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General History of the Highlands
Remarks on the Scenery of the Highlands
Part 3
by Professor Wilson


We have spoken, slightly, of the sylvan scenery of the Highlands. In Perthshire, especially, it is of rare and extraordinary beauty, and we are always glad to hear of Englishmen travelling up the Tay and the Earn. We desire that eyes familiar with all that is umbrageous should receive their first impressions of our Scottish trees at Duneira and Dunkeld. Nor will those impressions be weakened as they proceed towards Blair Athole. In that famous Pass they will feel the power possessed by the sweet wild monotony of the universal birch woods—broken but by grey crags in every shape—grotesque, fantastical, majestic, magnificent, and sublime — on the many-ridged mountains, that are loth to lose the green light of their beloved forests, retain it as long as they can, and on the masses of living lustre seem to look down with pride from their skies.

An English forest, meaning thereby any one wide continuous scene of all kinds of old English trees, with glades of pasture, and it may be of heath between, with dells dipping down into the gloom, and hillocks undulating in the light—ravines and chasms too, rills, and rivulets, and a haunted stream, and not without some melancholy old ruins, and here and there a cheerful cottage that feels not the touch of time—such a forest there is not, and hardly can be imagined to be in Scotland. But in the Highlands, there once were, and are still, other forests of quite a different character, and of equal grandeur. In his Forest Scenery, Gilpin shows that he understood it well; all the knowledge, which as a stranger, almost of necessity he wanted, Lauder has supplied in his annotations; and the book should now be in the hands of every one who cares about the woods. "The English forest," says Gilpin, "is commonly composed of woodland views, interspersed with extensive heaths and lawns. Its trees are oak and beech, whose lively green corresponds better than the gloomy pine with the nature of the scene, which seldom assumes the dignity of a mountain one, but generally exhibits a cheerful landscape. It aspires, indeed, to grandeur; but its grandeur does not depend, like that of the Scottish forest, on the sublimity of the objects, but on the vastness of the whole— the extent of its woods and the wildness of its plains. In its inhabitants also the English forest differs from the Scottish; instead of the stag and the roebuck, it is frequented by cattle and fallow-deer, and exchanges the scream of the eagle and the falcon for the crowing of pheasants and the melody of the nightingale. The Scottish forest, no doubt, is the sublimer scene, and speaks to the imagination in a loftier language than the English forest can reach. The latter, indeed, often rouses the imagination, but seldom in so great a degree, being generally content with captivating the eye. The scenery, too, of the Scottish forests better calculated to last through ages than that of the English. The woods of both are almost destroyed. But while the English forest hath lost all its beauty with its oaks, and becomes only a desolate waste, the rocks and the mountains, the lakes and the torrents, of the Scottish forest make it still an interesting scene."

