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Summer Sailings
Chapter I North About—Cruise from Forth to Clyde


Not a season passes by without seeing numbers of yachts leaving our shores to explore the fiords of Norway, the blue and tideless Mediterranean, or the sunny isles of the Grecian Archipelago. The flag of an English yacht has waved in the noble bay of San Francisco, in the harbours of Sydney and Hobart Town, on the waters of the Hudson, and even on the muddy Mississippi, where it sweeps past the crescent city of New Orleans. A fondness for novelty and adventure, a craving for excitement, a love of the beautiful, or all these combined, have led our yachtsmen to despise distance and. danger, and to roam far and wide over the pathless ocean, in order to gratify their favourite tastes, on to vary the monotony of home life. It is, however, somewhat strange, that whilst long voyages are undertaken to distant lands, some of the most picturesque scenery on our own shores should be comparatively neglected. It is true, indeed, that the seas are stormy, the currents rapid, and the navigation intricate; that in some places supplies are difficult to be found, and that the chance of being storm-staid in a Highland loch for a week or a fortnight, surrounded by sterile mountains half veiled in gray mist, and out of sight of human habitation, affords rather a dreary prospect; but, with a stout vessel, a good sailing-master, and a provident steward, the former class of dangers may be easily avoided; and, by making the cruise during the proper season of the year (the months of June, July, and August), there is not much chance of suffering from the latter contingency. Upon the other hand, how rich are the stores of grandeur and beauty, how great the variety of pleasure which such a cruise discloses ! The Orkney Islands, some barren and rocky, others green and smiling, divided by long reaches of sea, and full of excellent harbours, such as that of Stromness, with its quaint old town, in full view of the Ward Hill of Hoy, on whose summit, according to tradition, an enchanted carbuncle is sometimes seen shining at midnight—the adjacent coast of Scotland, fissured by caves and indented by arms of the sea, above which rise the towering peaks of Ben Hope and Ben Laoghal—the bold headland of Cape Wrath, with its lofty light gleaming over the wild Atlantic. Then, turning south-ward, the beautiful Loch Laxford, and the coast range of mountains, unrivalled in varied and fantastic outline, stretching for fifty miles from Loch Laxford to Loch Ewe. Of wood there is but little, and that almost all natural; but then, in autumn, how exquisite is the colouring, and how the mountain slopes glow with the mingled hues of the purple heather, the gray rock, and the rich golden brown of the deer grass and the bracken!

South of Loch Ewe the scenery of the Scottish coast and of the western islands is better known, and more in the beaten track of tourists and yachtsmen; but, during a month’s cruise in the finest season of the year, we met very few yachts between the Moray Firth and Loch Ewe.

Some years ago we set sail from Granton Harbour in the month of June in a cutter yacht of thirty-five tons, manned by a sailing-master and three stout hands, having been occupied for some hours previously in getting below and stowing away an amount of stores which seemed, when piled up upon the deck, as if they would have served for a voyage to Australia. The yacht was constructed by those well - known builders, the Messrs. Inman, who left not a hole or corner that was not turned to some use or other as a press or locker. We may as well give a brief description of her accommodation : a good roomy forecastle, where the men had air, light, and comfort; commodious steward’s pantry; ample stowage for spare anchor, baskets, lanterns, etc. Good stateroom on the starboard side; main-cabin, fit to dine a dozen people, and more than five feet nine inches under the beams; the companion entering sideways, a plan all moderate-sized yachts should adopt. One closet behind cabin stair and another in aftercabin. This cabin, being under a booby hatch, is some six and a half or seven feet high, and as airy as a drawing - room in Belgrave Square. Some folks object to booby hatches over the main-cabin; I admit they are an abomination;

but aft and of moderate size they are no deformity, and it has always been a question with me whether their utility is more felt on deck or below—they form so eligible a seat, and with a small rail enclosing the centre such a desirable place for charts, telescopes, pipes, etc., that I cannot understand how they can be dispensed with. Be sure that you have them always decked and caulked whatever part of the ship they are in, it is the only way to insure their being tight.

When I say that beyond the after-cabin was a spacious sail - room with berths for two men if required, you have the yacht’s accommodation described. She was a fairly fast vessel and an excellent sea-boat. On one occasion we ran from Leith to the Thames in fifty-two hours, having a steady, strong westerly breeze the whole way. On another occasion we were hove to for forty-eight hours, in one of the worst gales of the autumn, in the North Sea, half-way between Lerwick and Bergen, and, under the trysail and storm-jib, she behaved nobly, shipping no heavy water. She was ultimately sold to an Australian yachtsman, and made the passage from the Clyde to Australia in 110 days. We have no intention of inflicting upon our readers any unbroken narrative, continued from day to day, during the six weeks that our cruise lasted; still less do we deem it necessary to garnish our story with nautical details as to what amount of sail we carried, how often we hove the lead or the log, the exact direction of the wind, or the precise number of fathoms in which we anchored. Our object is simply to give some account of the most interesting places we visited, and the most picturesque scenery we saw, especially in those unfrequented and remote localities which it was our fortune to explore.

Our northern voyage was stormy, but we passed some fine rock scenery on the sea-coast. At last we got into the boiling tide of the Pentland Firth, and afterwards into those smooth and sheltered arms of the sea that wind among the Orcadian Archipelago. Behold us at length anchored in the tranquil waters of the Bay of Stromness, guarded by the green island of Graemsay, with its white strand and twin lighthouses, beyond which towers the lofty Hill of Hoy. A few hundred yards from our anchorage lies the town of Stromness, built at the foot of a sloping hill, and presenting a confused assemblage of narrow streets and tall old houses, whose peaked gables face the bay, into which juts out a perfect medley of quays and landing-places, affording every facility for the encouragement of the nautical tastes of the inhabitants.

