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.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Days at the Coast
Loch Fine and Inverary


One favourite route to Lochfine and the metropolis of Argyleshire—the head-quarters of the Macallum More—is by Lochgoilhead. From this locality—itself the very home of nature’s grandeur—there is an excellent road, some eight miles in length, up Glengoil and through the grim jaws of Hell’s Glen, to St. Catharine’s, on the shores of Lochfine, immediately opposite Inverary. The tourist who has leisure, and who loves to linger occasionally in contemplation of the wildering beauties of highland landscape, may be recommended to perform the journey on foot; but those who find a pleasure in the study of character, and who would learn the traditional associations of the surrounding country, ought by all means to imitate our example, and while patronising the coach, to Cultivate the acquaintance of Mr. John Campbell, the driver. In that case we can promise them a treat. Mr. Campbell is the very beau ideal of his profession; the genuine type of a race which, in these days of railways and steamers, is fast becoming extinct. A surer hand never managed the ribbons, a more dexterous never touched the flank of an obstreperous leader. “Take him for all in all, we shall not look upon his like again.”

But we must introduce our readers more particularly to our friend John. The steamer has reached her destination arid is “blowing off” lustily alongside the wharf, while the silence of many an adjoining glen is disturbed by the ear-piercing yell of the funnel. A stream of impatient passengers, with baskets, and bags, and bundles, are hurrying ashore, and we, a waif upon the current, are borne helplessly along. Adjacent to the wharf is stationed a coach and four, awaiting its chances of a freight. This is the St. Catharine's coach; and duly at his post, handing in passengers, stowing away luggage, and making all things ship-shape, is the guardian spirit of the vehicle. John Campbell is a capital specimen of the Celt—about the prime of life, stout, brawny, and well built—with a gash, weather-beaten countenance, a well-formed and well-developed head, and a pair of deep blue eyes, from which a pair of u laughing imps seem to be ever on the out-look for something capable of being twisted into fun. A low-crowned felt, a light-coloured waterproof, —(the day threatens rain)—and a pair of good, stout, thick-soled shoes, form the leading features of the outer man. After a few minutes bustle and preparation, John takes his seat, seizes the reins, and, with a scientific flourish of the whip, sets his steeds into motion. Away goes the machine in capital style—and away goes the tongue of the driver in a running fire of humorous remark, of anecdote, and repartee. Now he is bandying words with some passing pedestrian, again he is hitting off some happy sketch of character— Frenchman, Cockney, braid Scot, or Hielanman, all come alike to John; and anon he is telling some tale of the olden time associated with the neighbouring mountains and glens. Every hill and ravine is to him an old acquaintance; every shieling and every farm a familiar study. Every mountain and every mountain stream he knoweth by name; and he can tell the landscape tourist to a yard where the best prospects are to be obtained. No passenger, indeed, ever wearies on the way with John Campbell. And then he is a thorough patriot—a genuine warm-hearted Highlander— ever ready to defend his countrymen, and prepared, when any paltry, pernickity Southron talks contemptuously of "the creatures who live in these ’ere uts,” to show

“That buirdljr men and strappin’ hizzles
Were reared in sic a way as this is.”

"Ay, mem,” says John Campbell one day to an English lady, "it has frequently been in sich huts as these that the men wha win your battles and wha navigate your seas, have been born and brocht up. In sich huts you’ll find as honest men and as bonnie lasses as the kintra can boast. Hamely and humble as they look, these huts are rich in the kindliest affections of human nature—in the best materials of poetry; and to prove what I am saying, I’ll repeat to ye, if you like, mem, twa, three verses that were written by a bit callant who was born and bred in sic’ another shieling as that weatherworn thing before us—

“THE FIVE SHILLING FEE.

“My mither was wae, for my father was deid,
And they’d threatened to tak’ the auld house ower our head;
Her earnings were tana’, and the meal it grew dear;
I was auldest o* five, and coold whiles see the tear,
A» she cam' hame at night, glist’ning bright in her een—
Half hid, as if’t didna jist wish to be seen.
I maidna a word, but my heart it wad ache.
And I wished I was big for my pair mither's sake.

“The farmers around wanted herds for their kye.
And my mither she said she had ane that wad try;
I trembled, I mind, half in fear, half in joy,
When a farmer ca’d in jist to look at the boy.
He bade me stand up, and he thought I was wee,
Bht my frank honest face, he said, pleased his e’e,
He wad tak’ roe and try me ae half year to see,
For a pair o’ new shoon and a five shilling fee.

"Oh! we were glad to hear tell o’t—a bargain was struck,
And he gied us a sakpence o' arles for guds luck.
My trousers and jacket were patched for the day,
And my mither convoyed me a lang mile o' way,
i’ charges and warnings 'gainst a’ sorts o’ crime,
And rules sbe laid doon, I thought hard at the time.
Though the kye should rin wrang, I was never to lee.
Though they sent me awa, ’thout my shoon or my fee.