The tree of the Highlands is the pine. There are Scotch firs, indeed, well worth looking at, in the Lowlands, and in England; but to learn their true character you must see them in the glen, among rocks, by the river side, and on the mountain. "We, for our parts," says Lauder, very finely, "confess that when we have seen it towering in full majesty in the midst of some appropriate Highland scene, and sending its limbs abroad with all unrestrained freedom of a hardy mountaineer, as if it claimed dominion over the savage region round it, we have looked upon it as a very sublime object. People who have not seen it in native climate and soil, and who judge of it from the wretched abortions which are swaddled and suffocated in English plantations, among dark, heavy, and eternally wet clays, may well be called a wretched tree; but when its foot is among its own Highland heather, and when it stands freely in its native knoll of dry gravel, or thinly-covered rock, over which its roots wander afar in the wildest reticulation, whilst its tall, furrowed, and often gracefully-sweeping red and grey trunk, of enormous circumference, rears aloft its high umbrageous canopy, then would the greatest sceptic on this point be compelled to prostrate his mind before it with a veneration which perhaps was never before excited in him by any other tree." The colour of the pine has been objected to as murky, and murky it often is, or seems to be; and so then is the colour of the heather, and of the river, and of the loch, and of the sky itself thunder-laden, and murkiest of all are the clouds. But a stream of sunshine is let loose, and the gloom is confounded with glory; over all that night-like reign the jocund day goes dancing, and the forest revels in green or in golden light. Thousands and tens of thousands of trees are there; and as you gaze upon the whole mighty array, you fear lest it might break the spell, to fix your gaze on any one single tree. But there are trees there that will force you to look on themselves alone, and they grow before your eyes into the kings of the forest. Straight stand their stems in the sunshine, and you feel that as straight have they stood in the storm. As yet you look not up, for your heart is awed, and you see but the stately columns reddening away into the gloom. But all the while you feel the power of the umbrage aloft, and when thitherwards you lift your eyes, what a roof to such a cathedral! A cone drops at your feet—nor other sound nor other stir—but afar off you think you hear a cataract. Inaudible your footsteps on the soft yellow floor, composed of the autumnal sheddings of countless years. Then it is true that you can indeed hear the beating of your own heart; you fear, but know not what you fear; and being the only living creature there, you are impressed with a thought of death. But soon to that severe silence you are more than reconciled; the solitude, without ceasing to be sublime, is felt to be solemn and not awful, and ore long, utter as it is, serene. Seen from afar, the forest was one black mass; but as you advance, it opens up into spacious glades, beautiful as gardens, with appropriate trees of gentler tribes, and ground-flowering in the sun. But there is no murmur of bee—no song of bird. In the air a thin whisper of insects interrnittent—and wafted quite away by a breath. For we are now in the very centre of the forest, and even the cushat haunts not here. Hither the red deer may come—but not now—for at this season they love the hill. To such places the stricken stag might steal to lie down and die.

And thus for hours may you be lost in the forest, nor all the while have wasted one thought on the outer world, till with no other warning but an uncertain glimmer and a strange noise, you all at once issue forth into the open day, and are standing on the brink of a precipice above a flood. It comes tumbling down with a succession of falls, in a mile-long course, right opposite your stance— rocks, cliffs, and trees, all the way up on either side, majestically retiring back to afford ample channel, and showing an unobstructed vista, closed up by the purple mountain, that seems to send forth the river from a cavern in its breast. ‘Tis the Glen of Pines. Nor ash nor oak is suffered to intrude on their dominion. Since the earthquake first shattered it out, this great chasm, with all its chasms, has been held by one race of trees. No other seed could there spring to life; for from the rocks has all soil, ages ago, been washed and swept by the tempests. But there they stand with glossy boles, spreading arms, and glittering crest; and those two by themselves on the summit, known all over Badenoch as "the Giants "—"their statures reach the sky."

We have been indulging in a dream of old. Before our day the immemorial gloom of Glenmore had perished, and it ceased to be a forest. But there bordered on it another region of night or twilight, and in its vast depths we first felt the sublimity of lonesome fear. Rothiemurchus! The very word blackens before our eyes with necromantic characters— again we plunge into its gulphs desirous of what we dread—again "in pleasure high and turbulent," we climb the cliffs of Cairngorm.

Would you wish to know what is now the look of Glenmore? One now dead and gone —a man of wayward temper, but of genius— shall tell you—and think not the picture exaggerated—for you would not, if you were there. "It is the wreck of the ancient forest which arrests all the attention, and which renders Glenmore a melancholy—more than a melancholy—a terrific spectacle. Trees of enormous height, which have escaped alike the axe and the tempest, are still standing, stripped by the winds even of the bark, and like gigantic skeletons, throwing far and wide their white and bleached bones to the storms and rains of heaven; while others, broken by the violence of the gales, lift up their split and fractured trunks in a thousand shapes of resistance and of destruction, or still display some knotted and tortuous branches, stretched out, in sturdy and fantastic forms of defiance, to the whirlwind and the winter. Noble trunks also, which had long resisted, but resisted in vain, strew the ground; some lying on the declivity where they have fallen, others still adhering to the precipice where they were rooted, many upturned, with their twisted and entangled roots high in air; while not a few astonish us by the space which they cover, and by dimensions which we could not otherwise have estimated. It is one wide image of death, as if the angel of destruction had passed over the valley. The sight, even of a felled tree, is painful: still more is that of the fallen forest, with all its green branches on the ground, withering, silent, and at rest, where once they glittered in the dew and the sun, and trembled in the breeze. Yet this is but an image of vegetable death. It is familiar, and the impression passes away. It is the naked skeleton bleaching in the winds, the gigantic bones of the forest still erect, the speaking records of former life and of strength still unsubdued, vigorous even in death, which renders Glenmore one enormous charnel house."

