A JOURNEY TO THE WESTERN ISLANDS OF SCOTLAND by Samuel Johnson
FORES. CALDER. FORT GEORGE
We went forwards the same day to Fores, the town to
which Macbeth was travelling, when he met the weird sisters in his way. This to an
Englishman is classic ground. Our imaginations were heated, and our thoughts recalled to
their old amusements.
We had now a prelude to the Highlands.
We began to leave fertility and culture behind us, and saw for a great length of road
nothing but heath; yet at Fochabars, a seat belonging to the duke of Gordon, there is an
orchard, which in Scotland I had never seen before, with some timber trees, and a
plantation of oaks.
At Fores we found good accommodation, but nothing worthy of
particular remark, and next morning entered upon the road, on which Macbeth heard the
fatal prediction; but we travelled on not interrupted by promises of kingdoms, and came to
Nairn, a royal burgh, which, if once it flourished, is now in a state of miserable decay;
but I know not whether its chief annual magistrate has not still the title of Lord
At Nairn we may fix the verge of the Highlands; for here I first saw
peat fires, and first heard the Erse language. We had no motive to stay longer than to
breakfast, and went forward to the house of Mr. Macaulay, the minister who published an
account of St. Kilda, and by his direction visited Calder Castle, from which Macbeth drew
his second title. It has been formerly a place of strength. The draw-bridge is still to be
seen, but the moat is now dry. The tower is very ancient: Its walls are of great
thickness, arched on the top with stone, and surrounded with battlements. The rest of the
house is later, though far from modern.
We were favoured by a gentleman, who lives in the castle, with a
letter to one of the officers at Fort George, which being the most regular fortification
in the island, well deserves the notice of a traveller, who has never travelled before. We
went thither next day, found a very kind reception, were led round the works by a
gentleman, who explained the use of every part, and entertained by Sir Eyre Coote, the
governour, with such elegance of conversation as left us no attention to the delicacies of
Of Fort George I shall not attempt to give any account. I cannot
delineate it scientifically, and a loose and popular description is of use only when the
imagination is to be amused. There was every where an appearance of the utmost neatness
and regularity. But my suffrage is of little value, because this and Fort Augustus are the
only garrisons that I ever saw.
We did not regret the time spent at the fort, though in consequence
of our delay we came somewhat late to Inverness, the town which may properly be called the
capital of the Highlands. Hither the inhabitants of the inland parts come to be supplied
with what they cannot make for themselves: Hither the young nymphs of the mountains and
valleys are sent for education, and as far as my observation has reached, are not sent in