WHEN at Fort-William, the tourist from Glasgow has accomplished nearly three-fourths of the journey to Inverness, through the great glen of Scotland. Few tourists, therefore, return from this point without having sailed up the Caledonian canal, to the capital of the Highlands. The first stage, between Fort-William, and Letterfinlay, is far from inviting. At Corpach are three locks, and a mile beyond it, a series of eight locks, called Neptune's staircase. Each lock is 180 feet long, 40 broad. and 20 deep; and the total rise is 64 feet to the level of Loch Lochy, which is 90 feet above the level of the canal at Corpach. Passing the villages of West and East Moy, the steamer, 2 miles farther, enters the loch. On the right is the mouth of the Spean; over the deep and rocky channel of which, 1½ mile from its mouth, is thrown a picturesque bridge called Highbridge.
Loch Lochy is l0 miles in length, by about 1 in breadth. Its greatest depth is 76 fathoms. It is enclosed on all sides by lofty mountains, which rise up sudden and unbroken from the water's edge, but present little to interest or relieve the eye. Near the west end, however, there is a fine bay, that of Arkeg. At the eastern side of this bay is the hill and house of Cluness; farther, on the right, is Innerlui, and at a little distance on the same side, the small inn of Letterfinlay, 3 miles from the east end of the loch. The surrounding district of Lochaber is the country of the clan Cameron. Kinloch-lochy, near the eastern end of this loch, in 1544, was the scene of a desperate fight between the Frasers under Hugh, fifth Lord Lovat, and the Macdonalds of Clanronald. At the south-west end of Loch Lochy is an extensive glen, which runs westward into the district of Moidart. In the bottom of this glen is Loch Arkeg, the picturesque and romantic beauty of which is enthusiastically praised by Mr. Leighton, who exhorts all tourists who spend a day at the Neptune inn, to pay Loch Arkeg a visit.1 The opening of this glen upon Loch Lochy is divided by a ridge of hills into two gorges of unequal breadth. This dividing ridge commences at the hill of Cluness mentioned above, and gradually rises as it ascends the glen, till it terminates abruptly in a lofty wooded precipice the base of which is washed by the waters of the lake. In the southern of these glens or gorges, is Achnacary, the family mansion of Cameron of Lochiel; the road to the lake is through the other, which is a narrow wooded pass called the Miledubh, or 'dark mile.' "After penetrating through the pass, and just before entering on the lake, a small stream which falls over the rocks to the north, forms a pleasing cascade, finely fringed with trees and underwood which overhang and almost dip into its waters. Immediately afterwards the lake begins to appear, small apparently at first but gradually enlarging as we advance. Ascending a small hill a short way up its northern shore, its whole extent is opened up, stretching far to the west. surrounded with dark and lofty mountains, its shores richly wooded, and indented by winding bays and jutting promontories. Two or three small islands speck its bosom, and immediately opposite, on the southern shore, a dark forest of natural pine trees of great size frowns over it. Looking to the east, across the lower section of the lake, we have the opening of Achnacary, with its house and pleasure-grounds, and in the distance the waters of Loch Lochy, with the mountain-barrier on its opposite shore. Altogether Loch Arkeg affords scenery of the finest description and it is questionable if it is excelled, or even equalled by any of our Scottish lakes. The shores of this romantic lake more than once gave shelter to Prince Charles after his discomfiture at Culloden."2
The distance between Loch Lochy and Loch Oich is about 2 miles; in which space the ascent is 9 feet 9 inches. Leaving the village of Laggan on the right, the steamer enters Loch Oich, which forms the summit level of the Caldonian canal. It is a small lake about 4 miles in length and 1 in breadth. About 1¼ miles forward on the left is Glengarry,3 near the mouth of which is the mansion house of Mac Donnel of Glengarry, chief of the clan Coilla, and the ruins of Invergarry castle burnt by the duke of Cumberland in 1746. In the back ground are the Killeanan hills, which rise above Corrieglass. At the east end of the loch is Aberchalder, on the water of Callander; from this to Fort Augustus is 5 miles. The glen betwixt Loch Oich and Loch Ness, is intersected by a low rocky ridge, on the south side of which the road proceeds, and on the other the canal.
Fort Augustus is situated at the south-west extremity of Loch Ness, between the mouth of the river Oich and a small stream called the Tarff. It was built shortly after the rebellion of 1715. There are six locks here; and while the steam boat is descending through them into Loch Ness, passengers may land and examine the surrounding country.
