From hence, descending on the north side, we had a view of Firth, or Forth, on our right, the castle of Sterling on the left; and in going to the latter we passed the famous water, for river it is not, of Bannock Bourn, famous in the Scots History for the great battle fought here between King Robert de Bruce and the English Army, commanded by King Edward II in person, in which the English were utterly overthrown; and that with so terrible a slaughter, that of the greatest army that ever marched from England into Scotland, very few escaped; and King Edward II with much ado, saved himself by flight. How, indeed, he should save himself by a little boat, (as Mr Cambden says) that, indeed, I cannot understand, there being no river near that had any boats in it but the Forth, and that had been to make the king fly north; whereas, to be sure, he fled for England with all the speed he could; he might, perhaps, make use of a boat to pass the Tweed; but that was at least thirty or forty miles off.
Whether the Scots magnify this victory, or not, is not my business, that it was a total overthrow of the English Army is certain, and that abundance of the English nobility and gentry lost their lives there; but 'tis as true, that it was the ill conduct of the English at that time, and the unfortunate king that led them on, which were the occasion: His glorious predecessor, Edward I, or Edward III his more glorious successor, never lost such a battle. But let the fault be where it will, this is certain, that the English lost the day, and were horribly massacred by the Scots, as well after as in the fight, for the animosity was implacable between the two nations, and they gave but little quarter on either side.
Sterling was our next stage, an ancient city, or town rather, and an important pass, which, with Dunbarton, is indeed the defence of the Lowlands against the Highlands; and, as one very knowingly said, Dunbarton is the lock of the Highlands, and Sterling-Castle keeps the key. The town is situated as like Edinburgh as almost can be described, being on the ridge of a hill, sloping down on both sides, and the street ascending from the east gradually to the castle, which is at the west end; the street is large and well built, but ancient, and the buildings not unlike Edinburgh. either for beauty or sight.
The church is also a very spacious building, but not collegiate; there was formerly a church, or rather chapel, in the castle, but it is now out of use; also a private chapel, or oratory in the palace, for the royal family: But all that is now laid aside too. The castle is not so very difficult of access as Edinburgh; but it is esteemed equally strong, and particularly the works are capable to mount more cannon, and these cannon are better pointed; particularly there is a battery which commands, or may command the bridge; the command of which is of the utmost importance; nay, it is the main end and purpose for which, as we are told, the castle was built.
They who built the castle, without doubt built it, as the Scots express it, to continue aye, and till somebody else should build another there, which, in our language, would be for ever and a day after: The walls, and all the outer works are firm, and if no force is used to demolish them, may continue inconceivably long, at least we have reason to believe they will; for though the other buildings grow old, the castle seems as firm and fair, as if it had been but lately built.
The palace and royal apartments are very magnificent, but all in decay, and must be so: Were the materials of any use, we thought it would be much better to pull them down than to let such noble buildings sink into their own rubbish, by the meer injury of time: But it is at present the fate of all the royal houses in Scotland; Haly-Rood at Edinburgh excepted: It is so at Lithgow, at Falkland, at Dumfermling, and at several other places.
In the park, adjoining to the castle, were formerly large gardens, how fine they were I cannot say; the figure of the walks and grass-plats remains plain to be seen, they are very old fashioned; but I suppose the gardens might be thought fine, as gardens were then; particularly they had not then the usage of adorning their gardens with ever-greens, trimmed and shaped; trees espaliered into hedges and such-like, as now: They had, indeed, statues and busts, vasa, and fountains, flowers and fruit; but we make gardens fine now many ways, which those ages had no genius for; as by scrouls, embroidery, pavillions, terrasses and slopes, pyramids and high espaliers, and a thousand ornaments, which they had no notion of.
The park here is large and walled about, as all the parks in Scotland are, but little or no wood in it. The Earl of Mar, of the name of Ereskin, who claims to be hereditary keeper of the king's children, as also hereditary keeper of the castle, has a house at the upper end of the town, and very finely situated for prospect, but I cannot say it is so for any thing else, for it is too near the castle; and was the castle ever to suffer a close siege, and be vigorously defended, that house would run great risques of being demolished on one side or other; it stands too near the castle also for the site of it to be agreeable.
The Governor's lady (who was the Countess Dowager of Marr, when we were there, and mother of the late exiled Earl of Marr), had a very pretty little flower-garden, upon the body of one of the bastions, or towers of the castle, the ambrusiers, serving for a dwarf-wall round the most part of it; and they walked to it from her Ladyship's apartment upon a level, along the castle-wall.
As this little, but very pleasant spot, was on the north side of the castle, we had from thence a most agreeable prospect indeed over the valley and the river; as it is truly beautiful, so it is what the people of Sterling justly boast of, and, indeed seldom forget it, I mean the meanders, or reaches of the River Forth. They are so spacious, and return so near themselves, with so regular and exactly a sweep, that, I think, the like is not to be seen in Britain, if it is in Europe, especially where the river is so large also.
