Picture of Thomas Pennant

Thomas Pennant

places mentioned

August 30-September 5: The Great Glen and Argyll

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AUG. 30.

Made an excursion ten miles South of Inverness to Moy-hall , pleasantly seated at the end of a small but beautiful lake of the same name, full of Trout, and Char , called in the Erse, Tarr-dheargnaich , and in the Scotch , Red Weems. This water is about two miles and a half long, and half a mile broad, adorned with two or three isles prettily wooded. Each side is bounded by hills cloathed at the bottom with trees; and in front, at the distance of thirty miles, is the great mountain of Karn-gorm , patched with show.


This place is called Starshnach-nan-gai'l , or the threshold of the Highlands, being a very natural and strongly marked entrance from the North. This is the seat of the Clan Chattan , or the M'Intoshes , once a powerful people: in the year 1715, fifteen hundred took the field; but in 1745, scarce half that number: like another Absalom , their fair mistress was in that year supposed to have stolen their hearts from her Laird their chieftain: but the severest loyalist must admit some extenuation of their error, in yielding to the insinuations of so charming a seducer.

Here is preserved the sword of James V. given by that monarch to the captain of Clan Chattan , with the privilege of holding the King's sword at all coronations; on the blade is the word JESUS. That of the gallant Viscount Dundee is also kept here. The first was a consecrated sword presented to James in 1514, by Leo X. by the hands of his Legate.200 This antient family was as respectable as it was powerful; and that from very old times. Of this the following relation is sufficient evidence. In 1341 a Monro of Foulis 201 having met with some affront from the inhabitants of Strathardule , between Perth and Athol , determined on revenge, collected his clan, marched, made his inroad, and returned with a large booty of cattle. As he passed by Moy-hall , this threshold of the Highlands, the Mac-Intosh of 1454 sent to demand the Stike Creich or Road Collop , being a certain part of the booty, challenged according to an ancient custom by the chieftains for liberty of passing with it through their territories. Monro acquiesced in the demand, and offered a reasonable share; but not less than half would content the chieftain of Clan Chattan : this was refused; a battle ensued near Kessock ; Mac-Intosh was killed; Monro lost his hand, but from that accident acquired the name of Back-Lawighe : and thus ended the conflict of Clagh-ne-herey .

Boethius relates, that in his time Inverness was greatly frequented by merchants from Germany , who purchased here the furs of several sorts of wild beasts;202 and that wild horses were found in great abundance in that neighborhood: that the country yielded a great deal of wheat and other corn, and quantities of nuts and apples. At present there is a trade in the skins of Deer, Roes, and other beasts, which the Highlanders bring down to the fairs. There happened to be one at this time: the commodities were skins, various necessaries brought in by the Pedlars, coarse country cloths, cheese, butter and meal; the last in goat-skin bags; the butter lapped in cawls, or leaves of the broad alga or tang; and great quantities of birch wood and hazel cut into lengths for carts, &c. which had been floated down the river from Loch-Ness .


The fair was a very agreeable circumstance, and afforded a most singular groupe of Highlanders in all their motly dresses. Their brechan , or plaid, consists of twelve or thirteen yards of a narrow stuff, wrapt round the middle, and reaches to the knees: is often fastened round the middle with a belt, and is then called brechan-feill ; but in cold weather is large enough to wrap round the whole body from head to feet; and this often is their only cover, not only within doors, but on the open hills during the whole night. It is frequently fastened on the shoulders with a pin often of silver, and before with a brotche (like the fibula of the Romans) which is sometimes of silver, and both large and extensive; the old ones have very frequently mottos.

The stockings are short, and are tied below the knee. The cuaran is a sort of laced shoe made of a skin with the hairy side out but now seldom worn. The truis were worn by the gentry, and were breeches and stockings made of one piece.

The color of their dress was various, as the word breaccan implies, being dyed with stripes of the most vivid hues: but they sometimes affected the duller colors, such as imitated those of the Heath in which they often reposed: probably from a principle of security in time of war, as one of the Scotch Poets seems to insinuate.

Virgata gaudent varii quæ est veste coloris,
Purpureum et deamant fere cæruleumque colorem;
Verum nunc plures fuscum magis, æmula frondi
Quæque erecina adamant, ut ne lux florida vestis
Splendentis prodat recubantes inque ericetis.

                                Andreæ Melvini Topogr. Scotiæ.

The feil-beg , i.e. little plaid, also called kelt , is a sort of short petticoat reaching only to the knees, and is a modern substitute for the lower part of the plaid, being found to be less cumbersome, especially in time of action, when the Highlanders used to tuck their brechcan into their girdle. Almost all have a great pouch of badger and other skins, with tassels dangling before. In this they keep their tobacco and money.


Their antient arms were the Lochaber ax, now used by none but the town-guard of Edinburgh ; a tremendous weapon, better to be expressed by a figure than words.203

The broad-sword and target; with the last they covered themselves, with the first reached their enemy at a great distance. These were their antient weapons, as appears by Tacitus ;204 but since the disarming act, are scarcely to be met with: partly owing to that, partly to the spirit of industry now rising among them, the Highlanders in a few years will scarce know the use of any weapon.

Bows and arrows were used in war as late as the middle of the last century, as I find in a manuscript life of Sir Ewen Cameron .

The dirk was a sort of dagger stuck in the belt. I frequently saw this weapon in the shambles of Inverness , converted into a butcher's knife, being, like Hudibras's dagger,

                A serviceable dudgeon,
Either for fighting or for drudging.

The disk was a weapon used by the antient Caledonians ; for Die Gassius , in his account of the expedition of Severus , mentions it under the name of ,205 Pugio or little Dagger .

