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HC1-014 - Holidays in Cairndow - Dorothy Wordsworth (1882)

Holidays in Cairndow Dorothy Wordsworth Journal

Journal of My Second Tour in Scotland, 1822 The Wordsworth Trust 1989    

Jiro Nagasawa MS 99 P 113

The comments in italics are Christina Noble’s.  She has made some cuts and inserted paragraphs for ease of reading.

William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy had visited Cairndow on their Tour of the Highlands in 1803 and she refers to her memories of that visit.

Joanna, is Joannna Hutchinson, Dorothy’s sister in law, William’s wife’s sister.

Friday 21 September 1822    Climbing up Glen Croe on the way to the Rest and be Thankful.

“Soon we see the termination of the glen – the one solitary farm-house, in the green cradle still there; – with a few trees near it, and not far from the road, one dark brown hut hardly visible.  The gentlemen got out of the cart; and I soon after them, leaving Joanna to ascend the hill in the cart alone.  Near the top of the steep ascent came to a curious Jura, or Alpine , winding in the road – a bending like one of the Links of Forth, which, not recollecting, I began to reproach my memory , and looked about in vain for the well- known inscription “Rest and be thankful” and Col.  Lascelles’s name.  Nearly at the top of the hill I seated myself again beside Joanna and I soon perceived that the road had been altered since I was last here for the sake of an easier ascent.  The old track along which the gentlemen were coming to us was much overgrown with grass.

 Beginning to descend the hill towards Glen rest, we see the well –remembered Tarn below us.  Loch Restil  That wild and solitary spot very interesting, yet not so striking as when we first had seen it, – then saturated with ruby light; but when we now descended to the turning of the Glen where several waters  (formerly not seen distinctly, but

heard very loud), the stream the Kinlas, in the middle of the glen, a  long winding line sweeping downwards, was rosy red, of a paler yet brighter hue than Loch Rest, as the image of it had remained in my remembrance for 19 years.    We faced the west; the sun was now below the horizon, and a glorious sky in front of us with dark clouds resembling Islands upon a luminous sea –  purple hills below; and behind us, two smooth pyramids, clear but not illumined; and they were cowled  in while clouds long before the redness had left the opposite quarter of the sky.   The river, on our left hand, always to be heard, but no tumult and noise as when we worked our way down, with the Irish Car in the dark, 19 years ago. 

After the glen widens, the road not long nor seemingly dreary, as before.  A church to the right with a steeple, which I did not recognise.  Surely there are many more steeples and spires in Scotland than formerly.  It was a bright night, all traces of the sun departed, when we reached the church.  The Lough lay in view, and, turning to the right, a quarter of a mile brought us to the Inn and Cairndow.  I not at all tired, the road having been so smooth that the cart made no uneasy jolting, and even Joanna was in good plight, and greatly had she been delighted with all that she had seen.  Ordered a fire in a bedroom, and J went upstairs, while I waited below to settle with the gentlemen.  (who had given them a lift in their cart)

Friday night.  Now sitting in an upper room at Cairndow – the exteriors of the house just the same as when I was here before (I suppose they now white-wash every year) but within much smarter.  Carpets covering every floor:  but you find these everywhere, even at the villainous Inn at Tarbet, which we have just escaped form.  We now sit in a quite cleanly bedroom – for the carpets here do not seem to be a cover for dirt – tea comfortably set out – civil attendants, and nothing wanting.  In the kitchen there is a fine blazing coal fire. 

A lovely baby, the Landlady’s child, not nursed by herself.  Still there is an unintelligible number of women; but they are peaceable; – no scolding as at Tarbet. 

This room is even expensively furnished, two washing-stands, table mahogany, handsome mirror, not dim or sullied. 10 o’clock – prepare for bed.

Saturday 22  September

The morning sunny.  I rose before J and walked towards the Church. 