What happened of old to the aboriginal forests of Scotland, that long before these later destructions they had almost all perished, leaving to bear witness what they were, such survivors? They were chiefly destroyed by fire. What power could extinguish chance-kindled conflagrations when sailing before the wind? And no doubt fire was set to clear the country at once of Scotch firs, wolves, wild boars, and outlaws. Tradition yet tells of such burnings; and, if we mistake not, the pines found in the Scottish mosses, the logs and the stocks, all show that they were destroyed by Vulcan, though Neptune buried them in the quagmires. Storms no doubt often levelled them by thousands; but had millions so fallen they had never been missed, and one element only—which has been often fearfully commissioned—could achieve the work. In our own day the axe has indeed done wonders—and sixteen square miles of the forest of Rothiemurchus "went to the ground." John of Ghent, Gilpin tells us, to avenge an inroad, set twenty-four thousand axes at work in the Caledonian Forest.

Yet Scotland has perhaps sufficient forest at this day. For more has been planted than cut down; Glenmore will soon be populous as ever with self-sown pines, and Rothiemurchus may revive; the shades are yet deeper of Loch Arkaig, Glengarry, Glenmoriston, Strathglass, Glen Strathfarrar, and Loch-Shiel; deeper still on the Findhorn—and deepest of all on the Dee rejoicing in the magnificent pine woods of Invercauld and Braemar.

Glengarry. Clan lands of the MacDonnels of Glengarry. One of the many branches of the MacDonalds.
Glengarry. Clan lands of the MacDonnels of Glengarry
©Scottish Panoramic

We feel that we have spoken feebly of our Highland forests. Some perhaps, who have never been off the high roads, may accuse us of exaggeration too ; but they contain wondrous beauties of which we have said not a word; and no imagination can conceive what they may be in another hundred years. But, apparently far apart from the forests, though still belonging to them—for they hold in fancy by the tenure of the olden time—how many woods, and groves, and sprinklings of fair trees, rise up during a day’s journey, in almost every region of the North! And among them all, it may be, scarcely a pine. For the oak, and the ash, and the elm, are also all native trees ; nowhere else does the rowan flush with more dazzling lustre in spring, the alder with its vivid green stands well beside the birk—the yew was not neglected of yore, though the bow of the Celt was weak to that of the Saxon; and the holly, in winter emulating the brightness of the pine, flourished, and still flourishes on many a mountain side. There is sufficient sylvan scenery for beauty in a land of mountains. More may be needed for shelter—but let the young plants and seedlings have time to grow—and as for the old trees, may they live for ever. Too many millions of larches are perhaps growing now behind the Tay and the Tilt; yet why should the hills of Perthshire be thought to be disfigured by what ennobles the Alps and the Apennines?

Hitherto we have hardly said a word about Lochs, and have been doing our best to forget them, while imagining scenes that were chiefly characterised by other great features of Highland Landscape. A country thus constituted, and with such an aspect, even if we could suppose it without lochs, would still be a glorious region ; but its lochs are indeed its greatest glory; by them its glens, its mountains and its woods are all illumined, and its rivers made to sing aloud for joy. In the pure element, overflowing so many spacious vales and glens profound, the great and stern objects of nature look even more sublime or more beautiful, in their reflected shadows, which appear in that stillness to belong rather to heaven than earth. Or the evanescence of all that imagery at a breath may touch us with the thought that all it represents, steadfast as seems its endurance, will as utterly pass away. Such visions, when gazed on in that wondrous depth and purity they are sometimes seen to assume, on a still summer day, always inspire some such faint feeling as this; and we sigh to think how transitory must be all things, when the setting sun is seen to sink beneath the mountain, and all its golden pomp at the same instant to evanish from the lake.

