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Rambles Round Glasgow
Cardonald and Crookston

GLASGOW and PAISLEY, although situated some seven miles or so apart, are, by the facilities of steam transit, now placed, so far as regards time, in almost immediate juxtaposition to each other. A quarter of an hour now suffices to transport the traveller, on business bent, from the Broomielaw to the Sneddon—from the smoky domains of our beloved Sanct Mungo to those of his venerable brother in the "odour of sanctity," Mirrinus. So far as speedy communication is concerned, the railway has left us almost nothing to wish. The country which lies between the great industrial centres of the Clyde and the Cart, however, is of the most beautiful and fertile description, and contains, moreover, several objects of historical and sentimental interest, the due inspection of which requires a more leisurely mode of progression than that of the iron way. Our readers will therefore be pleased to accompany us in our present ramble, as on former occasions, a la pied. We may hint, however, for their encouragement, that there is a probability of our being driven to the rail by fatigue on our return, as we propose leading them round a pretty considerable circuit, and into digressions innumerable.

Our favourite route to Paisley is, of course, the longest one, which is that by the margin of the Canal. Taking our start from Fort-Eglinton, a short walk brings us to Shields Bridge, at which point, on the south side of the water, the picturesque little village of Pollokshields has recently sprung into existence, with a degree of rapidity which fairly rivals the go-a-head Yankee system of town development. This miniature community is composed of elegant cottages and villas, each edifice having its own belt of garden ground walled in, and tastefully planted in front with flowers and shrubs, and in the rear with kitchen vegetables. The greatest variety of architectural taste, moreover, seems to prevail in this rising suburban settlement. Some two score or so of tenements are already erected, or are in process of erection, and scarcely two of them are similar in design or construction. Each individual proprietor seems to have had his own ideal in "stone and lime," and every man’s house is as unlike his neighbour’s as possible. Should the same determined diversity of style continue to prevail, Loudon’s Encyclopcedia of Cottage Architecture must soon become a dead letter, so far as Glasgow is concerned, as a walk through Pollokshields will be as instructive to the student as a perusal of that ponderous though valuable volume, with its endless disquisitions on projecting porches, ornamental chimney-stalks, peaked gables, rustic arcades, and mullioned windows. It must be admitted, however, that so far as it has gone, this variety has, on the whole, an exceedingly pleasing and picturesque effect, and that we know few places in the vicinity of our city where we would more readily wish for a snug cottage home, if "the lamp of Alladin" were for a brief period ours.

Crookston Castle

The banks of the canal between Glasgow and Paisley, artificial though they be, are as rich in natural beauty as the winding margin of many a river. In various places they are finely wooded, while throughout their entire length they are fringed with a profusion of our sweetest wild flowers. Every here and there, also, glimpses of the surrounding country are obtained—in some cases extending for many miles around, and embracing scenes of great fertility and loveliness. As we pass along, the reapers in picturesque groups are busy in the bright yellow fields. Occasionally, also, the voices of juvenile strollers from the purlieus of the city are heard on the tangled and bosky banks, where they come in search of the hips and haws and the blackboyds, which, however, have scarcely yet attained the necessary degree of ripeness. At intervals, "few and far between," one of the Company’s boats passes lazily to its destination; while every now and again a solitary angler gazes despairingly at his float, and mutters "Nothing doing" to our passing inquiries concerning his piscatorial success. About four miles from the city, the Cart approaches within a few feet of the canal. At this point of the stream we find the yellow water-lily (nuphar lutea) growing abundantly, with its broad cordate leaves and bright golden flowers covering the surface of the water. A number of other fine plants also are thickly strewn along the alluvial margin. Among these are the handsome wood crane’s-bill (geranium sylvaticum), several stately species of thistle, flinging their snowy locks to the passing breeze, and the rough burr-reed with its green sword-like leaves guarding the shallows of the streamlet, and forming an impervious shade for the water-hen. A dense wood on the opposite side of the Cart at this place, forming part of the extensive estates of Sir John Maxwell of Pollok, seems to be well stocked with game and other wild birds, and we have often heard with delight their peculiar cries and notes while lingering at the spot during the spring and summer gloamings. Here, too, we have observed for several successive seasons a pair of those sweet, though in this part of the country somewhat rare songsters, the black-cap warblers (curruca atricapilla), which seem to have bred in the vicinity, although with all our skill (and in our school-days it was famous) we have failed to discover the well screened nest.

