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Summer Sailings
Chapter II A Yacht Cruise through the Caledonian Canal


Few things are more delightful than a yacht cruise during the long bright days of our short northern summer, but there are many qualifications indispensable on the part of the yachtsmen to enable them fully to enjoy the pleasures of such a cruise. Among the most important of these are freedom, from sea-sickness, fondness for beautiful scenery, and, above all, a fund of good humour. No sea stock is so valuable as this last gift. On board a yacht there are no conveniences for being separate and sulky in the event of a quarrel, and gloomy faces and sour looks are intolerable, where all must constantly meet on the same deck and at the same table. But when the above requisites exist, such a cruise is a source of the greatest pleasure. If the members of the party have different tastes, all may be gratified during a voyage through the Caledonian Canal, or amongst the western islands and lochs of Scotland. The lover of sport will find wild-fowl shooting and a great variety of sea and freshwater fishing; the admirer of grand and beautiful scenery will find the widest scope for his admiration ; whilst the sketcher will revel amidst an endless choice of subjects. And then, too, how free and independent is such a life—how different from that of the traveller by steamboat, coach, or rail, constantly liable to be hurried away from the loveliest scene just as he is beginning to appreciate and enjoy it, and dependent upon the pleasure of innkeepers, drivers, and stokers! That single gentleman, with the carpet-bag and sketchbook, seems, certainly, in an enviable position, free and unencumbered, but then he must abandon his unfinished sketch, or hurry over his dinner, at the sound of the steamboat bell, the railway-whistle, or the horn of the coachimard. And what shall we say of that unfortunate, with a couple of ladies and a dozen packages, his temper constantly fretted and worried by the extent of his responsibility, and his feeling for the beautiful merged in his anxiety for the fate of a bandbox? From these vexations and disappointments the yachtsman is exempt; his time is regulated by his taste; he stays where he will, and as long as he will; if becalmed, there are sketches to finish and journals to bring up; and if assailed by a storm on any part of the west coast of Scotland, there is always a good harbour at hand. Much of the finest scenery, too, in that part of our island is accessible only in this way, for there are no steamboats to some of the finest of our Scottish sea lochs. Lochs Swin, Sunart, Hourn, Nevis, Laxford, Erriboll, and many others whose shores and mountains are inferior in picturesque beauty and wild grandeur to no scenery in Great Britain, can thus only be visited and explored.

In the month of June we set sail from Leith, bound on a cruise to the West Coast through the Caledonian Canal. Our northward voyage was devoid of interest, as the weather was misty, and concealed the coast from our view until we had fairly entered the Moray Firth. What wind there was came from the north-east, producing a swell which very much discomposed one of our party, who, however, bore the miseries of seasickness with most Christian patience, but did not entirely recover himself until we had reached the smooth waters of the Caledonian Canal.

Our first anchorage was off Lossiemouth, a thriving seaport, situated upon the shores of the Moray Firth, about five miles distant from the town of Elgin, with which it is connected by a railway. Upon landing we lost no time in starting for Elgin, which was formerly the seat of a bishopric, possessing great wealth and most extensive jurisdiction, one relic of which we soon beheld about a couple of miles beyond Lossiemouth, in the magnificent remains of the episcopal palace and castle, rising above the reedy waters of the Loch of Spynie. These consist of a massive square keep, at least seventy feet in height, surrounded by strong outer walls strengthened by towers at the angles. Not far from Lossiemouth is also to be seen the gloomy old mansion of Gordonstown, buried among ancient trees, and once the residence of Sir Robert Gordon, who was generally believed to be on the most intimate terms with the Prince of Darkness, and whose wizard fame in Scotland is second only to that of Michael Scot and True Thomas the Rhymer. His deeds have been thus commemorated by Willie Hay, a Morayshire poet:

Oh, wha hasna heard o’ that man of renown,
The wizard, Sir Robert o’ Gordonstown?—
The wisest of warlocks, the Morayshire cliiel,
The despot o’ Duffus, an’ frien’ o’ the deil;
The man whom the folks of a’ Morayshire feared,
The man whom the friends o’ auld Satan revered;
Oh, never to mortal was evil renown
Like that of Sir Robert of Gordonstown.

The town of Elgin is beautifully situated in a fertile hollow, sheltered by gentle wooded undulations, and watered by the Lossie. Its climate is so mild and equable that it has been called the Montpellier of Scotland. Living is cheap, and its schools are numerous and excellent. These inducements have attracted many residents of wealth and respectability, and the town is surrounded by handsome villas, with trim gardens and neatly-dressed grounds.

Elgin Cathedral, of which but the ruins now remain, was, perhaps, the finest specimen of florid Gothic ever erected in Scotland. It was founded by Bishop Murray in 1224, burnt by the Wolf of Badenoch in 1390, and soon after rebuilt with great splendour. It then remained entire for nearly two hundred years, when an Act of Council was passed, under the Regent Morton, for stripping the lead from its roof in order to pay the wages due to the troops. This barbarous order was too faithfully executed, but the ship freighted with the lead sank in St. Andrews Bay. From this time, however, the noble structure, exposed to the weather, and utterly neglected, hastened rapidly to decay, and in 1711 the great tower (190 feet in height) fell. The only part at present in good preservation is the beautiful octagonal chapter-house, whose lofty vaulted roof is supported by a single central pillar.

