|European Letters, by T.W. Patton to
The Asheville Citizen:
Description of the Tour of the North Carolina Teachers, During the Summer of 1889
SCOTLAND'S CRAGS. [pages 10-13]
|*Note: Copy has been re-formatted. Original two column format has been abandoned and special fonts have been standardized.|
dear citizen :— If we had a thousand pens under our control and writing with lightning speed, they could not give you an idea of the thoughts which delightfully press upon our brain this morning and give a burning longing to communicate to you, even if it be but a small part of the enjoyment which is heaped upon us. Yes, indeed, and if we had a thousand tongues, each unexcelled in fluency, they would be kept busy, both in describing the charms of yesterday, and in the equally vain attempt to repeat to you the truly awful manner in which these bonny Scotch can roll their r's.
A friend from the States who joined us yesterday, remarking on this, said that he had visited a large school in one department of which the children were carefully trained in this remarkable accomplishment. A kind Highland gentleman on yesterday was answering most patiently our endless queries, when we asked the species of a small tree, which looked like one of our scrub pines, but with bated breath we learned that it was a Scotch
r r r
At least, this, is the best imitation we can give of the magnificent intonation which he brought forth without apparent effort. We might have done better had we dared ask him to repeat, but we feared that the reverberating patron letter of Scotland would occupy the balance of our visit to her shores.
To return to our itinerary of yesterday. We left Glasgow at seven, after a charming stop at St. Knock's hotel, and our swift little railway carriage soon carried us past the foot of Dumbarton rock, and we catch only a glimpse of its renowned castle, rich in historic lore and in which the grand Wallace was so long held a prisoner, waiting to be the martyr whose blood should fertilize the seed which afterward placed Scotland's king upon England's throne. This craig is located at the junction of the Severn and the Clyde, and preserves as a relic the very sword which in Wallace's grasp carried well deserved destruction to the Tories and the traitors of his day. We are told that the craig itself was a pebble which Satan attempted to throw at St. Patrick, but the devil never being very powerful in Scotland, instead of reaching Ireland the missile dropped in its present position.
We soon take a dear little steamer at the foot of Loch Lomond and smoothly sail over its un-rippled waters, all of us on deck and gazing in delight upon the grand mountains, or ''Bens" .as they are still called here.
The serried, jagged pinnacle and sides of Ben Lomond soon stand before us, only one of a thousand others equal in beauty, if not in renown, and numerous elegant residences, which do not mar the scene by their newness, because always built out of the solid gray stone, a part of the eternal mountains themselves.
On our right we admire the hunting seat and lodge of the Duke of Montrose, nestling at the very foot of Ben Lomond, while opposite, on a pretty island, is the residence of Mr. James Calhoun—a name dear to our friends who represent our Southern sister.
Mr. Calhoun's estate seems very large, covering miles of the lake's shore and embracing numerous tenantries, wharves, towns, hotels, etc., each and all of the same solid rock as compose his own house. We fancy him to be a good and faithful landlord from these indications.
At the head of Loch Lomond, which is reached all too quickly for us, we receive
fertilization, and filling with pure ethereal fluid fit for the gods this reservoir of nature, at a height of 380 feet above the city which it blesses. Oh, how we longed for some such good fortune for our own dear home!
One strange effect of this soil is to lessen our appreciation of Scotland's great author. We cannot imagine how any man or woman can move among these scenes without being thoroughly enthused, and had not "The Lady of the Lake" been written several years ago we have no doubt your columns would have had the honor of producing it, composed by your own correspondent on the spot.
Near the foot of Loch Katrine the islands close in so as almost to close the tortuous little channel, and here is the exquisite ''Ellen's Isle," rendered famous in "The Lady of the Lake" as the home of the sweetheart of Roderick Dhu; and passing it all too swiftly we reach another portage, with numerous coaches, on which we are quickly mounted and speeding away through the Trossachs proper—a wild and picturesque mountain gorge, the soil apparently fertile and clothed in the very richest of ferns and grasses, and the growth of oak, holly, birch, etc., stunted in size again reminds us of the top of grand old Craggy. Only here the gorge widens out repeatedly into very gems of lakes of crystal water, on the banks of one of which stands the Trossachs hotel. Perfectly exquisite is all we can say of it. Exterior of solid stone, corners groined with rough unhewn boulders, while the interior is characterized in all respects with the same solid air of comfort which does not fail to reach even the lunch which is so bountifully provided, and we are enabled to understand for the first time the feelings of the immortal Sam Weller when he said, ''Weal pie is a werry good thing."
