The Lochs

BY YON BONNIE BANKS AND YON BONNIE BRAES

Early in the morning I walked up to the nearest ‘Passing Place’ above Inversnaid hotel to enjoy the view across Loch Lomond and the forest where feral goats were grazing. I then explored the other side of the hotel walking up to the bridge where it crosses the stream and the waterfall flows into the Loch. On the bridge was an ‘In memory of’ plaque of someone who had ‘crossed over to the other side’ so fitting.  It was difficult terrain to reach the last few steps to get level with the bridge to cross over the deep ravine, a reminder that the last stage of life can be the most difficult. This was where William Wordsworth penned “The Highland Maid,” a love poem to a woman he was smitten with in this place.

 

Nor am I loth, though pleased at heart,

Sweet Highland Girl! from thee to part;

For I, methinks, till I grow old,

As fair before me shall behold,

As I do now, the cabin small,

The lake, the bay, the waterfall;

And thee, the spirit of them all! (At Inversneyde, upon Loch Lomond)

Sweet Highland Girl, a very shower
Of beauty is thy earthly dower!
Twice seven consenting years have shed
Their utmost bounty on thy head:
And these grey rocks; that household lawn;
Those trees, a veil just half withdrawn;
This fall of water that doth make
A murmur near the silent lake;
This little bay; a quiet road
That holds in shelter thy Abode—
In truth together do ye seem
Like something fashioned in a dream;
Such Forms as from their covert peep
When earthly cares are laid asleep!
But, O fair Creature! in the light
Of common day, so heavenly bright,
I bless Thee, Vision as thou art,
I bless thee with a human heart;
God shield thee to thy latest years!
Thee, neither know I, nor thy peers;
And yet my eyes are filled with tears.

 

With earnest feeling I shall pray
For thee when I am far away:
For never saw I mien, or face,
In which more plainly I could trace
Benignity and home-bred sense
Ripening in perfect innocence.
Here scattered, like a random seed,
Remote from men, Thou dost not need
The embarrassed look of shy distress,
And maidenly shamefacedness:
Thou wear’st upon thy forehead clear
The freedom of a Mountaineer:
A face with gladness overspread!
Soft smiles, by human kindness bred!
And seemliness complete, that sways
Thy courtesies, about thee plays;
With no restraint, but such as springs
From quick and eager visitings
Of thoughts that lie beyond the reach

Of thy few words of English speech:
A bondage sweetly brooked, a strife
That gives thy gestures grace and life!
So have I, not unmoved in mind,
Seen birds of tempest-loving kind—
Thus beating up against the wind.

 

What hand but would a garland cull

For thee who art so beautiful?

O happy pleasure! here to dwell

Beside thee in some heathy dell;

Adopt your homely ways, and dress,

A Shepherd, thou a Shepherdess!

But I could frame a wish for thee

More like a grave reality:

Thou art to me but as a wave

Of the wild sea; and I would have

Some claim upon thee, if I could,

Though but of common neighbourhood.

What joy to hear thee, and to see!

Thy elder Brother I would be,

Thy Father—anything to thee!

 

Now thanks to Heaven! that of its grace

Hath led me to this lonely place.

Joy have I had; and going hence

I bear away my recompense.

In spots like these it is we prize

Our Memory, feel that she hath eyes:

Then, why should I be loth to stir?

I feel this place was made for her;

To give new pleasure like the past,

Continued long as life shall last.

Nor am I loth, though pleased at heart,

Sweet Highland Girl! from thee to part;

For I, methinks, till I grow old,

As fair before me shall behold,

As I do now, the cabin small,

The lake, the bay, the waterfall;

And thee, the spirit of them all!

 

Paddle steamers were the mode of transport in the old days so the original roads around20170511_161019-1 (1) Loch Lomond were very busy; there was a stage coach service from Inversnaid in those days when Queen Victoria travelled by paddle steamer. The steamer “Princess May” in 1812 built by David Napier and the “Marion” used to chug their way up and down the Loch. General Wolfe and the Duke of Montrose both had stayed in this area.

Not far from Loch Lomond is Lake Katrine which we visited. The first steam powered boat on Lake Katrine was the “Rob Roy” followed by the “Sir Walter Scott” in 1901. Queen Victoria had opened the valves of Loch Arklet which is the header tank to Lake Katrine which has been supplying water since 1851.

