Monday, January 22, 2007

Inversnaid, by Loch Lomond

Views of Inversnaid

Views from Inversnaid:

The Waterfall:

The Gazeteer of Scotland (see describes it so:

"A hamlet with a hotel situated on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. There are spectacular views across the loch to the Arrochar 'Alps' and nearby are the rock pools and water falls of the Snaid Burn. The locality provided inspiration for the poets William Wordsworth and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Sir Walter Scott passed this way in 1792 and 1828. Rob Roy Macgregor acquired land at Inversnaid and a barracks was erected here in 1719 to control the Jacobite districts after the 1715 rebellion.

Inversnaid is located 20 miles (32 km) north west of Aberfoyle. It is linked by road to Stronachlar on Loch Katrine and to the east is a farmstead known as the Garrison of Inversnaid which incorporates the remains of a military Barracks built in 1718-19. The West Highland Way passes through Inversnaid and a mile to the north by the loch side is Rob Roy's Cave, a refuge often used by Rob Roy Macgregor."

William Wordsworth`s (April 7, 1770 – April 23, 1850) poem was written in 1803.

To the Highland Girl of Inversnaid

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 gray rocks, this household lawn, 5
These trees—a veil just half withdrawn;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;— 10
In truth together ye do seem
Like something fashion'd in a dream—
Such forms as from their covert peep
When earthly cares are laid asleep!
But, O fair Creature! in the light 15
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!
I neither know thee nor thy peers, 20
And yet my eyes are fill'd 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 25
Benignity and home-bred sense
Ripening in perfect innocence.
Here scatter'd, like a random seed,
Remote from men, thou dost not need
The embarrass'd look of shy distress, 30
And maidenly shamefacèdness.
Thou wear'st upon thy forehead clear
The freedom of a mountaineer;
A face with gladness overspread;
Soft smiles, by human kindness bred; 35
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 40
Of thy few words of English speech—
A bondage sweetly brook'd, a strife
That gives thy gestures grace and life!
So have I, not unmoved in mind,
Seen birds of tempest-loving kind 45
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; 50
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 55
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, 60
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. 65
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, 70
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 75
As I do now the cabin small,
The lake, the bay, the waterfall,
And thee, the spirit of them all!

The poem was based on an actual meeting which Wordsworth had at Inversnaid with a Highland girl in 1803. He was on tour with Coleridge and his sister, Dorothy. In her Journal, Dorothy described the day thus:

"Friday, August 26th.

We did not set off till between ten and eleven o'clock, much too late for a long day. This distinction between the foot and head is not very clear. What is meant is this : They would have to travel the whole length of the lake, from the west to the east end of it, before they came to the Trossachs, the pass leading away from the east end of the lake.

Our boatman lived at the pretty white house which we saw from the windows : we called at his door by the way, and, even when we were near the house, the outside looked comfortable ; but within I never saw anything so miserable from dirt, and dirt alone : it reminded one of the house of a decayed weaver in the suburbs of a large town, with a sickly wife and a large family ; but William says it was far worse, that it was quite Hottentotish.

After long waiting, and many clumsy preparations, we got ourselves seated in the boat ; but we had not floated five yards before we perceived that if any of the party and there was a little Highland woman who was going over the water with us, the boatman, his helper, and ourselves should stir but a few inches, leaning to one side or the other, the boat would be full in an instant, and we at the bottom ; besides, it was very leaky, and the woman was employed to lade out the water continually. It appeared that this crazy vessel was not the man's own, and that his was lying in a bay at a little distance. He said he would take us to it as fast as possible, but I was so much frightened I would gladly have given up the whole day's journey ; indeed not one of us would have attempted to cross the lake in that boat for a thousand pounds.

We reached the larger boat in safety after coasting a considerable way near the shore, but just as we were landing, William dropped the bundle which contained our food into the water. The fowls were no worse, but some sugar, ground coffee, and pepper-cake seemed to be entirely spoiled. We gathered together as much of the coffee and sugar as we could and tied it up, and again trusted ourselves to the lake. The sun shone, and the air was calm luckily it had been so while we were in the crazy boat we had rocks and woods on each side of us, or bare hills; seldom a single cottage, and there was no rememberable place till we came opposite to a waterfall of no inconsiderable size, that appeared to drop directly into the lake :close to it was a hut, which we were told was the ferryhouse.

