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Autumnal Rambles Among The Scottish Mountains
The Highlands of Galloway.—Merrick, Loch Enoch, &c., in 1846


The Highlands of Galloway may be described as being chiefly comprehended in the parishes of Kells and Minnigaff; for although there are other lofty mountains—Criffell, Caimsmuir of Carsphaim, Caimsmuir of Fleet, &c.—yet these are comparatively unapproached by mountains of similar altitude, and ought consequently to be regarded more as detached chains.

It has often struck me how very little known this district is, considering its interesting character. The cause is no doubt to be referred to the want of roads. The black water of Dee is a fine Highland-featured river. Towards its source, there are many mountain lakes, containing trout and pike in abundance, and grouse is plentiful; but, strange to say, there is actually not the vestige of a road upon its banks, from Loch Kenn to the fountain-head ! Were a road opened from Loch Kenn up this river as far as Cooran Lane, and across by Loch Dee to Loch Trool, and the road from New-ton-Stewart to Maybole, it would, I am convinced, be a great accommodation, not only to sportsmen and tourists, but to the public in general. A road ought also to be made up the Fleet from Gatehouse, by Loch Grannoch, to join the former at or near Dee Bridge. The mating of these roads, through a district of the best materials, and where property, instead of being injured, would be vastly improved, is an object well worthy the attention of proprietors, and ought no longer to be delayed.

These remarks have been occasioned by, an excursion made lately by myself and a friend to the top of Merrick, and some of the adjoining mountains and lakes. The weather proved favourable, and we were highly gratified by our exertions, insomuch that I would earnestly recommend tourists who are sound in wind and limb to follow our example; but these qualifications will be found indispensable, as the localities in question can be approached with safety neither by a wheeled vehicle, nor on horseback. Clattering Shaws is the nearest practicable road on Dee-side, and Stroan, or Skiongchan, on that of the Cree, any of which will be found far enough from Merrick or Loch Enoch by those who feel disposed to visit these truly interesting scenes.

We ascended Merrick from Loch Trool, perhaps the most romantic spot in the south of Scotland. This lake is about two miles long, well skirted with wood, and has several graceful bends among lofty and precipitous mountains. After scrambling among huge blocks of granite for about three miles, we came to one of the most sequestered and inaccessible shepherd’s dwellings in Scotland, called Kilsharg. Here, as everywhere in this mountain district, we were most hospitably received, and made welcome to their best cheer. The shepherd’s wife, in the absence of her lord, provided us with stout deekies to steady us among the rocks and moss-hagg; and we then proceeded to the top of the mountain, which might be about four miles from her cottage. The first part of our route was serious climbing, but the last two miles consisted of a gentle slope over soft verdant pasture, such as I never witnessed at anything approaching the elevation, though I have climbed almost all the mountains of note in Scotland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland.

We had now “climbed the highest hill that rises o’er the source o’ Dee,” and were struck with admiration of the surrounding scenery. Merrick is said to be nearly 3000 feet in height, and is decidedly the loftiest mountain in Galloway. The view from its summit is of the most commanding description. The whole Frith of Clyde lies, as it were, mapped before you towards'the west. The weather was by no means remarkably clear; still we saw the whole of Arran, with its fantastic peaks, the Mull of Kintyre, 100 miles of the coast of Ireland—from the Giant’s Causeway to the mountains of Mome—Mull of Galloway, Benghaim, Criflell, the Moffat hills, &c., &c., and were convinced that, under more favourable circumstances, we might have had a view, not only of the Isle of Man, but also of the Cumberland mountains, with many of those of the West Highlands, and even some of the Hebrides. The Island of Ailsa and Knockdolian were particularly conspicuous, with the whole coast of Ayrshire, from Largs to Loch-ryan; and under certain glimpses of the solar rays we could even distinctly discern ships under sail!

The adjoining mountains, Carlin’s Cairn, the Mill Yeas, those to the east of Loch Trool. &c., had a sternly wild appearance, and added greatly to the interest of the scene, with the various lakes interspersed, glittering in the sunbeams. In short, let the mountain-fancier repair to Merrick in fine weather, and he will be richly rewarded for his trouble: but let him beware of fogs, for in a region so rugged and remote from human dwellings, these would be most bewildering and dangerous.

The side of the mountain towards the north and north-east is remarkably abrupt, and falls into Loch Enoch by two prodigious leaps, which characterise its appearance from a distance, and have a fearful aspect when viewed from the brink. Down this ravine the engineers, lately employed in the Government survey, appear to have employed their idle hours (which could not be few) in rolling huge boulders of granite, some of which might have plunged into the dark waters of the lake. Loch Enoch is in some respects one of the most remarkable anywhere to be seen. It contains several islands, in one of which is a small lake, said to be well stocked with trout; and it is so indented by headlands, that keeping close to its margin would perhaps double the circumference, which may be estimated at about three miles. A more desolate, dreary, unapproachable scenes can hardly be imagined. All its snores are of granite, bleached by the storms of ages, which, in such a region, probably 1200 feet at least above the sea, must rage with tremendous fury. It is intersected by dykes of granite, resembling artificial piers; and, as there are no weeds, and deep water from the very edge, it is particularly favourable to the angler, who may in tne course of a few hours fill his basket with trout, scarcely averaging herring size, but some of which cut up red, and are of fine quality. This lake is on the confines of Ayrshire, as the water issuing from it runs into the upper extremity of Loch Doon. Some of its bays contain abundance of beautiful granite sand, resembling the finest oatmeal, which is much prized for sharpening scythes, and carried to a great distance for that purpose. Adjoining it, southward, are Lochs Nelderkin, Valley, Long, Round, and Dee, the farthest (Loch Dee) not being above eight miles distant, all containing trout, pike, or both; so that, to a fisher who has a relish for the sterner beauties of nature, I know no other district in the south of Scotland better calculated to gratify his taste. These lochs are emptied into the rivers Dee and Cree.

The evening was beautiful, as we descended to the upper extremity of Loch Trool; and the effect of the charming scene was much enhanced by a numerous boating party of ladies and gentlemen in gay attire, who spent their time alternately in rowing, fishing, singing, and strolling upon the beach. After calling at the farms of Buchan and Stroan, where we were hospitably treated, we returned late to our little inn at "House of Hill," and supped luxuriously on our Loch Enoch trout.


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