About four miles from Stromness is an extensive sheet of water, called the Loch of Stenness, and, close to it, separated only by a narrow neck of land, through which flows a stream connecting the two lakes, lies the Loch of Harray. Not far from the high road, and at one extremity of this tongue of land, to the northward of the Bridge of Broffar, stands the magnificent Druidical circle of the Stones of Stenness. Close to these stones are several circular grass-grown tumuli, probably the last resting-places of distinguished Orcadian and Norwegian chiefs or princes, not likely to be disturbed, unless curiosity shall induce some prying antiquarian to invade even this remote spot. The Stones of Stenness are of various sizes, and form a circle of about 400 feet in circumference; some of them do not rise above four or five feet from the ground, whilst the largest standing is about ten feet in height. Their aspect, rude, gray, time-worn, but strong and massive, harmonises admirably with the character of the scenery in midst of which they stand. Those leaden lakes, their surface unbroken by islands, their shores unfringed by trees; that wide extent of level and dreary moor sloping up in the distance into low, shapeless hills; and in the centre of all, the giant forms of the Stones of Stenness, the presiding deities of the place, are as impressive, perhaps, in this bleak and barren waste, as the lofty columns whose graceful shafts and sculptured capitals still tower over the ruins of Baalbec, in the brighter landscape of a warmer clime, and under the golden glow of a southern sky.

To the south of the Bridge of Brogar stand three gigantic stones, the tallest of which is seventeen feet six inches in height, and near it lies prostrate a still more gigantic monolith of nineteen feet. These are depicted in the illustration.

Those who have a passion for climbing, or a fondness for extensive prospects of sea and island, may, in the long days of summer, take boat from Stromness, early in the morning, land on the island of Hoy, ascend the Ward Hill, the highest summit in the Orkneys, and return to Stromness the same evening. Far in the recesses of the mountain, in a gloomy and rock-strewn valley, lies the Dwarfie Stone—a huge mass of rock hollowed out into a rude dwelling, which Trolld, a dwarf celebrated in the northern sagas, is said to have formed for himself, and selected as his favourite residence.

Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkneys, is about fourteen miles distant from Stromness. The road between the two places is excellent, but the scenery most dreary, with the exception of the pretty Bay of Firth, and a sheltered valley near it, in which are a handsome modern house and some well-cultivated fields. Between the promontories of Inganess and Quanterness, protected by the opposite island of Shapinshay, lies a deep and beautiful bay, at the bottom of which stands the town of Kirkwall. The Cathedral of St. Magnus, built in the twelfth century, and still in perfect preservation, is alone well worthy of a voyage to the Orkneys. Its tall, massive form dominates over the other buildings—fit type of the relative positions of the Church and the laity at the time when it was reared. It is built of a reddish sandstone, and in the heaviest and earliest style of Gothic architecture. The first view of the interior is very striking. All around the Cathedral there are passages in the thickness of the walls, whence the priests (themselves unseen) could look down on the worshippers below, and in one place there is a secret chamber in which a chained skeleton was discovered.

Kirkwall possesses another interesting relic of the past, in Earl Patrick’s Palace. When we saw it, it was in a filthy state, being used as a place for keeping geese and poultry of all kinds. We heard, however, that there was an intention of repairing or rebuilding it for a Town House. Sir Walter Scott observes, whilst describing the earl’s and bishop’s palaces at Kirkwall: — “Several of these ruinous buildings might be selected (under suitable modifications) as the model of a Gothic mansion, provided architects would be contented rather to imitate what is really beautiful in that species of building, than to make a medley of the caprices of the order, confounding the military, ecclesiastical, and domestic styles of all ages at random, with additional fantasies and combinations of their own device, all formed out of the builder’s brain.” 

A most important benefit for the Orkney Islands would be the restoration of the oyster beds which formerly yielded a regular supply of excellent oysters. There is no doubt that these beds, though now for the most part either wholly or partially dredged out, might once again be made productive if they were scientifically cultivated and properly protected. This is a matter of great importance to tlie islands, especially when we remember that the oyster industry of Scotland is steadily falling off, and, indeed, may be said to be almost extinct; the total value of Scottish oysters in 1885 being only £809, as against £21V4 in 1884. In 1885, the once famous and productive oyster beds of the Firth of Forth yielded only £273, and in 1884 £500. In 1885 only three of the Fishery Districts yielded oysters, namely, Leith, Stornoway, and Ballantrae.

Yet in Orkney, more than 300 years ago, oysters were both good and plentiful, and in certain places formed part of the rent paid by the tenant to the lord of the soil. Low tells us, in his Tour, that in the inner basin of the Long Hope there were formerly oyster scalps which produced oysters so large that they had to be cut into four pieces before being eaten; and in Earl Patrick’s rental of 1595, Aith inter alia paid “40 oistris for ilk Id. terrae”; Manclett, 80 ; and Binns, 40. The Bays of Firth and Deersound used to be the principal localities for oysters in Orkney, and so late as 1845 the former was fairly productive. The Old Statistical Account of Scotland, published about 100 years ago, tells us that “In this Bay (the Bay of Firth) excellent oysters, and of a large size, are found in tolerable plenty. They are sold at a shilling the hundred.” As much as £2000 worth of oysters have been sold out of the Bay of Firth in a single season. But a fleet of boats came and dredged them all out ; since which time the oyster scalps have remained almost entirely unproductive. Yet in the vicinity of the islands of Damsay and the Holm of Grimbister, and in other parts of the Bay of Firth, and also in certain localities in the Bay of Isbister, which is close to the Bay of Firth, there are places admirably suited for oyster culture, and likewise in Deer-sound, especially on the west side of the bay between Lakequoy and Suckquoy, if only the oyster culturist could be secured in the enjoyment of the results arising from the money expended in restoring these dredged-out bays to their former condition of productiveness. Other countries recognise the necessity of protecting the oyster culturist, and adopt stringent means to do so. In the United States of America, for example — where the annual production of oysters is between 5000 and 6000 millions — they have appointed a salaried Oyster Protector for the State of New York, whose duty it is to supervise the oyster beds.