On the other side of the lake was a pretty farm under the mountains, beside a river, the cultivated grounds lying all together, and sloping towards the lake from the mountain hollow down which the river came. It is not easy to conceive how beautiful these spots appeared after moving on so long between the solitary steeps.

We went a considerable way further, and landed at Rob Roy's Caves, which are in fact no caves, but some fine rocks on the brink of the lake, in the crevices of which a man might hide himself cunningly enough ; the water is very deep below them, and the hills above steep and covered with wood.

The little Highland woman, who was in size about a match for our guide at Lanerk, accompanied us hither.

There was something very gracious in the manners of this woman; she could scarcely speak five English words, yet she gave me, whenever I spoke to her, as many intelligible smiles as I had needed English words to answer me, and helped me over the rocks in the most obliging manner. She had left the boat out of good-will to us, or for her own amusement. She had never seen these caves before ; but no doubt had heard of them, the tales of Rob Roy's exploits being told familiarly round the " ingles " hereabouts, for this neighbourhood was his home.

We landed at Inversneyde, the ferryhouse by the waterfall, and were not sorry to part with our boatman, who was a coarse hard-featured man, and, speaking of the French, uttered the basest and most cowardly sentiments. His helper, a youth fresh from the Isle of Skye, was innocent of this fault, and though but a bad rower, was a far better companion ; he could not speak a word of English, and sang a plaintive Gaelic air in a low tone while he plied his oar.

The ferryhouse stood on the bank a few yards above the landing-place where the boat lies. It is a small under a steep wood, and a few yards to the right, looking towards the hut, is the waterfall. The fall is not very high, but the stream is considerable, as we could see by the large black stones that were lying bare, but the rains, if they had reached this place, had had little effect upon the waterfall; its noise was not so great as to form a contrast with the stillness of the bay into which it falls, where the boat, and house, and waterfall itself seemed all sheltered and protected.

The Highland woman was to go with us the two first miles of our journey. She led us along a bye foot-path a shorter way up the hill from the ferry-house. There is a considerable settling in the hills that border Loch Lomond, at the passage by which we were to cross to Loch Ketterine; Ben Lomond, terminating near the ferry-house, is on the same side of the water with it, and about three miles above Tarbet.

We had to climb right up the hill, which is very steep, and, when close under it, seemed to be high, but we soon reached the top, and when we were there had lost sight of the lake ; and now our road was over a moor, or rather through a wide moorland hollow. Having gone a little way, we saw before us, at the distance of about half a mile, a very large stone building, a singular structure, with a high wall round it, naked hill above, and neither field nor tree near ; but the moor was not overgrown with heath merely, but grey grass, such as cattle might pasture upon. We could not conjecture what this building was ; it appeared as if it had been built strong to defend it from storms ; but for what purpose? William called out to us that we should observe that place well, for it was exactly like one of the spittals of the Alps, built for the reception of travellers, and indeed I had thought it must be so before he spoke.

This building, from its singular structure and appearance, made the place, which is itself in a country like Scotland no wise remarkable, take a character of unusual wildness and desolation this when we first came in view of it ; and afterwards, when we had passed it and looked back, three pyramidal mountains on the opposite side of Loch Lomond terminated the view, which under certain accidents of weather must be very grand.

Our Highland companion had not English enough to give us any information concerning this strange building ; we could only get from her that it was a " large house," which was plain enough.

We walked about a mile and a half over the moor without seeing any other dwelling but one hut by the burn-side, with a peat-stack and a ten-yards-square enclosure for potatoes ; then we came to several clusters of houses, even hamlets they might be called, but where there is any land belonging to the Highland huts there are so many out-buildings near, which differ in no respect from the dwelling-houses except that they send out no smoke, that one house looks like two or three. Near these nouses was a considerable quantity of cultivated ground, potatoes and corn,and the people were busy making hay in the hollow places of the open vale, and all along the sides of the becks. It was a pretty sight altogether men and women, dogs, the little running streams, with linen bleaching near them, and cheerful sunny hills and rocks on every side. We passed by one patch of potatoes that a florist might have been proud of ; no carnation-bed ever looked more gay than this square plot of ground on the waste common. The flowers were in very large bunches, and of an extraordinary size, and of every conceivable shade of colouring from snow white to deep purple. It was pleasing in that place, where perhaps was never yet a flower cultivated by man for his own pleasure, to see these blossoms grow more gladly than elsewhere, making a summer garden near the mountain dwellings.