Loch Lomond looking north.The west bank home of Clan Colquhoun & Clan MacFarlane.The east bank the home of Clan Buchanan.
Loch Lomond looking north ©Scottish Panoramic

The first that takes possession of the imagination, dreaming of the Highlands as the region of lochs, is the Queen of them all, Loch Lomond. Wordsworth has said, that "in Scotland, the proportion of diffused water is often too great, as at the Lake of Geneva, for instance, and in most of the Scottish lakes. No doubt it sounds magnificent, and flatters the imagination, to hear at a distance of masses of water so many leagues in length and miles in width; and such ample room may be delightful to the fresh-water sailor, scudding with a lively breeze amid the rapidly shifting scenery. But who ever travelled along the banks of Loch Lomond, variegated as the lower part is by islands, without feeling that a speedier termination of the long vista of blank water would be acceptable, and without wishing for an interposition of green meadows, trees, and cottages, and a sparkling stream to run by his side. In fact, a notion of grandeur as connected with magnitude has seduced persons of taste into a general mistake upon this subject. It is much more desirable for the purposes of pleasure, that lakes should be numerous and small or middle-sized than large, not only for communication by walks and rides, but for variety and for recurrence of similar appearances. To illustrate this by one instance how pleasing is it to have a ready and frequent opportunity of watching, at the outlet of a lake, the stream, pushing its way among the rocks, in lively contrast with the stillness from which it has escaped; and how amusing to compare its noisy and turbulent motions with the gentle playfulness of the breezes that may be starting up, or wandering here and there over the faintly-rippled surface of the broad water I may add, as a general remark, that in lakes of great width, the shores cannot be distinctly seen at the same time; and therefore contribute little to mutual illustration and ornament; and if the opposite shores are out of sight of each other, like those of the American and Asiatic lakes, then unfortunately the traveller is reminded of a nobler object; he has the blankness of a sea prospect without the grandeur and accompanying sense of power."

We shall not be suspected of an inclination to dissent, on light grounds, from any sentiments of Wordsworth. But finely felt and expressed as all this is, we do not hesitate to say that it is not applicable to Loch Lomond. Far be it from us to criticise this passage sentence by sentence; for we have quoted it not in a captious, but in a reverent spirit, as we have ever done with the works of this illustrious man. He has studied nature more widely and profoundly than we have; but it is out of our power to look on Loch Lomond without a feeling of perfection. The "diffusion of water" is indeed great; but in what a world it floats. At first sight of it, how our soul expands. The sudden revelation of such majestic beauty, wide as it is and extending afar, inspires us with a power of comprehending it all. Sea-like, indeed, it is—a Mediterranean Sea—enclosed with lofty hills and as lofty mountains—and these, indeed, are the Fortunate Isles. We shall not dwell on the feeling which all must have experienced on the first sight of such a vision—the feeling of a lovely and a mighty calm; it is manifest that the spacious "diffusion of water" more than conspires with the other components of such a scene to produce the feeling; that to it belongs the spell that makes our spirit serene, still, and bright as its own. Nor when such feeling ceases so entirely to possess, and so deeply to affect us, does the softened and subdued charm of the scene before us depend less on the expanse of the "diffusion of water." The islands, that before had lain we knew not how—or we had only felt that they were all most lovely—begin to show themselves in the order of their relation to one another and to the shores. The eye rests on the largest, and with them the lesser combine; or we look at one or two of the least, away by themselves, or remote from all a tufted rock; and many as they are, they break not the breadth of the liquid plain, for it is ample as the sky. They show its amplitude; as masses and sprinklings of clouds, and single clouds, show the amplitude of the cerulean vault. And then the long promontories—stretching out from opposite mainlands, and enclosing bays that in themselves are lakes—they too magnify the empire of water; for long as they are, they seem so only as our eye attends them with their cliffs and woods from the retiring shores, and far distant are their shadows from the central light. Then what shores! On one side, where the lake is widest, low-lying they seem and therefore lovelier—undulating with fields and groves, where many a pleasant dwelling is embowered, into lines of hills that gradually soften away into another land. On the other side, sloping back, or overhanging, mounts beautiful in their barrenness, for they are green as emerald; others, scarcely more beautiful, studded with fair trees—some altogether woods. They soon form into mountains—and the mountains become more and more majestical, yet beauty never deserts them, and her spirit continues to tame that of the frowning cliffs. Far off as they are, Benlomond and Benvoirlich are seen to be giants; magnificent is their retinue, but the two are supreme, each in his own dominion; and clear as the day is here, they are diademed with clouds.