Loch Ness is about 24 miles in length; its average breadth is about I mile. It is of great depth in many places, and never freezes. It is surrounded by mountain-ranges between 1200 and 1500 feet in height, but of a uniform monotonous character. Their bases, however, where they skirt the lake, are decked with a fine copsewood. This mountain-girdle is continuous and undivided, except by the glens of Urquhart and Moriston, on the north; about midway, on the same side, the horizon line is broken in upon by the towering dome-like head of Mealfourvounie, which rises to the height of 3060 feet. The road from Fort Augustus to Inverness runs along the south side of the lake; and the Messrs. Andersons in their excellent 'Guide to the Highlands and Islands,' and Mr. Leighton also, recommend the stranger to travel along the banks, instead of sailing up the long-uniform vista of the lake; but this course is seldom taken by tourists.4 Leaving Fort Augustus by the steam boat, the mouth of Glenmoriston is passed on the left, and some miles further, on the right, the house of Knocky. A few miles farther on the same side, is Foyer's house, and the mouth of the river Foyers. Here the steamer stops in order to afford passengers an opportunity of viewing the famous fall of Foyers.
The Foyers is a small river which takes its rise amongst the lofty mountains in the parish of Boleskine and Abertarff, and pouring through the woody and rocky glen of Foyers, falls into Loch Ness nearly about the middle of that lake. In order to view all the beauties of the fall, the tourist should obtain a guide from one of the neighbouring cottages. When the stream is not swollen by rain, the body of water is small; but the depth of the fall and the surrounding scenery always render it an object of great beauty. There are, in fact, two falls, but both are comprehended under the appellation of the Fall of Foyers. The following is Mr. Leighton's description of the falls:-- "The lower fall, which is first approached in this way, is by much the higher, and more striking of the two. After ascending, to a considerable height, the hills which form the north boundary of Loch Ness, the tourist descends toward the bank of the river by a well constructed footway, and at length finds himself on a narrow, but lofty ridge of rock covered with green turf, which rises from the bed of the river, and is nearly surrounded by its waters. Here the fall meets his astonished view immediately in front of where he stands. The spectator is surrounded on all sides with rocks of enormous height, fringed with tangled masses of shrubs and small plants, nourished by the constant spray which ascends from the boiling waters beneath. Oak and pine trees of fantastic shape, grow from every rent and crevice of these rocky walls, adding a wild grace and beauty to what would otherwise be a scene of horror. Clouds of yapour for ever ascend; and the roar and din of the falling water are never silent. Altogether the lower fall of the river Foyers is a scene of the utmost sublimity and awe; and even the boldest cannot stand on the ledge of rock we have mentioned, and behold its waters tumbling from above into the dark chasm beneath, without his feelings being excited in the highest degree. Many varied opinions as to the height of this fall have been given, but we believe, we are correct, when we say that it is about ninety feet high. The upper fall is about a quarter of a mile from the lower. The height is only about forty feet, but it also exhibits great grandeur; and were it not for the neigbourhood of the other, it would be more admired than it is. Here the river sweeps its dark brown waters through a smooth meadow field, until, reaching the edge of the rock over which they are precipitated, they break into white foam, and disappear in the abyss beneath. Lofty rocks, and varied wood, also lend their aid to the scene, and a picturesque and airy bridge spans the river, renders it more pleasing to the eye, and better adapted for the pencil of the artist, than the lower fall.
Proceeding onwards we pass the old kirk of Boleskin, on the right, and a little beyond it the General's hut--now a good inn--18 miles from Inverness. About 2½ miles from this, on the left, are seen the ruins of the fine old castle of Urquhart, on the western promontory of the bay of Urquhart. To the north of this is the kirk of Kilmuir and the inn of Drumindrochet, at the mouth of Glen Urquhart, one of the richest and most beautiful valleys in the Highlands.5 About 2 miles from this inn there is a fine cascade, formed by a small burn falling over a very lofty ledge of rock. Glen Urquhart chiefly belongs to Grant of Grant, a branch of the Seafield family. The road by the shore from Drumindrochet to Glenmoriston, a distance of 18 miles, is one of extreme beauty. At the ferry of Bona, 8½ miles from Drumindrochet, the steamer enters Loch Dochfour by a narrow channel about a quarter of a mile in length. At Lochend the steamer again enters the canal, which descends between a peculiarly shaped hill called Tom-na-hurich, and the high gravel banks of Tor-a-bhean,6 to Muirton, where it denude by four locks to the level of Loch Beauly, an arm of the Moray frith. The steam-boats stop at Muirton which is about a mile distant from the stone bridge of Inverness.
