for the gossips of this now
bygone hamlet. A little nearer Row was an eminence, a green bank,
well clad with grass, above the strand, known as the "shelling hill,"


from the fact of the farmers and crofters sometimes, in fine weather,
winnowing their grain at this point.

From this height easy access is gained to the romantic glen, for-
merly called Aldonalt, from the Dualt burn, which runs through
the glen, a rugged gorge, full of birch, fir, ash, oak and hazel
trees. It is easy to gain the summit of the glen by keeping
above its shelving banks, and peering down through the over-
hanging trees, the silvery stream is seen glancing over its slaty
bed frequently gathered in deep pools, overhung with mossy stones,
and steep breasts of rock. Every now and then, a fine peep
is gained of the Gareloch, hemmed in with its tree covered slopes,
and its background of rounded hills, the long tongue of gravel at Row
forming a barrier to the plashing waves. When you descend into
the leafy recesses of the glen, and look upwards and downwards at
its sinuous course, its romantic beauties must strike the wanderer in
this cool retreat from the hot sunshine of a long summer day. On
all sides its steep, mossy, and grassy banks are gay with the flowers
which, in their seasons, adorn the spot ; primroses, violets, bluebells,
hyacinths, honeysuckle, and many varieties of ferns, mosses, and ivy.
A delightful spot for the artist or lover of nature, for the combina-
tion of rippling waterfall, glistening rocks, and long leafy vistas of
tender, green undergrowth, offer innumerable subjects for the artist.
In addition to the beauties with which the bountiful hand of nature
has embellished the glen, it has, for the lovers of the legends of fancy
lore, a story of a woman in gray, visible when the moon is at its full,
hanging over a dark linn, at the head of the valley, where it emerges
from the moor, and sometimes moaning, to the sad accompaniment
of the fitful night breeze, over her long lost lover, whose body was
found close to the haunted pool.

This glen was, in former days, the scene of a considerable industry
of slate quarrying, and the old roads, for carrying away the slates,
can be distinctly traced on both sides of the stream. The refuse
from the workings fills many parts of the hollow, and old faces, where
the slate was cut, are seen on the slopes of the glen. One of the
last of the workers lived in a sort of natural cavern, which he man-


aged to form into a rude house, or " bourach," the site of which is to
be seen. He was known as Duncan " of the bourach," from his place
of abode, and here he lived and brought up his family. At the spot
known as the " tongue of the glen," where the Ardenconnell and
Succoth glens meet, there is a great heap of debris from the slate
works. Parts of the latter glen are very steep and rocky, and the
unseen stream is heard rippling over its pebbly bed far below. The
visitor is rewarded for his exploring of the Succoth glen by beautiful
bits of scenery, and, if he knows where to look for them, harts ton-
gue, lady fern, and other less common species, will reward his search.
This place was a favourite site for smuggling operations, and before
the railway cutting had interfered with the seclusion of the glen,
there was to be seen one of the complete, built-in stills, and, fire
places, where the illicit work was carried on. The curious thing was
that it was not thought criminal or disreputable to engage in this
contraband trade sixty years ago. It was quite customary for young
men to hire themselves out to smugglers for six months, just like
farm servants at a feeing market. On one occasion when the dragoons
captured a large barrel of whisky, and lodged it in an outhouse at
the Row Inn, while they went inside to enjoy a refresher for the
journey to Dunbarton, the smugglers ran off all the whisky by start-
ing a hoop, and substituted water in the barrel, after which they got
clear away, and the theft was only discovered when the contraband
goods came to be examined.

On the farm of Torr, in a plantation near the Succoth glen, there
is to be seen probably the last remaining smugglers still, in situ, all
just as it was left, when used sixty years ago. The place for the
water barrel is surrounded by large stones, where the malt was
steeped beside the still, and the tunnel for the smoke, leading from
the fire-place, is over twelve feet long, the very stones showing traces
of fire, all are in a wonderful state of preservation considering the
rude and hasty way in which the smugglers erected their plant. Up
above this wood, where the field joins on to the moor, there are some
sweet, secluded spots, hollows carpeted with the finest turf, and
their mossy banks scenting the air with wild thyme and violets,


white saxifrage overspreading the velvety turf, with primroses, blue-
bells, meadow sweet, and a bright parterre of wild flowers.

On the side of the " Whistler's Glen '' nearest Row is the fine old
wood surrounding Ardenconnell house, a solid plain mansion of grey
coloured stone, built more than a century ago by Mr. Andrew
Buchanan. It has a fine commanding position, and, from its front
there is a wide prospect of mountain, moor, and loch. The beech and
oak trees are of great size, and give an air of antiquity and dignity
to the old mansion, which is a conspicuous object in the landscape,
as seen from this point. In former days the Ardenconnell garden
used to run down as far as the field at the back of the church, and the
tracks of the walks of the garden are distinctly marked on the field.
No houses were then built on Row point, which was covered with turf,
and afforded good pasture for cows. Passing by the old church of
Row, and the few red- tiled cottages facing the green, the Inn appears,
with the building known as " Row House " adjoining, which had
been erected by James Buchanan of Ardenconnell, who subsequently
lived in it. The whole row of buildings, as they now face Row bay,
with the exception of the substitution of slates for red tiles, look
much as they did in the early part of the century, but two or three
thatched cottages, which stood where is now Inchalloch gate, have
disappeared. The road was a rough track, thickly bordered with
whins, brambles, and wild roses, and, passing what used to be known
as " Spy's lane," after one of that name whose family has long
occupied a respectable position in the Row district, the view is
opened up of Cairndhu point, with Rosneath bay opposite, and the
promontory of Ardmore in the distance. None of the handsome
villas, now nestling amidst the leafy slopes of Row, were in existence
in 1830, for there was no pier, and the long avenue, with fine beech
trees on either side ending where the pier now stands, led up to
Ardenconnell, the only mansion, until you came to Ardencaple. In
1833 Woodstone was built, and Rowmore, Ardenmore, Dalarne,
Rosslea on the point, and others, followed in rapid succession, until
we have now the modern summer resort of Row.

