Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Days at the Coast
The two Cumbraes


Amongst the many beautiful features of our own romantic stream, a foremost place is due to the stately group of islands which frets its spacious bosom, as it mingles its brown waters with the blue of the all-encircling sea. We have already taken a loving glance at the most important—the most spacious of these insular children of the far-winding Clyde. Upon the grizzly brow of Goatfell we have placed our triumphant heel, and drank with swelling soul of Arran’s rude sublimity. We have also wandered with an insatiate delight over the lovely breast of the gentler and more feminine Bute, and gathered, as it were, into an imperfect posie the sweeter flowers of land, and sea, and shore, which she presented to our gaze. “The harvest of a quiet eye,” as Wordsworth would have said, has been gleaned in these sister isles, and we now turn, with undiminished zeal, to scan the juvenility of the Cluthean family. We have been in love with the elder and bigger sisters, and every one knows that the tender passion is apt to throw a charm even over the tiniest member of the sacred household in which the lovely she has lived and moved and had her being. It is with some such feeling that we turn from the wild grandeur of Arran, and from the more chastened loveliness of Bute, to cultivate an acquaintance with the twin Cumbraes, in which the choicest features of both are discernibly blended as the lineaments of the parent are in the mingled miniature of childhood.

Most of our readers are doubtless aware, from personal observation, of the situation occupied by the Cumbraes. They are probably ignorant, however, of their exact geographical locality, and we therefore beg leave to inform them, that they are "laid down,” or more properly are "upheaved,” in the 55th degree of north latitude, by 4 deg. 55 min. of western longitude. They are both included in the shire or county of Bute. This junction is only in a civil or political sense, however, for, ecclesiastically, the two islands are separated, the larger constituting the parish of Cumbrae, while the lesser (in direct violation of all natural relationships has been linked to the parish of West Kilbride in Ayrshire. The parochial divisions of Scotland, indeed, are often sufficiently absurd. Portions of parishes are disjoined in the most fantastic manner, and occasionally considerable tract? of territory intervene between one section of a parish and another. The Craig of Ailsa, for instance, belongs, not to the nearest portion of the mainland, but to the parish of Dailly, which is at least two miles from the nearest shore. Paddy’s milestone would, in fact, have to wade or walk a distance of about seventeen miles if it ever dreamed of going to its own parish church. The old brown Craig is not likely, however, to go upon such a fool’s-errand, although, if we may believe tradition (that prince of liars), it actually got itself removed from the said parish of Dailly, and cast into the sea. The folk of the parish, indeed, still point out a vast hollow in a certain hill, from which Ailsa Craig was actually scooped out, it is said, by the Devil, Sir Michael Scott, or some other potent maker of mischief. But we are forgetting our friends, the bigger and the lesser Cumbraes. The name of these islands has, of course, furnished a bone of contention to the etymologists. One of these men of words holds that it is derived from an ancient principality named Cumbria; another that it is from the Gaelic term Cumbray, Cambray, or Cimbrae, signifying 44 a place of shelterwhile a third is quite positive that it comes from a Celtic word denoting 44 a bold cliffy coast Springing suddenly from the sea.” Both of the latter derivations are possessed of a certain degree of descriptive truth, and we must just leave it to the option of our readers which they will choose. "Vich is the donkey, and vich is the lion?” says the inquisitive urchin to the showman; “Vichever you please, my little dear,” replies the bland exhibitor; and even so say we in reference to the etymology of the Cumbraes.

The larger island is about three miles and a-half in length, by about two miles on the average in breadth. Its girth, following the various points and indentations, is estimated at about eleven miles. The superficial area is 5,100 square acres, of which only 3,000 are reckoned arable, although there is a continual invasion of the moorlands and bogs going on under the superintendence of the farmers. There are also about 150 acres under timber, which is partly arranged in clumps and masses, and partly in lengthened belts for the protection of the crops. The surface of the island is beautifully undulated, the hills swelling at one point to a height of nearly 500 feet. The principal range runs from north to south, and extends at various elevations nearly the entire length of the island. It is called the Shoughends, from a deep ravine, or shough, by which it is intersected at a short distance to the north of Millport, and which has a peculiarly wild and picturesque appearance. All the other hills are connected, less or more, with this principal chain, and diverge from it in various directions. The Big Cumbrae is about four miles east of Bute, and nearly two miles west of Largs in Ayrshire. The Little Cumbrae is situated to the south of the larger island, from which it is separated by a channel of nearly a mile in width. It is about a mile and a-half in length by nearly three-quarters in width. The superficial extent of the island is estimated at about 700 acres, and it rises in a series of trap steps, or gradations, to a height of nearly 600 feet. With the exception of a few unimportant patches, it consists entirely of a wild and barren moorland, which has been from time immemorial the haunt of rabbits and a few scattered sheep.

Having thus glanced at the principal physical outlines of the Cumbraes, let us now take a brief survey of their annals previously to landing on their shores and spending a long autumnal day in wandering within their precincts. The Cumbraes, however, have little or no history; the old chroniclers having apparently reckoned them of too little consequence to engage their attention. All that we know, indeed, of their past story consists of a few incidental allusions in the public records of the “neighbouring island” of Great Britain. At an early period the Cumbraes, along with the Western Islands generally, were held by the Norwegian invaders. Tradition still points out the site of a camp or fort which was held by the rovers of the sea; and it is stated, on what authority we know not, that the army of Haco celebrated mass on the larger Cumbrae before embarking for the fatal field of Largs. The deity whom they worshipped, however, was unpropitious, and few of those who shared in the ceremonial rites of that day ever returned from the Scottish shore. The Hebrides, and also the islands of the Clyde, were soon after formally ceded to the Scots, and have ever since remained under their sway. Subsequently, the Cumbraes were included in the extensive domains of the Stuart family, who afterwards were elevated to the throne of these realms. It is on record, at all events, that on the establishment of the principality of Scotland, in favour of his eldest son, by Robert the Third, in 1404, the lesser island was specially included in the grant. A century afterwards there is an entry in the register of the privy seal which shows that the little Cumbrae was considered a kind of royal preserve for game. The passage, which is of date October 28, 1515, is as follows:—“Lettre to Hew Erie of Eglintonne, makand him and his assignais keeparis, oversearis, corre-karis, and suplearis of the Isle of Litill Comeray, and the dere, cunyngis, and wild beasts being therein, quhill the kingis perfite age of xv yere; because Robert Huntare of Huntarestonne, forrestar of heritage of the said isle, is nocht of power to resist the personis that waistis the aamyn, without gupplie and keep, etc. From this time the Eglinton family would appear to have retained the island in their own possession, and, for aught we know, they may have no better title to it than the commission thus conferred upon them to watch the royal game. Strange that the gamekeeper should thus, through the mere lapse of time, become actual proprietor of the soil. We should really like to see the title-deeds by which some of our great land proprietors hold their estates. The larger Cumbrae, also, seems to have been a recognized breeding-place for the hawks or falcons used by the Scottish kings. In the minutes of the Privy Council, of date Feb. 2, 1609, it is noted that Sir Wm. Stewart, Captain of Dumbartane Castle, complains that Robt. Huntar of Huntarston, and Thomas Boyd, provost of Irwyn, had gone to the isle of Comra, with convocation of the leidges, and tane away all the hawks thereon. The lords of council therefore declare, ((that all the hawks quhilk bred on ye said isle do propirly belong to the king, and ocht to be furthcomand to his majestie; and that the capitane of Dumbartane Castle intromit therewith yeirlie, and deliver the same to his majestie; and discharges the said Robert Huntar and all otheris from meddling thairwith.”