The Mattucashlask , or arm-pit dagger, was worn there ready to be used on coming to close quarters. These, with a pistol stuck in the girdle, completely armed the Highlander.206


It will be fit to mention here the method the Chieftains took formerly to assemble the clans for any military expedition. In every clan there is a known place of rendezvous, styled Carn a whin , to which they must resort on this signal. A person is sent out full speed with a pole burnt at one end and bloody at the other, and with a cross at the top, which is called Crosh-tàrie , the cross of shame,207 or the fiery cross; the first from the disgrace they would undergo if they declined appearing; the second from the penalty of having fire and sword carried through their country, in case of refusal. The first bearer delivers it to the next person he meets, he running full speed to the third, and so on. In every clan the bearer had a peculiar cry of war; that of the Macdonalds was Freich , or heath; that of the Grants, Craig-Elachie ; of the Mac-kenzies, Tullickard .208 In the late rebellion, it was sent by some unknown dissaffected hand through the county of Breadalbane , and passed through a tract of thirty-two miles in three hours, but without effect.


The women's dress is the kirch , or a white piece of linen, pinned over the foreheads of those that are married, and round the hind part of the head, falling behind over their necks. The single women wear only a ribband round their head, which they call a snood. The tonnag , or plaid, hangs over their shoulders, and is fastened before with a brotche; but in bad weather is drawn over their heads: I have also observed during divine service, that they keep drawing it forward in proportion as their attention increases; insomuch as to conceal at last their whole face, as if it was to exclude every external object that might interrupt their devotion. In the county of Breadalbane , many wear, when in high dress, a great pleated stocking of an enormous length, called ossan preassach : in other respects, their dress resembles that of women of the same rank in England : but their condition is very different, being little better than Slaves to our sex.


This custom of covering the face was in old times abused, and made subservient to the purpose of intrigue. By the sumptuary law of James II. in 1457, it was expressly prohibited. It directs that Na woman cum to kirk, nor to mercat, with hir face muffalled or covered, that sche may not be kend, under the pane of escheit of the courchie . I suspect much, that the head-dresses of the ladies were at that time of the present fashionable altitude; for the same statute even prescribes the mode of that part of apparel, as well as others. For, after directions given to regulate the dress of the men, they are told to make their wives and dauchters in like manner be abuilzed, ganand and correspondant for their estate, that is to say, on their head short curches with little bubbles, as ar used in Flanders, England, and other countries; and as to their gownes, that na women weare mertrickes ,209 nor letteis, nor tailes unfits in length, nor furred under, bot on a halieday .


The manners of the native Highlanders may justly be expressed in these words: indolent to a high degree, unless roused to war, or to any animating amusement; or I may say, from experience, to lend any disinterested assistance to the distressed traveller, either in directing him on his way, or affording their aid in passing the dangerous torrents of the Highlands: hospitable to the highest degree, and full of generosity: are much affected with the civility of strangers, and have in themselves a natural politeness and address, which often flows from the meanest when lest expected. Thro' my whole tour I never met with a single instance of national reflection! their forbearance proves them to be superior to the meanness of retaliation: I fear they pity us; but I hope not indiscriminately. Are excessively inquisitive after your business, your name, and other particulars of little consequence to them: most curious after the politicks of the world, and when they can procure an old newspaper, will listen to it with all the avidity of Shakespear's blacksmith. Have much pride, and consequently are impatient of affronts, and revengeful of injuries. Are decent in their general behaviour; inclined to superstition, yet attentive to the duties of religion, and are capable of giving a most distinct account of the principles of their faith. But in many parts of the Highlands, their character begins to be more faintly marked; they mix more with the world, and become daily less attached to their chiefs: the clans begin to disperse themselves through different parts of the country, finding that their industry and good conduct afford them better protection (since the due execution of the laws) than any their chieftain can afford; and the chieftain tasting the sweets of advanced rents, and the benefits of industry, dismisses from his table the crowds of retainers, the former instruments of his oppression and freakish tyranny.


Most of the antient sports of the Highlanders, such as archery, hunting, fowling and fishing, are now disused: those retained are, throwing the putting-stone , or stone of strength ,210 as they call it, which occasions an emulation who can throw a weighty one the farthest. Throwing the penny-stone , which answer to our coits. The shinty , or the striking of a ball of wood or of hair: this game is played between two parties in a large plain, and furnished with clubs; whichever side strikes it first to their own goal wins the match.


The amusements by their fire-sides were, the telling of tales, the wildest and most extravagant imaginable: musick was another: in former times, the harp was the favorite instrument, covered with leather and strung with wire,211 but at present is quite lost. Bag-pipes are supposed to have been introduced by the Danes ; this is very doubtful, but shall be taken notice of in the next volume: the oldest are played with the mouth, the loudest and most earpiercing of any wind musick.; the other, played with the fingers only, are of Irish origin; the first suited the genius of this warlike people, roused their courage to battle, alarmed them when secure, and collected them when scattered. This instrument is become scarce since the abolition of the power of the chieftains, and the more industrious turn of the common people.

The Trump or Jew's Harp 212 would not merit the mention among the Highland instruments of mufick, if it was not to prove its origin and antiquity: one made of gilt brass having been found in Norway ,213 deposited in an urn.

Vocal musick was much in vogue amongst them, and their songs were chiefly in praise of their antient heroes. I was told that they still have fragments of the story of Fingal and others, which they carrol as they go along; these vocal traditions are the foundation of the works of Ossian .

AUG. 31.