The River Sein, indeed, between Paris and Roan, fetches a sweep something like these some miles longer, but then it is but one; whereas here are three double reaches, which make six returns together, and each of them three long Scots miles, or more in length; and as the bows are almost equal for breadth, as the reaches are for length, it makes the figure compleat. It is an admirable sight indeed, and continues from a little below the great bridge at Sterling to Alloway, the seat of the present, or rather late Earl of Marr, the present Earl being attainted for treason, and so dead, as a peer or earl, though alive in exile. The form of this winding may be conceived of a little by the length of the way, for it is near twenty miles from Sterling to Alloway by water, and hardly four miles by land.
One would think these large sweeps, or windings of the stream, should check the tide very much: But, on the contrary, we found the tide of flood made up very strong under Sterling-bridge, even as strong almost as at London-bridge, but does not flow above seven or eight miles farther: The stream of the river growing narrow apace, and the rapid current of all rivers in that country checking the tide, when it comes into narrow limits; the same is the case in the Tyne at Newcastle, and the Tweed at Berwick; in both which, though the tide flows as strong in at the mouth of the rivers, yet the navigation goes but a very little way up, nothing near what it does in this river.
The bridge at Sterling has but four arches, as I remember, but they are very large, and the channel widens considerably below it; at Alloway 'tis above a mile broad, and deep enough for ships of any burthen. So that the Glasgow merchants cannot but be in the right to settle a ware-house, or ware-houses, or whatever they will call them here, to ship off their goods for the eastern countries.
I was, indeed, curious to enquire into the course of this river, as I had been before into that of the Clyde as to the possibility of their waters being united for an inland navigation; because I had observed that the charts and plans of the country brought them almost to meet; but when I came more critically to survey the ground, I found the map-makers greatly mistaken, and that they had not only given the situation and courses of the rivers wrong, but the distances also. However, upon the whole, I brought it to this; that notwithstanding several circumstances which might obstruct it, and cause the workmen to fetch some winding turns out of the way, yet, that in the whole, a canal of about eight miles in length would fairly join the rivers, and make a clear navigation from the Irish to the German Sea; and that this would be done without any considerable obstruction; so that there would not need above four sluices in the whole way, and those only to head a bason, or receptacle, to contain a flash, or flush of water to push on the vessels this way or that, as occasion required, not to stop them to raise or let fall, as in the case of locks in other rivers.
How easy then such a work would be, and how advantagious, not to Scotland only, but even to Ireland and England also, I need not explain, the nature of the thing will explain itself. I could enter upon particular descriptions of the work, and answer the objections raised from the great excess of waters in these streams in the winter, and the force and fury of their streams: But 'tis needless, nor have we room for such a work here; besides, all those who are acquainted with such undertakings, know that artificial canals are carefully secured from any communication with other waters, except just as their own occasion for the navigating part demands; and that they are so ordered, as to be always in a condition to take in what water they want, and cast off what would be troublesome to them, by proper channels and sluices made for that purpose.
Those gentlemen who have seen the royal canal in Languedoc from Narbon to Thoulouse, as many in Scotland have, will be able to support what I say in this case, and to understand how easily the same thing is to be practised here; but I leave it to time, and the fate of Scotland, which, I am perswaded, will one time or other bring it to pass.
There is a very good hospital at the upper end of this town for poor decayed tradesmen merchants. They told us it was for none but merchants, which presently brought Sir John Morden's Hospital upon Black-Heath to my thoughts; but I had forgotten where I was: And that in Scotland every country shop-keeper, nay, almost every pether is called a merchant; which, when I was put in mind of, I understood the foundation of the hospital better.
There is a very considerable manufacture at Sterling, for what they call Sterling serges, which are in English, shalloons; and they both make them and dye them there very well; nor has the English manufacture of shalloons broke in so much upon them by the late Union, as it was feared they would. This manufacture employs the poor very comfortably here, and is a great part of the support of the town as to trade, showing what Scotland might soon be brought to by the help of trade and manufactures; for the people are as willing to work here as in England, if they had the same encouragement, that is, if they could be constantly employed and paid for it too, as they are there.
The family of Ereskin is very considerable here; and besides the Earl of Marr and the Earl of Buchan, who are both of that name, there are several gentlemen of quality of the same name; as Sir John Ereskine of Alva, Colonel Ereskine, at that time Governor of the castle; and another Colonel Ereskine, Uncle to the Earl of Buchan, a very worthy and valuable gentleman, who, tho' he does not live at Sterling, has a considerable interest there, and was at that time Honourary Lord Provost of the town.
We had here a very fine prospect both east and west; eastward we could plainly see the castle of Edinburgh, and the hill called Arthur's Seat, in the Royal Park at Haly-Rood House, also the opening firth presents all the way from Alloway to the Queens-Ferry, mentioned above. North we could see Dumfermling, and the field of battle, called Sheriff-muir, between it and Sterling; and some told us we might see Dumbarton castle west; but it was hazy that way, so that we could not see it, the prospect south is confined by the hills.