Perhaps there is no place in Orkney that would be more suitable for oyster culture than the Peerie Sea, which runs into the Bay of Kirkwall under the high road to Finstown. The tide flows into and ebbs from this shallow salt-water lake, which is about a mile and a half in circumference, and which, from its position, could be easily and cheaply overlooked and protected. I noticed various parts of the Peerie Sea where the bottom is suitable for oysters. But in other parts it might require to be cultclied, and star-fish, dog-whelks, and other enemies of the oyster destroyed. Of course it would be necessary to prevent the discharge into it of town sewage, gas refuse, and other deleterious matters. The Peerie Sea belongs, I understand, to the town of Kirkwall.

The lower reaches of the Loch of Stenness would probably be found excellent for the laying down and fattening of oysters, as the presence of a certain amount of fresh water and a current—such as exist for some distance above the Bridge of Waithe — are favourable for the fattening of oysters, though they would be unfavourable for breeding and spatting purposes; pure sea-water and a clean bottom being most suitable in such circumstances.

Early on a fine July morning we got under way, and left the Bay of Stromness, bound for Loch Erriboll, on the north coast of Scotland. The wind was light; but on getting into the Roost of Brackness, as the narrow channel between the Island of Hoy and the Mainland of Orkney is termed, we found ourselves all at once in the midst of a tremendous sea, pitching bowsprit under, and the spray flying over our deck. We had started with the ebb tide, and there had been a westerly breeze for some days, and it was the meeting of the westerly swell with the tide, which runs nine miles an hour in the narrow channel of the Roost, that caused the commotion which so much astonished us. However, as soon as we had rounded Hoy Head, and got fairly out into the Atlantic, the sea became much calmer. Hoy Head is a magnificent promontory, formed by a spur of the lofty Ward Hill, which here dips down into the ocean a sheer precipice, 1000 feet in height, protracted to the southward for miles, an iron wall of rock-bound coast, gradually diminishing in height. At a short distance from Hoy Head, and a little in front of the cliffs, an isolated rock, called the “Old Man of Hoy" rises abruptly from the sea, sometimes seeming to blend with the precipices behind, at other times standing out in strong relief.

During the whole day we had light and variable winds, with occasional calms, though there was a good deal of sea on, till we had quite closed in with the land; in consequence of which we did not reach our anchorage, a sheltered bay in Loch Erriboll, about sixty miles distant from Stromness, until late in the night. The view of the mountains on the coast, and in the interior, as we approached the land, was exceedingly striking. In Caithness we saw Morven, and in Sutherland-shire Ben Griam-Mhor, Klibreck, Ben Laoghal, Ben Hope, and many other lofty summits, whose names we did not know. The entrance to the Kyle of Tongue, to the eastward of Loch Erriboll, is very picturesque. In the opening of this arm of the sea lie numerous small islands, behind which is a safe anchorage, and beyond tower the lofty and serrated peaks of Ben Laoghal, the most conspicuous object in the landscape. We were much impressed by the grandeur of the white cliffs on our left as we entered Loch Erriboll; lofty, pointed, and precipitous, they form an admirable landmark for the storm-tossed mariner, and point out the entrance to a quiet haven.

On emerging from our berths in the morning we were delighted with the beauty of the landscape in the vicinity of our anchorage—a deep bay, at the foot of a steep range of hills, covered with the greenest pasture, broken up here and there by gray rocks. A narrow neck of land, terminating in a grassy promontory, lay between us and the sea; on this stood a solitary house, called Heilim Inn, then occupied by a canny Celt named Hector M‘Lean, exercising the joint trades of ferryman and innkeeper, whose hereditary caution and shrewdness in driving a bargain had been wonderfully sharpened by many years of traffic with the crews of the numerous storm-bound vessels that find refuge in Loch Erriboll. Towards the head of the loch, an island, green as an emerald, with a narrow strip of the whitest sand marking the boundary between the verdure and the water, seemed to stretch almost across the lake; a little beyond, on the eastern shore, a bold headland, half green and half rocky, rose abruptly from the strand; behind it stretched a level tract of barren moorland, whilst the distance was closed in by a lofty chain of bleak and sterile mountains. The upper part of these mountains is literally “ herb-less granite,” strewed with detached masses of rock, which have been torn off by the winter storms. Of vegetation there is not a trace; but

All is lonely, silent, rude;
A stern yet glorious solitude.

About a mile distant from Loch Erriboll across the hills, or a couple of miles by the road, lies Loch Hope; between the two runs the river Hope, which has a broad, full current, but a course not much exceeding a mile in length. It is celebrated as a first-rate salmon river. On inquiring, we found that the fishings were let; however, as there was no means of procuring permission without sending a long distance for it, I determined to walk across and fish until I was stopped by the keeper, taking only a small trouting-rod and light tackle. The day was a most unfavourable one for my purpose—bright and warm, with scarcely a breath of air. I soon, however, caught, in Loch Hope, a couple of fine sea-trout, and afterwards, in the river below, a grilse, four pounds weight, when my sport was for some time interrupted by a fine salmon, which rose to a trout-fly, and succeeded, after a struggle of ten minutes, in breaking my flimsy tackle, and making off down stream. On refitting, I again set to work, and soon succeeded in getting a weighty basketful of sea-trout, with which I trudged back to the yacht. From what I saw, I have no doubt that the Hope fully deserves its reputation, and can believe that 10,000 lbs. of salmon have been taken out of it in a single season.

On reaching the yacht I found that my friend, who had parted from me on the banks of the Hope, to find his way round by the shore of Loch Erriboll, had not yet returned, nor did he make his appearance for some time. He had lost his way, got involved amongst bogs and precipices, and at length arrived thoroughly tired, and intensely disgusted with the state of the footpaths in this part of Sutherlandshire.