We know not what effect this decree had upon the breeding of the hawks, but now-a-days they are not at all common on the island. The Robert Huntar alluded to, however, seems to have been fruitful exceedingly; for, at the present day, the name is perhaps the most common in the Cumbraes. The island was afterwards divided into a number of small baronies, and several of these were held by families of the name of Hunter. Latterly, by fair means or foul, these little baronies have been all swamped, and the large Cumbrae now belongs entirely to two titled proprietors, the Earl of Glasgow and the Marquis of Bute. About two-thirds are in the possession of the former, while the remainder is in the hands of the juvenile lord of Mountstuart. The small lairds of Bute and of Cumbrae are now, with an exception or two, among the things that were.

But we are now about to make our personal descent upon these lovely little isles, and must therefore invite thee, gentle reader, to step with us on board the “ Lady Kelbume,” and pursue with us our way adown the Frith.

We have just passed Largs, and are rapidly steaming along shore towards Fairlie. The afternoon is dull, cheerless, and dripping. October has thrown his dark and dreary wing over the earth, and,

“In the scowl of heaven, each face
Grows black as we are speaking.”

There is a gloom that can positively be felt on the bosom of the Frith; and as we gaze over its leaping infinitude of undulations, our mind becomes painfully oppressed with shadowy recollections of direst maritime disaster; of ships that went to sea and “ne’er were heard of more" and of lonely sailors buffeted by storm and rain upon the hungry billows, or clinging to the cold and plashy rocks until the watery death had seized them in its chill embrace. The very sea-birds have a weird and ominous aspect as they sweep past us in the haze; and the distant ships, amidst the rainy waste of waves, loom ghastly as the shadows of coming evil. How different from the sunny expanse of the Frith when last we ploughed the bright blue of its autumnal watersI Then all was radiant, and joyous, and beautiful as a summer dream, but “the wind and the rain” have brought about a sad change; and, in the gloom which surrounds us, the eye of fancy recognizes the gloaming of that wintry night into which the aged year is fast descending. The landward features of the passing scene (between Largs and Fairlie) are equally depressing in their influences. There are weeping clouds along the ridges of the hills which, at a short distance flank the river, clouds among the Kelbume woods, and clouds in the adjacent glen, which seems in consequence half-filled with snow. We can see, however, as we pass, the marshalled sylvans of Kelburne arranged in dim lines and squares, in hoary phalanxes and battalions, upon the green sloping braes, and around the old baronial mansion. Like a vast host of shadowy warriors they seem to stand, awaiting the coming foe. Among them, here and there—appearing and disappearing amidst the dark masses, with each successive gust—are those vague and misty forms in which the inspired eye of Ossian saw the spirits of the mighty dead. As we have not the second sight, however, we can only take them for simple films of cloud. White streaks of more determinate character also scar the heights at intervals, and indicate the channels down which the high-born torrents are dinsomely flowing. We cannot hear their voices, nor can we see their flow for distance, which, as Wordsworth says, freezes the stream to the eye, can also rob it of its music. So we pass along the frowning shore as we would pass a picture u seen through a glass darkly,” unto the sweet little village of Fairlie, with its neat villas, its pleasant gardens, and, above all, its grim old castle, which dwells apart upon the bosom of the hill, and seems to look with dim, lack-lustre eye upon the upstart edifices below. Of course it looks doubly gruff on such an evening as this; and, while we gaze upon it, our friend, Alexander Smith’s sonnet to Inversnaid Castle, comes floating through the mind, and we find ourselves repeating the lines—

“’Bove me I saw, at pointing of my friend,
An old fort, like a ghost upon the hill,
Stare in blank misery through the blinding rain,
So human-like it seemed in its despair—
So stunned with grief; long gazed at it we twain.
Weary and damp, we reached our poor abode;
I, warmly seated in the chimney nook.
Still saw that old fort, o’er the moorland road,
Stare through the rain with strange, woe-wilder’d look.”

This old structure belonged to an ancient Ayrshire family, named Fairlie, in whose possession it# remained until the beginning of the eighteenth century, when, with the adjacent lands, it passed by purchase into the hands of the Earl of Glasgow, whose descendant is the present proprietor.

The larger Cumbrae lies quite parallel to the course along •which we have just been passing, and at Fairlie the Lady Kelbume turns her prow athwart the channel, and steers in a transverse direction towards the bay of Millport. This spacious indentation is situated at the south-west end of the island, and in a brief space our steamer makes her way within its ample jaws, and avoiding certain small islets by which its capacious mouth is fretted, is soon safely moored to the pier, and discharging her passengers to the lusty music of the roaring funnel. By this time the gloaming is thickening into night, the red lights are brightening in the windows of the town, and through the still pouring rain we hasten to the hospitable domicile of a friend, where a warm welcome, a blazing fire, and a comfortable cup of tea soon make us forget the dreariness and the discomfort without. After a few hours of crack, and tale, and auld world reminiscence, we take an outward glance before bed-time, to see if the skies afford any hope of a bright to-morrow. The rain in the meantime has passed away, the winds have fallen low, and through a bright, unclouded atmosphere the stars are twinkling with as brilliant a radiance as if the fair face of heaven had never known a frown. It seems to be with the stars as with the eyes of youth—they are always brightest after a fit of weeping. The bat also is abroad—an excellent prognostication; and while we skirt the rippled sands, and listen to the faint vespers of ocean upon the beach, the little aerial hunter of the gloom darts merrily around our heads, and we are reminded of a quaint address to the creature, written by Hew Ainslie, a lyric poet whom Scotland might well have been proud to retain on her shores, but who has long been an exile in the far West. The composition, which must be as good as new to the majority of our readers, appeared in a strange book called A Pilgrimage to the Land of Burns, which was published in Edinburgh before Mr. Ainslie had crossed the “saut sea faem.” Let us repeat it to that little creature who is now so merrily playing between us and the stars as we tread “these yellow sands:”—

“Thou queer sort o’ bird, or thou beast—
I’m a brute if I ken whilk’s thy title—
Whaur Rang ye when morning comes east?
Or whaur get ye water or rittie?

“Thom bait lang been a ferlie to me,
An* a droll ane as e'er I inspeckit;
How Is Nature deliver'd o’ thee?
I say, thing, art thou kittl’t or cleckit?

