Loch Etive and The Sons of Uisnach
Chapter XXV - To
we might go to Tyndrum by train. It will be pleasantly strange to
rush up such a waste as Glen Laogh in such a bird-like fashion. Once
I went up by coach, but the horses grieved me, and I could not see
the river as it rushed down its gorge. True, I saw the wilderness,
and it pressed upon my mind. Surely the Sahara can scarcely be mire
desert, but it is different; Sahara has not even the winds, or they
are rare as well as dusty, and even the demons of the stones have
deserted the place. Here they rage on the hills, and Cailleach Bheir
moves from mountain to mountain.
dreadful to skim over the precipitous banks of this stream. No human
being could see it in its natural state before this railway began to
play upon its precipices, and here we take the way of the crows.
They used to tell me that it was a terrible pass, only few people
could climb it in winter, and none of the farmers could go up and
down in a day with their carts unless these were empty. But here we
are flying up and we shall alight in half an hour. The fables of
childhood become silly, and its wonders turn to nothing even to the
not quite so. The fables of childhood do not become silly ; they
never have been so important as now; we neglected them, and now men
of learning treasure them and learn philosophy and history from
them. Let us learn the same from this road. In the memory of man it
was a difficult passage for any one, and very hard for a horse with
a burden. For a generation the road has been fair, but steep. I
remember when it was a hard journey to Tyndrum, except for a good
a strange valley this. You see it is a collection of heaps which
exist in thousands, masses as if left by melting ice; but they might
have been made by local shower-water. The old poem which was before
quoted about the sons of Uisnach calls it the glen of straight
Glen Urchain! O Glen
Urchain! (or Glenorchy! O Glenorchy!)
It was the straight glen of smooth ridges
Not more joyful was a man of his age
Than Naoise in Glen Urchain. Skenes translation.
This at the upper
part is not properly Glenorchy, which is more strictly the branch to
the north; but the stream from here runs into the Orchay or Urchaidh,
and Glenorchy is the wider name that runs down along the side of
Loch Awe. There is no manageable road up through the real Glenorchy.
This is one of the
reasons why I brought you to Dalmally. You see one of the hunting
places of the Uisnachs, and you learn that it is still as it was of
old, leaving out the road and railway, if you can manage to think of
We are at Tvndrum,
Tigh'n druim, the house on the ridge. A dreary house it was once;
now there is a fine hotel. Even manufactures have tried to settle
here, and in that little hole up on the side of the hill it is said
that the last :Marquis of Breadalbane spent sixty thousand pounds
looking for lead, and perhaps he spent somewhat more, trying to make
vitriol outside with the minerals got from within the hill. Our ride
being short, we shall need no rest here, but we shall again take the
private rather than public conveyance ; we must spend some time on
We drive along first
an unpromising wild road, and seem to be rushing among pathless
hills, but soon we go down to the plain, and we need not fear, since
everywhere the roads are good, and you see that our horses are
strong. As we move down we come on an unexpectedly open space, and
whilst the wild hills of the deer forest of the Black Mount are on
the left, we come on the famous Ben Doran to the right.
is big but not beautiful, sloping and not varied.
it had power to produce a fine enthusiasm in Duncan MacIntyre, as
you will see if you read Professor Blackie's translation of his
poem. This to first appearance rather smooth and stony side is long,
and if the other is equally so it is a large place not easily passed
over by men, except the best of walkers. But listen to MacIntyre and
you will hear that behind that too flat side, and perhaps upon it,
there are numerous dens where deer can hide and men may be lost.
HONOUR be to Ben
Above all Bens that be
Beneath the sun mine eyes beheld
No lovelier Ben than he;
With his long smooth stretch of moor,
And his nooks remote and sure
For the deer,
When he smiles in face of day,
And the breeze sweeps o'er the brae
Keen and clear;
With his greenly-waving woods,
And his glassy solitudes,
And the stately herd that fare,
And the troop with white behind
When they scent the common foe,
Then wheel to sudden flight
In a row,
Proudly snuffing at the wind
As they go.
"`Tis a nimble little
Giddy-headed like her kind,
That goes sniffing up the wind
In her scorning;
With her nostrils sharp and keen,
Somewhat petulant, I ween,
'Neath the crag's rim she is seen
In the morning.
You will never with
Mark her flitting paces when
With lightsome tread she trips
O'er the light unbroken tips
Of the grass;
Not in all the islands three.