Next day the weather still continued bright and fair, but a perfect hurricane of wind was blowing from the south-west. I walked across the hills to Loch Hope, not without considerable difficulty from the violence of the storm. Loch Hope fills up a narrow ravine, about six miles in length, and at its southern extremity is a deep gorge hemmed in by mountains of picturesque and varied forms. Down this gorge, and along the narrow channel of the loch, the wind was rushing in heavy gusts, with a noise like thunder, raising the water in columns of spray fifteen or twenty feet high, and whirling them with immense velocity from end to end of the lake, so that when the sun occasionally shone out on them, it seemed as if fragments of a rainbow were drifting along the waters.

By far the grandest feature in the landscape is the magnificent solitary mountain of Ben Hope, which rears its lofty form, scarred and furrowed by storms and torrents, 3040 feet above the lake. Its shape and general appearance reminded me forcibly of that most beautiful of isolated mountains, Arrigal, in the north-west of Ireland. But the quiet lakes which lie sleeping at its base, and the wooded and fertile domain of Dunlui, are, perhaps, more attractive than the wild shores of Loch Hope.

Close to our anchorage, and almost on the edge of the water, stand the ruins of a small church; the gables only remain entire, and the interior is choked up with a thick growth of fern. All over Sutherlandshire the ruins of small hamlets and scattered cottages are to be found; and a melancholy sight it is, to meet in the recesses of the mountain valleys with shattered walls and green patches here and there appearing amongst the heather, showing that cultivation and life had once existed where now are only the grouse and the red-deer. The cause of all this was the introduction of the sheep-farming system into the county, to make room for which the small farmers and cotters who occupied the straths and valleys were ejected from their holdings and compelled to emigrate, so that the population is at present much smaller than formerly.

We were detained for five days in Loch Erriboll, and were twice driven back in attempting to beat round Cape Wrath. Our supplies of bread ran short, and we found, to our dismay, that the nearest baker lived thirty miles off—rather a long distance to send for hot rolls. In other respects we had nothing to complain of. We bought half a sheep from Mr. Clarke of Erriboll, who possesses an extensive sheep farm, and is deservedly famed for his hospitality to strangers—a virtue almost universal in Sutherlandsliire. For eggs we paid fourpence a dozen, and for cream fourpence a pint—prices that would rather astonish a Londoner. A week might be passed here most pleasantly; devoting one day to Loch Hope and the ascent of Ben Hope, from which, in clear weather, may be seen the island of Lewis to the west, the Orkneys to the north-east, and the principal mountains of Caithness and Sutherland. Another day might be spent in a visit to the Kyle of Tongue and to Tongue House, a seat of the Duke of Sutherland’s ; a third in exploring the wild mountains at the head of Loch Erriboll; and a fourth in a fishing excursion to Loch Maddy, famed for the number and excellence of its trout. Whitten Head, with the fine caves close to it, would occupy a fifth; and a visit to the Smowe Cave, a short distance to the westward of Loch Erriboll, would fill up the sixth. Our last day was spent in an examination of this singular natural curiosity. The cave may be reached either by a pathway leading from the high-road or by the sea, from which the approach is by a narrow creek between precipitous walls of rock. The entrance is under a lofty arch, like the portal of some immense Gothic cathedral, and within the cave expands to a height and breadth of nearly one hundred feet. At some distance inwards from the entrance, a small stream falls through a rift in the rocky roof of the cavern, and forms a deep, still pool in its bosom more than seventy feet below. This basin is thirty yards across, very deep, and is separated from a smaller and outer pool by a low, narrow ledge of rock over which those who desire to penetrate into the recesses of the cave must get a boat lifted and placed in the inner pool. On crossing this, they will find themselves at the entrance of a low-browed narrow archway, not above three feet in height, through which they must pass lying flat in the boat. From this they emerge under a lofty vault covered with stalactites, overhanging a second dark, still pool, nearly as extensive as that which they have just left; and, if inclined to penetrate still farther, they may then walk on to the termination of the cave, about a hundred feet beyond the farther extremity of this innermost lake. There is a spot a few yards distant from the high-road, where you may stand upon the roof of the cavern, a deep chasm 011 either side, through one of which the stream that supplies the silent, sunless pools below, leaps into the cave.

At last the weather permitted us to leave our snug anchorage in Loch Erriboll. For some time after starting the wind was favourable, but when we had rounded the noble promontory of Far-out Head, it became light and baffling, and for several hours we lay tossing on the long swell, and making little or no way. We had taken the precaution of getting a good offing, and were consequently pretty much out of the influence of the strong tides that prevail near Cape Wrath ; but we saw a large brig in-shore of us swept helplessly back by the current for miles to the eastward. The coast-line of cliffs near Whitten Head, Far-out Head, and Cape Wrath is magnificent. Many of the precipices are two hundred feet perpendicular, and some of them as much as seven hundred. From the Kyle of Durness an iron face of rugged rock overhangs the sea, gradually increasing in height and grandeur until it attains its culminating point in the bold headland of Cape Wrath, whose stern aspect we had ample opportunities for admiring; as, however, we lay within sight of it for nearly a whole day, our admiration was merged in disgust, and we heartily wished ourselves out of sight of this cape of storms.

Early on the morning of a bright July day we were off the Point of Stoer, some thirty miles south of Cape Wrath, with the wind still light; but about ten o’clock a fine breeze from the north-west sprang up, and carried us along at a great rate, all sails set, and everything drawing. About four o’clock, after a fine run, we entered Loch Ewe, and came to anchor near the beautiful village of Poolewe, at the head of the loch.

If the reader will take the trouble to look at the map of Scotland, he will see that an almost uninterrupted range of mountains extends along the coast from Ben Dearg, south of Cape Wrath, to Loch Ewe. That mountain chain is more varied in outline, and more striking and picturesque in appearance, than any other in Great Britain. The summits vary in height from two thousand to three thousand three hundred feet—the highest is Ben More in Assynt; the most singular, Suilven, or the Sugar - Loaf. Winding amongst these mountains, and extending up to the openings of the narrow valleys that divide them, and afford a channel for their waters, are a multitude of arms of the sea, many of them of great beauty, and affording to the yachtsman a choice of safe and convenient harbours. From one of these salt-water lochs, Loch Glen Dim, £30,000 worth of herrings were taken in a single year.