Leave Inverness , and continue my journey West for some time by the river-side: have a fine view of the plain, the Tomman , the town, and the distant hills. After the ride of about six miles reached Loch-Ness ,214 and enjoyed along its banks a most romantic and beautiful scenery, generally in woods of birch, or hazel, mixed with a few holly, whitethorn, aspen, ash, and oak, but open enough in all parts to admit a fight of the water. Sometimes the road was strait for a considerable distance, and resembled a fine and regular avenue; in others it wound about the sides of the hills which overhung the lake: the road was frequently cut thro' the rock, which on one side formed a solid wall; on the other, a steep precipice. In many parts we were immersed in woods; in others, they opened and gave a view of the sides and tops of the vast mountains soaring above: some of these were naked, but in general covered with wood, except on the mere precipices, or where the grey rocks denied vegetation, or where the heath, now glowing with purple blossoms, covered the surface. The form of these hills was very various and irregular, either broken into frequent precipices, or lowering into rounded summits cloathed with trees; but not so close but to admit a sight of the sky between them. Thus, for many miles, there was no possibility of cultivation; yet this tract was occupied by diminutive cattle, by Sheep, or by Goats: the last were pied, and lived most luxuriously on the tender branches of the trees. The wild animals that possessed this picturesque scene were Stags and Roes, black game, and Grous; and on the summits, white Hares and Ptarmigans. Foxes are so numerous and voracious, that the farmers are sometimes forced to house their Sheep, as is done in France , for fear of the wolves.215

Castle Urquhart.


The North side of Loch-Ness is far less beautiful than the South. In general, the hills are less high, but very steep; in a very few places covered with brush-wood, but in general very naked, from the sliding of the strata down their sloping sides. About the middle is Castle Urquhart , a fortress founded on a rock projecting into the lake, and was said to have been the seat of the once powerful Cummins , and to have been destroyed by Edward I. Near it is the broadest part of the Loch, occasioned by a bay near the castle.


Above is Glen-Moriston , and East of that Straith-Glas , the Chisolm's country; in both of which are forests of pines, where that rare bird the Cock of the Wood is still to be met with; perhaps in those near Castle Grant? Formerly was common throughout the Highlands, and was called Capercalze , and Auercalze ; and in the old law-books, Capercally . The variety of the black game, mentioned by M. Brisson under the name of Coq. de Bruyere piquetè was a mixed breed between these two birds; but I could not hear that any at present were to be found in North Britain. Linnaeus has met with them in Sweden , and describes them under the title of Tetrao cauda bifurca subtus albo punctata . At Glen-Moriston is a manufacture of linnen, where forty girls at a time are taught for three months to spin, and then another forty taken in: there are besides six looms, and all supported out of the forfeited lands.

Cock of the Wood.

Above is the great mountain Meal Fourvounich , the first land sailors make from the East sea.

I was informed that in that neighborhood are glens and cascades of surprising beauty, but my time did not permit me to visit them.

Dined at a poor inn near the General's Hut , or the place where General Wade resided when he inspected the great work of the roads, and gave one rare example of making the soldiery useful in time of peace. Near is a fine glen covered at the bottom with wood, through which runs a torrent rising Southward. The country also is prettily varied with woods and corn-fields.


About a mile farther is the fall of Fyers , a vast cataract, in a darksome glen of a stupendous depth; the water darts far beneath the top thro' a narrow gap between two rocks, then precipitates above forty feet lower into the bottom of the chasm, and the foam, like a great cloud of smoke, rises and fills the air. The sides of this glen are vast precipices mixed with trees over-hanging the water, through which, after a short space, the waters discharge themselves into the lake.

About half a mile South of the first fall is another passing through a narrow chasm, whose sides it has undermined for a considerable way: over the gap is a true Alpine bridge of the bodies of trees covered with sods, from whose middle is an aweful view of the water roaring beneath.

At the fall of Foher the road quits the side of the lake, and is carried for some space through a small vale on the side of the river Fyers , where is a mixture of small plains of corn and rocky hills.

Upper Fall of Fyers.

Then succeeds a long and dreary moor, a tedious ascent up the mountain See-chuimin or Cummin's Seat, whose summit is of a great height and very craggy. Descend a steep road, leave on the right Loch-Taarf , a small irregular piece of water, decked with little wooded isles, and abounding with Char . After a second steep descent, reach


Fort Augustus ,216 a small fortress, seated on a plain at the head of Loch-Ness , between the rivers Taarf and Oich ; the last is considerable, and has over it a bridge of three arches. The fort consists of four bastions; within is the Governor's house, and barracks for 400 men: it was taken by the Rebels in 1746, who immediately deserted it, after demolishing what they could.


Loch-Ness is twenty-two miles in length; the breadth from one to two miles, except near Castle Urquhart , where it swells out to three. The depth is very great; opposite to the rock called the Horse Shoe , near the West end, it has been found to be 140 fathoms. From an eminence near the fort is a full view of its whole extent, for it is perfectly strait, running from East to West, with a point to the South. The boundary from the fall of Fyers is very steep and rocky, which obliged General Wade to make that detour from its banks, partly on account of the expence in cutting through so much solid rock, partly through an apprehension that in case of a rebellion the troops might be destroyed in their march, by the tumbling down of stones by the enemy from above: besides this, a prodigious arch must have been flung over the Glen of Fyers .


This lake, by reason of its great depth, never freezes, and during cold weather a violent steam rises from it as from a furnace. Ice brought from other parts, and put into Loch-Ness , instantly thaws; but no water freezes sooner than that of the lake when brought into a house. Its water is esteemed very salubrious; so that people come or fend thirty miles for it: old Lord Lovat in particular made constant use of it. But it is certain, whether it be owing to the water, or to the air of that neighborhood, that for seven years the garrison of Fort Augustus had not lost a single man.