Spynie Castle, about four miles distant from Elgin, was for centuries the residence of the Bishops of Moray, and is still, though much dilapidated, one of the grandest buildings in the north of Scotland. The great walled enclosure forms nearly a square fifty yards in length by forty-four in breadth, with towers at the angles. But the most prominent and striking feature of the castle is the great tower at the south-west corner, built by Bishop David Stewart between 146 L and 1475. It measures fifty feet from north to south, and forty feet from east to west, and is seventy feet in height to the corbels which carried the battlements. The north, west, and south walls are ten feet thick, but the wall looking to the inner court, where defence was less required, is only four feet. In the lower part of the tower were the vaults and dungeons. A grand hall, forty-two feet by twenty-two, occupied the first story. At the time this tower was built the Bishops of Moray were not only powerful spiritual potentates, but likewise great temporal lords, and so Spynie came to be both a palace and a castle, and in the days of its glory it must have been the most magnificent episcopal residence in Scotland.

The great tower is said to have owed its origin to a feud between the Earl of Huntly and the Bishop. The Earl, according to the story, is said to have threatened to pull the proud prelate out of his pigeon-hole, to which the Bishop retorted that he would build him a house out of which the Earl and his whole clan should not be able to drag him. The last Roman Catholic Bishop who inhabited the castle was Bishop Patrick Hepburn, who died in 1573.

That the Loch of Spynie, on the south-eastern margin of which the castle is built, was an arm of the sea down to the time of Bishop Alexander Bar, who died in 1397, is proved by the Char-tnlary of Moray, wherein it is stated that Spynie was a town and harbour inhabited by fishermen, and that boats and nets were kept by the Bishop for catching salmon and grilse and other fishes, and that he and his predecessors had exercised all rights of navigation. The Loch of Spynie was then five miles long, and in some places a mile wide, covering not less than 2500 acres. Now, since drainage operations on a great scale have been carried out, it barely covers 120 acres.

After a couple of days most pleasantly spent in Elgin we returned to our yacht, and set sail for the Cromarty Firth, the “Portus Salutis” of the Romans, and the finest harbour on the east coast of Great Britain. The entrance is narrow, and guarded by two huge rocky portals called the eeSoutars of Cromarty,” beyond which a spacious landlocked basin extends for nearly fifteen miles. We landed and followed the path which winds round the summit of the southern Soutar; and a more delightful walk, or one commanding a greater variety of beautiful prospects over wood, water, and mountain, it would be impossible to find. From various points our view extended over the Moray, Cromarty, and Beauly Firths, the rich peninsula of Easter Ross, the massive form of the lofty Ben Wyvis, and the mountains around Strathpeffer and Inverness. The southern Soutar is well wooded, and in one place the road passes for some distance between an avenue of very fine Spanish chestnuts. Its opposite neighbour was once also thickly clothed with trees, but these have now entirely disappeared, having been cut down to clear off debt. The village of Cromarty stands on a peninsula a little to the westward of the lofty Soutars. At a distance its appearance is pleasing; but “distance lends enchantment to the view,” for close at hand it shows poor and dirty. House-rent is miraculously cheap; we heard of a house with ten rooms and a good garden, which was to be let for £9 a year.

Early on a beautiful July morning we left Cromarty, and, favoured by a fine breeze, stood over for Nairn. The roadstead where we anchored is very much exposed to the north-east, and is so shallow that a vessel drawing ten feet must anchor nearly a mile from the shore, unless she is willing to run the risk of taking the ground at ebb-tide. When we landed there was a heavy swell at the mouth of the harbour, and we shipped a good deal of water in pulling through it. On reaching the inn we hired a dog-cart, and started for Cawdor Castle, one of the most perfect existing specimens of an ancient Scottish baronial residence. It stands in a finely-wooded district, diversified near the castle by gentle wooded undulations, and rising in the distance into bare and lofty summits. The entrance to the castle is most impressive. Two magnificent elms tower upwards from the dry moat, and overshadow with their boughs the ancient walls and drawbridge. Beyond this is a square, paved courtyard, on one side of which rises a lofty tower with walls of immense thickness, crowned by a sloping roof, with crows’-feet gables and projecting turrets at the angles. Besides this tower, the oldest and most central part of the structure, there are extensive additions in a suitable style of architecture. These were erected during the sixteenth century, and in one of the apartments is a fine stone chimney-piece richly carved and adorned with armorial bearings and grotesque devices. Amongst these are a mermaid performing on the harp, a monkey blowing a horn, a cat playing a fiddle, and a fox smoking a tobacco-pipe. The long vaulted kitchen, the old tapestry, with its grim, quaint figures, and the castle dungeon, are also well worthy of notice. The dungeon is below the foundations of the great central tower. The trunk of an old thorn-tree stands upright in the middle of the floor, reaching to the roof of the vault, and close to it lies an antique iron coffer almost falling to pieces. According to tradition, the builder of Cawdor Castle was ordered, in a dream, to go to a certain place and dig until he should find an iron chest full of gold; this he was to place on the back of an ass, and on the spot where the ass should stop of its own accord there he was to build a castle. The thorn-tree in the dungeon is said to be the very tree to which the founder tied his ass, and the coffer beside it is that which contained the gold which made the fortune of the family. Below the castle flows the burn of Cawdor, celebrated for the beautiful and romantic scenery of its banks. The license to build the castle bears the date of 1393, but the structure was not completed until half a century afterwards. In spite of this, however, an apartment in the tower is shown to all visitors as the room in which King Duncan was murdered by Macbeth, and the very bed on which he slept is also shown, although that respectable monarch was killed about four hundred years before the foundations of the castle were laid. A better-authenticated tradition is that which points out a remote and secret chamber as Lord Lovat’s place of refuge for some time after the suppression of the rebellion in the Highlands.