Nor wide Europe, may it be
That it step so light and clean
Hath been seen,
When she sniffs the mountain breeze,
And goes wandering at her case,
Or sports as she may please
On the green;
Nor she will ever feel
Fret or evil humour when
She makes a sudden wheel,
And flies with rapid heel
O'er the Ben;
With her fine and frisking ways
She steals sorrow from her days,
Nor shall old age ever press
On her head with sore distress
In the glen.
My delight it was to
`With the early morning skies,
And to brush the dewy height
Where the deer in airy state
Wont to go;
At least a hundred brace
Of the lofty-antlered race,
When they left their sleeping place
Light and gay;
When they stood in trim array,
And with low deep-breasted cry,
Flung their breath into the sky,
From the brae;
When the hind, the pretty fool,
Would be rolling in the pool
At her will:
Or the stag in gallant pride,
Would be strutting at the side
Of his haughty-headed bride,
On the hill.
And sweeter to my ear
Is the concert of the deer
In their roaring,
Than when Erin from her lyre
Warmest strains of Celtic fire
May be pouring;
And no organ sends a roll
So delightful to my soul,
As the branchy-crested race,
When they quicken their proud pace
And bellow in the face
Of Ben Dorain.
For Ben Dorain lifts
his head In the air,
That no Ben was ever seen
With his grassy mantle spread,
And rich swell of leafy green,
And 'tis passing strange to me,
When his sloping side I see,
That so grand
And beautiful a Ben
Should not flourish among men,
In the scutcheon and the ken
Of the land."
is certainly beautiful enthusiasm, expressive of poetic joy. Is it
really a good translation, or is the poem of Professor Blackie's
have been particular to ask, as I am not able to judge of the style,
and every one says that it is well done, and not superior to the
a Highlander, and I prefer the original, still I think it well done
and wonderfully exact. I have asked our minister also, who is a
cultivated man, and can compare the two version, and he thinks it
very well done, expressing the original very closely.
no room for deer. Let us run up a bit and see.
you may run up this lower part. There must be many smaller glens,
ridges, precipices, brooks, and shelter for deer on the great mass
of this hill ; we see only the face here. Behind is a great
regionthe glorious region to which only strong men can attain, and
which made a poet of the gamekeeper, and which even we who cannot
attain delight to revel in so far as he can enable us. Let us take
some lunch until Willie returns.
shall sleep among the heather or look up to the sky; I like to see
the clouds, they are always changing, growing, and diminishing, and
the edges are in everlasting motion, and those which go fast are the
am after a good run; but I could, after all, find nothing without
much more running. It would require a fox or a deer. There is a far
old times there were plenty of foxes, and I daresay there are some
here still. They have been killed to introduce sheep, and this habit
annoyed MacIntyre exceedingly. Listen to his praise of foxes. (P.
184, Dr. Blackie.)
A SONG OF FOXES.
Ho! ho! ho! the foxes!
Would there were more of them,
I'd give heavy gold
For a hundred score of them
My blessing with the foxes dwell,
For that they hunt the sheep so well;
Ill fa' the sheep, a grey-faced nation
That swept our hills with desolation
Who made the bonnie green glens clear,
And acres scarce, and houses dear;
The grey-faced sheep, who worked our woe,
Where men no more may reap or sow,
And made us leave for their grey pens
Our bonnie braes and grassy glens."
MacIntyre lived when
sheep-fanning on the hills was new, so late is the custom. In old
times deer and foxes and free hunting made a happy ground for
Now we are come among
deer foresters and stalkers, men who make thousands of acres desert
for the purpose of shooting. Much of this is wilderness. There is a
house in that wood, and there is an inn at Inveroran, and you see
some trees called a part of the Caledonian Forest, but, so far as I
know, all interest here is in the wildness and the mountain and the
why not? Did we leave home to see more chimneys or houses? You may
travel in England through many counties and scarcely see variety of
scenery perhaps some difference, not much, in building houses or
working farms: here you have land, crops, and animals all different
from those where we started, and it is a new world. I think it worth
while to lose the sheep for the variety of the sight, even if we are
not the favoured ones who possess it. Even the owner may see it
little. Look at the Moor of Rannoch, a desert with danger from
water, a place without a track, which a man cannot well cross in a
day if he does not know the road. There is no sitting down on warm
sand when you are tired, confident in the permanence of the heavens
above you. You rather feel sure of a constant perfidy. You need
shelter, but there is none until you come to King's house, which
stands at the top of Glen Etive and Glencoe looking down each of
we have some chance of being fed and lodged; that is, one may rely
on the people if the house is not too full.