About half-a-mile farther on we pass the spot where, on a green bank of the Cart, stood for several centuries the picturesque castle of Cardonald. This venerable relic of other times has, however, been demolished within these few years, and a neat modern farm-steading has been erected on its site. This was at an early period a seat of the Stewart family, who held extensive possessions for a lengthened series of years in Renfrewshire. In the reign of James the Sixth, Walter Stewart, Prior of Blantyre, was lord of Cardonald. From him it passed into the hands of Lord Blantyre, his heir, in whose family it has continued ever since. Crawfurd, in his History of Renfrewshire, mentions that in his day the lands of Cardonald were well planted and "beautiful with pleasant gardens." The remains of these are still in existence. On the fine green lawn which lies between the modern edifice and the canal, and which is thickly strewn with cowslips in the early summer, are a number of stately old forest trees, while the garden still contains several fruit-trees of great age and considerable size. In front of the present house is a stone taken from the walls of its more venerable predecessor, on which is carved the figure of a casque or helmet, with the motto "Toujours avant" (always forward), and the initials J. S., date 1565. At a short distance to the north, on a bend of the Cart, are the extensive meal mills of Cardonald, with a group of cottages and kail-yards, occupied apparently by the operatives engaged in the establishment. A more delightful locality altogether it were difficult to imagine. Wood, water, and variety of surface, are here to be seen in beautiful combination; and we can only regret that it has been divested to a considerable extent of the charm of historic association, by the removal of the "howlet-haunted biggin" ‘which for so many generations graced the scene with its presence.

Immediately alter passing Cardonald the ruins of Crookston Castle are seen on a rising ground to the west, towering proudly over the intervening woods. Crossing the canal at this point, and passing along a somewhat circuitous route, we find our way, after a walk of about a mile, to this interesting and highly romantic spot, which, from its connection with the name and memory of the unfortunate Mary, must ever be dear to the sentimental rambler. In the time of Crawfurd this venerable building, which is situated on a bold bank of the Levern (which joins the Cart at a short distance to the north), consisted of "a large keep and two lofty towers with battlemented wings." Since that period a considerably greater portion of its walls have owned the crumbling influences of time and the elements. Only one shattered tower has kept its original altitude, and even it has been in a great degree indebted for its preservation to the considerate attention of Sir John Maxwell, on whose property it stands, and who has caused its rent sides to be secured and bound together by strong iron bars. The same gentleman has also, within the past few years, procured the removal of the debris which in the course of centuries had accumulated around the base of the edifice, and by that means has brought to light a number of antique doors, windows, and staircases, with several other curious architectural features, which had been long hid from the gaze of the antiquary. A couple of vaulted chambers—one of which is in total darkness, and the other only lighted by a narrow loop-hole—are all that now remain in anything like a state of entirety. One is almost afraid to surmise to what vile uses such dreary dungeons may have been put in the rude days of old, when a lordling’s caprice was cause sufficient for imprisonment or even death to the helpless and haply unoffending serf: On climbing with some difficulty the narrow and decayed staircase, and gazing on the thick darkness which reigns in one of these cheerless cells, we can almost fancy that we hear the sigh of some hopeless captive floating through the gloomy and stifling air; and we must admit that we are fain to return to the blessed light of day, while a feeling of pride and gratitude springs up in our heart, to think that in our land not even the vilest criminal can now be condemned to such a loathsome and unwholesome den. The rampart and moat of the castle, which are of considerable extent, and convey a vivid idea of the magnitude and grandeur of the edifice in its days of pride and power, may still be distinctly traced.

The barony and castle of Crookston seem to have derived their name from Robert de Croe, a gentleman of Norman extraction, who held extensive possessions here in the twelfth century. In the following century the heiress of this individual was married into the illustrious family of Stuart, who thereby became lords of the extensive baronies of Crookston, Darnley, Inchinnan, Neilston, and Tarbolton. Every student of Scottish history is aware that Henry Darnley, the heir of this ancient and noble house, having won the affections of his Queen, the beautiful but unfortunate Mary, was married to her in the year 1565. Tradition asserts that it was at Crookston, one of the seats of the handsome though foolish young lord, that the brief courtship of the ill-fated lovers took place; and an old and beautiful yew-tree, which stood in the garden a little to the east of the castle, was said to have been a favourite haunt of the royal lovers in the hours of gentle dalliance which preceded their ill-assorted and ultimately tragical union. The remains of this fine old tree were removed in 1817 by Sir John Maxwell, it having been sadly destroyed previously by the depredations of ruthless relic-hunters. A portion of the timber, we may mention, has been appropriately formed into a model of Crookston Castle. This interesting object is preserved at Pollok House, where the visitor is also shown three large sections of the yew, which seems to have been a tree of considerable age and size. The number of snuff-boxes, drinking-cups, and ornaments of various kinds, said to be formed out of Queen Mary’s tree, is almost incredible. Every curiosity-collector, from the Land’s End to John o’ Groat’s, can boast one or more fragments of it although it must be admitted that, like the wood of the "true Cross" which was so extensively diffused during the Middle Ages, the genuineness of the article is, to say the least of it, in many instances extremely problematical.

