This delightful trip can easily be made in one day. Leaving Glasgow by an early steamer for Dumbarton,1 the tourist may sail up to the head of Loch Lomond,--return to Tarbet,--cross the isthmus to Arroquhar,-- embark on Loch Long,-- sail down that fine loch,--cross the frith to Greenock,--and find himself again in Glasgow before night-fall. Or, supposing that he has spent the night at Helensburgh, or Dunoun, or Rothsay, he can proceed on this tour the next day, by crossing over to Greenock in time to join the steamer of that day for Loch Long, in which he will proceed to the head of that loch; he will then cross from Arroquhar to Tarbet; and at the latter place he will get on board the Loch Lomond steamer, on its return from the head of the loch, and proceed by it from Tarbet to the Balloch ferry, at the lower extremity of the loch, whence he will be conveyed by land-carriage to Dumbarton. 2 The only disadvantage attending this second route is that the tourist--if he must return to Glasgow the same day--will not have an opportunity of visiting the upper portion of Loch Lomond, which, though not equal in soft and tranquil beauty to the lower part, has nevertheless very imposing scenery of its own, and indeed is thought by many tourists to be the finer portion of the lake
In our first tour, we conducted the tourist to the rock of Dumbarton. 3 This is one of those isolated conical rocks which occur in different parts of Scotland, and respecting which so many theories have been promulgated. We have no theory of our own to propose respecting it, or its brother Dumbuck, which the tourist has passed only a few minutes ago; we agree with Macculloch in pronouncing it a ' magnificent rock;' 4 and we do not feel inclined to dispute with Robert Chambers the probability of its having been "projected out of the earth by some strange convulsion of nature." 5 Mineralogists inform us that this rock is of a basaltic nature; that it has a tendency to the prismatic form; and that some parts of it are strongly magnetic. It is a bifurcated or double-peaked hill, being cleft towards the summit by a narrow and deep chasm. One of the peaks thus formed--the western--is a little higher than the other, but not so broad; but the difference is not very discernible. The Clyde and Leven wash the southern and western sides of the rock. It is joined to the mainland by a low sandy isthmus over which the frith appears at one time to have flowed. Hardyng, who wrote in 1834, thus describes it:
The entrance to the castle is on the south-west side of the rock. From the gateway here a long broad flight of steps conducts to the governor's house,--a wretched mass of masonry, in no keeping with the features of the rock and surrounding scenery, and highly worthy of all the anathemas with which Macculloch has visited it. From the governor's house, a stair ascends the northern side of the ravine to the point where the rock is parted into its two heads. Here are the barracks for the garrison, the state-prison, the duke of York's battery, the armoury, and the water-tank. From this point a steep stair conducts to the summit of the western-peak on which the flag-staff is erected. Here are seen the relics of a small circular building which some antiquaries conjecture to have been a Roman pharos or light-house. The view, from this point is extensive, varied, and magnificent. Towards the east, the eye traces the finely wooded vale of the Clyde as far nearly as Tinto. Beneath you is the river covered with shipping, and widening gradually out into lake-like amplitude towards the west. On the opposite shores are the hills of Renfrewshire, with the busy harbours of Port-Glasgow and Greenock at their base, and the fine lively bay of Gourock stretching away beyond them. Crossing from the latter point to the Argyleshire coast, the eye traces the promontory of Roseneath, backed by the mountains of Cowal, and then skirts along the rugged outline of the more distant Argyleshire hills towards the towering form of Benlomond. The vale of the Leven can also be distinctly traced from the point where it issues from its parent-loch to its junction with the Clyde beneath the feet of the spectator. Immediately below the castle is the plain and town of Dumbarton.
Dumbarton is supposed by many to have been the ancient Alcluith, the capital of the Strath Clyde Britons; but on this point a good deal of controversy exists. Bede informs us that the castle of Dumbarton was reckoned the strongest fortress of Scotland in his days. It was governed by the infamous Menteith during the Bruce Baliol wars; and to this place the unfortunate Wallace was escorted after his surprisal by that traitor to his country's weal and honour, previous to his being sent to England to abide his mock trial, This circumstance is perhaps the strongest evidence we now possess for the authenticity of a relic which is preserved in the armoury here, and shown to strangers as the veritable sword of 'the Wallace wight.' In the early and troubled periods of Scottish history the possession of such fortress and position as Dumbarton formed an object of perpetual conflict; and it accordingly experienced all the vicissitudes of fortune attached to such an unenviable distinction. It was taken and retaken by storm and escalade and stratagem a hundred times: so that to relate its eventful history would require a volume. It was the last place that held out for Queen Mary after her flight into England; but it was taken in a well-conducted night-enterprise on the 2d of May 1571, by Captain Thomas Crawford of Jordanhill and a small party in the service of the regent Lennox. The particulars of this gallant achievement are related by Mr. Leighton in his letter-press to Swan's 'Views on the Clyde.' The articles of union stipulate that this castle, with those of Stirling, Edinburgh, and Blackness, shall always be kept in repair and garrisoned.