It cannot be that the "proportion of diffused water is here too great ;" and is it then true that no one ‘‘ever travelled along the banks of Loch Lomond, variegated as the lower part is by islands, without feeling that a speedier termination to the long vista of blank water would be acceptable, and without wishing for an interposition of green meadows, trees and cottages, and a sparkling stream to run by his side!" We have travelled along them in all weathers, and never felt such a wish. For there they all are—all but the "sparkling stream to run by our side," and we see not how that well could be in nature. "Streams that sparkle as they run," cross our path on their own; and brighter never issued from the woods. Along the margin of the water, as far as Luss-ay, and much farther—the variations of the foreground are incessant; "had it no other beauties," it has been truly said, "but those of its shores, it would still be an object of prime attraction; whether from the bright green meadows sprinkled with luxuriant ash-trees, that sometimes skirt its margin, or its white pebbled shores on which its gentle billows murmur, like a miniature ocean, or its bold rocky promontories rising from the dark water rich in wild-flowers and ferns, and tangled with wild roses and honey-suckles, or its retired bays where the waves dash, reflecting, like a mirror, the trees which hang over them, an inverted landcape." The islands are for ever arranging themselves into new forms, every one more and more beautiful; at least so they seem to be, perpetually occurring, yet always unexpected, and there is a pleasure even in such a series of slight surprises that enhances the delight of admiration. And alongside, or behind us, all the while, are the sylvan mountains, "laden with beauty ;" and ever and anon open glens widen down upon us from chasms; or forest glades lead our hearts away into the inner gloom—perhaps our feet; and there, in a field that looks not as if it had been cleared by his own hands, but left clear by nature, a woodsman’s hut.

Half-way between Luss and Tarbet the water narrows, but it is still wide; the new road, we believe, winds round the point of Firkin, the old road boldly scaled the height, as all old roads loved to do; ascend it, and bid the many-isled vision, in all its greatest glory, farewell. Thence upwards prevails the spirit of the mountains. The lake is felt to belong to them—to be subjected to their will —and that is capricious; for sometimes they suddenly blacken it when at its brightest, and sometimes when its gloom is like that of the grave, as if at their bidding, all is light. We cannot help attributing the "skiey influences" which occasion such wonderful effects on the water, to prodigious mountains; for we cannot look on them without feeling that they reign over the solitude they compose; the lights and shadows flung by the sun and the clouds imagination assuredly regards as put forth by the vast objects which they colour; and we are inclined to think some such belief is essential in the profound awe, often amounting to dread, with which we are inspired by the presences of mere material forms. But be this as it may, the upper portion of Loch Lomond is felt by all to be most sublime. Near the head, all the manifold impressions of the beautiful whirh for hours our mind had been receiving, begin to fade; if some gloomy change has taken place in the air, there is a total obliteration, and the mighty scene before us is felt to possess not the hour merely, but the day. Yet should sunshine come, and abide a while, beauty will glimpse upon us even here, for green pastures will smile vividly, high up among the rocks; the sylvan spirit is serene the moment it is touched with light, and here there is not only many a fair tree by the water-side, but you old oak wood will look joyful on the mountain, and the gloom become glimmer in the profound abyss.