Kilmorich Church

Found from an Inscription on the steeple that it has not been built till the year 1816.  Pretty ornamented square Tower – Body of Church octangular – not church like yet pretty enough, flat-sided roof finishing in a point at the top.  Men, women and children busy in cornfield at their cottage door.  Near the Church a very rude bridge over the water of Kinlas – stream wide and stony.  The bridge rough and dangerous, – trees laid side by side – gaps between, and the railing unsteady.  I ventured half over, durst not proceed, and found some difficulty in turning round again and getting   safely off.  

From the bridge the river is wide and naked till it falls into the Lake, but, above it is overhung with beeches and other fine trees.  I determined to explore the river’s bank, and turning a few hundred yards up the road by which we had come last night reached a Porter’s Lodge – children seated there shelling nuts.  I ask “May I go forward?”  “Yes, the place belongs to Col Calendar, but nobody lives there”.  I enter:  a broad winding road is before me, leading through a park-like, hill field bordering on the river – fine trees scattered over the field.  Beeches, ashes, oaks and there is a broken line of grim old fir trees, two of them among the tallest I ever saw;  – Larches with hairy branches – each kind (the firs and the larches) stamped with venerable old age – male and female.  My walk was charming – the stony river on my right seen through overhanging trees.

I cross a handsome stone bridge, take the left hand road, still up the glen, delighted with every turning , and carrying about me something of the pride of a discoverer of a new country; for I had not heard anyone mention the beauty of the river scenery near Cairndow.  

Having walked through the wood, still on a wide smooth road, perhaps ¾ of a mile, I now sit upon the ledge of another massy bridge.  At a fearful depth below me the river

rumbles over a rocky channel: the view upwards is terminated by two stately pikes of Glen Kinglas, greyish green.  A fine-shaped hill to the right with rough craggy top.  (The Old Man ?) This bridge, which brings to my fancy an arch of a Roman aqueduct, has something of grandeur in its desolation – the parapet broken – the way across it overgrown with close grass and grunsel as we often see the turf of a common or a churchyard.   Leaving this romantic spot, I was tempted forward; passed a mill and the Porters Lodge, and, coming to the bare glen, a third bridge was before me, which lead to the high road along which we travelled  last night.  I recollect having noticed this bridge in the evening gloom.

Proceeding no further I turned back to the first bridge and thence went forward in quest of the deserted Mansion. (Burnt down 1831) I soon came in sight of it, a large square building, to all appearance in excellent repair, standing in a green field or park, sheltered by woods, fine cattle pasturing all round.  The mountains of Glen Kinglas towering above the trees behind the house, and in front a view across the Lake nothing striking; but soft and  cheerful. 

Ardkinglas House

Greeted an old man near the Inn.  He took off his bonnet, addressed me in Highland English, the general course of it very much superior to the ordinary language of persons of his, or indeed almost any, condition in England.  I lamented that the beautiful place I had just seen should be left untenanted.   “Aye”  said he, “it is indeed a pity; I have known it otherwise”  He  then told me that Col Calendar had removed to Stirling, and taken with him the furniture, for fear of his Father’s returning from the West Indies and taking possession of the place. “His Father !  How’s that?” He replied (making use of a strange expression) “he (ie the Father) was not a good Boy” but now matters have been settled between them the property was signed over to the Son who was to allow his Father 1200£ annum.   My fine bridge, I learned, was no very ancient structure. The architect who planned and built it had been ruined, the bridge having been condemned as unsafe; and the other, a little further up the valley had been erected instead of it.  If the object had been merely to build up a picturesque object no better situation could have been chosen; but the banks are so very steep that, however safe the bridge might have been the way to it must have been very inconvenient for carriages.

Remains of the bridge

After breakfast Joanna and I set out together.  The waiter had told us that  there was, among many fine trees in Col C’s ground one particular tree, an oak, which for its size was a great curiosity – he described its situation, near the house.