The town of Dumbarton is situated on the Leven about a mile from the Castle rock. It is an irregular built town, and possesses no object of remarkable interest. Dumbarton is 14½ miles from Glasgow by land. Tourists sometimes make it the starting point for the Trosaachs, or for the landroute to Inverary, to which places the distances are as follow :
Tourists for Loch Lomond, who have arrived by the early morning-steamer, are allowed about half an hour to take breakfast in Dumbarton. About half-past nine a coach starts for the loch. Crossing the Leven by a high and rather narrow bridge, the coach pursues a pleasant road running along the banks of the Leven. This stream forms the outlet of the waters of Loch Lomond. Its descent is small, and its course is therefore calm and slow; it is a fine stream, however, and worthy of the praise bestowed upon it in Smollett's well-known verses: "On Leven's banks while free to rove," &c. Smollett was born at Bonhill, about 2 miles from Dumbarton; and a monument to the memory of the illustrious novelist has been erected here by his cousin Smollett of Bonhill. It consists of a Tuscan column surmounted by a vase and bearing a Latin inscription partly from the pen of Dr. Johnson. Proceeding onwards, we pass through the pleasant village of Renton, which is chiefly occupied by the persons employed in the neighbouring print-fields of Dalquhurn and Cordale, and the bleaching-works on the banks of the Leven. Passing Bonhill house on the right, we perceive Bonhill village finely situated on the opposite side of the Leven; and a little farther on we pass through the small village of Alexandria. The principal mansion in the neighbourhood of this village is Tillichewen castle, a noble modern edifice in the castellated Gothic style, occupying a commanding situation, and surrounded by very fine plantations. A little beyond Woodbank, near the fourth mile-stone from Dumbarton, the road strikes off on the right to Balloch ferry, whither the passengers by the coach, who intend to visit the head of the lake the same day, are conveyed. On reaching the river's side, the passengers step on board a lighter by which they are conveyed up the river to the steamer which is seen riding at anchor at the foot of the loch. This is perhaps the most disappointing part of the whole day's tour. You find yourself and your fellow-passengers assisted into an awkward looking boat, which is slowly pushed up the shallow stream by poles. The banks of the river are low and featureless, and the same character appears to attach itself to the shores of the lake. While then the lighter is making her tedious approach to the steamer, we shall occupy the tourist's attention with some general notices of the sheet of water on whose broad bosom he is about to embark. We shall, then accompany him to the head of the loch by water; after which we shall return to the lower extremity of the lake, and pursue the land-route to Tarbet for the benefit of the pedestrian tourist.
Loch Lomond, says Dr. Macculloch, "is unquestionably the pride of our lakes,--incomparable in its beauty as in its dimensions,--exceeding all others in variety as it does in extent and splendour,--and uniting in itself every style of scenery which is found in the other lakes of the Highlands." It is not always we agree with the mineralogical doctor, but we subscribe to the opinion he has here pronounced. Loch Lomond is indeed a loch unmatched in Scotland; and though Wordsworth contends ingeniously for the superiority of his own Winandermere,6 we think there are few tourists who will not allow that the Scottish lake is the finest in the kingdom. Dr. Clarke,--that acute and well-informed traveller in many lands,--is of opinion that Europe contains only two other lakes which can be put in competition with our Lomond, namely, the .far-famed Lago Maggiore, and the less generally known Maelar lake in Sweden. The ancient name of this lake was Loch Leven,--a name retained by the stream which issues from it, and derived, it is supposed, from the Gaelic Llevyn signifying 'smooth.' It is principally in Dumbatonshire; but the county of Stirling embraces a considerable extent of its eastern shore. Its length is nearly 30 miles. Near to its southern extremity it spreads out into a breadth of about 6 miles;7 towards the middle it is contracted to little more than 2; and this breadth. decreases northwards, until at its northern extremity it does not exceed 200 yards. The depth of its waters also varies considerably; in the southern portion it seldom exceeds 60 feet; whilst to the north of Luss it is found to be from 200 to 400 feet. The extremity of the Kilpatrick chain of hills approaches the south-east corner of the lake. From this point, a rather level tract of country extends along the eastern shore; after which the mountainous banks of the lake are continued northwards in a succession of gradually rising terraces, terminating in the giant form of Benlomond. The upper extremity of the lake is surrounded by the noble mountains of Glenfalloch, while the western shore is bounded by the Arroquhar and Luss hills. From these mountains and hills a vast number of streams and brattling brooks discharge themselves into the lake; its principal tributary however, is the Endric, which flows into the south-east corner of the lake. It is alleged that the waters of Loch Lomond have increased considerably during the lapse of ages, and that the ruins of houses are still visible beneath the water in some parts. We know not what truth there may be in this; but we suspect it to be only a poetical fiction common almost to every extensive sheet of inland water. The total superficies of this lake is nearly 20,000 acres.8 The property on the left bank of the lake belongs principally to the families of Smollett, Buchanan, and Colquhoun; that on the right, almost entirely to the duke of Montrose. About two-thirds of the loch, and most of the islands, are in the county of Dumbarton; the rest, with the right bank, are in the county of Stirling. The steam-boat, in ascending the loch, keeps almost exactly in the line of division between the two counties.
