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CAMPED OUT UNDER THE CUILLIX'S.

A REGION OF DESOLATION.

"Sublime bnt sad delight thy soul bath known,
Gazing ou pathless glen and mountain bigh,
Listing where from the cliffs the torrents thrown,

Mingle their echoes with the eagle's cry,
And with the sounding lake, and with the moaning kky;"

- orl of the Isles.

NOWHERE else in the British Isles those who betake themselves to is there such a mountain-group as Coruisg by the usual routes think that which is to be met with in of scaling the tremendous spires the southern part of the Isle of and precipices which immure its Skye. The region I refer to is waters. bounded to the eastward by Strath It fell to me quite recently in Suardal, on the west by Glen the course of professional duty (not Brittle, north and south by the for the first time) to have to spend sea. It contains within it the a few days climbing these peaks for series of “Red Hills," as they are topographical purposes; and with commonly called, composed mainly the aid of the notes of a diary of granite; the range of Blath kept during the work, I propose Bheinn; and, incomparably rug- to take the reader with me to gedest and gloomiest of all, the some of the more remarkable spots Cuillins. These two last are alto- I visited. gether different in colour, mineral The month was August. From character, and structural aspect, the wilds of Ross-shire I found from the adjacent Red Hills; and myself transplanted to Skye, and are invested, more especially the bundled bag and baggage out of Cuillins, with a peculiar savage- the coasting steamer into the ferryness that can hardly fail to im- boat which puts one ashore at press itself on any one who sets eyes Broadford. Here the well-known on them. Moreover, they enclose comfortable inn served as a conin their iron grip the water of the venient headquarter for the first famed Loch Coruisg, which some two or three days, whence to exof our best modern artists havė plore within practicable driving essayed to paint, and the great or walking distance. After wait“Wizard of the North” was moved ing a couple of days in enforced to celebrate in song. Many tour idleness, while every hill great and ists, English, Scotch, Irish, Ameri- small in the neighbourhood was can, find their way annually along wrapped nearly to its foot in a the beaten roads of this wild tract white shroud of mist, and the rain of country, and catch sight at time: fell almost unceasingly, I got

, of the crests of its darksome emi- away to the nearest of the “Red nences, brt not a man in a hundred Hills,” that which culminates in ever attemy's the ascent of any Beinn-na-Cailleich (the old wife's one of those scarred up-towering mount). The way I took for the heights, which at every end and ascent is, I think, as good as any. turn of his rambles in these parts Keep to the highroad towards Torhe sees overshadowing him. Still ran along Strath Suardal, pass the less would one in a thousand of old ruined chapel Cill Chriosd

(Christ Church) and the sedgy lako sailing along the ridge, over rocky of like name hard by, and so on till ups and downs, for the rest of the the wooded clump surrounding the way to the summit of the range; parsonage of Kilbride is seen on and if only the day be fairly clear the left. Here, before mounting of mist, the whole walk is magnifithe hill, let us take note of another cent. Deep lonesome corries on primitive religious site, type of a either hand, streanılets seen emergclass so frequent in the Scottish ing from the grey stony mountainisles; a spot where were unearthed side, and thence threading their some years since the old church zigzag course along, too far below font and sancte-bell. An ancient you for their babbling to be heard. place this, with its memories of St Standing on the crest of the topBridget, its venerated well, its most Beinn, one saw the grand traditional stone; while not a stately profile of Blath Bheinn and hundred yards away once stood the long jagged line of the Cuillins one of those prehistoric pillar- shooting up into the sky, this day stone circles which, with the without a cloud on them; the searudely scarped rock - mounds board of the Scottish mainland (“duns ") scattered about the ad- from Ross-shire Applecross to Ardjoining country, mark the handi namurchan, broken at intervals. by work of an archaic race. From the great fiords, Lochs Carron, this point up the heathery slope Duich, Hourn, Nevish ; the isles to the Raven's Knob (“ Cnoc nam of Eig, Rum, Canna, Muck, Lewis, Fitheac") is a stiffish climb, but and the Uists in the distance; the you soon reach the stony ledges and whole of Skye and its off-lying scant herbage of Beinn Dearg tributary islands;-all these spread Bheag (little Red Hill), the south out as in an isometric map before ern spur of the range, and thence you. There was nothing to break proceed along the narrow ridge the spell of the spot but the midges, that here runs like a backbone, as which, oddly enough, were only to along all these mountain-chains. be found at the very top of the

