Tuesday, September 6th.
Walked before breakfast in Lord Breadalbane's grounds, which border upon the river Tay. The higher elevations command fine views of the lake; and the walks are led along the river's banks, and shaded with tall trees: but it seemed to us that a bad taste had been at work, the banks being regularly shaven and cut as if by rule and line. One or two of such walks I should well have liked to see; but they are all equally trim, and I could not but regret that the fine trees had not been left to grow out of a turf that cattle were permitted to feed upon. There was one avenue which would well have graced the ruins of an abbey or some stately castle. It was of a very great length, perfectly straight, the trees meeting at the top in a cathedral arch, lessening in perspective, - the boughs the roof, the stems the pillars. I never saw so beautiful an avenue.
We were told that some improver of pleasure-grounds had advised Lord B. to cut down the trees, and lay the whole open to the lawn, for the avenue is very near his house. His own better taste, or that of some other person, I suppose, had saved them from the axe. Many workmen were employed in building a large mansion something like that of Inverary, close to the old house, which was yet standing; the situation, as we thought, very bad, considering that Lord Breadalbane had the command of all the ground at the foot of the lake, including hills both high and low. It is in a hollow, without prospect either of the lake or river, or anything else - seeing nothing, and adorning nothing. After breakfast, left Kenmore, and travelled through the vale of Tay, I believe fifteen or sixteen miles; but in the course of this we turned out of our way to the Falls of Moness, a stream tributary to the Tay, which passes through a narrow glen with very steep banks.
A path like a woodman's track has been carried through the glen, which, though the private property of a gentleman, has not been taken out of the hands of Nature, but merely rendered accessible by this path, which ends at the waterfalls. They tumble from a great height, and are indeed very beautiful falls, and we could have sate with pleasure the whole morning beside the cool basin in which the waters rest, surrounded by high rocks and overhanging trees. In one of the most retired parts of the dell, we met a young man coming slowly along the path, intent upon a book which he was reading: he did not seem to be of the rank of a gentleman, though above that of a peasant.
Passed through the village of Aberfeldy, at the foot of the glen of Moness. The birks of Aberfeldy are spoken of in some of the Scotch songs, which no doubt grew in the stream of Moness; but near the village we did not see any trees that were remarkable, except a row of laburnums, growing as a common field hedge; their leaves were of a golden colour, and as lively as the yellow blossoms could have been in the spring. Afterwards we saw many laburnums in the woods, which we were told had been 'planted;' though I remember that Withering speaks of the laburnum as one of the British plants, and growing in Scotland. The twigs and branches being stiff, were not so graceful as those of our garden laburnums, but I do not think I ever before saw any that were of so brilliant colours in their autumnal decay. In our way to and from Moness we crossed the Tay by a bridge of ambitious and ugly architecture.
Many of the bridges in Scotland are so, having eye-holes between the arches, not in the battlements but at the outspreading of the pillar of the arch, which destroys its simplicity, and takes from the appearance of strength and security, without adding anything of lightness. We returned, by the same road, to the village of Weem, where we had left our car. The vale of Tay was very wide, having been so from within a short distance of Kenmore: the reaches of the river are long; and the ground is more regularly cultivated than in any vale we had yet seen - chiefly corn, and very large tracts. Afterwards the vale becomes narrow and less cultivated, the reaches shorter - on the whole resembling the vale of Nith, but we thought it inferior in beauty.
One among the cottages in this narrow and wilder part of the vale fixed our attention almost as much as a Chinese or a Turk would do passing through the vale of Grasmere. It was a cottage, I believe, little differing in size and shape from all the rest; but it was like a visitor, a stranger come into the Highlands, or a model set up of what may be seen in other countries. The walls were neatly plastered or roughcast, the windows of clean bright glass, and the door was painted - before it a flower-garden, fenced with a curiously-clipped hedge, and against the wall was placed the sign of a spinning-wheel. We could not pass this humble dwelling, so distinguished by an appearance of comfort and neatness, without some conjectures respecting the character and manner of life of the person inhabiting it. Leisure he must have had; and we pleased ourselves with thinking that some self-taught mind might there have been nourished by knowledge gathered from books, and the simple duties and pleasures of rural life.
At Logierait, the village where we dined, the vale widens again, and the Tummel joins the Tay and loses its name; but the Tay falls into the channel of the Tummel, continuing its course in the same direction, almost at right angles to the former course of the Tay. We were sorry to find that we had to cross the Tummel by a ferry, and resolved not to venture in the same boat with the horse. Dined at a little public-house, kept by a young widow, very talkative and laboriously civil. She took me out to the back-door, and said she would show me a place which had once been very grand, and, opening a door in a high wall, I entered a ruinous court-yard, in which was a large old mansion, the walls entire and very strong, but the roof broken in. The woman said it had been a palace of one of the kings of Scotland.
It was a striking and even an affecting object, coming upon it, as I did, unawares, - a royal residence shut up and hidden, while yet in its strength, by mean cottages; there was no appearance of violence, but decay from desertion, and I should think that it may remain many years without undergoing further visible change. The woman and her daughter accompanied us to the ferry and crossed the water with us; the woman said, but with not much appearance of honest heart-feeling, that she could not be easy to let us go without being there to know how we sped, so I invited the little girl to accompany her, that she might have a ride in the car. The men were cautious, and the horse got over with less alarm than we could have expected. Our way was now up the vale, along the banks of the Tummel, an impetuous river; the mountains higher than near the Tay, and the vale more wild, and the different reaches more interesting.
When we approached near to Fascally, near the junction of the Garry with the Tummel, the twilight was far advanced, and our horse not being perfectly recovered, we were fearful of taking him on to Blair-Athole - five miles further; besides, the Pass of Killicrankie was within half a mile, and we were unwilling to go through a place so celebrated in the dark; therefore, being joined by a traveller, we inquired if there was any public-house near; he said there was; and that though the accommodations were not good, we might do well enough for one night, the host and his wife being very honest people. It proved to be rather better than a common cottage of the country; we seated ourselves by the fire, William called for a glass of whisky, and asked if they could give us beds.
The woman positively refused to lodge us, though we had every reason to believe that she had at least one bed for me; we entreated again and again in behalf of the poor horse, but all in vain; she urged, though in an uncivil way, that she had been sitting up the whole of one or two nights before on account of a fair, and that now she wanted to go to bed and sleep; so we were obliged to remount our car in the dark, and with a tired horse we moved on, and went through the Pass of Killicrankie, hearing only the roaring of the river, and seeing a black chasm with jagged-topped black hills towering above. Afterwards the moon rose, and we should not have had an unpleasant ride if our horse had been in better plight, and we had not been annoyed, as we were almost at every twenty yards, by people coming from a fair held that day near Blair - no pleasant prognostic of what might be our accommodation at the inn, where we arrived between ten and eleven o'clock, and found the house in an uproar; but we were civilly treated, and were glad, after eating a morsel of cold beef, to retire to rest, and I fell asleep in spite of the noisy drunkards below stairs, who had outstayed the fair.
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