The steamer is now fairly under weigh, and rapidly approaching Inchmurrin, the first and largest island in Loch Lomond. This island is finely clothed with wood, and is employed as a deer-park by the duke of Montrose. At its south-west end are the ruins of an ancient castle, once the principal messuage of the earldom of Lennox. On reaching the north-east point of this island, the eye ranging from the mouth of the Endric, on the east, to a little below the mouth of the Finlas, on the west, surveys the loch in its greatest amplitude of breadth. Beyond this point it gradually contracts, until beyond Ross island it never exceeds one mile. From the point now reached by the steamer a very fine view is obtained of the fair and fertile vale of the Endric. The steamer next approaches the little island of Clairinch from which the Buchanans took their slogan or war-cry; passing which, it skirts Inchcailloch, or the Nun's island, opposite the north-east corner of which a pause is made for a moment to land passengers at Bealmacha,9 a celebrated highland pass, through which many a foray has descended into the Lennox. Here some tourists choose to land, and pursue their journey through the pass and along the banks of the loch, to Rowardennan. On emerging from the pass, a magnificent view of the lake bursts upon the sight: a sheet of water of about l0 miles in length, and at least 5 in breadth, skirted on both sides by luxuriant woods, and spotted with islands of various extent and form and appearance,--some inhabited and under cultivation, some bare and barren,--some scarcely appearing above the water line, others towering to the height of 300 feet above it,--and all closed in and surrounded with a magnificent girdle of mountain heights. The boat now proceeds across the loch towards Luss, passing in succession Inchfad, Inchmoan or the Peat island, and Inchcruin or the Round island; and, on the left, Inchcardach, Buckinch, Inchcarachan, Inchlonag, and Inchtavannach. These islands are evidently the summits of some of the more advanced Grampians10 emerging from the lake.
Luss is a beautifully situated village, and, as commanding one of the finest views of the loch will engage our attention while tracing the land route along the western side of the loch. From Luss northwards the breadth of the lake contracts rapidly; its finely wooded banks are thus brought close upon the eye, and the indentations of the margin grow bolder. About 3 miles beyond Luss is the ferry from Inveruglas, on the west, to Rowardennan on the east side of the loch. The steamer crosses to the latter point, and lands passengers. Rowardennan is situated at the base of Benlomond, and is the point from which travellers generally commence the ascent of the mountain. If the tourist wishes to make the ascent the first day, he must now land and forthwith commence his toilsome march up the shoulder of the mountain under the direction of a guide who can be procured at the inn; but some tourists prefer to ascend to the head of the loch in the steamer, and returning by it to Tarbet, land and remain there for the night. Next morning they may get rowed across to Rowardennan at an early hour, so as to have accomplished a visit to the summit of the Ben in time to return to Dumbarton by that day's boat. About a mile to the north of Rowardennan the boat passes Rob Roy's rock, which rises abruptly from the water to the height of about 80 feet, and is surmounted by another precipice considerably higher. The steamer now crosses to Tarbet, and after landing passengers, again crosses the loch to the mill of Inversnaid. It was here that Wordsworth penned his beautiful and well-known verses to a 'Highland girl.' A short distance inland, from this point, is Inversnaid fort, built in 1713 to repress the daring inroads of the freebooters who infested the low country. There is a foot-path,--'a stern and lone, yet lovely road,'--from Inversnaid mill to the head of Loch Katrine by Loch Arclet; and tourists for the Perthshire lakes usually strike off at this point. A stream issuing from Loch Arclet forms a fine cascade at the mill of Inversnaid. A short distance above Inversnaid is Rob Roy's cave, once the hiding place of the hunted outlaw, and celebrated also as having afforded shelter to Robert Bruce after his discomfiture at Strathfillan by MacDougall of Lorn. The tourist has now reached the head of the loch and the entrance of Glenfalloch. The scenery though here wild and desolate is somewhat tamer in character than we may have been led to expect from the boldness and sterness of that through which we passed after leaving Tarbet.
