THIS is a pleasant tour, and if performed by land will afford the tourist an opportunity of visiting two of our finest inland lakes,--Loch Awe and Loch Etive. The traveller first passes through Glenaray, the first 4 miles of which are finely wooded. At the distance of 6 miles, the road ascends a bleak and steep hill, on surmounting which, and beginning to descend towards Cladich, a fine view is obtained of Loch Awe, divided into two branches and darkly overshadowed by the lofty Ben Cruachan. This is called "Burke's view," having arrested the attention and excited the admiration of the author of the 'Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful,' At this point Ben Cruachan is immediately in front of the spectator, Towards the east are seen the castle of Kilchurn, and the openings of Glenstrae and Glenorchy; westwards the lake appears like a river winding its sinuous course among dark heathy hills and moors. A wooded island at the feet of the spectator is Innisdubh, or the Black island; beyond it is Innishail, or the Fair island, on which are the remains of a small monastery, with a burial place containing several very ancient tombstones. Farther up the loch is Innisfraoch, or the Heather isle, the Hesperides of Highland tradition, There are upwards of twenty islets in this loch. Loch Awe is about 24 miles in length; but in the greater part of its extent not above a mile in breadth. It discharges its waters into Loch Etive by the river Awe, which flows from an offset in its northern side, near the eastern extremity, through a wild ravine in the western buttress of Ben Cruachan. The shores of this lake, and the recesses of the surrounding mountains, were the retreat of the Cambells when hard-pressed by their foes; and their sense of the security here afforded them was expressed in the well-known taunt, 'It's a far cry to Lochow!" Ben Cruachan is 3400 feet in height and his base occupies an area of 20 square miles. Kilchurn, or Coalchuiru castle, was built in 1440 by the lady of Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy, who applied the principal portion of seven years rents of her husband's estates to this purpose. Sir Colin was a knight-templar, and at this time in foreign parts. It is a noble relic of feudal grandeur; and, according to Macculloch, "in the Western Highlands at least claims the pre-eminence, no less from its magnitude and the integrity of its ruins, than from the very picturesque arrangements of the building," The rocky elevatipn on which it stands is connected by a flat alluvial meadow with the higher shore, and at no very remote period may have been an insulated rock. It was garrisoned so late as 1745; but having been thoughtlessly stript of its roof has fallen into decay. There is excellent trout-fishing on Loch Awe, and good accommodation for fishers.
There is a good inn at Dalmally and from it a fine view is obtained of the beautiful vale of Glenorchy, The road from Dalmally to Taynuilt passes the new church of Glenorchy, and takes a long circuit round the head of the loch. Two miles from Dalmally, we cross the river Strae which descends through Glenstrae on the right. After any considerable fall of rain there is a cataract up this glen, at a point visible from the bridge, formed by a small stream which throws itself in four successive leaps, over a precipice 200 feet in height. Passing the farm-house of Corry, the road skirts the wooded base of Ben Cruachan, the tourist having, the great arm of the lake by which its waters are discharged on his left. At the distance of 7 miles from Dalmally, an extensive view of the lake and its islands is obtained. From this point, the road begins to ascend the side of Ben Cruachan, and through the magnificent pass of Awe, where John of Lorn, the son of Allaster, made an unsuccessful attempt to repel the Bruce.'1 Proceeding onwards about a couple of miles, Loch Etive's waters come in sight, and the little village of Bunawe. Crossing an old bridge, and passing the church on the right, we arrive at the inn of Taynuilt on the south side of Loch Etive.
The finest portion of this lake is the upper part, from Bunawe ferry. From this point the loch stretches to the foot of Buachaille Etive,2 a distance of about l0 miles, amidst very impressive mountain-solitudes. Bunawe is the point from which the ascent of Ben Cruachan can be best effected. "Compared to Ben Lomond, Cruachan," says Macculloch, is (also) a giant, and its grasp is "no less gigantic. From the bold granite precipices of its sharp and rugged summit, which is literally a point, we look down its red and furrowed sides into the upper part of Loch Etive, and over this magnificent group of mountains, which, extending northward and, eastward, display one of the finest landscapes of mere mountains in the Highlands. Its commanding position not only enables us thus to bring under our feet the whole of this group as far as Appin and Glencoe, and even to Ben Nevis, but opens a view of the whole of the eastern ocean of mountains, reaching from Rannoch as far as Ben Lawers and Ben Lomond, and beyond them, to lands which only cease to be visible because they at length blend with the sky. So marked also are their characters,--so rocky and precipitous their summits, and so varied their forms, that this landscape excels, in variety as in picturesque character, all other landscapes of mere mountains, excepting, perhaps that from Ben Lair in Ross-shire. The view which it yields of the opener country is not much inferior to that of Ben Lawers, if indeed it is inferior; and, in this respect, it can only be compared with that mountain and Ben Lomond. While it looks down on the long sinuosities of Loch Awe, and over the irregular lands of Lorn, bright with its numerous lakes; it displays all the splendid bay of Oban and the Linnhe loch, with Jura, Isla, and all the other islands of this coast: commanding, besides the horizon of the sea, even beyond Tirey and Coll, together with the rude mountains of Mull, and the faint and blue hills of Rum and Sky,--a scene as unusual as it is rendered various by the intermixture of land and water, by the brilliant contrast of those bright and intricate channels with the dark and misty mountains and islands by which they are separated, and by the bold and decided forms of all the elements of this magnificent landscape."
The next point which the tourist makes for is Connel ferry, about 7 miles from Taynuilt. Between these two places, the ruins of Ardchattan priory, and Ardchattan house, are seen on the north side of the loch. The road now descends and skirts the margin of the loch to the ferry. In the distance are seen the dark mountains of Mull and Morven, and the green island of Lismore. On the right is the point of Ardnamucknish, and on the left the venerable ruins of Dunstaffnage castle. A ledge of rocks crosses the lake near Connel ferry, and occasions a very turbulent rapid at half-ebb. The Pictish capital of Berigonium has been placed by some antiquaries in this neighbourhood.3 There are some vitrified forts in the vicinity.
Three miles beyond Connel ferry are the ruins of Dunstaffnage castle at the entrance of Loch Etive. They occupy the rocky extremity of a low peninsular point projecting from tthe southern shore Seen from the land this castle presents a heavy square mass of building; from the sea it appears to much greater advantage. It was inhabited by the lords of Argyle down to 1455, when it was taken and garrisoned by Bruce after his success at the pass of Awe. It is now a royal castle; the duke of Argyle being hereditary keeper. It was from this castle that the celebrated stone on which our Scottish-monarchs were wont to be crowned was transported to Scone4 by King Kenneth in 834. At Scone all our kings were crowned on it till the time of Robert Bruce, when "King Edward Langschankis took the said chair of merbyll to Westminister," where every Scotsman who has visited the abbey has doubtless had it pointed out to him and its history detailed by the cicerenes of the place.
Oban is a pleasant and thriving village of about 100 houses, situated at the head of a fine semi-circular bay, and closely sheltered. The high cliffs on the north side of the bay command one of the finest views in Scotland. They terminate in a rocky promontory surmounted by Dunolly castle, an ancient keep of the MacDougals of Lorn, whose representative resides here in Dunolly house. Oban is now much frequented as sea-bathing quarters; there are some powerful chalybeate springs in the neighbourhood. It is about 30 miles distant by water from Fort William, 43 from the Crinan canal, and 12 from the opening of the sound of Mull.