Wordsworth says, that "it must be more desirable, for the purposes of pleasure, that lakes should be numerous, and small or middle-sized, than large, not only for communication by walks and rides, but for variety, and for recurrence of similar appearances." The Highlands have them of all sizes—and that surely is best. But here is one which, it has been truly said, is not only "incomparable in its beauty as in its dimensions, exceeding all others in variety as it does in extent and splendour, but unites in itself every style of scenery which is found in the other lakes of the Highlands." He who has studied, and understood, and felt all Loch Lomond, will be prepared at once to enjoy any other fine lake he looks on; nor will he admire nor love it the less, though its chief character should consist in what forms but one part of that of the Wonder in which all kinds of beauty and sublimity are combined.

We feel that it would be idle, and worse than idle, to describe any number of the Highland lochs, for so many of the finest have been seen by so many eyes, that few persons probably will ever read these pages to whom such descriptions would be, at the best, more than shadowings of scenery that their own imaginations can more vividly recreate.

We may be allowed, however, to say, that there cannot be a greater mistake than to think, as many we believe do who have only heard of the Highland lochs, that, with the exception of those famous for their beauty as well as their grandeur, beauty is not only not the quality by which they are distinguished, but that it is rarely found in them at all. There are few, possessing any very marked character, in which beauty is not either an ingredient or an accompaniment ; and there are many "beautiful exceedingly" which, lying out of the way even of somewhat adventurous travellers, or very remote, are known, if even by that, only by name. It does not, indeed, require much, in some situations, to give a very touching beauty to water. A few trees, a few knolls, a few tufted rocks, will do it, where all around and above is stern or sterile; and how strong may be the gentle charm, if the torrent that feeds the little loch chance to flow into it from a lucid pool formed by a waterfall, and to flow out of it in a rivulet that enlivens the dark heather with a vale of verdure over which a stag might bound—and more especially if there be two or three huts in which it is perceived there is human life! We believe we slightly touched before on such scenes; but any little repetition will be excused for the sake of a very picturesque passage, which we have much pleasure in quoting from the very valuable Guide to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, by the brothers Anderson. We well remember walking into the scene here so well painted, many long years ago, and have indeed, somewhere or other, described it. The Fall of Foyers is the most magnificent cataract, out of all sight and hearing, in Britain. The din is quite loud enough in ordinary weather—and it is only in ordinary weather that you can approach the place, from which you have a full view of all its grandeur. When the Fall is in flood— to say nothing of being drenched to the skin—you are so blinded by the sharp spray smoke, and so deafened by the dashing and clashing, and tumbling and rumbling, thunder, that your condition is far from enviable, as you cling, "lonely lover of nature," to a shelf by no means eminent for safety, above the horrid gulf. Nor in former times was there any likelihood of your being comforted by the accommodations of the General’s Hut. In ordinary Highland weather—meaning thereby weather neither very wet nor very dry—it is worth walking a thousand miles for one hour to behold the Fall of Foyers. The spacious cavity is enclosed by "complicated cliffs and perpendicular precipices" of immense height; and though for a while it wears to the eye a savage aspect, yet beauty fears not to dwell even there, and the horror is softened by what appears to be masses of tall shrubs, or single shrubs almost like trees. And they are trees, which on the level plain would look even stately; but as they ascend ledge above ledge the walls of that awful chasm, it takes the eye time to see them as they really are, while on our first discernment of their character, serenely standing among the tumult, they are felt on such sites to be sublime.