“By my banes, it looks rlcht like a lee
For to say that without e*er a feather
A creature should offer to flee
On twa or three inches o’ leather!

“The sangster wha says thou art sweet,
Or roozes thy fashion or featness,
Maim be blin’ as the soles o’ his feet.
Or ha’e unco queer notions o’ neatness!

“Tet at e’en, when the flower had it’s flll
O’ the dew, an’ was gather’d thegither—
Lying down on it*s leu safe and still,
Like a babe on the breast o’ its mither—

“Then we aft ha’e forgather'd, I trow,
When my back ’gainst the birk-bush was leaning
As my e'e raked the heaven’s deep blue,
In search o' the sweet star o’ e’enin’,

“For its glint tauld my ain kindly Kate
That her laddie was down in the plantin’;
Sae I lo’ed thee as ane lo’es the freet
That proffers the weather he’s wantin’."

Ay, there was a genuine dash of the quaint old Scottish muse in Hew Ainslie, and we are blythe to hear that the world has gone well with him in the land of his adoption. But “ to bed, to bed, to bed!” and may the morrow awake on a couch of streaky gold!

Taking time by the forelock, we are up and stirring at an early hour. The morning is none of the brightest, but it promises to “rax up” as the day advances. Ascending a range of heights to the westward, which are partly covered with hedgerows, pasture fields, and copsewood, wo have a fine bird’s-eye view of the town and the surrounding scenery. Millport forms a kind of semicircle along the margin of a large bay, which is bounded on either side by a bold promontory, terminating in both instances in a flat continuation to the Crater lerel. This capacious inlet, at its inner extremity, is subdivided—-or, we might say, notched— into several smaller indentations, the easternmost of which is called Kames Bay, and is flanked by a beautiful sandy beach. The village consists principally of one irregular line of two-storeyed edifices:—neat, but plain—which extends along the shore, with occasional breaks and interruptions, for a distance altogether of about a mile. There is also a small street or two branching off from the main crescent or row, and a considerable number of detached cottages and villas are situated on the gentle slopes which rise immediately behind the town, and which command a most pleasing view of the bay and the scenery beyond. Nearly all the houses indeed overlook the water, and every window almost may be said to be enriched with glimpses of beauty by sea and shore, which might well rejoice the eye of the most fastidious spectator, and furnish a study of loveliness over which the landscape limner would hang with never-ceasing delight. Near the western extremity of the village is a neat and commodious pier—erected by a subscription, to which the late Marquis of Bute contributed handsomely, besides giving a free gift of the site. At low water there is about six feet of depth here, which is increased, when the tide is full, to about fourteen feet. This structure affords abundant accommodation to steamers and the ordinary vessels which frequent the locality. There is also good ground for anchoring at a short distance to the east, which is sheltered by two small islets named the “ Allens.” To these natural breakwaters there are iron bolts or rings affixed for securing the cables of vessels at anchor. Once in the rear of the sheltering “Allens,” the storm-tossed bark may bid a bold defiance to the wildest equinoctial that Boreas ever blew. Besides these little islands of refuge, there are three other rocky projections from the waters of the bay, which are respectively named the Spoig, the Luac, and the Clach. These are rather incumbrances to the navigation than otherwise, and their company could be, p therefore, very well dispensed with. A few years ago, this group of fairy isles was the haunt of a certain species of bird, which, from its cry, was locally known as the Pyrr. The frequent passage of steamers and the general increase of boating on the bay, has frightened them all away of late, and it is said they have now emigrated en masse to the more solitary shores of the Little Cumbrae.

The principal architectural features of Millport are the Parish Church, a plain edifice with a handsome quadrangular tower, which is situated on the brae-face immediately above the pier, and has an imposing appearance from the water; the Priory, an elegant structure, which is now the residence of the Hon. Mr. Boyle, and which is pleasantly seated on a green terrace about the centre of the village, and the Episcopal College, a beautiful Gothic erection of recent origin, which rises in a commanding position (adjacent to the Priory), and which contributes materially to the picturesque aspect of the locality. There are several other places of worship in the village, but none of them have the least pretensions to architectural elegance. Among these are a Free Church and a Baptist Meeting-house. There are also several schools in Millport, a public library, and a post-office, so that the residents would appear to be well supplied with the materials of religious, educational, and literary study, in addition to the advantages of beautiful scenery, fresh air, and retirement from the bustle and din of city life. Millport is, indeed, a pleasant place in which to dwell, and we do not wonder that ever as summer comes round it is filled to overflowing with migrants from less happy scenes, in search of health, or health-inspiring recreation.

Our readers are well aware that we have a sad penchant for “meditation among the tombs,” and that we seldom leave a locality without paying our respects to the “rude forefathers of the hamlet,” among the green mounds wherein they have taken up their silent abodes. We accordingly wend our way to the sequestered kirkyard of Cumbrae, which lies about a quarter of a mile to the northward of the village. It is a large square enclosure, surrounded by a wall, and overlooked by a comfortable looking manse, which stands modestly apart amongst its gardens and trees. We know this edifice to be the manse, not only from its cosie aspect (and most of the manses we have seen are the veriest pictures of comfort), but from a little incident which occurred a goodly number of years ago, when we last visited the spot. With a companion we had made oilr way into the field of graves, not by the gate, which was securely locked, but by a “ slap in the dike,” and were pensively sauntering among the grassy undulations, and spelling, as best we might, through their crusts of moss and lichen, the simple legends of the dead. In the midst of our solemn musings upon departed mortality we were startled by a shrill voice from the vicinity of the manse, exclaiming, “Gentlemen, gentlemen, wull ye speak a word?” Approaching the source of the disturbance, we saw a pretty girl peeping over the wall, and blushing most lustily as she met our gaze. “Beg your pardon, gentlemen,” she continued, as we drew near, “but I’m the minister’s servant, and the minister has sent me out to gi’e you his compliments, and to tell you that you maunna gang aboot there on ony account, tramplin’ the gerse; for the gerse is his property, and the coo ’ill no eat it if it’s tramplit doon that gate.” We were of course rather taken aback at this ungracious message from the holy man; but as we were not prepared, with all our reverence for the church, to acknowledge the exclusive right of the minister's cow to pasturage on the rank herbage of decaying mortality* our companion, who was somewhat nettled, at once, and with great suavity, replied, “My bonnie lassie, gang your wa’s back, and gi’e your most reverend master my compliments in return, and tell him frae me that we’ll leave the kirkyard when it suits our own convenience, and not one moment sooner. Tell the good man, also, that if he has onything mair to say, thathe shoulfl by all means come with his ain message} for, upon my word, I wad really gi’e something to see the man’s face who not only taks his milk and butter frae the sap o’ dead men’s banes, but has the unfeeling assurance thus to interrupt the solemnizing studies of his brother worms.” The poor girl, who was evidently ashamed of be* mission, turned with a hanging head towards the manse, and we pursued our researches among the tombs. We heard no more of his reverence. “ I’m thinkin’,” says our companion, as we turned frpm the spot, “Mess John has got an instructive flee in his lug this morning, and muckle gude may he get frae its lesson.”