The fish of this lake are Salmon, which are in season from Christmas to Midsummer , Trouts of about 2 lb. weight, Pikes and Eels. During winter it is frequented by Swans and other wild fowls.

The greatest rise of water in Loch-Ness is fourteen feet. The lakes from whence it receives its supplies are Loch-Oich, Loch-Garrie , and Loch-Quich . There is but very little navigation on it; the only vessel is a gally belonging to the fort, to bring the stores from the East end, the river Ness being too shallow for navigation.


It is violently agitated by the winds, and at times the waves are quite mountanous. November 1st, 1755, at the same time as the earthquake at Lisbon , these waters were affected in a very extraordinary manner: they rose and flowed up the lake from East to West with vast impetuosity, and were carried above 200 yards up the river Oich , breaking on its banks in a wave near three feet high; then then continued ebbing and flowing for the space of an hour: but at eleven o'clock a wave greater than any of the rest came up the river, broke on the North side, and overflowed the bank for the extent of 30 feet. A boat near the General's Hut , loaden with brush-wood, was thrice driven ashore, and twice carried back again; but the last time, the rudder was broken,, the wood forced out, and the boat filled with water and left on shore. At the same time, 'a little isle, in a small loch in Badenoch , was totally reversed and flung on the beach. But at both these places no agitation was felt on land.

SEPT. 1.

Rode to the castle of Tor down , a rock two miles West of Fort Augustus : on the summit is an antient fortress. The face of this rock is a precipice; on the accessible side is a strong dyke of loose stones; above that a ditch, and a little higher a terrass supported by stones: on the top a small oval area, hollow in the middle: round this area, for the depth of near twelve feet, are a quantity of stones strangely cemented with almost vitrified matter, and in some places quite turned into black scoria : the stones were generally, granite, mixed with a few grit-stones of a kind not found nearer the place than 40 miles. Whether this was the antient site of some forge, or whether the stones which form this fortress217 had been collected from the strata of some Vulcano , (for the vestiges of such are said to have been found in the Highlands) I submit to farther enquiry.

From this rock is a view of Ben-ki , a vast craggy mountain above Glen-Garrie's country. Towards the South is the high mountain Coryarich : the ascent from this side is nine miles, but on the other the descent into Badenoch is very rapid, and not above one, the road being, for the ease of the traveller, cut into a zig-zag fashion. People often perish on the summit of this hill, which is frequently visited during winter with dreadful storms of snow.

SEPT. 2.

After a short ride Westward along the plain, reach Loch-Oich a narrow lake; the sides prettily indented, and the water adorned with small wooded isles. On the shore is Glen-Garrie , the seat of Mr. M'Donald , almost surrounded with wood, and not far distant is the ruin of the old castle. This lake is about four miles long; the road on the South side is excellent, and often carried through very pleasant woods.


After a small interval arrive on the banks of Loch-Lochy , a fine piece of water fourteen miles long, and from one to two broad The distant mountains on the North were of an immense height; those on the South had the appearance of sheep-walks. The road is continued on the side of the lake about eight miles. On the opposite shore was Achnacarrie , once the seat of Cameron of Lochiel but burnt in 1746. He was esteemed by all parties the honestest and most sensible man of any that embarked in the pernicious and absurd attempt of that and the preceding year, and was a melancholy instance of a fine understanding and a well-intending heart over-powered by the unhappy prejudices of education. By his influence he prevented the Rebels from committing several excesses and even saved the city of Glasgow from being plundered, when their army returned out of England , irritated with their disappointment, and enraged at the loyalty that city had shewn. The Pretender came to him as soon as ever he landed. Lochiel seeing him arrive in so wild a manner, and so unsupported, entreated him to desist from an enterprize from which nothing but certain ruin could result to him and his partizans. The adventurer grew warm, and reproached Lochiel with a breach of promise. This affected him so deeply, that he instantly went and took a tender and moving leave of his lady and family, imagining he was on the point of parting with them for ever. The income of his estate was at that time, as I was told, not above 700 l. per annum , yet he brought fourteen hundred men into the field.


The waters of this lake form the river Lochy , and discharge themselves into the Western sea, as those of Loch-Oich do through Loch-Ness into the Eastern. About the beginning of this lake enter Lochaber ;218 stop at Low-bridge , a poor house; travel over a black moor for some miles; see abundance of cattle, but scarce any corn. Cross


High-bridge , a fine bridge of three arches flung over the torrent Spean , founded on rocks; two of the arches are 95 feet high. This bridge was built by General Wade , in order to form a communication with the country. These public works were at first very disagreeable to the old Chieftains, and lessened their influence greatly; for by admitting strangers among them, their clans were taught that the Lairds were not the first of men. But they had another reason much more solid: Lochaber had been a den of thieves; and as long as they had their waters, their torrents and their bogs, in a state of nature, they made their excursions, could plunder and retreat with their booty in full security. So weak were the laws in many parts of North Britain , till after the late rebellion, that no stop could be put to this infamous practice. A contribution, called the Black-meal , was raised by several of these plundering chieftains over a vast extent of country: whoever paid it had their cattle ensured, but those who dared to refuse were sure to suffer. Many of these free-booters were wont to insert an article, by which they were to be released from their agreement, in case of any civil commotion: thus, at the breaking out of the last rebellion, a M'Gregor ,219 who had with the strictest honor (till that event) preserved his friends' cattle, immediately sent them word, that from that time they were out of his protection, and must now take care of themselves. Barrisdale was another of this class, chief of a band of robbers, who spread terror over the whole country: but the Highlanders at that time esteemed the open theft of cattle, or the making a creach (as they call it) by no means dishonorable; and the young men considered it as a piece of gallantry, by which they recommended themselves to their mistresses. On the other side there was often as much bravery in the pursuers; for frequent battles ensued, and much blood has been spilt on these occasions. They also shewed great dexterity in tracing the robbers, not only through the boggy land, but over the firmest ground, and even over places where other cattle had pasted, knowing well how to distinguish the steps of those that were wandering about from those that were driven hastily away by the Free-booters.