Close to the shore, and a, little way south of Loch Laxford, lies the singular island of Handa, in many respects more wonderful than Staffa. On the north-west side it presents stupendous cliffs four hundred feet perpendicular, the haunts of myriads of sea-fowl. Here, as at Staffa, may be seen basaltic columns, but those of Handa are peculiar to it, being arranged in horizontal layers, and presenting an appearance as if built by the hand of man.

At Loch Ewe we were more within the beaten track of tourists than we had been since leaving the Moray Firth. Our first care was, of course, to make arrangements for a visit to the far-famed Loch Maree, by many deemed the queen of Scottish lakes. The short course of the river Ewe is too much broken by shallows and rapids to admit of boats being pulled up from the sea to Loch Maree. AYe were, therefore, obliged to hire a boat from a man of the name of M‘Lean, and on repairing to his house on the banks of the river we found him waiting for us ; we accordingly followed his guidance, and embarked in the craft which belonged to him. Both man and boat were of the same build, the former broad in the beam as a Dutchman, and the latter a heavy, clumsy affair, strong enough to navigate the Pentland Firth instead of the calm waters of an inland sea. We rowed up the Ewe for some distance before entering the lake, having on our right fine gray crags, thickly clothed with natural wood, and on our left, a comparatively tame shore. The entrance to Loch Maree is very impressive : on one side is a steep and lofty mountain, on the other, precipitous rocks partially wooded—the lake between being narrow and deep. Farther on it expands into a spacious sheet of water, apparently closed in by a cluster of wooded islands separated by a number of narrow winding channels. The wood on one of these islets has nearly disappeared, owing to some excisemen having set fire to it whilst engaged in destroying an illicit still. As we advanced, a magnificent valley, terminated by a noble range of serrated peaks, gradually opened up on the south-west shore of the loch, whilst, on the opposite bank, the gigantic form of Sliocli towered above the neighbouring mountains.

We landed on the island of St. Maree, which is thickly clothed with birch and the common and smooth-leaved holly. In the centre of a thicket are a few mossed and mouldering tombstones, bearing the symbol of the cross; under one of these slumber the ashes of a Duke of Norway.

Loch Maree is about twenty miles in length, but we did not proceed above half-way to Kinloch-ewe, where it terminates, and where its dark and narrow waters seem almost overhung by precipitous mountains. The weather was beautiful during the whole day, clear, bright, and warm, so that we saw Loch Maree to the best advantage; but we both agreed, judging from what we had seen, that, though a noble sheet of water, studded with islands and surrounded by mountains, it is inferior in grandeur to the head of Loch Awe and Loch Shiel, and in picturesque beauty to Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine.

On leaving Loch Ewe, we stood away southward for the Sound of Rona, but the weather was hazy and the wind adverse; so that it took us twenty-four hours to reach Portree, the capital of Skye. The scenery on both sides of the narrow strait that separates the islands of Rona and Raasay from Skye is wild and stern: rugged mountains and lofty cliffs, a streak of foam here and there marking where a waterfall pours into the sea, and extensive moorlands of dark brown heath sloping away into the interior. In a few spots there is an appearance of verdure, but, with the exception of some stunted and scraggy bushes, no trace of foliage.

The Bay of Portree forms a spacious land-locked harbour, on the north side of which stands the village, built along a steep slope. The entrance is narrow, between two lofty headlands, which form the commencement of a splendid range of coast scenery, extending northward to the Point of Aird. We found ourselves surrounded by a perfect fleet of fishing-boats and herring-coupers, as they are here termed. These are, for the most part, powerful sloop-rigged vessels, whose crews do not fish themselves, but buy from the fishermen. They are often very fast sailers. The scene around was busy and picturesque: the quay, where an active traffic

was being carried on, piled up and cumbered with herring-boxes, nets hanging from posts on shore, or depending from the rigging of vessels in the bay; boats constantly arriving and setting sail; and, above all, a perfect babel of tongues, bargaining, abusing, and cajoling, in Gaelic and English.

It was Sunday morning when we arrived, and on landing we found that the service was in Gaelic; so, as the clay was a remarkably fine one for Skye, whose weeping climate is proverbial, I left my companion to wait for the afternoon service, which was in English, and set out to walk to the Storr Hill, about seven miles to the north of Portree. The path leads at first along the bottom of a wide valley bounded by a gentle acclivity, on surmounting which two lakes are seen filling up a similar hollow beyond. Keeping these lakes on his right, the traveller proceeds until he arrives at their extremity, when he will reach the foot of the Storr, with a steep ascent of about a thousand feet before him. This surmounted, he will find himself close to a huge precipice of black rock, on the seaward side of which a number of isolated pinnacles of the most varied and fantastic forms, and. of enormous size, jut out from the side of the hill at every variety of inclination, whilst between these and the precipice above alluded to is a deep narrow valley or rather chasm, strewed with fractured masses of stone. It would be difficult to imagine a more stern and dismal spot than this, especially under the aspect in which I beheld it: upon one hand that wall of black rock; on the other these rugged pinnacles, and the deep ravine between, half filled with drifting wreaths of mist, now clearing off and disclosing frowning crags and yawning fissures; then, again, settling down and involving everything in gloom and obscurity. I have never seen any place which more completely fulfilled, and indeed surpassed, my expectations, than this Storr Hill. Below the pinnacles, it slopes rapidly down into the valley, which then rises gently for more than a mile, when it terminates in steep cliffs, which dip abruptly into the waters of the sound. The most conspicuous and remarkable of the crags which project from the face of the Storr is that called the Needle—an enormous mass, nearly a hundred yards in circumference at the base, and about as high as the Scott monument in Edinburgh. It inclines so much that I should think a plumb-line dropped from the summit would fall thirty or forty feet beyond its base. Anglers should observe the lake nearest the Storr, where the fishing is open to all, and in which, as Mr. Skene of Portree informed me, it is no uncommon day’s fishing to kill from twenty to thirty pounds of trout.