But our business was not to the north yet; still having a part of the border to view, that we might leave nothing behind us to oblige us to come this way again: So we went from Sterling, first east and then south-east, over some of the same hills, which we passed at our coming hither, though not by the same road. The Duke of Argyle has a small house, which the family called the Low-land House, I suppose in distinction from the many fine seats and strong castles which they were always possessed of in the Highlands: this seat was formerly belonging to the earls of Sterling, and the country round it, south of the Forth, is called Sterlingshire, or Strivelingshire, and sends a member to parliament, as a shire or county. The family of the earls of Sterling is extinct, at least, if there are any of the name, as is alledged, they live obscurely in England. They make great complaint at Sterling, which they derive from the Papists, that the old Earl of Marr, who built the family-house under the castle, as I have just now said, was a clergy-man and prior, or abbot of the famous monastery of Cambuskeneth, a religious house, of the Order of the Augustines, which stood not far off.
That upon the Reformation the said abbot turned Protestant and married, and was created Earl of Marr: That he was so zealous afterwards for the change of religion, that he set his hand to the demolishing of his own monastery; and that he brought away the stones of it to Sterling, and built this fine house with them; upon which the Romanists branded him with sacrilege and avarice together, and gave him their curse, which is not unusual in Scotland; which curse, they tell you, now fell upon even the house itself, for that the family being hereditary governors of Sterling Castle; and besides, having another house at Alloway, four miles from it, the new built house was never inhabited to this day, at least not by the family to whom it belonged, and is at last forfeited to the crown.
This clamour, however, did not hinder him from going on with his house, which he finished, as you see; but 'tis supposed those reproaches occasioned his setting up several inscriptions, as well without the house as within; some of them are worn out with time, others are legible; whereof this distich in a Scots dialect, I think, points at the case.
Speak forth, and spare nocht,
Consider well, I care nocht.
The words seem to want a paraphrase, which I shall make as short almost as the lines, though not in rhime; I take it to import much like the Duke of Buckingham's inscription on the frize of his new house in the Park at St. James's, Spectator fastidiosus sibi molestus: The builder had heard the rumours and reproaches of the people, but bids them speak out plainly, and say their worst; for that, if they considered well, and would say nothing but what was true, he had nothing to be concerned at.
From Sterling, as I said, we came away west, and went directly to Lithgow, or Linlithgow, and from thence to Clydsdale, that is to say, the country upon the banks of the Clyde; in doing which last we passed the old Roman work a second time, which I still call Severus's wall, because we are assured Severus was the last that repaired it, though he might not make it; and more especially, because the men of learning there generally call it so; the remains of it are very plain to be seen.
Lithgow is a large town, well built, and anciently famous for the noble palace of the kings of Scotland, where King James VI and his queen kept their Court in great magnificence. This Court, though decaying with the rest, is yet less decayed, because much later repaired than others; for King James repaired, or rather rebuilt some of it: and his two sons, Prince Henry, and Prince Charles, afterwards King of England, had apartments here; and there are the Prince of Wales's Arms, over those, called the Princes' Lodgings to this day. Here it was that the good Lord Murray, the Regent, who they called good, because he was really so, as he was riding through the town into the palace, was shot most villainously from a window, and the murtherer was discovered. He dyed of the wound with the utmost tranquillity and resignation, after having had the satisfaction of being the principal man in settling the Reformation in Scotland in such a manner, as it was not possible for the Popish party to recover themselves again; and after seeing the common people over the whole kingdom embrace the Reformation, almost universally, to his great joy, for he was the most zealous of all the nobility in the cause of the Reformation, and unalterably resolved never to give way to the least allowance to the Popish Court, who then began to crave only a toleration for themselves, but could never obtain it; for this reason the Papists mortally hated him, and, at length, murthered him. But they got little by his death, for the reformers went on with the same zeal, and never left, till they had entirely driven Queen Mary, and all her Popish adherents out of the kingdom, yet we do not find the true murtherer was ever discovered: But this is matter of history.
At Lithgow there is a very great linnen manufacture, as there is at Glasgow; and the water of the lough, or lake here, is esteemed with the best in Scotland for bleaching or whitening of linnen cloth: so that a great deal of linnen made in other parts of the country, is brought either to be bleached or whitened.
This lough is situate on the north west side of the town, just by the palace; and there were formerly fine walks planted on both sides, with bordures and flowers from the house to the water's edge, which must be very delightful.
The Church of St. Michael makes a part of the royal building, and is the wing on the right hand of the first court, as all the proper offices of the court made the left: But the inner court is the beauty of the building, was very spacious, and, in those days, was thought glorious. There is a large fountain in the middle of the court, which had then abundance of fine things about it, whereof some of the carvings and ornaments remain still.
