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Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland


A, Page 15, Vol. I - Parallel Roads

The country traditions are filled with anecdotes of the hunting expeditions of the Alpine kings. From these traditional authorities, the names of many remarkable objects in the neighbourhood of their ancient residence, particularly in Glenroy and Glenspean, are derived. Ossian, and the heroes celebrated in song, seem in a manner overlooked in the recollection of the later warriors and Nimrods. Since strangers and men of science have traversed these long-deserted regions, an irreconcileable feud of opinions has arisen between the Geologists and the Highlanders, regarding an uncommon conformation in Glenroy, a glen in Lochaber, remarkable for the height and perpendicularity of its sides, particularly of one of them. On the north side, at a considerable elevation above the stream, which flows along the bottom of the glen, there is a flat, or terrace, about seventy feet broad, having the appearance of a road formed on the side of the mountain, and running along, on a perfect level, to the extremity of the glen. Five hundred feet above this, there is another of these terraces, and still higher a third, all parallel, and of similar form. In English they are called Parallel Roads: the inhabitants know them by the name of the King's Hunting Roads. Geologists say that the glen was once full of water, up to the level of the highest parallel, which must have been formed by the action of the waters of this lake on the side of the hill. By some violence, however, an opening was made in the lower end of the glen that confined the water, in consequence of which it immediately fell as low as the second parallel, and formed it in the same manner as the first. Another opening of the same kind brought down the surface of the water to the third parallel, when, at length, that which confined the water giving way entirely, it subsided to the bottom of the glen, where it now runs, in a rapid stream, without obstruction. To this opinion the Highlanders object, that it is not probable that water, after the first declension, would remain so perfectly stationary as to form a second parallel of the same dimensions as the first, or that the second declension would be so regular in time, and the water so equal in its action, as to form a third terrace in every respect perfectly similar to the two others; that the glen is too narrow to allow the waves to act with sufficient force to form these broad levels; that, in the centre of the glen, which is narrow, the levels are the broadest and most perfect, whereas, on the upper end, which opens to a wide extent, allowing a large space for the wind and waves to act with superior force, the levels are contracted and less perfect; that on one side of the glen these terraces are broad, and of perfectly regular formation, while, on the other, they are narrow, and not so well formed ; and that, unless the wind blew always from the same quarter, waves would not roll with more force to one side of a piece of water than to another. In Glenspean, which is in the immediate neighbourhood, and in which similar appearances present themselves, the hills recede several miles from each other, leaving a wide expanse, on the sides of which, if the valley or strath had been filled with water, the waves would have acted with considerable force, and yet these roads, or terraces, are by no means so distinctly formed, and continuous, as in Glenroy. The Highlanders also urge the impossibility of water having ever been confined in Glenspean, without an improbable convulsion of nature, the lower end being of great width, and. open to the ocean. After stating these reasons, they triumphantly conclude by a query, Why do not other glens and straths in the Highlands exhibit natural appearances similar to those in the vicinity of the ancient residence of the Alpine kings ? Their own account, which they believe as firmly as they do their creed, is, that these roads were made for the hunting of the kings when at Inverlochay; that they were palisadoed on each side ; and that the game was driven through, affording the Royal Hunters time to destroy numbers before they could get to the end. As a confirmation of this account, they quote the names of the circumjacent places, which all bear an analogy to these huntings.

To these opinions, so opposite and difficult to reconcile, it is probable that each party will adhere.

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