On the present occasion we And the gate of the kirkyard open, and no one comes to say “ what doest thou?” while we are lingering within its dreary precincts. There is little of a remarkable nature in the literature of the Cumbrae burying-ground. “ He was born and he died,” is the commonplace, but by no means unaflecting, burden of the tale indicated by the majority of the silent stones. There is one tablet, however, of rather more than the ordinary degree of interest. It is placed over the grave of an eccentric minister, and bears the following inscription, which is understood to be from his own pen

Erected in Memory of
REV. JAMES ADAM,
Late Minister in Cumbray,
Born in the Tear 1748;
Licensed in 1778;
Ordained in 1799;
Died in June, 1881.

Fidelis moralis et innnptus,
Side natis, sine curls,
Vixit obiit et snrgit.

Tho’
Here on a cold, damp bed he lies,
Without a friend to close his eyes,
Wrapt in his usual unsocial pride,
Indifferent to all the world beside.
Seid quid fu.it est yel erit
Magnus dies declarabit

Feeling somewhat curious to know if anything was remembered in the village of this self-styled misanthrope, we instituted an inquiry on the subject on our return. The result of our investigation is briefly as follows:—"Ay,” says one informant, “he was a queer yin the auld minister, but weel likit for a’ that. He was never married, but leev’d in the manse wi’ a housekeeper, and farmed his ain glebe. I aflen mind, when a callant, o’ seem’ him chasm’ like mad the bits o’ laddies wha cam* frae the toon to steal his turnips. A capital hand he was on the farm himsel' tae, and could ha’e kempit on a hairst rig wi’ the best o’ them. He was ance, as Tve heard tell, ower in Ayrshire aboot the shearin’ time, and no bein’ like a minister ava\ a band o’ shearers began to gi’e him some afflakin’ jaw. He said they needna craw sae cruse, for he could beat ony o’ them himsel’ at the heuk. A wager was the consequence, and Mess John cuist his coat, and set to wark against the best man in the core. At the close o’ the day the minister was far ahead. ‘ Didn’t I tell you,* quo’ he, ‘what wad be the upshot? and noo, if there’s ony o’ ye that wad Kke a bit wrastle, I wadna care to try some o’ ye a bit fa’.’ Ane o’ the gang thocht he wad try, and in twa minutes the minister had the fallow on the breed o’ his back. Ay, he was a droll ane, aald Mr Adam. In the pulpit, though, he was aye counted a geyan timber hand, and strange folk (gude forgie us!) cam whiles to hear him, as it were, for fun like. Ae Sabbath mornin’, for instance, ane o’ your big professors in Glasgow cam a’ the way frae Largs, wi’ some o’ his lang-headed cronies, to hear the queer Cumbrae minister, and dootless thinkin’ to hae a bit laugh in their ain sleeve ower his hameart style o’ preachin’. Mr Adam was at prayer when the wise men frae the east cam into the kirk, but he aye pray’d, honest man, wi’ his een open (watchin’, ye ken, is whiles as gude as prayin’), and the moment they cam in he kent them, and jaloosin there was something in the wind, he made up his mind what he wad dae to get the better o’ them. Wi’ the utmost gravity he concluded wi’ his 'Amen,’ and at ance, addressing the congregation, he said —^My beloved brethren, I have just observed that the great and learned Professor So-and-So (I really dinna mind his naoie), has favoured us this day wi* his presence, and as it's no often we hae sic an opportunity o’ heatin' the Word expounded T>y a Maister in Israel, I feel bound to vacate my puklpit 3n his favour.’ So saying, Mr. Adam forthwith left the rostrum, and although the Professor made ever so many wry faces and tryt to evade the request, he had even to tak’ the book and haud forth as best he micht. His cronies, I’m tauld, could hardly conteen themselves to see how nicely he wfes trickit, and it was a sair hair in his neck for mony a day. Ay, he was a queer chiel our auld minister, and mony a gude hotshin’ lauch he used to tak' to himsel’ at the way he had diddled the great professor. There’s a heap o’ ither stories about Mr. Adam, if I could only mind them; but my memory’s no worth a preen sin* I had that fever o’ the cauld at the hinend o’ last winter. Ye’ll hae heard, though, that he aye used to pray in the first place for the twa Cumbraes, ahd then for the neighbouring islands o’ Great Britain and Ireland. Ay, ay, sir, he had his ain bits o’ tantrums and funny gates; but, decent man, he was weel likit, as I hae said, in spite o’ them a’, and he is noo whare the Lord will.” Another individual informed us that Mr. Adam, notwithstanding his assumption of “unsocial pride,” was at bottom a generous-hearted man. In proof of this, he mentioned the facts that he had left at his death a sum of money to assist in the education of poor children belonging to the parish; that he had given £250 to the Presbytery of Irvine for behoof of deserving widows; and that he had established three bursaries in the University of Glasgow by the bequest of £1100. So much for the self-styled misanthrope of the Cumbrae kirkyard. It is not often, certes, that epitaphs fall short of the truth, but the specimen alluded to has surely not overstepped the line of strict verity.

The most magnificent, if not the most useful of Millport institutions, however, is unquestionably the Episcopal College. It attracts at once the attention of every visitor to the locality; and, on closer inspection, excites the admiration of every one who has the slightest pretensions to architectural taste. The people of the village seem never to weary of talking about this strange seat of learning, and are full of marvellous tales about the vast sums expended on its erection and decoration. When questions are asked about its purposes and tendencies, however, the interrogator is generally answered with a knowing shake of the head, and a cautious, "Weel I’m no sae sure about that; but they say it’s a kind o’ half-way house atween Oxford and the hizzie that sits pn the seven hills.” With that enlightened curiosity to which our readers are so much indebted, we resolve, if possible, to have a peep for ourselves at the sacred structure. Accordingly, when the matin chimes are inviting the faithful to prayers (which they do every morning), we repair to the chapel of the College. The grounds are extensive and beautifully laid out in lawns, terraces, and parterres, which are adorned with the choicest shrubs and flowers. Everywhere there are evidences of the most correct taste. The walks are neatly trimmed; the lawtis as carefully shaven as the beard of an exquisite, while the borders are perfect models of floricultural skill. On a gentle elevation overlooking the town and bay, and commanding a noble prospect beyond, are the collegiate buildings. They are of the purest Gothic; every characteristic feature being as strictly embodied in the design as if the salvation of the artist depended on the perfection of his work. Everything is on a small scale, however, and the effect upon our mind is rather the delight which a pretty model might produce, than the solemnizing influences which do hedge about the grand old piles of other years. But the bell has ceased, and we must enter the sacred edifice. Within, there is a perfect picture in miniature of the mediaeval chapel. We have the stained glass windows “casting a dim religious light,” the tesselated floor, the naked oaken beams above, the altar with all the prescribed accessories, crucifixes of gold, and of stone, of various fashions, with we know not what all besides. It is, in fact, quite a little gem of a chapel. The congregation on this occasion consists of some half-dozen of females, two men besides ourselves, and a boy. The officiating party consists of two clergymen and two stout fellows who make the responses. They are all dad in surplices, variously figured, and of unimpeachable purity, producing a most pleasing effect upon the eye. We could almost fancy ourselves, indeed, gazing on a fragment of the Middle Ages. In the chanting which succeeds we can observe that the harmony of the several voices has been carefully studied. The entire service occupies half-an-hour. We cannot say that it impresses us in a special manner; and, indeed, if truth must be told, we several tunes detect our attention wandering out at the open door to marie the flowers which are nodding in the sunshine, or to listen to the liquid chant of a redbreast among the adjacent leaves, who actually seems to invite us—the heretical rogue!—to join in his morning hymn in preference to that which is being chanted within the pale of the church. Of course we instantly recall our vagrant fancies until the service is concluded, when, with a clear conscience, we mingle for a brief space with the worshippers under the vast blue dome. After walking round the structure and again admiring its fair proportions, particularly those of the spire, which is a perfect study of elegance, we take our leave of the hallowed grounds, and return once more to the every-day world.

