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Summer at the Lake of Monteith
A Sabbath on Ben-Lomond

It is a Saturday afternoon, early in summer. We are leaving the Port-of-Monteith station, with the grave intention of “doing” (as the Cockneys call it) Ben-Lomond on Sunday morning. Our clerical friends may call this Sabbath desecration, or anything else they choose —no matter. Here we are, rolling along the Forth & Clyde Railway towards Balloch; and, sweeping through the grand old country of the Lennox, we reach the foot of Loch-Lomond in time for the last boat to take us up the loch. As we set foot on board, a gentle breeze is sweeping down from the mountains, and ruffling the hitherto still waters of the Queen of Scottish Lakes. As our gallant craft ploughs the blue waters, and steers her course among riven rocks and feathered islands, our eye scans the distant shores where rise modern mansion and ancient feudal keep—the home of the merchant prince, and the abode of the war chief of other days. We see the pine-covered glens and barren mountain gorges, where, in days long gone by, the Macfarlane, Macaulay, and Colquhoun rushed forth, like their native torrents, to rob the plain, their faces with the scars of a hundred battles, and their limbs red with blood, as they mingled in fray and foray, and wreaked vengeance on the Buchanan.

We reach Rowerdennan just as the sun is sinking behind the hills, and day beginning to wane in the glens of the country of Rob Roy; and, after refreshing ourselves on the good things of the inn, we stroll along the shore, to muse on Nature’s glories, and inhale the balmy breeze of loch and hill. Slowly we tread the rugged beach, and examine the rocks smoothed by the waves of a thousand years, and grooved by the surge of icebergs of countless ages. All is still in the Highland glen, but ever and anon we are startled by the dismal wail of the owl, as it floats down the pass, or the cry of the sea-bird, as it returns from the feeding haunts away to its young on yonder island. By-and-by, night throws her sable garb around the hills, and the mist wades among the stinted hazels and creeps over the morass; while the moon, like an ill-washed face, peeps over the heathery knowe. We retire to rest;—and at the first streak of day we are at the window peering through the gloom. But, alas! the mist is far down on the mighty object of our ambition, the winds howl, and the window-curtains rattle; while the loch, like an angry beast, with breath of hate and tongue of foam, growling laps the shore, and, dull and disappointed, we creep back to our couch, and spend an hour or two more in dreamy repose.

By-and-by, we hear the old Highland clock strike three, when we again start to our feet, and rush towards the window. Now we find that the wind has stopped its raving, the curtains ceased to rattle, and the loch, no longer angry, playfully kisses the pebbles on the beach; while far between us and the blue vaulted heavens, Ben-Lomond, with clear head and frownless brow, looks down on the scene beneath. In every glen, bird sings to bird, rock and corry yielding back the chorus; while the glorious orb of day, uprisen from his hiding-place, is dotting the shattered hills with his tints, and filling each rugged glen with a flood of light. A few moments longer, sandwich in bag and flask in hand, we are treading the heather on towards the summit. The first mile, we find, somewhat resembles the journey of life, being largely composed of “ups and downs,” and not particularly interesting; but as we gradually ascend and pass on to the second mile, reaching a point where i Providence” has kindly “dug” a well, the scene deepens, and we have a beautiful view of the lower and broader portion of the loch.    ,

The sun is just high enough to peep over the shoulder of yon neighbouring crag, and as it flings its first rays over tinted, deep, and shaggy islands, we find we are gazing upon a scene perhaps unsurpassed in all Nature’s glories. The whole lower portion lies spread out before us, calm and shining like a vast mirror—the islands reposing on its surface,—while all seems a diadem in Nature’s lap. We are struck with the great diversity of shape and colour as they nestle in the morning sun; some with rocky face and heath-covered head shoot high in the air, their sides clothed with flowing birch and stately pine, stunted oak and rank fern, throwing their dark shadows far across the loch; others, with rocky surface and craggy headland, seem bleak and barren; while here and there may be seen reposing lowshaped green islands, almost covered by the tiny waves that play around them, and lying on the blue waters like so many emeralds. It is with difficulty we tear ourselves, away from the enjoyment of such a scene; but as the hilltop is free of mist and clear of cloud, we push on upwards —still upwards. As we tread over barren rock and stunted heather, we see the gull and the falcon hunting hill and glen, while the raven breaks the air with his cries, as he wheels in grand circles over our head.

By-and-by we reach the summit, and the glorious scene that bursts upon our awe-struck vision will haunt our memory and float before our imagination till our dying day. On either side, rise the scattered glories of the great Creator; beneath, are the glens of the nether world, dark and gloomy as they appear. Around, we see mountain rise over mountain in sublime magnificence; there, huge dark forms splintered into a thousand shapes. There, too, lies the sweeping plain, dotted with loch and watered by river; yonder the smiling Lowland village and snug Highland hamlet; beyond, the great City, where commerce rolls her busy tide, discernible only by the dim pall of smoke that throws its sable tresses over it. Towards the west, we have the hills of Arrochar, with ever and anon a peep of Loch-Long between. Conspicuous among the hills stands the “Cobbler,” with furrowed face and bent back; farther north, Ben-Voirlich (Ben-Lomond’s twin brother) rears his noble head. Sweeping along the northern horizon our eye rests on the proud summits of Ben-Cruachan, Ben-More, and Ben-Lawers, with a thousand hills between. On the east, we have the hills that overawe Loch-Katrine; with the Alpine ranges of Loch-Tay and Loch-Earn in the back-ground. Towards the south, we have the Vale of Monteith, with its varied landscape; while Loch-Chon, Loch-Ard, and the Lake of Monteith lie slumbering beneath heathery hills, and shaded by golden-tinted foliage. Beyond, in one unbroken plain, stretches the Carse of Stirling, with the Castle rock and Abbey Craig rising through the haze; while far beyond is the sea-girt shore of the Frith of Forth. From beneath our feet spring innumerable tiny rills, which, strengthened by the streams that gurgle from the parent hill—like blood from wounded giant’s side—and pours forth their waters, that in the plain become rivers, and swell out into billowy seas.

While enraptured we stand gazing on the wonderful panorama before us, we are startled by a low sort of playfully prattling noise; and on lookinground we findthatthe summer cloud is fast gathering beyond, and that the mist is coming hissing up the hill-side. Watching it, as it comes rushing through the riven crags, it reminds one of some half-dozen urchins climbing up their grandfather’s old rickety chair, each trying who will be first to place his tiny hand on the bald head. Upwards still climbs the fog, and in a moment we are enveloped in impenetrable gloom. By-and-by the mist settles down; and, starting to our feet, a sense of awful loneliness steals over us. We imagine ourselves some sea-bird perched on lonely rock, and far from shore; for, far as the eye can reach there is mist—only mist, with here and there the top of some mountain piercing the thick veil—like islands in a vast sea.

Soon a gentle breeze springs up from the north—and, in a thousand forms, back is rolled the sable mantle; then, bursting through the shattered folds emerges the sun—and, shining through the watery vapour, spans the neighbouring hill-top with a rainbow most beautiful to behold. As we viewed the scenes as they passed before us with mingled feelings of pleasure and awe, we felt a hallowed sensation thrill through our souls, as if we had left mortality behind us, and had plucked a feather out of seraphic wing.

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