LOCH KATRINE

By N. H. Carter

An eminence in the road afforded us the first view of Loch Katrine, a blue and bright expanse of water, cradled among lofty hills, though moderate both in point of altitude and boldness, when contrasted with those which had already been seen. The first feature that arrested attention, was the peculiar complexion of the water, which is cerulean, and differs several shades from that of the other Scotish lakes. Its hue is probably modified by the verdure upon the shores, as well as by the geological structure of its bed, in which there is little or no mud. Like some of our own pellucid waters, it is a Naiad of the purest kind, sleeping on coral and crystal couches. Its blue tinge was doubtless in some degree heightened by the distance whence it was first descried, as well as by the deep azure of the skies after the late storm.

Hastening to the shore, we waited some time for the oarsmen, who accompanied us from Loch Lomond, to bring out their boat from behind a little promontory, which for aught I know, was the very place where Rob Roy and Ellen Douglas used to hide their canoes. There is no house within several miles of the landing. The only building of any kind is a small temporary hut, of rude construction, serving as a poor shelter in case of rain. As this lake has become a fashionable resort, one would suppose the number of travellers would justify the expense of a boatman's house, which would relieve the oarsmen from the trouble of walking half a dozen miles, and the tourist from the vexation of paying for it.

At two o'clock in the afternoon, seven of us, including the boat's crew, embarked, and commenced a voyage to the foot of the lake, a distance of nine miles in a south-eastern direction. Winds and waves both conspired to accelerate our progress, and no Highland bark probably ever bounded more merrily over the blue billows. The cone of Ben-Lomond rapidly receded, and Ben-venue and Ben-an, on opposite sides of the outlet, came more fully in view. At the head, Glengyle opens prettily from the north-west, with serrated hills forming the lofty ramparts of the pass, in the entrance of which is a seat belonging to one of the descendants of Rob Roy M'Gregor. The width of the lake is about two miles, with deeply indented shores, which are generally bold and romantic, exhibiting occasionally scattered houses and patches of cultivation, particularly on the north-eastern borders. Our course was nearest the south-western side, touching at one little desolate promontory, to exchange boats, and often approaching so close, as to enable us to examine the scanty growth upon the margin.

In about two hours from the time of embarkation, we reached Ellen's Island, near the outlet; and half encircling the green eminence, rising beautifully from the bosom of the lake, our Highland mariners made a port in the identical little bay, where the far-famed heroine was wont to moor her skiff, fastening it to an oak, which still hangs its aged arms over the flood. This miniature harbor is also signalized, as the place where Helen Stuart cut off the head of one of Cromwell's soldiers. As the story goes, all the women and children fled hither for refuge. After a decisive victory, one of the veterans of the Protector attempted to swim to the island for a boat, with an intention of pillaging and laying waste the asylum; but as he approached the shore the above mentioned heroine, stepped from her ambuscade, and with one stroke of her dirk decapitated the marauder, thus rescuing her narrow dominion with its tenants from destruction.

The Island is small and rises perhaps fifty feet above the water. It rests on a basis of granite, covered with a thin coat of earth, through which the rocks occasionally appear, and which affords scanty nutriment to a growth of oak, birch, and mountain ash. The red berries of the latter hung gracefully over the cliffs, in many places shaded with brown heath. A winding pathway leads to the summit, which is beautifully tufted, and affords a charming view of the surrounding hills and waters.

In a little secluded copse near the top stands Ellen's Bower, fashioned exactly according to the description of the same object in the Lady of the Lake. Those who are curious to form a minute and accurate image of it, have only to turn to that picture. The exterior is composed of unhewn logs or sticks of fir, fantastically arranged, with a thatched, moss-covered roof, and skins of beasts converted into semi-transparent parchment for windows. Every thing within is in rustic style. A living aspen grows in the centre, and supports the ceiling. Upon its branches hangs a great variety of ancient armor, with trophies of the chase. Here may be seen the Lochaber axe, Rob Roy's dirk, and sundry other curiosities. A table strewed with leaves extends nearly the whole length of the bower. The walls are hung with shields, and the skins of various animals. Chairs and sofas woven of osiers fill the apartment. The chimney is formed of sticks, and the head of a stag with his branching horns decorates the mantlepiece. Half an hour was passed in lolling upon Ellen's sofas, and in examining her domestic arrangements.

Bidding a lingering farewell to the sweet little island, we again embarked and soon completed the residue of our voyage. The foot of Loch Katrine is very romantic and beautiful. Innumerable hills of moderate elevation raise their grey, pointed peaks around and above a deeply wooded glen, opening towards the south-east and forming the outlet of the lake. The highest of these are Ben-venue and Ben-an, rising on each side of the pass. Both are fine mountains, something like two thousand feet in height, with naked masses of granite overhanging wild and woody bases. From the great number of peaks or pikes which are crowded into this narrow district, it has been called the Trosachs, or bristled region. The lake is here reduced to less than half a mile in width, sheltered on all sides from the winds by high promontories, jutting so far into the water, as to appear like a group of islands.

Towards the north-west, the eye looks up the glen of Strathgartney, in which tradition says that the grey charger of Fitz-James fell. The boatman gravely informed us, that his bones are to be seen to this day! Such stories, and the sketches of certain topographers, have afforded us an infinite fund of amusement.

We landed at the foot of Loch Katrine, and after walking a mile and a half reached our hotel.