I took care, by
writing; otherwise we might have been obliged to drive down to
Glencoe and so lose our object. Still we shall go down, a little
after dinner and some rest.
a wild run to the top of Glencoe ; at this precipice we may stand
and look down. It is a beautiful defence against outside men. These
walls are magnificent, and were it not for this road I could hold it
with one to a hundred. Down there men might live in peace so long as
there were sheep to eat.
shudder at that awful hill ; black caves on the front looking over
precipices, and wild clouds covering summits making the passes above
as dark as night. What is the name of it?
forester here told me it was Aonach Dubh. Aonach, I suppose, is
lonely, lonely, and is a name given to a hill, a wild poetic name
suiting the solitary spots and the wonders on it. Many people at one
time never can be on these hills. Dubh is black. "Black and lonely"
is a fine name for it, and behind where you saw an opening there is
a pass from Loch Etive to Glencoe, which is called Larig Oillt, the
Pass of Terror. It expresses exactly the feeling you seem to have
had when looking up to the black clouds moving among the broken
rocks and darkening the way.
once asked the forester here about this pass of Terror, and he, you
know, looks after the deer, and knows the rocks as well as they do;
but he told me that the name was Larig Eild, the pass of the hinds,
and that it related to the habits of these animals.
prefer Mr. Clerk's view; besides he has studied Gaelic. The result
is more poetical, and I feel that we have hit on a wonderful spot ;
besides the word is used elsewhere. This at least is a view of
Glencoe new to me, and as we look down on that awful gulf in the
darkening night, I wonder that our fellows live there and not a
colony of mysterious forms. But there is mystery enough, and a deed
of moral blackness has made the whole more famous than even nature
has done with time and violence.
us return. The hotel stands more in the mouth of Glen Etive than
Glencoe, and Glen Etive means the wild or terrible glen. But we must
not leave Glencoe without looking at the Cona, the favourite of
Ossian, whose harp is called the voice of Cona, on the banks of
which he was born. You know I believe in the Ossian published by
Macpherson as the real ancient Ossian, and often he must have hunted
here and ranged among these hills.
shall not dispute here; but we can all admire this wonderful
hillthis conical mass between the two glensthis Shepherd of Etive
as it is poetically called, looking for ever down to the loch beside
his companion opposite. They both look also over the moor of Rannoch.
Wilson has made a beautiful photograph of one. When I was proposing
to go down Glen Etive, the landlord of the hotel doubted the
propriety of allowing inc a horse, because the streams came down
with such violence on rainy days, and the day was threatening.
However we ran down and up, the foaming torrents from the hills
softened into wide streams flowing over the roads, which had no
bridges and were liable to be swept away. The two hills are very
steep, and look as remarkable here as they do at a distance; whilst
this one, connects the two glens, it also unites Gaelic, Greek, and
Latin, the name of shepherd being nearly the same in both. The
Greeks had their boukolos, and Virgil wrote his Bucolics, and here
we have our buacleaillall one word we may say. But more exactly the
word does not mean shepherd either in Greek or Gaelic, but cowherd,
and bucolics "relates to cow herding," and in Gaelic the word is
used for general herding.
that we have come out of the dark glen and the clouds have cleared
away, it is not quite dark, and I care not to go into the house; I
will go up to my friend the forester, about a mile or more on the
Inveroran road, and see a true Highland house, built with comfort.
Who will come? The ladies may stay, and we shall expect some tea
when we return.
