Recollections of a Tour Made In Scotland A.D. 1803
The following is from Recollections of a Tour Made In Scotland A.D. 1803 by Dorothy Wordsworth:
Sunday, August 28th. "We were desirous to have crossed the mountains above Glengyle to Glenfalloch, at the head of Loch Lomond, but it rained so heavily that it was impossible, so the ferryman engaged to row us to the point where Coleridge and I had rested, while William was going on our doubtful adventure. The hostess provided us with tea and sugar for our breakfast; the water was boiled in an iron pan, and dealt out to us in a jug, a proof that she does not often drink tea, though she said she had always tea and sugar in the house. She and the rest of the family breakfasted on curds and whey, as taken out of the pot in which she was making cheese; she insisted upon my taking some also; and her husband joined in with the old story, that it was 'varra halesome.' I thought it exceedingly good, and said to myself that they lived nicely with their cow: she was meat, drink, and company. Before breakfast the housewife was milking behind the chimney, and I thought I had seldom heard a sweeter fire-side sound; in an evening, sitting over a sleepy, low-burnt fire, it would lull one like the purring of a cat.
When we departed, the good woman shook me cordially by the hand, saying she hoped that if ever we came into Scotland again, we would come and see her. The lake was calm, but it rained so heavily that we could see little.
Landed at about ten o'clock, almost wet to the skin, and, with no prospect but of streaming rains, faced the mountain-road to Loch Lomond. We recognised the same objects passed before, the tarn, the potato-bed, and the cottages with their burnies, which were no longer, as one might say, household streams, but made us only think of the mountains and rocks they came from. Indeed, it is not easy to imagine how different everything appeared: the mountains with mists and torrents alive and always changing; but the low grounds where the inhabitants had been at work the day before were melancholy, with here and there a few haycocks and hay scattered about.
Wet as we were, William and I turned out of our path to the Garrison house. A few rooms of it seemed to be inhabited by some wretchedly poor families, and it had all the desolation of a large decayed mansion in the suburbs of a town, abandoned of its proper inhabitants, and become the abode of paupers. In spite of its outside bravery, it was but a poor protection against 'the sword of winter, keen and cold.' We looked at the building through the arch of a broken gateway of the courtyard, in the middle of which it stands. Upon that stormy day it appeared more than desolate; there was something about it even frightful.
When beginning to descend the hill towards Loch Lomond, we overtook two girls, who told us we could not cross the ferry till evening, for the boat was gone with a number of people to church. One of the girls was exceedingly beautiful; and the figures of both of them, in grey plaids falling to their feet, their faces only being uncovered, excited our attention before we spoke to them; but they answered us so sweetly that we were quite delighted, at the same time that they stared at us with an innocent look of wonder. I think I never heard the English language sound more sweetly than from the mouth of the elder of these girls, while she stood at the gate answering our inquiries, her face flushed with the rain; her pronunciation was clear and distinct: without difficulty, yet slow, like that of a foreign speech. They told us we might sit in the ferry-house till the return of the boat, went in with us, and made a good fire as fast as possible to dry our wet clothes. We learnt that the taller was the sister of the ferryman, and had been left in charge with the house for the day, that the other was his wife's sister, and was come with her mother on a visit, an old woman, who sate in a corner beside the cradle, nursing her little grand-child. We were glad to be housed, with our feet upon a warm hearth-stone; and our attendants were so active and good-humoured that it was pleasant to have to desire them to do anything. The younger was a delicate and unhealthy-looking girl; but there was an uncommon meekness in her countenance, with an air of premature intelligence, which is often seen in sickly young persons. The other made me think of Peter Bell's 'Highland Girl:'
She moved with unusual activity, which was chastened very delicately by a certain hesitation in her looks when she spoke, being able to understand us but imperfectly. They were both exceedingly desirous to get me what I wanted to make me comfortable. I was to have a gown and petticoat of the mistress's; so they turned out her whole wardrobe upon the parlour floor, talking Erse to one another, and laughing all the time. It was long before they could decide which of the gowns I was to have; they chose at last, no doubt thinking that it was the best, a light-coloured sprigged cotton, with long sleeves, and they both laughed while I was putting it on, with the blue linsey petticoat, and one or the other, or both together, helped me to dress, repeating at least half a dozen times, 'You never had on the like of that before.' They held a consultation of several minutes over a pair of coarse woollen stockings, gabbling Erse as fast as their tongues could move, and looked as if uncertain what to do: at last, with great diffidence, they offered them to me, adding, as before, that I had never worn 'the like of them.' When we entered the house we had been not a little glad to see a fowl stewing in barley-broth; and now, when the wettest of our clothes were stripped off, began again to recollect that we were hungry, and asked if we could have dinner. 'Oh yes, ye may get that,' the elder replied, pointing to the pan on the fire.
Conceive what a busy house it was all our wet clothes to be dried, dinner prepared and set out for us four strangers, and a second cooking for the family; add to this, two rough 'callans,' as they called them, boys about eight years old, were playing beside us; the poor baby was fretful all the while; the old woman sang doleful Erse songs, rocking it in its cradle the more violently the more it cried; then there were a dozen cookings of porridge, and it could never be fed without the assistance of all three. The hut was after the Highland fashion, but without anything beautiful, except its situation; the floor was rough, and wet with the rain that came in at the door, so that the lasses' bare feet were as wet as if they had been walking through street puddles, in passing from one room to another; the windows were open, as at the other hut; but the kitchen had a bed in it, and was much smaller, and the shape of the house was like that of a common English cottage, without its comfort; yet there was no appearance of poverty indeed, quite the contrary. The peep out of the open door-place across the lake made some amends for the want of the long roof and elegant rafters of our boatman's cottage, and all the while the waterfall, which we could not see, was roaring at the end of the hut, which seemed to serve as a sounding-board for its noise, so that it was not unlike sitting in a house where a mill is going. The dashing of the waves against the shore could not be distinguished; yet in spite of my knowledge of this I could not help fancying that the tumult and storm came from the lake, and went out several times to see if it was possible to row over in safety.
After long waiting we grew impatient for our dinner; at last the pan was taken off, and carried into the other room; but we had to wait at least another half hour before the ceremony of dishing up was completed; yet with all this bustle and difficulty, the manner in which they, and particularly the elder of the girls, performed everything, was perfectly graceful. We ate a hearty dinner, and had time to get our clothes quite dry before the arrival of the boat. The girls could not say at what time it would be at home; on our asking them if the church was far off they replied, 'Not very far;' and when we asked how far, they said, 'Perhaps about four or five miles.' I believe a Church of England congregation would hold themselves excused for non-attendance three parts of the year, having but half as far to go; but in the lonely parts of Scotland they make little of a journey of nine or ten miles to a preaching. They have not perhaps an opportunity of going more than once in a quarter of a year, and, setting piety aside, have other motives to attend: they hear the news, public and private, and see their friends and neighbours; for, though the people who meet at these times may be gathered together from a circle of twenty miles' diameter, a sort of neighbourly connexion must be so brought about. There is something exceedingly pleasing to my imagination in this gathering together of the inhabitants of these secluded districts for instance, the borderers of these two large lakes meeting at the deserted garrison which I have described. The manner of their travelling is on foot, on horseback, and in boats across the waters, young and old, rich and poor, all in their best dress.
If it were not for these Sabbath-day meetings one summer month would be like another summer month, one winter month like another detached from the goings-on of the world, and solitary throughout; from the time of earliest childhood they will be like landing-places in the memory of a person who has passed his life in these thinly-peopled regions; they must generally leave distinct impressions, differing from each other so much as they do in circumstances, in time and place, etc., some in the open fields, upon hills, in houses, under large rocks, in storms, and in fine weather.
But I have forgotten the fireside of our hut. After long waiting, the girls, who had been on the look-out, informed us that the boat was coming. I went to the water-side, and saw a cluster of people on the opposite shore; but, being yet at a distance, they looked more like soldiers surrounding a carriage than a group of men and women; red and green were the distinguishable colours. We hastened to get ourselves ready as soon as we saw the party approach, but had longer to wait than we expected, the lake being wider than it appears to be. As they drew near we could distinguish men in tartan plaids, women in scarlet cloaks, and green umbrellas by the half-dozen. The landing was as pretty a sight as ever I saw. The bay, which had been so quiet two days before, was all in motion with small waves, while the swoln waterfall roared in our ears. The boat came steadily up, being pressed almost to the water's edge by the weight of its cargo; perhaps twenty people landed, one after another. It did not rain much, but the women held up their umbrellas; they were dressed in all the colours of the rainbow, and with their scarlet cardinals, the tartan plaids of the men, and Scotch bonnets, made a gay appearance. There was a joyous bustle surrounding the boat, which even imparted something of the same character to the waterfall in its tumult, and the restless grey waves; the young men laughed and shouted, the lasses laughed, and the elder folks seemed to be in a bustle to be away. I remember well with what haste the mistress of the house where we were ran up to seek after her child, and seeing us, how anxiously and kindly she inquired how we had fared, if we had had a good fire, had been well waited upon, etc. etc. All this in three minutes for the boatman had another party to bring from the other side, and hurried us off.
The hospitality we had met with at the two cottages and Mr. Macfarlane's gave us very favourable impressions on this our first entrance into the Highlands, and at this day the innocent merriment of the girls, with their kindness to us, and the beautiful figure and face of the elder, come to my mind whenever I think of the ferry-house and waterfall of Loch Lomond, and I never think of the two girls but the whole image of that romantic spot is before me, a living image, as it will be to my dying day. The following poem was written by William not long after our return from Scotland:
To a Highland Girl, at Inversneyde upon Loch Lomond
We were rowed over speedily by the assistance of two youths, who went backwards and forwards for their own amusement, helping at the oars, and pulled as if they had strength and spirits to spare for a year to come. We noticed that they had uncommonly fine teeth, and that they and the boatmen were very handsome people. Another merry crew took our place in the boat.
We had three miles to walk to Tarbet. It rained, but not heavily; the mountains were not concealed from us by the mists, but appeared larger and more grand; twilight was coming on, and the obscurity under which we saw the objects, with the sounding of the torrents, kept our minds alive and wakeful; all was solitary and huge sky, water, and mountains mingled together. While we were walking forward, the road leading us over the top of a brow, we stopped suddenly at the sound of a half-articulate Gaelic hooting from the field close to us. It came from a little boy, whom we could see on the hill between us and the lake, wrapped up in a grey plaid. He was probably calling home the cattle for the night. His appearance was in the highest degree moving to the imagination: mists were on the hill-sides, darkness shutting in upon the huge avenue of mountains, torrents roaring, no house in sight to which the child might belong; his dress, cry, and appearance all different from anything we had been accustomed to. It was a text, as William has since observed to me, containing in itself the whole history of the Highlander's life his melancholy, his simplicity, his poverty, his superstition, and above all, that visionariness which results from a communion with the unworldliness of nature.
When we reached Tarbet the people of the house were anxious to know how we had fared, particularly the girl who had waited upon us. Our praises of Loch Ketterine made her exceedingly happy, and she ventured to say, of which we had heard not a word before, that it was 'bonnier to her fancy than Loch Lomond.' 12 The landlord, who was not at home when we had set off, told us that if he had known of our going he would have recommended us to Mr. Macfarlane's or the other farm-house, adding that they were hospitable people in that vale. Coleridge and I got tea, and William and the drawing-master chose supper; they asked to have a broiled fowl, a dish very common in Scotland, to which the mistress replied, 'Would not a “boiled " one do as well? 'They consented, supposing that it would be more easily cooked; but when the fowl made its appearance, to their great disappointment it proved a cold one that had been stewed in the broth at dinner.