Here the kings of Scotland, for some ages, kept their Courts on occasion of any extraordinary ceremony. And here King James V reinstituted, or rather restored the Order of the Knights of St. Andrew, as the Order of Knights of the Bath were lately restored in England. Here he erected stalls, and a throne for them in St. Michael's Church, and made it the Chapel of the Order, according to the usage at Windsor: The king himself wore the badges of four orders: that of the Garter conferred on him by the King of England; that of St. Andrew being his own; that of the Golden Fleece conferred on him by the emperor, then King of Spain; and of St. Michael, by which it appears he was a prince very much honoured in the world.
Also he first ordered the Thistle to be added to the badge of the Order; and the motto, which since is worn about it in the Royal Arms, was of his invention: Nemo me impune lacessit. The Cordon Verd, or Green Ribband, was then worn by the Knights Companions: but the late King James II or (as I should say, being in Scotland) the VIIth, changed it to the Blue Ribband, as the Knights of the Garter wear it in England.
Queen Anne, however, restored the Green Ribband again, and intended to have called a Chapter of the Order, and have brought it into its full lustre again: but Her Majesty was taken to heaven before it could be done.
Lithgow is a pleasant, handsome, well built town; the Tolbooth is a good building, and not old, kept in good repair, and the streets clean: The people look here as if they were busy, and had something to do, whereas in many towns we passed through they seemed as if they looked disconsolate for want of employment: The whole green, fronting the lough or lake, was covered with linnen-cloth, it being the bleaching season, and, I believe, a thousand women and children, and not less, tending and managing the bleaching business; the town is served with water by one very large bason, or fountain, to which the water is brought from the same spring which served the Royal Palace.
From Lithgow we turned to the right, as I said above, into the shire of Clydesdale: Some business also calling us this way, and following the Clyde upwards, from a little above Hamilton, where we were before, we came to Lanerk, which is about eight miles from it due south.
From Lithgow, by this way to Lanerk, is thirty long miles; and some of the road over the wildest country we had yet seen. Lanerk is the capital indeed of the country, otherwise it is but a very indifferent place; it is eminent for the assembling of the Bothwell-Bridge Rebellion, and several other little disturbances of the Whigs in those days; for Whigs then were all Presbyterians, and Cameronian Presbyterians too, which, at that time, was as much as to say rebels.
A little below Lanerk the River Douglass falls into the Clyde, giving the same kind of usual surname to the lands about it, as I have observed other rivers do, namely Douglassdale, as the Clyde does that of Clydesdale, the Tweed that of Tweedale; and so of the rest.
In this dull vale stands the ancient, paternal estate and castle, which gives name (and title too) to the great family of Douglass. The castle is very ill adapted to the glory of the family; but as it is the ancient inheritance, the heads or chief of the name have always endeavoured to keep up the old mansion, and have consequently, made frequent additions to the building, which have made it a wild, irregular mass; yet there are noble apartments in it, and the house seems, at a distance, rather a little town than one whole fabrick. The park is very large; the garden, or yards, as they call them, not set out with fine plants or greens, or divided into flower-gardens, parters, wildernesses, kitchin-gardens, etc. as is the modern usage. In short 'tis an ancient, magnificent pile, great, but not gay; its grandeur, in most parts, consists in its antiquity, and being the mansion of one of the greatest families in Scotland above 1,000 years. The history of the family would take up a volume by itself; and there is a volume in folio extant, written upon this subject only, where the heroes of the name are fully set forth, and all the illustrious actions they have been concerned in. There are, at this time, not less than six or seven branches of this family, all ranked in the peerage of Great Britain, namely, the Duke of Douglass, the chief of the whole clan or name, the Duke of Queensberry and Dover, the Earls of Morton, Dunbarton and March; and the Lords Mordingtoun and Forfar; the latter was lately unhappily killed at the fight near Dumblane, against the Lord Marr and the Pretender. But I must not run out into families; the head family of this name has been in better circumstances, as to estate, than they are at present: But the young duke does not want merit lo raise himself, when times may come that personal merit may be able to raise families, and make men great.
From Lanerk we left the wild place called Crawford Muir on the right, the business that brought us round this way being finished, and went away west into the shire of Peebles, and so into Tweedale; the first town we came to of any note upon the Tweed, is the town of Peebles, capital of the country. The town is small, and but indifferently built or inhabited, yet the High Street has some good houses on it. There is a handsome stone-bridge over the Tweed, which is not a great river here, though the current is sometimes indeed very violent.
The country is hilly, as in the rest of Tweedale, and those hills covered with sheep, which is, indeed, a principal part of the estates of the gentlemen; and the overplus quantity of the sheep, as also their wool, is mostly sent to England, to the irreparable damage of the poor; who, were they employed to manufacture their own wool, would live much better than they do, and find the benefit of the Union in a different manner, from what they have yet clone.
