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Autumnal Rambles Among The Scottish Mountains
A Morning Ramble in Glen Rosa in 1844


Some years ago, I sent you, in three letters, an account of "Three Days in Arran.” It may be remembered by some of your readers, that, on the first of these, I was benighted in Glen Rosa, after visiting Goatfell and Glen Sannox, and that upon that occasion I got many severe falls and bruises, owing to the roughness of the ground and the darkness of the night. Having occasion to be in the same most interesting island last week for one night, I resolved, before breakfast next morning, to explore the scene of my former adventures; and having been informed that the communications above alluded to were read with considerable interest, I hope the present may be so also.

I left Mrs Jamieson’s inn betwixt five and six o’clock, and, owing to misdirection, or, more probably, my own blunder, I kept the Goatfell side of the glen (which is neither so direct nor comfortable as the other), till I reached the quarter where mv jeopardy began, about four miles above the village of Brodick. At this place, there is nearly an end to all vegetable productions) with the exception of occasional tufts of heather. I crossed the stream at the upper end of a pool, over which hang the birch and mountain ash, but of such stunted dimensions as to indicate their expiring effort. The pool itself is one of the most tempting to the bather I ever saw, especially on such a morning as was the 3d of July. It is of considerable length and depth, fenced by a perpendicular wall of granite, ten or twelve feet high, and paved with the same substance. At the upper end is a cascade; and the water was as cool and limpid as can be conceived. After indulging in the luxuries <of the bath, I ascended the sharp rocky ridge in a direct line between Goatfell and Ben-Oosh, and was amply recompensed for my exertions. From this ridge, which may be about 1800 feet above the sea-level, you command a full view of the more lofty peaks in the island, comprehending, besides those that have significant Gaelic designations, many "huge nameless rocks,” particularly arresting the attention of the pedestrian. Immediately around you, are Ben-Oosh, Caimnacaillach, Kier-Vohr, Goatfell, &c. These exhibit, when viewed in certain directions, the most fantastic shapes imaginable. Some of the masses of granite resemble prodigious waggons, or hay-stacks; others seem sharp as needles, and rise in regular succession, like the teeth of a saw, or the comb of a cock. Immediately beside and under me, lay a huge excavation, fenced by nearly perpendicular cliffs, much resembling the crater oi an extinct volcano, which I greatly regretted I had not time minutely to explore. The whole scene presented itself under the most favourable circumstances, and was one which I shall never forget.

Though Goatfell is confessedly the highest point in the island, there are others, especially one at the head of Glen Sannox, and on the opposite side of the chasm, which cannot be more than a hundred feet lower, if so much. Upon approaching the island, indeed, from Glasgow by water, this latter point, even to an experienced eye, seems the higher of the two, though in almost every other direction where they are both seen Goatfell maintains the superiority. There is something pre-eminently imposing and dignified in the summit of this latter mountain, as seen from the position I have just been describing. The middle portions are rugged and broken, like all the surrounding eminences ; but the upper region rises for eight or nine hundred feet, in, calm and graceful majesty. You might fancy its resemblance to the "hero of a hundred battles,” who has survived the tug and havoc of them all, and finally been elevated to the Peerage. Thus Goatfell, the hero of ten thousand tempests, rears his bald, majestic head to the clouds, surrounded by his staff of thunder-split peaks, "towering in horrid nakedness,” companions Amidst the war of contending elements for numberless generations. Far from scatheless, however, has been his career of glory. In some respects, he seems to have had decidedly the worst of the set-to with old Father Time. His very summit, indeed, consists of immense blocks of hard imperishable granite; and a little lower down are seen huge Cyclopian walls of the same material. But the latter are shaken, as if by some great convulsion; and the whole surface of the conical top of the mountain is strewed thickly with riven rocks, stones of all sizes* and granitic sand.

I would earnestly recommend you, sir, and all your readers who are mountam-fanciers, to repair to the above most interesting of all our islands, if you have not already been there. Access to Arran is now most easy. There is a daily steam-packet from Ardrossan to Brodick and Lamlash, m addition to one from Glasgow, during the summer months; and thus, for a mere trifle, you can be transported in the course of a few hours to Brodick, at the very base of Goatfell. The whole scenery from the Broomielaw is such as cannot be surpassed —beginning with all that is soft, verdant, and cultivated, and terminating in Nature’s wildest and sternest aspect Only be careful to choose favourable weather. Within the last few weeks, a party left Edinburgh by the railway for Arran—arrived there in a wonderfully short time—remained in the island a few hours, and returned at night to the Metropolis; but such was the state of the weather, that many never left the vessel, while groups were seen cowering about Brodick under umbrellas, scarcely able to see the chimneys of the cottages!

At the best, however, such a Cockney expedition is of questionable celebrity, and would hardly stand the test of Christopher North’s criticism, lo all who have a sound constitution, and a few days at their command, I would recommend something different. In three days, an able-bodied pedestrian may visit, or see, all that is truly interesting in the island. Let him, on the first, ascend Glen Rosa, go to the top of Goatfell, pass through the gorge between Glen Rosa and Glen Sannox (the most interesting point of all) to Loch Ranza. On the second, let him return by the Cock of Arran, entrance of Glen Sannox, and the Corrie,to Brodick. On the third, he should visit Brodick Castle, and go to Lamlash by land, climb the Holy Isle, retaming at half-past three by the Isle of Arran steamer to Brodick and Ardrossan. If he has a fourth day, he could not employ it better than in going to fence’s Caves, on the opposite side of the island, by the String, and returning by the pass which leads from the west coast to Lamlash. If a man can accomplish this with personal ease, in favourable weather, and not feel the liveliest gratification, he must have something in his nature little to be envied.

The inhabitants of Arran are primitive in their character and manners, owing, in a great measure, to the Duke of Hamilton not permitting feus in the island. In Brodick, may be seen the old women sitting at their doors, arrayed in flanneltoye, a species of head-gear now very little in use, and the men lounging about knitting stockings on wires. All classes have an appearance of indolence ; and their little gardens, instead of abounding in pot-herbs, flowers, and fruit-trees, are fall of weeds, and have every appearance of neglect. They are, however, remarkable for peaceableness and honesty, so that many will question how far it would be advisable to introduce among them the habits of civilised life. They are most fortunate in having the Marquis of Douglas as their feudal lord, whose German bride takes much delight in her mountain home. He is now making an addition, on a great scale, to the castle, and intends to spend more time in the island than has been customary with his family. A few days previous to my late visit, he and his princess had added greatly to their popularity by their presence at gymnastic games, in which they seemed to feel a lively interest, as well as by their kind and cordial attentions to all around them. In such circumstances, though many may lament that Arran is in a great measure shut up from the world, yet none can blame the proprietor for his resolution to avail himself of it in that way which tends most to his gratification.


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