Monday, August 29th. It rained heavily this morning, and, having heard so much of the long rains since we came into Scotland, as well as before, we had no hope that it would be over in less than three weeks at the least, so poor Coleridge, being very unwell, determined to send his clothes to Edinburgh and make the best of his way thither, being afraid to face much wet weather in an open carriage. William and I were unwilling to be confined at Tarbet, so we resolved to go to Arrochar, a mile and a half on the road to Inverary, where there is an inn celebrated as a place of good accommodation for travellers. Coleridge and I set off on foot, and William was to follow with the car, but a heavy shower coming on, Coleridge left me to shelter in a hut and wait for William while he went on before. This hut was unplastered, and without windows, crowded with beds, uncomfortable, and not in the simplicity of the ferryman's house. A number of good clothes were hanging against the walls, and a green silk umbrella was set up in a corner. I should have been surprised to see an umbrella in such a place before we came into the Highlands; but umbrellas are not so common anywhere as there a plain proof of the wetness of the climate; even five minutes after this a girl passed us without shoes and stockings, whose gown and petticoat were not worth half a crown, holding an umbrella over her bare head.
We turned at a guide post, 'To the New Inn,' and, after descending a little, and winding round the bottom of a hill, saw, at a small distance, a white house half hidden by tall trees upon a lawn that slopes down to the side of Loch Long, a sea-loch, which is here very narrow. Right before us, across the lake, was The Cobbler, which appeared to rise directly from the water; but, in fact, it overtopped another hill, being a considerable way behind. The inn looked so much like a gentleman's house that we could hardly believe it was an inn. We drove down the broad gravel walk, and, making a sweep, stopped at the front door, were shown into a large parlour with a fire, and my first thought was, How comfortable we should be! but Coleridge, who had arrived before us, checked my pleasure: the waiter had shown himself disposed to look coolly upon us, and there had been a hint that we could not have beds; a party was expected, who had engaged all the beds. We conjectured this might be but a pretence, and ordered dinner in the hope that matters would clear up a little, and we thought they could not have the heart to turn us out in so heavy a rain if it were possible to lodge us. We had a nice dinner, yet would have gladly changed our roasted lamb and pickles, and the gentleman-waiter with his napkin in his pocket, for the more homely fare of the smoky hut at Loch Ketterine, and the good woman's busy attentions, with the certainty of a hospitable shelter at night. After dinner I spoke to the landlord himself, but he was not to be moved: he could not even provide one bed for me, so nothing was to be done but either to return to Tarbet with Coleridge, or that William and I should push on the next stage, to Cairndow. We had an interesting close view from the windows of the room where we sate, looking across the lake, which did not differ in appearance, as we saw it here, from a fresh-water lake. The sloping lawn on which the house stood was prettily scattered over with trees; but we had seen the place to great advantage at our first approach, owing to the mists upon the mountains, which had made them seem exceedingly high, while the strange figures on The Cobbler appeared and disappeared, like living things; but, as the day cleared we were disappointed in what was more like the permanent effect of the scene: the mountains were not so lofty as we had supposed, and the low grounds not so fertile; yet still it is a very interesting, I may say beautiful, place.
The rain ceased entirely, so we resolved to go on to Cairndow, and had the satisfaction of seeing that our land-lord had not told us an untruth concerning the expected company; for just before our departure we saw, on the opposite side of the vale, a coach with four horses, another carriage, and two or three men on horseback a striking procession, as it moved along between the bare mountain and the lake. Twenty years ago, perhaps, such a sight had not been seen here except when the Duke of Argyle, or some other Highland chieftain, might chance to be going with his family to London or Edinburgh. They had to cross a bridge at the head of the lake, which we could not see, so, after disappearing about ten minutes, they drove up to the door three old ladies, two waiting-women, and store of men-servants. The old ladies were as gaily dressed as bull-finches in spring-time. We heard the next day that they were the renowned Miss Waughs of Carlisle, and that they enjoyed themselves over a game at cards in the evening.
Left Arrochar at about four o'clock in the afternoon. Coleridge accompanied us a little way; we portioned out the contents of our purse before our parting; and, after we had lost sight of him, drove heavily along. Crossed the bridge, and looked to the right, up the vale, which is soon terminated by mountains: it was of a yellow green, with but few trees and few houses; sea-gulls were flying above it. Our road the same along which the carriages had come was directly under the mountains on our right hand, and the lake was close to us on our left, the waves breaking among stones overgrown with yellow sea-weed; fishermen's boats, and other larger vessels than are seen on fresh-water lakes were lying at anchor near the opposite shore; sea-birds flying overhead; the noise of torrents mingled with the beating of the waves, and misty mountains enclosed the vale; a melancholy but not a dreary scene. Often have I, in looking over a map of Scotland, followed the intricate windings of one of these sea-lochs, till, pleasing myself with my own imaginations, I have felt a longing, almost painful, to travel among them by land or by water. This was the first sea-loch we had seen. We came prepared for a new and great delight, and the first impression which William and I received, as we drove rapidly through the rain down the lawn of Arrochar, the objects dancing before us, was even more delightful than we had expected. But, as I have said, when we looked through the window, as the mists disappeared and the objects were seen more distinctly, there was less of sheltered valley-comfort than we had fancied to ourselves, and the mountains were not so grand; and now that we were near to the shore of the lake, and could see that it was not of fresh water, the wreck, the broken sea-shells, and scattered sea-weed gave somewhat of a dull and uncleanly look to the whole lake, and yet the water was clear, and might have appeared as beautiful as that of Loch Lomond, if with the same pure pebbly shore. Perhaps, had we been in a more cheerful mood of mind we might have seen everything with a different eye. The stillness of the mountains, the motion of the waves, the streaming torrents, the sea-birds, the fishing-boats were all melancholy; yet still, occupied as my mind was with other things, I thought of the long windings through which the waters of the sea had come to this inland retreat, visiting the inner solitudes of the mountains, and I could have wished to have mused out a summer's day on the shores of the lake. From the foot of these mountains whither might not a little barque carry one away? Though so far inland, it is but a slip of the great ocean: seamen, fishermen, and shepherds here find a natural home. We did not travel far down the lake, but, turning to the right through an opening of the mountains, entered a glen called Glen Croe.
Our thoughts were full of Coleridge, and when we were enclosed in the narrow dale, with a length of winding road before us, a road that seemed to have insinuated itself into the very heart of the mountains the brook, the road, bare hills, floating mists, scattered stones, rocks, and herds of black cattle being all that we could see, I shivered at the thought of his being sickly and alone, travelling from place to place.
The Cobbler, on our right, was pre-eminent above the other hills; the singular rocks on its summit, seen so near, were like ruins castles or watch-towers. After we had passed one reach of the glen, another opened out, long, narrow, deep, and houseless, with herds of cattle and large stones; but the third reach was softer and more beautiful, as if the mountains had there made a warmer shelter, and there were a more gentle climate. The rocks by the river-side had dwindled away, the mountains were smooth and green, and towards the end, where the glen sloped upwards, it was a cradle-like hollow, and at that point where the slope became a hill, at the very bottom of the curve of the cradle, stood one cottage, with a few fields and beds of potatoes. There was also another house near the roadside, which appeared to be a herdsman's hut. The dwelling in the middle of the vale was a very pleasing object. I said within myself, How quietly might a family live in this pensive solitude, cultivating and loving their own fields! but the herdsman's hut, being the only one in the vale, had a melancholy face; not being attached to any particular plot of land, one could not help considering it as just kept alive and above ground by some dreary connexion with the long barren tract we had travelled through.
The afternoon had been exceedingly pleasant after we had left the vale of Arrochar; the sky was often threatening, but the rain blew off, and the evening was uncommonly fine. The sun had set a short time before we had dismounted from the car to walk up the steep hill at the end of the glen. Clouds were moving all over the sky some of a brilliant yellow hue, which shed a light like bright moonlight upon the mountains. We could not have seen the head of the valley under more favourable circumstances.
The passing away of a storm is always a time of life and cheerfulness, especially in a mountainous country; but that afternoon and evening the sky was in an extraordinary degree vivid and beautiful. We often stopped in ascending the hill to look down the long reach of the glen. The road, following the course of the river as far as we could see, the farm and cottage, hills, smooth towards the base and rocky higher up, were the sole objects before us. This part of Glen Croe reminded us of some of the dales of the north of England Grisdale above Ulswater, for instance; but the length of it, and the broad highway, which is always to be seen at a great distance, a sort of centre of the vale, a point of reference, gives to the whole of the glen, and each division of it, a very different character.
At the top of the hill we came to a seat with the well-known inscription, 'Rest and be thankful.' On the same stone it was recorded that the road had been made by Col. Wade's regiment. The seat is placed so as to command a full view of the valley, and the long, long road, which, with the fact recorded, and the exhortation, makes it an affecting resting-place. We called to mind with pleasure a seat under the braes of Loch Lomond on which I had rested, where the traveller is informed by an inscription upon a stone that the road was made by Col. Lascelles' regiment. There, the spot had not been chosen merely as a resting-place, for there was no steep ascent in the highway, but it might be for the sake of a spring of water and a beautiful rock, or, more probably, because at that point the labour had been more than usually toilsome in hewing through the rock. Soon after we had climbed the hill we began to descend into another glen, called Glen Kinglas. We now saw the western sky, which had hitherto been hidden from us by the hill a glorious mass of clouds uprising from a sea of distant mountains, stretched out in length before us, towards the west and close by us was a small lake or tarn. From the reflection of the crimson clouds the water appeared of a deep red, like melted rubies, yet with a mixture of a grey or blackish hue; the gorgeous light of the sky, with the singular colour of the lake, made the scene exceedingly romantic; yet it was more melancholy than cheerful. With all the power of light from the clouds, there was an overcasting of the gloom of evening, a twilight upon the hills.
We descended rapidly into the glen, which resembles the lower part of Glen Croe, though it seemed to be inferior in beauty; but before we had passed through one reach it was quite dark, and I only know that the steeps were high, and that we had the company of a foaming stream; and many a vagrant torrent crossed us, dashing down the hills. The road was bad, and, uncertain how we should fare, we were eager and somewhat uneasy to get forward; but when we were out of the close glen, and near to Cairndow, as a traveller had told us, the moon showed her clear face in the sky, revealing a spacious vale, with a broad loch and sloping corn fields; the hills not very high. This cheerful sight put us into spirits, and we thought it was at least no dismal place to sit up all night in, if they had no beds, and they could not refuse us a shelter. We were, however, well received, and sate down in a neat parlour with a good fire.
Tuesday, August 30th. Breakfasted before our departure, and ate a herring, fresh from the water, at our landlord's earnest recommendation much superior to the herrings we get in the north of England. (I should rather think so! Ed.) Though we rose at seven, could not set off before nine o'clock; the servants were in bed; the kettle did not boil indeed, we were completely out of patience; but it had always been so, and we resolved to go off in future without breakfast. Cairndow is a single house by the side of the loch, I believe resorted to by gentlemen in the fishing season: it is a pleasant place for such a purpose; but the vale did not look so beautiful as by moonlight it had a sort of sea-coldness without mountain grandeur. There is a ferry for foot-passengers from Cairndow to the other side of the water, and the road along which all carriages go is carried round the head of the lake, perhaps a distance of three miles.
After we had passed the landing-place of the ferry opposite to Cairndow we saw the lake spread out to a great width, more like an arm of the sea or a great river than one of our lakes; it reminded us of the Severn at the Chepstow passage; but the shores were less rich and the hills higher. The sun shone, which made the morning cheerful, though there was a cold wind. Our road never carried us far from the lake, and with the beating of the waves, the sparkling sunshiny water, boats, the opposite hills, and, on the side on which we travelled, the chance cottages, the coppice woods, and common business of the fields, the ride could not but be amusing. But what most excited our attention was, at one particular place, a cluster of fishing-boats at anchor in a still corner of the lake, a small bay or harbour by the wayside. They were overshadowed by fishermen's nets hung out to dry, which formed a dark awning that covered them like a tent, overhanging the water on each side, and falling in the most exquisitely graceful folds. There was a monastic pensiveness, a funereal gloom in the appearance of this little company of vessels, which was the more interesting from the general liveliness and glancing motions of the water, they being perfectly still and silent in their sheltered nook.