Before the Union this wool, and more with it, brought by stealth out of England, went all away to France, still (as I say) to the great loss of the poor, who, had they but spun it into yarn, and sent the yarn into France, would have had some benefit by it; but the Union bringing with it a prohibition of the exportation, upon the severest penalties, the gentlemen of the southern countries complained of the loss, at the time that affair was transacted in parliament; to make them amends for which, a large sum of money was appointed to them as an equivalent, and to encourage them to set the poor to work, as appears by the Act of Union; this money, I say, was appropriated by the Act to be employed in setting hands to work in Scotland, to manufacture their own wool by their own people: How much of the money has been so employed, I desire not to examine. I leave it to them whose proper business it is.
Here are two monuments in this country, all Scotland not affording the like, of the vanity of worldly glory. The one is in the foundation of a royal palace, or seat of a nobleman, once the first man in Scotland, next the king: It is a prodigious building, too great for a subject, begun by the Earl of Morton, whose head being afterwards layed in the dust, his design perished; and the building has not been carryed on, and I suppose never will. The other is in the palace of Traquair, built and finished by the late Earl of Traquair, for some years Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, and a person in the highest posts, both of honour and profit in the kingdom, who yet fell from it all, by the adversity of the times; for his conduct under his Majesty King Charles I being generally censured, and himself universally hated, he sunk into the most abject and lowest part of human life, even to want bread, and to take alms, and in that miserable circumstance died, and never saw the turn of the times, I mean the Restoration, which happened but a year after his death. The house is noble, the design great, and well finished, and no sooner done so but it was confiscated, and the owner turned out of it, to seek his bread from a generation of his enemies, who thought they were merciful enough in sparing his life; whether it was so or not, and what his actions were (perhaps none of the best) is not my business; but, I think, it had been a kind of mercy to him, if they had rather taken his head, the condition he was reduced to, being doubtless, to a man of any spirit, much worse than death; and, I question whether, if he had been an English man, he would not have put an end to the distress he was in, Brevi manu: Not that I think that is the way any Christian man ought to take to put an end to human misery, be the condition here what it will, but that we find the English less able to bear such distresses than other nations, and apter to fly into lunacies and desperation, that I believe none will dispute.
Bishop Burnet gives an account of this earl as a very mean spirited, abject person, and one that suffered himself to be made the instrument of other men's mischiefs, and that he therefore fell so much unpityed: But be that as it will, it is as I say, a remarkable monument of the vanity of human glory; and it is the more remarkable for this, that he was particularly droped and despised by the party he had served, and who he had too faithfully adhered to; which is a caution to all that shall come after him, to take heed how they sacrifice themselves for parties, and against the true interest of their country, they are sure to be abandoned, even of those that employ them, as well as to be hated of those they are employed against.
Here we saw the ruins of the once famous Abbey of Mailross, the greatness of which may be a little judged of by its vastly extended remains, which are of a very great circuit: The building is not so entirely demolished but that we may distinguish many places and parts of it one from another; as particularly the great church or chapel of the monastery, which is as large as some cathedrals, the choir of which is visible, and measures 140 foot in length, besides what may have been pulled down at the east end; by the thickness of the foundations there must have been a large and strong tower or steeple in the center of the church, but of what form or height, that no guess can be made at: There are several fragments of the house itself, and of the particular offices belonging to it; the court, the cloyster, and other buildings are so visible, as that 'tis easy to know it was a most magnificent place in those days. But the Reformation has triumphed over all these things, and the pomp and glory of Popery is sunk now into the primitive simplicity of the true Christian profession; nor can any Protestant mourn the loss of these seminaries of superstition, upon any principles that agree, either with his own profession, or with the Christian pattern prescribed in the scriptures. So I leave Mailross with a singular satisfaction, at seeing what it now is, much more than that of remembring what it once was. I doubt not, had Traquair House been built with the stones of this abbey, some people would have placed all the misfortunes of the unhappy builder to that sacrilege, as is noted in the Earl of Marr's house at Sterling: But, as it happened, they had no room for that.
Following the course of the Tweed, we passed by abundance of gentlemen's seats and ancient mansions, whose possessions are large in this country, and who, it is impossible I should, in so short a tract as this, do any more than name: Such as the family of Douglass, of whom one branch is called Douglass of Cavers and is hereditary sheriff of the county. The family of Elliot, of whom one is, at present, one of the Lords of Session in Scotland, and is called Lord Minto, in virtue of his office, being otherwise no more than Sir Gilbert Elliot of Minto. There is also another gentleman of the same name, Sir Gilbert Elliot of Stobbs, both ancient families, and formerly eminent, with many others, among the borderers; whether that should be mentioned as a fame to them or not, I am not a judge; the borderers, in former days, being rather known for their courage and boldness in the field, than for the justice of their manner; which being chiefly exerted in mutual excursions and invasions on one side, as well as the other, some have been so free with them, as to esteem them no better than thieves. But be that as you will, with respect to ancestors, the present heads of those families are now (at least some of them) as valuable gentlemen as any in both kingdoms, and as much respected; among these are the families of the name of Kerr, Hamilton, Hume, Swinton, and many other; as on the English side were the families of Piercy, Nevil, Gray, and the like.