“Sae I set to my wark, and I pleased richt weel—
At a wave o' the hand I was aff like an eel.
But my troubles cam' on, for the fences were bad.
And the midsummer flies gait the cattle rlu mad;
Or the cauld blashy weather, sair drenched wi' the rain,
Till wee thoughts o* leevin’ wad steal through my brain;
But wi' courage I aye dashed the tear frae my e'e.
When I thought on my shoon and my five shilling fee!

“Syne the lang looked-for Martinmas cam’ wi* my store,
And proudly I counted it twenty times o’er; .
Though years since are fled, in a fortunate train,
I never have felt such a rapture again.
Not the sailor, when safe through the breakers he's steer’d.
Not Waterloo’s victor when Blucher appeared,
Ere felt what I felt, when I placed on the knee
Of » fond-hearted mither my five shilling fee!"

"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” and by the time John Campbell had concluded his recitation, the English lady was in tears, and, of course, not at all inclined to resume the argument. There is indeed, a strong dash of simple pathos in the verses—a something that finds its way to the heart and compels the tribute of a sympathetic tear. More especially is this the case when they flow in all earnestness and simplicity from the lips of John Campbell. A more effective bit of recitation—a more truthful touch of the grace which goes beyond the reach of art, we have never heard, and we envy not their feelings who could listen to it unmoved. And who is the author of the verses? That we cannot answer. We had a shrewd suspicion that they might have been from John’s own pen. He denies the soft impeachment, however, and ascribes them to some humble Dumfriesshire poet. Of course, in the absence of other information, we must accept his word.

While we are talking of Mr. Campbell, however, that worthy individual and his four good steeds are dashing merrily on their prescribed way. We have left Glengoil, with its wide-spreading haughs and many-winding stream, behind; we have skirted the precipitous ravines and scaled the steep acclivities of the glen with the ominous name, and, crossing the intervening ridge, we are bearing rapidly down hill into the vast mountain basin of Lochfine. The prospect which now opens upon our ga2e is one of the most spacious and picturesque description. Before us, over a green and fertile slope, is the glittering bosom of the loch, fretted with boats at rest or in motion, with the town and Castle of Inverary on the further shore, embosomed in finely-wooded hills, and gleaming beautifully in the midday sun. To parody the song of another island,

“Thy town, Inverary, it shines where it stands,
And the more I think of it the more my heart warms.”

To the left the water stretches away round the wooded hills of Furnace, and to the right between the castled promontory of Dvu-da«ramh and the shadowy slopes of Ardkinlas, towards Caimdow and the unseen opening of Glenfyne. Brief space, however, is afforded us to scan the varied and ever*-varying features of the landscape. We are now, to borrow a line from Borns,

"Gaun down hill screivin'
Wi ratllin’speed"

and after an exhilarating sweep through fields of ever-increasing fertility, we are speedily brought to a pause in front of the comfortable looking hostelry of St. Catharine’s. Of this establishment, our friend John Campbell is proprietor and we can assure those who happen to pass that way, that there is no lack of the creature comforts within its walls, whether in the shape of good substantial solids, or in the more ethereal form of the inspiring mountain dew.

We have referred to Mr. Campbell as the prince of drivers, as a fellow of infinite jest, witty himself, and the cause of wit in others, and also as the hospitable landlord of St. Catharine’s Inn; we have, in addition, to mention him, before parting, as a. practical philanthropist, a friend to the cause of education. In the locality where he is a resident, there has hitherto been no proper school—the pursuit of knowledge being only possible under the greatest difficulties. Mr. Campbell resolved to provide a remedy. For this purpose he instituted a subscription, to which he generously contributed, a season’s drawings in his capacity of coach-driver. He was aided in the good work by some of the neighbouring gentry, and by some of his more public-spirited neighbours. Ultimately a good round sum was realized, and a grant having in addition been obtained from government, the project is now in the process of being carried into effect. The foundation-stone was laid with masonic honours early in the present summer, and the edifice is now nearly completed. Education will thus be brought within the reach of many poor children who might otherwise have been brought up as ignorant as the stirks upon their native hills. Children yet unborn will have reason to remember with gratitude the name of John Campbell. :

But the ferry-boat is getting up her steam, and we must make our way on board. A curious cobble of a thing is the said ferry-boat, being as broad nearly as she is long, and in fact bearing a greater likeness to a tub than to any other kind of vessel with which we are acquainted. The original "Comet” of Henry Bell must have been a perfects model of marine architecture in comparison. The proprietor, whoever he is, might we are persuaded, make a good thing of it by exhibiting the nondescript at a penny a-head at the Broomielaw. But* >