In the afternoon we returned to Nairn, re-embarked, and set sail for Inverness. The scenery between Fort George and the entrance to the Caledonian Canal is very beautiful. There are the fatal moor of Culloden, now in part concealed by thriving plantations; the burgh of Fortrose, with the remains of its ancient cathedral; gentle slopes covered with verdure, and dotted over with cottages and farmhouses, and handsome country seats embosomed in thick woods. Farther off lies the town of Inverness, its gaol and court-house and the spires of its churches standing out in bold relief, backed by a range of richly-wooded hills ; while the gray forms of loftier mountains fill up the extreme distance. We spent a forenoon at Inverness, where recruiting parties, flaunting in ribbons, and accompanied by bands of music, were actively endeavouring to procure men for the militia, now a difficult task in the Highlands, no longer the nursery of soldiers which they once were.

It took us some time to achieve the tedious passage through the locks, but, once beyond them, we got sail on the cutter, and swept merrily along before a gentle easterly breeze. At the point where the canal and the river Ness flow out of Loch Doclifour the landscape assumes a charming sylvan aspect. Doclifour House is a spacious and elegant modern building in the Italian style, surrounded by woods, but commanding a fine prospect over Loch Ness, from which it is only about a mile distant. On emerging from the narrow waters of the canal into Loch Ness we hoisted more sail, and about eight in the evening cast anchor a cable’s length from the shore, close to a wooden jetty at the entrance of the beautiful Glen Urquhart. The shores of the loch shelve downwards very suddenly. [The greatest depth of Loch Ness has been ascertained to be 129 fathoms or 774 feet, and it was generally believed that this was the deepest inland loch in the British Islands. Since then, however, Dr. John Murray of the Challenger Expedition has sounded Loch Morar in Inverness-shire, and has found it to be 1009 feet, or 235 feet deeper than Loch Ness. (t)uite recently Dr. Murray has carefully sounded Loch Katrine, having taken 548 soundings in different parts of the loch. The average depth of these is 236 feet, and the greatest depth is 751 feet or 125 fathoms. Loch Katrine is thus one of the deepest Scotch lochs, being 138 feet deeper than Loch Lomond and only 5 fathoms less than Loch Ness.] Where we lay we had five fathoms of water on the side next the shore; while on the other side, but a few yards distant, there were seventeen fathoms.

On landing next morning we walked to the pretty inn of Drumnadrochit, a favourite summer resort of the inhabitants of Inverness, and there procured a conveyance to take us on to Corry-mony, nine miles up the glen. Grlen Urquhart is a wide, wooded valley, with gently-sloping hills rising on either side, thickly covered with natural wood ; a brawling stream, almost concealed by its dense fringe of foliage, winds through it, and the whole vale has an aspect of quiet and tranquil beauty — very different from the wildness and grandeur which characterise the majority of our Highland glens. Corrymony is surrounded by low swelling hills, thickly timbered; but beyond, the scenery changes, and the woodlands are succeeded by the brown heath and rugged mountains near Strathglass. The house has been recently built in the severe style of Scottish architecture. It is well suited to the scenery in the midst of which it stands, and does great credit to the taste and talents of the owner, who was his own architect. Within the grounds, a mile distant from the house, is one of the most beautiful cascades in the Highlands, where the fall of the water and the grouping of the rocks and foliage form a picture by the hand of Nature upon which no artist could improve. On our way back we passed a pretty place called Lakefield, on the borders of a small loch, on whose bosom were floating islands of the beautiful water-lily in full flower.

In the evening, before the moon rose over the mountains on the southern shore of Loch Ness, we pulled across the bay to Castle Urquhart, one of the most extensive and picturesque ruins in Scotland. It is said to have been once a stronghold of the Knights-Templars, and also played a part in the wars with England. The ruins encircle a rocky peninsula which projects boldly into the deep waters of Loch Ness, and on a crag almost overhanging the lake still stands the donjon keep. A wide, deep moat has been dug across the narrow neck of land which connects this peninsula with the mainland, and a drawbridge, whose piers are still standing, was formerly the only entrance to the castle. We were much struck with the extent of these ruins, as well as with the massive character of the architecture. The archway over the entrance, and the vaulted guard-rooms on each side of it, are still entire. Within are green mounds, strewn with fragments of stone, and still encircled by the shattered remains of the ancient walls. One side of the keep has fallen, but the donjon vault, in its foundation, is still entire, and accessible by a narrow winding stair. Wild rose bushes are growing in the castle court, and some young ash trees bend their green branches over the timeworn walls. As we pulled away from the ruins the moon had begun to appear above the hills, and was shedding down a long pencil of silver light across the calm waters of the lake. The donjon tower soon intercepted our view, but we still saw her beams streaming through its shattered windows —as if a bright lamp had been suddenly kindled from within by an unseen hand—when all at once the light vanished, as a cloud crossed the disc of the moon. The effect was startling; and a superstitious Celt might have fancied some old warrior tenant of the castle revisiting the earth by the pale glimpses of the moon.

One of our party had the misfortune to fall into Loch Ness in stepping from the rocks near the castle into the punt. He, however, sustained no damage beyond a thorough wetting, and the circumstance was celebrated in the following seriocomic poem written on our return to the yacht:—