We have referred to the gloom of October, but October has its days of glory as well as its days of gloom. It is indeed, “take it for all in all,” the most splendid of the months, with its rich woodland robes, its oft-recurring rainbows, and its gloamings of purple and gold.

TO OCTOBER.

Gorgeous are thy woods, October
lad In glowhig mantles sear;
Brightest tints or beauty blending,
Like the west when day’s descending,
Thou’rt the sunset of the year.

Beanteous are thy row’n trees, gloving
With their beads of coral dye;
Beauteous are thy wlldrose boshes,
Where the hip in ripeness blushes,
Like a mala whose lover’s nigh.

Sweet to see thy dark eves peeping
From the tangled blackthorn bough
Sweet thy elder s pnrple fruitage,
Clustering o’er the woodland cottage;
Sweet thy hawthorn’s crimson glow.

Fading flowers are thine, October!
Droopeth sad the sweet bine belL
Gone the blossoms April cherish’d—
Violet, lily, rose, all perish'd—
Fragrance fled from field and deli

Songless are thy woods, October!
Save when redbreast’s mournful lay
Through the calm gray morn is swelling,
To the list’ning echoes telling
Tales of darkness and decay.

Saddest sounds are thine, October!
Music of the falling leaf;
O'er the pensive spirit stealing,
To its inmost depths revealing—
“Thus ail gladness sinks in griet”

I do love thee, drear October!
More than budding, blooming sprtag
Hers is hope, delusive smiling,
Trusting hearts to grief beguiliftjg;
Memory loves thy dusky wing.

Joyous hearts may love the summer,
Bright with sunshine, song, and flower;
But the heart whose hopes are blighted.
In the gloom of woe benighted,
Better loves thy kindred bower,

'Twas in thee, thou sad October!
Death laid low my bosom-flower,
Life hath been a wintry river,
O'er whose ripple gladness never
Gleameth brightly since that hour.

Hearts would fain be with their treasure,
Mine is shimbTing in the day;
Wandering here alone, uncheery,
Deem t not strange this heart should wear
For its own October day.

It is true the weather of old October is fickle as that of hit sweet young aster April. He also has his tears and his smiles, his gusts and his gleams, following each other in rapid succession, and bidding defiance to anything like consistency. Like a wayward and a grim old carle he is everything by turns and nothing long. In April, however, we have the sweet shifting moods of a playful girl, radiant with hope, and love, and joy, busking herself with leaves, and buds, and opening flowers; and, midst her very weepings, smiling the little birds into cheerfulness and song. To hail her presence the lark soars high above the half-brairded furrow, while the cuckoo and the swallow, to do her homage, come hastening over the sea. The very bat leaves his wintry den to flit through her genial eves, and the woodmouse peeps out from his moss-hidden cave, and chirps a faint welcome to the mother of primrose and violet. Alike only in the attribute of change, how different are the accessories and the influences of October! “Mine ancient” is moody, and even his smiles have a dash of divinest melancholy. He is prone, moreover, to saddest memories, and there is ever a dreary suggestiveness of coming winter in his weather-beaten face. At his approach

“Heavily hangs the hollyhock,
Heavily hangs the tiger lily.’'

The old fellow has “fallen into the sear and the yellow leaf,” and every passing wind robs him of his treasure. His ear was never gladdened by the cuckoo’s joyous call; and the swallow, sweet summer's harbinger, flies from his presence as in fear. Back to their crevices and their subterranean cells he sends the sleepers of the stormy season. According to our boyish creed,

“The bat, the bee, the butterfly.
The cuckoo, and the swallow/*

betake themselves to their long slumbers at the stern behest of October. What a testy old churl it is, to be sure, thus to frighten away the pretty little children of departed summer!

But, hush! why should we grumble at the mission of October? It is all for the best; and see the good old fellow is actually getting up a glorious day, as if for the express purpose of showing us the Cumbrae coast to the greatest advantage! The sun has mastered the thin blue haze of morning, and the ripple of the bay is tinged with living gold. As we pass round the eastern shoulder of the spacious inlet, and reach the bold rocky headland of Farland Point, we obtain a pleasant glimpse of the village of Millport, with its white houses gleaming in the sunshine, and the blue reek rising in curiing wreaths through the clear air of morning. To quote with our habitual accuracy—

“Oh the sweet town of Millport,
It shines where it stands;
And the more we gaze on it
The more our heart warms

and the more we think that w their lines have indeed fallen in pleasant places who are so happy as to call it their home. In the very embrace of its own swelling hills it sleeps secure; and “of a’ the airts the wind can blaw,” only one has the privilege of visiting its face unkindly. This visitation even is a benefit, as the wide-spreading portal through which it comes unfolds a prospect of land and sea which, even on our own beautiful Frith, is but seldom equalled. This huge precipitous rock, however, with its picturesque group of startled goats, hides the bay and the town and the encircling hills at once from our gaze, and we betake ourselves to our task of putting a girdle round the isle.

The shores of the larger Cumbrae may be said to be literally iron-bound. On every side the island is girt with irregular cliffs, varying in height, and occasionally relaxing into slopes of a gentler character, but still preserving a remarkable degree of continuity. This rocky wall is principally composed of the old red sandstone, and bears evident marks of the action of water, as if it had been for ages exposed to a fierce conflict with wind and wave. The struggle, however, is now at an end. The surrounding water, as if vanquished, has retired from its former letel, and the cliffs alluded to stand high and dry; while a belt of level land, containing deposits of sand and shells, intervenes between the base of the precipice and the present sea margin. Along this natural terrace, between the rocky wall and the deep sea, lies our devious route. There is no road, however —not even so much as a legible footpath—eo that we are enabled, in the course of our rugged walk, to form a pretty Correct notion of what the Highland ways must have been before the Advent of the ever-blessed General Wade. Now we are wading cautiously among fern and bog myrtle, again we are breaking our shins over huge stones and boulders, and anon we are ploutering in a morass, or zig-zagging in speculative leaps from one tuft of rushes to another, in the vain hope of escaping the luxury of wet feet. The effort is fruitless, however, and we have soon the pleasure of feeling the insinuating fluid oozing through the seams of our treacherous 44 brogues,” and diffusing a most refreshing coolness over what a puny companion most villainously denominated our 14 solar system.” And then just to think how easily a splendid carriage drive could be formed abound this beautiful beach. One-half the money, we’ll be bound, that was expended on yon practical anachronism of a Puseyite college, would have done the entire work, and conferred a real and lasting blessing on the island. The staking 6f a road, or the building of a bridge, was reckoned, even in the Middle Ages, as good a method of earning a passport to heaven as the erection of a church; and as the Hon. Mr. Boyle has already gratified his mediaeval partialities by performing the last mentioned good work, let us hope that he may shortly purchase a double claim to favour up-stairs by "mending his ways.”

Our course is now interrupted by a curious geological formation called the "Fairies’ Dike.” This is a gigantic wall of dark crystalline trap, extending from the sandstone diff we have previously mentioned towards the sea. Originally it must have been upheaved in a molten state, penetrating the sandstone like a huge wedge, and remaining imbedded in the superincumbent rock. In process of time the sea, when at its former level, has washed away the soft and friable sandstone over the entire breadth of the level terrace we have mentioned, while the harder substance of the trap, having almost entirely resisted its action, remains comparatively intact. It is indeed a huge black wall of rock, grim-looking and obdurate to the last degree, and presenting in a horizontal direction the same columnar appearance as the basaltic formations. The length of the dike, from its apparent termination toward# the sea to it? junction with the adjacent hill, is 200 feet; while its elevation at the highest point is said to be 70 feet. In thickness it varies from 12 to 14 feet. The surface of this remarkable phenomenon is partially covered with a dense mantle of ivy, and its seams are fringed with a beautiful profusion of minute ferns and mosses, while large lichen stains of various tints lend it an aspect which is wild and somewhat weird in its effect. It might almost be taken, indeed* for the shattered ruins of a vast wall “built by giant; hands,” and struggling triumphantly with decay. A politic congregation of daws seem to have taken up their residence among the ivied clefts and crevices; and while we are examining) the structure, we can observe them eyeing us suspiciously, a*id every now and again we hear them bursting put into a dinsome and prolonged clamour. Relieving these dusky and somewhat quaint-looking watchers of our unwelopme presence, we pursue our way, and are presently startled by the appearance of a tremendous lion, or rather we should say a sphinx, couching a few hundred yards before us on the way we are going, and gazing towards the centre of the island, .

“With calm eternal eyes.”

The image is striking in the extreme, and we do not wonder that, apart even from its interest in a geological sense, it is reckoned one of the curiosities of the locality. Gaunt, grim, and large, it cumbers the beach, and almost creates a terror in that lonely place. The savans of Cumbrae call this the “Deil’s Dike.” In material and formation it is entirely identical with the trap wall we have just passed. It is less in its dimensions, although immensely more picturesque. By our measurement it is about 100 feet in length by 40 in height, and from 10 to 12 in thickness. A pretty considerable size for a lion truly! The material of the dike is more shattered and disjaskit, if we may use a good Scotch word, than the other wall, and thereby hangs a tale, which, if thou wilt seat thyself with us, gentle reader, on the haunch of the lion king, we shall briefly relate to thee.

Once upon a time, as the story books have it, there were a race of beings in this country called fairies. Little creatures they were, clad in green raiment, and wearing quaint comical caps made of rushes from the bog. Invisible by day, they sported in the glimpses of the moon, when they were sometimes seen by belated travellers or shepherds who had to attend their flocks on the lone hillside between the gloaming and the crowing of the cock. A colony of these fairies had a settlement on the larger Cumbrae; and as the members of it were naturally desirous of occasionally visiting their friends on the mainland, it was agreed in their nocturnal parliament that they should construct a bridge across the intervening channel for the purpose of facilitating the communication. They accordingly set to work, and the largest of the dikes we have mentioned was the result. While the tiny builders, however, were busy at their architectural labours, who should chance to come past one fine evening but an old night-walking gentleman who is well known in Scotland by a great number of aliases, such as—Auld Homie, Satan, Nick, and Clootie? On seeing what was going on, the Knight of the Cloven Foot began to cheer the “good people,” while a sneer of peculiar pungency played over his “reistit phiz.” “Do you call that clumsy thing a bridge?” he tauntingly inquired, and, without waiting for a reply, continued, “that it was no more like the thing it aimed to be than a Presbyterian bam was to a Gothic cathedral. If they wanted,” he said, “to see bridge-building, he would show them an example,” and with his caudal appendage raised to its utmost altitude, he came marching to the very spot where we are now sitting, and casting off his coat, at once set to work. The fairies clustered in clouds upon their own dike to see the progress of the diabolical erection. Notwithstanding his alleged familiarity in “Masonic Lodges,” however, the old enemy did not appear to be quite at home in the practical use of the compass and square. His wall speedily began to exhibit leeward tendencies (like a teetotaller over his first stolen tumbler), and when the line was applied, it was found to be very far indeed off the perpendicular; On observing this, a tiny but shrill chorus of laughter burst from the fairy onlookers, which so enraged the “Grand Master” that, without saying a word, he ^gave his workmanship an indignant kick, and at once vanished like a gleam of summer lightning—

“A moment bright, then lost for ever.”

Such is the popular myth attached to these curious trap dikes, and if the visitor ventures to express any doubts on the subject, his rustic cicerone will at once shut his mouth by pointing out the very breach which was made by the hoof of the mortified Deil.

About half a mile to the north-west of the “Deil’s Dyke,” and on the farm of Billikellet, the site of an ancient mansion is still pointed out, which was for several centuries the residence of a family named Montgomery, to whom a large portion of the island at one time belonged. The family has been long extinct.; and of their once stately dwelling-place not one stone now stands upon another. So recently as 1835, a remnant of the edifice existed in a tolerably good state of repair; but it has since been removed to make way for certain modern improvements. Amongst the last links of the family was a Dame Margaret Montgomery, who, according to tradition, lost her life by a kick from her horse on the green of Largs. It appears the lady had been thrown from the back of the animal, and that, trying to seize it again, she received a kick which instantly deprived her of life. Her remains, there is reason to believe, were deposited in the burial vault of the Skelmorley family, in the churchyard of Largs. At all events, there is a carving in one of the compartments of that august funereal pile representing a lady and a furious steed, which is said to refer to the tragedy of the Dame Margaret. Lord Glasgow is now possessor of the lands which of old belonged to the Montgomerys of Billikellet.

Pursuing our way along the shore, we have a beautiful prospect of the Ayrshire coast, with the village and castle of Fairlie; the castle of Kelburne, with its dark woody glen, and its finely timbered braes; the town of Largs, and the green hills beyond, with the blue Frith heaving in many a crested wave between, and stretching away into the haze of distance on either hand. Landward, our view is “ cabined, cribbed, confined”—the precipitous rocks sometimes approaching churlishly, as if they would fain shoulder us into the water; at other times complacently retiring, as on set purpose to leave us “ample scope and verge enough ” for our wildest frolics. Now the margin of the sea is fretted with fantastic rocks, wave-worn and honeycombed; again it is thickly strewn with boulders and rough gravel, and huge bunches of tangle;. and anon it softens into a smooth, sandy beach, where the surge curls over as in play, and gently glides along with it£ glittering bells of foam until the last faint breath of impulse dies away. Sea-urchins, and starfishes, and little crabs are discovered as we pass along, and countless pretty shells, with their curious molluscous tenants, either moving about in the restless waters, or lying high and dry on the beach, like stranded mariners waiting for the tide. What a profusion of life there is on the margin of the great deep! What endless fields of study there are in its vegetable and animal products! Every rock and every pool is a little world of itself, in which the observant naturalist may read strange matters. Every headland and every bay is as a book unfolded, wherein he that rambles may read.

Passing Balloch Bay, where a board of oysters may be procured at certain states of the tide, and where a safe anchorage may be obtained in any wind; and leaving behind us the ferry-house (now almost deserted by its former traffic), a few minutes’ walk brings us to the north-east termination of the island, which is locally known as “the Tomont End.” A spacious level terrace is here environed by a wall of rugged and precipitous cliffs, forming, as it were, a kind of natural amphitheatre. In this retired and really picturesque spot, a green mound is still pointed out as the burial-place of certain Norse warriors who fell at the battle of Largs. Another undulation in the vicinity is popularly known as the u lady’s grave,” and, according to tradition, is said to contain the ashes of a fair Norwegian maid whose lover perished on the same fatal field. On receiving the sad tidings, the faithful fair, according to use and wont in the balladmongers’ world, at once fell sick and died of a broken heart. If she had lived in our day, poor thing, a less romantic fate would probably have been her lot. Hearts, now-a-days, are made of sterner stuff, and we are, therefore, rather incredulous when we read such fine pathetic finales as,—

“Yestreen ye died for my sweet sake,
This nicht I’ll die for thine;
And she laid her doon a clay-cauld corp,
The last o’ a* her line.

“They buried him at ae kirk neuk,
And her intill anither;
Bnt lang before the gray cock crawed,
The deid had crept thegither.” ,

But a tragedy of more recent date, “an ower true tale,” is associated with the Tomont End. The event is comme* morated by an elegant but plain obelisk, which has been erected here on a gentle eminence overlooking the sea. The inscription we copy as follows:—

“To the Memory
of
Mr. Chajm.es D. Cayley, aged 17 years, and
Mr. William N. Jewell, aged 19 years,
Midshipmen of H.M.S. Shearwater,
Two promising young officers drowned by the upsetting of their boat near this place, 17th May, 1844;
This monument is erected in token of their worth by Captain Robinson and Officers of the above-named vessel.”

The two lads had been amusing themselves on the Frith one beautiful day in May, when a stiff gale suddenly arose and drove them out of their course. Approaching this point their boat was in danger of being dashed against the rocks. Making every effort, however, to weather the headland, the little craft, with her sails set, was seen at one fell swoop, to go right under water. There was no assistance *at hand, and the sea was roaring white,—

“No human ear heard William’s drowning cry.”

The melancholy occurrence was observed, however, from the "Vulcan ” war steamer, which was lying off Largs. As soon as the steam could be got up, she proceeded to the spot, but by this time all was over. Not a vestige of the boat or of the two young men could be discovered, save the caps which they had worn, which were found floating upon the waves. One of their bodies, we understand, was found some weeks afterwards; but the other awaits the time when the sea shall give up its dead.

One would have thought that such a memorial stone as this would have been safe from all injury from human hands. We are sorry to say that the reverse is the case. Some of those mischievous fools, who, in defiance of all decency, are eternally scribbling their worthless names on trees and public edifices, and especially on objects which are sacred to pure and elevating emotion, have laid their unclean hands upon this solitriy and unprotected monument. Not content with merely scratching their horrid initials on the surface of the stone, several of them have had the disgusting impudence actually to carve their names in full, and to a considerable depth within the surface, as if they had actually brought tools to the spot for the express purpose. Let us pillory one or two of the most presumptuous. Foremost is a J. M‘Leish, of Perth, who dates his crime in 1855. Then we have a Jas. Orr, and a W. Jack, and a host of other nobodies, who prudently refrain from prating of their whereabouts, and who fail to give us the Anno Domini of their misdeeds. We are only sorry that the boatswain of the “ Shearwater” has not the privilege of using these fellows—one and all—according to their deserts, and administering to them the only argument in favour of better behaviour they could possibly appreciate in the shape of a good round dozen.

We now turn the corner of the island, and resume our walk along the north-western shora The character of the coast in this direction is exactly similar to that on the opposite side. We have the same range of cliffy heights, the same level terrace intervening between their bases and the water, and the same alternations of rock, and gravel, and sandy bay, along the immediate margin of the sea. There is this difference, however—everything is on a larger scale. The precipices are higher and more rugged, the plain is more spacious and better adapted for culture, and the bays are of greater extent; that is to say, excepting Millport Bay, which is by far the finest and most commodious in the island. Instead of the Ayrshire coast, we have now on the opposite side of the channel the Isle of Bute, with the mansion and lawns of Mountstuart, Kilchattan Bay, and the bold range of hills that terminates in the Garriochhead. All round the Cumbrae, indeed, we have a series of ever-shifting prospects, and each new scene seems to vie with the others in the excellence of loveliness.

