Internal ID: 0061 [see the .xml file]
Identifier: NLS Acc. 8625
Editors: Edited with an Introduction by Alex Deans

Johnson –––––1


7th Aug.

On Friday the 7th. of August 1807 I set out from Edinburgh with my friend Hall on the top of the Lanark Coach; we had previously breakfasted together at his rooms, and as the morning was delightful we enjoyed our ride exceedingly. There is certainly something in the beams of the morning Sun, and in the coolness of the air, which is particularly invigorating to the mind; and I should always desire to commence any journeys, like Obidah in the Rambler2 with a fine morning. We passed through 30 miles of very dreary country and arrived at Lanark about 2 o clock, which though a County town, we were much disappointed to find a miserable collection of thatched houses, not so good as an English village. However I do not wish my readers to infer from this, that all Scotch County Towns are equally bad; Lanark being by far worse than any town


which I have seen in Scotland. We took our dinner at the Inn, which is a very poor one. We then walked by the fine Cotton Mills to the beautiful grounds of Lady Ross at Boniton, where owing to my kind friend Miss Walker, the Gardener was at the pains to shew us every thing to advantage. From the Pavilion a little building erected on an eminence, the Corra Linn is seen to the greatest advantage. It consists rather of two falls, but we were told that when the river is full, it forms but one magnificent cataract; the descent of the water is near 80 feet. Higher up is the Boniton Fall which ^is extremely beautiful, it forms an excellent contrast to the Cora Linn which like a boiling cauldron is all noise and agitation, while the former falls in such a regular stream that you could almost fancy it artificial.

The banks of the Clyde are here completely perpendicular and of immense height. In an appropriate situation a little Cave has, by means of Gunpowder, been hollowed out of the rock, and furnished with much taste.


After admiring all the beauties of the place we were regaled with delicious grapes from the hothouse and returned to our Inn to tea. After walking a little about the town as the evening was fine, we retired to rest at an early hour.

8th. 15 miles

On the 8th. we set out from Lanark after breakfast and had a charming walk along the banks of the Clyde to Hamilton we stopped on our way to see the fine fall of Stone-byres which only is able to contest the palm with the Corra Linn; I prefer the latter.

We passed Malsey Castle a sweet place of Lord Hynford's [sic]. The whole of the road to Hamilton a distance of 15 Miles is uncommonly beautiful, being newly made through Orchards and plantations. We first took our dinner at the Inn and devoted the afternoon to viewing the interior of the Ducal palace which is only worth visiting for the fine paintings it contains. The long Gallery is adorned with many valuable pieces; The famous picture by Rubens of Daniel in the Lion's Den did not ^at all please me; The figure of Daniel exactly answers to my idea of the Prodigal


Son eating husks with the Swine, when I should rather have expected an angelic countenance inspired with the full confidence of divine protection. The portrait of the Earl of Denbigh by Vandyke is life itself; and the portrait of the famous Duchess of Hamilton (formerly Miss Gunning) is the very perfection of gracefulness and beauty. The grounds though they appear well laid out, are in very bad order.

9th. 11 Miles

On the 9th. we went to church at Hamilton and set out immediately after service for Glasgow, we digressed from the road to see the beautiful ruins of Bothwell Castle which stand in the grounds of Lord Douglas close to the river, there is enough left to discover that it must once have been magnificent; it is very tastefully surrounded with fragrant and flowering Shrubs and certainly forms a most beautiful object from the modern house which is not at a great distance from it. We went to the Tontine where we enjoyed our dinner exceedingly. Glasgow is really a very fine City, the street in which the Tontine stands, pleases


me most and there are many handsome streets that intersect it at right angles, one thing remarkable is that they all terminate with some handsome public building.


On the 10th. we delivered our letter though we only found one of our friends at home Mr. Black with whom we drank tea. We went to the Theatre wh is a most elegant building and had the pleasure of hearing Mrs. Mountain.


11th. This day we were kindly entreated to devote to Dr. Anderson, who was so obliging as to accompany us to many objects of curiosity in the City, such as large manufactories all moving by the power of Steam, and what struck me particularly a large house on one side the street, the machinery of which was all moving by an engine on the other side; the steam being convey'd under the street by means of tubes. The Infirmary is also a very handsome and commodious building. The old Cathedral is divided into two places of worship which are very elegantly fitted up. We spent the afternoon very pleasantly with Dr. & Mrs. Anderson.