When we had travelled about seven miles from Cairndow, winding round the bottom of a hill, we came in view of a great basin or elbow of the lake. Completely out of sight of the long track of water we had coasted, we seemed now to be on the edge of a very large, almost circular, lake, the town of Inverary before us, a line of white buildings on a low promontory right opposite, and close to the water's edge; the whole landscape a showy scene, and bursting upon us at once. A traveller who was riding by our side called out, 'Can that be the Castle?' Recollecting the prints which we had seen, we knew it could not; but the mistake is a natural one at that distance: it is so little like an ordinary town, from the mixture of regularity and irregularity in the buildings. With the expanse of water and pleasant mountains, the scattered boats and sloops, and those gathered together, it had a truly festive appearance. A few steps more brought us in view of the Castle, a stately turreted mansion, but with a modern air, standing on a lawn, retired from the water, and screened behind by woods covering the sides of high hills to the top, and still beyond, by bare mountains. Our road wound round the semicircular shore, crossing two bridges of lordly architecture. The town looked pretty when we drew near to it in connexion with its situation, different from any place I had ever seen, yet exceedingly like what I imaged to myself from representations in raree-shows, or pictures of foreign places Venice, for example painted on the scene of a play-house, which one is apt to fancy are as cleanly and gay as they look through the magnifying-glass of the raree-show or in the candle-light dazzle of a theatre. At the door of the inn, though certainly the buildings had not that delightful outside which they appeared to have at a distance, yet they looked very pleasant. The range bordering on the water consisted of little else than the inn, being a large house, with very large stables, the county gaol, the opening into the main street into the town, and an arched gateway, the entrance into the Duke of Argyle's private domain.
We were decently well received at the inn, but it was over-rich in waiters and large rooms, to be exactly to our taste, though quite in harmony with the neighbourhood. Before dinner we went into the Duke's pleasure-grounds, which are extensive, and of course command a variety of lively and interesting views. Walked through avenues of tall beech-trees, and observed some that we thought even the tallest we had ever seen; but they were all scantily covered with leaves, and the leaves exceedingly small indeed, some of them, in the most exposed situations, were almost bare as if it had been winter. Travellers who wish to view the inside of the castle send in their names, and the Duke appoints the time of their going; but we did not think that what we should see would repay us for the trouble, there being no pictures, and the house, which I believe has not been built above half a century, is fitted up in the modern style. If there had been any reliques of the ancient costume of the castle of a Highland chieftain, we should have been sorry to have passed it.
Sate after dinner by the fireside till near sunset, for it was very cold, though the sun shone all day. At the beginning of this our second walk we passed through the town, which is but a doleful example of Scotch filth. The houses are plastered or rough-cast, and washed yellow well built, well sized, and sash-windowed, bespeaking a connexion with the Duke, such a dependence as may be expected in a small town so near to his mansion; and indeed he seems to have done his utmost to make them comfortable, according to our English notions of comfort: they are fit for the houses of people living decently upon a decent trade; but the windows and door-steads were as dirty as in a dirty by-street of a large town, making a most unpleasant contrast with the comely face of the buildings towards the water, and the ducal grandeur and natural festivity of the scene. Smoke and blackness are the wild growth of a Highland hut: the mud floors cannot be washed, the door-steads are trampled by cattle, and if the inhabitants be not very cleanly it gives one little pain; but dirty people living in two-storied stone houses, with dirty sash windows, are a melancholy spectacle anywhere, giving the notion either of vice or the extreme of wretchedness.
Returning through the town, we went towards the Castle, and entered the Duke's grounds by a porter's lodge, following the carriage-road through the park, which is prettily scattered over with trees, and slopes gently towards the lake. A great number of lime-trees were growing singly, not beautiful in their shape, but I mention them for their resemblance to one of the same kind we had seen in the morning, which formed a shade as impenetrable as the roof of any house. The branches did not spread far, nor any one branch much further than another; on the outside it was like a green bush shorn with shears, but when we sate upon a bench under it, looking upwards, in the middle of the tree we could not perceive any green at all; it was like a hundred thousand magpies' nests clustered and matted together, the twigs and boughs being so intertwined that neither the light of the mid-day sun nor showers of hail or rain could pierce through them. The lime-trees on the lawn resembled this tree both in shape and in the manner of intertwisting their twigs, but they were much smaller, and not an impenetrable shade.
The views from the Castle are delightful. Opposite is the lake, girt with mountains, or rather smooth high hills; to the left appears a very steep rocky hill, called Duniquoich Hill, on the top of which is a building like a watch-tower; it rises boldly and almost perpendicular from the plain, at a little distance from the river Arey, that runs through the grounds. To the right is the town, overtopped by a sort of spire or pinnacle of the church, a thing unusual in Scotland, except in the large towns, and which would often give an elegant appearance to the villages, which, from the uniformity of the huts, and the frequent want of tall trees, they seldom exhibit.
In looking at an extensive prospect, or travelling through a large vale, the Trough of the Clyde for instance, I could not help thinking that in England there would have been somewhere a tower or spire to warn us of a village lurking under the covert of a wood or bank, or to point out some particular spot on the distant hills which we might look at with kindly feelings. I well remember how we used to love the little nest of trees out of which Ganton spire rose on the distant Wolds opposite to the windows at Gallow Hill. The spire of Inverary is not of so beautiful a shape as those of the English churches, and, not being one of a class of buildings which is understood at once, seen near or at a distance, is a less interesting object; but it suits well with the outlandish trimness of the buildings bordering on the water; indeed, there is no one thing of the many gathered together in the extensive circuit of the basin or vale of Inverary, that is not in harmony with the effect of the whole place. The Castle is built of a beautiful hewn stone, in colour resembling our blue slates. The author-tourists have quarrelled with the architecture of it, but we did not find much that we were disposed to blame. A castle in a deep glen, overlooking a roaring stream, and defended by precipitous rocks, is, no doubt, an object far more interesting; but, dropping all ideas of danger or insecurity, the natural retinue in our minds of an ancient Highland chieftain, take a Duke of Argyle at the end of the eighteenth century, let him have his house in Grosvenor Square, his London liveries, and daughters glittering at St. James's, and I think you will be satisfied with his present mansion in the Highlands, which seems to suit with the present times and its situation, and that is indeed a noble one for a modern Duke of the mountainous district of Argyleshire, with its bare valleys, its rocky coasts, and sea lochs.
There is in the natural endowments of Inverary something akin to every feature of the general character of the county; yet even the very mountains and the lake itself have a kind of princely festivity in their appearance. I do not know how to communicate the feeling, but it seemed as if it were no insult to the hills to look on them as the shield and enclosure of the ducal domain, to which the water might delight in bearing its tribute. The hills near the lake are smooth, so smooth that they might have been shaven or swept; the shores, too, had somewhat of the same effect, being bare, and having no roughness, no woody points; yet the whole circuit being very large, and the hills so extensive, the scene was not the less cheerful and festive, rejoicing in the light of heaven. Behind the Castle the hills are planted to a great height, and the pleasure-grounds extend far up the valley of Arey. We continued our walk a short way along the river, and were sorry to see it stripped of its natural ornaments, after the fashion of Mr. Brown ('Capability' Brown), and left to tell its tale for it would not be silent like the river at Blenheim to naked fields and the planted trees on the hills. We were disgusted with the stables, outhouses, or farm-houses in different parts of the grounds behind the Castle: they were broad, out-spreading, fantastic, and unintelligible buildings.
Sate in the park till the moonlight was perceived more than the light of day. We then walked near the town by the water-side. I observed that the children who were playing did not speak Erse, but a much worse English than is spoken by those Highlanders whose common language is the Erse. I went into the town to purchase tea and sugar to carry with us on our journey. We were tired when we returned to the inn, and went to bed directly after tea. My room was at the very top of the house one flight of steps after another! but when I drew back the curtains of my window I was repaid for the trouble of panting up-stairs by one of the most splendid moonlight prospects that can be conceived: the whole circuit of the hills, the Castle, the two bridges, the tower on Duniquoich Hill, and the lake with many boats fit scene for summer midnight festivities! I should have liked to have seen a bevy of Scottish ladies sailing, with music, in a gay barge. William, to whom I have read this, tells me that I have used the very words of Browne of Ottery, Coleridge's fellow-townsman:
Wednesday, August 31st. We had a long day's journey before us, without a regular baiting-place on the road, so we breakfasted at Inverary, and did not set off till nine o'clock, having, as usual, to complain of the laziness of the servants. Our road was up the valley behind the Castle, the same we had gone along the evening before. Further up, though the plantations on the hills are noble, the valley was cold and naked, wanting hedgerows and comfortable houses. We travelled several miles under the plantations, the vale all along seeming to belong almost exclusively to the Castle. It might have been better distinguished and adorned, as we thought, by neater farm-houses and cottages than are common in Scotland, and snugger fields with warm hedgerows, at the same time testifying as boldly its adherence to the chief.
At that point of the valley where the pleasure-grounds appear to end, we left our horse at a cottage door, and turned a few steps out of the road to see a waterfall, which roared so loud that we could not have gone by without looking about for it, even if we had not known that there was one near Inverary. The waterfall is not remarkable for anything but the good taste with which it has been left to itself, though there is a pleasure-road from the Castle to it. As we went further up the valley the roads died away, and it became an ordinary Scotch glen, the poor pasturage of the hills creeping down into the valley, where it was little better for the shelter, I mean little greener than on the hill-sides; but a man must be of a churlish nature if, with a mind free to look about, he should not find such a glen a pleasing place to travel through, though seeing little but the busy brook, with here and there a bush or tree, and cattle pasturing near the thinly-scattered dwellings. But we came to one spot which I cannot forget, a single green field at the junction of another brook with the Arey, a peninsula surrounded with a close row of trees, which overhung the streams, and under their branches we could just see a neat white house that stood in the middle of the field enclosed by the trees. Before us was nothing but bare hills, and the road through the bare glen. A person who has not travelled in Scotland can scarcely imagine the pleasure we have had from a stone house, though fresh from the work-men's hands, square and sharp; there is generally such an appearance of equality in poverty through the long glens of Scotland, giving the notion of savage ignorance no house better than another, and barns and houses all alike. This house had, however, other recommendations of its own; even in the fertile parts of Somersetshire it would have been a delicious spot; here, 'Mid mountain wild set like a little nest,' it was a resting-place for the fancy, and to this day I often think of it, the cottage and its green covert, as an image of romance, a place of which I have the same sort of knowledge as of some of the retirements, the little valleys, described so livelily by Spenser in his Fairy Queen.
We travelled on, the glen now becoming entirely bare. Passed a miserable hut on a naked hill-side, not far from the road, where we were told by a man who came out of it that we might refresh ourselves with a dram of whisky. Went over the hill, and saw nothing remarkable till we came in view of Loch Awe, a large lake far below us, among high mountains one very large mountain right opposite, which we afterwards found was called Cruachan. The day was pleasant sunny gleams and a fresh breeze; the lake we looked across it as bright as silver, which made the islands, three or four in number, appear very green. We descended gladly, invited by the prospect before us, travelling downwards, along the side of the hill, above a deep glen, woody towards the lower part near the brook; the hills on all sides were high and bare, and not very stony: it made us think of the descent from Newlands into Buttermere, though on a wider scale, and much inferior in simple majesty.