The country next this, south east, is called Tiviotdale, or otherwise the shire of Roxburgh; and the Duke of Roxburgh has several fine seats in it, as well as a very great estate; indeed most of the country belongs to the family: His house called Floors is an ancient seat, but begins to wear a new face; and those who viewed it fifteen or sixteen years ago, will scarce know it again, if they should come a few years hence, when the present duke may have finished the additions and embellishments, which he is now making, and has been a considerable time upon. Nor will the very face of the country appear the same, except it be that the River Tweed may, perhaps, run in the same channel: But the land before, lying open and wild, he will find enclosed, cultivated and improved, rows, and even woods of trees covering the champaign country, and the house surrounded with large grown vistas, and well planted avenues, such as were never seen there before.
From hence we came to Kelso, a handsome market-town upon the bank of the Tweed. Here is a very large ancient church, being built in the place of an old monastery of fryars, the ruins of which are yet to be seen: The church now standing seems to have been the real chapel of the monastery, not a new one erected; only modelled from the old one; for though it is itself a great building, yet it has certainly been much larger. Its antiquity argues this, for by the building it must have been much ancienter than the Reformation.
Kelso, as it stands on the Tweed, and so near the English border, is a considerable thorough-fair to England, one of the great roads from Edinburgh to Newcastle lying through this town, and a nearer way by far than the road through Berwick. They only want a good bridge over the Tweed: At present they have a ferry just at the town, and a good ford through the river, a little below it; but, though I call it a good ford, and so it is when the water is low, yet that is too uncertain; and the Tweed is so dangerous a river, and rises sometimes so suddenly, that a man scarce knows, when he goes into the water, how it shall be ere he gets out at the other side; and it is not very strange to them at Kelso, to hear of frequent disasters, in the passage, both to men and cattle.
Here we made a little excursion into England, and it was to satisfy a curiosity of no extraordinary kind neither. By the sight of Cheviot Hills, which we had seen for many miles riding, we thought at Kelso we were very near them, and had a great mind to take as near a view of them as we could; and taking with us an English man, who had been very curious in the same enquiry, and who offered to be our guide, we set out for Wooller, a little town lying, as it were, under the hill.
Cheviot Hill or Hills are justly esteemed the highest in this part of England, and of Scotland also; if I may judge, I think 'tis higher a great deal than the mountain of Mairock in Galloway, which they say is two miles high.
When we came to Wooller we got another guide to lead us to the top of the hill; for, by the way, tho' there are many hills and reachings for many miles, which are all called Cheviot Hills, yet there is one Pico or Master-Hill, higher than all the rest by a great deal, which, at a distance, looks like the Pico-Teneriffe at the Canaries, and is so high, that I remember it is seen plainly from the Rosemary-Top in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which is nearly sixty miles. We prepared to clamber up this hill on foot, but our guide laughed at us, and told us, we should make a long journey of it that way: But getting a horse himself, told us he would find a way for us to get up on horse-back; so we set out, having five or six country boys and young fellows, who ran on foot, voluntier to go with us; we thought they had only gone for their diversion, as is frequent for boys; but they knew well enough that we should find some occasion to employ them, and so we did, as you shall hear.
Our guide led us very artfully round to a part of the hill, where it was evident in the winter season, not streams of water, but great rivers came pouring down from the hill in several channels, and those (at least some of them) very broad; they were overgrown on either bank with alder-trees, so close and thick, that we rode under them, as in an arbour. In one of these channels we mounted the hill, as the besiegers approach a fortifyed town by trenches, and were gotten a great way up, before we were well aware of it.
But, as we mounted, these channels lessened gradually, till at length we had the shelter of the trees no longer; and now we ascended till we began to see some of the high hills, which before we thought very lofty, lying under us, low and humble, as if they were part of the plain below, and yet the main hill seemed still to be but beginning, or, as if we were but entring upon it.
As we mounted higher we found the hill steeper than at first, also our horses began to complain, and draw their haunches up heavily, so we went very softly: However, we moved still, and went on, till the height began to look really frightful, for, I must own, I wished myself down again; and now we found use for the young fellows that ran before us; for we began to fear, if our horses should stumble or start, we might roll down the hill together; and we began to talk of alighting, but our guide called out and said, No, not yet, by and by you shall; and with that he bid the young fellows take our horses by the head-stalls of the bridles, and lead them. They did so, and we rode up higher still, till at length our hearts failed us all together, and we resolved to alight; and tho' our guide mocked us, yet he could not prevail or persuade us; so we worked it upon our feet, and with labour enough, and sometimes began to talk of going no farther.