SUMMER SAILINGS CASTLE URQUHART VISITED
A SERIO-COMIC POEM

’Twas evening, and witliin a bay
Of deep Loch Ness our cutter lay;
Bill, Tom and Alick were the crew,
And sailing-master Dawson too
(A steady cautious old sea dog As ever handled lead or log)
Steered her course with skilful art,
By aid of compass and of chart.
Darkly the mountain shadows lay
Athwart the waters of the bay,
And the clear and deep blue sky
In the lake did mirrored lie;
And within the thicket’s shade
Not a leaf light murmur made,
And not a sound the silence broke
’Till our brave Commodore thus spoke:“
Fairer night was never seen
Smiling o’er Loch Ness I ween,
And yonder Castle Urquhart old
Ere I sleep I would behold,
Where around the ruined keep
The circling waters ceaseless sweep.
The moon is nearly at the full,
So we shall have a jolly pull;
You Abbot as bow, and Scott as stroke,
While in my hands I take the yoke
Lines, and steer for the ruins hoary
Of which I wish I knew the story.
Gently in landing over the stones
If any regard you have for your bones,
Or, if you wish a ducking to shun
Ere our adventure’s well begun;
And, as the castle wants a roof
You’d better take a waterproof,
For Highland skies, like woman’s mind,
You often will uncertain find.”
Thus cautioned them the Commodore,
From out his wisdom’s copious store;
Then stepping from the yacht, in front
He lightly dropped into the punt,
Or dinghy (a bad term for rhyme,
No other word to it will chime).
Him followed fast his trusty friends,
And sat them down on their beam ends;
Each grasping in his hands an oar,
They swiftly through the waters bore
The gallant owner of the Spray 
Across Glen Urquhart’s lovely bay.
They reached the castle, their own steps were
That echoed within the deserted hall.
The night was silent and still as death,
There stirred not even the breeze’s breath;
Sombre and stern the ruins frowned,
And shattered wall and grass-grown mound
Dark in evening’s shadows lay,
The donjon-keep showed grim and gray,
Towering o’er the lake profound
That swept its rocky base around.
The wild brier rose grew fresh and green
In the castle court the stones between,
And close behind the old wall springing
Graceful boughs the ash was flinging,
As if pitying Nature would fain efface
Of storm and time the deep-worn trace.
The moon by this had clomb the height
And o’er the waters threw her light,
A silver column shimmering
Across the dark lake glimmering;
It shone upon the Templars’ hold
And gleamed upon the ruins old;
It bathed in light each grassy mound,
It edged with silver the Avails around;
Each shattered fragment gained a grace,
A holy calm beamed o’er the place;
The wrecks of time were half forgot
In the heavenly light that bathed the spot.
The pale moonbeams their soft spell threw,
And silent stood the Spray's bold crew,
’Till broken was that gentle spell,
By words that from their leader fell:—
“Komantic, very, these ruins old;
I feel delighted but rather cold,
So let’s be off now to the boat
Where I have left my pilot coat.
Pull away through the light ripple,
On board the yacht and have some tipple,
Water and moonlight are well enough,
But whisky and water is better stuff.”
So said, so done; away they go
Where by the rocks the waters flow;
But alas for his garments! alas for his bones!
The Abbot trips on the slippery stones;
Down he falls in the water splash,
Over him the light sprays dash,
But shallow here is deep Loch Ness,
He’s safe, though in a pretty mess;
And gaily he laughs as he scrambles out,
For his temper is good and his heart is stout.
Swiftly away from the rocks they pull,
The Abbot is wet and the night is cool;
In vain he dreams of “warm within,”
With garments clinging to his skin,
And looking like a half-drowned rat
From shoe to smart tarpaulin hat,
He longs for a pull at something hot*
But a pull at the oar falls to his lot.
The Templars have served him a slippery trick,
But he grins and bears it like a brick.
Over the waters fast they row,
The wavelets sparkle round the prow.
And now between them and the moon
The ruins of the tall keep loom;
Time and storm have marred its pride,
But many a year away shall glide,
And still that massive tower withstand
The wasting power of time’s strong hand;
And many a mansion reared to-day
Shall fall in premature decay,
While it shall o’er the waters keep
Its silent watch from yonder steep.
Brightly through rents in the time-worn wall
Glancing gaily the moonbeams fall,
And through the windows of the keep
In gleams of light, where ’neath the steep
The shadows of the castle sleep
Upon the dark lake’s breast;
But quickly now a change has past,
And o’er the clear moon gathering fast,
Clouds in threatening masses rise,
And soon her brightness fades and dies,
And on the lake and o’er the skies
The night’s broad shadows rest.
“Hurrah for the yacht, bring out the bottle,
With something stiff I must wet my throttle,”
The Abbot cried, as up he sprung
In garments moist that round him clung:
“To-night of Vater I’ve had enough,
So now I’ll mix some stronger stuff.
Come on, my boys, let us be jolly,
And away with melancholy;
Here’s to the Templars, those ‘monks of the screw,’
I doubt not that they were a jovial crew,
Their vows they kept in a general way,
And broke them but every other day.
They swore to abstain from women and wine,
And on the plainest food to dine;
Yet these same Templars would not shun
A promising spree or a bit of fun:
They loved the glance of a woman’s eye,
And even from kisses would not fly,
Although the canon sternly chid,
And all such naughty things forbid.
They loved on rich ragouts to dine,
And took like gentlemen their wine,
And then they fought like thorough bricks,
And made the Pagans cut their sticks.
Then hip ! hurrah ! for the Templars bold,
And hip ! hurrah I for their ruined hold,
Hip ! hurrah ! and one cheer more—”
When down upon the cabin floor
The Abbot falls, and in his sleep
Dreams of Urquhart’s ruined keep..

On leaving our anchorage we had at first a gentle breeze from the right quarter, but this soon died almost away, and after a tedious voyage we came to at a little distance from the mouth of the Foyers. We landed at a small wooden jetty, and after a pleasant walk through birch woods, reached the lower and principal fall, where the stream, by a single leap of seventy feet, precipitates itself from a ledge of rock into the black caldron beneath. The river was much swollen by rains, and on the projecting point where we stood we were almost deafened by the roar of the fall, and blinded by the whirling spray. The Fall of Foyers is generally supposed to be the highest in Scotland; but this is a great mistake. The Falls of Glomack, on the stream that runs into the head of Loch Ling, on the coast of Ross-shire, are three times as high ; nor can a greater contrast be imagined than that presented by these two falls. At Foyers, though there are lofty and rugged rocks frowning over a deep chasm, there is also much verdure and beauty in the waving woods and the rocks tufted by grass and ferns. At the Glomack, on the other hand, there is neither tree, shrub, grass, nor fern; all is desolation where the wild waters fling themselves over “the herbless granite.” The Upper Fall of Foyers is only thirty feet in height, and is half a mile farther up the stream. A bridge spans the torrent just below the fall, and was some years ago the scene of a frightful catastrophe. The horses in the carriage of a Mr. Rose, of Inverness, took fright, and dragged the vehicle, containing himself and his two daughters, over the parapet of the bridge into the rocky bed of the stream below. One of the ladies was killed, and Mr. Rose and the other severely injured. To us it seemed a miracle that any of them should have escaped drowning or being dashed to pieces.