I got back to Portree about half-past five, but not without experiencing the provoking variableness of the weather, as the last three miles of my journey were performed under a perfectdeluge of rain.

Next day we drove to Sligachan Inn, at the entrance to the magnificent glen of the same name, and near the foot of Sgurr nan Gillean, one of the loftiest peaks of the Coolins. My companion hired a guide and a pony to proceed up the glen, cross the ridge, and descend upon the far-famed Loch Coruisk. This I had formerly seen, so I remained behind to sketch and fish. I caught some fine sea-trout in the Sligachan river, and afterwards tried, though not with much success, on account of the stillness of the day. a small moorland tarn, about a mile distant from the inn. The best fly for the Sligachan water is one dressed with a full roughish green body and brown wings.

We set sail from Portree in the forenoon of a fine day, with a steady easterly breeze, hoping easily to reach Loch Alsh by the evening; but we were again doomed to suffer from the mutability of this most variable climate. It continued bright and warm until two o’clock, when we were between the islands of Scalpa and Raasay, where we lay becalmed for some time, though at a little distance on either side there was a strong breeze. Presently it came on to blow so hard where we lay that we had to take in sail, and soon after a dense fog settled down all round us. The result was, that, instead of proceeding, we were glad to come-to for the night in Clachan Bay, close to the beautiful residence of Mr. Rainy of Raasay, whose yacht, the Falcon, was anchored close to us.

Next day we got sail on the cutter at six o’clock, and, with a fine leading wind from the north-west, which continued steady throughout the day, passed through the narrow channel which at Kyleakin separates Skye from the mainland. The position of this village is very romantic, and every one must admire the ruins of Castle Moyle, whose shattered and weather-stained walls look down upon the strait. At Balmacara, in the district of Loch Alsli, the scenery assumes a more gentle and sylvan aspect. Here we diverged from our course for the purpose of visiting Loch Duich, an arm of the sea whose beauty we had heard highly praised; nor did we find this praise misplaced. We sailed somewhat beyond the ruins of Eilean Donan Castle, the ancient stronghold of the Mackenzies of Kintail, built in the thirteenth century as a defence against the Norsemen, to whom most of the Western Isles belonged, and who often ravaged the coasts of Scotland. From this point we had a good view of the head of the loch, and the noble mountains which overshadow it.

An arm of the sea called Loch Ling joins Loch Duich not far from the castle; a small river flows into the head of it, and some miles up the southern branch of this stream is the finest waterfall in Scotland, the Glomack, nearly twice the height of the better-known fall of Foyers in Inverness-shire. The scenery around it is wild and desolate; and where the stream leaps into the deep chasm below there is no trace of foliage, not even a blade of grass, nothing but barren rocks.

On leaving Loch Duich we entered the Sound of Sleat, which for more than twenty miles separates Skye from the mainland of Inverness-shire. Both sides of this strait are of wonderful and varied beauty. There are lofty and rugged mountains, wild tracts of heath, and sea lochs running far into the mainland; but there are also sheltered pastoral valleys and quiet bays, with undulating wood-covered hills sloping up from the waters of the sound.

One of the most beautiful scenes is Glenelg. There is a fine sweep of a bay, with several neat white houses peeping out of thick foliage, and the ruins of an extensive barrack built in the last century, to overawe the turbulent Highlanders. On the Skye side, Armadale, the residence of Lord Macdonald, with its verdant sward and well-kept policies, is a sweet spot. Nothing on the mainland more forcibly attracts and rivets the attention than the opening to Loch Hourn, guarded by the lofty Ben Screel. Its form is very noble, and from the sharp summit its outlines sweep down in grand curves to the water. We regretted much that our time did not allow us to explore this loch, as all the adjacent mountains are highly picturesque, and it forms a splendid anchorage, within which the British navy might ride in safety. Southward of Loch Hourn is Loch Nevis, also a fine sheet of water and a good harbour, but the scenery around it is of a quieter and tamer character.

After passing the point of Sleat, the views of Ben Blaven and of the Coolin range were varied and magnificent in the extreme. Years before I had beheld them; but then their sharp peaks were seen peeping through wreaths of drifting mist, or were entirely hid by heavy rain-clouds ; now the scene was quite changed; the sky was cloudless, and the dark serrated peaks of the Coolins and the less pointed summits of Ben Blaven stood out sharply defined against the clear blue. Our course brought us in full view of the island of Rum, a mass of mountains which, even in the neighbourhood of the Coolins, asserts its claim to admiration. Beyond Rum, we passed close to Eigg, distinguished by a strangely-shaped precipitous rock, called the Scuir of Eigg. In the distance were the islands of Canna, Coll, and Tiree. Towards the evening we rounded the rocky point of Ardnamurchan, which is exposed to the full swell of the Atlantic, and where a well-appointed lighthouse has recently been erected. We then entered the Sound of Mull, passed the gray old castle of Mingarry, and concluded the most successful day’s run we had had by casting anchor in the landlocked Bay of Tobermory.

The village of Tobermory is built along one side of a semicircular bay, the other side of which is covered by the woods of Aros. Near Aros House is a beautiful little lake, embosomed in trees; and from it flows a stream which tumbles, in a pretty cascade, into the bay. Some of the houses in Tobermory are painted a bright yellow, and the natives have a strange way of constructing signboards; above the shops part of the wall is painted red, and upon this are printed the name and trade of the owner. It is merely the Mull fashion of puffing.