“Eirich agus turgia, O!
Eirich agus tugin, O!
Eirich agus tngih, O!
Farewell to sweet St. Catharine’s;"

and a kind farewell to thee, thou brawny, buirdly, mirth-inspiring son of the reins and the Whip. Long may you be unscathed the sunbeam and the blast, and long may your merry, manly voice, and your genial smile, enliven the pilgrim in yon glen that ought to be nameless to ears polite. After a world of sputter and fuss, we are fairly under weigh; and churning with a kind of spasmodic energy athwart the bosom of Lochfine. There is a pretty stiff breeze ahead, and it seems rather doubtful at first whether the passage of three miles is a practicable feat for our indomitable steam-tub. Several times she seems on the very brink of a whommle. Slowly, and with many an awkward hobble, however, she gains upon the adverse wind. In something less than an hour she manages to grapple with the pier; and thanking our lucky stars, we step on terra firma to meet with a Highland welcome from an expectant friend in the capital of the Campbells.

Lochfine is an arm of the sea extending in a northwesterly direction from the Frith of Clyde, between the isles of Arran and Bute to Glenfine —a distance altogether of about thirty-two miles. Its average breadth is from four to five miles, though occasionally it is much more contracted, and in some places it expands to a breadth of not less than twelve miles. Literary is situated on the margin of a spacious bay, about five miles from the head of the loch. Its situation is one of great beauty. On the landward side the hills seem to retire, as it were, to make way for two lovely mountain streams, which here find their way to the ocean. These streams are the Aray and the Shira, each flowing down a glen of the same name, and within a short distance of each other, mipgling their waters with the loch. It is to the former of these streams that the locality is indebted for its name—the word "Inverary” literally signifying a spacious or fertile tract of land at the mouth of the river Aray. In this sense the term is most appropriately descriptive. From the breast of the loch the scenery of the locality is peculiarly grand. . Sir Walter Scott, in the Legend of Montrose gives the redoubtable Captain Dalgetty an opportunity of studying the landscape features of the spot. He says—“ Embarked on the bosom of Lochfine, Captain Dalgetty might have admired one of the grandest scepes which nature affords. He might have noticed the rivial rivers, Aray and Shira, which pay tribute to the loch, each issuing from its own dark and wooded retreat. He might have marked on the soft and gentle slope that ascends from the shore the noble old Gothic castle, with its varied outline, embattled walls, towers, and outer and inner courts, which, so far as the picturesque is concerned, presented an aspect much more striking than the present massive and uniform mansion. He might have admired those dark woods, which for many a mile surrounded this strong and princely dwelling, and his eye might have dwelt on the picturesque peak of Dunnaquoich, starting abruptly from the lake, and raising its scathed brow into the mists of middle sky; while a solitary watch-tower, perched on its top like an eagle’s nest, gave dignity to the scene, by awakening a sense of possible danger.

AH these, and every other accompaniment of the noble scene, Captain Dalgetty might have marked, if he had been so minded. The worthy soldier of fortune seems, however, to have cared for none of these things. Pay and provender were more congenial, we dare say, to his mercenary soul than the picturesque. So far as the natural features of the scene are concerned, there has been but little change since the days of Dalgetty’s embassy to Argyle. The everlasting hills remain unchanged; the woods continue to wave for miles and miles in the blast; and the Arly and the Shira cease not to murmur on their respective courses to the sea. In other respects there have been many and material changed. In the good old times it was necessary that the chief and the vassal should be near to each other. They were mutually dependent; and the castle of the chief was generally closely girt, as with a wall of defence, by the humbler dwellings of his kinsmen. So it was at Inverary. The old castle was situated near the embouchure of the river, and the original village clustered in its immediate neighbourhood. In process of time, and as their aid became less valuable, the neighbourhood of the vassals became obnoxious to the haughty Argyles. The village, which had been raised to the dignity of a royal burgh in 1648, by Charles II., then a prisoner in Carisbrook, was accordingly demolished in 1742, when the present town was commenced. Shortly thereafter —namely, in 1745—the old castle was doomed to demolition. About that time the present ducal residence, which lies at a considerable distance from the site of its predecessor, was commenced, and in a few years thereafter it was ready for occupation.

