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Summer at the Lake of Monteith

Among the many fertile, beautiful, and richly cultivated estates of the county of Stirling, none is more pleasantly associated, nor holds a higher place, than the ancient and interesting estate of Garden.

The mansion-house is beautifully situated on a commanding eminence at the foot of the sequestered glen of Arn-gibbon, one of the prettiest retreats in the west of Scotland. The spacious park in which the house stands is carefully adorned with grand old trees, rearing high their princely heads, and spreading wide their giant boughs, that have for ages welcomed the zephyrs of summer, and borne unscathed the hurricanes of winter, while conspicuous among their fellows stand some of the very finest silver firs in the kingdom.

The old castle of Garden stood a little to the north of where the present mansion is built, and on a small eminence in what was in early times a small lake, but now a fertile meadow. The castle was of the circular tower form, and in feudal days must have been considered impregnable, having been surrounded by water, and protected by a draw-bridge. Some distance to the north-west of the old castle was the “gallows-hill,” where poor offending wretches “gat the rape;” and, in the memory of some of the oldest inhabitants, there was to be seen a stone with an inscription denoting the felons’ names who ignominiously perished.

The glen of Arngibbon is about two miles in length, and may be termed “beautiful and interesting” rather than grand. The lower portion is finely ornamented with large trees of various kinds; and, farther on, the slopes are covered with fine young copsewood. Here the geologist may explore, the botanist roam, and the naturalist find instruction; while the lover of Nature’s beauties can admire the feathered banks that rise around him, and gaze on the fern-covered rocks that overhang his head in shattered masses, the moss and lichen clinging for life and sustenance to their brown faces—or look at the crystal stream as it tumbles over its rocky bed at his feet;—

“For o’er thy crags, with sullen roar,
The moorland waters loudly pour,
Leaping on from rock to rock,
Till plunging o’er with sullen shock,
It weareth deep the cavern riven,
That opes her yawning jaws to heaven.”

In several parts of the glen there are beautiful little cascades, the largest one being at the top, where the water from the moorland heights tumbles over a rock about fourteen feet high, forming a delightful pool beneath. Around, the rocks rise to a height of about sixty feet, their faces covered with lichen and fern, and their tops crowned with fantastic roots. At their base the wrecks of ages, torn from their slopes by the suns of summer and the winds of winter, lie scattered in the bed of the turbulent stream, washed by the waters of a thousand years.

By the kind permission of the proprietor, this exquisite retreat is left open to all who use the privilege with propriety; and I know of no other place where one can spend a leisure hour or two with more pleasure and profit than in the glen of Arngibbon. Here, in the quiet eventide, you can hearken to the hoarse croak of the raven, as it perches on some giant bough, or view it as it soars in beautiful circles high overhead, or listen to the feathered warblers as they chant their evening hymn, and fill the air with their melodies. You can watch the finny tribe as they sportive play in the pool, walled with granite and paved with rock. You can trace the wanderings of the tawny owl, as it feeds its tender young on yon shelving crag, and again goes a roving after other prey.

A little above the village of Arnprior stood the old castle of Arnfinlay, now completely erased.

The village of Arnprior is now solely the property of Mr. Stirling of Garden, and the stranger visiting it will not be disappointed. There is a commanding view of the vale of Monteith; and should he wish to see some of “my friends” in their glory, he ought to meet them after their third tumbler, when

“It kindles wit, it waukens lair,
It bangs us fou o’ knowledge.”

Adjoining the village is the beautiful little glen of that name, rendered for ever classic by the residence on its banks of Buchanan of Arnprior, the famous “King o’ Kippen,” and his descendants. This glen very much resembles that of Arngibbon, and need not be described. It is, however, remarkably interesting, and well repays a visit, the only drawback being that the walks have been allowed to disappear.

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