We were much pleased with the elegant building which is built for the reception of Hunter's Museum; it's exterior has all the classic simplicity of an antique temple. It is however at present too near the old College to have a very fine effect, but we were told that some of the buildings were to be moved.


On the 12th. after taking an early dinner with our kind friends Dr. and Mrs. Anderson we left Glasgow by the Dumbarton Coach. The view from Dalnotter Hill down the Firth of Clyde is remarkably fine. As soon as we arrived we walked immediately to the Castle which is situated on a lofty rock nearly insulated. The view from the top was to us rendered more interesting by a very brilliant setting sun, which we stayed on the rock to admire till it sank behind the Western Hills.

13th. 17 Miles

On the 13th. We left Dumbarton and proceeded by the side of Leven water to Bonhill where we saw the Monument of Smollet an elegant Tuscan pillar; part of the inscription has been defaced either by the


hand of time or mischief. The country now begins to assume a ruder character after entering the boundary of the Highlands. From the summit of a hill we were soon gratified with a view of Loch Lomond which with it's six and twenty wooded islands burst upon us at once in full beauty. When we reached the Lake we were delighted with the variety of it's shores which are finely cultivated and were wooded in the broader part of the Lake, but are mountainous and rude, where it narrows to the North. We passed Rossdue a beautiful place belonging to Sir James Culquhoun, took our dinner at Luss, and then walked on to Inveruglass where we crossed the Lake to Dennan, the little Inn at the foot of Ben Lomond which we hoped to ascend in the morning; but the morng. was so rainy, and the summit of course so obscured with clouds that to ascend was impossible.


The rain descended in torrents, so that we were immersed the whole day in the house, which could neither afford us a book, nor pen ink and paper, never was a place so barren of amusement. It is really astonishing that rational beings can


exist, (as the inhabitants of this solitude must do) in such hopeless destitution and dismal inanity. As the rain ceased in the evening, and the moon shone very bright, we went out in a boat on the Lake, and admired the silver radiance which was thrown over it's sublime Scenery.

15th. 6 Miles

The morning of the 15th. was equally cloudy, however we determined to attempt an ascent and had absolutely arrived about half way up, when we became completely enveloped in Clouds and therefore thought it altogether needless to continue our toilsome journey, as the view which ought to have been the reward of our labours could not, in such circumstances, be enjoyed. As soon as we descended, we crossed the Lake to Inveruglass, and walked to Tarbet through the most beautiful Scenery I ever saw; the road running close to the side of the Lake and presenting the traveller with one of the most sublime views in nature; the rugged Ben rearing it's immense sides almost perpendicular from the Lake, which is perfectly embowered with it's shade, and sleeps


as it were beneath it in sluggish tranquility. After so long a walk we enjoyed our breakfast exceedingly though here we first met with the mortification of being *obligedi to eat oat Cakes I entreated the Landlord to let me see the pane of Glass on which are inscribed those beautiful verses beginning

"Stranger if o'er this pane of Glass perchance
"Thy roving eye should cast a casual glance

The window which was thus hallowed by the diamond of the poet gave light to a little room in which a party of smugglers were smoking and drinking; and they were not a little entertained with the attention which I appeared to bestow upon the lines, and made some sarcastic comments upon my curiosity; being I suppose rather offended at my intrusion. We rested at Tarbet some hours and walked on to Arroquhar to dinner, which is an excellent Inn by the side of Loch Long, surrounded by some fine woods, and bearing every mark of once having seen better days. It was the family seat of the Macfarlanes, before their estate passed into other hands. We enjoyed much the fine Herrings & fresh caught trout of the Lake, and after dinner amused ourselves


with rowing about, upon the Lake by Moonlight The Scenery of Loch Long is particularly grand, and interesting; it is closely surrounded with very high mountains upon whose tops the clouds almost continually repose and the effect of all this was heightened by the multitude of roaring torrents, which owing to the heavy rains which had lately fallen, were rushing down their rugged sides, as if eager to mix their tributary streams with the waters of the Lake.