We were the more uneasy about mounting higher, because we all had a notion, that when we came to the top, we should be just as upon a pinnacle, that the hill narrowed to a point, and we should have only room enough to stand, with a precipice every way round us; and with these apprehensions, we all sat down upon the ground, and said we would go no farther.
Our guide did not at first understand what we were apprehensive of; but at last by our discourse he perceived the mistake, and then not mocking our fears, he told us, that indeed if it had been so, we had been in the right, but he assured us, there was room enough on the top of the hill to run a race, if we thought fit, and we need not fear any thing of being blown off the precipice, as we had suggested; so he encouraging us we went on, and reach't the top of the hill in about half an hour more.
I must acknowledge I was agreeably surprised, when coming to the top of the hill, I saw before me a smooth, and with respect to what we expected a most pleasant plain, of at least half a mile in diameter; and in the middle of it a large pond, or little lake of water, and the ground seeming to descend every way from the edges of the summit to the pond, took off the little terror of the first prospect; for when we walkt towards the pond, we could but just see over the edge of the hill; and this little descent inwards, no doubt made the pond, the rain-water all running thither.
One of our company, a good botanist, fell to searching for simples, and, as he said, found some nice plants, which he seemed mightily pleased with: But as that is out of my way, so it is out of the present design. I in particular began to look about me, and to enquire what every place was which I saw more remarkably shewing it self at a distance.
The day happened to be very clear, and to our great satisfaction very calm, otherwise the hight we were upon, would not have been without its dangers. We saw plainly here the smoke of the salt-pans at Shields, at the mouth of the Tyne, seven miles below New Castle; and which was south about forty miles. The sea, that is the German ocean, was as if but just at the foot of the hill, and our guide pointed to shew us the Irish Sea: But if he could see it, knowing it in particular, and where exactly to look for it, it was so distant, that I could not say, I was assured I saw it. We saw likewise several hills, which he told us were in England, and others in the west of Scotland, but their names were too many for us to remember, and we had no materials there to take minutes. We saw Berwick east, and the hills called Soutra Hills north, which are in sight of Edinburgh. In a word there was a surprising view of both the united kingdoms, and we were far from repenting the pains we had taken.
Nor were we so afraid now as when we first mounted the sides of the hill, and especially we were made ashamed of those fears, when to our amazement, we saw a clergy-man, and another gentleman, and two ladies, all on horse-back, come up to the top of the hill, with a guide also as we had, and without alighting at all, and only to satisfy their curiosity, which they did it seems. This indeed made us look upon one another with a smile, to think how we were frighted, at our first coming up the hill: And thus it is in most things in nature; fear magnifies the object, and represents things frightful at first sight, which are presently made easy when they grow familiar.
Satisfied with this view, and not at all thinking our time or pains ill bestowed, we came down the hill by the same rout that we went up; with this remark by the way, that whether on horse-back or on foot we found it much more troublesome, and also tiresome to come down than to go up.
When we were down; our guide carryed us not to the town of Wooller, where we were before, but to a single house, which they call Wooller Haugh-head, and is a very good inn, better indeed than we expected, or than we had met with, except at Kelso, for many days journey. Here we had very good provision, very well dressed, and excellent wine. The house is in England, but the people that kept it were Scots; yet every thing was very well done, and we were mighty glad of the refreshment we found there.
Here we enquired after the famous story of Cheviot-Chase, which we found the people there have a true notion of, not like what is represented in the ballad of Chevy Chase, which has turned the whole story into a fable: But here they told us; what all solid histories confirm, namely that it was an in-road of the Earl of Douglass into England, with a body of an army, to ravage, burn, and plunder the country, as was usual in those days; and that the Earl of Northumberland, who was then a Piercy, gathering his forces, marched with a like army, and a great many of the gentry and nobility with him, to meet the Scots; and that both the bodies meeting at the foot of Cheviot Hills, fought a bloody battle, wherein both the earls were slain, fighting desperately at the head of their troops; and so many killed on both sides; that they that out-lived it, went off respectively, neither being able to say which had the victory.
They shewed us the place of the fight, which was on the side of the hill, if their traditions do not mislead them, on the left hand of the road, the ground uneven and ill enough for the cavalry; 'tis supposed most of the Scots were horse, and therefore 'tis said, the English archers placed themselves on the side of a steep ascent, that they might not be broken in upon by the horse. They shew also two stones which, if as I say they are not mistaken, are on the ground where the two earls were slain.
But they shewed us the same day, a much more famous field of battle than this, and that within about six or seven miles of the same place, namely Flodden-field, where James IV King of Scotland with a great army invading England, in the year 1538, when the King of England was absent in his wars abroad, at the Siege of Tournay, was met with, and fought by the Earl of Surrey, of the ancient family of Howard, and the English army; in which the Scots, tho' after a very obstinate fight, were totally routed and overthrown, and their king valiantly fighting at the head of his nobility was slain.
