A TRIP to Inverary will require the better part of two days. The tourist has his choice of several different routes. He may either proceed from Arroquhar, by Cairndow, to Inverary; or by Loch Goil, and St. Catherine's; or by the Holy loch, Loch Eck, and Strachur; or by Rothsay, Tarbet, and Lochgilphead.
I. We shall, in the first instance, suppose the tourist to proceed from Arroquhar, to which point we have conducted him in last tour. Starting from the inn at this place, the tourist follows the road winding round the head of Loch Long. Crossing the Teang water, which discharges itself into the, head of the loch, he enters Argyleshire, and pursues the road--now skirting the western shore--till within a few yards of Ardgarten house, which is finely situated on a low point of land projecting into the lake. Here the road diverges at nearly right-angles to the right, and bidding adieu to Loch Long the traveller enters the desolate but magnificent valley of Glencroe. This glen is about 6 miles in length, and is continued in Glenkinlass to Loch Fyne. It is said to resemble Glencoe. The entrance on the right is guarded by Ben Arthur, or the Cobbler, whose bold and fantastic summit has so often intruded itself on the tourist's attention since he left the Lennox, and fairly entered the Highlands. The ascent to the foot of the Cobbler himself, is not very difficult; it is however a task of some danger and difficulty to seat one's self on the highest peak, which is a square mass of rock, shooting up to the height of 200 feet, "like a gigantic tower rooted on the mountain's brow." 1 The view from the summit embraces Loch Katrine, Loch Lomond, the whole sinuous extent of Loch Long, Loch Goil, the Gair loch, and Loch Fyne. The frith of Clyde may be also traced throughout its whole extent, the Cumbrays, the mountains of Arran, the craig of Ailsa, and perhaps the island of Mull.
The road through Glencroe ascends gently for about three miles; it then becomes very steep, and is carried in a zigzag form to the summit of the pass, where a seat has been prepared, and a stone erected with the inscription, "Rest and be thankful." Passing a small and featureless sheet of water called Loch Restal on the left, the road gradually descends, through Glenlochan till you enter Glenkinlass. The road proceeds through this solitary vale, one wild scene of beauty and grandeur still succeeding another, until, at the distance of two or three miles further, the eye is delighted with a view of Loch Fyne, of which a glimpse is obtained through the opening of the mountains. After passing the farm-house of Stroan on the right, and Ardkinlass on the left, a short walk leads to the comfortable inn of Cairndow. From this point, tourists have an opportunity at least once a-day of crossing over the loch to Inverary by the steam-boat; but if not disposed to wait for this conveyance, a walk of 9½ miles around the head of the loch, which is very narrow, will conduct the tourist to Inverary.
Inverary is the county-town of Argyleshire, although it only consists of about a hundred houses. It is built at the lower end of a small bay, looking partly across it towards the head of the loch, and partly fronting towards the loch, which is here 2¾ miles broad. It has two good inns, and private lodgings can be easily procured. Inverary castle, the mansion of the duke of Argyle is a heavy square building, at the mouth of Glenaray, and about half-a-mile distant from the town. It is built of a dark coloured micaceous slate.2 The public rooms are very handsome and contain some fine tapestry, but little attention is paid to the mansion by the present duke. The parks and grounds however are very extensive, and present some fine views through their green forest glades. In the saloon some stands of arms used by the Campbells in the 'forty-five' are tastefully arranged on the walls. One of the most remarkable objects in this neighbourhood is the conical hill of Dunequoich,.--'an wooded knoll fantastical,'--which shoots up from the water's edge to the height of 700 feet and is covered to the top with fine full grown trees. There is a road to Glenorchy and Loch Awe through the vale of the Aray.
At a little distance from Inverary is the sequestered glen of Essachosan. On the way to it, through a long avenue of elms, the tourist's attention may be called to 'the marriage-tree.' This is a large lime, whose trunk separates a few feet above the ground into two principal stems, which are reunited at the height of about 20 feet by means of a smaller branch which extends from the one and is ingrafted into the other. About three miles below the town is the bridge of Douglas, thrown over the stream of that name. The scenery is here very picturesque; the bridge is very ancient, and supposed to have been constructed by the Romans. The views of Loch Fyne, from the neighbourhood of Inverary are varied and beautiful. In front of the castle it spreads out into a noble bay, forming an irregular circle of about 15 miles in circumference. This great arm of the sea is 32 miles in length from its mouth at Skipness castle on the frith of Clyde, to Glenfyne; its breadth varies from 3 miles to 12.
II. We will now re-conduct the tourist from Inverary to Glasgow, by way of St. Catherine's and Loch Goil. St. Catherine's is about 4 miles distant from Inverary on the opposite side of the loch, 3 miles below Cairndow. From this place, the distance to Loch Goil head is 7 miles by an excellent road. There is much wild and romantic beauty about the upper portion of Loch Gail. Macculloch is of opinion that a rude valley in the neighbourhood called Hell's glen, "equals, or perhaps exceeds Glencroe in wildness and character." 3
From the head of the loch there is a good road along the western side to Ardentinny; but the tourist will probably descend the loch into Loch Long by the steamer. The principal feature in Loch Goil is Carrick castle, an ancient seat of the Dunmore family. It is a fine and impressive ruin, situated on a high and nearly insulated rock, above which tower very lofty mountains. From this point to where Loch Goil branches off from Loch Long, the shores are bold and magnificent. The peninsular point opposite to Ardentinny is called Corran. It is the extremity of that range of hills whose singularly rugged outline attracted the early attention of the tourist when first sailing down the frith, and which is called, 'quasi lucus a non lucendo', --Argyle's Bowling green. The tourist is now embarked on Loch Long from which we have already conducted him to Glasgow.