Early on the morning after our arrival we started to sail up Loch Sunart, a long arm of the sea, which, for twenty miles, indents the mainland opposite Mull. The entrance to Loch Sunart is beset with rocks, but, once within, the channel is clear and safe. We, however, effected the entrance in safety, although we had no pilot; indeed during our whole cruise we never had a pilot on board.

Our sailing-master was cautious and experienced, and we liad excellent charts, and these we found amply sufficient. The shores and islands of Loch Sunart present pictures of varied and romantic beauty. Undulating hills, clothed with verdure, rise gently from the water; the rocks and mountains are thickly fringed and covered with copse-wood ; and in many a green spot and sheltered nook along its shores are nestled little thatched hamlets, or sunny, whitewashed farmhouses. We penetrated some distance above Salen, a fishing village, beautifully situated, and almost buried amongst the woods that encircle a deep and quiet bay.

Leaving the yacht in Loch Sunart, we landed on the mainland with the intention of spending a day or two in visiting Loch Shiel, one of the most picturesque and beautiful of the inland lakes of Scotland, in which we have since, during many seasons, had several weeks’ excellent yellow trout, sea-trout, and salmon fishing.

Separating Argyleshire from Inverness-shire for more than twenty miles, Loch Shiel stretches its long, narrow, deep expanse of water, overshadowed by lofty mountains and diversified by islands. Of late years it has been a good deal frequented by anglers, who find comfortable accommodation and boats and boatmen at Ardshellach, about two miles from the lower end of the loch ; but it has not yet met with the attention it deserves from artists; though, from Eilean Finnan at the foot of Ben Resipol, about four miles above Ardshellach, to the head of the loch at Glenfinnan, there is not a more beautiful sheet of water in Scotland. For all that distance—nearly fifteen miles—there is no road on either shore of the loch, but lofty and steep mountains rise abruptly from the water. Near Polloch, on both sides, the lower slopes of the hills are fringed with natural wood; while on the north side, from Glenalladale to the head, the rocks are fractured into the most varied and fantastic shapes, and clothed, wherever there is soil enough, with birch trees, whose graceful forms and fresh green foliage modify the sternness of the scenery. At the head, where the hills of the Deer Forest of Guisachan rise boldly above the small river that runs into the loch, there are some splendid specimens of old Scotch firs in groups and single trees, most picturesquely placed on the hill-slopes or on rocky peninsulas jutting into the water. The loftiest mountain on Loch Shiel is Ben Resipol, whose base occupies the whole of the narrow neck of land that divides Loch Shiel from Loch Sunart. From the sharp summit of this mountain there is a fine and extensive view of the Scuir of Eigg, the peaks of the island of Rum, and of a long stretch of the western sea, lochs, and islands. It is about seven miles from Ardshellach to the top of Ben Resipol, and the ascent is most easily made from Resipol Farm on the side of Loch Sunart.

Loch Shiel contains salmon, grilse, sea-trout, and yellow trout. The heaviest salmon we ever caught in it with the rod was 16 lbs., but they have been taken with the net 33 lbs. weight. Our heaviest sea-trout was 7 lbs., and heaviest yellow trout 5 lbs. The average of the yellow trout, however, is not above half-a-pound. The phantom and protean minnows are the most deadly trolling baits. As to flies, we found large-sized loch flies the most killing — red bodies with teal wings; yellow bodies with the brown feather of the mallard wing; and green bodies with teal wings; in each case with a well-marked twist of gold tinsel round the bodies, being the best patterns.

During five visits, of from ten days to a fortnight each, in different years to Loch Shiel, every bay in it from Glenfinnan to Ardshellach was fished. An east wind—in general a bad wind for fishing — is particularly unfavourable on Loch Shiel, and we were never successful on any occasion when it was blowing. As a rule we found the narrow river-like portion of the loch which stretches for some distance above Ardshellach, the rocky bays around Polloch, the south side of the loch from that up to the Black Islands, and the shores of these islands, the best spots for salmon and sea-trout; while, for yellow trout, the places where we were most successful were the wide bay on the north side of the loch where the narrows above Ardshellach expand, some bays near Dalilee House and in the vicinity of Eilean Finnan, the long stretch of gravelly beach ojDposite Polloch, and the rocky shore on the north side from Glenalladale to the head of the loch.

At Polloch, on the south side of Loch Shiel, a little river, about a mile and a half long, falls into the head of a deep bay. Near its mouth there is a small village or hamlet in a remote and secluded yet beautiful valley ; its only communication with Ardshellach or Glenfinnan being by water, while on the south the only road is a steep bridle-path leading over the hills to the village of Strontian at the head of Loch Sunart. There are several nice pools and streams on the small river at Polloch, though the fish seldom seem to lie in them, but press up to Loch Doilate out of which it flows, and in which there is good fishing for salmon and sea-trout in autumn. This loch is jDreserved, but we tried it once by permission of the proprietor, when the best fish we got was a 4-lb. sea-trout. The hamlet of Polloch and Loch Doilate are well worth a visit, even though no fishing can be had. The scenery around the head of the loch is magnificent. A quiet, deep stream runs into it through Glen Hurich, or the Fairies’ Glen, a level, green, smiling valley with clumps of fine trees. This gradually gets steeper and wilder and narrower as it rises towards the giant sides of Scur Donald, whose lofty summit rises nearly 3000 feet above the level of the sea.