The modern town of Inverary is of no great extent. In fact, we were somewhat disappointed, on our approach, to find it of such diminutive size. As a county town, and the seat of a Justiciary Court, it had always loomed largely in our imagination, and in such a case it is disagreeable to be undeceived. The town consists chiefly of one street, running east and west, near the centre of which stands the church—a handsome structure—and a row of houses which look towards the adjoining bay. The houses are for the most part plain two-storeyed edifices, laid off at right angles, and generally covered with slate. The general aspect of the place is dean and tidy, but suggestive of formality and constraint, as if it had been awed into something like starched manners by the proximity of the castle. We never liked those pet towns—those creations of a great man's phantasy —which are laid down by square and rule, and in which architectural grace is so sadly u cabined, cribbed, confined. Dearer to our eye is the auld warld village, that hangs as it grew, and which, in spite of all its “heids and its thraws, its heichts and its howes,” is steeped in the very spirit of the picturesque. The principal edifices in Inverary are the County Buildings and the Court Houses, the church, and an inn of truly palatial dimensions and character. It was at this place, it will be remembered, that Dr. Samuel Johnson, the Ursa Major of English literature, and his obsequious lickspittle, James Boswell, put up on their return from the famous tour to the Hebrides. Johnson was delighted with his reception at the inn. "He owned,” says Boswell, "that he got as good a room and bed as at an English inn.” Boswell also says, "the prospect of good accommodation cheered us much. We supped well; and after supper Dr. Johnson called for a gill of whisky. ‘Come,’ said he, ‘let me know what it is that makes a Scotchman happy.’ He drank it all but a drop, which,” continues Bozzy, 'I begged him to pour into my glass, that I might say we had drunk whisky together.” Boswell, although he knew he was unwelcome, thrust himself into the castle, and got himself very properly snubbed for his pains. To Dr. Johnson the Duke and Duchess were particularly civil. They stroked his bearship by the hair, and sent him away growling as melodiously as any sucking dove. We have another pilgrim in our memory who went away from the inn at Inverary in a less amiable mood. That pilgrim was Robert Burns, the great Scottish poet; the man whose name, above all others, Scotland delights to cherish. After a hard day's riding on a mare of the most sorry description, he sought rest and refreshment at the inn. A party of gentlemen, on a visit to the Duke of Argyie, however, usurped the whole attention and services of the establishment. Bums was nobody, and Bums was, ’of course, neglected. He took his revenge by writing the following lines upon one of the windows of the inn:—

"Whoe’er he be, who sojourne here,
I pity much his case,
Unless he*s come to waft upon
The Lord their God hi# grace:
There’s naethlng liere but Highland pride,
But Highland canid and hupger
If Providence has sent me here
"Twaa sorely in his anger.”

Immediately adjacent to the town are the spacious and most beautiful pleasure grounds of His Grace of Argyle. They embrace every variety of scenery—-green lawn and leafy dell; far-extending avenues of densest shade, and mountain summits towering to the sky. For days and days the pensive wanderer may linger here within tike canopy of melancholy boughs, now listening to the murmur of the mountain streams or the sweet voices of the summer birds, and anon from the loophole of some sequestered and sylvan retreat enjoying the beauty of the neighbouring loch, and its splendid amphitheatre of hills. Single trees therefore of such stately proportions and of such impressing presence that one could almost doff their hat to them in natural obeisance. There are specimens of oak and elm, of larch and lime and sycamore, which would have rejoiced the eye of a Gilpin or an Evylyn, and which are perfect studies of sylvan grace and loveliness. There are three great avenues, cathedral-like in their dimensions and in their shadowy grandeur. One of these, of stately limes, extends from the castle to Essachasan; another, composed of the beauteous beech, leads to the dim recesses of Glenshira; and a third, of the same timber, with its slate-ooloured stems and its glossy garniture of leaves, runs adjacent to, and parallel with the burgh. It is in vain, however, to enumerate individual combinations and effects in the wide woodlands of Argyle. This will be apparent when we state that, in all, they extend over something like nine thousand acres. To be appreciated in all their aspects of magnificence and loveliness, they must be seen, and that not once, but again and again. The castle is situated on a green lawn, overlooking a splendid reach of the loch and the Highlands of Cowal. It is a large quadrangular structure, with a tower at each comer, and a high pavilion rising in the centre. Stiff and formal in outline, it has but small pretensions to the picturesque, and certainly it does not at all harmonize with the romantic scenery around. The stone of which it is constructed is a kind of micaceous slate, soft but durable, and of a blueish-gray colour. A single shower deepens it materially in tone, but with the return of sunshine it soon resumes its primitive hue of sober gray. The hall is tastefully adorned with arms, some of which were out in the *45, and with relics of the chase, &c. One of the rooms also k decorated with beautiful tapestry from the looms of Ghent. There is little else, with the exception of a few pictures, calling for special notice in the ducal residence. The principal beauties of Inverary Castle are to be found external to its walls. In our stroll through the grounds, our attention was attracted towards a tall, upright stone upon the lawn. There is no inscription or device upon it to indicate its purpose. On inquiring, one individual shrewdly suggested that it might have been erected in the olden times by one of the dukes as a scratching post for . his distressed tenants, or vassals, who, it is said, were long afflicted with an annoying indigenous disease. Another said, it had been reared to mark the spot where a considerable number of the Campbells had been put to death by the Athol ravagero, in 1685; while a third assured us that it was an ancient landmark designed to indicate the boundary between the lands of the M'Invers and the M'Vicars, who were the original proprietors of the soil. The latter, we suspect, may be the true reading, as it is well known that the Campbells came here in the character of usurpers, and drove the original possessors, either by policy or force of arms, from their lands. As our time is limited, we must not venture at present to scale Dunna-quoich, but content ourselves with borrowing a passage on tiie subject of the ascent from another pen—

