We set out from Drumnadrochit early in the morning, and, leaving Glen Urquhart to the right, after walking about two miles turned aside to view Urquhart Castle, a ruin occupying a commanding position on the side of Loch Ness and immediately opposite the entrance to the glen. The castle was besieged by Edward I when he was trying to subdue Scotland, and a melancholy story was told of that period. The Scots, who were defending the castle, were "in extremis," as their provisions were exhausted and they knew that when they surrendered they would all be slain. The Governor, however, was anxious to save his wife, who was shortly to become a mother, so he bade her clothe herself in rags and drove her from the gate as though she were a beggar who had been shut up in the castle and whom they had driven away because their provisions were running short. The ruse succeeded, for the English, believing her story, let her go; after the garrison saw that she was safe they sallied forth to meet their fate, and were all killed.
The approach to the ruins from the road is by upwards of a hundred rough hardwood steps, and the castle must have been a well-nigh impregnable stronghold in former times, protected as it was on three sides by the water of the loch and by a moat on the fourth, the position of the drawbridge being still clearly denned.
Beneath the solitary tower is a dismal dungeon, and we wondered what horrors had been enacted within its time-worn and gloomy walls! Once a grim fortress, its ruins had now been mellowed by the hand of time, and looked quite inviting amidst their picturesque surroundings. To them might fitly be applied the words: "Time has made beautiful that which at first was only terrible."
Whilst we were amongst the ruins, a steamboat which had called at Drumnadrochit passed close alongside the castle, and we waved our handkerchiefs to those on board, our silent salutations being returned by some of the passengers. We afterwards learned we had been recognised by a gentleman who had met us on the previous day.
About ten miles from Drumnadrochit we reached Invermoriston, and visited a church which was almost filled with monuments to the memory of the Grant family, the lairds of Glenmoriston. Among them was the tombstone of the son of a former innkeeper, with the following inscription, which reminded us of our own mortality:
Remember, Friend, when this you
As I am now so you must be;
As you are now so once was I.
Remember, Friend, that you must die.
There was also another tombstone, apparently that of his mother, inscribed:
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF JEAN SCOTT, THE AMIABLE WIFE OF WILLIAM FALL, INVERMORISTON, INNKEEPER, WHO DIED ON THE 13TH DAY OF APRIL 1837 AGED 68 YEARS.
and on this appeared the following epitaph:
Weep not for me, O friends,
But weep and mourn
For your own sins.
We then went to visit the remarkable waterfall of Glenmoriston, where the water after rushing down the rocks for some distance entered a crevice in a projecting rock below, evidently worn in the course of ages by the falls themselves. Here the water suddenly disappeared, to reappear as suddenly some distance below, where, as if furious at its short imprisonment, it came out splashing, dashing, and boiling in fantastic beauty amongst the rocks over which it pursued its downward course. We descended a few paces along a footpath leading to a small but ancient building, probably at one time a summer house, in the centre of which a very old millstone had done duty as a table. Here we were fairly in the whirl of waters, and had a splendid view of the falls and of the spray which rose to a considerable height. There was no doubt that we saw this lovely waterfall under the best possible conditions, and it was some recompense to us when we thought that the heavy rainfall through which we had passed had contributed to this result. The thistle may overshadow many more beautiful falls than the falls of Glenmoriston, but we claim a share of praise for this lively little waterfall as viewed by us in full force from this shady retreat.
After refreshing ourselves at the inn, we started on our next stage of ten miles to Fort Augustus, the loneliness of our journey through its beauties of scenery being enlivened by occasionally watching the pranks of the squirrels and gazing at the many burns that flowed down the mountain slopes. Before reaching Fort Augustus we had a splendid view as we looked backward over Loch Ness, dotted here and there with several ships tacking and retacking, their white sails gleaming in the sunshine. It had been a calm and lovely day; the sun was sinking in the west as we entered Fort Augustus, but we had only time enough for a superficial survey, for we had to proceed farther, and, however important the Fort might have been in 1729 when General Wade constructed his famous military road, or when the Duke of Cumberland made it his headquarters while he dealt severely with the adherents of Prince Charlie, shooting ruthlessly, laying waste on every side, and driving women and children into the moors only to die, it looked very insignificant that night. The Highland Clans never looked favourably on the construction of these military roads, and would doubtless have preferred the mountain tracks to remain as they were, for by using the Fort as a base these roads became a weapon to be used against them; their only eulogy was said to have been written by an Irish officer:
Had you but seen these roads before they
You would lift up your eyes, and bless General Wade.
My brother said he must have been a real Irishman, with the eye of faith, to see roads before they were made!
Fort Augustus stands at the extremity of Loch Ness, at the point where its surplus waters are lowered by means of locks to swell those of Loch Oich, so as to make both lochs navigable for the purposes of the Caledonian Canal. We noticed some corn-stacks here that were thatched with broom, and some small houses that were roofed with what looked like clods of earth, so we concluded that the district must be a very poor one.
As darkness was now coming on, we were anxious to find lodgings for the night, and, hearing that there was an inn at a place called Invergarry, seven and a half miles from Fort Augustus, we were obliged to go there. The moon was just beginning to relieve the darkness when we reached Invergarry, and, seeing a servant removing some linen from a clothes-line in a small garden, we asked the way to the inn; she pointed to a building opposite, and said we had "better go in at that door." We entered as directed at the side door, and found ourselves in a rather large inn with a passage through it from end to end. We saw what we supposed to be the master and the mistress snugly ensconced in a room, and asked the master if we could obtain lodgings for the night. He said "yes," but we heard the mistress, who had not seen us, mutter something we could not hear distinctly. My brother said he was sure he heard the words "Shepherd's room." The landlord then conducted us into a room at the end of the long dark passage, in which, we found several shepherds drinking and conversing with each other in Gaelic. One of them said to us "Good night," and as we returned his salutation they all retired from the room.
We were now able to look about us, and found the room contained two tables, four forms, and at least two beds ranged lengthways along one side. Presently a servant came in and began to make one of the beds, and then another servant came who, we thought, eyed us rather closely, as we were holding our faces down to conceal the laughter which we could scarcely restrain. When she had made the other bed my brother asked if both the beds were for us. The servant said she couldn't tell, but "Missis says they are both to be made." We had evidently been taken for shepherds, and at first we were inclined to feel angry, for no one came to ask us if we required anything to eat or drink. We could have done with a good supper, but fortunately we had replenished our bags at Fort Augustus, so we were in no danger of being starved. We scribbled in our diaries by the feeble light of the candle which the servants had left on one of the tables, and as no one turned up to claim the second bed we occupied both. There was no lock or fastening on the door, but we barricaded it securely with two of the forms - and it was perhaps as well that we did so, for some one tried to open it after we were in bed - and we slept that night not on feathers, but on chaff with which the beds or mattresses were stuffed.
(Distance walked twenty-seven miles.)
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