16th.22 Miles

The morning of the 16th. was by no means propitious to our journey, as the rain fell without ceasing till 2 o clock, when (as it neither suited our purse nor our inclination to be stationary) we determined to set out as the rain had a little abated; but it soon came on again after we left the Inn, and we were almost wet through before we arrived at Glencroe; but this did not prevent us from stopping to admire the uncommon grandeur of the objects presented to our view. The lofty craggy rocks whose tops are involved in clouds, and the comparative narrowness of the pass are wonderfully sublime, and to do them justice it would ideally require the pen of Johnson or the pencil of Salvator Rosa.*ii The Steep Hill "Rest and be thankful" rises at the end of the Glen, and is so perpendicular, that


the road is obliged to make many zig zags to reach the top, from whence as from a Gallery midway up the rocks you have a fine view of the whole Glen; that part of the road where the seat is hollowed out, being just on the edge of a tremendous precipice and protected by a parapet. The seat which is made in the rock and would hold a dozen people has behind it a large stone bearing upon it the words Rest and be thankfull inscribed in large letters, with the date; The simplicity of the inscription accords exactly with the tenor of one's thoughts in such a situation, and after having ascended the hill it is impossible not to be thankful for a rest. After leaving Glencroe we soon arrived at Cairndow by the side of Loch Fyne, where we got a comfortable dinner and a dram, and walked on in our wet clothes, after first being rowed over an arm of the Lake, to Inverary; the road is very beautiful the whole way, having on one side fine woods and the Lake on the other, the view of Ardkinglass Sir Alexander Campbell's a fine white house with plantations around it; from the opposite side of the lake is extremely pretty; among so much wild scenery, looking as Dyer says,


12 On arriving at a point opposite, you first get a view of Inverary which with the immense woods, the fine Castle, and the hill of Dunaquaich with the tower upon it's top, form such an assemblage of interesting objects, as can seldom be equalled. On a nearer approach one is disappointed to find the town of Inverary, which at a distance makes a great show, almost a make believe, as the houses are painted a story higher than they really are merely to make a pretty appearance from the Castle. The situation of the town however is certainly delightful and the shipping, as quay forms the principal street, has a lively appearance. We were very happy on our arrival at the Inn to take our tea and go early to bed as this was by far our longest day's journey.


The 17th. we devoted to viewing minutely every thing that was worth seeing at Inverary, we first visited the Castle with which we were highly delighted. The Hall which occupies the centre of the building and takes in the whole height of the Castle is really magnificent, it is surrounded with Galleries which are adorned with groupes of exquisite Statuary; and the walls are graced with the arms of a highland chief. The Tapestry with which the Drawing room is hung is surprisingly beautiful;


it represents Arcadian Scenes, and with all the beauty and delicacy of painting: the colours are more brilliant than any thing I ever saw, and the large mirrors with which the room is adorned make it quite a fairy scene. There are but few paintings at Inverary. The extensive walks which lead in every direction through the woods are kept in excellent order; and there is a noble avenue of venerable beeches a mile and a half in length where we were told that Mr Lewis, who resides constantly at the Castle, is seen for hours together walking in silent meditation with his eye in fine frenzy rolling6 and here composes his interesting romances, I shall not wonder for the future at his moving descriptions of female beauty, since he has had such a divine model as Lady Charlotte Campbell; an anecdote is related of him which certainly does credit to his talents as a Poet. As he was strolling with Lady Charlotte through the woods, they were accosted by a crazy woman to the no small terror of her Ladyship. To a poetical mind however no incident is lost: and Mr Lewis almost immediately composed that beautiful ballad "Crazy Jane", which he addressed to his fair companion on their way home. In the afternoon Hall got a boat and rowed about upon the Lake (Loch Fyne) but I preferred sauntering about the woods of the Castle.