"Immediately after breakfast we set out with the view of ascending the abrupt cone-shaped hill which had attracted so much of our attention last night. C. led the way; and as we had acquired a sheep-like habit of implicitly following our leader, we moved in a line behind him, and a pretty bit of dance he led us I In fact, we were soon convinced that he knew no more than ourselves about the road by which we might best achieve the enterprise on which we were bent, and that we had acted more discreetly in this—as in other instances—had we taken counsel of the natives before we began to ascend the sugar-loaf shaped Donnaquoich. At first we got on pretty well for a few yards—the soil being firm, and the trees kindly lending us their aid; but the path 4 grew faint and fainter still,’ and at last disappeared entirely, leaving us to fight our desperate way over large stones and deep fosses, and through strong tufts of underwood, and long rank grass, and huge ferns, all linked together by intricate brambles, and forming a kind of jungle which it required both address and strength to penetrate. Here -and there appeared a few most deceptive patches of bright green moss, on which, as soon as you had placed your foot, you found yourself immersed over the ankles in water. Still we worked our, way upwards, 4 thorough brake, thorough briar,’ though often compelled to pause in our ascent; and at last, after about an hour’s hard labour, we stood upon the summit of Dunnaquoich—not a naked spiry pinnacle—as we had somehow premised—but green as a meadow, and of considerable breadth. A scene of ample extent and mingled barrenness and beauty stretched around us. On three sides was an amphitheatre of mountains and moorlands. Beneath us lay the richly-grouped woods and verdant meadows of Glenaray; and the noble loch, on which a few little sails flitted to and fro, stretched away in calm beauty into the distant horizon, between the long and waving outline of its mountain-bank. We descended at hap-hazard from our cloud-kissing elevation, and as each took paths and ways of their own in the descent, we had each our peculiar mishaps and grievances. My boots perished in the service, and it was unanimously agreed, in recounting our adventures, that the ascent of Dunnaquoich is a feat which none should attempt unless in woodland trim.”

Returning to Inverary, we embark in one of the herring wherries, with the view of obtaining a speedy passage to Furnace—a village on the side of Lochfine, about eight miles from the point of embarkation. We had better have taken stick in hand and measured the distance on foot. A stiff head-wind sets right in our teeth, keeping us tossing and tumbling, tacking and re-tacking, running from this side to that, and from that to this, for three mortal hours, and without apparently getting any nearer to our destination. We seek shelter from the bitter-biting blast and the drenching spray in a miserable little crib, which is redolent of “ all ancient and fish-like smells,” and where incipient symptoms of sea-sickness soon begin to agitate our inner man. Darkness begins to set in ere we have passed Strachur—one-half the way we have to go—and in the thickening gloom Inverary seems actually to be following in our wake. At length, after a world of pitching and heaving, of dashing, and crashing, and smashing, we manage to round the last difficult point, and gradually glide into smooth water. The sails are soon furled, the anchor heaved overboard, and Caleb scrambling joyously over the slimy shingle, and singing in tones not loud but deep—

“The land—the land for me!**

Catch the said gentleman, if you can, again undertaking a cruise in a herring-boat, when he has the chance of a highway. Night, deep, dark, and dreary, hangs over Furnace as we touch the shore. We can hear the murmnr of a running brook, the voices of the blast among the woods, but all is lost to sight. We have a kind friend by our side, however, and a friend’s cosie home at hand. The very windows are shining a welcome through the gloom. Sweet is pleasure after pain—sweet repose after bustle and anxiety; and in the enjoyment of pleasure and repose, we bid thee, gentle reader, a kind good night.

It is morning on Lochfine—morning in the green glen of the Leakan, at the mouth of which is situated the village or clachan of Furnace, the scene of our evening’s entertainment and rest. The breeze has died away during the night, and all is placid and still on sea and on shore. Here and there upon the calm bosom of the loch a boat may be seen, with all sails set, and yet to the eye

“As idle as a painted ship
 Upon a painted ocean.”

We can see the white sea-birds sailing lazily here and there, the blue reek rising in vertical curls over the scattered cottages, and the white mists of morning still clinging to the summits of the distant hills. There is sunshine upon the waters, however, which seem to quiver in a luminous ecstacy; sunshine upon the green woods, and the yellow fields, and in the yawning glens that pour their murmuring tributes of crystal or of amber into the vast basin of Lochfine. Morning, indeed, never met our gaze in a more lovely aspect than she does now, amidst solitude, silence, and all the charms of natural beauty and sublimity.