We chugged our way down Lake Katrine, the throb of the engines and lapping of water in the wake of the “Sir Walter Scott,” which still had its original engines, fuelled now by diesel and not wood. We stood gazing at the highland cattle grazing on the open hillsides as the sun briefly lit up the dark rolling hills with their forest fringe and grey granite rocky outcrops. We chugged the length of the Loch from Stronachlachar to where the coaches were waiting for us at the Trossachs Pier. A variety of pines and birches and grew down to the water’s edge with luxuriant moss and ferns growing on the trees and on the banks.

This area is full of stories of the legendary Rob Roy who was held a prisoner on one the islands. Sir Walter Scott wrote “The Lady of the Lake” and “Rob Roy”, making this area famous.  The original Drovers Route was made into a toll road by the Duke of Montrose and is now called the Duke’s Pass. We drove past Loch Achray, the cottage gardens along the route ablaze with colour and perennial borders.  The slopes down to Loch Venachar had open fields dotted with clumps of sedge grasses with sheep and cattle grazing 20170511_160955-1 (1)amongst them.  The Rob Roy and Trossachs Walking Trail are in this area and walkers often overnight at Inversnaid. We stopped at Callander which meant, ‘road to the beach’ our driver told us, according to the geology of the area: the Highland Boundary Fault is near here. We stopped for lunch at a small café where we ate soup and bread. The High Street was very pretty with a river at running at the bottom with a lovely bridge and picnic area.

We drove through the bracken clad hillsides of Strathshyre where foxgloves poked their head out of the greenery on the verges and hillsides.  In the past villages were built to discourage the clans from living in the hills and to make them a community in the villages where it would be easier to have control over them. We passed the viaducts of IMG_4382 (1)the old railway which was closed due to a rock fall, the site was declared unstable by geologists and was not repaired.  We drove through open meadowlands with buttercups and daisies, then on through LIX, which was named after the Roman 59th Legion which was stationed in the area.  A lot of the roads in Scotland were military roads, to enable troops to move quickly from one area to another.  We went past the old tollhouse on the way to Killen and the Dochart Falls, where we stopped off for a while to view the falls IMG_4395 (1)and the grave of the McNab family. The couple who sat at my table were McNabs so they took some photos and were obviously interested in this piece of history.  The old water Mill on the river (see photos) still turned as the waters flowed through it. The bridge over the river Dochart was a very narrow stone bridge which would only take traffic one way at a time.  I walked over the bridge to see a long stretch of very pretty rapids and falls as they chattered over the rocks and flowed away under the bridge.  I stood there meditating on the water that flows under the bridge which cannot return, I thought one has to keep going with the flow, not to try and swim upstream again; you can only cross over the bridge and move on.

Rob Roy was a cattle drover, he became very successful and owed three properties along Loch Lomond.  The drovers used to travel great distances, so there was a system of Drovers Inns along the route. Not only did they drive cattle, but also carried money and documents (same idea as couriers today).  They were able to carry weapons to protect themselves so they would stay at a Drovers Inn, the one on the main road along Loch Lomond was built in 1705. Everybody behaved like Rob Roy in those days, it was not just him and his clansmen, one must not judge the past by today’s standards. He died in his house at Inverlochlarig Beg, Balquhidder,   We also 20170511_161034-1went past the Pulpit Rock, which was a large rock with a niche cut out of it.  The law required that people had to attend Church on Sundays, and the nearest church was at Tabor, which took about 7 hours to reach, so the people made this an outdoor church in 1850.  There was also an entrepreneur who set up a stall at the back of the rock to sell whiskey and cheese!  There were probably as many people on both sides of the rock! The narrow road was upgraded to Arlui, extending over the Loch in places.  A new church was built at Arlui, to replace the Pulpit Rock but this also fell into disrepair and was later turned in to a home.

We arrived at Inveruglas in time to catch the “Loch Lomond” back to Inversnaid for dinner after an interesting day exploring Rob Roy country.