III. There is another short route by which the tourist may either proceed to, or return from Inverary namely, by Strachur and Loch Eck. Strachur is a finely situated inn about 5 miles further down the loch than St. Catherine's. There is a regular ferry from Creggans, 5 miles below Inverary, to Strachur; and during the season a steam-boat plies betwixt Strachur, and Inverary, so as to complete the regular line of communication from Glasgow by Kilmun and Loch Eck to Inverary, which is a favourite route. Strachur is 12 miles from Ardentinny by Glenfinnin, and 7 from the head of Loch Eck, Carriages are provided at Strachur to convey the regular passengers to Loch Eck, where they embark in a small steamer which conveys them to the foot of the loch, whence they are again transported by cars to Kilmun or the Holy loch where a steamer waits to convey them to Glasgow. Loch Eck, in the estimation of Dr. Macculloch, "is not worth exploring :" we beg to differ from him, though we do not mean to apply to it the epithets either of exquisite, grand, or sublime. It is a very pleasing miniature lake, embossomed in green mountains of graceful and rounded outline. Its margin is here and there fringed with a slight coppice, but in general edged by the firm green turf which clothes the mountain-feet, and
IV. It now remains for us to conduct the tourist to Inverary by the long route; or the whole extent of Loch Fyne. We have already in our third tour conducted him to Rothsay. From this point the steamer generally proceeds up the Kyles of Bute, as the narrow strait between Bute and the mainland of Argy1eshire is called. After passing the mouth of Loch Straven, the steamer approaches the ferry, and the channel rapidly narrows. "Though the passage of the Kyles," says Macculloch, "is everywhere interesting, it is more particularly beautiful between this ferry and the entrance of Loch Ridan, where it is contracted, as well as varied, by four islands, These, and the forms of the land on both sides, render the passage so narrow and intricate, that for a considerable space it seems to be at an end repeatedly, in working through it. It is the same indeed for nearly four miles through this intricate and narrow strait; the land closing in, in such a manner, as to appear to meet from the opposite sides. Thus while, in some places, we feel as if passing through the labyrinths of an alpine river, in others we appear to be enclosed within a lake. It is only by the fall and rise of the tide, and the appearance of the sea-weeds on the rocks, that we are led to suspect the maritime nature of this channel; since it is so far removed from the sea, and so involved in all that class of ornament and scenery which we are accustomed to associate with fresh water, that it is scarcely possible to divest ourselves of the idea of being in an inland lake. At the same time, it is no less beautiful than extraordinary; the land rising suddenly and high from the water, often into lofty cliffs interspersed and varied with wood, the trees growing from the fissures of the rocks even at the very margin of the sea, and aiding, with the narrowness of the strait and the height of the land, to produce a sober, green, shadowy tone of forest-scenery, which adds much to the romantic effect of this fairy-like sea." This is at once a correct and engaging description.
Leaving the entrance to Loch Ridan4 also upon the right, the steamer soon emerges from the confined channel into the open space between Airdlamont point on the mainland, and Ettrick bay in Bute. The majestic heights of Arran are seen here in a very imposing form. On rounding Airdlamont point the steamer is supposed to have entered Loch Fyne. Here on the left is Inchmarnock with the remains of a chapel; and soon after we pass another islet called Skate island, from which there is an extensive prospect up Loch Fyne. The coast of Kintyre as here seen on the left is peculiarly wild and rugged, and, as the boat nears East Tarbet, seems to forbid all approach by its impending rocks. The harbour, however, once entered is remarkably secure. We shall have a subsequent opportunity of describing this place, when we conduct the tourist to Oban. Leaving Tarbet and pursuing our course northwards, we pass Barmore island, and the rugged district of Maoldhu, on the left, after which we gain a sight of the village of Lochgilphead and the extremity of the Crinan canal. This canal is only 9 miles in length, but has no fewer than 15 locks. It was formed to save doubling the Mull of Kintyre, which is both a tedious and dangerous navigation, especially to small vessels. The anchorage off the point of Silvercraigs near Loch Gilp, is a very striking and picturesque spot; and hence onwards to Inverary, on this side, the whole shore is interesting. The opposite shore, however, offers nothing remarkable, with the exception perhaps of Castle Lauchlan. Opposite to Minart, at some distance from Silvercraigs, is Kilmory, and on the right Kilfinan church, and Gordon bank; farther on we pass Otter ferry; 3 miles farther, Lochgair house; 8 miles more, Minart; then Crarae inn; and 2 miles farther on Goatfield. Three miles from this point is Creggan ferry nearly opposite to Strachur park.