The village of Furnace is so called from an iron smelting work which, towards the end of the last century, was established on the spot, but which has long ceased to fling its lurid radiance over the adjacent loch. The ruins of the works, however, are still in existence, and, under the sobering influences of time and decay, they have actually acquired a sort of antiquarian interest. The situation is exceedingly beautiful. In front is the loch with the lofty hills, and the verdant slopes of Cowal on the farther shore, while behind is the glen of the Leakan, with its steep wooded slopes swelling upwards into grizzly peaks and brown Wastes of moorland. Down the centre of the glen runs the Leakan— a lively Highland stream—here dashing furiously over rocks and stones, there foaming over some tiny linn, and anon stealing deviously away into leafy recesses where you scarcely know of its presence but by the softened murmurs of its lingering waters. For a considerable distance above Furnace, indeed, the course of the Leakan is one long line of leafy luxuriance, with every here and there a sweet break in the foliage, through which is seen a snatch of the playful waters either rippled and glittering with foam, or smooth, and showing, as in a mirror, the overhanging green of the boughs, or the far blue and white of the summer sky. The angler and the artist may find a gratification for their respective tastes in the glen of the Leakan. For the one there are glorious bum trout—glorious in their mottled loveliness-glorious in the sport which they afford; and for the other, the material for many a sweet sketch—many a study of nature—all unkempt and unadorned by art.

Furnace consists principally of a kind of scattered congregation of huts and cottages, for the most part of the humblest description, and auguring anything but internal comfort or cleanliness. The inhabitants are partly fishermen, partly quarrymen in certain quarries of granite adjacent, and partly workmen in a gunpowder manufactory, which is situated near the opening of Glenleakan. The fishermen are All genuine Highlanders, speaking the Gaelic tongue, and in spite of steam-boats and Lowland intercourse, retaining many of the peculiar customs and social ceremonies of their Celtic fathers. We hear some strange tales indeed of their modes of life, and especially of their queer ways of celebrating the sacred rites of IJymen, It may be as well, however, to let these matters pass without particular note or record. The quarrymen are a mixed race, partly Lowland Scotch, partly Irish, and partly natives of the district. The same may be said of the workmen in the powder works.

We visit the granite quarries of Furnace. They are situated on the shore of Lochfine a short distance westward of the village. At this point a huge hill, called Dunleakan, abuts on the shore, leaving a comparatively narrow space between the water and the rapidly rising rock. The abutment alluded to, as well as a considerable portion of the hill behind,- consists of a beautiful granite, the texture and colour of which are now becoming familiar to the denizens of Glasgow* from the produce of the quarry referred to being principally used for paving-stones to the city. The granite is detached from the hill by great blasts, in which tons of gunpowder are used, and concussions of immense violence are produced. The effects of these artificial volcanoes are described as being terrific in the extreme. A report not loud but deep is heard, a huge cloud of smoke is seen to ascend, a violent shaking of the earth is felt, and then a vast avalanche of granite is detached from the living rock, and hurled down hill in shattered splinters and fragments. The expense of one of these blasts must be very great, but when successful the saving of labour amply repays the expenditure. Mr. Syme, the enterprising manager of the quarry, is supposed, indeed, to be making a very good thing of it, and most people, we dare say, will agree with us in thinking that his energy, intelligence, and perseverance, are such as to entitle him to a fair pecuniary return. There is another granite quarry a few miles farther down the loch, which is under the charge of a Mr. Hume. The produce of this is also used as paving material for the streets of Glasgow.

We had never .seen the process of gunpowder manufacture, and therefore—although with fear and trembling—we resolved to pay a visit to the works of Furnace. The situation is a retired one, a short distance above the village, in the gorge of Glenleakan. Our friend Mr. Shanks, manager of the works, acts as cicerone. The establishment consists of small detached houses, scattered over a considerable extent of surface, and so distant from each other, that although an explosion occurred in the one, the other might have a fair chance of escaping. These precautions, and the explanation annexed to them, do not by any means tend to increase our tranquillity. We begin to experience a strange feeling, as if we were treading over a mine, and on the eve of being sent up like a sky-rocket. Were it not for shame, we could fairly turn to the right about, and make ourselves scarce. Our character for courage is at stake, however, and we go through the ordeal with all apparent coolness. We are shown the preliminary preparations of brimstone, and nitre, and charcoal, the diabolical ingredients of the deadly compound. Then we behold the trio ground together, under a revolving millstone into a kind of black paste. The house where this operation takes place is on one side formed of slight slabs of wood, so that if any explosion takes place it may find vent without much resistance. Another process, which we are unable to explain, properly reduces it to the granular form under which gunpowder is generally used; and finally having acquired a fine glossy appearance, the finished article is deposited in a sort of drying store, where it is casked up and made ready for the market. So dangerous are the two final departments reckoned, that the visitor is required to take the shoes off his feet before he can be permitted to enter. So regardless of danger does familiarity make men, however, that Mr. Shanks has had some difficulty in putting down smoking in the works. For our own part, we feel perfectly satisfied on leaving the manufactory behind, with all its dread machinery and all its materials of death. With the Fop in “Henry the Fourth,” we are inclined to say,—

"That it was great pity, so it was,
That villainous saltpetre should be digg’d
Out of the bowels of the harmless earth,
Which many a good tall fellow had destroyed so cowardly.”

