IN our seventh tour we conducted the tourist to Oban, by way of Inverary. This route is not so often followed as that by steam, which we shall now briefly sketch.
The first section of this route, namely, from Glasgow to Lochgilphead, has been already sketched in the fourth section of our sixth tour, If the tourist wishes to remain at the eastern end of the canal during the night, he will find good accommodation at Ardrissaig point inn, or in the village of Lochgilphead.1 On entering the canal, a good view is obtained of Lochgilphead, and Kilmory, the seat of Sir John Ord. Two miles from the sea-lock, on the left, is Oakfield. The canal here passes through an extensive tract of marshy uninteresting country. Passing the village of Bellanach, whence a road on the left leads to Keil's ferry, Loch Swin, distant 12 miles, we enter the bay or loch of Crinan. Upon the right is the modernized castle of Duntroon; and northwards, on the same side, Loch Craignish, a fine arm of the sea, intersected by a chain of islands which stretch exactly through its centre, in a line parallel with the shore. "The total number of these," says Dr. Macculloch, "within and without the loch, exceeds twenty, besides islets and rocks which have no names, and which no one has thought it worth his while to count. Outside of the point of Craignish, which is the western boundary, there are five principal islands, besides satellites. The names remind us somewhat of Dutens' list of procreations to the court of Turin,--Kenrick, Melikan, Kelikan, and Carmichael: they are certainly not more euphonous, being Macfadyen, Rusantrue, Resave, Garvrisa, and Baisker. In spite of their names, however, they are beautiful little islands: beautiful from the brilliancy of their verdure, from the intricate and picturesque arrangements of their cliffs and shores, and--what may well excite surprise--from their ancient and solitary trees, perched about the rocks or high on their summits, or stuck in some fissure of a cliff and hanging down their knotted and bending branches into the very sea. And these trees are oaks, without shelter or protection,--braving all the gales of this boisterous country, and having thus braved them for centuries, when, at the present day, not a plant higher than heath can raise its head beyond the surface! This, I must own, is fairly beyond my sylvan philosophy." When the doctor's philosophy is at fault, it would ill become us to attempt the solution of any phenomenon. We leave the problem therefore with the tourist; and, confining ourselves to our own province, proceed to inform him that the same high authority has pronounced the island-scenery of Loch Craignish to be as much superior in variety and beauty to that of Loch Lomond, as the latter loch is to the meanest of the Scottish lochs!
The steam-boat pursues its track through the Dorishmore, or 'Great gate,' between the point of Craignish and one of the chain of islets just described. Iona and Islay are now in sight; on the south are the rugged shores of Knapdale; and to the north the islands of Shuna and Luing, with Loch Melfort opening to the right. In rough weather the steam-boat generally takes the sound of Shuna. This island is about 3 miles in length. It is rocky rude and uneven; but so finely clothed with brushwood and low trees that it "looks like an ornamental park." The island of Luing forms the opposite coast of the sound. It is a long heathy ridge without much picturesque beauty in itself, but commanding some very fine sea-views. The little island of Torsa is united to Luing at low water. Two miles from the point of Luing is Blackmill bay, opposite which is the island of Lunga. Three miles farther north is the slate islet of Balnahuay, and farther to the west the Garveloch isles.
The sound of Cuan runs between the northern extremity of Luing and the island of Sell. This island, says Dr. Macculloch, as it is the most extensive is by much the most varied in this quarter. "On the north side it presents a rude hilly ridge. terminating in the sea by perpendicular cliffs of bare rock; but the remainder is an undulating and fertile green land, descending gently to the water, and deeply indented on the east side by sinuosities. The shores on this side in particular are beautifully varied by cultivation, green meadows, rocks, and trees; while the narrowness of the strait which here separates it from the main land. allows it to partake of all the advantages of the opposite coast, which is high and wooded, varied by cliffs embosomed in fine oak trees, by deep bays and creeks, and by cultivation,--displaying, besides, at Ardmaddy, all the marks of ornamental attention, which cause the whole to look as if it was the favoured seat of opulence and taste. It is a common trick of travellers to explain one place by another, 'ignotum per ignotius;' and therefore I may as well share in the privilege, by saying. that this narrow strait somewhat resembles the Kyles of Bute; hoping nevertheless that this is not unknown to you. But I must not forget to say that the whole length of this entertaining passage is not less than three miles; being alike diversified, through the whole of this course, by the variety of the coasts on both sides, and by four or five small islands which lie in it, as well as by the flexures which often seem to stop all further passage by closing the land of the opposed shores. For a space of two miles, the distance between these never exceeds two hundred yards; while, the land on each side being generally high, it assumes the appearance of an alpine river. During the last half-mile, they approach within fifty or sixty yards; and here, a bridge of one high arch is thrown over, uniting the island to the main, and presenting the only instance in Britain of such a junction. In Shetland, there are two islands united in a similar manner. The strait at this part is rocky where the water runs, and only admits the passage of boats for about two hours before and after high water. When full, it would scarcely be suspected to be sea; but, at low water, the weeds betray its nature. ]t is navigated by the country boats, as it much shortens the passage along shore." On the west side of Seil is the circular islet of Easdale celebrated for its slate-quarries, which have been wrought for upwards of 120 years. After passing Easdale, and the point of Ardincaple, Loch Feochan opens on the right, and a distinct view of Ben Cruachan is obtained. "To the north is the island of Kerrera with the ruins of Gylen castle occupying its southern point. We have already noticed the sound which runs between the island and the mainland to the bay of Oban.