From the road had a distant view of the mountains of Arisaig , beyond which were Moydart , Kinloch , &c. At the end of Loch-Shiel the Pretender first set up his standard in the wildest place that imagination can frame: and in this sequestered spot, amidst ancient prejudices, and prevaling ignorance of the blessings of our happy constitution, the strength of the rebellion lay.


Pass by the side of the river Lochy , now considerable. See Inverlochy Castle , with large round towers, which, by the mode of building, seems to have been the work of the English , in the time of Edward I. who laid large fines on the Scotch Barons for the purpose of erecting new castles. The largest of these towers is called, Cummin's . But long prior to these ruins Inverlochy had been a place of great note, a most opulent city, remarkable for the vast resort of French and Spaniards ,220 probably on account of trade. It was also a seat of the Kings of Scotland , for here Achaius in the year 790 signed (as is reported) the league offensive and defensive, between himself and Charlemagne . In aftertimes it was utterly destroyed by the Danes , and never again restored.

In the neighborhood of this place were fought two fierce battles, one between Donald Balloch brother to Alexander lord of the isles, who with a great power invaded Lochaber in the year 1427: he was met by the Earls of Mar and Cathness ; the last was slain, and their forces totally defeated.221 Balloch returned to the isles with vast booty, the object of those plundering chieftains. Here also the Campbels under the Marquis of Argyle in February 1645, received from Montrose , an overthrow fatal to numbers of that gallant name. Fifteen hundred fell in the action, and in the pursuit, with the loss only of three to the Royalists. Sir Thomas Oglevie the friend of Montrose died of his wounds. His death suppressed all joy for the victory.

At Inverlochy is Fort William , built in King William's reign; as was a small town near it, called Maryborough , in honor of his queen; but prior to that, had been a small fortress, erected by General Monk , with whose people the famous Sir Ewen Cameron 222 had numerous contests. The present fort is a triangle, has two bastions, and is capable of admitting a garrison of eight hundred men. It was well defended against the Rebels in 1746, who raised the siege with much disgrace. It was also attempted by those of 1715, but without success. The fort lies on a narrow arm of the sea, called Lochiel , which extends some miles higher up the country, making a bend to the North, and extends likewise Westward towards the isle of Mull , near twenty-four Scotch miles.


This fort on the West, and Fort Augustus in the centre, and Fort George on the East, form what is called the chain , from sea to sea. This space is called Glen-more , or the great Glen, which, including water and land, is almost a level of seventy miles. There is, in fact, but little land, but what is divided by firth, loch, or river; except the two miles which lie between Loch-Oich and Loch-Lochy , called Lagan-achadrom . By means of Fort George , all entrance up the Firth towards Inverness is prevented. Fort Augustus curbs the inhabitants midway, and Fort William is a check to any attempts in the West. Detachments are made from all these garrisons to Inverness Bernera barracks opposite to the Isle of Skie , and Castle Duart in the Isle of Mull .223 Other small parties are also scattered in huts throughout the country, to prevent the stealing of cattle.


Fort William is surrounded by vast mountains, which occasion almost perpetual rain: the loftiest are on the South side; Benevish soars above the rest, and ends, as I was told, in a point, (at this time concealed in mist) whose height from the sea is said to be 1450 yards. As an antient Briton , I lament the disgrace of Snowdon ; once esteemed the highest hill in the island, but now must yield the palm to a Caledonian mountain. But I have my doubts whether this might not be rivaled, or perhaps surpassed, by others in the same country; for example, Ben y bourd , a central hill, from whence to the sea there is a continued and rapid descent of seventy miles, as may be seen by the violent course of the Dee to Aberdeen . But their height has not yet been taken, which to be done fairly must be from the sea. Benevish , as well as many others, harbours snow throughout the year.

The bad weather which reigned during my stay in these parts, prevented me from visiting the celebrated parallel roads in Glen-Roy . As I am unable to satisfy the curiosity of the Reader from my own observation, I shall deliver in the Appendix the information I could collect relating to these amazing works.


The great produce of Lochaber is cattle: that district alone sends out annually 3000 head; but if a portion of Invernessshire is included, of which this properly is part, the number is 10,000. There are also a few horses bred here, and a very few sheep; but of late several have been imported. Scarce any arable land, for the excessive wet which reigns here almost totally prevents the growth of corn, and what little there is fit for tillage sets at ten shillings an acre. The inhabitants of this district are therefore obliged, for their support, to import six thousand bolls of oatmeal annually, which cost about 4000 l.; the rents are about 3000 l. per annum ; the return for their cattle is about 7500 l.; the horses may produce some trifle; so that the tenants must content themselves with a very, scanty subsistence, without the prospect of saving the lest against unforeseen accidents. The rage of raising rents has reached this distant country: in England there may be reason for it, (in a certain degree) where the value of lands is increased by accession of commerce, and by the rise of provisions: but here (contrary to all policy) the great men begin at the wrong end, with squeezing the bag, before they have helped the poor tenant to fill it, by the introduction of manufactures. In many of the isles this already, shews its unhappy effect, and begins to depopulate the country; for numbers of families have been obliged to give up the strong attachment the Scots in general have for, their country, and to exchange it for the wilds of America .