Sir Walter Scott has made a sad blunder in his novel of The Abbot, by representing Mary as witnessing at Crookston the battle of Langside. It is well known that the unfortunate Queen stood on an eminence near Cathcart during that decisive engagement, which occurred at least four miles to the east of.Crookston. The intervening ground, also, is of such a nature as to render Langside invisible from this locality. On being informed of the error which he had thus made, Sir Walter at once admitted the fact, in a note to the revised edition of the Waverley Novels, but he refused to alter the text, as he considered that by so doing the dramatic interest of the romance would be considerably diminished. Another error regarding the stream which flows past the castle has been perpetuated by many who have written concerning Crookston. This fine rivulet is the Levern, and not the White Cart, as has been generally believed. The fact that the junction of these two streams occurs in a beautiful spot about half-a-mile to the northward of the ruins has probably led to this confusion of their names.

The memory of Scotia’s unfortunate Queen—a memory steeped in tears—has been associated with many a lovely scene, but with none more so than Crookston. Pennant, who visited the spot in 1772, truly says,—"The situation is delicious, commanding a view of a well-cultivated tract, divided into a multitude of fertile little hills ;" and Scott has made Queen Mary remark, that the castle commands a prospect as wide almost as that which is seen from the peaked summit of Schehallion. Alike rich in material beauty and sentimental interest, it is no wonder that Crookston is annually visited by thousands of pilgrims, or that it has ever been a favourite haunt of the poetic brotherhood. The author of "The Clyde," to whom we have been previously indebted for several apt quotations, thus describes the spot:—

"Here raised upon a verdant mount sublime,
To heaven complaining of the wrongs of time,
And ruthless force of sacrilegious hands,
Crookston, their ancient seat, in ruin stands;
Nor Clyde’s whole course an ampler prospect yields
Of spacious plains and well-improven fields,
Which here the gently rising hills surround,
And there the cloud-supporting mountains bound."

Tannahill alludes to the ruins in one of his sweet lyrics—

"Through Crookston castle’s lonely wa’s
The wintry wind howls wild and dreary?

And our own Motherwell, who many a time and oft lingered in pensive mood by the time-honoured pile, has celebrated its charms in one of his most elegant compositions, of which the following are the concluding lines:—

"Tis past—she rests—the scaffold hath been swept,
The headsman’s guilty axe to rust consigned-
But Crookston, while thine aged towers remain,
And thy green umbrage woos the evening wind—.
By noblest natures shall her woes be wept,
Who shone the glory of thy festal day:
Whilst aught is left of these thy ruins gray,
They will arouse remembrance of the stain
Queen Mary’s doom hath left on history's page—
Remembrance laden with reproach and pain,
To those who make like me this pilgrimage!"

Many an anonymous bard also has endeavoured to express in verse the feelings which the shattered and dreary tower, with its wall-flowers scenting the dewy air, and its clamorous train of daws startling the echoes with their hoarse cries, has excited in his breast. One of these nameless voices of the heart we must give,—

"Thou proud memorial of a former age,
Time-ruined Crookston; not in all our land,—
Romantic with a noble heritage
Of feudal halls in ruin sternly grand,—
More beautiful doth tower or castle stand
Than thou! as oft the lingering traveller tells,
And none more varied sympathies command;
Though where the warrior dwelt the raven dwells:
With tenderness thy tale the rudest bosom swells.