At one of the clusters of houses we parted with our companion, who had insisted on bearing my bundle while she stayed with us.

I often tried to enter into conversation with her, and seeing a small tarn before us, was reminded of the pleasure of fishing and the manner of living there, and asked her what sort of food was eaten in that place, if they lived much upon fish, or had mutton from the hills ; she looked earnestly at me, and shaking her head, replied, " Oh yes ! eat fish no papists, eat everything."

The tarn had one small island covered with wood ; the stream that runs from it falls into Loch Ketterine, which, after we had gone a little beyond the tarn, we saw at some distance before us.

Pursued the road, a mountain horse-track, till we came to a corner of what seemed the head of the lake, and there sate down completely tired, and hopeless as to the rest of our journey.

The road ended at the shore, and no houses were to be seen on the opposite side except a few widely parted huts, and on the near side was a trackless heath. The land at the head of the lake was but a continuation of the common we had come along, and was covered with heather, intersected by a few straggling foot-paths.

Coleridge and I were faint with hunger, and could go no further till we had refreshed ourselves, so we ate up one of our fowls, and drank of the water of Loch Ketterine ; but William could not be easy till he had examined the coast, so he left us, and made his way along the moor across the head of the lake.

Coleridge and I, as we sate, had what seemed to us but a dreary prospect a waste of unknown ground which we guessed we must travel over before it was possible for us to find a shelter. We saw a long way down the lake ; it was all moor on the near side ; on the other the hills were steep from the water, and there were large coppice-woods, but no cheerful green fields, and no road that we could see ; we knew, however, that there must be a road from house to house ; but the whole lake appeared a solitude neither boats, islands, nor houses, no grandeur in the hills, nor any loveliness in the shores. When we first came in view of it we had said it was like a barren Ulswater, Ulswater dismantled of its grandeur, and cropped of its lesser beauties. When I had swallowed my dinner I hastened after William, and Coleridge followed me.

Walked through the heather with some labour for perhaps half a mile, and found William sitting on the top of a small eminence, whence we saw the real head of the lake, which was pushed up into the vale a considerable way beyond the promontory where we now sate. The view up the lake was very pleasing, resembling Thirlemere below Armath. There were rocky promontories and woody islands, and, what was most cheering to us, a neat white house on the opposite shore ; but we could see no boats, so, in order to get to it we should be obliged to go round the head of the
lake, a long and weary way.

After Coleridge came up to us, while we were debating whether we should turn back or go forward, we espied a man on horseback at a little distance, with a boy following him on foot, no doubt a welcome sight,and we hailed him. We should have been glad to have seen either man, woman, or child at this time, but there was something uncommon and interesting in this man's appearance, which would have fixed our attention wherever we had met him. He was a complete Highlander in dress, figure, and face, and a very fine-looking man, hardy and vigorous, though past his prime.

While he stood waiting for us in his bonnet and plaid, which never look more graceful than on horseback, I forgot our errand, and only felt glad that we were in the Highlands.

William accosted him with, "Sir, do you speak English?" He replied, "A little." He spoke however, sufficiently well for our purpose, and very distinctly, as all the Highlanders do who learn English as a foreign language ; but in a long conversation they want words ; he informed us that he himself was going beyond the Trossachs, to Callander, that no boats were kept to let " ; but there were two gentlemen's houses at this end of the lake, one of which we could not yet see, it being hidden from us by a part of the hill on which we stood. The other house was that which we saw opposite to us ; both the gentlemen kept boats, and probably might be able to spare one of their servants to go with us. After we had asked many questions, which the Highlander answered with patience and courtesy, he parted from us, going along a sort of horsetrack, which a foot-passenger, if he once get into it, need not lose if he be careful....

Sunday, August 28.
We recognised the same objects passed before, the tarn, the potato-bed, and the cottages with their burnies, which were no longer, as one might say, household streams, but made us only think of the mountains and rocks they came from. Indeed, it is not easy to imagine how different everything appeared ; the mountains with mists and torrents alive and
always changing : but the low grounds where the inhabitants had been at work the day before were melancholy, with here and there a few haycocks and hay scattered about.