The houses of the peasants in Lochaber are the most wretched that can be imagined; framed of upright poles, which are wattled; the roof is formed of boughs like a wigwam , and the whole is covered with sods; so that in this moist climate their cottages have a perpetual and much finer verdure than the rest of the country.

Salmons are taken in these parts as late as May ; about 50 tons are caught in the season. These fish never appear so early on this coast as on the Eastern.

Phinocs are taken here in great numbers, 1500 having been taken at a draught. They come in August , and disappear in November . They are about a foot long, their color grey, spotted with black, their flesh red; rise eagerly to a fly. The fishermen suppose them to be the young of what they call a great Trout, weighing 30 lb. which I suppose is the Grey .224

SEPT. 4.

Left Fort William , and proceeded South along the military road on the side of a hill, an aweful height above Loch-Leven ,225 a branch of the sea, so narrow as to have only the appearance of a river, bounded on both sides with vast mountains, among whose winding bottoms the tide rolled in with solemn majesty. The scenery begins to grow very romantic; on the West side are some woods of birch and pines: the hills are very lofty, many of them taper to a point; and my old friend, the late worthy Bishop Pocock , compared the shape of one to mount Tabor . Beneath them is Glen-Co , infamous for the massacre of its inhabitants in 1691, and celebrated for having (as some assert) given birth to Ossian ; towards the North is Morven , the country of his hero Fingal .


The scenery226 of this valley is far the most picturesque of any in the Highlands, being so wild and uncommon that it never fails to attract the eye of every stranger of the lest degree of taste or sensibility. The entrance to it is strongly marked by the craggy mountain of Buachal-ety , a little West of the King's house . All the other mountains of Glen-Co resemble it, and are evidently but naked and solid rocks, rising on each side perpendicularly to a great height from a flat narrow bottom, so that in many places they seem to hang over, and make approaches, as they aspire, towards each other. The tops of the ridge of hills on one side are irregularly serrated for three or four miles, and shot in places into spires, which form the most magnificent part of the scenery above Ken-Loch-Leven . In the middle of the valley is a small lake, and from it runs the river Coäaut;n , or Cona , celebrated in the works of Ossian . Indeed no place could be more happily calculated than this for forming the taste and inspiring the genius of such a poet.


The principal native animals on the mountains of Glen-Co are Red Deer, Alpine Hares, Foxes, Eagles, Ptarmigans, and a few moor-fowl. It is remarkable that the common Hare was never seen either here, in Glen-Creran , or Glen-Ety , till the military roads were made. The Partridge is a bird but lately known here, and is still rare. There are neither rats nor vipers.


In Glen-Co are six farms, forming a rent of 241 l. per annum ; the only crops are oats, bear and potatoes. The increase of oats is three bolls and a half from one; of bear four or five. But the inhabitants cannot subsist upon their harvest: about three hundred pounds worth of meal is annually imported. They sell about seven hundred hundred pounds worth of black cattle; but keep only sheep and goats for the use of private families: neither butter or cheese is made for sale. The men servants are paid in kind; and commonly married.

Glen-Co lies in the united parish of Lismore and Appin , and contains227 about four hundred inhabitants, who are visited occasionally by a preacher from Appin.

Leave on the left a vast cataract, precipitating itself in a great foaming sheet between two lofty perpendicular rocks, with trees growing out of the fissures, forming a large stream, called the water of Boan .


Breakfast at the little village of Kinloch-Leven on most excellent minced stag, the only form I thought that animal good in.

Near this village is a single farm fourteen miles long, which lets for only 35 l. per annum ; and from the nature of the soil, perhaps not very cheap.


Saw here a Quern , a sort of portable mill, made of two stones about two feet broad, thin at the edges, and a little thicker in the middle. In the centre of the upper stone is a hole to pour in the corn, and a peg by way of handle. The whole is placed on a cloth; the grinder pours the corn into the hole with one hand, and with the other turns round the upper stone with a very rapid motion, while the meal runs out at the sides on the cloth. This is rather preserved as a curiosity, being much out of use at present. Such are supposed to be the same with what are common among the Moors , being the simple substitute of a mill.


Immediately after leaving Kinloch-Leven the mountains soar to a far greater height than before; the sides are covered with wood, and the bottoms of the glens filled with torrents that roar amidst the loose stones. After a ride of two miles begin to ascend the black mountain , in Argyleshire , on a steep road, which continues about three miles almost to the summit, and is certainly the highest publick road in Great Britain . On the other side the descent is scarce a mile, but is very rapid down a zig-zag way. Reach the King's house, seated in a plain: it was built for the accommodation of his Majesty's troops, in their march through this desolate country, but is in a manner unfurnished.


Pass near Loch-Talla , a long narrow piece of water, with a small pine wood on its side. A few weather-beaten pines and birch appear scattered up and down, and in all the bogs great numbers of roots, that evince the forest that covered the country within this half century. These were the last pines which I saw growing spontaneously in North Britain . The pine forests are become very rare: I can enumerate only those on the banks of Loch-Rannoch , at Invercauld , and Brae-mar ; at Coygach and Dirry-Monach : the first in Straithnavern , the last in Sutherland . Those about Loch-Loyn , Glen-Moriston , and Straith-Glas ; a small one near Loch-Garrie ; another near Loch-Arkig , and a few scattered trees above Kinloch-Leven , all in Invernessshire ; and I was also informed that there are very considerable woods about Castle-Grant . I saw only one species of Pine in those I visited; nor could I learn whether there was any other other than what is vulgarly called the Scotch Fir , whose synonyms are these:

Pinus sylvestris foliis brevibus glaucis, conis parvis albentibus . Raii hist. Pl. 1401. syn. stirp. Br. 442.

