We were up early this morning and went to have a look round the village of Drymen and its surroundings before breakfast. We were quite near Buchanan Castle, and took the liberty of trespassing for a short time in the walks and woods surrounding it. The Duke of Montrose here reigned supreme, his family the Grahams having been in possession for twenty generations; among his ancestors were Sir Patrick de Graham, who was killed at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, and Sir John de Graham, the beloved friend of the immortal Wallace, who was slain at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. The village had been built in the form of a square which enclosed a large field of grass called the Cross Green, with nothing remarkable about it beyond an enormous ash tree supposed to be over 300 years old which stood in the churchyard. It measured about 17 feet in circumference at 5 feet from the ground, and was called the Bell Tree, because the church bell which summoned the villagers to worship was suspended from one of its branches. The tree began to show signs of decay, so eventually the bell had to be taken down and a belfry built to receive it.
We finished our breakfast at 8.30, and then, with the roads in a fearfully muddy condition owing to heavy downfalls of rain, started on our walk towards Stirling. The region here was pleasing agricultural country, and we passed many large and well-stocked farms on our way, some of them having as many as a hundred stacks of corn and beans in their stack-yards. After walking about seven miles we arrived at the dismal-looking village of Buchlyvie, where we saw many houses in ruins, standing in all their gloominess as evidences of the devastating effects of war. Some of the inhabitants were trying to eke out their livelihood by hand-loom weaving, but there was a poverty-stricken appearance about the place which had, we found, altered but little since Sir Walter Scott wrote of it in the following rhyme which he had copied from an old ballad:
Baron of Buchlivie,
May the foul fiend drive ye
And a' to pieces rive ye
For building sic a town,
Where there's neither horse meat
Nor man's meat, nor a chair to sit down.
We did not find the place quite so bad as that, for there were two or three small inns where travellers could get refreshments and a chair to sit down upon; but we did not halt for these luxuries until we reached Kippen, about five miles farther on. Before arriving there we overtook two drovers who were well acquainted with Glencoe and the Devil's Stairs, and when we told them of our adventures there they said we were very lucky to have had a fine day when we crossed those hills. They told us the story of the two young men who perished there, but thought their death was partially caused through lack of food. Kippen, they informed us, was on the borders of Perthshire and Stirlingshire, and when we told them we intended calling for refreshments they advised us to patronise the "Cross Keys Inn."
We found Kippen, or, as it was sometimes named, the Kingdom of Kippen, a pleasant place, and we had no difficulty in finding the "Cross Keys." Here we learned about the King of Kippen, the Scottish Robin Hood, and were told that it was only two miles away to the Ford of Frew, where Prince Charlie crossed the River Forth on his way from Perth to Stirling, and that about three minutes' walk from the Cross there was a place from which the most extensive and beautiful views of the country could be obtained. Rising like towers from the valley of the Forth could be seen three craigs - Dumyate Craig, Forth Abbey Craig, and the craig on which Stirling Castle had been built; spreading out below was the Carse of Stirling, which merged into and included the Vale of Monteith, about six miles from Kippen; while the distant view comprised the summits of many mountains, including that of Ben Lomond.
As usual in Scotland, the village contained two churches - the Parish Church and the United Free Church. In the old churchyard was an ancient ivy-covered belfry, but the church to which it belonged had long since disappeared. Here was the burial-place of the family of Edinbellie, and here lived in olden times an attractive and wealthy young lady named Jean Kay, whom Rob Roy, the youngest son of Rob Roy Macgregor, desired to marry. She would not accept him, so leaving Balquidder, the home of the Macgregors, accompanied by his three brothers and five other men, he went to Edinbellie and carried her off to Rowardennan, where a sham form of marriage was gone through. But the romantic lover paid dearly for his exploit, as it was for robbing this family of their daughter that Rob forfeited his life on the scaffold at Edinburgh on February 16th, 1754, Jean Kay having died at Glasgow on October 4th, 1751.
We were well provided for at the "Cross Keys," and heard a lot about Mary Queen of Scots, as we were now approaching a district where much of the history of Scotland was made. Her name seemed to be on everybody's lips and her portrait in everybody's house, including the smallest dwellings. She seemed to be the most romantic character in the minds of the Scots, by whom she was almost idolised - not perhaps so much for her beauty and character as for her sufferings and the circumstances connected with her death. The following concise account of the career of this beautiful but unfortunate Queen and her son King James greatly interested us. She was born at Linlithgow Palace in the year 1542, and her father died when she was only eight days old. In the next year she was crowned Queen of Scotland at Stirling, and remained at the Castle there for about four years. She was then removed to Inchmahome, an island of about six acres in extent situated in the small Lake of Monteith, about six miles north of Kippen. In 1547, when six years old, she was sent to France in a Flemish ship from Dumbarton, and in the following year she was married to the Dauphin of France, afterwards King Francis II, who died in the year 1560. Afterwards she returned to Scotland and went to Stirling Castle, where she met her cousin Lord Darnley and was married to him at Holyrood in 1565, her son being born in 1566. Troubles, however, soon arose, and for a short time she was made a prisoner and placed in the Castle of Loch Leven, from which she escaped with the intention of going to Dumbarton Castle for safety. Her army under the Earl of Argyll accompanied her, but on the way they met an opposing army commanded by the Regent Murray, who defeated her army, and Queen Mary fled to England. Here she again became a prisoner and was placed in various castles for the long period of nineteen years, first in one and then in another, with a view probably to preventing her being rescued by her friends; and finally she was beheaded in 1587 in the forty-eighth year of her age at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire, by command of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth.
Her son James VI of Scotland, who subsequently became James I of England, was baptised in the Royal Chapel at Stirling Castle in 1566, and in 1567, when he was only about thirteen months old, was crowned in the parish church at Stirling, his mother Queen Mary having been forced to abdicate in favour of her son. The great Puritan divine John Knox preached the Coronation sermon on that occasion, and the young king was educated until he was thirteen years of age by George Buchanan, the celebrated scholar and historian, in the castle, where his class-room is still to be seen. He succeeded to the English throne on the death of Queen Elizabeth, and was crowned as King James I of England in the year 1603.
Leaving Kippen, we passed through Gargunnock, with the extraordinary windings of the River Forth to our left, and arrived at Stirling at 5.15 p.m., where at the post-office we found a host of letters waiting our arrival and at the railway-station a welcome change of clothing from home.
(Distance walked twenty-two miles.)
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