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Days at the Coast
Rothesay and a Raid in Bute


Like Macbeth, we have fallen “into the sear and yellow leaf we are now among the golden acres and the blushing orchards of autumn. The woodland choir is silent; the lark has left the songless sky; and in the green gloamin’ of the wood, the merle and the throstle have ceased their musical banter with the echoes. Sole minstrel of the grove, the dear redbreast—the “ Robin redbreast ” of our childhood, the sear-breasted, black-eyed bird of winter—sings solitary on the old apple tree. God bless that beautiful little bird, that ever, in the “ fa’ o’ the year,” in the season of approaching darkness and decay, lends us a sweet voice of consolation and of hope! Yes! the year is wearing to the wane. We see her as a fair woman, past her bloom; the mother of many children, and bedecked with many fruits. In one arm she has a nodding sheaf of golden ears, in the other a glittering sickle, that reminds us of the tanned reaper. Around her broad and open countenance is a wreath of berries—the bluid-red rowan, and the crimsoned haw, and the burning fruit of the sweet-scented rose. But we want thee, gentle reader, to look upon another picture. We want thee, in short, to oblige us by becoming some four or five months younger. To go back with us through the green and yellow fields of autumn—back through the sunny and the odorous meadows of summer—back, back, to renew our acquaintance with that “sweet thing of her teens,” the half-smiling, half-weeping spring. Lend us thy arm, kind Memory, and guide us to the budding dell, where April sleeps amid half-opened flowers. Pshaw! this is a shade too poetical; but really we cannot help ourselves when we venture to throw a leg over Pegasus. We have then no command of our steed; and until our foot is again upon the heather, we know not what we do. To be brief, however, and at the same time to be prosy, we must inform our readers that our present excursion was performed in spring, and that our pictures must, consequently, be executed in the tears and smiles of that most sensitive of all the seasons.

The island of Bute, or the “ isle of beauty,” as a friend of ours felicitously called it, is one of a group which lies in the opening jaws of the Clyde, just where that long meandering serpent yawns itself into the ocean. We have already glanced at Arran, that thing of peaks and crags which rises master of the position at the wedding of river and sea. Arran is the ubest man ” at the aquatic nuptials—a stalwart, buirdly, and somewhat gruesome chiel; Bute is the bridesmaid, with

“A very shower
Of beauty for her earthly dower.”

We admire Arran, and regard him with a mingled feeling of respect and awe. Bute we love with that perfect affection which casteth out all fear. For days, and weeks, and months, we could hang over her fair bosom, and revel in the luxury of her charms. She is not too large for loving either. u She is just as high as our heart,” as somebody says in the world of Shakspeare. Standing on Barone Hill, we have her altogether in the embrace of our eye. According to the trigonometrical people, Bute is about fifteen miles in length, with an average breadth of about three miles and a»hal£ Like Puck, we could put a girdle upon her in forty minutes. But if we followed the wayward humours of her shores—if we traced her bays and headlands; her shelvy cliffs and her sandy beaches; her rugged promontories and her bouldered slopes, we might spend long years of dalliance with the tidy little island. She is, in short, “a thing of beauty,” and a thing of beauty, as Keats has truly informed us, is a joy for ever.

Well, then, suppose yourself, reader (be it observed we purposely omit the gentle and other stereotyped adjectives of courtesy), on the deck of the Rothesay steamer. We have passed Toward Point, and are bearing right down upon the island of our admiration. The bay, the beautiful bay, opens before us, with “ Ballybote ” (as the Highlanders call Rothesay) nestling in its bosom. There are fishing smacks passing to and fro on the rippled water; boys and girls, too, by our troth, are rowing here and there, or dropping their lines in the placid depths. Lazily the white sea-mew goes undulating through the air, or alights like a living flake of foam upon the blue breast of the bay. On the shore we can see the forme but not the faces, of fair ladies sauntering in Search of "caller air,” or, it may be, of sweathearts. Little children are ploutering on the margin, or “doukin” in the wholesome brine; while anxious mammas are poking their heads out of windows and warning their “olive branches” against the dangers of the great deep.

Rothesay Bay is a beautiful semi-ellipse, extending between Ardbeg and Bogany Points, a distance of nearly a mile and a-half. The indentation of the bay is considerable, and just at the deepest portion of the curve stands the royal burgh of Rothesay, the pretty little capital of Bute. The town stretches along the shore and creeps up the adjacent heights in the most pleasant style. About the centre is the wharf and the business parts of the town, while on either wing a long line of villas straggles round the margin of the water. Being built of a darkish coloured stone, Rothesay has a less gay appearance than some of the other towns of the coast. It has a dean, tidy, and regular aspect, however, which is exceedingly inviting, while its snug and well-sheltered situation suggests an agreeable feeling of cosieness and comfort.

Save the county buildings and a few churches, Rothesay possesses few edifices of note. In the very heart of the town, however, she has a noble relic of antiquity. A grim old ruin, standing sternly alone amidst tho houses of yesterday, as if it scorned to be their associate. Girt with a narrow belt of green sward, and a few straggling trees, it seems utterly solitary amidst the reeking houses that have arisen in its vicinity. The castle of Rothesay is of unknown age. Some writers suppose it to have been founded in 1098 by Magnus Barefoot of Norway, when that ambitious potentate took possession of the Western Isles. This is but supposition, however, and there is nothing in the architecture of the structure to indicate the era of its erection. The building consists of a vast circular court, about 140 feet in diameter. The walls are eight feet in thickness, and about seventeen feet high, with battlemented summits. There are also the remains of four sturdy round towers; and between two of these on the north-east is a projecting edifice, which is said to have owed its existence to Robert the Second of Scotland. Quietly nestled in the interior of the court are the remains of a pretty little chapel. It is now roofless and peopled with rank nettles; but the fonts for holy water, and the niches for sculptured saints, are still to be seen in the walls. A dense matting of ivy is flung over the shattered castle, and in the spacious court is a hawthorn of the most majestic proportions. This fine tree has been laid prostrate for many years, but its roots still retain their connection with the soil, and manage to extract from it the means of life. The trunk is not less than six feet in circumference, while there is a mass of green branches above the prostrate giant, which it is difficult to believe can have sprung from one stem. It is indeed a kingly old thorn; and it is with a feeling of regret that we see it thus laid low.