This road is farther
than I expected, and it is already darkening. There is only one
house, and it is on the right, and we cannot miss it. There is a
light, and the dog barks, and we must find our way among stones and
holes to the door. I doubt not that we shall find a welcome.
will be dark before you reach the house. Forester.I am glad to see
you. I wish I could show you into my dwelling on the hills among the
deer; that would be something to look at.
is novel enough. I thought you would live here in misery, with all
these dubs about and the road to the house made only by tramping
feet, and the house too looking very dark. But here you have a
blazing fire and a good lamp, and shooting and fishing tackle round
the wall, and plenty in the pots.
and happy faces about: why! here too is my friend from Barcaldine
come to chat with you.
to look up to the mysterious rafters. One wonders what may be there.
you sometimes see the fowls roosted up there; but it is not so in
this house. It is a very bright and busy house to me coming from the
certainly very different from the houses of the town workmen and far
superior, whilst the freedom of the occupation during the day makes
the life brilliant. It is living in the world instead of in a
prison. What say you, forester?
that the work is hard, but grand. I am not a machine ; I must use
nay judgment daily, and that on no small scale, over many hills and
over many cattle. I am healthy, I am comfortable, and happy as most
men. Indeed I have my days of glorious feeling, and I seem to rise
with the mountains, although I sometimes may sink in bogs like those
on the moor; but these changes are like the face of nature.
must go. Good night. I am proud of your acquaintance, and may we all
see you again.
must have had a (lark walk home. Why did you stay so late?
is something very fascinating about the darkening in the Highlands.
I cannot explain it. I had some of tile feeling too in Switzerland.
It is caused partly by the hills looking upon you, but partly by the
peculiar shades. In a level country the land does not look at you;
you are alone; here you are stared upon by all around. It is a rare
sensation to us, and a luxury. To-morrow we have another new series
now we roll down Glen Etive, with a Buachaill on our right and on
our left, although the latter mountain receives also a very prosaic
name. I am afraid of telling it. They call it Sron a creis (creesh),
and say it means the (promontory or) nose of grease or fat, because
it fattens animals so well. But this must be a very modern namea
farmer's name. I prefer the I3uachaill (south).
The river rushes down
that deep ravine, which it has evidently made for itself, and we
pass along this precipitous bank, our lives depending on good
driving. Let its stand awhile and look at the deer on the opposite
side; they are quite undisturbed; no wanderers come here, except by
ones or twos, and a whistle will startle them. See!
move off as soon as they hear. One might almost measure the speed of
sound by observing their movements; it is only a few seconds, and
certainly corresponds closely so far as I can judge of the distance
from us. They leap the brooks and sometimes seem to dance. One must
quote MacIntyre here, i.e. Donncha Ban, to describe the light
springing race. Such a solitudenot a farm-house, not a man, not a
sheepand all this in Scotland. Each valley is a new country, and
there are thousands, or hundreds at least.
would look and rejoice if I could walk instead of staring,
continually down that terrible steep; when it ends I shall think on
now move rapidly down the hill and come into the depth of the
valley, where violent storms often meet, since here is a rapid turn
to the right, and numerous passages for air are made by the
irregular peaks. And see that one standing up like a piece of black
iron before us, the end of some Titanic spear. That is a memorial of
Deirdre, and I should not have asked you to cone had there not been
here something to remind you of the sons of Uisnach. It has two
namesBen Cetlin or Kettelin and Grianan Dartheil, the Boudoir of
Darthula, a fantastic appellation, just as they call the rugged
hills of Loch Long the Bowling Green of the Duke of Argyle. But as
the latter indicates the nearness of the Duke, so the former does
the power of Deirdre. We must look on her and the whole tribe as
spending much time here and living on the deer. Kettel is a Norse
name, but this need not have a Norse origin; in Gaelic the meaning
might he quite different.
are here in a basin, and it is hard to imagine these great hollows
filled with grinding ice. However, they are still subject to attacks
of water which washes down what little soil it may meet, and makes
way for the rolling of numberless pebbles and blocks. Much of the
valley below seems at times to be covered, judging from the breadth
of the gravel beds of the river.
is another memorial of Deirdrethat field is called after her. And
so we hunt up our heroes in all the surroundings of Loch Etive.
wish some one would invent a way of describing a scene. I see and
feel, but cannot express.
said this before; but there are many ways invented. The geologist
will describe this clearly, and have the surveyor to assist him; the
photographer will give you details the artist will come from it with
a memory on canvass of beautiful effects; but the poet, and he only,
can describe the feelings, and even he cannot exhaust them.
not satisfied with any poet's description, it is generally a
collection of similes, or a number of unrealities which are raised
into being in his mind. Still I am not insensible to their beauty,
and I confess that Black has had great success in describing scenes
in this west in his Highland novels.
have passed only one house, it was at the bend of the glen, and was
a forester's. Now we come to Dalness or Dal an Las, the field of the
waterfall, and our poet Duncan Ban lived close to it for a while, in
a cottage of which a few stones are left. I cannot worthily
translate his verses, but we can look at the fine broad waterfall.