The herring fishing Is the great source of employment and wealth to the native population on the shores of Lochfine. Inverary is the centre of this important branch of local industry. It sends out a perfect fleet of fishing-boats during the season, but every little hamlet and clachan along the shores has its own fishermen, its own boats, and its own supply of nets. It is a beautiful and a cheerful sight of an evening to see the fishing-boats cruising along the placid waters in pursuit of the finny prey, which is here so abundant and of such excellent quality. The fishing generally commences about the end of June, and continues, wind and weather permitting, to the dose of the year. The boats used vary in size from eighteen feet keel, and eight feet in breadth of beam, to twenty-two feet in length to nine in breadth. The train of nets also varies in size according to the capacity of the boats. An ordinary train consists of thirty-six nets, each of which is formed of smaller nets called breadths or dippers, twelve yards in length, and two in breadth. When at its full length a train is therefore 436 feet long, but when dropped into the water its length is considerably diminished. The nets are sunk into the water by means of weights, and are preserved upright by a series of buoys. The number of boats on Lochfine varies from fifty to sixty and upwards. These furnish employment altogether to about 300 individuals, including men, boys, labourers or gutters, coopers, and curers. It is impossible to estimate, with anything like accuracy, the gross product of the fishing on Lochfine, as a great quantity are used in a fresh state in the neighbourhood, as well as in Glasgow and the towns on the coast. A few years ago, however, the Government fishery officer calculated that there were on an average about 1,593 barrels cured annually. Of late, however, there is said to have been a falling off in the supply. Although we had the pleasure of a cruise in a herring wherry upon Lochfine, we had not the benefit of witnessing the fishermen actually at work. We shall therefore transcribe a descriptive passage from another pen:—

“While in Lochfine," says the writer alluded to, “the traveller should, if otherwise convenient, take at least one night for the herring fishing, which may be most readily accomplished at Tarbet or Inverary, The boatmen are very civil, and for a small compensation will be glad to take a stranger along with them. The boatmen go out in the evening, and generally ply to windward, in order to have a speedy return to market in the morning. If the night is very clear, they sometimes do not go out, from a certainty of catching no fish. A dark and windy night is best suited for their purpose. After searching about for some time, examining the appearance- of the water, the flight of sea-fowl, &c., the fishermen shoot their nets, which are composed of separate pieces bound together by twine. On the upper side is a back rope, to which buoys of calf or dog-skin are attached by means of long lines, by letting out or drawing in which the net may be lowered or raised to any depth at pleasure. The boat is then permitted to be at the end of the net, which serves, in some measure, as an anchor; a sail is converted into a covering for a tent; a fire is lighted; and the song or the joke is passed, till it be time to draw the net, or remove to some more favourable spot. The fishermen contrive to make excellent cakes of an astonishing thickness, and they have a peculiar method of dressing the herring they raise out of the net that might please the most fastidious epicure. If the traveller has taken care to fill his own scrip and replenish his flask before coming aboard, he will have no cause to regret the length of his voyage. In the morning the nets are hauled in, the sail set or the oars plied, and the boat returns to the harbour, in order to sell its cargo to 4 coupers,’ who buy the herring in order to carry them fresh to market, or to ‘buyers " who pack them in salt for the bounty of 4s. a barrel. If successful, the fishermen are liberally supplied with whisky, and they then retire to hang up their nets, and sleep till it be time again to renew their laborious occupations. The herrings are counted by the maze of 500; each 100 containing six score herrings.

“The herrings, when taken out of the net, present beautiful corruscations of blue, green, and purple—utter a faint chirping noise, and very speedily die. Good and pure herrings are never found to have any food in their stomachs, nor are they ever oaught on the hook. There is a poor and harsh species that sometimes take the hook, and in which small marine insects are found; but they are seldom met with, and are not sought after. Visitors to this charming loch, who may be fond of sea-fishing with the long line, will have abundant opportunities of enjoying that amusement at any place on the coast, but particularly at Tarbert, and the more humble employment of angling for cod-fish or cuddies, may be pursued from the comer of every rock.”

