A Walk from London to John O'Groat's eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 293 pages of information about A Walk from London to John O'Groat's.

CHAPTER XVII.

LOCH LEVEN-ITS ISLANDCASTLE—­STRATHS—­PERTH—­SALMON-BREEDING—­ THOUGHTS ON FISH-FARMING—­DUNKELD—­BLAIR ATHOLL—­DUCAL TREE-PLANTER--STRATHSPEY AND ITS SCENERY—­THE ROADS—­SCOTCH CATTLE AND SHEEP—­ NIGHT IN A WAYSIDE COTTAGE—­ARRIVAL AT INVERNESS.

On Friday, Sept. 11th, I left for the north the morning after my arrival in Edinburgh, hoping to finish my long walk before the rainy season commenced.  My old friend and host accompanied me across the Forth, by the Granton Ferry, and walked with me for some distance on the other side; then bidding me God-speed, he returned to the city.  The weather was fine, and the farmers were very busy at work.  A vast quantity of grain, especially of oats, was cut and ready for carting; but little of it had been ricked in consequence of frequent showers.  I noticed that they used a different snath for their scythes here from that common in England.  It is in two parts, like the handles of a plough, joining a foot or two above the blade.  One is shorter than the other, each having a thole.  It is a singular contrivance, but seems to be preferred here to the old English pole.  I have never seen yet an American scythe-snath in England or Scotland, although so much of our implemental machinery has been introduced.  American manure-forks and hay-forks, axes and augurs you will now find exposed for sale in nearly every considerable town, but one of our beautifully mounted scythes would be a great novelty here.

The scenery varies, but retains the peculiarly Scotch features.  Hills which we should call mountains are frequently planted with trees as far up as the soil will lie upon the precipitous sides.  On passing one of great height, bald at the top, but bearded to the eyebrows with fir and larch, I asked an elderly man, a blacksmith, standing in his shop-door, if they were a natural growth.  He said that he and his two boys planted them all about forty-eight years ago.  They were now worth, on an average, twelve English shillings, or about three dollars a-piece.

I lodged in Kinross, a pleasant-faced, quiet and comfortable little town, done up with historical associations of special interest.  Here is Loch Leven, serene and placid, like a mirror framed with wooded hills, looking at their faces in it.  It is a beautiful sheet of water, taking the history out of it.  But putting that in and around it, you see a picture before you that you will remember.  Here is more of Mary the Unfortunate.  You see reflected in the silver sheen of the lake that face which looks at you with its soft appeal for sympathy in all the galleries of Christendom.  Out there, on that little islet, green and low, stands the black castle in which they prisoned her.  There they made her trembling, indignant fingers write herself “a queen without a crown.”  Southward there, where amateurs now fish for trout, young Douglas rowed her ashore with muffled oars so softly that they stirred no ripple at the bow.  The keys of the castle they threw into the lake to bar pursuit, lay in the mud for nearly three centuries, when they were found by a lad of the village, and presented to the Earl of Morton, a representative of the Douglas family.

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A Walk from London to John O'Groat's from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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