"Between the Falls and the Strath of Stratherrik," says the book we were about to quote, "a space of three or four miles, the river Foyers flows through a series of low rocky hills clothed with birch. They present various quiet glades and open spaces, where little patches of cultivated ground are encircled by wooded hillocks, whose surface is pleasingly diversified by nodding trees, bare rocks, empurpled heath, and bracken bearing herbage." It was the excessive loveliness of some of the scenery there that suggested to us the thought of going to look what kind of a stream the Foyers was above the Fall. We went, and in the quiet of a summer evening, found it

"Was even the gentlest of all gentle things."

But here is the promised description of it:- "Before pursuing our way westward, we would wish to direct the traveller’s attention to a sequestered spot of peculiar beauty on the river Foyers. This is a secluded vale, called Killean, which, besides its natural attractions, and these are many, is distinguished as one of the few places where the old practice of resorting to the ‘shieling’ for summer grazing of cattle is still observed. It is encompassed on all sides by steep mountains; but at the north end there is a small lake, about a mile and a half in length, and from one-third to half a mile in breadth. The remainder of the bottom of the glen is a perfectly level tract, of the same width with the lake, and about two miles and a half in length, covered with the richest herbage, and traversed by a small meandering river flowing through it into the lake. The surface of this flat is bedecked with the little huts or bothies, which afford temporary accommodation to the herdsmen and others in charge of the cattle. This portion of the glen is bordered on the west by continuous hills rising abruptly in a uniformly steep acclivity, and passing above into a perpendicular range of precipices, the whole covered with a scanty verdure sprouted with heath. At the bend of the lake near its middle, where it inclines from a northernly course towards the west, a magnificent rounded precipice, which, like the continuous ranges, may be about 1200 feet in height, rises immediately out of the water; and a few narrow and inclined verdant stripes alone preserve it from exhibiting a perfectly mural character. To this noble rock succeeds, along the rest of the lake, a beautiful, lofty, and nearly vertical hill-side, clothed with birch, intermingled with hanging mossy banks, shaded over with the deeper tinted bracken. The eastern side of the plain, and the adjoining portion of the lake, are lined by mountains corresponding in height with those opposed to them; but their lower extremities arc, to a considerable extent, strewed with broken fragments of rock, to which succeeds an uninterrupted zone of birch and alder, which is again overtopped in its turn by naked cliffs. An elevated terrace occupies the remainder of this side of the lake; above the wooded face of which is seen a sloping expanse of mingled heath and herbage. About half a mile from the south end, Mr Fraser of Lovat, the proprietor, has erected a shooting lodge; viewed from which, or from either end, or from the top of the platform on the north-east side of the lake, fancy could scarcely picture a more attractive and fairy landscape than is unfolded by this sequestered vale, to which Dr Johnson’s description of the ‘Happy Valley’ not inaptly applies. The milch cows, to the number of several hundreds, are generally kept here from the beginning of June to the middle of August, when they are replaced by the yell cattle. The river sweeps to the northward from loch Killean through richly birch-clad hills, which rise in swelling slopes from its banks. A large tarn which immediately joins it from the east is crossed at its mouth by a rustic bridge, from which a single footpath conducts across the brow of the hill to Whitebridge, a small public-house or inn, four miles distant."

There is a loch of a very different character from Killean, almost as little known, equal to anything in the Highlands, only two miles distant from Loch Lochy, in the great glen—Loch Arkaig. We first visited it many years since, having been induced to do so by a passage in John Stoddard’s Remarks on the Local Scenery and Manners of Scotland; and it was then a very noble oak and pine forest loch. The axe went to work and kept steadily at it; and a great change was wrought; but it is still a grand scene, with a larger infusion of beauty than it possessed of old. The scenery of the valley separating it from Loch Lochy is very similar to that of the Trossachs; through it there are two approaches to the loch, and the Mile-Dubh, or the dark mile, according to our feeling, is more impressive than any part of the approach to Loch Katrine. 

Loch Katrine, with the SS Sir Walter Scott steaming up the loch surrounded by the stunning landscapes that inspired Sir Walter Scott to write "The Lady of the Lake"
Loch Katrine, with the SS Sir Walter Scott steaming up the Loch ©Scottish Panoramic


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