Wet as we were, William and I turned out of our path to the Garrison house. A few rooms of it seemed to be inhabited by some wretchedly poor families, and it had all the desolation of a large decayed mansion in the suburbs of a town, abandoned of its proper inhabitants, and become the abode of paupers. In spite of its outside bravery, it was but a poor protection against "the sword of winter, keen and cold." We looked at the building through the arch of a broken gateway of the courtyard, in the middle of which it stands. Upon that stormy day it appeared more than desolate ; there was something about it even frightful.

When beginning to descend the hill towards Loch Lomond, we overtook two girls, who told us we could not cross the ferry till evening, for the boat was gone with a number of people to church. One of the girls was exceedingly beautiful ; and the figures of both of them, in grey plaids falling to their feet, their faces only being uncovered, excited our attention before we spoke to them ; but they answered us so sweetly that we were quite delighted, at the same time that they stared at us with an innocent look of wonder. I think I never heard the English language sound more sweetly than from the mouth of the elder of these girls, while she stood at the gate answering our inquiries, her face flushed with the rain ; her pronunciation was clear and distinct : without difficulty, yet slow, like that of a foreign speech. They told us we might sit in the ferry-house till the return of the boat, went in with us, and made a good fire as fast as possible to dry our wet clothes. We learnt that the taller was the sister of the ferryman, and had been left in charge with the house for the day, that the other was his wife's sister, and was come with her mother on a visit,an old woman, who sate in a corner beside the cradle, nursing her little grand-child. We were glad to be housed, with our feet upon a warm hearth-stone ; and our attendants were so active and good-humoured that it was pleasant to have to desire them to do anything. The younger was a delicate and unhealthy-looking girl ; but there was an uncommon meekness in her countenance, with an air of premature intelligence, which is often seen in sickly young persons. The other made me think of Peter Bell's " Highland Girl : "

As light and beauteous as a squirrel,
As beauteous and as wild

She moved with unusual activity, which was chastened very delicately by a certain hesitation in her looks when she spoke, being able to understand us but imperfectly. They were both exceedingly desirous to get me what I wanted to make me comfortable. I was to have a gown and petticoat of the mistress's ; so they turned out her whole wardrobe upon the parlour floor, talking Erse to one another, and laughing all the time. It was long before they could decide which of the gowns I was to have ; they chose at last, no doubt thinking that it was the best, a light-coloured sprigged cotton, with long sleeves, and they both laughed while I was putting it on, with the blue linsey petticoat, and one or the other, or both together, helped me to dress, repeating at least half a dozen times, " You never had on the like of that before." They held a consultation of several minutes over a pair of coarse woollen stockings, gabbling Erse as fast as their tongues could move, and looked as if uncertain what to do : at last, with great diffidence, they offered them to me, adding, as before, that I had never worn "the like of them." When we entered the house we had been not a little glad to see a fowl stewing in barley-broth ; and now when the wettest of our clothes were stripped off, began again to recollect that we were hungry, and asked if we could have dinner. " Oh yes, ye may get that," the elder replied, pointing to the pan on the fire.

Conceive what a busy house it was all our wet clothes to be dried, dinner prepared and set out for us four strangers, and a second cooking for the family ; add to this, two rough "callans," as they called them, boys about eight years old, were playing beside us ; the poor baby was fretful all the while ; the old woman sang doleful Erse songs, rocking it in its cradle the more violently the more it cried ; then there were a dozen cookings of porridge,and it could never be fed without the assistance of all three. The hut was after the Highland fashion, but without anything beautiful except its situation ; the floor was rough, and wet with the rain that came in at the door, so that the lasses' bare feet were as wet as if they had been walking through street puddles, in passing from one room to another ; the windows were open, as at the other hut ; but the kitchen had a bed in it, and was much smaller, and the shape of the house was like that of a common English cottage, without its comfort ; yet there was no appearance of poverty indeed, quite the contrary.

The peep out of the open doorplace across the lake made some amends for the want of the long roof and elegant rafters of our boatman's cottage, and all the while the waterfall, which we could not see, was roaring at the end of the hut, which seemed to serve as a sounding-board for its noise, so that it was not unlike sitting in a house where a mill is going. The dashing of the waves against the shore could not be distinguished ; yet in spite of my knowledge of this I could not help fancying that the tumult and storm came from the lake, and went out several times to see if it was possible to row over in safety.