We have now conducted the tourist, by steam, from the foot to the head of Loch Lomond. We shall now carry him rapidly around the shores of the lake; after which we shall ascend Benlomond with him. We would here, however, advertise him that during the return of the boat to Tarbet he must make up his mind whether he will return to Dumbarton by it, or adopt the more general route by Loch Long, as little time for deliberation will be allowed on reaching Tarbet where the steamer makes an exchange of passengers with the Loch Long steamer.
The pedestrian tourist instead of striking off the road from Dumbarton towards the Balloch ferry pursues his route by the road inclining westwards. At the fifth mile stone he passes Cameron house, the seat of a branch of the Smollett family, where Johnson and Boswell spent a night so pleasantly with the commissioner.11 Soon after you come close upon the margin of the lake and obtain a fine view of it in the direction of Inchmurrin and Clairinch. At the sixth mile-stone you pass Belvidere house; at the seventh, Arden house, behind which rises Dunfion or 'the hill of Fingal.' You then cross the water of Fruin which flows through Glenfruin, the scene, in 1602, of a dreadful massacre of the Colquhouns by their hereditary foes the MacGregors,12 Pursuing his route through the country of the Colquhouns, the tourist reaches, the beautiful village of Luss, 13 miles from Dumbarton. The road to this point, if it does not present the finest views of the lake itself, is nevertheless so interesting that the pedestrian can experience no tedium. He is always in due proximity to the lake, which, whether in "the bright green meadows sprinkled with ash trees that sometimes skirt the margin,--or the white pebbled shores on which its gentle billows murmur like a miniature ocean,--or its bold rocky promontories rising from the deep water, rich in wild flowers and ferns, and tangled with wild roses and honeysuckles,--or its retired bays where the waves sleep, reflecting like a mirror the trees which hang over them,"13 --is ever an object of deep interest and constantly varied attractions. Stone hill, behind Luss, affords one of the finest points for viewing the lake, with its 'faery crowd of islands.' From Luss to Tarbet, a distance of 7¾ miles, the road is extremely beautiful, being continued close upon the margin of the lake but at such an elevation as affords the eye free scope to survey its scenery. The point of Firkin, at the 17th mile stone from Dumbarton, is a fine soft peninsula running out nearly half-way across the lake. The mountains on the left hand too have now assumed a more imposing altitude, and are nobly clothed in most places with wood. Nothing can exceed in picturesque beauty the situation of Tarbet village and inn; and here, if the tourist's time permits, would we advise him to spend a day or two as the point from which he can best make a variety of excursions along the shores and to all points of this matchless lake. From Tarbet upwards to the head of the loch the road is carried 'onward amid the copse' along, the western shore, through the country of the Macfarlanes, a sept as turbulent and fierce though not so numerous as the MacGregors of the opposite shores. The breadth of the lake is now greatly narrowed; the hills on either side tower upto a vast height and cast their deep shadows far across it, while their shoulders run out into bold rugged promontories, between which the waters of the lake sleep deep and dark almost under the feet of the traveller. Opposite Upper Inveruglas
Ben Lomond is 3240 feet above the level of the lake, which is 22 feet above that of the sea. In altitude this noble mountain is considerably surpassed by several other Scottish mountains; but none tell upon the eye more. Seen from the shores of the lake its general appearance is that of a truncated cone, with one shoulder running out towards the south-east. Dr. Graham is of opinion, however, that Ben is seen to greatest advantage from the north-east. In travelling from Stirling, by Aberfoyle, this mountain presents a fine pyramidal form of equally proportioned sides. Rowardennan14 is the most eligible point from which to commence the ascent. The distance from the inn to the summit of the mountain is 6 miles, and the time usually spent in ascending 3 hours. The first stage of the ascent,--for it consists of three pretty distinctly marked stages,----is principally over rock and heath, and through portions of wet. spungy moss. Towards the summit the toil becomes more severe. The scene from the top is thus described by Dr, Graham; "At the bottom of the mountain, one of the finest lakes in Europe is seen, through its whole extent of about thirty miles; stretching out from small beginnings, to a breadth, towards its southern extremity, of about six miles; its surface beautifully diversified with islands, and its shores skirted with woods, and houses, and cultivated grounds. In the range of the horizon, from the east, by the south, to the south-west, the eye is successively presented with the rich plains of Stirlingshire and the Lothians; the heights of Lanarkshire; the vales of Renfrewshire; the coast