18th. 20 Miles

On the 18th. we breakfasted at Colonel Graham's, to whom we had an introductory letter. He is a very sensible and agreeable man, has seen a great deal of the world and not without observation; as he had been quartered at Southampton, which was discovered in the course of conversation, we were not at a loss for topics. He was so obliging as to insist on sending us a few miles on our way in his chaise, which contributed to lessen our walk to Port Sonachan, a singe house by the side of Loch Awe where we crossed the Lake and walked on through beautiful woods to Taynuilt, and Inn at the foot of Ben Cruachan, a stupendous mountain but with the finest conical top I ever saw. As it rained hard all the way from Loch Awe we were not a little glad to reach the end of our day's journey where we dried ourselves over a peat fire, got an excellent dinner and comfortable beds.

19th. 12 Miles

On the 19th. after breakfasting we set out from Taynuilt, and had a delightful walk, as the day was a very fine one, by the side of Loch Etive, on which stand the noble ruins of Dunstaffnage Castle. When we got within a few miles from Oban we were overtaken by a man driving ^a Cart in which were two pretty girls, who we afterwards found were his daughters; as the day was very hot and we appeared rather fatigued with our walk, he immediately stopped his horse and

15 asked if we would like a ride, the offer was too brilliant to refuse, and we jumped in with all the alacrity which our fatigues had left us. One of the girls was really beautiful and elegant in her dress; But she had been at Glasgow! the other had never roved beyond her native mountains, and was therefore all rude simplicity, though at the same time there was a slight softness about them both, which rendered them very interesting. We soon engaged them in conversation and they were very anxious to learn ^from whence we came, and for what reason we were walking. Though the jolting of the Cart was rather annoying I was really sorry when we reached Oban and were obliged to part with our fair companions who gave us their best wishes for our voyage to Staffa. We found upon inquiry, that their father was a merchant in the town who farmed his own estate in the neighbourhood, and drove out his daughters every day to the farm. We found the Inn at Oban so full that we could not get a room to ourselves, and were fortunately put into the same with Sir Jno Gifford an English baronet who was just returned from the islands, and was so kind as to interest himself in our affairs, and give us every information which he thought might be of use to us in our intended journey. As the wind was fair our new friend joined with the landlord in advising us to take a boat for the island of Mull without


of time [sic]; we therefore took a hasty dinner, and set off before four o clock in a boat with two men for Aros in Mull which they hoped we might reach by nine o clock; (a distance of 30 Miles.) As the afternoon was fine we enjoyed our sail excessively and were gratified with a distant view of Colonsay and the Paps of Jura; we passed close by Kerrera and Lismore. But we had not been on the water many hours before the wind turned completely against us and it was as much as the man could do to prevent our going back, they tacked about till our patience was almost exhausted, and we were yet far from Mull. To complete our mortification the men told us soon after Sunset that they despaired of reaching Aros till morning when the tide would turn. The moon soon rose beautifully, and improved to my taste the grandeur of the rocky coasts with which we were surrounded. The wind now sent us almost directly upon Morven a large almost insulated district of Argyleshire, and I was almost afraid that we should have had the honor of passing the night with the shades of the Fingalian heroes. Though the incident would have been so romantic that I could hardly have regretted it — To have passed a night on the shores of Morven (Heaven our covering, earth our pillow) a land so celebrated in the song of the poet, would have been gratifying.


But in the frame of mind in which we then were, this was by no means desirable, and after tacking about till eleven o clock, we found ourselves reduced to the alternative of passing the whole night on the Ocean in an open boat, or being set ashore on the nearest point in Mull; we preferred the latter, although the place was 14 miles distant from Aros. Our landing was not effected till midnight; and the men directed us to a little Inn as they called it about 2 Miles off, where they thought that we might get beds, and something to eat, for we were by this time very hungry, owing to the short dinner we had taken, and also in some measure to the keen air upon the water. Our walk lay across bogs and over rocks, for there are no made roads in Mull, and the sudden transition from the extremes of hard and soft (for we sometimes sunk in over the ancles) tickled my fancy so much, that I laughed the greater part of the way to Skaile Castle which we found to be a miserable hut. The people were all gone to bed however we called them up, and were much mortified to find that they could absolutely give us nothing to eat, as they had expended all their meal, and had no eggs or milk in the house. They told us for our comfort, that they were to send for some meal in the morning. They were merely able to give us blankets which were well stocked with vermin, of a most voracious kind, as we discovered by the drops of blood upon our faces and hands. We took off our coats and lay down between the blanket, in a room where there were a woman and child in another


bed, and there was only a thin partition between us and the stable and pig sty. We were really so tormented with fleas that we could not sleep and as soon as it was light we were happy to leave our own inhospitable hosts and set off for Aros though in a violent rain.

