WE have already conducted the tourist from Glasgow to East Tarbert on Loch Fyne, This is an exceedingly picturesque fishing-village, situated upon a very narrow isthmus uniting the peninsula of Kintyre to the district of Knapdale, and separating East from West Loch Tarbert. The entrance to the harbour is intricate, the channel being filled with rocks which seem to bar all access. In the immediate neighbourhood is the castle of Tarbert, now in ruins. In 1685, this stronghold was the rendezvous of the unfortunate Argyle during his unsuccessful attempt in conjunction with the duke of Monmouth.1
The transit from the eastern to the western loch of Tarbert across the low isthmus already noticed, is about 2 miles. It was the ancient practice to drag vessels of a small size across this isthmus, in order to avoid the long and dangerous circumnavigation of the Mull. In 'the Lord of the Isles' Robert Bruce is represented as having recourse to this expedient :--
The sail down West Loch Tarbert, which is about 10 miles in length, is very pleasant. Dr. Macculloch says it is "exceedingly beautiful without being strictly picturesque. The ground is neither high nor bold; but the shores are varied in form and character,--often beautifully wooded, and in many places highly cultivated." The principal residences on its shores are Dippen cottage, Stonefield house, Grassfield, Kilhammaig, and Kintarbert on the east; and Escairt house, Dunmore, and Ardpatrick, on the opposite side. Almost all these mansions belong to families of the name of Campbell. On the right is the hill of Sliamhgaoil; and the island of Ellanda-Gallaghan. About midway, on the west, is the village of Laggavoulin, or 'the Mill hollow,' and towards the lower extremity, the Clachan, or Kirktoun of Kilcalmonell; beyond which is the hill of Dunscaith.
A fine view presents itself on getting out of the loch. In front are the conical summits of Jura, with the islands of Islay and Mull; to the south, the islets of Cara and Gigha; to the south-east the long peninsula of Kintyre; and in the distance behind the lofty Goatfell of Arran. Standing up the sound of Islay, a strong current is perceptible, and sometimes a very rough state of sea is encountered here. The approach to Islay is rather forbidding; it is certainly not the 'green and fertile shore' of the poet, but on the contrary presents very bleak and barren appearance. Port-Askaig is 23 miles from West Tarbert. There is a good inn here, and the surrounding scenery is pleasing.
The island of Istay is about 25 miles in length, by 22 in breadth. Its general character is mountainous, though it has a considerable extent of flat and cultivated land. The elevated tract is chiefly towards the northern point. In the south the island is deeply indented by Loch-in-Daal, a spacious but shallow bay, terminated by the point of Rinns the west, and by the mull of Oe on the east. On the opposite side is Loch Gruinard, which is also a deep but shallow indentation, and seems to have been at some period united to Loch-in-Daal, so as to have divided the present island into two. This island is chiefly the property of Walter Frederick Campbell, Esq. of Islay and Shawfield, M.P. It comprehends three parishes, Killarrow, Kilchoman, and Kildalton. The population amounts to 13,000. Whisky is a great article of trade. The Islay distilleries have of late yielded an yearly revenue of £30,000 to government. Isiay was one of the principal possessions of the Lords of the Isles; and contains numerous remains of the strongholds of the Macdonalds.
A day's tour in Islay may embrace the following objects. Leaving Port-Askaig, and passing through a district of country alternately wild and cultivated, we reach the inn of Bridgend, whence a short excursion may be made to Loch Finlaggan. Taking the road along the north side of Loch-in-Daal, we arrive at the bay of Sunderland. From thence we may proceed to the village of Skeipo; and thence to Portnahaven.2 Leaving Portnahaven, and proceeding along the north-west coast, we come to the church of Kilchoman; and thence pursue our route still along the shore to Loch Gruinard. From the head of this loch a walk of four or five miles will reconduct us to Bridgend. Next day the tourist may proceed to Bowmore about 3 miles to the South-west, on the shore of Loch-in-Daal. This is a considerable village, of from 1200 to 1500 inhabitants. From Bowmore, the tourist may proceed to the bay of Laggan and Port Ellinor. A few miles further on is Ardmore, whence round the coast to Port Askaig there is little to interest the tourist.