Having crossed the first stone bridge, we pass through dark thicket groves till the bright lawn opens on the view  scattered over with cattle – the Colonel’s house in the centre  a large square building – we pass through the farm-yard,  (what we know as The Old House, that was the stables of the house in the middle of the park ?)  cross a rivulet, and discover the tree by its broad leafy head overtopping others on the slope of the hill , and spreading out a shade, as much as could be expected from half dozen of ordinary size.  This huge tree had not begun to shed its leaves; but the terminating twigs were of orange hue; and we perceived instantly that it was not an oak but a beech – so inaccurate had been the observations of our informer .   The trunk resembled a fluted pillar, fluted almost regularly – not very tall – the colour that of stone grown grey with age.  I thought when standing under that tree that the builders of Glasgow Church might have taken it for their model; the branches proceeding from the sides of the stem take the form of one half of an arch of the roof of a cathedral aisle. 

(The area beyond the boiler house, once the dairy, and now John MacDonald’s yard, used to be referred to as Dorothy Wordsworth –  so this beech must have been somewhere up behind ?) 

Leaving J at rest I ascended the hill.  The view of the Loch, mountains of Kinlas and groves beneath – the autumnal tints splendid beyond description – every shade from pale to the darkest green, and from delicate yellow to the deepest orange hue.  I perceived at the foot of the hill a large ruined building, standing beside what might almost be called a grove of chestnut trees.  The ruin was quite unintelligible to me – neither Scotch nor English, nor Gothic – the walls entire; with light arches on every side and

The Square

through the interior: it reminded me of Italy – not exactly of anything I had seen l but what I could fancy – modelled after the architecture of that country; and the noble chestnuts, and the warm sunshine and clear blue sky helped to fill up  the idea.  (The Square?   Maybe it was renovated when the old house was turned into dwelling house?)  I went to fetch Joanna, who was no less pleased than myself, yet equally puzzled. 

Thence we went close to Col. C’s house – the roads in excellent order, field very rich, no appearance of desertion till you are near enough to look into the room through the windows.  Some of the marble chimney pieces taken away and all the furniture.  Two or three little children (we supposed belonging to the farmer or the husbandman, who had the house in charge) were sitting on the wall under palisades that surround the mansion and a robin redbreast was perched on a ledge of one of the open windows.  These innocent creatures seemed to have the place all to themselves, yet, as I have said till you actually look into the house there is nothing that should make you suspect  that a large family might not be living there.  No tangled shrubberies, or neglected garden: the grass was growing, as it had always grown round the dwelling, and close to it; and the forest trees thriving in Nature’s care. 

On our return to the Inn, the people told us, when we inquired for a conveyance to Inveraray, that it was unfortunate that we had not gone with the two gentlemen , who had just taken the boat, but we did not regret being left to ourselves, especially as J supposed herself  equal to the walk to Inveraray  (about seven miles).  The ferry boat was to be summoned from the opposite side to convey us over the water, and our luggage (no great weight it is true) to be carried to the shore of the Loch; yet, civil as the people had been before, not one was ready, or willing to help us.  The sky had been partially overcast; there was still a threatening in one quarter; and the landlady herself, all the men about the house, and several women were bustling as if they had not a moment to call their own, to get the hay (which was already in the yard)  shoved into the barn.   They had had their pay for us – and now, we must make our way as well as we could, with luggage in hand, to the ferry point, where, as the landlord said, showing ourselves, our wants would be understood on the other shore, and the boat would come to us.  “But” interposed one of the maids, (whom no doubt her mistress had ordered to go and assist with the hay)  “the wooden bridge must first be crossed” – the landlord took no notice but I knew the bridge too well to venture over without a helper; however, recollecting the family (father, mother, and children) beside the cottage  (Church cottage ?) hard by (not less busy with their hay than the landlady and tribe of attendants)  I was sure we could get help from them.  We had talked to the Mother, a pretty, interesting looking woman, had praised her children (with looks, no doubt that proved our sincerity) “Aye” said she, “they would be varra weel if they were weel kept”.  We found them all at work as before; – the shower still threatening – threw two or three halfpenny loaves (provender brought from Glasgow) to the children on the hay heaps – they caught them with glee, and father and mother looked pleased.  We told our wants and the man instantly left his task to carry our bundles, help us over the bridge and call for the boat. 