20th 12 Miles

It was a long walk of 12 Highland Miles, and we were both so much fatigued, and faint from hunger and want of rest, that we thought we never should reach Aros. However we arrived there soon after eleven o clock and without doubt enjoyed our breakfasts, though only of Oat Cake, as much as we had ever done any meal on our lives; we got excellent butter and Currant Jelly which was more than we expected in the isle of Mull. After getting ourselves pretty well dried and rested, we set out with horses and a Guide to Cross the Island and ferry over to Ulva. But we were so fortunate as to meet with a boat and four rowers at the head of Loch na keal, which had just brought Lord Kinnoull from Ulva, and was returning. As the roads were execrable we discharged our horses, and had a pleasant row, as the afternoon was very fine, to the little island of Ulva, where we dined at the Inn, and engaged the boat the next morning for Staffa before we retired to rest.


We rose early as the morning was fine, and after breakfasting left Ulva in a small boat with sails, four rowers, and the landlord Mac Donald a very intelligent fellow, who is always the Cicerone to the visitors of Staffa, and entertained us highly with the accounts of the many voyages he had made thither.


As the wind was in our favor we sailed first to Iona 30 miles distant and in our way passed by the pretty island of Inch Kenneth which is covered with the finest turf I ever saw in my life. As the gale blew pretty strong, we soon reached Iona and upon our landing were taken to the Schoolmaster, who is the only representative of those sages, who formerly dispensed in this once illustrious island, to savage clans and roving barbarians the benefits of knowledge and the blessings of religion. The Schoolmaster accompanied us to the ruins of the Cathedral, which does not appear to have been very large, though there is much fine carving about it. The College was adjoining to the Cathedral but the Nunnery is at a considerable distance. We were shewn the tombs of some kings of Norway, France, Ireland and Scotland who were sent hither in the ages of superstition to be buried. And to this day the inhabitants do not allow a corpse to be taken off the island, even of any one dying by accident. The inhabitants are a miserable set of people and they stared at us and ran about us just as I should imagine the savage inhabitants of any island in the Pacific Ocean would have done, and their habitations are I should think little superior to the huts of the Hottentots. It is really mortifying to see human nature in such a state of degeneracy at such a little distance too from the most civilized and indeed luxurious nation in the world. About Iona I remarked a most beautiful appearance which I observed no where else; The Sea which is of a great


depth, (as the shores are very abrupt), is so clear and transparent that we saw to the very bottom and all the beautiful varieties of Coral and seaweed with which it is covered. The effect produced by looking out of the boat in passing rapidly over it is wonderful. We re-embarked and soon reached Staffa which is 15 miles distant, borne upon the wings of the wind which I really think is the most delightful mode of travelling and certainly the most expeditious. Though it blew so hard a gale that our little boat touched the water with the sail, and we were consequently more on one side than I could have wished; but I sometimes trembled to think that by a sudden squall we might very easily have been upset. But now all thoughts of danger and every other selfish consideration were absorbed in our anxiety to see, and as we approached it in astonishment and surprise at the view we now enjoyed of the greatest of the wonders of nature.

The whole of the South West side resembles a vast colonnade of regular pillars supporting a domed roof. The entrance to the Cave of Fingal is grand beyond all description; and the swell of the sea is always so great from the impetuosity with which it rushes to and fro, that as soon as we had got fairly into the Cave, and they had fastened the boat, not without much difficulty, to one of the broken pillars, we were glad to get


out of it and walk upon the stumps of the pillars to the upper end of the Cave from whence the view is very fine The ruins of Iona form a beautiful object in perspective. The water we were told was 8 fathoms deep in the Cave though to our eyes it hardly looked more than as many feet from the clearness of the water. The pillars which support the Cave are nearly 100 feet high above water, and the roof though composed of broken pillars is almost polished from the violence with which during the storms and in the winter Season the surf washes it, which considering the immense height is certainly wonderful.