We cast anchor for the night on the west side of the bay, near the entrance to Glen Moriston. The shores of the lake between that glen and Glen Urquhart are very picturesque, adorned with natural wood, with gray crags here and there breaking through. Between these two valleys rises the lofty summit of Mealfourvonie, the highest mountain in sight. During the day we tried the lead whilst lying becalmed, but found no bottom with no fathoms. We spent a Sunday at Glen Moriston, which was what Sam Slick calls “a juicy day in the country,” The rain poured incessantly, and thick gray mists obscured the whole of the glen. There are, near its opening, a fine waterfall and a bridge and sawmill, which form an admirable subject for the $ketcher.

On leaving Loch Ness we had a pleasant sail through Loch Oich, passing the noble ruins of Invergarry Castle. The mountain^slopes on the banks of Loch Oich are covered with the most beautiful verdure from their summits to the very water’s edge, and along the shores of Loch Lochy the pasture is also very luxuriant. There is a beautiful bay and good anchorage at its southwestern extremity ; and two miles inland, separated by a lovely wooded valley, lies Loch Arkaig. At one point, the narrow path along this glen is, for a considerable distance, quite overshadowed by trees, whose branches meet overhead, and hence it is poetically termed by the Highlanders “the dark mile of Arkaig.” The shores of Loch Arkaig are in places densely wooded, and its surface is diversified by islands, but on the whole the scenery around it is tame.

After leaving Loch Lochy we had a pleasant passage along the canal and through the eight locks which form “Neptune’s Staircase,” and came to for the night near the sea lock leading down to Loch Eil. The dues through the Caledonian Canal are very moderate; we paid only thirty shillings; and for one shilling were furnished, at the entrance, with a chart of the canal, which we found most useful in pointing out the best anchorages.

In spite of the threatening aspect of the clouds, which lay piled up in heavy masses along the sides of Glen Nevis, two of us started to visit and sketch the old Castle of Inverlochy, about a couple of miles distant from where we lay ; but we had scarcely begun our sketches when a thunderstorm burst over us, and, leaving them unfinished, we were glad to hurry back, getting drenched through long before we reached the welcome shelter of our cabins. A beautiful morning dawned upon us after a stormy night, and by ten o’clock we had accomplished the passage through the sea lock, and were at anchor near the quay at Fort-William.

As the weather was beautiful, our first care upon landing was to proceed to the Caledonian Hotel, the principal inn at Fort-William, and make arrangements for the ascent of Ben Nevis. These were soon effected; sandwiches were cut, whisky-flasks filled, and we were just preparing for a start, when two gentlemen staying at the inn requested to be allowed to join our party. One was a young Dutchman, and the other a mercantile gentleman from the good town of Glasgow. Both were attired in black hats and trousers, and wore Wellington boots with thin soles. The Dutchman had never ascended a mountain in his life, his severest experience in climbing having been the ascent of the six hundred steps that lead to the highest platform on the spire of Antwerp Catlie-dral. However, though in both their cases the flesh was weak, yet the spirit was willing, and they subsequently displayed the greatest pluck and perseverance, in spite of their unsuitable dress and the excessive fatigue from which they suffered. In those days there was no royal road to the top of Ben Nevis, no Observatory, and no hotel, and the climb was a long and very steep one. The writer has been at the top of forty-seven mountains in Scotland over 3000 feet high, but none of them were much steeper than Ben Nevis was. The charge for the services of a guide is ten shillings, whether one only or a party of tourists ascend the mountain. Our guide was named Alexander Macrae, an ill-put-together, queer-looking Gelt, but a capital walker, and quite a character, as, indeed, might easily have been divined from the roguish twinkle of his quick black eyes. The height of Ben Nevis above the sea is 4406 feet, allrequiring to be ascended, as, unlike the generality of the Scotch and Swiss mountains, which rise from elevated plateaux, it rises at once from the sea-level. It is five miles from Fort-William to the summit, measured in a straight line, and from three to four hours are generally required to accomplish the distance. For more than a mile we proceeded along a level roacl, passing on our left the fort which gives its name to the town. On our right was the entrance to the beautiful Glen Nevis, and between us and the Lochy lay the ruins of the fine old Castle of Inverlocliy, and at a little distance beyond it the Ben Nevis distillery, one of the most celebrated in Scotland, which for many years belonged to a man known throughout the Highlands as “Long John." We commenced the ascent by a very stiff pull up a grassy spur of the mountain, which slopes steeply upwards to a height of about 1200 feet. Many were the halts of our mercantile comrades, loud their complaints, and frequent their applications to the whisky-flasks, ere we gained the summit, and it required the greatest persuasion and encouragement to induce them to proceed; the Dutchman declaim ing that hills were not made for him, and that nothing would lead any of his countrymen to attempt such an exertion, did they only know the toil that awaited them.