After long waiting we grew impatient for our dinner ; at last the pan was taken off, and carried into the other room ; but we had to wait at least another half hour before the ceremony of dishing up was completed ; yet with all this bustle and difficulty, the manner in which they, and particularly the elder of the girls, performed everything, was perfectly graceful. We ate a hearty dinner, and had time to get our clothes quite dry before the arrival of the boat. The girls could not say at what time it would be at home ; on our asking them if the church was far off they replied, " Not very far " ; and when we asked how far, they said, " Perhaps about four or five miles." I believe a Church of England congregation would hold themselves excused for non-attendance three parts of the year, having but half as far to go ; but in the lonely parts of Scotland they make little of a journey of nine or ten miles to a preaching. They have not perhaps an opportunity of going more than once in a quarter of a year, and, setting piety aside, have other motives to attend : they hear the news, public and private, and see their friends and neighbours ; for though the people who meet at these times may be gathered together from a circle of twenty miles' diameter, a sort of neighbourly connexion must be so brought about. There is something exceedingly pleasing to my imagination in this gathering together of the inhabitants of these secluded districts for instance, the borderers of these two large lakes meeting at the deserted garrison which I have described. The manner of their travelling is on foot, on horseback, and in boats across the waters, young and old, rich and poor, all in their best dress.

If it were not for these Sabbath-day meetings one summer month would be like another summer month, one winter month like another detached from the goings-on of the world, and solitary throughout ; from the time of earliest childhood they will be like landing places in the memory of a person who has passed his life in these thinly peopled regions ; they must generally leave distinct impressions, differing from each other so much as they do in circumstances, in time and place, etc., some in the open fields, upon hills, in houses,under large rocks, in storms, and in fine weather.

But I have forgotten the fireside of our hut. After long waiting, the girls, who had been on the look-out, informed us that the boat was coming. I went to the water-side, and saw a cluster of people on the opposite shore ; but being yet at a distance, they looked more like soldiers surrounding a carriage- than a group of men and women ; red and green were the distinguishable colours. We hastened to get ourselves ready as soon as we saw the party approach, but had longer to wait than we expected, the lake being wider than it appears to be. As they drew near we could distinguish men in tartan plaids, women in scarlet cloaks, and green umbrellas by the half-dozen. The landing was as pretty a sight as ever I saw. The bay, which had been so quiet two days before, was all in motion with small waves, while the swoln waterfall roared in our ears. The boat came steadily up, being pressed almost to the water's edge by the weight of its cargo ; perhaps twenty people landed, one after another. It did not rain much, but the women held up their umbrellas ; they were dressed in all the colours of the rainbow, and, with their scarlet cardinals, the tartan plaids of the men, and Scotch bonnets, made a gay appearance. There was a joyous bustle surrounding the boat, which even imparted something of the same character to the waterfall in its tumult, and the restless grey waves ; the young men laughed and shouted, the lasses laughed, and the elder folks seemed to be in a bustle to be away. I remember well with what haste the mistress of the house where we were ran up to seek after her child, and seeing us, how anxiously and kindly she inquired how we had fared, if we had had a good fire, had been well waited upon, etc. etc. All this in three minutes for the boatman had another party to bring from the other side and hurried us off.

The hospitality we had met with at the two cottages and Mr. Macfarlane's gave us very favourable impressions on this our first entrance into the Highlands, and at this day the innocent merriment of the girls, with their kindness to us, and the beautiful figure and face of the elder, come to my mind whenever I think of the ferry-house and waterfall of Loch Lomond, and I never think of the two girls but the whole image of that romantic spot is before me, a living image, as it will be to my dying day. The following poem l was written by William not long after our return from Scotland :

Sweet Highland Girl, a very shower
Of beauty is thy earthly dower ! et cetera "

Almost eighty years later, in the autumn of 1881, the Jesuit priest and poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins (July 28, 1844 – June 8, 1889) headed north for a holiday, up from Glasgow, to the Scottish Highlands, and the beautiful Loch Lomond. He wrote, “The day was dark and partly hid the lake, yet it did not altogether disfigure it but gave a pensive or solemn beauty”. He landed at the small settlement of Inversnaid. He wrote this poem:


This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.