"Along the soul that pleasing sadness steals
Which trembles from a wild harp’s dying fall,
When fancy’s recreative eye reveals
To him lone musing by that mouldering wall,
What warriors thronged, what Joy rung through thy hall,
When royal Mary—yet unstained by crime,
And with love’s golden sceptre ruling all—
Made thee her bridal home. ‘There seems to shine'

Still o’er thee splendour shed at that high gorgeous times
How dark a moral shades and chills the heart
When gazing on thy dreary deep decayl"

A favourite haunt withal of Flora is Crookston, and the botanist will find in its shady moat a number of our Most beautifull, and several of our most rare indigenous plants. Among these are the cuckowpint (aram maculatum), with its curiously formed flowers in spring, and its spikes of bright scarlet berries in the autumn months; the tuberous moschatell (adoxa moschatellina), and a rich variety of others.

The trailing bramble, the brier with its soft-folding blossom, the sloe, the hazel, the rowan-tree, and the haw, are strewn in the most picturesque profusion around the spot—a very girdle of arborescent beauty to the hoary tower. It would almost seem as if Nature loved especially to adorn the scene which had been hallowed by the presence, in a long past age, of the fairest and the most unfortunate that ever bore the sceptre and crown of regal dignity. How often must the fond fancy of the exiled Queen have flown from the gloom of her dreary prison-walls to this fair spot, which every season decks with a beauty of its own! Burns has put words of lamentation into the mouth of Mary; and it would almost seem that the scenery of Crookston was in his mind’s eye when he penned the following verse, so true is it to the character of its spring landscape:—

"Now blooms the lily by the bank,
The primrose down the brae,
The hawthorn’s budding in the glen,
And milkwhite is the slae,
The meanest hind in fair Scotland
May rove their sweets amang,
But l, the Queen of a’ Scotland,
Maun lie in prison strang."

Crookston is lovely at all times and seasons; but we feel, while musing by its hoary towers, that the period most appropriate to wander by the "lonely mansion of the dead" is indeed that in which we have made our rambling pilgrimage to the locality. The primrose and the violet of spring have long been numbered among the things that were; the last rose of summer has fallen from the leafy brier; the lark is silent in the meadow, and the merle in his noontide bower. The gathering harvest in the whitened fields, the woodland falling into the sear and yellow leaf, the harebell hanging its head as if in woe, and even the liquid pipings of the red-breast telling of approaching decay to everything of bloom, are all suggestive of pensive feeling, and appropriately harmonize with that "luxury of woe" in which one loves to indulge beneath the shattered wall, around which, as with the ivy, melancholy memories are entwined.

Before leaving Crookston, we may mention that after the tragical death of Darnley the estates and honours of Lennox were bestowed upon Charles Stuart, second son of the Earl of Lennox. This individual, however, dying without issue, they were resigned to the crown by Robert Stuart, Bishop of Caithness, the next in lineal succession. After this the lands and castle of Crookston passed through a variety of hands, until they were finally purchased from the Montrose family, in 1757, by Sir John Maxwell, the ancestor of the present proprietor, who, as we have previously remarked, has exhibited his respect for the memory of her whose brief residence here has for ever hallowed the locality, by the judicious measures he has adopted for the preservation of the mouldering edifice. But for the attention which he has thus manifested, the stately remains of Crookston Castle must soon have been levelled with the dust, and the place which has known its pomp and grandeur for many a long century should have known them "no more for ever." The antiquary, and he who loves to drop the tear of sympathy over the dark fate of the unfortunate Mary, will have reason for many years to feel grateful to him who has thus preserved from impending destruction such an interesting memorial of "what has been." We may also mention that there is a fine portrait of the beauteous Queen of Scots preserved at Pollok House, as also authentic portraits of her not less ill-fated grandson, Charles the First, and the Infanta of Spain, who, it will be remembered, was at one period destined to be his bride.

Retracing our steps to the canal, we pursue our devious way by its margin toward Paisley, which is still some three miles to the northward. On either hand, as we pass, a succession of fertile fields in all the brightness of autumnal gold, and many of them already shorn or in process of being speedily so, present a series of those rural pictures which the famous American reaping machine threatens soon to banish from our land. In an age of change, while steam is jostling us in every direction, the hairst-rig remained unaltered in all its primitive simplicity, a picturesque relic of other times, even as it was when the fair gleaner Ruth

"Stood In tears amid the alien corn."

How our poets and our painters, those dreamy worshippers of the beautiful, have revelled in the cheerful groups of autumn, weaving in immortal verse or tracing on the living canvas those combinations of the graceful in form and the pleasing in colour, which, once seen, become unto the heart "a joy for ever!" Listen to one who first saw the light in the city of our own habitation, the author of "The Sabbath," and who looked with an attentive and a loving eye on all the "shows and forms" of ever-varying nature,—

"At sultry hour of noon the reaper band
Rest from their toil, and in the lusty stook
Their sickles hang. Around their simple fare,
Upon the stubble spread, blythsome they form
A circling group, while humbly waits behind,
The wistful dog, and with expressive look
And pawing foot, implores his attic share."