On surmounting this shoulder of the mountain we came to a comparatively level moss, crossed it, slanted along the corner of another offshoot of Ben Nevis, and then found ourselves on the banks of a dark mountain tarn, formed by the drainage from the steep sides of the hollow which it fills. Near this we came to a halt, before attempting the remainder of the ascent. The guide drank like a fish and smoked like a steam-engine, and in both these respects our companions imitated him. The day was charming, and the view already most interesting and extensive. After a short rest we again started, rousing our companions with considerable difficulty, who appreciated cold grog and cigars much better than climbing. We then commenced the most fatiguing part of our journey —over a perfect wilderness of loose stones of all sizes, utterly destitute of every trace of vegetation. These soon told upon the Wellington boots of our friends, and the Glasgow man at last lay down and fell fast asleep, and, on being aroused, was only induced to proceed by the appalling stories which our waggish guide invented and related for his benefit, of the mishaps of various tourists who had yielded to fatigue and fallen asleep during the ascent. From this point, however, he and the Dutchman alternately lagged behind and shot ahead of each other; but both compelled the guide and ourselves to make frequent halts, till at length, about a mile from the top, observing some clouds drifting up from the southward, and fearful lest the view from the summit should become obscured, we started forward, telling the guide to remain behind and bring up the stragglers. Shortly before this we had made a second prolonged halt at a spot called “The Well,” where a spring of most delicious water gushes out from the stones. This “diamond in the desert” is about 3000 feet above Fort-William.

Soon after leaving our companions we came upon a square patch of snow of considerable extent, and apparently of some depth, and, a little beyond it, caught sight of the stone cairn erected to mark the summit. Advancing towards it, we skirted the edge of a tremendous precipice, which goes sheer down 1700 feet into the dark glen below. The summit of Ben Nevis is an almost level surface, totally destitute of water and vegetation, and composed entirely of shattered fragments of stone. Close to the verge of the precipice, and on the highest point of the mountain, stands the huge cairn erected by the Trigonometrical Survey; we clambered to the top of it, and stood on the loftiest summit in Great Britain, 110 feet higher than Ben Macdhui, which for a long time disputed the palm with Ben Nevis. The view all around was magnificent; for months there had not been a clearer day on the top. To the northward we saw the sharp peak of Fannich, in Ross-shire, the serrated points of the Coolins, the fine mountain mass of Rum, part of Eigg, the Island of Mull, and the nearer land of Lismore. Southward lay Ben Cruachan, Ben Ima, Ben Lomond, Ben More, Ben Lawers, and Schiehallion. To the eastward the huge mass of the Cairngorm mountains and Ben Wyvis were distinctly visible; whilst, farther off, a silver line showed the distant waters of the Moray Firth. We saw both the eastern and western seas. Nearer were the white-topped stony peaks at the head of Glen Nevis, the sharp red points of the mountains above Glencoe, and those between that glen and the head of Loch Etive. At our feet lay Lochaber, marked by the gleam of its small blue lakes, Inverlochy Castle, Neptune’s Staircase, Corpacli, or the field of dead bodies, and the beautiful expanse of Loch Eil, at the head of which Prince Charles for the last time met the clans.

Half an hour after we had reached the summit, we saw the guide approaching with our companions, both of whom, especially the Dutchman, we heartily congratulated on having at length reached the top in spite of fatigue and difficulties. We observed the Dutchman writing the name of la clame de ses pensees upon one of his calling-cards, and then dropping it into a hole near the top of the cairn, where, the guide assured us, lay the cards of some hundred tourists, who had thus “ ticketed ” Ben Nevis. Our friend also chipped off a fragment of stone to carry back to Holland as a souvenir of the hardest day’s work he had ever undergone. After a lengthened stay on the summit and a glance into the precipitous chasm which opened on one side of us, and into Glen Nevis on the other, near the head of which streams down a slender thread of silver over a precipice 400 feet high, we commenced our descent, the burden of which might well have been “rattle his bones over the stones.” The roughness of the road soon told on our companions. The Glasgowegian several times lay down and fell asleep, and the Dutchman declared that £500 would not tempt him again to ascend Ben Nevis.

By way of varying the route, we proposed to the guide to descend into Glen Nevis, wade across the stream, and return to Fort-William by the level road that runs alongside of it. This he at once agreed to, at the same time warning us that the descent would be very steep and rapid.

About lialf-way down to the glen the stones ceased, and were succeeded by a steep slippery slope of verdant pasturage. Here we left our comrades in charge of the guide and of a handsome little Highland gillie, who had carried their coats for them, and had crossed all the stones on his bare feet, which were a good deal cut and blistered. We then descended at a rattling pace, passing through quantities of high ferns near the bottom, gained the valley, waded across the stream, and sat down on its grassy banks to await the arrival of our friends and their tail. It was amusing to watch them, some 1500 feet above us, toiling slowly and cautiously along, and the guide attempting to persuade them to adopt a more rapid mode of locomotion by sitting down and sliding along the slope. Of this he gave them a practical illustration, which the Dutchman attempted to follow, but apparently soon found that black cloth trousers were but an imperfect protection against the friction produced by contact with the steep sides of Ben Nevis, for he speedily resumed the perpendicular, and at length, after many a slip and stumble, succeeded in reaching the banks of the Nevis, followed at a considerable distance by his Glasgow friend. There he lay down on his back on the stony banks of the stream, and, holding up his Wellington-clad extremities, entreated the guide to pull off his boots, which that worthy at last accomplished by dint of desperate tugging, which drew forth the most ludicrous contortions and exclamations from the unfortunate Dutchman, who then rose and staggered towards the stream, which, though shallow, ran with considerable rapidity. In the middle of the water he lost his balance, and, by way of steadying himself, thrust one arm to the bottom of the stream, and got himself wetted up to the shoulder. At length he reached the bank where we were sitting, and laid himself down at full length on the grass, dead beat. His friend now made his appearance on the farther bank, and the gillie performed the same kind office for him that the guide had for the Dutchman. Apparently, his Wellingtons were less obstinate, but when he arrived at our side of the river he was scarcely in better condition than his foreign friend. After some time allowed them to recover, our guide insisted on proceeding; and once on a smooth and level road they got on famously, having really shown during the whole expedition great perseverance, pluck, and good-nature. They were badly dressed, unaccustomed to walking, and drank and smoked too much, so that their exhausted condition on our arrival at Fort-William was scarcely to be wondered at. We returned to the yacht about six o’clock, well appetised, but quite free from fatigue. We found that our worthy sailing-master had met with an old acquaintance at Fort-William, had spent the day with him, and had returned on board in a state of perfect happiness and considerable inebriation, which produced a curious effect, upon his somewhat saturnine temperament. He was overpoweringly kind and attentive, smiling at everything and everybody, to the intense delight and amusement of the crew.

We set sail from Fort-William early next morning, bound for Ballachulish, in Loch Leven. The wind was unfavourable, and we had a dead beat to windward almost the whole way. At Corran Ferry, where the loch is only a quarter of a mile wide, the tide ran very strongly, the water all around us boiling and seething in eddies and whirlpools. Fortunately we had the ebb with us, and got through easily enough. During the day we sailed past the entrance of several beautiful glens, particularly Inverscaddle and Ardgour. Considerable care is required in entering Loch Leven, as, on one side, a long sandy spit runs out for a great distance, and on this the water is very shallow, but its extremity is marked by a red buoy. After rounding this we had to beat up through the Narrows, where, owing to the light and baffling wind, and tide against us, we ran aground, but luckily got off without any damage. In the afternoon we came to anchor close to the entrance of Glencoe, and not far from the Ballachulish slate quarries, the debris from which, constantly thrown into the loch, has now formed an excellent harbour, where large vessels may lie afloat at all times of the tide. Near us were two or three small green islands, one of which has for centuries been used as a burial-ground by the Macdonalds of Glencoe and Lochaber. We lost no time in landing and setting out for Glencoe; but we had only got a little distance beyond the old ruined house which was the scene of the massacre which has made the memory of King William infamous, when we were forced to beat a retreat by the rain, which poured down in torrents.

On getting back to the yacht we turned in at an early hour, contemplating an early start next morning; but we were not destined to enjoy unbroken slumbers, for, a little after midnight, we were all aroused by a tremendous row proceeding from the cabin where our worthy skipper was enjoying the sweets of repose and sleeping off his debauch at Fort-William. We found the ancient mariner yelling like a maniac, and twisting and writhing about as if in the last agony. In fact, he was struggling with the nightmare, and appeared to have decidedly the worst of the contest.

Next morning was gray and cloudy, with drizzling rain, and the glen filled with drifting mist, curling in wreaths along the sides of the mountains. Notwithstanding which, armed with umbrellas, waterproofs, and whisky - flasks, we started to explore the far-famed beauties of Glencoe. Where it opens upon Loch Leven the glen is wide, green, and fertile, and the brawling stream of Cona winds along an almost level valley; but, about two miles from the opening, it makes an abrupt turn to the left, and its character all at once assumes an aspect of rugged grandeur. On one side is the huge conical mass of Meall Mor, with its almost perpendicular sides; near its summit yawns a lofty dark fissure, in an inaccessible position, which tradition has named the Cave of Fingal, who must have been a first-rate cragsman, and not at all nice in his choice of a lodging. At the base of Meall Mor lies a small dark lake, while on the opposite side of the glen rise sharp serrated summits, very similar to the peaks of Glens Sannox and Sligachan. Innumerable rills were rushing down the scarred and furrowed sides of the mountains, every gully forming a watercourse ; whilst the stream of Cona, swollen by the rains, and every moment increasing in volume, swept foaming and fretting along its narrow channel.

Not far from the head of the valley stands a bridge, by which the road crosses a small rivulet, and from this point one of the finest views of the glen may be obtained. Whilst standing on this bridge and looking across to the opposite side of the valley, we observed at a considerable elevation, and near the head of a narrow watercourse, a deep circular hollow or corrie, with a mass of huge stone blocks piled in irregular heaps right across its opening. This appeared to us to have all the appearance of the terminal moraine of an ancient glacier. On our return, soon after we had passed the small lake of Triochtan, a beautiful effect of sunshine became visible in the glen: a brilliant rainbow spanned it from side to side, its whole dimensions being entirely within the valley, and the most exquisite prismatic hues were reflected upon the grass at the bottom of the glen, and upon the dark rocky masses along its sides.

Before leaving Loch Leven we paid a visit to the slate quarries of Ballachulish, which give employment to several hundred hands. They do not seem to be worked with much energy, as we found fifteen vessels waiting for cargoes, some of them having been detained for months. The slates are inferior in quality to the Welsh, but more durable and cheaper. There is seldom a great stock on hand, and they take about three weeks to load a vessel of one hundred tons. Loch Leven extends about seven miles above the entrance to Glencoe — deep, narrow, river-like— hemmed in by dark mountains with promontories and wooded knolls projecting boldly into the loch, and beautifully diversifying the character of its shores. Upon the whole, we are inclined to consider Loch Leven as one of the finest of our Scottish sea-lochs. It lies in the midst of beauties of the most varied and enchanting description : there are green islands, green wooded slopes, clumps of trees, with the blue smoke of cottages curling up from amongst the foliage, as well as dark glens and stern and sterile mountains. There is no weak point about the scenery; it is “of beauty all compact.”