While enjoying our coach ride we are
struck with many characteristic points which we would like to refer to, but cannot find enough of either paper, ink or time. One, however, we must remark upon—the air of dignified politeness which pervades all around us. For instance, we pass a magnificent stretch of mountain meadow, extending as far as we can see, and literally covered with the very finest sheep and cows, and our eye is caught by this notice: "Persons "desiring to pass through these lands in their ascent of Ben Lide are politely requested to restrain their dogs from annoying the sheep and cows. Beyond this no restriction whatever is placed to their entrance." Rather different to our gruff American "Keep off! Trespassers prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!" We commend the Scotch plan to our people, with the hope that following the example of his courtesy, they may be able to approximate his thrift.
Our delightful coach ride of nine miles lands us at Calidon, a railway station, whence we are quickly whirled past the old church of Dunblane, and many other points we hated to lose, to the renowned city of Stirling, at approaching which we by the kind advice of a sweet Scotch lassie, take a horse car and from the deck seat receive a view of an exquisite part of the city which we would otherwise have lost, passing near the foot of "Wallace monument" with which the English nation at this late day acknowledges the virtues of the hero whom it "hanged, drew and quartered" in its beastly vulgarity of former years. Worthily and honestly has the error been acknowledged, and this turret-topped monument, on top of Abbey Craig, a hill of five hundred feet almost perpendicular height, is a creditable display of their national frankness.
Our special ride also gives us an excellent view of the old bridge of Sterling, which spans the river Forth with spans of arches, most graceful in design, and evidently destined to give proof to future generations of the faithfulness with which the public works of their ancestors were performed.
At a rather late hour in the afternoon we reach Stirling and walk up a steep hill towards the renowned castle, taking en route the old Grey Friars church, which our guide informs us was the place of coronation, both of Mary, Queen of Scots, and King James VI.; but as the guide did not get as much as he expected from us, we are inclined to think he measured his truth according to his estimate of his fee, and told us false in both instances. However this may be, we enjoyed both the quaint old church, surrounded by historical dwellings of Darnley, and several other husbands of her bloody majesty who delighted in blowing up her mates as much as our wife does, only in a more persuasive and matter of fact manner. And also we enjoyed the old Gicy Friars graveyard, in which is My Lady's Seat, a craig which is said to have been used as a "place for artillery in one of the attacks on the neighboring castle.
In this churchyard we, as usual, see a very funny epitaph which we cannot fail to give you.
Even while pondering over this, and wondering how much we may have to pay, we arrive at the Esplanade, and enjoy a view of Abbey Craig, which is surmounted by Wallace's monument of which we spoke, and even lean against a gigantic statue of the great King Robert the Bruce, in which his immense strength is well delineated.
Another portion of the
panorama spread before us presents a ruinous tower, which marks the
place of burial of King James III,
who was assassinated meanly near by after receiving a wound
by his falling horse.
Over the old draw bridge we walk and pass through where the old port cullis used to drop, guarded now by a highland regiment, gorgeously appareled in Cameron plaid, with sporran aprons and hats, such as would delight our boy's heart, made of bear skin, of huge dimensions and tails innumerable floating about the wearer's eyes in a most exasperating manner.
Around the outer wall is a small hole, which we are told marks the Indies view,
where the dames used to peep through at the tournaments of their liege lords on the plain far below. Also from here we see plainly the distant field of Bannock-burn, and the hills over which the gillies rushed so opportunely for Scotland, and made the great Edward believe they were a reinforcement of Brace's small army.
How we longed for as
many days as we had hours to spend here, but sternly tore ourselves
away to visit the Douglass Chamber, in which one of that famous class was stabbed to death by his
monarch James II, in the year 1452.
The original room having been almost destroyed, we are pained with the incongruous newness of our surroundings, but enjoy many interesting relics—such as the pulpit and communion table of John Knox; and also a Lochaber axe found on the field of Bannockburn, which looks like it might have been the same which was spoiled by Bruce over the cleft head of the venturesome Knight who, on his huge charger, undertook to ride down the King on his little pony, who was setting his men in battle array.
After a visit all too brief for our wish, we descend once more to the railway station and are whirled away through Falkirk where the unfortunate Wallace was defeated, and Linlithgow where Mary was born. And so at 10.30 o'clock, only a little after twilight, are landed in the lovel\r, beautiful, famous capital of Scotland, but Edinburgh deserves more than one letter for itself. So this long epistle we close with the remark that these Scots have more day and less night than any ones we ever saw—daylight at three and twilight till ten. And this reminds us that it is the part of wisdom to make a proper use of the few hours of darkness which are now before us. So, good night!