A delicious picture in words, which some of our artistic friends might well translate into the language of the glowing canvas. Or what say they to the following from the same pen, "alike, but oh how sweetly different!"

"The short repast, seasoned with simple mirth,
And not without the song, gives place to sleep;
With sheaf beneath his head, the rustic youth
Enjoys sweet slumbers, while the maid he loves
Steals to his side, and screens him from the sun."

About a mile to the north-west of Crookston, and on the south side of the White Cart, are the spacious mansion and grounds of Hawkhead, one of the seats of the Earl of Glasgow. This fine old house, which is screened in every direction by extensive and beautiful woods, is somewhat irregular in its appearance. According to Crawfurd, "it is built in the form of a court, and consists of a large old tower, to which there were lower buildings added in the reign of Charles the First by James Lord Ross and Dame Margaret Scott, his lady, and adorned with large orchards, fine gardens, and pretty terraces, with regular and stately avenues fronting the said castle, and almost surrounded with woods and enclosures, which add much to the beauty of this scat." This was, we understand, the first instance in Renfrewshire in which the formal and stiff style of Dutch gardening was introduced. The house, too, was among the earliest in which modern comfort was combined with the strength of former times. In 1782 the Countess-Dowager of Glasgow made considerable improvements on this favourite estate, and formed a new garden, four acres in extent, and more in accordance with the taste of our day than its stately but quaint and old-fashioned predecessor. We have seldom seen finer masses of foliage than the bosky banks of the Cart present at this place; while in spring and early summer—

"The spot is wild, the banks are steep,
With eglantine and hawthorn blossomed o’er,
Lychnis and daffodils, and crow-flowers blue."

The Duke of York—the persecuting Duke whose name still stinks in the nostrils of the Presbyterian peasantry of Scotland—when in the plenitude of his power in 1681, "dined at the Halcat with my Lord Ross," as we learn from an ancient chronicler, who records the event as one of a memorable nature.

The Hawkhead woods seem to furnish a favourite haunt for the rook. As we pass we are amused to see an immense flock of these sagacious birds flying about a neighbouring field, intermingled with vast numbers of starlings—a kindred species which of late years has increased to an almost incredible extent in the districts around Glasgow and Paisley. In our bird-nesting days a starling was indeed a rare avis. We had a tradition in our school that a few starlings from time immemorial had haunted the creviced walls of Bothwell Castle and the shattered towers of Crookston; but for miles around the country, as every disciple of Gilbert White in this neighbourhood well knew, such a thing as a bird of this species was seldom seen. Another proof of their scarcity, if such were wanted, was the handsome prices which they could always command in that most curious of marts, the bird-market. Some seven or eight years ago, however, they began to increase in numbers around Paisley, where they were treated with the utmost kindness and consideration; breeding-boxes for their special accommodation being suspended on every second tree and chimney-top. Under these fostering influences the starlings "multiplied and replenished," until at present they are almost as common in that town as the house-sparrow; More recently they have begun to congregate in and around our city; and so plentiful have they already become, that a fine young specimen can be purchased in the season, by the juvenile ornithologist, at the price of an old song; while those who, like ourselves, are in the habit of perambulating the country, must have been startled by the vast flocks, often consisting of many thousands, which assemble in the autumn and winter months in the neighbouring fields.

About half-a-mile from Paisley the canal is carried over the Cart by a handsome aqueduct bridge. This structure, from which a fine view of the town is obtained, is 210 feet in length, 27 in breadth, and 30 in height. The span of the arch is not less than 84 feet. At a short distance to the west of this, and quite adjacent to the canal, are the remains of the ancient castellated mansion of Blackhall, in bygone times a seat of the Ardgowan family. Crawfurd mentions that in his day the grounds of Blackhall "were adorned with beautiful planting." The glory, however, has now departed from the locality. The gardens and shrubbery are no more, while the edifice itself has a blackened and exceedingly dreary aspect. A few minutes’ walk from this hoary relic of the past brings us into the bustling centre of Paisley, where, in the meantime, we shall leave the reader to make the acquaintance of the "bodies" as he best may.

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