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Summer at the Lake of Monteith
Doing Aberfoyle


Looking out for a new route is the “look out” of every tourist who has been regularly “doing” the Highlands, season after season, as the writer has done for some years; and as each successive summer rolls past, the difficulty becomes more and more great of finding some new and interesting district of country, alike interesting to the invalid, the tourist, the geologist, and antiquarian. Permit me, then Mr. Editor, to inform my brother tourists that such a route has, by the kind liberality of one of the most liberal hotel proprietors in Scotland, just been opened to the public, and almost by mere accident. I, one day at the end of last week, had the unbounded pleasure of being driven through it at “Jehu” speed. Having seen, in one of the Forth & Clyde Railway time-tables, that I could leave the City at 9.35 a.m., reach Port of Monteith station at 11.20, and “ do” the Lake of Monteith, Aberfoyle, Loch-Ard, Loch-Chon, Inversnaid, and Loch-Lomond, returning to Glasgow at 8 p.m., and all for “sixteen bob,” it struck me as something “decidedly new.” Determined to make a trial of the new route, on the morning of Saturday last I found myself at Port of Monteith station, exactly at 11.20; and after surveying the prettiest of all country stations, I, along with a few other passengers, mounted the coach and took my seat beside “Willie,” as I heard some of the railway officials term the driver. We were scarcely seated, when onwards plunged the noble steeds, at a rate little short of “the limited mail;” and I had not proceeded far when I found our driver the most civil and agreeable companion I had ever sat beside. Being a native of the district, his mind was well stored with the traditions of the country, and rich in historic lore. About half a mile from the station you cross the Forth, when he points you to the place where the great Rob Roy crossed the river with his prize when on a horse-stealing excursion in Strath-Endrick. He also points you to the place where, in days gone by, there stood the “Ferry Inns,” in which the young Pretender slept a night when visiting his friends in Monteith. Near this also flowed the spring once so famous for curing the gout. The road in front of you is beautifully shaded; on the right are the well-kept grounds of Cardross, and on your left dark green forests some miles in length, where you may see the roe bounding far ben among its dark recesses. On your right stands a sequestered little cottage, with a row of large trees at the back; and Willie tells you that is the old “ hanging hill” of Cardross; while he points you to a hoary ash, whose boughs used to serve the purpose of our new-fashioned scaffold, when the rustic native of the hut acted the part of our modern Calcraft. He now tells you to look before you, and a scene the most dazzling your eyes .ever beheld bursts upon your view. One glance of your eye, and you scan forest, field, lake, and mountain, all fresh with the glories of summer, spread out before you. As you sweep past the green knolls of Inchie, and the road winds close to the Lake of Monteith, this charming sheet of water increases in loveliness. The waters are smooth as glass, and clear as the crystal stream, contrasting beautifully with the green fairy islands that repose upon its bosom. Inchmahome, the largest of the islands, contains the ruins of the earliest Augustinian monastery in Scotland, the still existing ruins bearing proof of its once ancient grandeur. This island is also famous as the early burying-ground of the great feudal chiefs of the district, and for having been some time the residence of Mary, Queen of Scots; when she often played with her “four Marys,” and planted the “Boxwood Bower,” which still remains, bearing the name of the maiden queen. As you sweep round the northern side of the lake, you get a fine view of the historic hill of Glenny, clothed with its green firs, contrasting beautifully with the brown heath upon its summit. Willie here points you to the place where Rob Roy galloped up the hill with his stolen steed, and to the knoll where he halted to rest his fleet prize, and gaze back on his pursuers as they swept round the lake like a whirlwind, and came on like a rolling flood. Here the “Grahams of Glenny” rushed down their native passes, like avalanches from the mountain, on Cromwell’s army in the year 1653. You are now rolling past the most southern portion of the great Grampian range; and Bendhu, with barren face and heath-covered head, rises on your right. - Here you are told to look back and take a long last look of the placid loveliness of Monteith before entering the stern glories of Aberfoyle; and as you pass through its scattered crags, and defile among its shattered hills, you feel an awe-stirring sensation rising within you; but, ere you have time to think or reflect, Willie rattles up to the door of the far-famed “Bailie Nicol Jaryie.” Here a pair of fresh horses are got, and during the unyoking process you have plenty of time to step into the inn and have your tumbler, where you will find everything of the best, with most prompt attendance. Leaving the inn, the scenery becomes more and more interesting. On your right rises Craig-more, with rugged face and bald head, the falcons floating round its summit, and the wrecks of a thousand ages at its base. At your feet, the Avondhu rolls over its rocky bed; and on your left lies the historic Duchray, with its grey castle and hoary strongholds, its “ivy mantled” turrets and dark dungeons, its rocky passes and ferny glens. After passing “ the Clachan,” at a high turn of the road, the finest sight of this intensely interesting locality is to be had. Loch-Ard opens beautifully to the view; you see the silvery waters of the loch dazzling in the noonday sun, and around its varied charms. You see its feathered banks and heath-capped knolls; its rising hills and deep gorges; with the frowning Ben-Lomond looking down on the scene below. As you roll on through woods and meadow lands, and emerge from the thick shades of the silver birches, the whole loch gradually opens to the view. Here Willie points you to Rob Roy’s cave, where the great freebooter sometimes spent a night when hard pressed. Here there is a fine echo, and you can yet hear the gruff voice of the great native war chief issuing from the crags. Here also you will see the rock, the scene of the collision between the Macgregors and the red coats; and you can fancy you hear the hysteric laugh of Helen Macgregor, as she gazes on the “bubbles” that dance on her victim’s grave. Here also you are rolled under the roots of the tree that caught hold of the Bailie’s riding coat, and dangled him between the heavens and the earth. Near the western shore of the loch you see Duke Murdoch’s island, where tradition says he spent his last night on earth, having been taken from there to Stirling on the morning of his execution. On the north side of the loch, and near its upper extremity, is the famous waterfall of Le-dard, noted by the great novelist in both “ Rob Roy” and “Waverley.” After this, for some distance, you find the road partaking considerably of the up-and-down style; but never mind that, Willie can rattle over it like Jehu of old; and as you near Loch-Chon, he points out to you Rob Roy’s well, and near it a cattle-lifter’s grave. You find Loch-Chon grander than Loch-Ard, but not so extensive or famous. Looking down from the top of the coach you fancy the loch to be some hundred feet below you, with several small islands resting on its still waters. The islands are the favourite resort of otters; and amid the crags of the high hills that tower beyond the native wild cat lingers still. Here you get a beautiful view of the top of Ben-Lomond opening wide its yawning jaws. You are now nearing the road from Inversnaid to Loch-Katrine, and you get a fine sight of the latter, with the surrounding hills and. “ the braes of Balquhidder” in the distance. You pass, on your left, the small loch, Arklet, on whose banks the fair heroine Helen Macgregor, the wife of Rob Roy, was born. Approaching Inversnaid, on your right, and on a commanding eminence, stands the remains of the once famous garrison of Inversnaid, erected by Government in the year 1713 to overawe the clan Gregor. Before you, in grand magnificence, rise the hills of Loch-Lomond; and on your left flow the dark waters of the Arklet over its wild and rugged bed, until it tumbles, amid wild grandeur, into the bosom of Loch-Lomond. You have now reached Inversnaid—you are in rare trim for dinner, and you find you have just as much time as perform that important operation before the steamer calls to take you on to Glasgow. At Inversnaid you find everything in the highest possible order; and to your kind and intelligent host you are indebted for the opening up of the Monteith and Aberfoyle route—a route which, for the grand variety of its scenery, “stands alone in its glory,” and but for him it would have remained almost unseen and unknown.


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