Here we may have
Wilson's poem, part of which I can give. He early found the beauty
of this valley. Let us imagine Professor Wilson addressing the deer
as he did here at Dalness. His own reading of it to his class was a
feast which seems to have fed his students with some of his
enthusiasm for the remainder of their lives. To be able to do this
is to live not in vain, and I am glad to say this for those who may
dwell too much on the author not being in the front rank of poets.
"Up, up, to yon cliff
like a king to his throne,
O'er the black silent forest piled lofty and lone
A throne which the eagle is glad to resign
Unto footsteps so fleet and so fearless as thine.
There your branches
now toss in the storm of delight,
Like the arms of the pine on yon shelterless height,
One moment, thou bright apparition, delay
Then melt o'er the crags like the sun from the day.
Down the pass of Glen
Etive the tempest is borne,
And the hillside is swinging, and roars with a sound,
In the heart of the forest embosomed profound.
Till all in a moment the moult is o'er,
And the mountain of thunder is still as the shore
When the sea is at ebb, not a leaf, not a breath
To disturb the wild solitude, steadfast as death."
is fine, and if we do not see the same sight as he describes, he
having been himself a hunter on the hills, we are saved the labour
We like to see the wild passes that show themselves up these
pathless hills, and it is not strange that men from London seek the
life of the wild man here, as far as they can endure the imitation.
One ought to tame the deer and ride with them over the racks. We can
only follow them with the imagination, but slightly with the eye;
and we have the same want of satisfaction looking at, but unable to
follow, the salmon. It is a poor enjoyment eating him, as if we ate
his life and his poetic wanderings. Sport is partly a wish to
imitate, and eating the game is like a New Zealander eating in fancy
the strength and mind of his victim. It is a life of hope only, but
that is all our life; and he is not a sound lover of nature that has
no sympathy in sport.
The verses you
recited give a description of the forests which we may suppose
Deirdre alluded to in her song. There are few pines now at Glen
Etive, although nominally a forest for deer. The real meaning of
forest is not well known; if it comes from foris, without, out of
doors or outside the walls, then it is easily understood, and its
present use by deer-stalkers is more correct than the use by
rough road over streams, and in that terrible blast that comes
downunavoidable! We must bow our heads and look up as we dare; now
we are at the height and can see the loch. We are at Druimachothais
(perhaps Druimachois, the ridge at the foot), and we shall dash down
to the small portion of plain to look for our boat.
we leave this wondrous glen let us think of it so as to remember. It
is certainly one of the largest of the narrow glens of -Scotland. It
may be said to be 30 miles long, as the glen includes the lake. It
is certainly one of the deepest, and it has points as terrible as
those of Glencoe, in certain kinds of weather. It is larger, more
varied, and I imagine in storms almost as terrible. One wonders if
the ancient Celts really went up these hills; they speak of them and
of the clouds, but I do not know how high they wandered up the
think they went up, but like the Greeks they do not leave us much
description of nature. I can give you a hunting scene from the Dean
of Lismore's book, which Dr. M'Lauchlin has translated. It is said
to be Ossian's, but the hunt is in Ireland on Sliabh nam ban fionn,
the hill of the fair ladies. Finn had a hunting dog called Bran, a
"Then Finn and Bran
did sit alone
A little while upon the mountain side,
Each of then panting for the chase,
Their fierceness and their wrath aroused.
Then did we unloose three thousand hounds
Of matchless vigour and unequalled strength
Each of the hounds brought down the deer,
Down in the vale that lies beneath the hill
There never fell so many deer and roe
In any hunt that ere till this took place.
But sad was the-chase doss-n to the east,
Thou cleric of the church and bells,
Ten hundred of our hounds with golden chains
Fell wounded by ten hundred boars;
Then by our hands there fell the boars,
Which wrought the ill upon the plain.
And were it not for blades and vigorous arms,
That chase had been a slaughter."
Book of the Dean of
Lismore, from the 3rd Poem.
The writer evidently
wishes to astonish the cleric by the amount of slaughter, and
expects the perhaps tame-like preacher to despise his own vocation,
before the glory of killing a thousand wild boars; but there is no
sentence regarding nature. The name of the hill may relate to nuns
with white dresses.