After walking down the hill a long way we came to a bridge, under which the water dashed through a dark channel of rocks among trees, the lake being at a considerable distance below, with cultivated lands between. Close upon the bridge was a small hamlet (Qiwere, Cladich. Ed.), a few houses near together, and huddled up in trees a very sweet spot, the only retired village we had yet seen which was characterized by 'beautiful' wildness with sheltering warmth. We had been told at Inverary that we should come to a place where we might give our horse a feed of corn, and found on inquiry that there was a little public-house here, or rather a hut 'where they kept a dram.' It was a cottage, like all the rest, without a sign-board. The woman of the house helped to take the horse out of harness, and, being hungry, we asked her if she could make us some porridge, to which she replied that 'we should get that,' and I followed her into the house, and sate over her hearth while she was making it. As to fire, there was little sign of it, save the smoke, for a long time, she having no fuel but green wood, and no bellows but her breath. My eyes smarted exceedingly, but the woman seemed so kind and cheerful that I was willing to endure it for the sake of warming my feet in the ashes and talking to her. The fire was in the middle of the room, a crook being suspended from a cross-beam, and a hole left at the top for the smoke to find its way out by: it was a rude Highland hut, unadulterated by Lowland fashions, but it had not the elegant shape of the ferry-house at Loch Ketterine, and the fire, being in the middle of the room, could not be such a snug place to draw to on a winter's night.
We had a long afternoon before us, with only eight miles to travel to Dalmally, and, having been told that a ferry-boat was kept at one of the islands, we resolved to call for it, and row to the island, so we went to the top of an eminence, and the man who was with us set some children to work to gather sticks and withered leaves to make a smoky fire a signal for the boatman, whose hut is on a flat green island, like a sheep pasture, without trees, and of a considerable size: the man told us it was a rabbit-warren. There were other small islands, on one of which was a ruined house, fortification, or small castle: we could not learn anything of its history, only a girl told us that formerly gentlemen lived in such places. Immediately from the water's edge rose the mountain Cruachan on the opposite side of the lake; it is weedy near the water and craggy above, with deep hollows on the surface. We thought it the grandest mountain we had seen, and on saying to the man who was with us that it was a fine mountain, 'Yes,' he replied, 'it is an excellent mountain,' adding that it was higher than Ben Lomond, and then told us some wild stories of the enormous profits it brought to Lord Breadalbane, its lawful owner. The shape of Loch Awe is very remarkable, its outlet being at one side, and only about eight miles from the head, and the whole lake twenty-four miles in length. We looked with longing after that branch of it opposite to us out of which the water issues: it seemed almost like a river gliding under steep precipices. What we saw of the larger branch, or what might be called the body of the lake, was less promising, the banks being merely gentle slopes, with not very high mountains behind, and the ground moorish and cold. The children, after having collected fuel for our fire, began to play on the green hill where we stood, as heedless as if we had been trees or stones, and amused us exceedingly with their activity: they wrestled, rolled down the hill, pushing one another over and over again, laughing, screaming, and chattering Erse: they were all without shoes and stockings, which, making them fearless of hurting or being hurt, gave a freedom to the action of their limbs which I never saw in English children: they stood upon one another, body, breast, or face, or any other part; sometimes one was uppermost, sometimes another, and sometimes they rolled all together, so that we could not know to which body this leg or that arm belonged. We waited, watching them, till we were assured that the boat-man had noticed our signal. By the bye, if we had received proper directions at Loch Lomond, on our journey to Loch Ketterine, we should have made our way down the lake till we had come opposite to the ferryman's house, where there is a hut, and the people who live there are accustomed to call him by the same signal as here. Luckily for us we were not so well instructed, for we should have missed the pleasure of receiving the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Macfarlane and their family.
A young woman who wanted to go to the island accompanied us to the water-side. The walk was pleasant, through fields with hedgerows, the greenest fields we had seen in Scotland; but we were obliged to return without going to the island. The poor man had taken his boat to another place, and the waters were swollen so that we could not go close to the shore, and show ourselves to him, nor could we make him hear by shouting. On our return to the public-house we asked the woman what we should pay her, and were not a little surprised when she answered, 'Three shillings.' Our horse had had a sixpenny feed of miserable corn, not worth threepence; the rest of the charge was for skimmed milk, oat-bread, porridge, and blue milk cheese: we told her it was far too much; and, giving her half-a-crown, departed. I was sorry she had made this unreasonable demand, because we had liked the woman, and we had before been so well treated in the Highland cottages; but, on thinking more about it, I satisfied myself that it was no scheme to impose upon us, for she was contented with the half-crown, and would, I daresay, have been so with two shillings, if we had offered it her at first. Not being accustomed to fix a price upon porridge and milk, to such as we, at least, when we asked her she did not know what to say; but, seeing that we were travelling for pleasure, no doubt she concluded we were rich, and that what was a small gain to her could be no great loss to us.
When we had gone a little way we saw before us a young man with a bundle over his shoulder, hung on a stick, bearing a great boy on his back: seeing that they were travellers, we offered to take the boy on the car, to which the man replied that he should be more than thankful, and set him up beside me. They had walked from Glasgow, and that morning from Inverary; the boy was only six years old, 'But,' said his father, 'he is a stout walker,' and a fine fellow he was, smartly dressed in tight clean clothes and a nice round hat: he was going to stay with his grandmother at Dalmally. I found him good company; though I could not draw a single word out of him, it was a pleasure to see his happiness gleaming through the shy glances of his healthy countenance. Passed a pretty chapel by the lake-side, and an island with a farm-house upon it, and corn and pasture fields; but, as we went along, we had frequent reason to regret the want of English hedgerows and English culture; for the ground was often swampy or moorish near the lake where comfortable dwellings among green fields might have been. When we came near to the end of the lake we had a steep hill to climb, so William and I walked; and we had such confidence in our horse that we were not afraid to leave the car to his guidance with the child in it; we were soon, however, alarmed at seeing him trot up the hill a long way before us; the child, having raised himself up upon the seat, was beating him as hard as he could with a little stick which he carried in his hand; and when he saw our eyes were on him he sate down, I believe very sorry to resign his office: the horse slackened his pace, and no accident happened.
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 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; (Not very probable. See Appendix C) 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 enchanting effect was chiefly owing to its situation in the lake, a decayed palace rising out of the plain of waters! 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 reascended the hill, and sate a long time in the middle of it looking on the castle and the huge mountain cove opposite, and William, addressing himself to the ruin, poured out these verses:
We walked up the hill again, and, looking down the vale, had a fine view of the lake and islands, resembling the views down Windermere, though much less rich. Our walk to Dalmally was pleasant: the vale makes a turn to the right, beyond the head of the lake, and the village of Dalmally, which is, in fact, only a few huts, the manse or minister's house, the chapel, and the inn, stands near the river, which flows into the head of the lake. The whole vale is very pleasing, the lower part of the hill-sides being sprinkled with thatched cottages, cultivated ground in small patches near them, which evidently belonged to the cottages.
We were overtaken by a gentleman who rode on a beautiful white pony, like Lilly, and was followed by his servant, a Highland boy, on another pony, a little creature, not much bigger than a large mastiff, on which were slung a pair of crutches and a tartan plaid. The gentleman entered into conversation with us, and on our telling him that we were going to Glen Coe, he advised us, instead of proceeding directly to Tyndrum, the next stage, to go round by the outlet of Loch Awe to Loch Etive, and thence to Glen Coe. We were glad to change our plan, for we wanted much to see more of Loch Awe, and he told us that the whole of the way by Loch Etive was pleasant, and the road to Tyndrum as dreary as possible; indeed, we could see it at that time several miles before us upon the side of a bleak mountain; and he said that there was nothing but moors and mountains all the way. We reached the inn a little before sunset, ordered supper, and I walked out. Crossed a bridge to look more nearly at the parsonage-house and the chapel, which stands upon a bank close to the river, a pretty stream overhung in some parts by trees. The vale is very pleasing; but, like all the other Scotch vales we had yet seen, it told of its kinship with the mountains and of poverty or some neglect on the part of man.
Thursday, September 1st. "We had been attended at supper by a civil boy, whom we engaged to rouse us at six o'clock, and to provide us each a basin of milk and bread, and have the car ready; all which he did punctually, and we were off in good time. The morning was not unpleasant, though rather cold, and we had some fear of rain. Crossed the bridge, and passed by the manse and chapel, our road carrying us back again in the direction we had come; but on the opposite side of the river. Passed close to many of the houses we had seen on the hill-side, which the lame gentleman had told us belonged to Lord Breadalbane, and were attached to little farms, or 'crofts,' as he called them. Lord Breadalbane had lately laid out a part of his estates in this way as an experiment, in the hope of preventing discontent and emigration. We were sorry we had not an opportunity of seeing into these cottages, and of learning how far the people were happy or otherwise. The dwellings certainly did not look so comfortable when we were near to them as from a distance; but this might be chiefly owing to what the inhabitants did not feel as an evil the dirt about the doors. We saw, however a sight always painful to me two or three women, each creeping after her single cow, while it was feeding on the slips of grass between the corn-grounds. Went round the head of the lake, and onwards close to the lake-side. Kilchurn Castle was always interesting, though not so grand as seen from the other side, with its own mountain cove and roaring stream. It combined with the vale of Dalmally and the distant hills a beautiful scene, yet overspread with a gentle desolation. As we went further down we lost sight of the vale of Dalmally. The castle, which we often stopped to look back upon, was very beautiful seen in combination with the opposite shore of the lake perhaps a little bay, a tuft of trees, or a slope of the hill. Travelled under the foot of the mountain Cruachan, along an excellent road, having the lake close to us on our left, woods overhead, and frequent torrents tumbling down the hills. The distant views across the lake were not peculiarly interesting after we were out of sight of Kilchurn Castle, the lake being wide, and the opposite shore not rich, and those mountains which we could see were not high.
Came opposite to the village where we had dined the day before, and, losing sight of the body of the lake, pursued the narrow channel or pass (The Pass of Awe. Ed.), which is, I believe, three miles long, out of which issues the river that flows into Loch Etive. We were now enclosed between steep hills, on the opposite side entirely bare, on our side bare or woody; the branch of the lake generally filling the whole area of the vale. It was a pleasing, solitary scene; the long reach of naked precipices on the other side rose directly out of the water, exceedingly steep, not rugged or rocky, but with scanty sheep pasturage and large beds of small stones, purple, dove-coloured, or red, such as are called Screes in Cumberland and Westmoreland. These beds, or rather streams of stones, appeared as smooth as the turf itself, nay, I might say, as soft as the feathers of birds, which they resembled in colour. There was no building on either side of the water; in many parts only just room for the road, and on the other shore no footing, as it might seem, for any creature larger than the mountain sheep, and they, in treading amongst the shelving stones, must often send them down into the lake below.
After we had wound for some time through the valley, having met neither foot-traveller, horse, nor cart, we started at the sight of a single vessel, just as it turned round the point of a hill, coming into the reach of the valley where we were. She floated steadily through the middle of the water, with one large sail spread out, full swollen by the breeze, that blew her right towards us. I cannot express what romantic images this vessel brought along with her how much more beautiful the mountains appeared, the lake how much more graceful. There was one man on board, who sate at the helm, and he, having no companion, made the boat look more silent than if we could not have seen him. I had almost said the ship, for on that narrow water it appeared as large as the ships which I have watched sailing out of a harbour of the sea. A little further on we passed a stone hut by the lake-side, near which were many charcoal sacks, and we conjectured that the vessel had been depositing charcoal brought from other parts of Loch Awe to be carried to the iron-works at Loch Etive. A little further on we came to the end of the lake, but where exactly it ended was not easy to determine, for the river was as broad as the lake, and we could only say when it became positively a river by the rushing of the water. It is, indeed, a grand stream, the quantity of water being very large, frequently forming rapids, and always flowing very quickly; but its greatness is short-lived, for, after a course of three miles, it is lost in the great waters of Loch Etive, a sea loch.
Crossed a bridge, and climbing a hill towards Taynuilt, our baiting-place, we saw a hollow to the right below us, through which the river continued its course between rocks and steep banks of wood. William turned aside to look into the dell, but I was too much tired. We had left it, two or three hundred yards behind, an open river, the hills, enclosing the branch of the lake, having settled down into irregular slopes. We were glad when we reached Taynuilt, a village of huts, with a chapel and one stone house, which was the inn. It had begun to rain, and I was almost benumbed with the cold, besides having a bad headache; so it rejoiced me to see kind looks on the landlady's face, and that she was willing to put herself in a bustle for our comfort; we had a good fire presently, and breakfast was set out eggs, preserved gooseberries, excellent cream, cheese, and butter, but no wheat bread, and the oaten cakes were so hard I could not chew them. We wished to go upon Loch Etive; so, having desired the landlady to prepare a fowl for supper, and engaged beds, which she promised us willingly a proof that we were not in the great road we determined to find our way to the lake and endeavour to procure a boat. It rained heavily, but we went on, hoping the sky would clear up.
Walked through unenclosed fields, a sort of half-desolate country; but when we came to the mouth of the river which issues out of Loch Awe, and which we had to cross by a ferry, looking up that river we saw that the vale down which it flowed was richly wooded and beautiful.
We were now among familiar fireside names. We could see the town of Buna we, a place of which the old woman with whom William lodged ten years at Hawkshead used to tell tales half as long as an ancient romance. It is a small village or port on the same side of Loch Etive on which we stood, and at a little distance is a house built by a Mr. Knott of Coniston Water-head, a partner in the iron-foundry at Bunawe, in the service of whose family the old woman had spent her youth. It was an ugly yellow-daubed building, staring this way and that, but William looked at it with pleasure for poor Ann Tyson's sake. 13 We hailed the ferry-boat, and a little boy came to fetch us; he rowed up against the stream with all his might for a considerable way, and then yielding to it, the boat was shot towards the shore almost like an arrow from a bow. It was pleasing to observe the dexterity with which the lad managed his oars, glorying in the appearance of danger for he observed us watching him, and afterwards, while he conveyed us over, his pride redoubled; for my part, I was completely dizzy with the swiftness of the motion.
We could not have a boat from the ferry, but were told that if we would walk to a house half a mile up the river, we had a chance of getting one. I went a part of the way with William, and then sate down under the umbrella near some houses. A woman came out to talk with me, and pressed me to take shelter in her house, which I refused, afraid of missing William. She eyed me with extreme curiosity, asking fifty questions respecting the object of our journey. She told me that it rained most parts of the year there, and that there was no chance of fine weather that day; and I believe when William came to tell me that we could have a boat, she thought I was half crazed. We went down to the shore of the lake, and, after having sate some time under a wall, the boatman came to us, and we went upon the water. At first it did not rain heavily, and the air was not cold, and before we had gone far we rejoiced that we had not been faint-hearted. The loch is of a considerable width, but the mountains are so very high that, whether we were close under them or looked from one shore to the other, they maintained their dignity. I speak of the higher part of the loch, above the town of Bunawe and the large river, for downwards they are but hills, and the water spreads out wide towards undetermined shores. On our right was the mountain Cruachan, rising directly from the lake, and on the opposite side another mountain, called Ben Durinish, craggy, and exceedingly steep, with wild wood growing among the rocks and stones. We crossed the water, which was very rough in the middle, but calmer near the shores, and some of the rocky basins and little creeks among the rocks were as still as a mirror, and they were so beautiful with the reflection of the orange-coloured seaweed growing on the stones or rocks, that a child, with a child's delight in gay colours, might have danced with joy at the sight of them. It never ceased raining, and the tops of the mountains were concealed by mists, but as long as we could see across the water we were contented; for though little could be seen of the true shapes and permanent appearances of the mountains, we saw enough to give us the most exquisite delight: the powerful lake which filled the large vale, roaring torrents, clouds floating on the mountain sides, sheep that pastured there, sea-birds and land-birds. We sailed a considerable way without coming to any houses or cultivated fields. There was no horse-road on either side of the loch, but a person on foot, as the boatman told us, might make his way at the foot of Ben Durinish, namely on that side
of the loch on which we were; there was, however, not the least track to be seen, and it must be very difficult and laborious. We happened to say that we were going to Glen Coe, which would be the journey of a long day and a half, when one of the men, pointing to the head of the loch, replied that if we were there we should be but an hour's walk from Glen Coe. Though it continued raining, and there was no hope that the rain would cease, we could not help wishing to go by that way: it was an adventure; we were not afraid of trusting ourselves to the hospitality of the Highlanders, and we wanted to give our horse a day's rest, his back having been galled by the saddle. The owner of the boat, who understood English much better than the other man, his helper, said he would make inquiries about the road at a farm-house a little further on. He was very ready to talk with us, and was rather an interesting companion; he spoke after a slow and solemn manner, in book and sermon language and phrases:
When we came to the farm-house of which the man had spoken, William and he landed to make the necessary inquiries. It was a thatched house at the foot of the high mountain Ben Durinish a few patches or little beds of corn belonging to it; but the spot was pastoral, the green grass growing to the walls of the house. The dwelling-house was distinguished from the outer buildings, which were numerous, making it look like two or three houses, as is common in Scotland, by a chimney and one small window with sash-panes; on one side was a little woody glen, with a precipitous stream that fell into the bay, which was perfectly still, and bordered with the rich orange-colour reflected from the sea-weed. Cruachan, on the other side of the lake, was exceedingly grand, and appeared of an enormous height, spreading out two large arms that made a cove down which fell many streams swoln by the rain, and in the hollow of the cove were some huts which looked like a village. The top of the mountain was concealed from us by clouds, and the mists floated high and low upon the sides of it.
William came back to the boat highly pleased with the cheerful hospitality and kindness of the woman of the house, who would scarcely permit him and his guide to go away without taking some refreshment. She was the only person at home, so they could not obtain the desired information; but William had been well repaid for the trouble of landing; indeed, rainy as it was, I regretted that I had not landed also, for I should have wished to bear away in my memory a perfect image of this place, the view from the doors, as well as the simple Highland comforts and contrivances which were near it. I think I never saw a retirement that would have so completely satisfied me, if I had wanted to be altogether shut out from the world, and at the same time among the grandest of the works of God; but it must be remembered that mountains are often so much dignified by clouds, mists, and other accidents of weather, that one could not know them again in the full sunshine of a summer's noon. But, whatever the mountains may be in their own shapes, the farm-house, with its pastoral grounds and corn fields won from the mountain, its warm out-houses in irregular stages one above another on the side of the hill, the rocks, the stream, and sheltering bay, must at all times be interesting objects. The household boat lay at anchor, chained to a rock, which, like the whole border of the lake, was edged with sea-weed, and some fishing-nets were hung upon poles, affecting images, which led our thoughts out to the wide ocean, yet made these solitudes of the mountains bear the impression of greater safety and more deep seclusion.
The rain became so heavy that we should certainly have turned back if we had not felt more than usual courage from the pleasure we had enjoyed, which raised hope where none was. There were some houses a little higher up, and we determined to go thither and make further inquiries. We could now hardly see to the other side of the lake, yet continued to go on, and presently heard some people pushing through a thicket close to us, on which the boatman called out, 'There 's one that can tell us something about the road to Glen Coe, for he was born there.' We looked up and saw a ragged, lame fellow, followed by some others, with a fishing-rod over his shoulder; and he was making such good speed through the boughs that one might have half believed he was the better for his lame leg. He was the head of a company of tinkers, who, as the men told us, travel with their fishing-rods as duly as their hammers. On being hailed by us the whole company stopped; and their lame leader and our boatmen shouted to each other in Erse a savage cry to our ears, in that lonely and romantic place. We could not learn from the tinker all we wished to know, therefore when we came near to the houses William landed again with the owner of the boat. The rain was now so heavy that we could see nothing at all not even the houses whither William was going.
We had given up all thought of proceeding further at that time, but were desirous to know how far that road to Glen Coe was practicable for us. They met with an intelligent man, who was at work with others in a hay field, though it rained so heavily; he gave them the information they desired, and said that there was an acquaintance of his between that place and Glen Coe, who, he had no doubt, would gladly accommodate us with lodging and anything else we might need. When William returned to the boat we shaped our course back again down the water, leaving the head of Loch Etive not only unvisited, but unseen to our great regret. The rain was very heavy; the wind had risen, and both wind and tide were against us, so that it was hard labour for the boatmen to push us on. They kept as close to the shore as they could, to be under the wind; but at the doubling of many of the rocky points the tide was so strong that it was difficult to get on at all, and I was sometimes afraid that we should be dashed against the rocks, though I believe, indeed, there was not much danger.
Came down the same side of the lake under Ben Durinish, and landed at a ferry-house opposite to Bunawe, where we gave the men a glass of whisky; but our chief motive for landing was to look about the place, which had a most wild aspect at that time. It was a low promontory, pushed far into the water, narrowing the lake exceedingly; in the obscurity occasioned by the mist and rain it appeared to be an island; it was stained and weatherbeaten, a rocky place, seeming to bear no produce but such as might be cherished by cold and storms, lichens or the incrustations of sea rocks. We rowed right across the water to the mouth of the river of Loch Awe, our boat following the ferry-boat which was conveying the tinker crew to the other side, whither they were going to lodge, as the men told us, in some kiln, which they considered as their right and privilege a lodging always to be found where there was any arable land for every farm has its kiln to dry the corn in: another proof of the wetness of the climate. The kilns are built of stone, covered in, and probably as good a shelter as the huts in which these Highland vagrants were born. They gather sticks or heather for their fire, and, as they are obstinate beggars, for the men said they would not be denied, they probably have plenty of food with little other trouble than that of wandering in search of it, for their smutty faces and tinker equipage serve chiefly for a passport to a free and careless life. It rained very heavily, and the wind blew when we crossed the lake, and their boat and ours went tilting over the high waves. They made a romantic appearance; three women were of the party; two men rowed them over; the lame fellow sate at one end of the boat, and his companion at the other, each with an enormous fishing-rod, which looked very graceful, something like masts to the boat. When we had landed at the other side we saw them, after having begged at the ferry-house, strike merrily through the fields, no doubt betaking themselves to their shelter for the night.
We were completely wet when we reached the inn; the landlady wanted to make a fire for me up-stairs, but I went into her own parlour to undress, and her daughter, a pretty little girl, who could speak a few words of English, waited on me; I rewarded her with one of the penny books bought at Dumfries for Johnny, with which she was greatly delighted. We had an excellent supper fresh salmon, a fowl, gooseberries and cream, and potatoes; good beds; and the next morning boiled milk and bread, and were only charged seven shillings and sixpence for the whole horse, liquor, supper, and the two breakfasts. We thought they had made a mistake, and told them so for it was only just half as much as we had paid the day before at Dalmally, the case being that Dalmally is in the main road of the tourists. The landlady insisted on my bringing away a little cup instead of our tin can, which she told me had been taken from the car by some children: we set no little value on this cup as a memorial of the good woman's honesty and kindness, and hoped to have brought it home.
Friday, September 2d. Departed at about seven o'clock this morning, having to travel eight miles down Loch Etive, and then to cross a ferry. Our road was at first at a considerable distance from the lake, and out of sight of it, among undulating hills covered with coppice woods, resembling the country between Coniston and Winder-mere, but it afterwards carried us close to the water's edge; and in this part of our ride we were disappointed. We knew that the high mountains were all at the head of the lake, therefore had not expected the same awful grandeur which we beheld the day before, and perceived by glimpses; but the gentleman whom we met with at Dalmally had told us that there were many fine situations for gentlemen's seats on this part of the lake, which had made us expect greater loveliness near the shores, and better cultivation. It is true there are pleasant bays, with grounds prettily sloping to the water, and coppice woods, where houses would stand in shelter and sun, looking on the lake; but much is yet wanting waste lands to be ploughed, peat-mosses drained, hedgerows reared; and the woods demand a grant of longer life than is now their privilege.
But after we had journeyed about six miles a beautiful scene opened upon us. The morning had been gloomy, and at this time the sun shone out, scattering the clouds. We looked right down the lake, that was covered with streams of dazzling sunshine, which revealed the indentings of the dark shores. On a bold promontory, on the same side of the loch where we were, stood an old castle, an irregular tall building, not without majesty; and beyond, with leagues of water between, our eyes settled upon the island of Mull, a high mountain, green in the sunshine, and overcast with clouds, an object as inviting to the fancy as the evening sky in the west, and, though of a terrestrial green, almost as visionary. We saw that it was an island of the sea, but were unacquainted with its name; it was of a gem-like colour, and as soft as the sky. The shores of Loch Etive, in their moorish, rocky wildness, their earthly bareness, as they lay in length before us, produced a contrast which, with the pure sea, the brilliant sunshine, the long distance, contributed to the aerial and romantic power with which the mountain island was invested.
Soon after, we came to the ferry. The boat being on the other shore, we had to wait a considerable time, though the water was not wide, and our call was heard immediately. The boatmen moved with surly tardiness, as if glad to make us know they were our masters. At this point the lake was narrowed to the breadth of not a very wide river by a round ear or promontory on the side on which we were, and a low ridge of peat-mossy ground on the other. It was a dreary place, shut out from the beautiful prospect of the Isle of Mull, and Dunstaffnage Castle so the fortress was called. Four or five men came over with the boat; the horse was unyoked, and being harshly driven over rough stones, which were as slippery as ice, with slimy seaweed, he was in terror before he reached the boat, and they completed the work by beating and pushing him by main force over the ridge of the boat, for there was no open end, or plank, or any other convenience for shipping either horse or carriage. I was very uneasy when we were launched on the water. A blackguard-looking fellow, blind of one eye, which I could not but think had been put out in some strife or other, held him by force like a horse-breaker, while the poor creature fretted, and stamped with his feet against the bare boards, frightening himself more and more with every stroke; and when we were in the middle of the water I would have given a thousand pounds to have been sure that we should reach the other side in safety. The tide was rushing violently in, making a strong eddy with the stream of the loch, so that the motion of the boat and the noise and foam of the waves terrified him still more, and we thought it would be impossible to keep him in the boat, and when we were just far enough from the shore to have been all drowned he became furious, and, plunging desperately, his hind-legs were in the water, then, recovering himself, he beat with such force against the boat-side that we were afraid he should send his feet through. All the while the men were swearing terrible oaths, and cursing the poor beast, redoubling their curses when we reached the landing-place, and whipping him ashore in brutal triumph.
We had only room for half a heartful of joy when we set foot on dry land, for another ferry was to be crossed five miles further. We had intended breakfasting at this house if it had been a decent place; but after this affair we were glad to pay the men off and depart, though I was not well, and needed refreshment. The people made us more easy by assuring us that we might easily swim the horse over the next ferry. The first mile or two of our road was over a peat moss; we then came near to the sea-shore, and had beautiful views backwards towards the Island of Mull and Dunstaffnage Castle, and forward where the sea ran up between the hills. In this part, on the opposite side of the small bay or elbow of the sea, was a gentleman's house on a hill-side (Lochnell House), and a building on the hill-top which we took for a lighthouse, but were told that it belonged to the mansion, and was only lighted up on rejoicing days the laird's birthday, for instance.
Before we had left the peat-moss to travel close to the sea-shore we delighted ourselves with looking on a range of green hills, in shape like those bordering immediately upon the sea, abrupt but not high; they were, in fact, a continuation of the same; but retiring backwards, and rising from the black peat-moss. These hills were of a delicate green, uncommon in Scotland; a foaming rivulet ran down one part, and near it lay two herdsmen full in the sun, with their dogs, among a troop of black cattle which were feeding near, and sprinkled over the whole range of hills a pastoral scene, to our eyes the more beautiful from knowing what a delightful prospect it must overlook. We now came under the steeps by the sea-side, which were bold rocks, mouldering scars, or fresh with green grass. Under the brow of one of these rocks was a burying-ground, with many upright grave-stones and hay-cocks between, and fenced round by a wall neatly sodded. Near it were one or two houses, with out-houses under a group of trees, but no chapel. The neatness of the burying-ground would in itself have been noticeable in any part of Scotland where we have been; but it was more interesting from its situation than for its own sake within the sound of the gentlest waves of the sea, and near so many quiet and beautiful objects. There was a range of hills opposite, which we were here first told were the hills of Morven, so much sung of by Ossian. We consulted with some men respecting the ferry, who advised us by all means to send our horse round the loch, and go ourselves over in the boat: they were very civil, and seemed to be intelligent men, yet all disagreed about the length of the loch, though we were not two miles from it: one said it was only six miles long, another ten or fifteen, and afterwards a man whom we met told us it was twenty.
We lost sight of the sea for some time, crossing a half-cultivated space, then reached Loch Creran, a large irregular sea loch, with low sloping banks, coppice woods, and uncultivated grounds, with a scattering of corn fields; as it appeared to us,' very thinly inhabited: mountains at a distance. We found only women at home at the ferry-house. I was faint and cold, and went to sit by the fire, but, though very much needing refreshment, I had not heart to eat anything there the house was so dirty, and there were so many wretchedly dirty women and children:^ yet perhaps I might have got over the dirt, though I believe there are few ladies who would not have been turned sick by it, if there had not been a most disgusting combination of laziness and coarseness in the countenances and manners of the women, though two of them were very handsome. It was a small hut, and four women were living in it: one, the mother of the children and mistress of the house; the others I supposed to be lodgers, or perhaps servants; but there was no work amongst them. They had just taken from the fire a great pan full of potatoes, which they mixed up with milk, all helping themselves out of the same vessel, and the little children put in their dirty hands to dig out of the mess at their pleasure. I thought to myself, How light the labour of such a house as this! Little sweeping, no washing of floors, and as to scouring the table, I believe it was a thing never thought of.
After a long time the fenyman came home; but we had to wait yet another hour for the tide. In the meanwhile our horse took fright in consequence of his terror at the last ferry, ran away with the car, and dashed out umbrellas, greatcoats, etc.; but luckily he was stopped before any serious mischief was done. We had determined, whatever it cost, not to trust ourselves with him again in the boat; but sending him round the lake seemed almost out of the question, there being no road, and probably much difficulty in going round with a horse; so after some deliberation with the ferryman it was agreed that he should swim over. The usual place of ferrying was very broad, but he was led to the point of a peninsula at a little distance. It being an unusual affair, indeed, the people of the house said that he was the first horse that had ever swum over, we had several men on board, and the mistress of the house offered herself as an assistant: we supposed for the sake of a share in eighteen-pennyworth of whisky which her husband called for without ceremony, and of which she and the young lasses, who had helped to push the boat into the water, partook as freely as the men. At first I feared for the horse: he was frightened, and strove to push himself under the boat; but I was soon tolerably easy, for he went on regularly and well, and after from six to ten minutes swimming landed in safety on the other side. Poor creature! he stretched out his nostrils and stared wildly while the man was trotting him about to warm him, and when he put him into the car he was afraid of the sound of the wheels. For some time our road was up a glen, the banks chiefly covered with coppice woods, an unpeopled, but, though without grandeur, not a dreary tract.
Came to a moor and descended into a broad vale, which opened to Loch Linnhe, an arm of the sea, the prospect being shut in by high mountains, on which the sun was shining among mists and resting clouds. A village and chapel stood on the opposite hill; the hills sloped prettily down to the bed of the vale, a large level area the grounds in general cultivated, but not rich. We went perhaps half a mile down the vale, when our road struck right across it towards the village on the hill-side. We overtook a tall, well-looking man, seemingly about thirty years of age, driving a cart, of whom we inquired concerning the road, and the distance to Portnacroish, our baiting-place. We made further inquiries respecting our future journey, which he answered in an intelligent manner, being perfectly acquainted with the geography of Scotland. He told us that the village which we saw before us and the whole tract of country was called Appin. William said that it was a pretty wild place, to which the man replied, 'Sir, it is a very bonny place if you did but see it on a fine day,' mistaking William's praise for a half-censure; I must say, however, that we hardly ever saw a thoroughly pleasing place in Scotland, which had not something of wildness in its aspect of one sort or other. It came from many causes here: the sea, or sea-loch, of which we only saw as it were a glimpse crossing the vale at the foot of it, the high mountains on the opposite shore, the unenclosed hills on each side of the vale, with black cattle feeding on them, the simplicity of the scattered huts, the half-sheltered, half-exposed situation of the village, the imperfect culture of the fields, the distance from any city or large town, and the very names of Morven and Appin, particularly at such a time, when old Ossian's old friends, sunbeams and mists, as like ghosts as any in the mid-afternoon could be, were keeping company with them. William did all he could to efface the unpleasant impression he had made on the Highlander, and not without success, for he was kind and communicative when we walked up the hill towards the village. He had been a great traveller, in Ireland and elsewhere; but I believe that he had visited no place so beautiful to his eyes as his native home, the strath of Appin under the heathy hills.
We arrived at Portnacroish soon after parting from this man. It is a small village a few huts and an indifferent inn by the side of the loch. Ordered a fowl for dinner, had a fire lighted, and went a few steps from the door up the road, and turning aside into a field stood at the top of a low eminence, from which, looking down the loch to the sea through a long vista of hills and mountains, we beheld one of the most delightful prospects that, even when we dream of fairer worlds than this, it is possible for us to conceive in our hearts. A covering of clouds rested on the long range of the hills of Morven, mists floated very near to the water on their sides, and were slowly shifting about: yet the sky was clear, and the sea, from the reflection of the sky, of an ethereal or sapphire blue, which was intermingled in many places, and mostly by gentle gradations, with beds of bright dazzling sunshine; green islands lay on the calm water, islands far greener, for so it seemed, than the grass of other places; and from their excessive beauty, their unearthly softness, and the great distance of many of them, they made us think of the islands of the blessed in the Vision of Mirza a resemblance more striking from the long tract of mist which rested on the top of the steeps of Morven. The view was endless, and though not so wide, had something of the intricacy of the islands and water of Loch Lomond as we saw them from Inch-ta-vanach; and yet how different! At Loch Lomond we could never forget that it was an inland lake of fresh water, nor here that it was the sea itself, though among multitudes of hills. Immediately below us, on an island a few yards from the shore, stood an old keep or fortress (Castle Stalker); the vale of Appin opened to the water-side, with cultivated fields and cottages. If there were trees near the shore they contributed little to the delightful effect of the scene: it was the immeasurable water, the lofty mist-covered steeps of Morven to the right, the emerald islands without a bush or tree, the celestial colour and brightness of the calm sea, and the innumerable creeks and bays, the communion of land and water as far as the eye could travel. My description must needs be languid; for the sight itself was too fair to be remembered. We sate a long time upon the hill, and pursued our journey at about four o'clock. Had an indifferent dinner, but the cheese was so excellent that William wished to buy the remainder; but the woman would not consent to sell it, and forced us to accept a large portion of it.
We had to travel up the loch, leaving behind us the beautiful scene which we had viewed with such delight before dinner. Often, while we were climbing the hill, did we stop to look back, and when we had gone twenty or thirty yards beyond the point where we had the last view of it, we left the car to the care of some children who were coming from school, and went to take another farewell, always in the hope of bearing away a more substantial remembrance. Travelled for some miles along a road which was so smooth it was more like a gravel walk in a gentle man's grounds than a public highway. Probably the country is indebted for this excellent road to Lord Tweeddale,* now a prisoner in France. His house stands upon an eminence within a mile of Portnacroish, commanding the same prospect which I have spoken of, except that it must lose something in not having the old fortress at the foot of it indeed, it is not to be seen at all from the house or grounds. "We travelled under steep hills, stony or smooth, with coppice-woods and patches of cultivated land, and houses here and there; and at every hundred yards, I may almost venture to say, a streamlet, narrow as a ribbon, came tumbling down, and, crossing our road, fell into the lake below. On the opposite shore, the hills namely, the continuation of the hills of Morven were stern and severe, rising like upright walls from the water's edge, and in colour more resembling rocks than hills, as they appeared to us. We did not see any house, or any place where it was likely a house could stand, for many miles; but as the loch was broad we could not perhaps distinguish the objects thoroughly. A little after sunset our road led us from the vale of the loch. We came to a small river, a bridge, a mill, and some cottages at the foot of a hill, and close to the loch.
* George, seventh Marquis of Tweeddale, being in France in 1803, was detained by Bonaparte, and died at Verdun, 9th August 1804. Ed.
Did not cross the bridge, but went up the brook, having it on our left, and soon found ourselves in a retired valley, scattered over with many grey huts, and surrounded on every side by green hills. The hay grounds in the middle of the vale were unenclosed, which was enough to keep alive the Scottish wildness, here blended with exceeding beauty; for there were trees growing irregularly or in clumps all through the valley, rocks or stones here and there, which, with the people at work, hay-cocks sprinkled over the fields, made the vale look full and populous. It was a sweet time of the evening: the moon was up; but there was yet so much of day that her light was not perceived. Our road was through open fields; the people suspended their work as we passed along, and leaning on their pitchforks or rakes, with their arms at their sides, or hanging down, some in one way, some in another, and no two alike, they formed most beautiful groups, the outlines of their figures being much more distinct than by day, and all that might have been harsh or unlovely softened down. The dogs were, as usual, attendant on their masters, and, watching after us, they barked aloud; yet even their barking hardly disturbed the quiet of the place.
I cannot say how long this vale was; it made the larger half of a circle, or a curve deeper than that of half a circle, before it opened again upon the loch. It was less thoroughly cultivated and woody after the last turning the hills steep and lofty. We met a very tall stout man, a fine figure, in a Highland bonnet, with a little girl, driving home their cow: he accosted us, saying that we were late travellers, and that we had yet four miles to go before we should reach Ballachulish a long way, uncertain as we were respecting our accommodations. He told us that the vale was called the Strath of Duror, and when we said it was a pretty place, he answered, Indeed it was, and that they lived very comfortably there, for they had a good master, Lord Tweeddale, whose imprisonment he lamented, speaking earnestly of his excellent qualities. At the end of the vale we came close upon a large bay of the loch, formed by a rocky hill, a continuation of the ridge of high hills on the left side of the strath, making a very grand promontory, under which was a hamlet, a cluster of huts, at the water's edge, with their little fleet of fishing-boats at anchor, and behind, among the rocks, a hundred slips of corn, slips and patches, often no bigger than a garden such as a child, eight years old, would make for sport: it might have been the work of a small colony from China. There was something touching to the heart in this appearance of scrupulous industry, and excessive labour of the soil, in a country where hills and mountains, and even valleys, are left to the care of nature and the pleasure of the cattle that feed among them. It was, indeed, a very interesting place, the more so being in perfect contrast with the few houses at the entrance of the strath a sea hamlet, without trees, under a naked stony mountain, yet perfectly sheltered, standing in the middle of a large bay which half the winds that travel over the lake can never visit. The other, a little bowery spot, with its river, bridge, and mill, might have been a hundred miles from the sea-side.
The moon was now shining, and, though it reminded us how far the evening was advanced, we stopped for many minutes before we could resolve to go on; we saw nothing stirring, neither men, women, nor cattle; but the linen was still bleaching by the stony rivulet, which ran near the houses in water-breaks and tiny cataracts. For the first half mile after we had left this scene there was nothing remarkable; and afterwards we could only see the hills, the sky, the moon, and moonlight water. When we came within, it might be, half a mile of Ballachulish, the place where we were to lodge, the loch narrowed very much, the hills still continuing high. I speak inaccurately, for it split into two divisions, the one along which we went being called Loch Leven.
The road grew very bad, and we had an anxious journey till we saw a light before us, which with great joy we assured ourselves was from the inn; but what was our distress when, on going a few steps further, we came to a bridge half broken down, with bushes laid across to prevent travellers from going over. After some perplexity we determined that I should walk on to the house before us for we could see that the bridge was safe for foot-passengers and ask for assistance. By great good luck, at this very moment four or five men came along the road towards us and offered to help William in driving the car through the water, which was not very deep at that time, though, only a few days before, the damage had been done to the bridge by a flood.
I walked on to the inn, ordered tea, and was conducted into a lodging room. I desired to have a fire, and was answered with the old scruple about 'giving fire,' with, at the same time, an excuse 'that it was so late,' the girl, however, would ask the landlady, who was lying-in; the fire was brought immediately, and from that time the girl was very civil. I was not, however, quite at ease, for William stayed long, and I was going to leave my fire to seek after him, when I heard him at the door with the horse and car. The horse had taken fright with the roughness of the river-bed and the rattling of the wheels the second fright in consequence of the feny and the men had been obliged to unyoke him and drag the car through, a troublesome affair for William; but he talked less of the trouble and alarm than of the pleasure he had felt in having met with such true good-will and ready kindness in the Highlanders. They drank their glass of whisky at the door, wishing William twenty good wishes, and asking him twice as many questions, if he was married, if he had an estate, where he lived, etc. etc. This inn is the ferry-house on the main road up into the Highlands by Fort William, and here Coleridge, though unknown to us, had slept three nights before (see Appendix D).
Saturday, September 3d. When we have arrived at an unknown place by moonlight, it is never a moment of indifference when I quit it again with the morning light, especially if the objects have appeared beautiful, or in any other way impressive or interesting. I have kept back, unwilling to go to the window, that I might not lose the picture taken to my pillow at night. So it was at Ballachulish: and instantly I felt that the passing away of my own fancies was a loss. The place had appeared exceedingly wild by moonlight; I had mistaken corn fields for naked rocks, and the lake had appeared narrower and the hills more steep and lofty than they really were.
We rose at six o'clock, and took a basin of milk before we set forward on our journey to Glen Coe. It was a delightful morning, the road excellent, and we were in good spirits, happy that we had no more ferries to cross, and pleased with the thought that we were going among the grand mountains which we saw before us at the head of the loch. We travelled close to the water's edge, and were rolling along a smooth road, when the horse suddenly backed, frightened by the upright shafts of a roller rising from behind the wall of a field adjoining the road. William pulled, whipped, and struggled in vain; we both leapt upon the ground, and the horse dragged the car after him, he going backwards down the bank of the loch, and it was turned over, half in the water, the horse lying on his back, struggling in the harness, a frightful sight! I gave up everything; thought that the horse would be lamed, and the car broken to pieces. Luckily a man came up in the same moment, and assisted William in extricating the horse, and, after an hour's delay, with the help of strings and pocket-handkerchiefs, we mended the harness and set forward again, William leading the poor animal all the way, for the regular beating of the waves frightened him, and any little gushing stream that crossed the road would have sent him off. The village where the blacksmith lived was before us a few huts under the mountains, and, as it seemed, at the head of the loch; but it runs further up to the left, being narrowed by a hill above the village, near which, at the edge of the water, was a slate quarry, and many large boats with masts, on the water below, high mountains shutting in the prospect, which stood in single, distinguishable shapes, yet clustered together simple and bold in their forms, and their surfaces of all characters and all colours some that looked as if scarified by fire, others green; and there was one that might have been blasted by an eternal frost, its summit and sides for a considerable way down being as white as hoar-frost at eight o'clock on a winter's morning. No clouds were on the hills; the sun shone bright, but the wind blew fresh and cold.
When we reached the blacksmith's shop, I left William to help to take care of the horse, and went into the house. The mistress, with a child in her arms and two or three running about, received me very kindly, making many apologies for the dirty house, which she partly attributed to its being Saturday; but I could plainly see that it was dirt of all days. I sate in the midst of it with great delight, for the woman's benevolent, happy countenance almost converted her slovenly and lazy way of leaving all things to take care of themselves into a comfort and a blessing.
It was not a Highland hut, but a slated house built by the master of the quarry for the accommodation of his blacksmith, the shell of an English cottage, as if left unfinished by the workmen, without plaster, and with floor of mud. Two beds, with not over-clean bedclothes, were in the room. Luckily for me, there was a good fire and a boiling kettle. The woman was very sorry she had no butter; none was to be had in the village: she gave me oaten and barley bread. We talked over the fire; I answered her hundred questions, and in my turn put some to her. She asked me, as usual, if I was married, how many brothers I had, etc. etc. I told her that William was married, and had a fine boy; to which she replied, ' And the man 's a decent man too.' Her next-door neighbour came in with a baby on her arm, to request that I would accept of some fish, which I broiled in the ashes. She joined in our conversation, but with more shyness than her neighbour, being a very young woman. She happened to say that she was a stranger in that place, and had been bred and born a long way off. On my asking her where, she replied, 'At Leadhills;' and when I told her that I had been there, a joy lighted up her countenance which I shall never forget, and when she heard that it was only a fortnight before, her eyes filled with tears. I was exceedingly affected with the simplicity of her manners; her tongue was now let loose, and she would have talked for ever of Leadhills, of her mother, of the quietness of the people in general, and the goodness of Mrs. Otto, who, she told me, was a 'varra discreet woman.' She was sure we should be 'well put up' at Mrs. Otto's, and praised her house and furniture; indeed, it seemed she thought all earthly comforts were gathered together under the bleak heights that surround the villages of Wanlockhead and Leadhills: and afterwards, when I said it was a wild country thereabouts, she even seemed surprised, and said it was not half so wild as where she lived now. One circumstance which she mentioned of Mrs. Otto I must record, both in proof of her 'discretion,' and the sobriety of the people at Leadhills, namely, that no liquor was ever drunk in her house after a certain hour of the night I have forgotten what hour; but it was an early one, I am sure not later than ten.
The blacksmith, who had come in to his breakfast, was impatient to finish our job, that he might go out into the hay-field, for, it being a fine day, every plot of hay-ground was scattered over with hay-makers. On my saying that I guessed much of their hay must be spoiled, he told me no, for that they had high winds, which dried it quickly, the people understood the climate, 'were clever at the work, and got it in with a blink.' He hastily swallowed his breakfast, dry bread and a basin of weak tea without sugar, and held his baby on his knee till he had done.
The women and I were again left to the fireside, and there were no limits to their joy in me, for they discovered another bond of connexion. I lived in the same part of England from which Mr. Rose, the superintendent of the slate-quarries, and his wife, had come. 'Oh!' said Mrs. Stuart so her neighbour called her, they not giving each other their Christian names, as is common in Cumberland and Westmoreland, 'Oh!' said she, 'what would not I give to see anybody that came from within four or five miles of Leadhills!' They both exclaimed that I must see Mrs. Rose; she would make much of me she would have given me tea and bread and butter and a good breakfast. I learned from the two women, Mrs. Stuart and Mrs. Duncan so the other was called that Stuart had come from Leadhills for the sake of better wages, to take the place of Duncan, who had resigned his office of blacksmith to the quarries, as far as I could learn, in a pet, intending to go to America, that his wife was averse to go, and that the scheme, for this cause and through other difficulties, had been given up. He appeared to be a good-tempered man, and made us a most reasonable charge for mending the car. His wife told me that they must give up the house in a short time to the other blacksmith; she did not know whither they should go, but her husband being a good workman, could find employment anywhere. She hurried me out to introduce me to Mrs. Rose, who was at work in the hay-field; she was exceedingly glad to see one of her country-women, and entreated that I would go up to her house. It was a substantial plain house, that would have held half-a-dozen of the common huts. She conducted me into a sitting-room upstairs, and set before me red and white wine, with the remnant of a loaf of wheaten bread, which she took out of a cupboard in the sitting-room, and some delicious butter. She was a healthy and cheerful-looking woman, dressed like one of our country lasses, and had certainly had no better education than Aggy Ashburner, but she was as a chief in this secluded place, a Madam of the village, and seemed to be treated with the utmost respect.