At a gentle little bay, which rejoices in the name of Portrie, or the King’s Port, a tiny streamlet steals down from the hills and athwart the sands in many a playful link. Running waters are anything but numerous in the Cumbraes, and as this one is cool and clear as crystal, we resolve to have our mid-day pic-nic upon its banks. Our fare, as befits a rambler, is frugal and wholesome, and the brambles of old October lend it a welcome and most abundant addition. Who ever saw such blackboyds; so large, so lustrous, and so profuse? We could actually gather a bushel in the course of a few minutes. Then the bushes seem actually to strive with each other which shall minister to our desires, and stretch out their long, jagged arms, as if tempting us to partake. Like a dark eye in woman is each glittering blob, and, then, the purple clusters of the South could not to our palate be more delicious. What a picture our party would make! Just fancy, gentle reader, a green and sunny link of the bum, with a tiny waterfall in the background making a pleasing din. Over our heads, a rowan-tree, with its red bunches gleaming in the sun, hangs gracefully from a bank of tangled hazel, and fern, and brambles, and rose* bushes blushing with scarlet berries. A pert wee robin, with his bright black eyes and a bosom that wears the tint of the falling leaf (as if the searing finger of autumn had been laid upon it to mark the bird her own), sits perched upon a massy stump ayont the bum, and, after an introductory bow or two, bursts sweetly into song. Our companion is stretched upon the sward, while we, upon an old gray-lichened stone, sit calm and dignified, leaning upon our pilgrim staff. At one moment we are munching our bread and cheese, at another we are listening to the singing bird; now we are paying our respects to the jetty brambles, and anon, perhaps, we are vacantly musing upon the falling lea£ Suddenly our companion presents his pocket-pistol, and we shrink not from the charge. A teetotaller would have fainted at the dreadful sight; but when, either in peace or in war, have we shown the white feather? The contents of that little tube we can take without wincing, and let the enemy say what he likes, without injury. The mystical words, “Here’s to the Cumbraes and the neighbouring islands! ” are heard resounding through the dell, and next moment there is an odour upon the breeze which might well give new life to the fading flowers, and which certainly seems to lend a deeper melody to the redbreast’s melting strain.

And now, having disposed of this little matter, we resume our walk with renovated vigour. It needs not, however, that we linger by the way. Passing Fintry Bay—a beautiful curve of yellow sand about three-quarters of a mile in length, with fine natural terraces rising from it in gentle gradations, exquisitely adapted for the site of a future watering-place—we hasten round the isle, and arrive once more at Millport, just as our kindly hostess has overcome the preliminaries of a comfortable dinner.

“Now bring to me a trig wee boat
To breiat the waves o’ Clyde,
For I this day maun cleave the faem
To yon brown island’s side.

"Swith ower the dancing tide we gang,
Swith ower the white and the blue,
A groat we'll win wi' ever a bark,
Less gleg than the wild sea-mew,”

Landing on the Little Cumbrae, and mooring the boat to a huge water-worn boulder, we at once proceed overland to the old castle. Our time is but a span, and we must make the most of it. The surface of the island is wild and barren, as it came from the hand of nature. The bracken is the predominant plant, and at the present season, when it is seared and dun, it actually gives a rusty tinge to the very hills. Over heighs and howes we push our right onward way, pausing, however, every now and then, to watch the rabbits, which are here in vast myriads, as they scud away through the fern on our approach, with ears and fud erect, and with every symptom of a pretty alarm. The castle is situated at the south-east end of the island, immediately opposite Port-Crawford on the Ayrshire coast. From their lengthened conflict with the wind and the rain, the walls have an exceedingly weather-beaten aspect. At one period it must have been a place of great strength, there being still some vestiges of a strong rampart, with a fosse or ditch, and a drawbridge to be raised in time of danger. Even the ruins have a stem and, withal, sturdy appearance, which indicates a prolonged struggle with decay. In some places the walls are upwards of seven feet in thickness. The structure is now roofless, and the windows afford a free entrance to the storm. On the first floor there is one chamber in a tolerable state of preservation. This was the great hall and doubtless it has often rung with the pleasant din of festivity and social merriment. Its dimensions are twenty-six feet by fourteen and a-half. Underneath it is strongly arched, and altogether it promises to retain its proportions entire for many years to come. The stair by which it is entered, however, is somewhat dilapidated, and to effect an entrance it requires a steady head and a firm foot. There is nothing known regarding the origin of this tower, but it is supposed that it was erected simultaneously with another edifice of the same kind on the Ayrshire coast, immediately opposite, for the purpose of guarding the entrance of the Clyde at a time when marauders were in the habit of visiting our shores. It has almost no history. Occasionally it was a residence of the Eglinton family; and in times of distress their fiends were sometimes sent here to be out of harm’s way. Principal Baillie of Glasgow having fled from the city on the approach of Cromwell, after the battle of Dunbar, sought refuge here, and remained in the old keep for several months. Whether in revenge for this or not, we cannot say, but the tradition is that the castle was ultimately surprised by a party of Cromwell’s troops, who burned the wood-work and otherwise damaged the building. In the vicinity of the castle is the house of the tacksman, with another cottage or two and a few patches of garden and other arable ground. At a short distance from the castle also are the remains of an ancient chapel, which was dedicated to St. Vey, and the spot where the same saint is buried is still pointed out by the antiquary. This edifice is supposed to have been a dependency of Icolumbkill in Iona.

Ascending a pretty steep hill, we at length arrive at the summit of the island, which is said to be about 400 feet above the level of the sea. At this point there is a tower erected as a lighthouse in 1750. This was the second structure of the kind which was ever built on the Scottish coast. It was lighted by a coal fire placed in a huge grate, and in its time was reckoned a great benefit to the shipping interests of the Clyde. From its lofty situation, however, it had the disadvantage of being rendered invisible in foggy weather, when its services were most wanted. This induced the Commissioners to erect another lighthouse on the west side of the island. The prospect from the summit of the old tower is one of the most extensive and varied which it is possible to conceive.

Descending to the lighthouse on the western shore, we are charmed with the neat and tidy manner in which everything is kept. The tower, which is of a snowy whiteness, was erected in place of an older and less convenient structure in 1826. Its elevation is 115 feet above high-water mark, the base being a rock of 80 feet in height, while the altitude of the building is 36 feet. The lighting apparatus consists of 15 oil lamps, respectively provided with a silver reflector, which each cost £60, and which are admirably adapted for the diffusion of the light. At sea the appearance of the light is that of a brilliant star, and in certain states of the atmosphere it can be seen, it is said, at a distance of nearly thirty miles. From the Toward lighthouse the Cumbrae one is distant about ten miles, and from that at the Cloch sixteen miles. The keeper’s house is a comfortable looking edifice, with a large and tastefully kept garden around it. Everything, indeed, about the place is in apple-pie order, and the effect which it produces on the visitor, after he has traversed the bleak cliffs and dark mossy braes of the primitive parts of the island, is beyond measure grateful and pleasing.

The sun is now touching the western horizon, however, and amateur mariners as we are, we must not be overtaken by darkness on the waters. We hurry, therefore, to our tiny bark, which we find all right, in charge of the boulder. Getting afloat, we ply the oars again with all our lustihood, and are soon dancing in the red light which gloaming flings upon the Frith. It is indeed a gorgeous evening. The west is suffused with a glow of crimson, which is heightened in effect by vast streaks and masses of midnight darkness, like the wing of the tiger-moth on a scale of celestial magnitude. Dim and more dim it waxes as we proceed, and by the time we have reached the quay, there is a greenish and a clay-cold pallor in the sky which reminds us of the face of death. And thus it ever is—the blush and the bloom pass away; and “Prithee, why so wan, fond lover?” is the sad, the final question. Never mind: when the day goes to sleep the stars are awaking; and see even now how beautifully the eye of Hesper is beaming in the deepening blue.


Return to Book Index Page