A shower overtook us just at a point where we were to wait.  We were concerned for our kind helper; but he made light of it – the shower would pass away and the hay be none the worse for it.  It came rushing forward to rapidly that before the man had got half way home again we were obliged to cower under a wall for shelter.  When the boat arrived all was over, and the smooth hills, golden and green, at the head of the Loch, when the rain had travelled, were mantled with sunshine and broad shadows, that while we were crossing the lake, were continually shifting.  Thus I wrote while in the boat “Gorgeous yellow and soft green, and massy shadows; now comes a slight rainbow.  There is a bridge with 4 small arches at the head of the Loch, and one white house among trees.   At a distance, a single round headed tree on a point near the water.  Towards Inveraray, stormy sunbeams are struggling with misty rain, the shapes of far- distant hill appearing thro’ the vapoury veil; and nearer to us Downdaring Castle upon a promontory”.


We landed at the ferry house (Ardganavan ?)  – nobody at  home but the mistress.   We had hoped to engage a boy to carry our luggage; but learning that the carrier was coming from Cairndow, left it to be forwarded by him.  “I now sit near the ferry-house door and look across to the piked mountains of Glen Kinlas – variegated woods beneath.  Col Calendar’s house apparently among the trees, his gardener’s cheerful white dwelling (Gardener’s Cottage) at the edge of the water – the Church, elegant at this distance, backed by a green steep, and higher up the vale stands the attractive little Inn.   How beautiful the smooth hills at the head of the Loch with their pastoral covering of brightest green grass, and fern now brighter that the poet’s “golden harvest””

We set forward side by side at a very slow pace – sunshine and gentle breezes.  I push on leaving my companion – then sit by the wayside to enjoy the pleasing scene.  “The Lake very calm – hardly to be heard, sometimes a fisherman’ boat, with funeral sails, is seen in the distance and sometimes we hear the sound of oars on the water.  Nets in one or two places hung on poles near the brown thatched cottages.  The road how quiet!  We have only met two or three single passengers on foot.  The robins are warbling continually.  A shower that has been threatening in front of us falls in heavy drops; I shelter under a bank, Joanna passes fearful of the damp.  When it was nearly over I followed and found her standing within the threshold of a cottage with the mistress of the house, who looked melancholy, and I perceived a tear on her cheek.  Three or four very pretty children were crowded together beside her.  Joanna said to me “there is a corpse within”, and the mistress desired me to enter.  I did so, leaving my companion in the outer room.  A cheerful fire was in the centre of the small black apartment, and at one end lay the body of a child covered with a clean linen cloth.  The mother of the child (the mistress’s sister), seated at the head of the bier.  The house was very small, yet another woman, nursing her child, was of the family, and there were at least four belonging to the mistress herself.  Cakes were baking a girdle – a little bare-footed girl same and cowered over the smoke and flame; and the sorrowing   Mother, seeing  no one else at liberty, suspends her last duties to the dead to turn the cakes, and goes back again to her place.  While I was seated by this humble fire-side, musing on poverty, and peace, on death and the grave, the mistress of the house repaired to an inner room, and brought out a basin of milk, which she courteously offered me.  I begged some of her warm bread, and would fain have kept my seat; but the smoke was not to be endured, so I returned to Joanna with my milk and bread.      The shower was over, and giving a few half pence to the little ones, we departed.     We could not have presented money to the good woman of this cottage as a recompense for what she had given us: we should have felt it almost like an insult offered to human nature.   Her kindness seemed to proceed from habitual good-will and hospitality; and the solemn event, which had happened, but the day before, and the humble state and decency, with which the body was watched, seemed to make the interior of the hut a sacred place.  There was an expression of thoughtful melancholy on every countenance except those of the children, who seemed to be chiefly intent on looking at us. …  (the child had been ill sometime, doctor  living far off and too expensive to call him in)

Downdaring Castle, a picturesque object in prospect, standing on a    green promontory  overlooking the loch…..  

It’s a ruin with a small “public house “in its shadow, also potters at the door and china being sold.


Dundarave Castle

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