The Greeks were awed
by their great mountains, and stood in humility below. Did any one
of them ever climb Olympus or Ida? There is no wonder that men cower
before nature. They fear the darkness in the Highlands even now, in
the valleys, and much more a dark passage on the top of a black
they did go up they did not live there much; that is, the people who
wrote did not ; but there is a class living even now on Mount
Olympus who rarely come down, and are almost entirely separate from
all others. Probably the same class lived with the same habits in
old times, unknown to the town-loving Greek, who knew little of
topography, and filled the wilds with mythic creatures. When we look
at that terrible pass on the western side of the Buachaill, the pass
of terror, at the time when the peaks are covered with black clouds,
and only a dark cave shows itself below, we have room for the wild
beings that were supposed to haunt this valley. You will see a
drawing of one of them in J. F. Campbell's Tales of the West
Highlands: there is a sketch of the wild creature of GIen Eiti (Direach
Glenn Eitidh, Mac Callain), he was also a Mac, the son of Colin. The
drawing, like the story describing him, gives " one hand out of his
chest, one leg out of his haunch, and one eye out of the front of
not said that even the Greeks worshipped mountains?
don't know of any actual worship of mountains, but there is an
abundant appearance in the Greek mind of awe and feeling of mystery
relating to them.
this is a fine opportunity to tell a story as we stand under the
shed waiting for the boat.
you are near Cruachan, I will tell you a little tale from the Irish
Cruachan which is very different from yours. Near it was the palace
of the old Kings of Connaught, and it was not far from
Carrick-on-Shannon. The king and queen, Aillil and Meave, people of
whom I told you, who lived about nineteen hundred years ago, were
amusing themselves one winter evening with their followers, and they
were, I dare say, all bragging of their courage, when the king said
he would give his sword, a gold-hilted one, to the man who would go
out in the dark and bring a twig that was round the leg of one of
two men who had been hanged, and were still hanging. Nera was a
spirited youth and went, but on coming back he saw as it were the
palace on fire, and a host pf men met him who seemed to have
plundered it. They passed but did not take notice of him, and he
followed. They went to a well-known cave on the hill of Cruachan,
whilst Nera followed. But lie was seized and taken before the king
of the Tuatha De Danann. Now this cave was not visible to ordinary
human eyes, but Nera's had been enlightened and he could even show
the place to others. The king said little to him, but ordered him to
bring a bundle of fire-wood to th;; kitchen every day. On one of
these days he saw a blind man carrying a lame man and depositing him
near a fountain, and they had a dispute about the right spot. He
asked a woman, from whom the king had told him to take instructions,
who these people were, and she said they were guardians of the Barr
or Mind, a crown of gold which the king wears, and these people were
trusted by the king. The fountain was in the cave, and the Barr in
the fountain. Nera told this at Cruachan, and King Aillil obtained
the assistance of Fergus MacRoigh and the Ulster champions who had
left home because of the murder of the Sons of Uisnach, and
plundered the cave and obtained the golden diadem. Fergus, you know,
is one of our heroes. This was a mystery of the Irish Cruachan. The
story is from the book of Leinster, but taken from O'Curry and
Sullivan's 29th Lecture on Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish.
unwilling to pass out of the glen proper on to the loch until I have
a good description of Glen Etive. It seems deep, lonely, secluded,
more than most, with curves that seem like passages to hide the way
into the great centre, where I can imagine a tribe living unknown
for generations; indeed, who knows this glen even now? The hills are
high, but except at the Grianan Dartheil, not so rugged as at
Glencoe, although the weird passages through the upper parts seem as
wild and ghostly.
settle as before. GIen Etive must live in our feelings, and Deirdre
is the first person who is said to have discovered its beauty, and
to have recorded it in song. Perhaps you will object by saying that
the song is put into her mouth. It may be so, but I know of no other
author. No one of the outer world has come here to settle until
about five years ago, when that new house was built; the summer
fishers in the house above, which seems to be a very much improved
dwelling, if not a new one, may be another exception; but both are
very late comers. Now there is a steamer for the loch and a coach to
take people up the glen. It is not easy to go to the shore to find a
boat; one must sometimes pass the brook on the west side when it is
high. The bridge is only two planks covered with sods, far up and
reached only by passing through a bog. It is made for the shepherds;
or one may pass over half land half water, to the mouth of the River
Etive. It depends on the wind which side is best, but to-day there
is no wind, and we have good rowers waiting us, and a long boat by
the river side, and we may take the low road.