After enjoying for a couple of days the beautiful scenery of Furnace and its vicinity—beautiful, but presenting few salient points for description—we bid adieu to our kind entertainers, and embark on a passing steamer for Glasgow. Slowly and interruptedly we pass along amidst ever changing, but ever lovely combinations of land and sea. The old Castle of Stralachlan meets our gaze at the opening of a spacious glen. It is a dreary and desolate feature of the landscape, but suggestive of pensive emotions. While looking at it we think of Campbell’s lines,—

"At the silence of twilight’s contemplative boor,
I have mused in a sorrowful mood,
On the wind-shaken weeds that embosom the bower
Where the home of my forefathers stood.
All ruined and wild is their roofless abode,
And lonely the dark raven’s sheltering tree,
And travelled by few is the grass-covered road,
Where the hunter of deer and the warrior trod
To his hills that encircle the sea.”

Here and there the eye rests upon a stately modem mansion, with its embowering woods and its green lawns contrasting richly with the brown hills beyond, while at frequent inter* vals a few lonely cottages cluster on the shore, with their verdant patches of oats and barley, their tawny train of nets hung up to dry in the looming sun, and their boat—their great bread-winner—lying stranded on the beach, or dancing at anchor over the swell of some tiny bay. Many a sweet picture—many a cosie nook, suggestive of comfort and quietude in lowly life, meets the eye as the steamer passes along or pauses to take on board some wherry load of u Glasgow magistrates.” At Ardrishaig we meet the "Iona”—the queen of the Clyde steamers—and leaving our herring-loaded conveyance from Furnace, we are soon dashing merrily towards the Frith of Clyde. Passing Tarbert on the right, with its rock-girt bay and its ancient tower, Arran rises boldly in our front, with Bute and Inchmarnock in her shadowy lee. Over the waves of Kilbrandon, the u Iona” dashes eagerly and with matchless speed. There is a pretty considerable swell, but our gallant steamer skips over it with infinite grace and ease. Rounding Ardlamont Point, we are in the Kyles of Bute, clearing the smooth and sunny waters, wherein the neighbouring woods and hills, and the overhanging sky, are reflected as in a mirror. The Kyles, as their name implies, form a narrow passage or strait between the Isle of Bute and the coast of Cowal. The mainland here, indeed, bends round the northern part of the island as if in a half embrace, while all that is lovely on earth, or sea, or sky, is congregated in the vicinity. Here we have sunny bays and level beaches, there smiling clusters of houses, with groups of cattle and children at play. Anon there is a very wilderness of hills and glens, and wooded knolls and dells, with fairy islands sleeping in the quiet waters, and a solitary lake stealing far away among the shadows of the mountain wilderness. As we advance into the deeper recesses of the Kyles there is a beautiful play of light and shade. The village of Tyna-bruich, a delicious spot upon the Cowal shore, is steeped in Bunshine, while the hills beyond are half in gloom and half in a broken and eyer changing light. Farther away a rainy cloud is passing, grim, dark, and ominous, but with a fragment of a rainbow gleaming in its trail. The choicest features of the Kyles are between Tynabruich and Collintraive—the latter a most picturesque congregation of cottages and villas of modem erection. The most northern point of Bute juts out at this spot, and narrows the channel, which is further encumbered, if we may so speak, with the bosky beauty of four small islands, clustering around the opening to Lochriddan, which is here seen stretching away to the northward. One of these little islands, named Eillangheirig, or Red Island, contains the ruins of an ancient castle. This edifice was fortified in 1685, by the Marquis of Argyle, when that nobleman came over from Holland in concert with the Duke of Monmouth, to drive James H. from the throne of England. The marquis had landed at Dunstaffnage, and sent round the burning cross to rouse the men of his dan. With these, to the number of 3,000, it was his intention to make a descent upon the Lowlands. Ultimately, having met with some reverses, and finding the coast guarded by the king's ships, he collected his vessels at Eillangheirig, and there landed his men and his stores. He had no sooner taken up the position, however, than he was attacked by the king’s forces in three ships of war, and compelled to seek safety in flight. Shortly afterwards he was captured near Renfrew, and being conveyed to Edinburgh, was immediately put to death on an old sentence which had been kept suspended over his head. We question if in all Scotland there is anything more lovely—more deliciously varied—or in every respect more bewitching than the Kyles of Bute. If there is, we have yet to learn its whereabouts. To our mind the Kyles comprise the very quintessence of landscape beauty. We always enter that enchanted channel as if we were on a pilgrimage to the land of faery—on our way to reap a full harvest of the beautiful. Nor have we ever left its precincts without rejoicing in the joy of nature, or without being enriched with glorious memories.

The “Iona” lingers not, however magnificent or however attractive the scenery may be through which she is passing; and while we are scanning the Kyles, or dreaming of their charms, she is pushing her way right up the Frith. Old familiar scenes pass rapidly athwart our ken and as rapidly disappear. Rothesay, Dunoon, Gourock, Greenock, and the brown old rock of Dumbarton, are successively left behind, and before the setting sun has ceased to gild the ripple of the Clyde, die “ Iona” is once more silent and motionless in her berth at the Broomielaw.


Return to Book Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast