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Scottish Pictures
Drawn with Pen and Pencil By Samuel G. Green, D.D.


PREFACE

A friend who has read these pages while passing through the press has suggested that the brighter side of a visit to Scotland is too exclusively given—that more stress ought to have been laid on the probabilities of bad weather, and the miseries of a “Scotch mist”; that a word of warning might not have been misplaced as to the dearness of Highland hotels, and the high rates charged for posting; and that English readers might have been put on their guard as to the uncompromising temper and blunt address of some with whom they would have to do. Well, all these points have to be considered; and yet with every drawback, the delight remains. Even broken weather has its intervals, the brighter and more exhilarating for the storm or mist that has preceded; while no lover of the sublime and beautiful would willingly exchange the grandeurs and terrors of the mountain gloom, even for days of unclouded sunshine. But, as a matter of fact, I can attest from the experience of many a tour, the weather is seldom or never so bad for long together as absolutely to prevent, or even greatly to injure enjoyment. Then as to the other criticisms: it must be admitted that, unless a traveller is very wary and thrifty, he will not find a tour in Scotland the most economical form of enjoyment. Something is to be said in excuse for high charges, when the season is necessarily so short; yet I confess I have found things much the same out of the season, when there has been no competitive rush of tourists. There is room for improvement in some places that might be mentioned; and it is satisfactory to learn, on the high authority of Mr. J. B. Baddeley, that the Scottish hotel system is decidedly improving, in this and other respects. For those who do not care to travel from place to place, the great Hydropathic establishments in almost every popular resort afford attractions hardly anywhere to be surpassed.

It is no part of our business to institute comparisons between Scotland and other countries, in their attraction for tourists. We can but say that it is something to be able to travel where there is no sea to cross, no Custom House to annoy, no foreign tongue with whose difficulties to grapple, no distraction to interfere with the calm enjoyment of the Lord’s Day; where there is enough of difference from ordinary English life to give the charm of novelty, with enough of resemblance to show that we are still at home. The climate, too, in every bracing quality must be declared unsurpassed, even in the Alps; and there can hardly be a fresher, fuller glow of health than that which is imparted by a stay at Strathpeffer or Castleton in Braemar; while such marine resorts as Rothesay, Whiting Bay, Nairn, and many others, combine with these invigorating elements all the charms of the seaside for those who welcome its purer enjoyments apart from the intrusion of a noisy crowd. Of the delights of the Western Coast, with its sea lochs, cliffs and islands, to all who love the sea, and can enjoy a cruise, even when the waters are stormy, enough, but not too much, has been said in the following pages. Mr. William Black has portrayed for multitudes of readers the glories of yachting excursions amid these scenes; and even to the many, who must confine themselves to the steamers which leave the Clyde for these coasts continually all the summer through, there is hardly a form of enjoyment more exquisite or more health giving. In this respect at least, a Scottish excursion surpasses any other attainable in these latitudes.

The following pages contain memorials of several tours in Scotland, undertaken at different periods of the year; and it may honestly be certified that some of the most delightful of these were made “out of the season.” In spring, the snow lingers on the mountain summits, long after the valleys are bright with verdure and with flowers, and many a prospect in April and May is Alpine in its variety and splendour. June is generally a month of surpassing beauty in the Highlands; but there are few, save a few fishers, to behold the loveliness. We English people have mostly to defer our holidays until the year has past its prime, and, save for the blossoming heather, the charms of wood and moor and mountain glen are already beginning to wane. The “swift steamers” and coaches, indeed, are in many cases not placed upon their several routes until the middle of July, and the railway trains are mostly slow.

These public conveyances, while, of course the most economical, are also generally the most enjoyable means of effecting a tour in Scotland—save indeed for the pedestrian, who, in noble independence, can strike up mountain glens or lose himself on untrodden heights at his own sweet will. But the truth is that the coach routes, and to some extent the railroads also, traverse much of the finest scenery of the country. The admirable roads constructed through the Highlands by General Wade’s soldiers in the early part of the last century (1726-1737) were but the beginning of a system by which the Highlands have been pierced in almost all directions, and wild regions opened up once declared inaccessible. On General Wade’s bridge over the river Tay, a somewhat grandiloquent inscription was placed in good Latin, which may be Englished thus:

“Behold with wonder this Military Way, extended by various Passes, 250 miles beyond the Roman limits: triumphing over fens and morasses; levelled through rocks and mountains, and carried on, as you now see it, in spite of the River Tay. This arduous work, G. Wade, commander of the forces in Scotland, brought to perfection by his great judgment and ten years’ labour of his soldiers in the year of our Lord 1738. Of such mighty efficacy are the Royal Auspices of George the Second.”

A more expressive tribute to what was really a great enterprise was in the distict, rather Hibernian than Scottish in tone:

"Had you seen these roads before they were made,
You’d lift up your hands and bless General Wade!”

The railroads, too, in some of the fairest and grandest scenes of Scotland, cannot be said even by the most determined votaries of the picturesque to have destroyed the charm. In truth, the thin line creeping along the margin of some stupendous mountain, as in the Pass of Brander, or along Glen Ogle, or amid the heights encircling Strathpeffer, is altogether too inconsiderable to disturb the effect of the scenery. There is nothing intrusive, as there would be, for instance, in many parts of the English Lake District: while, for the travellers themselves, I do not know journeys more replete with charm than the railway routes from Callander to Oban, or from Dingwall to Strome Ferry. Parts of the Highland railway, especially in its downward slope, where it skirts the river Spey, are also surpassingly beautiful. On the whole, the tourist has reason to be grateful for the facilities provided, and the votary of the beautiful may restrain his protest.

Yet of course the paths which lie away from the possibilities of travel by railroad or by coach, will to many form the greatest attraction, as they have the most inexhaustible variety. The Highlands of Scotland have always something new, in every direction, no matter how often the visitor may have explored their recesses. Few persons who have not travelled in this country have any idea of the immense multitude of the mountain heights, of the lochs and glens and streams. Every one knows about Ben Nevis and Ben Lomond; but there are more than twenty mountains intervening between these two in height. Lochnagar has been made familiar by Byron’s poem and by association with Her Majesty’s Highland
home: Cairngorm, again, is known to have something to do with pebbles: but who, except those who have wandered among the Grampians, have any idea of Brae-Riach or Ben Muich-Dhui? Yet these, with Ben Lawers, Ben More, Ben Cruachan, Schiehallion, Ben Wyvis and Ben Vorlich, all surpass Ben Lomond in height, and all have grandeurs and beauties of their own. Then there are the countless lower hill-ranges, often surpassing their mightier brethren in grace of outline and in woodland richness. The “waters” that spring from their slopes and become tributary to one or other of the great rivers that seek the German Ocean—the Forth, the Tay, the Dee, the Spey—have many a nook of inexpressible charm, while the broad “straths,” through which these- rivers pursue the lower part of their course, are lovely in their luxuriance. Many a loch and lochlet too, besides these which every one. visits, have beauties little if at all inferior: and how numerous are these sheets of water may be seen in the Sportsman's Guide, which contains the names of 1037 separate lochs—many of them, no doubt, mere tarns among the hills; and of 1166 rivers, large and small.

In the Lowlands, also, there are some Highland beauties, as shown farther on in this book, with many a charm peculiar to themselves. In fact, it is impossible to select a tour which shall not have its fascinations to lovers of the beautiful. Of the historical and antiquarian interest attached to many spots, little need be said. Some of these associations will be found touched upon in the following pages: but the topic would require a volume to itself. A few renowned names, ancient and modern, necessarily occur in any book that treats on Scotland; Knox and Scott and Burns could not fail of mention: nor, on other grounds, Mary Queen of Scots, nor the young “Pretender.” But such references are fragmentary, and connected chiefly with localities that suggest the names.

Nor have we attempted to sketch the character of the Scottish people, with personal anecdotes and reminiscences. Other writers have done this with distinguished success; and after Dean Ramsay, and one or two who have followed him, there can be little to say. This volume of Pictures is intended to deal chiefly with external aspects, such as might strike any observant traveller. No one indeed can fail to be struck with certain salient peculiarities, such as a bluntness and independence, which mean not rudeness, but genuine respect to the worthy, with a caution that is not cunning because it is so frank, and withal a genuine, kindly humour. I know indeed that high authorities have denied to Caledonians the credit of wit. Has it not been said,It requires a surgical operation to get a joke into a Scotchman?” “Maybe,” retorted one, “it was an English joke that Mr. Smith was meaning!” A high intelligence will be found in all classes—the result in part of the school system which has prevailed in Scotland through many generations, and in part of the Biblical training of the people through the ministrations of their churches, and the general familiarity with the dialectics of ecclesiastical and theological controversy. This familiarity no doubt has its unfavourable side: but, on the whole, it has deepened seriousness and quickened intelligence. A stranger in one of the towns soon feels in little things that he has reached a higher level. The first man of whom he asks his way will probably direct him according to the points of the compass. “Go a hundred yards farther to the west: then take the turn to the north,” and so on. I have, on the other hand, repeatedly directed London cabmen to set me down on the north side of St. Paul’s Churchyard, and the general reply has been, “Which side is that, Sir, right or left?” No Scotch driver would ever be at such a loss in Edinburgh or Glasgow, Dundee or Aberdeen.

The reader may probably expect to find the volume, like others treating of Scotland, embellished with peculiarities of dialect. These have, however, been purposely disregarded. Masters of the art, like Burns, Scott, or, I may add, Dr. George Macdonald, may indulge this freedom. An Englishman generally fails; and to a practised Scottish eye, the “dialect” appears only a series of awkward misspellings. What is gained by writing lang for long, aits for oats, or even fa! for fall? Possibly the maybe, in the little criticism just quoted on Sydney Smith, ought to have been aiblhis; but it is best to write only in a tongue of which one is sure. At the same time there are words in constant Scottish use which can never sound even to our ears quite like their English synonyms. A brae is more than a slope, and a loch is different somehow from a lake (apart from the application of the word to an inlet of the sea); laverock is a more musical name than lark; gowan than daisy: the birks of Aberfeldy suggest to us more than the Aberfeldy birch-trees; while the fond charm of the bonnie wee thing has almost evaporated in little and pretty. We do not pretend to account for this; the fact is certainly so: I shall not soon forget the sense of strangeness with which I once saw the word brae applied to a steep, unsavoury street in the closest part of Glasgow. It seemed a desecration!

But on the tempting subject of language we must not now enter. One interesting application of the topic will be the elucidation of many hundreds of proper names; but for this the excellent Glossaries given by Murray, Black, or Baddeley must be consulted. There is a history in these Gaelic and Norse appellations; as interesting and suggestive in its way as we have in another set of words relating to articles in common use, and pointing to olden connections between Scotland and France; an association to which perhaps few give any thought when they call an earthern dish an ashet (assiette), or speak of a leg of mutton as a jigget (gigot).

It only remains to express the cordial acknowledgments of the writer and of the Tract Society to Messrs. Valentine & Co., Dundee, for allowing to their draughtsmen the use of their excellent photographs, in sketching the frontispiece to this work, as also the views of the Trossachs (p. 98), of Oban (p. 64), and of John o’ Groat’s (p. 194). A similar permission has been as kindly granted by Messrs. G. W. Wilson & Co., Aberdeen, for permission to copy their view of the Martyrs’ Memorial in the Greyfriars’ Churchyard, Edinburgh (p. 42), to employ their photograph of Ben Nevis (p. 78), and to use some of their Ross and Sutherlandshire views in the last chapter.

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