The geologist will find much to reward his glance over the shore


and rocks at the point of Row, or Rhue as it was formerly spelt.
Even when the tide is nearly at its full, there is generally a strong
ripple, sometimes in windy weather a crest of small breakers, showing
where the long tongue of land projects from the bay over the narrow
channel, and giving the Gareloch its placid, inland lake appearance.
In all probability, ages ago, the whole Gareloch was filled with a
glacier, and its " terminal " moraine would be where the point now is,
and the clay and gravel, which the glacier discharged from its end,
gradually formed the natural rampart that almost bars the entrance
of the sea.*

While summer throws its mantle of lovely green over the land-
scape, still the view from the shingly strand of the Row promon-
tories, in early winter, has also a peculiar charm and beauty. The
loch is pervaded by a dull, leaden hue, contrasting with more inten-
sity against the snowy slopes above, and the fitful gleams of sunshine
lying in patches on the hills beyond Glenfruin. Delicate effects of
light and shade are displayed from the sun rays striking upon the
rugged ridges of rock and scaur outlined against the snowy surface
beyond. On a sudden, the sun suffuses the misty cloud on the sum-
mit of one of the far off peaks, then glints down into the intervening
valley, and just touches the summits of the mountains above
Arrochar, all arrayed in their snowy garb. Near Loch Goil the hills
are partly illumined, and partly obscured with gathering shade, while
all the lesser heights on the Rosneath shore are lit up by the slanting
sun rays, where the bare and skeleton woods streak the undulating
slopes. Then are noticed the old furrows far up the hillsides, as the
fleecy snow indicates their form, the hedgerows have caught and re-
tained the flakes of snow, and the dark masses of fir are also pow-
dered with the glittering rime. The yellow bracken rises in patches
out of the snow, gleaming in russet beauty in the sun, and the fringe

* The tide at Row point is often dangerous, the water is deep, the crossing
risky. A few years ago, one pitch dark night, a gentleman's carriage, horse,
and the unfortunate coachman, in a mysterious way which has never been
cleared up, got into the deep water and were never seen again. A solid, fixed
beacon at the end of the point now shows, at night, a bright revolving light.


of larches and firs on the ridge of the moor, through which the glint-
ing rays of light penetrate, look soft against the background of misty
uplands. Some of the fields are bare and destitute of colour, as if
the wind had swept them of their wintry covering, while long
stretches of sunshine streak the lower part of the hills near Gareloch-
head, the upper peaks hardly seen in the waning light. In many
parts the trunks of trees look gaunt amid the lustrous sheen of the
surrounding wintry landscape. Each rough dyke or turf-covered
wall seems to stand out in relief against the white surface of the
ground around, dark masses of purple heather crown many a swelling
height, and a calm pervades the scene. An occasional glint of sun-
shine rests for a moment on the pale grey boughs of the silver fir
and birch, and tips the crests of the topmost trees, and the red
withered leaves of the beech rustle at times in the wintry blast.
The glistening, green ivy imparts colour to some of the bare stems of
older trees, and the mossy mantle, clinging like an emerald velvet
robe to the grey wood, gives additional warm tints.

Sometimes, on a winter morning in December, beautiful effects of
light and shade will be observed in the sky, and also in the reaches
of water about Row bay, and in the opposite bay of Campsail. To-
wards the high hills beyond Loch Long the background is misty, but
a large opening in the cloudy canopy seems to illumine the sky over
Glenfruin. This has a delicate pale grey hue, and is bordered with
faintly moving fringes of vaporous clouds, and it grows brighter and
brighter, with delicate streaks of red gleaming athwart the sky, which
now begins to show a lovely silvery grey. The water near the shore
is of a leaden colour, the dense dark reflections of the trees sleep
in the loch, all along the shore of the Mill bay, and the hulls and
masts of the boats are black and motionless. The crossing ferry
boat casts a sombre shade against the glassy lambent tide, and there
is a wondrous play of glistening sheen on the surface of the water.
The white seagull, for an instant, poises with tremulous pinion, and
then wheels gracefully away, and in the middle channel the circling
eddies of purple water catch the ripple of light. Subtle gradations
of silvery lustre, faint violet tints, and subdued greys, all combine to


make a picture of marvellous beauty. Nature seems to be gradually
awakening, and the deepening crimson in the eastern horizon be-
speaks the coming of the rolling orb of day, and the rainbow-tinted
spangles of dew on each spray of fern and ivy glitter as they are suf-
fused with the morning light.

At the corner of what used to be known as " Spy's Lane," there

Online LibraryWilliam Charles MaughanAnnals of Garelochside, being an account historical and topographical of the parishes of Row, Rosneath and Cardross → online text (page 10 of 31)