Rothesay Castle has a long tale to tell. As we have mentioned, it is supposed to be of Norwegian origin, and there is an authentic record that it was besieged in 1228 by a king of Norway who wished to extend his sway over the Western Isles. The garrison, on this occasion, was under the command of the Steward of Scotland, and made a most determined resistance. According to the Norwegian historian, “boiling pitch and lead” were poured down upon the assailants. As a protection, the latter formed a kind of portable roof, under which they advanced, and, according to the chronicler, “hewed down the walls, for the stone was soft, and the ramparts fell with them.” For three days the fight continued, but ultimately the invaders were successful, and compelled the garrison to surrender. The Norwegians found much wealth, it is said, in the castle, and one Scottish knight is specially mentioned as having paid for his ransom 300 merks of refined silver. The victory, however, cost the Norwegians a loss of 300 men. The castle was subsequently taken by the Scots, retaken by the Norwegians, and again recovered by the Scots, in whose possession it finally remained. After the battle of Largs the Norse rovers ceased to molest the Scottish coasts, and the Castle of Rothesay became the property of a fierce native chief* named Rudric. By intermarriage with a daughter of this individual, who was a kind of pirate, the castle passed into the hands of the Stuarts, who subsequently became heirs to the Scottish crown. During the usurpation of Edward of England, the castle fell into the hands of the English; but, after Bannockburn, the invaders were driven out by the indomitable Bruce. Robert the Second erected a palace, it is said, near the castle, and lived here between 1376 and 1898. He also created for his eldest son the title of Duke of Rothesay, which still continues to be a designation of the heir-apparent to the British crown. In 1489 Patrick Lindsay, a brother of Lord Lindsay, was dungeoned in Rothesay Castle by order of James IV. The offence was ovei>energy in pleading for a brother, and the enraged monarch sentenced him to confinement where “he would not see his feet for a year.” Rothesay was the place selected, and the opening to the dungeon may be seen by the shuddering visitor to this day. The castle was burned by a brother of the Earl of Argyle in 1685, and has ever since remained a deserted ruin.

We have mentioned the little chapel in the court-yard of the castle, and would now direct our readers’ attention to an old well which is situated in the same spacious arena. Here the garrison found an abundant supply of the pure element while the din of war was raging around the walls. On the destruction of the castle the well was filled up with stones and other rubbish, in which condition it continued till 1816, when it was cleared out by order of the Marquis of Bute. It was supposed that something valuable might have been deposited in the well; but the search was in a great measure fruitless. A number of old coins were turned up, however, among which were a few Scots pennies and groats of the reign of James VI. There were also coins of Charles I. and Charles II., a copper piece of Louis XIII. of France, and a brass farthing token of “The Bull Head Tavern, in Este Smithfield,” probably dropped by one of Cromwell’s veterans while the castle was in the hands of the Protector.

With solemn steps and slow we tread the mazes of this gloomy old structure—now lingering in the shadow of some dreary doorway, and anon threading some labyrinthine passage, with spiders clinging to its sides, and a damp, mouldy odour pervading it like that of the charnel. In those dungeons we can picture to our mind’s eye the poor prisoner sitting in darkness and alone; while that windowed recess seems to fancy’s ken to be still tenanted by the lady of the tower, sitting in pride to watch her lord’s return. There is an abiding stain of blood upon the old castle also ; and if tradition may be credited, it is actually haunted by presences which are not of this earth. This narrow stair behind the ruined chapel, and up which we climb to the battlements, is called “ the bluidy stair,” from a deed of horror of which it was the scene in bygone years. The legend we have heard in prose; but it is better told in a ballad which appeared, a goodly number of years ago, in a clever local publication, called the Salt Water Gazette. We committed the verses to memory at the time; and, reader, if thou wilt sit with us on the green castle wa’ for a brief space, we shall even chaunt them for thy delectation:—

THE BLUIDY STAIR.

Ob, Rothesay's tower is round about,
And Rothesay-s tower is strang;
And loud within its merrie wa’s
The noise o’ wassail rang.

A scald o’ Norway struck the harp,
And a good harper was he;
For hearts beat mad, and looks grew wild
Wi’ his sang o’ victory.

A dark-eved Chief has left the board
Where he sat as lord and liege;
And he call'd aloud amidst the crowd
For Thorflnn, his little foot-page.

"Go tell the stranger Isabel,
That she stir not from the bower,
Till darkness dons her blackest dress,
And midnicht marks the hour.

*And tell the Ladye Isabell
To come when the feast is o’er,
And meet upon the Chapel stair
The Chieftain Rory Mhor."

When the feast was o’er, and a’ was hush’d
In midnicht and in mirk,
A Ladye was seen, like a spirit at e*en,
To pass by the Holy Kirk.

She stood at the foot o’ the chapel stair,
And she heard a footstep’s tread;
For the wild Aorse warrior was there,
Who thus to the Ladye said

“I’m Rory Mhor, the Island Chief;
I’m Roderic, Lord of Bute;
For the Raven o’ Norway flies above,
And the Lion of Scotland is mute.

“I hate your kith, fair Ladye," he said,
I hate your kith and kin;
And I am sworn to be their foe
Till life be dried within.

*Yet kiss me, luvelie Isabell,
And lay your cheek to mine;
Tho’ ye bear the bluid o’ the High Steward,
I’ll woo nae hand but thine ”

“Awa, awal ye rank butcher! ’’
Said the Ladye Isabell,
“For beneath your hand my father dear
And my three brave brothers fell.”

“It’s I bae conquered them,” he said,
“And I will conquer thee;
For if in love ye winna wed,
My leman ye shall be."

“The stars will dreip out their beds o* blue
Ere you in love I wed;
I rather wad fly to the grave and lie
In the mouldy embrace o' the dead.

“I canna love, I winna love
A murderer for my lord;
For even yet my faither’s bluid
Lies lapper'd on your sword.

“And I never will be your base leman,
While death to my dagger is true;
For I hate you. Chief; as the foe of my kin,
And the foe of my country too.”

An eye micht be seen wi’ revenge to gleam.
Like a shot star in a storm;
And a heart was felt to writhe, as if bit
By the never-dying worm.

A straggle was heard on the chapel stair,
And a smother'd shriek of pain—
A deaden'd groan, and a fall on the stone—
And all was silent again.

The morning woke on the Ladye’s bower,
But no Isabell was there;
The morning woke on Rothesay tower,
And bluid was on the stair.

And rain may fa* and time may ca’
Its lazy wheels about;
But the steps are red, and the stains o’ bluid
Will never be washen out

And oft in the mirk and midnicht hour,
When a’ is silent there,
A shriek is heard, and a Ladye is seen
On the steps o’ the Bluidy Stair.

The grand old Castle of Rothesay, in which we have been lingering,

“Lone musing on days that are gone,”

was the predecessor, and, so to speak, sire of the town. Under its wing the infant village was born and nurtured, until, in process of time, it attained sufficient size and importance to be constituted a royal burgh. In its earliest days, of course, the village of Rothesay shared the fluctuating fortunes of its sheltering stronghold. At one period it was the prey of the marauding sea-rovers of Norway; at another it was rescued by the Scots; again it owned the sway of England j and thus, in the lapse of centuries, as one power or another prevailed, it continued to change masters. The usurper Edward, the liberator Bruce, and the stern Protector Cromwell, have successively trodden as conquerors on the devoted soil of Rothesay. They came like shadows, and even so they have departed, while the stem old ruin for which they struggled remains a melancholy memorial of vanished ambitions; and the sea-side hamlet, which then they scorned, has grown in these better days into a beautiful and a wealthy little town. In the year 1400 Rothesay was erected into a royal burgh by charter from Robert III., who seems, as a man of taste, to have entertained a special affection for the locality. James VI. afterwards granted in 1584 a regal confirmation of the privileges conferred upon the burgh by his ancestor. From this period it seems for many years to have progressed steadily in prosperity. Being happily situated between the Highlands and the Lowlands (the natives of which then regarded each other with somewhat like hostile feelings), Rothesay appears to have been recognized as a neutral spot; and here accordingly the Sassenach and the Gael assembled for the transaction of mercantile business. The kilted Celt came here with his cattle, his sheep, and his wool, to exchange them for the linens and the hosiery, the bickers and the edgetools of the more sagacious and canny people of the laigh countrie. It was here alone that the Rob Roys and the Bailie Nicol Jarvies met in peace; and strange, indeed, must have been the scenes which were then enacted within the market-place of Rothesay. We can almost fancy that we still hear the pawkie murmurs of the braid Scotch dialect, mingled with the wild mountain gusts of Gaelic, and the fierce bellowing* of the multitudinous kine. But all these

“Are silent now; or only heard
Like mellowed murmurs of the distant sea.*

A death-blow was aimed at the prosperity of Rothesay by the Argyle family in the year 1700, when the village of Campbelton was, through their interest, erected into a royal burgli, with the view of attracting to that quarter the trade of the Highlands and Isles. Great advantages were held out1 by the Argyle, in his own burgh, to settlers and traders, and1 the result was that Rothesay lost a great portion not only of; its trade but of its population. The shadow of decay fell upon the town, and several of the more deserted streets began to wax ruinous. In 1765 the dawn of better days broke; upon the dreary capital of Bute. It was at that period made; a custom-house station, and subsequently a licensed herring-fishery, both of which events contributed largely to Restore its prosperity. The mouldering gaps which formerly prevailed in its streets were gradually supplemented by tidy edifices, while the town began to spread and throw out feelers, until it far exceeded its previous dimensions, and ; assumed an aspect of greater elegance and comfort. In 1778 an English company, attracted by the overflowings of Loch Fad, established a cotton factory above the town (the first of the kind north of the Tweed), and thus contributed to augment in a material degree the population and the wealth of the community. This establishment, and another which has been since erected, continue in active operation, and furnish employment to a goodly number of the inhabitants. Rothesay also became famous at a comparatively early period as a sea-bathing locality, and it is still visited annually by large flights of those “ saut water people,” who sojourn for a few months in summer at the coast, and who generally leave behind them a pretty fair reward in the shape of £ S. D. for the benefits, real or imaginary, which they enjoy. This has, indeed, been a great source of Wealth to the town of late years, and it has consequently progressed rapidly in size and importance. Long lines of elegant cottages have arisen, and are still rising, in every direction, around the bay and up the adjoining heights. Rothesay has more kirks also, and more denominations than we care to enumerate. Then the shops along the principal promenade are of the most elegant and spacious description, supplying every necessary want, and placing within the reach of the city visitor all the “ comforts of the Saltmarket.” It has its banks and its public offices; its libraries and its reading-rooms; its hotels and its coffee-houses; in short, all that is desirable for the gratification of any ordinary taste may be found, “for a consideration,” on the shores of that most sunny and sweetly sheltered bay.

The town of Rothesay is situated in a spacious hollow, formed by an environment of gentle heights; and is consequently sheltered on three sides from the visitations of the angry blast. Among “a’ the airts the wind can blaw” it is only exposed on the side next the water; and even in that direction the lusty breathings of Boreas are mitigated by the mountains of Cowal. Its atmosphere is in consequence exceedingly mild and equable, even in spring and winter, when less favoured localities are exposed to all the “peltings of the pitiless storm.” Consumptive patients, who shudder elsewhere at the approach of the biting equinoctials, here find a haven of comparative quietude and rest. The final blow may not in every case be averted even here, but the poignancy of the wound is always mitigated, and the dread consummation is generally delayed, while, occasionally, the victim is rescued altogether from an impending doom. Rothesay is, therefore, a favourite haunt of the consumptive. “I shall never forget,” says Miss Sinclair, “the fervour with which a sick young friend of my own once exclaimed, when suffering severely from the sharp arrow-like winds of Edinburgh, ‘Oh! what would I not give for one single gasp of Rothesay air?1” Many, many an outcast from health has uttered a similar exclamation, and dreamed that all would be well again if they were but once more privileged to tread the fresh gowany sward of Bute.

A little to the westward of the town, and forming one of the shoulders of the amphitheatre in which it is situated, is an elevation called the Chapel Hill. This was formerly, as its name indicates, the site of a chapel. The sacred edifice, however, has entirely disappeared; there is not one stone even standing upon another to suggest its “ whereabouts.” We ascend the hill, however, to obtain “a bird’s-eye view” of the town and bay, for which the spot is famous. Nor is our labour unrewarded; for certainly a more lovely glimpse of land and sea than it brings into our ken it were difficult to imagine. At our feet, as it were, lies the town—a curious maze of houses, and streets, and churches, and mills, and shipping, with the stem old castle frowning grimly in the midst. Curling overhead are the blue wreaths from a thousand chimneys, while around is a very wilderness of trees and gardens, in which we can distinguish, in the bright sun of May, the rich glossy green of the bursting leaves, and the first faint flush of the apple bloom, as it reddens in countless buds. Looking seawards, the bay and the waters beyond are seen in a ripple of light, dashed here and there, however, with vast patches of gloom, that come and go with the passing clouds. To the left is the opening of the Kyles, the beautiful entrance to that most lovely and romantic strait which separates Bute from uthe neighbouring island of Great Britain.” How finely wooded is the lofty promontoiy which rises with one stately shoulder to the Kyles, and the other to the vast valley of Loch Striven, which is seen in the distance stretching its huge length away into the wild region of mountain and glen! To the right are the lands of Toward, so finely variegated and adorned with their woods and lawns, their snowy lighthouse, and their verdant slopes, their stately mansion and their castle of other days. That old tower which we can just discern among the surrounding masses of larch and funereal fir was, in former times, the home of a family named Lamont, and as tradition loves to tell, it had the honour, on one occasion, of affording shelter to the fair and unfortunate Mary of Scotland. Such a reminiscence must hallow the old gray walls in the estimation of those, and they are not a few, who still love to cherish the memory of that ill-fated woman. These broad lands have now departed from their ancient owners, and are at present in the possession of a Glasgow family, to whose Wealth and taste they are indebted for at least half their beauty. Formerly Toward was “a bleak and sterile promontory,” now it seems the very home of sylvan loveliness. And for this agreeable change it is indebted to the late Kirkman Finlay, Esq., a gentleman whose name was once a household word in our city, but which, "so runs the world away,” is now seldom heard, even where our* merchant princes most do congregate. "Ay, it’s a bonnie sicht, a bonnie, bonnie sicht,” says an old gentleman (who has, in our musing, approached us unobserved), in answer to our unconscious burst of admiration; 44 an’ I thank Gudeness that my auld een ha’e been privileged to look on’t ance mair. Often and often in the deid o’ the last weary winter, when rowing on a bed o’ anguish—

‘For age has weary dayt,
And nights o’ sleepiest pjin.’

Often, I say, ha’e I thocht o’ the bonnie Chapel Hill o’ Rothesay, where I ha’e spent sae mony happy, happy days langsyne! and as often ha’e I thocht that I wad never see’t in life again! But it wasna sae ordered! It’s near till the tw» score an’ ten years since I used to rin here, a gay, licht-hearfced laddie, little thinking that age or infirmity wad ever come my gate. There’s sair changes since that time. The toon’s no like the same thing ava, and everything about it’s altered a’ thegither. When I look back on the toon that is, and the toon that was, I could fancy mysel’ a stranger in a land o’ strangers. But up here, the auld brown hills and the wide waste o’ sun-shimmering waters look upon me like auld friends, like the friends o’ langsyne, and, auld fule that 1 am, I canna choose but greet—greet like a bairn—for in their presence I feel mysel’ to be indeed a bairn ance mair.”

'While the old man is speaking thus (and it does seem as if Jie were speaking to us, for, as he leans upon his staff, his eyes are on the bay, and on the stern hills beyond), we, of bourse, preserve a respectful silence. In the pause which follows his last words, however, we attempt, with our usual urbanity, to utter a few kindly and sympathizing words to our venerable and unknown companion. We do not succeed in touching the proper string,—

"He sees a hand we cannot see.
Which beckons him away;
He hears a voice we cannot hear,
Which says he must not stay."

—“Na, na, laddie!” says the gray-haired man, “dinna speak to me o’ comfort! I ha’e mony comforts that ye ken nae-thing o', and ane o’ them is jist the luxury o’ thinking on and greetin’ ower auld faces and auld scenes; and anither is, a sure hope that I’ll sune be wi’ the loved and the lost mysel*. But lend me your arm, lad, while I gang doon the brae I’ll never speel again; and dinna ye speak, lad—dinna speak, for d’ye no hear the laverock’s in the sky, and I wad fain listen to the last sang he'll ever sing to me.” Slowly, and with many a pause, we go down the hill, until we arrive at a flower-girt cottage, where a young woman kindly hails my aged friend as “grandfather,” and leads him gently towards the door. “ Farewell, young man, and may God bless you,” he solemnly says, while we are shaking hands at parting; and touched by the incident, we pensively pass upon our way.* Passing from the dying to the dead we make our way through the town, and up a long and handsome avenue of budding beeches to the church-yard of Rothesay. This sequestered u field of graves” is situated on a gentle elevation immediately above the town. It is of considerable extent, and covered with a fresh green sward which is regularly intersected with neatly kept walks, and adorned in many places with shrubbery and flowers. In the midst of the area is the parish church, a spacious, but withal plain looking edifice. In former times there was an ancient Gothic oathedral, dedicated to St. Mary, on the spot; but this was removed some two centuries ago, with the exception of the choir, which still remains in a roofless and ruinous condition. This interesting relic of the past is quite adjacent to the modern church, and, from the style of its architecture, appears to have been erected in the thirteenth century. In an arched recess of the southern wall is the recumbent figure of a knight in armour. The fashion is that of the reign of Robert II. (the king who bestowed the burghal charter upon Rothesay), and the arms are those of royalty; but there is no inscription to indicate who or what the individual was who was designed to be commemorated. The monument has forgotten its mission of memory, and oblivion has long claimed its own. On the opposite side of the structure, also, are the effigies of a mother and child. These are more rudely executed than the former, and the style of the arch indicates a more recent erection. This also has lost its tale. In their day and generation these were doubtless among the great ones of the land; but, save the voiceless image of the forgotten sculptor, there is nothing left to tell that noble dust is here interred.

“So fades, so perishes, grows dim and dies,
All that this world is proud of.”

The undistinguishable green mound of common mortality becomes, in the lapse of time, as legible as the marbled mausoleum of pride. Time and death are a couple of sad levellers—decay has no respect of persons. Shudder as we may at the yellow bones and the grinning skull, there is no evading the dread sentence—M Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” "Go to my lady’s chamber,” says the Lord Hamlet, while handling the fleshless caput of poor Yorick, “and tell her, though she paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come at last.” God help us! poor, frail, fleeting brothers and sisters of the clod as we are— walking shadows on the way to dusty death—wherefore, oh! wherefore should men and women ever puff themselves up with a vain, and unnatural, and ridiculous pride?

Tombstones are notable and impudent liars. He was born and he died is sufficient; all else is nought, or worse than nought. A parade of virtues on a tombstone is as bad as ‘‘painting an inch thick” the gaunt and bony cheeks of a death’s head. It is a cruel mockery of a poor erring and departed brother. One of the best arguments against the existence of ghosts is the fact that grave-stones retain their legibility for such a length of time. Were it otherwise, ninety-nine out of the hundred epitaphs would be at once obliterated by the thin, cold fingers of disgusted apparitions. How some of the departed can sleep under the load of flattery with which their narrow houses are covered is past our comprehension. There is, for instance, an epitaph in the church-yard of Rothesay which so far “out-Herod’s” all that poor human nature could ever possibly have iqerited, that its perusal becomes absolutely disgusting. This precious composition is placed over the grave of a deceased minister, and embodies such an amount of presumptuous and, we will add, unchristian flattery, that it must throw into the shade the utmost efforts of any previous panegyrist of the dead. All the virtues, natural and Christian, under neaven, are heaped unscrupulously upon the head of the deceased pastor. If this tombstone speaks truth, to err is not necessarily human. No mere man since the fall, however, we may very safely assert, has ever manifested a tithe even of the goodness which is here unblushingly ascribed to the lost shepherd of Rothesay. The deceased, for aught we know, may have been a very good man, probably he was, but certain we are that if he could by possibility revisit for a brief space M the glimpses of the moon,” he would shudder at the impious estimate of character engraven upon his own tombstone, and pray to be delivered from the fanatical affection and zeal of his late flock; for it was by them, we presume, that the atrocity was perpetrated. But we are getting into a passion unbecoming the place of graves, and must leave the spot.

Returning to Rothesay as the gloamin* begins to fall, we pass on our way two stately ash trees, one on either side of the road. These are known in the locality as Adam and Eve. They are of considerable age and of truly gigantic proportions. One of them measures 16½ feet in circumference three feet above the ground, and the other 11 feet at a similar elevation. These are understood to be the largest sylvan productions in the island, although there is an oak near Kean’s cottage, on Loch Fad, which almost rivals them in magnitude. This gnarled old monarch of the wood is nearly 11 feet in girth a little above the ground, and it seems to have won the special admiration of the great tragedian during his residence here. It is even said that he expressed a wish to be interred within the shadow of its wide-spreading branches. After a brief inspection of the vast leafy namesakes of our first parents, we seek the shelter of a friendly and hospitable roof wherein to spend the night.

At an early hour of the morning we are up, and having indulged in a breakfast which only the sea air could have justified, we set out upon our road athwart the island* Proceeding eastward by the garrison shore—a most pleasant promenade—with the rippled bay on one hand, and green pastoral slopes on the other, we soon arrive at Bogany Point, at the distance of a mile or so from the town. The shore here is somewhat rocky and water-worn, while abrupt cliffs of a coarse conglomerate approach to within a short distance of the road, which here turns sharply off towards the south. The principal object of note in the Point is a remarkable sulphuretted spring, which was discovered in 1881, and which is supposed by those who are skilled in such matters to be highly medicinal in its qualities. It is sufficiently nauseous, at all events; and we all know to our cost that medicines are generally very unpalatable. The spring used to be much visited by invalids, and a great number of cures are said to have been effected through the agency of its waters. The composition of the fluid, according to the formula of the late Professor Thomson of Glasgow, is as follows:—“In an imperial gallon, or 277,274 cubic inches, there are common salt, 1860.73 grains; sulphate of lime, 125.20; sulphate of soda, 129.77; chloride of magnesium, 32*80; silica, 14.39.” And a pretty mess it is for a person with the slightest pretensions to taste. We tried it, and conscientiously we cannot advise any of our friends who are free from cutaneous disease to venture on a similar ordeal. A little urchin, with a couple of knowing companions, comes innocently forward, just as we are making off, and dips his mouth into the basin. One mouthful of the transparent brine, however, suffices, and in a moment he is bolt upright, sputtering with all his might, and making such wry faces as only “senna or some purgative drug” had ever brought previously within our ken. His comrade imps enjoy the joke amazingly, and laugh with unbounded glee.

Our walk for several miles now is in a southerly direction, and parallel with the shore. On the one hand it is circumscribed by a gentle range of heights, partly covered with wood, partly in green pastoral slopes, and partly in a state of cultivation. Every here and there a neat little cottage or pleasant villa greets the eye with its blue curling reek rising gracefully over the trees, and its tastefully kept patch of garden ground resplendent with the flowers of spring. Stealing a glance over the leafy fences, our eye is delighted with the sight of gay parterres and many-tinted borders. What Perdita, in the “Winter’s Tale” of Shakspeare, yearns for in vain in the autumn fields, we have here in their glory—

“Daffodils,
That come before the swallow dares, and take
The winds of March with beauty; violets dim,
But sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes
Or Cytiierea’s breath.”

One could almost fancy our old friend Autolycus issuing from that cottage gate, and singing, as was his wont,—*

"When daffodils begin to peer,
With heigh the doxy over the dale,
Why then comes in the sweet o* the yenr,
For the red blood reigns in the winter’s pale.

“The lark that tlrra-lirra chants,
With hey! with hey! the thrash and the jay,
Are summer songs for me and my aunts,
While we lie tumbling in the hay."

Nor is the seaward prospect less pleasing or less beautiful. Over the bounding Frith is the long line of the Ayrshire coast, while away in the front the Cumbrae Isles are seen peeping round the kirk-crowned promontory of Ascog. Sweet Ascog! with its fairy bay, and its leaf-embowered group of cottages and mansions, all basking in the rich golden radiance of the dewy morning, and ringing with the music of countless birds. Pleasant are its habitations one and all, and to our memory the entire locality is one of sunny associations. It was a pure taste surely that first dreamed of erecting a church on that green headland where the murmur of the waves might mingle with the voice of psalms, and glimpses of beauty from without might tune the hearts of the worshippers to feelings of gratitude and love. There is a belt of freshest green around the tiny little church, as it stands a thing apart, and we had fancied, ere we approached it at first, that the sward would probably present many an undulation of death, many a peaceful and secluded grave. It is not so; there is only one sleeper in that solemn place—only one, and he was a stranger in the island. His grave is close to the church-wall, on the side next the sea, and the spot is marked by a humble tablet, which bears his name. “Montague Stanley,” we saw, when a boy, many years ago in the Glasgow Theatre. He was then a promising actor, and had come from the Scottish metropolis with Mr. Murray and others to star it for a few nights on the Glasgow boards. In all the pride and pomp of the stage he played his part that night, and played it well, amidst the blaze of light, and to the appropriate accompaniments of music and painting. What a contrast was that gay scene to the silence and solemnity of this! After a few years he deserted the stage, from religious scruples, it is said, and endeavoured to earn a living for himself and his wife as an artist. With what degree of success he practised as a painter we know not, but the shadow of an early doom interrupted his labours, and, like so many others, he came to Rothesay to seek, in change of air, the restoration of his vanished health. It was in vain, however, for after a brief residence in Bute, he was called upon to “shuffle off that mortal coil” which returneth not again. Previous to his decease, he had expressed a wish to be buried by the Church of Ascog, and the boon was kindly granted by the proprietor of the spot. Here, then, “ after life’s fitful fever, he sleeps secure,” and far away from the bustle and the din in which so large a portion of his existence was passed. It is the very place, indeed, where poet or painter might well love to rest. All around is the loveliness he delighted to delineate, and the silence is disturbed by no ruder sound than the wailing of the wintry wind, the lonely plashing of the sad sea waves, or the eerie cry of the wild-bird, as it sweeps through the gloom of night. Peace to the departed!

But the sun is getting high on the arch of day, and we must be moving on our pilgrimage. A couple of miles or so beyond Ascog we pass the little sandy bay of Scoulag, with its tiny wharf and its row of humble cottages. It is a pleasant little village, or hamlet, or clachan, or we know not what else. It is in truth but a tiny group of cottages. Never mind, it has a tidy enough country hostelry, and the rambler who is not guilty of teetotalism or over-fastidiousness may find within its precincts a cup of something to refresh and invigorate his inner man, and in default of better cheer, may strengthen himself for the road with a dainty daud of oaten cake and a gusty whang of cheese. Leaving Scoulag, or Kerrycroy (for it rejoices in both names), we must now for a time desert the shore and betake ourselves to the bowels of the land. The Marquis of Bute’s spacious policies are right before us, and to secure their utter seclusion the very shore has been intruded on and enclosed for miles. This may not be quite legal, as all within the water-mark is public property; but who shall call a marquis to account for his doings, and especially in an island which is at least two-thirds his own property? But never mind, our inland walk is an agreeable diversity, and every wayside affords us a study of the beautiful. The grounds of Mountstuart are indeed exceedingly lovely, and at every few steps we are greeted with glimpses of woodland and lawn which would rejoice the eye of the painter. These fine policies were laid out and planted about the year. 1718, and the woods are now in the finest possible condition. Now they are dense, dark, and solitary; anon they open into fine green glades; and again they break up into clumps and belts, or into broad green expanses, studded with individual trees. Old Evelyn could have spent a life-time here, in his favourite sylvan studies, and not have exhausted the field. Then there is Mountstuart House, the seat of the Marquis of Bute, a large and handsome edifice, but in no way remarkable for architectural beauty. It was erected, however, rabout the beginning of the last century, before the prevailing mania for “ romances in stone and lime ” had begun to develop itself. There is an air of aristocratic quietude and reserve about the structure, which says as plainly even as words, “I prythee keep thy distance, friend, for I am above and beyond such plebeian dogs as thee.” So we are content to stand afar off and gaze upon it with respectful awe. We can see the peacocks strutting on the lawn, and the favourite spaniel couched upon the doorstep, and the white doves fluttering over the roof, or sunning themselves on the gable ends, and one solitary old man lazily trimming the walks; and our heart whispers to itself how different is their life from thine, in the smoke and the dust and the din of yon busy, busy, never-resting town! If the oontrast elicits a sigh, where, we pray thee, is the wonder?

But once more let us borrow from that light-hearted Autolycus—

“Jog on. jog on, the footpath way
And mcrrilv hent the stl'e a’;
A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad tlrts in a mile a’."

And shall we not be merry in spite of fortune and fame, while so many primroses are strewing our path with gold, when so many blue-eyed violets are looking kindly in our face, when so many opening buds are unfolding their greenest plaits for our delectation, and when an hundred little throats are pouring forth their sweetest gushes of wanton wood-notes wild? Go to 1 go to 1 we shall not play the churl on such a day and amidst so much that is beautiful, so much that is gladsome and gay. A mile or two farther on we arrive at the bay of Kilchattan—a fine bold sweep of water that indents the southern shore of Bute. It is somewhat tame on one of its sides, however, and sprawls over a slimy flat of stones and sand. On the opposite side from that on which we approach it is girt by a range of finely swelling hills. Under these is the village, which sweeps in a curve round the margin of the bay, and consists for the most part of plain and homely little cottages. There is a church also, but it stands considerably apart, with a few decent houses in its vicinity or scattered immediately around. Our course is to the village proper, and really we do not find it particularly attractive. The amenities of the regular watering-place are in a great measure awanting, and as we pass, our olfactories are occasionally greeted with odours that would discredit the Goosedubs. One little hostelry again we try, but the landlady has a Mrs. Milarty look, and the chamber into which we are shown is at once redolent of tobacco, and the floor is thickly freckled with the recent saliva of departed smokers. A dram under such circumstances would inevitably raise our gorge, and as for a modicum of bread and cheese from such dirty hands, “Oh no, we never mention them.” Bidding this untidy howff an abrupt adieu, we proceed right up the hill in search of St. Blane’s Chapel. Inquiring at an old Celt whom we meet as to its whereabouts, he gives us a decidedly evasive answer, and evidently with the view of being engaged as our guide. “Hoo, yes,” he says, “she’s goot pit awa’; maybe twa nor tree miles, an’ hurser will no pe sure to fint hur oot. But hursel’ will no pe ferry thrang at hame, and she’ll tak’ you hursel’ to tae auld kurk.” We decline to avail ourselves, however, of the proffered kindness, as we have ever entertained a proper horror of everything in the shape of a hired guide. The old fellow, as we find immediately afterwards, could have directed us to the spot almost by the lifting of a finger. A shepherd and his collie come athwart us on the heath, and, after we have taken a sneeshin from his freely-offered mull, he sets us right upon the track. At this point the Island of Bute is divided into a sort of isthmus by the indentations of the bays of Stravanan and Kilchattan, the southern portion jutting out into the peninsula of Garroch-head. In the centre of the isthmus the land consists principally of wild heathy hills and barren moorlands, on which a few flocks of sheep find a meagre existence. Among these brown and shaggy heights, however, there is one little green vale, of perhaps about forty acres in extent, and here, in its own sweet solitude, are the ruins of St. Blane’s Chapel. A more lovely and secluded spot it is difficult to imagine, but how it should ever have been selected as the site of a church is what excites our special wonder.

Descending into the bosom of the vale, we have behind us and on one side a wall of gray hills and heathy slopes; on the other a dense grove of gloomy trees; and right before us, on a sort of platform, the ruins of the sacred edifice which we have come to visit. It is of small extent, roofless and weather-worn, as it well may be, having battled, it is said, with the wind and the rain of some eight centuries. St. Blane, the saint whose name it bears, flourished in all the odour of sanctity in the tenth century; and, according to tradition, he was the founder of the edifice before us. That there was a church here at a period not very much posterior to the age of the saint is at least certain; but whether this may have been the identical structure, it is now somewhat difficult to determine. In a charter given in 1204 to the Clunian monks of Paisley, by Walter, Great Steward of Scotland, this church is specially mentioned, as the following clause from the document will show:—“Also for the soul of King David, and the soul of King Malcolm, and the souls of Walter, my father, and Eschene, my mother, and for the salvation of our Lord William, King of Scotland, and his heirs, and the salvation of myself and my heirs, I give, grant, and by this my deed convey to the said monastery at Paisley, and the monks serving God therein, the church of Kingaif (Kingarth, the name of the parish), in the island of Bute, with all the chapels and the whole parish of that island, together with the whole of those lands of which the boundaries, said to have been fixed by St. Blane, are still apparent from sea to sea.” This, it must be admitted, was a right royal gift; and it is only to be hoped that the good monks may have been enabled to perform their part of the bargain as handsomely as the donor did his. The grant, however, has long passed from the church, and is now for the most part in the hands of the Bute family. The ruins indicate a very early style of Gothic, and, all things considered, are wondrously entire. A snug little chapel it would be in its better days, but the congregation it could accommodate must of necessity have been more select than numerous. Now the wild-flowers are the only worshippers who assemble within its dreary precincts, and in summer they are there in crowds, offering up incense; while the winds are the sole choristers whose voices are ever heard now around the sacred fane; and in winter, we need not doubt, they also are there giving utterance in the crevices to many a doleful dirge.*

We have said that the church was built upon a raised platform or dais. This is partly used as a burying-ground, and has been from time immemorial. This space is said to be arched underneath, and that the soil with which it is covered was consecrated earth, brought all the way from Rome by the saint himself. While the earth was in process of being transported from the ship to its destination. the females of the isles refused to take part in the labour, and the offended St. Blane decreed that no females should ever be interred within the sanctified enclosure. Until the Reformation, accordingly, no females were ever buried on the raised portion of the church-yard, but a place apart was allotted for their reception. Indeed, it was believed that if the rule had been violated the very earth would have opened and resented the sacrilege by spewing forth the bodies. In 1661, however, the presbytery heard of this ungallant practice, and, reversing the saint’s decree, gave orders that the sexes should thereafter be buried promiscuously as in other places of interment. Since then many women have been laid to rest in the forbidden ground, and so far as we have yet heard, without any unnatural resurrection. The lower church-yard, however, is still to be seen, with a wall of partition separating it from the other, as in days of yore. In both sections there are a number of quaint old head-stones and other memorials of the dead. Amongst them we observe a number of those peculiar oblong stones which mark the graves of the long-departed order of Templars. Catholic and Protestant, Templar and civilian, male and female, sleep as soundly together in this quiet little church-yard as if in life neither saint, priest, nor presbyter, had ever encouraged division and strife amongst them. Under the silent and shadowy wing of death all is harmony and peace. If men would read the lesson of the grave aright, they would surely find it to be one of charity.

But the old church is not the only relic of departed ages which our little vale contains. Within the bosom of the adjacent grove, and not far from the sacred ruins, is a strange kind of structure which is popularly known as the "Devil’s Cauldron.” This was an appendage of the chapel, and there is reason to believe was connected with it by a bidden or subterranean passage. This edifice consists of a dry stone wall 30 feet in diameter, 7 feet 6 inches high, and 10 feet in thickness, with an entrance or doorway on the eastern side. According to popular tradition, it is said the enemy of mankind was in the habit of parboiling the more hardened classes of sinners in this “muckle pot” before carrying them finally away. That it was a place of penance in Catholic times there is no ^reason to doubt. Similar erections are described by Irish antiquaries as existing in that country. Culprits were occasionally doomed to traverse the rough wall a certain number of times on their bare knees, in expiation of some foul offence. At others a certain number of these unhappy beings were compelled to pass a number of days and nights in the enclosure without food or sleep. Part of the prescribed penance was that they should prevent each other from sleeping, and if any one was permitted by his neighbours to fall into a nap before the appointed time had elapsed, the whole virtue of their united penance would be lost, and they would just require to begin again de novo.

Leaving the romantic little valley of St Blane, with its picturesque and traditional associations, we now proceed towards the western shore of Bute, which in this direction is somewhat wild and craggy in its aspect. On the downward slope, however—for the land takes a steep seaward tendency from the elevation of St. Blane—there are a number of fine farms scattered about, most of them being in an excellent state of cultivation. The green braird is rising lustily over the brown soil, and changes its hues like the varying tints on the neck of a dove as it is brushed by the passing winds. There are groups of cattle browsing on the freshening pastures, groups of labourers, male and female, busy among the ridges of the potato-fields, and groups of little children gathering kingcups and gowans upon the sunny braes. We are now in search of the vestiges of an ancient vitrified fort which crowns the cliffs of Dunnagoil—a wild rocky eminence which flanks a lovely little bay of the same name. As we are ignorant of the exact “whereabouts” of this curious relic, we naturally address ourselves for information to the potato planters. They do not seem, however, to know anything about it. There are people present who have spent all their lives in the locality, but who profess never to have heard or seen aught of the desiderated stronghold. One stripling at length exclaims, "Hoo, yes, it’ll pe the fitrified fort that you’ll pe seeking. It’s jist doon on the tap o’ that hill at the shore; but atweel it’s no worth gaun to see. You’ll maype no ken her when you’ll see her, for she’s jist a rickle o’ auld stanes, an’ no a fort at all. The gentle folk’ll come whiles to look for her, and gang awa jist as wise as they’ll come.” None of the others knew anything of Dun na goil, so we proceed in the direction of the indicated hill, which is only about half-a-mile distant.

Dun-na-Goil, the fortified hill or rock of the strangers— for such in the Gaelic is the import of the name—is a precipitous ridge of about fifty feet in height. On the western side it rises in a steep and rugged acclivity from the sea; to the north it terminates in a tall and shaggy cliff, weatherbeaten and penetrated by caves of some depth; on the east it is also precipitous and difficult of access. Making our way to the summit by a narrow rugged ledge at the southern extremity, we soon find ourselves on a comparatively level space, which, in a far distant age, was the site of a rude fort or stronghold. At first, however, we can discover no vestiges of the structure, and we begin to think that our friend, the potato planter, may have been right after all. By a little scrutiny we discover at last a few shattered and shapeless masses, strewn along the western margin of the arena. These are indeed all that now remain to mark the existence of the fort* There is literally not one stone upon another to indicate the site of the edifice. Time and the elements have done their work of ruin in the most effective manner; yet, judging from the nature of the material, it must have been a place of great strength. The stone is a hard whin, similar to that of which the hill is itself composed; but the external surface appears to have been crusted over with some vitreous substance of great hardness. The interstices and crevices between the stones are also filled with a strong vitreous cement. With regard to the people by whom this edifice was erected nothing is now known. It belongs emphatically to a prehistoric age, and tradition itself has no tale to unfold regarding its builders. It has been surmised to be of Danish or Norwegian origin; but these are mere guesses, and entitled to little attention. The position is a good one, as it 'commands a large extent of Kilbranan Sound and the Frith of Clyde to the south, while immediately adjacent is an excellent landing-place. Still it is a bleak and dreary spot, exposed to the pelting of every storm, and better fitted, one would think, to be the haunt of its present tenants, the sea-birds, than a residence of human beings. It has been often remarked, that on moor or on mountain, in glen or in forest, wherever the habitation of men has once been, there also is the common nettle to be found nodding its green head to the passing breeze. Years and centuries may have passed away since the smoke has ceased to curl from the vanished hearth—the walls may have fallen ages ago—but there the nettle is said to remain, like a faithful mourner over the departed. On the summit of Dunnagoil we find the nettle in green clusters, congregated as it were in the dwelling-places of the dead, just as we have found them many a time and oft in the solitude of a Highland glen, which had once been populous, but which had long been consigned to the sheep and the grouse.

Pleasantly, indeed, might a few hours of spring be spent in the vicinity of Dunnagoil, with its dripping caves, its water-worn rocks, and its shell-fringed bay, stretching away in a graceful curve of sand; but the afternoon is wearing rapidly to a dose, and we must bethink ourselves of returning to Rothesay. By a different route we return to Kilchattan,—and from thence, by an u overland route,” set out on our return to the capital of the isle. Our way lies principally among bleak moors and brown pasture lands, presenting but little worthy of note until we reach the valley of Loch Fad. This beautiful lake is situated in a lengthened hollow of the hills immediately to the south of Rothesay. It is said to be about five miles long, by about one-third of a mile in breadth. The adjacent hills are of no great height, but their surfaces are delightfully variegated, and lend to the loch the choicest features in miniature of the more majestic Highland lakes. In some places the eye meets with green pastoral slopes and cultivated fields; in others, the bleak crags and dark moorland steeps present an aspect of primitive wildness and simplicity; while in others there is all the chastened beauty of artificial woodland and lawn. The latter is more especially obvious in the vicinity of44 Kean’s Cottage,” which is situated on the west side of the loch. Our present walk is on the opposite shore, but we have an excellent view of the house and grounds as we pass upon our way. The edifice, a plain but neat structure of two storeys in height, was erected in 1827, as many of our readers are doubtless aware, by Edmund Kean, the great tragedian, who was then in the zenith of his fame. He had formed about that time some romantic notion of retiring from public life, and the secluded shore of Loch Fad had become the scene of his proposed hermitage. The cottage was fitted up with every attention to comfort, physical and intellectual; the grounds and gardens were rendered perfect studies of the beautiful; and all the accessories being prepared, the impetuous Edmund himself came to the spot with the full intention, we have no doubt, of playing the banished Duke, and 44 finding good in everything.” He had mistaken his own character, however, and found, as so many others have done, that "quiet to quick bosoms i3 a hell.” An actor lives upon excitement; his sweetest music is the clapping of hands; silence and solitude are to him the dire parents of ennui and disgust. Edmund Kean could not live himself alone, and he rushed eagerly back into the bosom of a world which he had just affected to despise. His name, however, clings to the spot, and many an admiring pilgrim has visited the locality for his sake. We suspect that both house and grounds must have undergone considerable change since the "little Italian-looking man ” left the scene; still everything about them is beautiful, and shady, and green, and as we pass in the now thickening gloaming we can hear the merle and the throstle piping clearly among the woods which were planted by the great modern master of passion.

By the time we get past the church, and down the long avenue, and under the arms of Adam and Eve, the stars are beginning to peep out of the 44 daffodil sky,” and the little black bat is on the wing. Wearied, and withal somewhat hungry, we are exceedingly fain once more to claim the frankly accorded hospitalities of a Rothesay friend. A few minutes finds us by his glowing hearth, and there, in the enjoyment of a good dinner, we bid our readers once more a kind adieu.


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