Bidding farewell to Loch Leven with regret, we set sail for Oban. The wind was from the northward, which here requires to be carefully watched. We met with heavy squalls whilst passing the high land of Morven, opposite the island of Lismore, and off the mouth of Loch Achray. We had to take in our topsail, doublereef the mainsail, and shift jibs, and even then had quite enough of it in the squalls. During the process of shifting jibs and reefing, our largest boat broke adrift, the skipper himself having made her fast with, what the event proved to be, but a “slippery hitch.” Before we observed her, she had drifted a long way to leeward, and was fast approaching the rocky beach of Lismore, where she would soon have gone to pieces. About was the word, and we tacked in pursuit of her; twice we got alongside, and twice failed in securing her. The third time we got a grapnel from below, hove it aboard, and at last succeeded, at the expense of some damage to her thwarts, in again securing and making her fast. About four o’clock we reached Oban, and came to anchor in its safe and beautiful bay.

We lost no time in pulling on shore, in order to lay in stores and to visit the ruins of the old Castle of Dunstaffnage (castle of two islands), situated on a peninsula near the entrance of Loch Etive, and three miles distant from Oban. Part of the structure is of unknown antiquity, and the ruins consist of four massive walls united at the angles by round towers. The view from the top of the castle, which is still accessible, is very extensive, embracing Loch Etive, Lochnell, the mountains of Morven and Appin, and the green mound which is supposed to mark the site of Beregonium, the ancient capital of the Picts.

The Irish Scoti, or Dalriadic Scots, colonised, and for three hundred years occupied, this part of the Highlands, and Dunstaffnage is supposed to have been their principal stronghold.

The next was a pet day — warm, calm, and bright—made for enjoyment and out-of-door existence. We spent the forenoon in wandering about the grounds, and in visiting the beautiful castle of Dunollie, thus graphically described by Sir Walter Scott: “Nothing can be more wildly beautiful than the situation of Dunollie. The ruins are situated upon a bold and precipitous promontory overhanging Loch Etive, and distant about a mile from the village and port of Oban. The principal part which remains is the donjon or keep ; but fragments of other buildings, overgrown with ivy, attest that it had been once a place of importance, as large, probably, as Ardtornish or Dunstaffnage. These fragments enclose a courtyard, of which the keep probably formed one side, the entrance being by a steep ascent from the neck of the isthmus, formerly cut across by a moat, and defended doubtless by outworks and a drawbridge. Beneath the castle stands the present mansion of the family. A huge upright pillar or detached fragment of that sort of rock called plum-pudding stone, upon the shore, about a quarter of a mile from the castle, is called Clach-na-can, or the Dog’s Pillar, because Fingal is said to have used it as a stake to which he bound his celebrated dog Bran.”

In the evening we rowed to the south side of the bay, and afterwards ascended a low hill, from which, for a very small amount of trouble, a magnificent view may be obtained. This evening, in the light of a glorious sunset, every object was clearly defined : the bay and town of Oban, the castled crag of Dunollie, the green islands of Kerrera and Lismore, Morven, Appin, the Sound of Mull overshadowed by the lofty Ben More, and, in the opposite direction, the twin peaks of Ben Cruachan, and the huge mountains beyond, near the head of Loch Etive. The tints of some of the distant mountains were exquisitely beautiful, partly a rich purple, and partly a deep slate-gray, contrasting strongly with the gorgeous orange and golden hues around the setting sun.

It was a fine but cold morning when we left Oban, bound for the Firth of Clyde. We made a rapid run along the Sound of Kerrera, through the Slate islands, past Scarba and the entrances to Loch Crinan and Loch Melford, and thence into the strait between the Island of Jura and the Mull of Cantire. We passed the whirlpool of Corryvreckan on our starboard hand, but, owing to the state of the tide, there were but few indications of its existence. The wind, which had gradually been freshening ever since the morning, now increased to a gale. Fortunately it was a land wind, and there was little sea, but we had to strike our topmast, and double-reef the mainsail, and, even then, were carrying a plank of the deck under water. We passed several vessels running up the Sound for shelter under easy sail, and, as it would have been folly to attempt to round the Mull of Cantire in such weather, we determined to follow their example, and accordingly put about and ran for Loch Swin, a noble arm of the sea, which for ten miles indents the Mull of Cantire, forming a safe and spacious anchorage, with a clear entrance, and a depth varying from three to thirteen fathoms. We anchored a mile above Castle Swin, which occupies a commanding position on a projecting rock. Where we lay the water was smooth, yet it blew so hard all day that we were obliged to have two anchors out to prevent dragging. Next morning the gale had moderated, though it still blew freshly, and gray watery clouds were drifting along the hills. As the day wore on, however, the weather improved, and we were able to land and visit Castle Swin, which gives its name to the loch, and is believed to have been built by Sweno, King of Denmark. It forms an interesting memorial of those days when every bay and loch along our coasts was exposed to the incursions of Danish pirates, and when the kings of Norway not only possessed a large part of the Highlands and Islands, but even threatened the independence of the kingdom of Scotland. The people in the cottages near the castle assured us that it was twelve hundred years old—a degree of antiquity which we were inclined to consider very questionable. It is a magnificent old ruin, as large as Dunstaffnage, square in its general shape, but with a tall round tower projecting at one of the angles. We found the great court occupied by a patch of corn, the basement of the round tower turned into a kitchen-garden, and an inner court choked up by a rank growth of hemlock and nettles; yet the proprietor is a man of immense fortune, a fraction of which might surely be spent in keeping this interesting old ruin in tolerable order: at present it suffers from the most utter neglect.

Next morning we made a very early start, succeeded in rounding the Mull of Cantire, of stormy fame, without encountering anything like rough weather, had a fine run up the beautiful Firth of Clyde, and finished a delightful month’s cruise by dropping our anchor in the calm waters of Gourock Bay.


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