The River Till, which our historians call a deep and swift river, and in which many of the Scots were drowned in the pursuit, seemed to me not to be sufficient to interrupt the flight of a routed army, it being almost every where passable: But, perhaps, it might at that time be swelled with some sudden rain, which the historians ought to have taken notice of; because the river is else so small that it would seem to make us question the rest of the story.
That there was such a battle, and that this was the place, is out of all doubt; and the field seems to be well chosen for it, for it is a large plain, flanked on the north side, which must be the Scots right, and the English left, by Flodden-Hills, and on the other side by some distant woods; the River Tul being on the Scots rear, and the Tweed itself not far off.
Having viewed these things, which we had not time for in our passing through Northumberland, we came back to Kelso, and spent the piece of a day that remained there, viewing the country, which is very pleasant and very fruitful on both sides the Tweed, for the Tweed there does not part England from Scotland, but you are upon Scots ground for four miles, or thereabouts. on the south side of the Tweed, and the farther west the more the Tweed lies within the limits of the country.
From Kelso we went north, where we passed through Lauderdale, a long valley on both sides the little River Lauder, from whence the house of Maitland, earls first, and at last Duke of Lauderdale, took their title.
The country is good here, tho' fenced with hills on both sides; the River Lauder runs in the middle of it, keeping its course north, and the family-seat of Lauder, stands about the middle of the valley: 'Tis an ancient house, and not large; nor did it receive any additions from Duke Lauderdale, who found ways to dispose of his fortunes another way.
From hence we kept the great road over a high ridge of mountains, from whence we had a plain view of that part of the country called Mid-Lothian, and where we also saw the city of Edinburgh at the distance of about twelve or fourteen miles. We passed these mountains at a place which they call Soutra-Hill, and which gives the title of Laird of Soutra to a branch of the family of Maitland, the eider brother of which house was Lieutenant-General Maitland, a gentleman of great merit, and who raised himself by the sword: He lost one of his hands at the great battle of Treves in Germany, where the French army, under the Mareschal De Crequi, was defeated by the Germans, commanded by the old Duke of Zell; he supplyed the want of his hand with one of steel, from which he was called Handy Maitland. He passed thro' all the degrees of honour that the army usually bestows; and when the Union was transacting we saw him lieutenant-general of the queen's armies, colonel of a regiment of foot, and governor of Fort-William at Innerlochy, of which in its place.
I could not pass this way to Edinburgh without going off a little to the right, to see two very fine seats, one belonging to the Marquess of Louthian, of the ancient name of Ker, a younger branch of the house of Roxburgh, at Newbattle or Newbottle. Tis an old building, but finely situated among the most agreeable walks and rows of trees, all full grown, and is particularly to be mentioned for the nicest, and best chosen collection of pictures of any house I have seen in Scotland: The particulars are too many to enter into a description of them. The statues and busts are also very fine; and there are the most pictures of particular families and persons, as well of the royal families of France and England, as of Scotland also, that are, I believe, not only in England, but in any palace in Europe.
Not two miles from hence is the Duchess of Bucclugh's house at Dalkeith, the finest and largest new built house in Scotland; the duchess, relict of the late Duke of Monmouth, has built it, as I may say, from the foundation, or as some say, upon the foundation of the old castle of Dalkeith, which was the estate of the great Earl of Morton, regent of Scotland, who was beheaded by King James VI that is, of England, James I the same that brought the engine to behead humane bodies from Hallifax in Yorkshire, and set it up in Scotland, and had his own head cut off with it, the first it was tryed upon.
The palace of Dalkeith is, indeed, a magnificent building, and the inside answerable to the grandeur of the family. It stands on a rising ground on the edge of the River Esk; the side to the river is a precipice, from whence it overlooks the plain with a majesty, like that of Windsor, on the bank of the Thames, with necessary allowance for the difference of the country, and of the two rivers, which bear, indeed, no proportion. The park is very large, and there are fine avenues, some already made and planted, others designed, but not yet finished; also there are to be water-works, Jette D'eaus , and a canal, but these are not yet laid out; nor are the gardens finished, or the terrasses, which will be very spacious, if done according to the design. There are many fine paintings, especially of the ladies of the English court, and some royal originals; but we must not speak of pictures where Newbottle is so nigh.
The town of Dalkeith is just without the park, and is a pretty large market-town, and the better market for being so near Edinburgh; for there comes great quantities of provisions hither from the southern countries, which are bought up here to be carried to Edinburgh market again, and sold there. The town is spacious, and well built, and is the better, no doubt, for the neighbourhood of so many noblemen's and gentlemen's houses of such eminence in its neighbourhood.
This brought us to the very sight of the city of Edinburgh, where we rested a few days, having thus finished our circuit over the whole south of Scotland, on this side of the River Forth, and on the south side of the Firth of Clyde. So I shall conclude this letter.
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