Saturday, September 10th.
Rose early, and departed without breakfast. We were to pass through one of the most celebrated vales of Scotland, Strath Erne. We found it a wide, long, and irregular vale, with many gentlemen's seats under the hills, woods, copses, frequent cottages, plantations, and much cultivation, yet with an intermixture of barren ground; indeed, except at Killin and Dunkeld, there was always something which seemed to take from the composure and simplicity of the cultivated scenes. There is a struggle to overcome the natural barrenness, and the end not attained, an appearance of something doing or imperfectly done, a passing with labour from one state of society into another. When you look from an eminence on the fields of Grasmere Vale, the heart is satisfied with a simple undisturbed pleasure, and no less, on one of the green or heathy dells of Scotland, where there is no appearance of change to be, or having been, but such as the seasons make.
Strath Erne is so extensive a vale that, had it been in England, there must have been much inequality, as in Wensley Dale; but at Wensley there is a unity, a softness, a melting together, which in the large vales of Scotland I never perceived. The difference at Strath Erne may come partly from the irregularity, the undefined outline, of the hills which enclose it; but it is caused still more by the broken surface, I mean broken as to colour and produce, the want of hedgerows, and also the great number of new fir plantations. After some miles it becomes much narrower as we approach nearer the mountains at the foot of the lake of the same name, Loch Erne.
Breakfasted at a small public-house, a wretchedly dirty cottage, but the people were civil, and though we had nothing but barley cakes we made a good breakfast, for there were plenty of eggs. Walked up a high hill to view the seat of Mr. Dundas, now Lord Melville - a spot where, if he have gathered much wisdom from his late disgrace or his long intercourse with the world, he may spend his days as quietly as he need desire. It is a secluded valley, not rich, but with plenty of wood: there are many pretty paths through the woods, and moss huts in different parts. After leaving the cottage where we breakfasted the country was very pleasing, yet still with a want of richness; but this was less perceived, being huddled up in charcoal woods, and the vale narrow. Loch Erne opens out in a very pleasing manner, seen from a hill along which the road is carried through a wood of low trees; but it does not improve afterwards, lying directly from east to west without any perceivable bendings: and the shores are not much broken or varied, not populous, and the mountains not sufficiently commanding to make up for the deficiencies. Dined at the head of the lake. I scarcely know its length, but should think not less than four or five miles, and it is wide in proportion. The inn is in a small village - a decent house.
Walked about half a mile along the road to Tyndrum, which is through a bare glen, and over a mountain pass. It rained when we pursued our journey again, and continued to rain for several hours. The road which we were to take was up another glen, down which came a stream that fell into the lake on the opposite side at the head of it, so, after having crossed the main vale, a little above the lake, we entered into the smaller glen. The road delightfully smooth and dry - one gentleman's house very pleasant among large coppice woods. After going perhaps three miles up this valley, we turned to the left into another, which seemed to be much more beautiful.
It was a level valley, not - like that which we had passed - a wide sloping cleft between the hills, but having a quiet, slow-paced stream, which flowed through level green grounds tufted with trees intermingled with cottages. The tops of the hills were hidden by mists, and the objects in the valley seen through misty rain, which made them look exceedingly soft, and indeed partly concealed them, and we always fill up what we are left to guess at with something as beautiful as what we see. This valley seemed to have less of the appearance of barrenness or imperfect cultivation than any of the same character we had passed through; indeed, we could not discern any traces of it. It is called Strath Eyer. 'Strath' is generally applied to a broad vale; but this, though open, is not broad.
We next came to a lake, called Loch Lubnaig, a name which signifies 'winding.' In shape it somewhat resembles Ulswater, but is much narrower and shorter, being only four miles in length. The character of this lake is simple and grand. On the side opposite to where we were is a range of steep craggy mountains, one of which - like Place Fell - encroaching upon the bed of the lake, forces it to make a considerable bending. I have forgotten the name of this precipice: it is a very remarkable one, being almost perpendicular, and very rugged.
We, on the other side, travelled under steep and rocky hills which were often covered with low woods to a considerable height; there were one or two farm-houses, and a few cottages. A neat white dwelling on the side of the hill over against the bold steep of which I have spoken, had been the residence of the famous traveller Bruce, who, all his travels ended, had arranged the history of them in that solitude - as deep as any Abyssinian one - among the mountains of his native country, where he passed several years. Whether he died there or not we did not learn; but the manner of his death was remarkable and affecting, - from a fall down-stairs in his own house, after so many dangers through which fortitude and courage had never failed to sustain him. The house stands sweetly, surrounded by coppice-woods and green fields. On the other side, I believe, were no houses till we came near to the outlet, where a few low huts looked very beautiful, with their dark brown roofs near a stream which hurried down the mountain, and after its turbulent course travelled a short way over a level green, and was lost in the lake.
Within a few miles of Callander we come into a grand region; the mountains to a considerable height were covered with wood, enclosing us in a narrow passage; the stream on our right, generally concealed by wood, made a loud roaring; at one place, in particular, it fell down the rocks in a succession of cascades. The scene is much celebrated in Scotland, and is called the Pass of Leny. It was nearly dark when we reached Callander. We were wet and cold, and glad of a good fire. The inn was comfortable; we drank tea; and after tea the waiter presented us with a pamphlet descriptive of the neighbourhood of Callander, which we brought away with us, and I am very sorry I lost it.
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