Pinus sylvestris . Gerard's herb. 1356. Lin. sp. Pl. 1418. Flora Angl. 361.

Pin d'Ecosse, ou de Geneve . Du Hamel Traité des Arbres. II. 125. No. 5.

Fyrre . Strom. Sondmor. 12.

Most of this long day's journey from the black mountain was truely melancholy, almost one continued scene of dusky moors, without arable land, trees, houses, or living creatures, for numbers of miles. The names of the wild tracts I passed through were, Buachil ety, Corricha-ba , and Bendoran .

The roads are excellent; but from Fort-William to Kinloch-Leven , very injudiciously planned, often carried far about, and often so steep as to be scarce surmountable; whereas had the engineer followed the track used by the inhabitants, those inconveniences would have been avoided.


These roads, by rendering the highlands accessible, contributed much to their present improvement, and were owing to the industry of our soldiery; they were begun in 1723,228 under the directions of Gen. Wade, who, like another Hannibal , forced his way through rocks supposed to have been unconquerable: many of them hang over the mighty lakes of the country, and formerly afforded no other road to the natives than the paths of sheep or goats, where even the Highlander crawled with difficulty, and kept himself from tumbling into the far-subjacent water by clinging to the plants and bushes of the rock. Many of these rocks were too hard to yield to the pick-ax, and the miner was obliged to subdue their obstinacy with gunpowder, and often in places where nature had denied him footing, and where he was forced to begin his labors, suspended from above by ropes on the face of the horrible precipice. The bogs and moors had likewise their difficulties to overcome; but all were at length constrained to yield to the perseverance of our troops.

In some places, I observed, that, after the manner of the Romans , they left engraven on the rocks the names of the regiment each party belonged to, who were employed in these works; nor were they less worthy of being immortalized than the Vexillatio's of the Roman legions; for civilization was the consequence of the labors of both.

These roads begin at Dunkeld , are carried on thro' the noted pass of Killicrankie , by Blair , to Dalnacardoch, Dalwhinie , and over the Coryarich , to Fort Augustus . A branch extends from thence Eastward to Inverness , and another Westward, over High-bridge , to Fort William . From the last, by Kinloch-Leven , over the Black Mountain , by the King's house, to Tyendrum ; and from thence, by Glen-Urqhie , to Inveraray , and so along the beautiful boundaries of Loch-Lomond , to its extremity.

Another road begins near Crief , passes by Aberfeldy , crosses the Tay at Tay-bridge , and unites with the other road at Dalnacardoch ; and from Dalwhinie a branch passes through Badenoch to Inverness .

These are the principal military roads; but there may be many others I may have overlooked.

Rode through some little vales by the side of a small river; and from the appearance of fertility, have some relief from the dreary scene of the rest of the day. Reach


Tyendrum , a small village. The inn is seated the highest of any house in Scotland . The Tay runs East, and a few hundred yards further is a little lake, whose waters run West. A lead-mine is worked here by a level to some advantage; was discovered about thirty years ago: the veins run S. W. and N. E.

SEPT. 5.

Continue my tour on a very fine road on a side of a narrow vale, abounding with cattle, yet destitute both of arable land and meadow; but the beasts pick up a sustenance from the grass that springs up among the heath. The country opens on approaching Glen-Urqhie , a pretty valley, well cultivated, fertile in corn, the sides adorned with numbers of pretty groves, and the middle watered by the river Urqhie : the church is seated on a knowl, in a large isle formed by the river: the Manse , or minister's house, is neat, and his little demesne is decorated in the most advantageous places with seats of turf, indicating the content and satisfaction of the possessor in the lot Providence has given him.

In the church-yard are several grave-stones of great antiquity, with figures of a warrior, each furnished with a spear, or two-handed sword: on some are representations of the chase; on others, elegant fret-work; and on one, said to be part of the coffin of a McGregor , is a fine running pattern of foliage and flowers, and excepting the figures, all in good taste.

On an eminence on the South side of this vale dwells M'Nabb , a smith, whose family have lived in that humble station since the year 1440, being always of the same profession. The first of the line was employed by the Lady of Sir Duncan Campbell , who built the castle of Kilchurn when her husband was absent. Some of their tombs are in the church-yard of Glen-Urqhie ; the oldest has a hammer and other implements of his trade cut on it. At this place I was favored with several Highland proverbs, inserted in the Appendix. After breakfast, at a good inn near the village, was there present at a christening, and became sponsor to a little Highlander , by no other ceremony than receiving him for a moment into my arms: this is a mere act of friendship, and no essential rite in the church of Scotland .


Pursue my journey, and have a fine view of the meanders of the river before its union with Loch-Aw : in an isle in the beginning of the lake is the castle of Kilchurn , which had been inhabited by the present Lord Breadalbane's granfather. The great tower was repaired by his Lordship, and garrisoned by him in 1745, for the service of the Government, in order to prevent the Rebels from making use of that great pass cross the kingdom; but is now a ruin, having lately been struck by lightening.

[Plate XXX appears near here in the 1800 edition.]


At a place called Hamilton's Pass, in an instant burst on a view of the lake, which makes a beautiful appearance; is about a mile broad, and shews at lest ten miles of its length. This water is prettily varied with isles, some so small as merely to peep above the surface; yet even these are tufted with trees; some are large enough to afford hay and pasturage; and in one, called Inch-hail , are the remains of a convent.229 On Fraoch-Elan ,230 the Hesperides of the Highlands, are the ruins of a castle. The fair Mego longed for the delicious fruit of the isle, guarded by a dreadful serpent: the hero Fraoch goes to gather it, and is destroyed by the monster. This tale is sung in the Erse ballads, and is translated and published in the manner of Fingal .