In our way to and from the house we met several people who interchanged friendly greetings with her, but always as with one greatly superior. She attended me back to the blacksmith's, and would not leave me till she had seen us set forward again on our journey. Mrs. Duncan and Mrs. Stuart shook me cordially, nay, affectionately, by the hand. I tried to prevail upon the former, who had been my hostess, to accept of some money, but in vain; she would not take a farthing, and though I told her it was only to buy something for her little daughter, even seemed grieved that I should think it possible. I forgot to mention that while the blacksmith was repairing the car, we walked to the slate-quarry, where we saw again some of the kind creatures who had helped us in our difficulties the night before. The hovel under which they split their slates stood upon an out-jutting rock, a part of the quarry rising immediately out of the water, and commanded a fine prospect down the loch below Ballachulish, and upwards towards the grand mountains, and the other horn of the vale where the lake was concealed. The blacksmith drove our car about a mile of the road; we then hired a man and horse to take me and the car to the top of Glen Coe, being afraid that if the horse backed or took fright we might be thrown down some precipice.
But before we departed we could not resist our inclination to climb up the hill which I have mentioned as appearing to terminate the loch. The mountains, though inferior to those of Glen Coe, on the other side are very majestic; and the solitude in which we knew the unseen lake was bedded at their feet was enough to excite our longings. We climbed steep after steep, far higher than they appeared to us, and I was going to give up the accomplishment of our aim, when a glorious sight on the mountain before us made me forget my fatigue. A slight shower had come on, its skirts falling upon us, and half the opposite side of the mountain was wrapped up in rainbow light, covered as by a veil with one dilated rainbow: so it continued for some minutes; and the shower and rainy clouds passed away as suddenly as they had come, and the sun shone again upon the tops of all the hills. In the meantime we reached the wished-for point, and saw to the head of the loch. Perhaps it might not be so beautiful as we had imaged it in our thoughts, but it was beautiful enough not to disappoint us, a narrow deep valley, a perfect solitude, without house or hut. One of the hills was thinly sprinkled with Scotch firs, which appeared to be the survivors of a large forest: they were the first natural wild Scotch firs we had seen. Though thinned of their numbers, and left, comparatively, to a helpless struggle with the elements, we were much struck with the gloom, and even grandeur, of the trees.
Hastened back again to join the car, but were tempted to go a little out of our way to look at a nice white house belonging to the laird of Glen Coe, which stood sweetly in a green field under the hill near some tall trees and coppice woods. At this house the horrible massacre of Glen Coe began, which we did not know when we were there; but the house must have been rebuilt since that time. We had a delightful walk through fields, among copses, and by a river-side: we could have fancied ourselves in some part of the north of England unseen before, it was so much like it, and yet so different. I must not forget one place on the opposite side of the water, where we longed to live a snug white house on the mountain-side, surrounded by its own green fields and woods, the high mountain above, the loch below, and inaccessible v but by means of boats. A beautiful spot indeed it was; but in the retired parts of Scotland a comfortable white house is itself such a pleasant sight, that I believe, without our knowing how or why, it makes us look with a more loving eye on the fields and trees than for their own sakes they deserve.
At about one o'clock we set off, William on our own horse, and I with my Highland driver. He was perfectly acquainted with the country, being a sort of carrier or carrier-merchant or shopkeeper, going frequently to Glasgow with his horse and cart to fetch and carry goods and merchandise. He knew the name of every hill, almost every rock; and I made good use of his knowledge; but partly from laziness, and still more because it was inconvenient, I took no notes, and now I am little better for what he told me. He spoke English tolerably; but seldom understood what was said to him without a 'What's your wull?' We turned up to the right, and were at the foot of the glen the laird's house cannot be said to be in the glen. The afternoon was delightful, the sun shone, the mountain-tops were clear, the lake glittered in the great vale behind us, and the stream of Glen Coe flowed down to it glittering among alder-trees. The meadows of the glen were of the freshest green; one new-built stone house in the first reach, some huts, hillocks covered with wood, alder-trees scattered all over. Looking backward, we were reminded of Patterdale and the head of Ulswater, but forward the greatness of the mountains overcame every other idea.
The impression was, as we advanced up to the head of this first reach, as if the glen were nothing, its loneliness and retirement as if it made up no part of my feeling: the mountains were all in all. That which fronted us I have forgotten its name was exceedingly lofty, the surface stony, nay, the whole mountain was one mass of stone, wrinkled and puckered up together. At the second and last reach for it is not a winding vale it makes a quick turning almost at right angles to the first; and now we are in the depths of the mountains; no trees in the glen, only green pasturage for sheep, and here and there a plot of hay-ground, and something that tells of former cultivation. I observed this to the guide, who said that formerly the glen had had many inhabitants, and that there, as elsewhere in the Highlands, there had been a great deal of corn where now the lands were left waste, and nothing fed upon them but cattle. I cannot attempt to describe the mountains. I can only say that I thought those on our right for the other side was only a continued high ridge or craggy barrier, broken along the top into petty spiral forms were the grandest I had ever seen. It seldom happens that mountains in a very clear air look exceedingly high, but these, though we could see the whole of them to their very summits, appeared to me more majestic in their own nakedness than our imaginations could have conceived them to be, had they been half hidden by clouds, yet showing some of their highest pinnacles. They were such forms as Milton might be supposed to have had in his mind when he applied to Satan that sublime expression
The first division of the glen, as I have said, was scattered over with rocks, trees, and woody hillocks, and cottages were to be seen here and there. The second division is bare and stony, huge mountains on all sides, with a slender pasturage in the bottom of the valley; and towards the head of it is a small lake or tarn, and near the tarn a single inhabited dwelling, and some unfenced hay-ground a simple impressive scene! Our road frequently crossed large streams of stones, left by the mountain-torrents, losing all appearance of a road. After we had passed the tarn the glen became less interesting, or rather the mountains, from the manner in which they are looked at; but again, a little higher up, they resume their grandeur. The river is, for a short space, hidden between steep rocks: we left the road, and, going to the top of one of the rocks, saw it foaming over stones, or lodged in dark black dens; birch-trees grew on the inaccessible banks, and a few old Scotch firs towered above them. At the entrance of the glen the mountains had been all without trees, but here the birches climb very far up the side of one of them opposite to us, half concealing a rivulet, which came tumbling down as white as snow from the very top of the mountain. Leaving the rock, we ascended a hill which terminated the glen. We often stopped to look behind at the majestic company of mountains we had left. Before us was no single paramount eminence, but a mountain waste, mountain beyond mountain, and a barren hollow or basin into which we were descending.
We parted from our companion at the door of a whisky hovel, a building which, when it came out of the work-men's hands with its unglassed windows, would, in that forlorn region, have been little better than a howling place for the winds, and was now half unroofed. On seeing a smoke, I exclaimed, 'Is it possible any people can live there?' when at least half a dozen, men, women, and children, came to the door. They were about to rebuild the hut, and I suppose that they, or some other poor creatures, would dwell there through the winter, dealing out whisky to the starved travellers. The sun was now setting, the air very cold, the sky clear; I could have fancied that it was winter-time, with hard frost. Our guide pointed out King's House to us, our resting-place for the night. We could just distinguish the house at the bottom of the moorish hollow or basin I call it so, for it was nearly as broad as long lying before us, with three miles of naked road winding through it, every foot of which we could see. The road was perfectly white, making a dreary contrast with the ground, which was of a dull earthy brown. Long as the line of road appeared before us, we could scarcely believe it to be three miles I suppose owing to its being unbroken by any one object, and the moor naked as the road itself, but we found it the longest three miles we had yet travelled, for the surface was so stony we had to walk most of the way.
The house looked respectable at a distance a large square building, cased in blue slates to defend it from storms, but when we came close to it the outside forewarned us of the poverty and misery within. Scarce a blade of grass could be seen growing upon the open ground; the heath-plant itself found no nourishment there, appearing as if it had but sprung up to be blighted. There was no enclosure for a cow, no appropriated ground but a small plot like a church-yard, in which were a few starveling dwarfish potatoes, which had, no doubt, been raised by means of the dung left by travellers' horses: they had not come to blossoming, and whether they would either yield fruit or blossom I know not. The first thing we saw on entering the door was two sheep hung up, as if just killed from the barren moor, their bones hardly sheathed in flesh. After we had waited a few minutes, looking about for a guide to lead us into some corner of the house, a woman, seemingly about forty years old, came to us in a great bustle, screaming in Erse, with the most horrible guinea-hen or peacock voice I ever heard, first to one person, then another. She could hardly spare time to show us up-stairs, for crowds of men were in the house drovers, carriers, horsemen, travellers, all of whom she had to provide with supper, and she was, as she told us, the only woman there.
Never did I see such a miserable, such a wretched place, long rooms with ranges of beds, no other furniture except benches, or perhaps one or two crazy chairs, the floors far dirtier than an ordinary house could be if it were never washed, as dirty as a house after a sale on a rainy day, and the rooms being large, and the walls naked, they looked as if more than half the goods had been sold out. We sate shivering in one of the large rooms for three quarters of an hour before the woman could find time to speak to us again; she then promised a fire in another room, after two travellers, who were going a stage further, had finished their whisky, and said we should have supper as soon as possible. She had no eggs, no milk, no potatoes, no loaf-bread, or we should have preferred tea. With length of time the fire was kindled, and, after another hour's waiting, supper came, a shoulder of mutton so hard that it was impossible to chew the little flesh that might be scraped off the bones, and some sorry soup made of barley and water, for it had no other taste.
After supper, the woman, having first asked if we slept on blankets, brought in two pair of sheets, which she begged that I would air by the fire, for they would be dirtied below-stairs. I was very willing, but behold! the sheets were so wet, that it would have been at least a two-hours' job before a far better fire than could be mustered at King's House, for, that nothing might be wanting to make it a place of complete starvation, the peats were not dry, and if they had not been helped out by decayed wood dug out of the earth along with them, we should have had no fire at all. The woman was civil, in her fierce, wild way. She and the house, upon that desolate and extensive Wild, and everything we saw, made us think of one of those places of rendezvous which we read of in novels Ferdinand Count Fathom, or Gil Bias, where there is one woman to receive the booty, and prepare the supper at night. She told us that she was only a servant, but that she had now lived there five years, and that, when but a 'young lassie,' she had lived there also. We asked her if she had always served the same master, 'Nay, nay, many masters, for they were always changing.' I verily believe that the woman was attached to the place like a cat to the empty house when the family who brought her up are gone to live elsewhere. The sheets were so long in drying that it was very late before we went to bed. We talked over our day's adventures by the fireside, and often looked out of the window towards a huge pyramidal mountain (Buchal, the Shepherd of Etive) at the entrance of Glen Coe. All between, the dreary waste was clear, almost, as sky, the moon shining full upon it. A rivulet ran amongst stones near the house, and sparkled with light: I could have fancied that there was nothing else, in that extensive circuit over which we looked, that had the power of motion.
In comparing the impressions we had received at Glen Coe, we found that though the expectations of both had been far surpassed by the grandeur of the mountains, we had upon the whole both been disappointed, and from the same cause: we had been prepared for images of terror, had expected a deep, den-like valley with overhanging rocks, such as William has described in these lines, speaking of the Alps:
The place had nothing of this character, the glen being open to the eye of day, the mountains retiring in independent majesty. Even in the upper part of it, where the stream rushed through the rocky chasm, it was but a deep trench in the vale, not the vale itself, and could only be seen when we were close to it.