One of the most interesting spots in Loch Shiel is Eilean Finnan, or the Island of St. Finnan, which occupies the centre of a circular bay at the foot of the steepest side of Ben Besipol. It is entirely clothed with the most verdant turf; and as you look down upon it from the summit of the mountain, which rises nearly 3000 feet above it, you see a narrow fringe of gravel around the shores of the bay, and beyond a belt of water, black from its great depth, encircling the island, which looks like a gigantic emerald set in jet. St. Finnan, or Finnian, was born in Ireland about the year 575. Desirous of martyrdom, he took upon himself the leprosy of a child who came to him to be cured, and was covered with worms which he called his fellow-citizens. This saint is said to have performed many miracles. His name is preserved not only in Eilean Finnan, but also in Glenfinnan at the head of Loch Shiel. On the island are still to be seen the walls of a small church dedicated to St. Finnan, its altar, and a fine-toned angular hand-bell, to which great sanctity is attached by the Roman Catholics in the neighbourhood. There are also several flat tombstones, some of them with interlaced ribbon borders, and having a claymore sculptured on them. Eilean Finnan was the burying-place of the Clan .Ranald, whose picturesque ruined stronghold of Castle Turim—the only relic of the once great possessions of the family—is within an hour and a half’s walk of Ardshellach. It is still a favourite burying-place for the Roman Catholics in the vicinity of Loch Shiel; and oil the occasion of an interment the mourners are rowed to the island, a grave is dug on the spot, and the body buried. We once witnessed the ceremony while fishing on the loch. Two large boats contained the coffin and the mourners. The men rowed to the island and dug a grave through the green turf, into which the dead was lowered to sleep beside priests and chiefs under the giant shadow of Ben Resipol.

The trout-fishing—both for loch and sea trout —has greatly fallen off since we first fished Loch Shiel more than twenty years ago. The cause of this is difficult to explain, for the loch is a vast expanse of water, remote and comparatively little fislied. The herons on the heronry in the island opposite Polloch have been assigned as a cause, but we think without sufficient reason; for all the trout devoured by the herons could make but little difference in the numbers in a loch more than twenty miles long, nearly a mile wide in some places, and very deep. Neither has there been any appreciable change in the level of the loch, so that the feeding grounds of the trout remain unaltered. Indeed, although there is but little doubt of the fact of the falling off, there is great difficulty in assigning an adequate cause. We may here mention another curious circumstance connected with the fishings on Loch Shiel. The short, broad river that connects the loch with the sea issues from it at Shiel Bridge, and falls into a sea-loch called Loch Moidart. Another and smaller river—the Moidart — flowing from a little mountain lake, falls into the head of the same sea-loch. It is well known that salmon feed and grow almost entirely in the salt water, and, presumably, the salmon of these two rivers, and of the lochs from which they flow, must have much the same feeding-grounds. Yet, while the salmon of Loch Shiel and its river are among the most beautiful in Scotland—short, thick, and deep, with small heads —the salmon from the Moidart river and its parent loch are comparatively lanky, large-headed, and ugly. This difference was first pointed out by the late Mr. Hope Scott, then proprietor of Dorlin House and of the salmon-fishings on one side of the river Shiel, who was quite at a loss to account for the reason of so striking and marked a difference in these two breeds of salmon, apparently living under such similar conditions.

Loch Shiel is a late loch, and in order to have it at its best the angler should not go before the beginning of June. Our first visit to it was paid in the second week of July. In the course of twelve days we had two days of calm, during which fishing was hopeless, and one of east wind. The result was, for three rods, 30 lbs. of loch-trout and sea-trout, and sixteen salmon and grilse. The salmon were all caught by trolling; the trout chiefly with the fly. Our best day was 50 lbs. of trout, two salmon, and a grilse; and the next best, 45 lbs. of trout, a salmon, and a grilse; the worst—the day of east wind—only eighteen trout. The following year we paid a second visit to Ardshellach, also in July. On this occasion we drove from Fort-William by the side of Loch Eil to Glenfinnan at the head of Loch Shiel, where a monument marks the spot where the royal standard was unfurled by Prince Charles previous to the last struggle of the Stuarts for the throne of Great Britain. At this point we had our boats waiting us, and trolled down the whole way to Ardshellach—a distance of nearly twenty miles. During this visit we had very rainy and stormy weather. We got no salmon, and the average for two rods was only 20 lbs. of trout per day. On our third trip to Loch Shiel, we also met our boats at the head of the loch, and trolled down to Ardshellach, and when we reached it in the evening three rods had 35 lbs. of trout and a salmon. The result of twelve days’ fishing during this visit was 270 lbs. of trout and three salmon. Our fourth visit was in August, when we found the sport, as regarded salmon, much better than the previous year. The result was, for three rods in eleven days, sixteen salmon, but only 150 lbs. of sea-trout and yellow trout. The last time we fished from Ardshellach was in the end of June. On this occasion the weather was boisterous and unfavourable, and on several days we did not go out. Ten days’ fishing, however, yielded — for three rods—250 lbs. of trout and fifteen salmon.

One day three loch-trout were captured, weighing 9 lbs., or an average of 3 lbs. each.

There can be little doubt that if the nets were taken off the river Shiel, which connects Loch Shiel with the sea, and the estuary of the Shiel and Moidart enlarged by drawing a line from Eu Smirsiri to Eu Driminish, instead of the present more restricted estuary line, Loch Shiel, as an angling loch, might become a rival to Loch Tay in the number, if not in the weight, of its salmon. Besides, being a late loch, the salmon-fishing on it would not commence until that on Loch Tay had ended.

Our homeward course lay by the west side of the island of Mull, passing the singular group known as the Treshnish Islands, one of which is called the Dutchman’s Cap, and resembles a wide-awake with a particularly broad brim. Afterwards, favoured by the weather, we visited the caves of Staffa and the ruins at Iona; but these are so well known, and have been so often and eloquently described, that any notice from me would be equally presumptuous and unnecessary. We then steered for the Sound of Isla, passing Colonsay, and made a fine passage through the sound, meeting, amongst other vessels, a handsome small cutter yacht, belonging to the St. George’s Club of Ireland. On clearing the sound, we stood across for the Mull of Can tire, a promontory which bears an evil reputation for storms, and around which the tide runs very rapidly. We were, however, destined to experience none of the stormy influences of the Mull; the wind was favourable, the sea smooth, and we entered the noble estuary of the Clyde just a month after we had left the Firth of Forth.

For a full description of the scenery and fishings of the Loch of Stenness and Harray, taken from my Blue-book of 1887 on Orkney and Shetland Islands, see Appendix A.


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