The whole extent of Loch-Aw is thirty miles, bounded on the north by Lorn , a portion of Argyleshire , a fertile country, prettily wooded near the water-side. On the N. E. are vast mountains: among them Cruachan 231 towers to a great height; it rises from the lake, and its sides are shagged with woods impending over it. At its foot is the discharge of the waters of this Loch into Loch-Etive , an arm of the sea, after a turbulent course of a series of cataracts for the space of three miles. At Bunaw , near the north end, is a large salmon fishery; also a considerable iron-foundery, which I fear will soon devour the beautiful woods of the country.


Pass by Scotstown , a single house. Dine at the little village of Cladish . About two miles hence, on an eminence in sight of the convent on Inch-hail , is a spot, called Crois-an-t-sleuchd , or the cross of bowing, because, in Popish times, it was always customary to kneel or make obeisance on first sight of any consecrated place.232

200 Leslie Hist. Scotiæ. 353.

201 Conflicts of the Clans , p. 7.

202 Ad Nessæ lacus longi quaiuor et viginti passuum millia, lati duodecim latera, propter ingentia nemora ferarum ingens copia est cervorum, equorum indomitorum, capreolorum et ejusmodi animantium magna vis: ad hæc martirillæ, Foninæ ut vulgò vocanttur, vulpes, mustellæ, Fibri, Lutræque incomparabili numero, quorum tergora exteræ gentes ad luxum immense pretio coemunt . Scot. Regni Defer. ix. Hist. Scot. xxx.

203 Vide tab. Xii. 1st and 2d. ed.

204 Simul constantia, fimul arte Britanni ingentibus gladiis et brevibus cetris, missilia nastrorum vitare vel excutere . Vita Agricolae. c. 36.

205 Xiphil epit. Dionis .

206 Major , who wrote about the year 1518, thus describes their arms: Arcum et fogittas, latissimum ensem cum parvo balbtrto, pugionem grossum ex solo uno latere scindentem, sed acutissimam sub zona semper ferunt. Tempore belli loricam ex loris ferreis per totum corpus induunt . Lib. I. C. viii.

207 This custom was common to the Northern parts of Europe with some slight variation, as appears from Olaus Magnus , p. 146, who describes it thus: Bacculus tripalmaris, agilieris juvenis cursu precipiti, ad illum pagum seu villam bujusmodi edicto deferendus committitur, ut 3, 4, vel 8 die unus, duo vel tres, aut viritim omnes vel singuli ab anno trilustri, cum armis et expensis 10 -vel 20 dierum sub pœna combustionis domorum (quo usto bacculo) vel suspensionis PATRONI, aut omnium (quæ fune allegato signatur) in tali ripa, vel campo, aut valle comparere tencautur subito, causam vocationis, atque ordinem executionis PRÆFECTI provincialis, quid fieri debeat audituri .

208 Shaw's Hist. Moray . 231.

209 Mertrickes are furs of the Martin's skin.

210 Cloch neart .

211 Major says, Pro musicis instrumentis et musico concentu, Lyra sylvestres utuntur, cujus chordas ex ære, et non ex animalium intestinis faciunt, in qua dulcissimè modulantur. ,

212 Probably, as an ingenious friend suggested, this should be read, the Jews-harp .

213 Sir Thomas Browne's Hydriotaphia . p. 8.

214 This beautiful lake has a great resemblance to some parts of the lake of Lucerne , especially towards the East end.

215 It is to me matter of surprize that no mention is made, in the Poems of Ossian , of our great beasts of prey, which must have abounded in his days; for the Wolf was a pest to the country so late as the reign of Queen Elizabeth , and the Bear existed there at lest till the year 1057, when a Gordon , for killing a fierce Bear, was directed by King Malcolm III. to carry three Bears' heads in his banner. Hist. Gordons I. p. 2. Other native animals are often mentioned in several parts of the work; and in the five little poems on Night, compositions of as many Bards, every modern Britisb beast of chace is enumerated, the howling Dog and howling Fox described; yet the howling Wolf omitted, which would have made the Bard's night much more hideous.

216 Its Erse name is Kil-chuimin , or the burial-place of the Cummins . It lies on the road to the Isle of Skie , which is about 52 miles off; but on the whole way there is not a place fit for the reception of man or horse.

217 I was informed that at Arisaig is an old castle formed of the same materials.

218 So called from a lake not far from Fort William , near whose banks Banquo was said to have been murthered .

219 Who assumed the name of Graham .

220 Boethius . Scot. Regni Defer. 4.

221 Buchanan , lib. x. c 33.

222 Who is said to have killed the last Wolf in Scotland , about the year 1680. Memoirs of this celebrated chieftain are given in the Appendix.

223 I was informed that coal has been lately discovered in this island. What advantage may not this prove, in establishments of manufactures, in a country just rouzed from the lap of indolence!

224 Br. Zool. III. No.

225 The country people have a most superstitious desire of being buried in the little isle of Mun , in this Loch.

226 I am indebted to the Rev. Mr. John Stuart of Killin for the description of this curious valley, having only had a distant view of it.

227 Report of the Visitation, &c. 1760.

228 Vide p. 99.

229 The country people are still fond of burying here. Insular interments are said to owe their origin to the fear people had of having their friends corpses devoured by wolves on the main land.

230 This island was granted by Alexander III. in 1267, to Gillcrist M'Nachdan and his heirs for ever, on condition they should entertain the King whenever he passed that way.

231 Or the Great Heap.

232 Druidical stones and temples are called Clachan , churches having often been built on such places: to go to Clachan is a common Erse phrase for going to church.

Thomas Pennant, A Tour in Scotland 1769 (London: Benjamin White, 1776)

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