hills are desolate and rather too plain, I imagine, as we go down
the first mile or two.
view may be so, but on our left is Ben Starrive or Ben Starra,
which, by some mistake of a map, has been continued to be called in
guide books Ben Slarive, and that is a lofty mountain (3,519 feet);
it looks far down the loch, and on coming up it is often taken for
one of the Shepherds or Buachaills. It is broken up by streams, and
seems almost impassable for man as we see it.
surprising that the water can be even in a small degree salt here,
but there is sea-weed after 17 miles of a narrow passage against
roaring streams often driving down great floods. Surely it must
sometimes be quite fresh in the loch here?
on our left, at Inver Guithaiseagan, is a small plain. There is a
wild story about a man who had robbed some place and hid his
treasure there, but forgot the spot, leaving the gold to lie there
still. I think that a probable enough story. Hiding gold was common,
and finding it used not to be uncommon, but this may long ago have
been found, and we have more interest in such a name as Inver
Draigneach, the point of the thunderer, where such rolling stones
are driven down from the mountain, making a great river of boulders.
They are at rest now, but we see them there lying ready to flow
along with the next sufficient stream.
Do not confound the
words for the rumbling noise like thunder with some of the terms for
Druid. The Gaelic language is full of traps that catch people in
are not in the wilderness; we have no sooner lost the sight of the
top of the lake than we meet with man's innovations; here is a
quarry, and a capital spot for our lunch.
if it were raining and windy, but I know a better place than this
granite cavity. We come to it soon.
from what you say, Mr. O'Keefe, there is a Cruachan in Ireland, more
famous in story than this one.
hill was more famous, but only because of the palace that was near
it. This one is so high that the lower portions receive names of
their own, but as we are still in Glen Etive in a sense, it occurs
to me that the reason that no really historical event is connected
with the deep and secluded and most habitable portion is because of
its inaccessibility. There never was a good road, and even the
inferior one is not old; besides there is no road up either side of
the loch even now, except for a good walker or rider, and no steamer
plied until lately, and it goes only for a little in summer. I
conceive Glen Etive about Dalness to have been a very safe place of
refuge, and a good hiding place for the Uisnach family at first, and
perhaps for many a generation of men who loved peace or who feared
detection. It is, therefore, said in the legend that Naisi and his
followers went to a wild part of Alba; and they would have been very
safe down here and in the plain of Cadderly, where they could also
fish; and here, if we turn to the right, and just before going into
the bay at Cadderly we come to a little island called Eilean
Uisneachan, and on that we must certainly land. It is only a rocky
spot with a bush or two on it. It was mentioned that the Uisneachs,
when hunting, put up booths, which attracted the attention of at
least the narrators in the legend, by having three apartments, one
for sleeping in, one for cooking in, and one for eating in. One
booth is alluded to as having been on an island, and the name of the
island remains. A chart lately published gives Uiseagan, but this is
evidently wrong, as we may judge from the Old Statistical report, as
well as present inhabitants of the district. The latter would mean
the Island of Larks, a name most inappropriate, we may say absurd,
since it is only a rather flat rock covered with smaller stones, and
a few reeds and briers, certainly not for larks. There was a pile of
stones of considerable length, but so irregular that it was not
certain that it was a heap caused by the fall of any structure,
although it was about the length of a couple of cowhouses of a size
common enough. Passages were made through the heap, and a rough long
hollow was reached, such as might be made when mere boulders are
used for building; but the chief indications of residence were
pieces of wood which had been cut into pegs, and various pieces of
charcoal and bones. It was such a ruin as might come from "the
booths of chase" divided into three. But a still better proof of
continued or frequent habitation was outside the island, there being
the distinct ruins of a road out of it, and on to the land,--a line
of stones evidently was made leading to a good landing. It is easy
still to see some of them out of the water; they are not entirely
dry, I believe, at any time of the tide, but they were intended to
support a dry walk to all appearance. The island is scarcely a
hundred feet in any direction, a mere lake-dwelling, a place
protected by the water on all sides, but only partially at this
And so we may look
around in this arm of the sea as if in an inland lake, where only a
wild Highlander in old times could go, a place still frequented by
seals and cormorants, eagles and foxes; although in summer visited
by screw-steamers, it is probably quieter now, and less inhabited
than ever it was, even from the first century, or how much longer no
one can guess. I have come up here in a mist when the sky seemed to
come down and shut us up as with a lid, so that we saw only some
fifty or sixty feet up the hills, and to those from the sunnier
south it produced fear and a desire to escape never to return.