What a fit entrance for the spirits of the Storm! As you may not remember Darwin's beautiful description of it, I shall give it you –––––

"Where round the orcades white torrents roar"
Beating with ceaseless surge the incumbent shore,
Wide o'er the deep a dusky cavern bends
It's marble arms, and high in air impends;
Basaltic piers the pond'rous roof sustain,
And steep their massy sandals in the main;
Round the dim walls and through the whispering ailes
Hoarse breathes the wind, the glittering water boils
Here the charmed*Byssusiii with his blooming bride
Spreads his green sails and braves the foaming tide:
The Star of Venus gilds the twilight wave,
"And lights her votaries to the secret Cave;"
Light Cupids flutter round the nuptial bed
"And each Coy Sea-maid hides her blushing head."8

The regularity with which the immense pentagonal pillars are disposed along the sides of the Cave is really astonishing, never surely did any of the works of nature more nearly resemble the finished productions of art. After going as far as we could with safety in the Cave, we returned and walked along the broken pillars by the South side of the Island, where the pillars appear as it were to bend under the weight of the superincumbent strata being all most regularly curved outwards, this alone would be a sufficient proof, that they must once have been in a fluid state. On this side is a large detached groupe of pillars in all possible positions called Boo-shala, which looks exactly like a repository of pillars which were not wanted for the construction of the Island but are lying their ready for use. We then climbed up to the top of the Island upon which are some Cattle, as it is covered with very fine turf, and went to that part of it which overhands the entrance of the Cave, where it is so perpendicular that we were obliged to lie flat on the ground with our faces partly over, that we might get a good view of this wonderfull place. From the immense height the stumps of Pillars (which have at least six feet in diameter) appeared like dots in the ocean.


From the top of the Island we enjoyed a most extensive view of the boundless Atlantic with a great many other Islands, the most striking was one of the Treshnish Isles which from its shape is called the Dutchman's Cap. We then returned to dinner in the Cave of Fingal where the immense stumps of pillars served us for table, Chairs &c, as we had brought plenty of cold provisions with us. No sovereign Prince ever had a more magnificent dining room. There are some other curious Caverns in the Island which are dignified with names, as the Cormorant Cave, The Clam Shell, and the Boat Cave which is so called from a boat having once entered it, and being seen no more; These in any other situation would certainly be much admired, but so near to the Cave of Fingal every thing else dwindles into insignificancy. We were so fortunate as to get back to Ulva, before Sun set highly gratified with our day's excursion, the object of which far exceeded our most sanguine expectations.

22d 12 Miles

After breakfasting we ferried over from Ulva to Mull, and had a long walk of twelve miles to Aros, during which as we had no guide we unfortunately lost our way among the bogs which lengthened our journey considerably. We were obliged to remain at Aros that night and engaged a boat the next morning for Oban. The Evening was fine and we therefore walked about till dark. The Duke of Argyle and his suite arrived that night at the Laird's, which made no small bustle in the island. –––––



Took an early breakfast and left Aros in a boat with 2 oars; the wind was very unfavorable, so that we did not reach Oban till five in the afternoon. This is a neat little fishing town and makes a very pretty appearance at sea at a distance, on one side of the town, are the ruins of Dunolly Castle which stand on a lofty rock closed to the Sea. We were very thankful to find ourselves once more on dry land and no more dependent on the fickle winds.

24th 24 Miles9

Authorial notes

i. *or go without
ii. * a famous painter of rude scenery.
iii. * A beautiful green sea weed which abounds at Staffa.

Editorial notes

1. Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, (London: 1775) p.322.
2. A reference to the opening line of 'Obidah and the hermit; an eastern story', from Samuel Johnson's periodical The Rambler:'Obidah, the son of Abensina, left the caravansera early in the morning, and perused his journey through the plains of Indostan.' 65, (1750).
5. A reference to John Dyer's 1726 topographical poem, 'Grongar Hill'l.113.
6. William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's DreamV.i.12.
8. Erasmus Darwin,The Botanic Garden, Part II. Containing The Loves of the Plants, A Poem. With Philosophical Notes, 2 vols. (Lichfield: 1789), ii, ll.349-362.
9. The marginal date and measurement of distance suggest a further entry was to follow, however the remainder of the volume is blank.