 

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I’LL TAKE THE HIGH ROAD AND YOU TAKE THE LOW ROAD

Continuing the story of my trip to Scotland……

Our coach driver Eddie told us the origin of the famous song ‘Loch Lomond’ which was pretty sad.  It was written by a Jacobite highlander in the Invararey gaol at the time of the 1745 uprising when Bonnie Prince Charlie was fighting James II of England’s grandson. The Jacobites were part of the political movement that aimed to restore the Roman Catholic Stuart King James II of England and his heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. The Jacobite Rebellion was an important time in Scotland; this ended at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the final confrontation which was primarily a religious civil war.  These Jacobite highlanders were taken prisoner and were systematically being killed; ten hung per day. One son in each family was allowed to be spared. There were two brothers in the Invararey gaol, one brother said to the other, “you must go home to the family, and I will stay to be killed and buried. I am taking the high road and will be in Scotland before you.” His meaning was his soul would be in Scotland. This song is sung when a person gets very melancholy at the end of Hogmanay and reminisces over the past. Listening to the words of Loch Lomond will never be the same for me after hearing that story of familial sacrifice.

Industries

We passed the forestry region of Dumfries as we drove along the M74 towards Glasgow.  BLTR6Pine Trees The hillsides were clad in native Scots Pine, a tree that adapted to climate change over the previous centuries; it has a natural range confined to the Highlands, covering about 17,000 hectares, mainly growing on north-facing slopes. Forestry is a big industry in the area. Thirty five years after the trees are planted they are cut down and two more planted in their place. There is an enormous demand for trees worldwide and Scotland is the third largest producer of wood in Europe. Running under the A73 is the Longannet Coal Mine, now closed. This was the deepest coalmine in Scotland. – The mine shafts run for 9 miles in all directions, the area is now landscaped where it was built over and beautified by  roadside sculptures; the ghostly Andy Scott’s ‘Arria’ metal mermaid sculpture, overlooking the M80 motorway near Cumbernauld and the Clydesdale Horse, facing Glasgow with its backside towards Edinburgh on the M8.

Another major industry is whiskey, manufactured from the abundant supplies of barley and the pure, clear spring water from the peaty burns, an environment rich in the highest quality ingredients which have made this liquor magic and a top export. Each distillery has its own distinctive handcrafted characteristics with £8billion of whiskey sold per annum.

Scottish Terms

The boundary between the highlands and the lowlands of Scotland is at the town of Comrie which sits on the Highland Boundary Fault where the tectonic plates butt against each other. To the north are the mountains which are called benns or tors, Ben Nevis is the highest at 4409 ft above sea level. A loch is a stretch of water, a glen is a narrow valley, and a strath is a wider valley.  A munro is a mountain over 3000 feet named after Sir Hugh Munro, (1856–1919) who listed all the mountains. ‘Bagging a munro’ is a mountain climber’s ambition, and each year people die trying to achieve this. There are 282 munros in Scotland.  Clans are tribes or children and Mac means ‘son of’.

Spikes of purple wild flowers poked through the white daisies and Queen Anne Lace as we bypassed Glasgow onto the Stirling Road, we skirted Bannock Burn where Robert theBLTR6 Callendar Bruce won the battle against the English 700 years ago.  We past Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, and turned off to Callendar.  This area was quite flat and was at one time under the ocean, where the Oceana Germanica or North Sea covered the area.

Sheep stood watching us showing off their newly clipped fat bellies as we past the lake near Monreith. The game of Curling was a very popular game similar to Ice Hockey which was played on this frozen lake, although health and safety do not approve of it these days as the ice has to reach a certain thickness before you are allowed to play.

Eddie asked us all to disembark and go to the loo at Aberfoyle to make sure we had empty bladders before we drove down the winding narrow road to the hotel at BLTR6Inversnaid HighwayInversnaid. This road is called the ‘Inversnaid Highway’ and wound its way alongside Loch Ardon on the one side and lovely stone houses lining the way on the other and inbetween were clumps of purple heather on the open hillsides. We drove along the valley floor on a very narrow road with few squeeze places for cars to pass each other.  It took an hour to drive the 15 miles as we had to stop at times to let other vehicles pass. At one stage Eddie tried to pass a wide bodied truck and it took several backwards and forwarding and holding of breaths to pass with a hairsbreadth between us.

We were all relieved to arrive at the hotel at Inversnaid and settle into our cosy rooms and enjoy a very welcome cup of tea.

To be continued Loch Lomond………

BLTR6 Inversnaid Hotel

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