that these numerous reminiscences of Uisnach have left us a probable
interval, I will take you across to another spot; it is Inver
Liebhan on our left hand, a pretty bay at the mouth of a stream,
where, too, is a farm-house and a piece of ground not difficult to
climb. I came here thinking to sec a great cromlech. We find an
enormous stone; but we must first walk up among the trees, which are
neither many nor high, although a great ornament to the glen.
It is easy to see
that this is no cromlech, or dolmen, or anything but a great fallen
rock, which has lighted on three small stones, which for size are
somewhat in the proportion of castors to a table; it may be that the
rock was lying on the soil, which gradually was washed away, leaving
these stones only. It is a geological lusus, and many a dreadful
fall takes place on these hills capable of explaining such. On the
other side of the hill, namely, on the Awe, a boulder was found on
the middle of the road, settling one morning just before the coach,
so that no vehicle could pass; and on the southerly side of the same
river boulders and gravel seem to be rolling all the year,
attempting to fill up the stream, which is white with the struggle
am tired. There is a want of stories here; you ought to know more
about the place. Land me on the North, and I will walk to the
quarries and see some activity.
you stop at the point before the quarries I will show you another
Uisnach memorial. We shall be there as soon as you.
is that called?
Cameron.We call it
Ruadh nan Draighean, which would be Thorn Point; but some prefer to
write it Druidhean, which would be the Druid Point. I confess that
the Druids and the thorns have a struggle here, and perhaps in other
places. I see no thorns, and the rocks are too protuberant for us to
suppose thorns to have abounded.
The remains are
apparently those of irregular bothies ; some naturally placed stones
have been doing duty in a cottage; some of the lines of wall are
curved, others straight. These have been dwellings, but we can
scarcely now say how rude; we know that stones may somewhat change
their places where soil and vegetation and heavy rains are, not to
speak of the inclination of the hilly ground. A tradition has been
mentioned that a daughter of the King of Ulster came to live here,
having run away with a son of the Earl of Ardchattan. Now, I suppose
there has never been an Earl of Ardchattan, but that is of little
consequence. A lady having run away from the King of Ulster and come
to this place may fairly be looked on as a part of the tradition,
and a very old one it is, and, when coupled with the names of places
already mentioned in our conversations, remarkable enough, and
reminding us to the last of that Uisnach clan, which has been so
long neglected although it first made the place famous.
Mr.O'Keefe, since you have arrived, spend a moment in looking at the
small remains of a dwelling of one of your country's heroines. As to
us, we shall move about among these rocky shores and look for seals,
and give you time to examine the quarries, which we can see well
enough for our wants from the shore. We shall then take you in, and
have quite time to row to Ruadh na charn, opposite Ardchattan
priory, and then on to meet the coach for Oban. The men are not too
tired, and they do not require to go farther back than Bunawe.
There is a ferry at
this "cairn point." Whether the word refers to the stone circle on
the conical hill itself I do not know. The hill is said to be 169
feet high; it is called Dun Cathich, probably the hill of battle,
and the large stone circle may be a burying place as smaller ones
are, although the encircling of the top has led people to call it
rather a Dun. The stones are large boulders of the Durinish granite,
carried over, I suppose, although not arranged by glaciers. They
touch each other. It is not a common style of fort, and a drawing
has been taken. (See Fig.)
It is said to have
been used as one of a chain of beacons, and this may be. There is
another small hill on the loch, between this and Connel, called Tom
na h-aire, the mound of watching, which evidently marks the
here we arrive at the Abbot's Isle again, the monks' small kind of
lake-dwelling and place of refuge, whilst we run in by Kilmaronaig.
We have passed along
the shores of Loch Etive, and have seen the glen; we must leave
others to climb the hills to seek the Pass of Terror, and tell us of
the dwellings of the deer, and the summits where the eagles mount.
We shall require a lodge in the mountains before we can reach these
tops, and must have no daily interruption by descending.
have seen the principal haunts of the sons of Uisnach, and now I
should like to know who these Celts were and how they differed and
do differ from other people.
may reserve this for a quiet conversation at Oban.
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