of Ireland; Kintyre, and the Western ocean. But the circumstance which will perhaps appear the most striking to the stranger, is the idea which he will now, for the first time be enabled to form of the great outline of the Highlands of Scotland; for which no station is better adapted than Benlomond, where the prospect is unencumbered by the interference of any other hills. From the east, where the Ochills have their commencement, directing the eye westwards, by the north, through a space of more than half the circle of the horizon, you are presented with a vast amphitheatre, bounded every where by lofty mountains, whose shades gradually melt away from the sight, and blend themselves at length with the blue colours of the sky. In this stupendous scene, the traveller will recognise Benlawers, Benvorlich, and Benledi, on the north-east; Cruachan and Benevis on the west; Benmore on the north; the Paps of Jura, and Goatfield in Arran, on the south-west. His eye will be relieved from time to time by dwelling on the beautiful lakes of Perthshire, some of which are so near as to be seen in bird's-eye prospect. The mountain itself affords, besides, a great variety of scenery. To the south-east it stretches out into a slope of very gentle declivity. The north side is awfully abrupt; it presents a concave precipice of many hundred yards in depth. He must possess firm, nerves who can approach the brink, and look down unmoved. When you descend into this concavity, by the ravine already mentioned, it appears to form a semicircular bason of vast extent. A gun fired in this concavity, returns a long and variously reverberated echo; though, from the rareness of the atmosphere on the summit, the report of a gun is there extremely faint. In the variable weather of July and August, the traveller has sometimes the awful enjoyment of sitting in a serene atmosphere on the summit of the mountain, whilst the thunder-cloud rolls below, and the livid lightning flashes between him and the surface of the lake. Caught in this situation, let him not linger long upon the summit, but retire as fast as he can from a spot where the variations of the weather are sudden, and the war of the elements far more formidable than on the plain."15
From Tarbet to the shores of Loch Long is a delightful walk of about half-an-hour across the neck of the peninsula rising between Loch Lomond and Loch Long. The inn of Arroquhar is 22 miles from Dumbarton. It is situated on the eastern shore of Loch Long within half-a-mile of its head. Immediately opposite to it, on the western shores of the loch, is Ben Arthur, or the Cobbler, with its singularly fantastic peaks. Arroquhar was formerly the seat of the chief of the Macfarlanes; it is now the property of Sir James Colquhoun of Luss. The mansion-house was converted into an inn by the late duke of Argyle, who fitted it up for the accommodation of the public; but it is now again converted into a private mansion. A good inn has however been built at a little distance towards the head of the loch.
Loch Long, like many other Highland lochs, is an inlet or arm of the sea It is about 24 miles in length, and runs between the counties of Dumbarton and Argyle. The coast is very bold and steep, particularly where Loch Goil branches off towards the west. Tradition points it out as the scene of a Norwegian invasion in the reign of Alexander III. when a fleet of 60 vessels, under Haco, sailed up the loch, drew their boats across the isthmus into Loch Lomond, and ravaged the surrounding country. They then proceeded down the frith of Clyde, but having landed in Ayrshire, were defeated, with the loss of 16,000 men, in the battle of Largs. Haco himself escaped with difficulty, and died of grief in the Orkneys. The upper extremity of this loch is so enclosed by mountains, in many places fringed with a fine copsewood, that it resembles a fresh water lake, and is only recognised as an arm of the sea, at low water, by the long lines of brown weeds which then appear clinging to the rocks on either shore. "I know not," says Dr. Macculloch, "but that the first view of this spot disappoints those who have just quitted the magnificent scenes of Loch Lomond,---simple and unpretending as it is; but he who, after spending a few hours at Arroquhar, leaves it with the same impression, may proceed to Inverary as fast as he pleases, for he would gain nothing by longer abode!" We heartily re-echo the learned doctor's sentiment. The tourist who sees and feels no beauty in the scenery of the head of Loch Long may rest assured he has no eye for Nature's magnificence. He is unworthy to put foot in 'deep Glencoe;' and, if he will visit Inverary, we would advise him to go thither by steam, and remain perdue in the cabin all the time. A noble view may be obtained from the top of the wild and bold hill that separates Loch Long from the Holy loch. Arriving at the mouth of Loch Long, the steamer makes across the frith for Greenock, and from thence proceeds to Glasgow, where the tourist of one day is landed by nine o'clock in the evening, after having explored some of the finest scenery in the Highlands, and travelled a distance of above 100 miles.