We came in the afternoon to Slanes Castle, built
upon the margin of the sea, so that the walls of one of the towers seem only a
continuation of a perpendicular rock, the foot of which is beaten by the waves. To walk
round the house seemed impracticable. From the windows the eye wanders over the sea that
separates Scotland from Norway, and when the winds beat with violence must enjoy all the
terrifick grandeur of the tempestuous ocean. I would not for my amusement wish for a
storm; but as storms, whether wished or not, will sometimes happen, I may say, without
violation of humanity, that I should willingly look out upon them from Slanes Castle.
When we were about to take our leave, our departure was prohibited by the
countess till we should have seen two places upon the coast, which she rightly considered
as worthy of curiosity, Dun Buy, and the Buller of Buchan, to which Mr. Boyd very kindly
Dun Buy, which in Erse is said to signify the Yellow Rock, is a
double protuberance of stone, open to the main sea on one side, and parted from the land
by a very narrow channel on the other. It has its name and its colour from the dung of
innumerable sea-fowls, which in the Spring chuse this place as convenient for incubation,
and have their eggs and their young taken in great abundance. One of the birds that
frequent this rock has, as we were told, its body not larger than a duck's, and yet lays
eggs as large as those of a goose. This bird is by the inhabitants named a Coot. That
which is called Coot in England, is here a Cooter.
Upon these rocks there was nothing that could long detain attention,
and we soon turned our eyes to the Buller, or Bouilloir of Buchan, which no man can see
with indifference, who has either sense of danger or delight in rarity. It is a rock
perpendicularly tubulated, united on one side with a high shore, and on the other rising
steep to a great height, above the main sea. The top is open, from which may be seen a
dark gulf of water which flows into the cavity, through a breach made in the lower part of
the inclosing rock. It has the appearance of a vast well bordered with a wall. The edge of
the Buller is not wide, and to those that walk round, appears very narrow. He that
ventures to look downward sees, that if his foot should slip, he must fall from his
dreadful elevation upon stones on one side, or into water on the other. We however went
round, and were glad when the circuit was completed.
When we came down to the sea, we saw some boats, and rowers, and
resolved to explore the Buller at the bottom. We entered the arch, which the water had
made, and found ourselves in a place, which, though we could not think ourselves in
danger, we could scarcely survey without some recoil of the mind. The bason in which we
floated was nearly circular, perhaps thirty yards in diameter. We were inclosed by a
natural wall, rising steep on every side to a height which produced the idea of
insurmountable confinement. The interception of all lateral light caused a dismal gloom.
Round us was a perpendicular rock, above us the distant sky, and below an unknown
profundity of water. If I had any malice against a walking spirit, instead of laying him
in the Red-sea, I would condemn him to reside in the Buller of Buchan.
But terrour without danger is only one of the sports of fancy, a
voluntary agitation of the mind that is permitted no longer than it pleases. We were soon
at leisure to examine the place with minute inspection, and found many cavities which, as
the waterman told us, went backward to a depth which they had never explored. Their extent
we had not time to try; they are said to serve different purposes. Ladies come hither
sometimes in the summer with collations, and smugglers make them storehouses for
clandestine merchandise. It is hardly to be doubted but the pirates of ancient times often
used them as magazines of arms, or repositories of plunder.
To the little vessels used by the northern rovers, the Buller may
have served as a shelter from storms, and perhaps as a retreat from enemies; the entrance
might have been stopped, or guarded with little difficulty, and though the vessels that
were stationed within would have been battered with stones showered on them from above,
yet the crews would have lain safe in the caverns.