Inverness is a beautiful town, though we cannot go the length of Dr Macculloch in assigning it the palm of beauty over Edinburgh. It is situate in a plain near the estuary of the Ness and occupies both sides of the river. We shall here quote the description of its locality given by its own citizens, the Messrs Anderson in their Guide :-
"Inverness stands in a focus, where three large openings meet one another; namely, the basins of the Moray and Beauly friths, and the great glen of Albyn, itself also once the channel of the sea, and still covered throughout more than half of its surface with the waters of a chain of inland lakes. The mountains which skirt and hem in Loch Ness diverge at its eastern extremity; and those on the south side, assuming an easterly direction towards Nairnshire, and finally subsiding into a smooth, inclined, and unbroken ridge nearly twenty miles long, leave as the termination of the Great Glen a wide champaign country, which extends to the shores of the Moray frith. On the opposite side of the valley the mountains gradually give place to round-backed hills, with tabular summits and rocky sides, which approach within a mile of Inverness, terminating in the celebrated vitrified fort of Craig Phadric, where they are cut across by the waters of the sea as these proceed from the main frith to fill the inner basin of the loch or frith of Beauly; but, resuming their course on the Ross-shire coast, the same line of hills is prolonged along the edge of the sea towards Fortrose and the Sutors of Cromarty. Standing thus on a beautiful plain, skirted by variously shaped hills, which are diversified with hanging woods, cultivated fields, and protruding frontlets of rock, Inverness still farther possesses the advantage of having a bank of terraced ground rising behind it on the southern side of the town which commands the finest views, and on which some of the newest houses and most beautiful villas of the neighbourhood have been erected. This bank, which is about ninety feet high, forms a portion of a great gravel terrace, or coast line, which extends from the confines of Loch Ness, through Inverness, Nairn, and Moray shires to the mouth of the river Spey, having a line of similar height and characters opposed to it on the Ross-shire coast, and thus indicating a former elevation of the sea, or some other great body of water nearly corresponding with the summit level of the Great Glen, which lies between the lakes Oich and Lochy. The surface of this terrace composes a second plain above that on which the town of Inverness chiefly stands, spreading itself out till it joins the base of the hills on the south. This plain is of various breadth (generally from one to two or three miles), is highly cultivated, and adorned by numerous country-seats. The distant mountain screens which close in the view around Inverness are also of very varied aspect. The serrated mountains about Loch Ness terminate in the high dome-shaped summit of Mealfourvounie, a well known land-mark to all the country round, and to the navigators of the adjoining friths. Towards the west the hills of Strathconon and Strathglass, at the head of Loch Beauly, rise in clusters of snowclad peaks, while almost the whole northern horizon is occupied by the huge shapeless rnountains of Ben Weavis, in Ross-shire (upwards of 3700 feet in height), and its extensive ramifications, which are disposed in long round--backed heathy chains, over-topping the eminences which rise from the margin of the frith of Cromarty. Towards the east, the waters of the Moray frith, stretching out into the German ocean, conduct the eye to the dim and distant mountain-ranges of Sutherland, Caithness, and Banff shires.
The population of the town and parish of Inverness in 1791, was 7,030; in 1831, 14,324, of whom 9,663 belonged to the town.7
The principal objects of interest in the neighbourhood of Inverness, are :--
|Craig Phadric, a vitrified fort,||2 miles||W.|
|Basin and entrance of the Caledodonian canal,||l½||W.|
|The Clays cairns,||6||SE.|
The Caledonian canal was partially commenced by government in the year 1802. The north-eastern portion, as far as Fort-Augustus, was opened in the summer of 1818; and on the 23d and 24th of October, 1822, the first voyage was made from sea to sea. The whole distance from the Atlantic to the German ocean is 60½ miles; of which 40 are through natural sheets of water, and only 22 required to be cut; the total disbursements up to the 1st of May, 1831, were £990,559. The present depth of the cuttings is 15 feet; the contemplated depth is 20. The present rate of duty on sailing-vessels or steam-boats is one farthing per ton per mile. The produce of this tonnage does not exceed £3000 a year.