From the top of Little Beinn mountain, and, having got so far Dearg, there is a steep descent over heavenward, by a sort of irony broken rocks to a

is bealach made the spot a place of torment. pass between two corries, and here A solitary blackbird had also one of the most remarkable optical worked his way up here, and fitted effects of foreshortening I can call about as if utterly lost and forlorn to mind strikes the eye. For, as at this great height above the level one looks towards Great Beinn of trees and gardens. Dearg, its face has all the sem The descent down the north-east blance of a perpendicular cliff, in- shoulder of Beinn-na-Cailleich is accessible any where to man very rough and troublesome; a beast. All hill - slopes of bare long steep declivity of loose granite débris have this deceptive appear- boulders requiring ironclad boots ance more or less when seen front- and much circumspection to avoid wise, but here it was so marked it breaking a leg or turning an ancle. appeared impossible to ascend the But so it is with a hundred other cliff till I got actually up to it; Scottish hillsides. Here, as elsethen it turned out to be very steep where, however, once the naked but perfectly practicable. I men- shifting boulders are passed, and tion this in case any of my readers scanty strips of vegetation begin should hereafter try this climb. to appear, one makes for the latter From the Great Beinn it is plain as you would pick out stepping

or

or

stones in crossing a bog or water- easy canter about two miles before course, and there is no further they came to a halt, and settled difficulty in the descent.

down in peace again. It was per

fectly easy, on this bare trackless I must now transport the reader waste, to watch their devious to Sligachan and its comfortable

course from the height above the inn, which stands at the mouth of whole way, till the reddish - dun the great glen so named, and bodies became mere moving dots. whence the long day's tramp I am Another pass at the head of a about to describe can be conveni- corrie, with the romantic narne ently taken. Follow a charming “Coire nam Bruadaran” (hollow of little stream, “Allt Daraich ” (the the dream), where the outlying oak rivulet), with a deep-worn rocky Red Stack (Ruadh Stac) starts up bed and many hrawling waterfalls into view, and then we mount the which rises under another Beinn

steep craggy shoulder of Garbh Dearg. Oross a black peat-moss, Beinn (Garven), the northernmost doubtless thick-sown with the dead peak of the grandly picturesque remains of the ancient trees that Blath Bheinn (Blāven) range. gave the name to the brook inter- Here let us pause a moment and secting it, and then begins the look round. Near the apex, the heavy collar - work up the great dorsal ridge of naked rock (gabmountain promontory which forms bro)? is so sharp that one can the heart of “Lord Macdonald's literally sit astride of it, as though Forest," a deer-run so called from it were the weatherworn ridge-tile the family of the “Lords of the of the roof of some Titanic building Isles," its possessors. As you near in ruins. The scene from here is the top, the grand cone of Glamaig inexpressibly wild. Vast horse. uprears itself to the north, with shoe-shaped corrie-basins, scooped

' an intervening " saddle” or pass.

out of the mountain-sides; one The backbone of the range reached, great spur or claw, so to say, it is fairly easy walking along it, “Belig,"stretching away north-east

‘on to the southern extremity or erly; another, "Sgurr nan Each,” pass of the Ben (Ciche na Beinne

jutting out with its tremendous Deirge); then a stiff scrambling precipices like a huge flanking batdescent over a jumble of débris to tlement; further on, the notched a saddle (Mam a' Phobuill); and line of hummocky pinnacles culsoon you are skirting round the

minating in the crest of Blath stately isolated rock - pyramid, Bheinn, over 3000 feet high ; and Marsco, whose nobly sweeping westward, across the great glen outlines are so conspicuous from which separates Macleod's terriSligachan Inn. Here I disturbed tory from Strathaird (Strathnara tine herd of red-deer--I counted dill), the still wilder labyrinth of nine-and-twenty - headed by a mountains noble stag, and followed by another that went a little lame.

Away

“Where Coolin stoops him to the

west. ... they trooped down a spur between

These are the savage wilds that lie two corries, with their heads to.

North of Strathnardill and Dunskye; wards Loch Ainort, and on at an No human foot comes here.” 2

a

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A mineral closely allied to "hypersthene," the name by which the gabbros and dolerite rocks of the Blaven and Cuillin hills have been more generally designated.

2 Lord of the Isles, canto iii.

was

As I watched the extraordinary I shall now take the reader to coup d'oil from this spot, there a small encampment at the opposuddenly rose out of the cliffs a site end of the long valley which fine pair of eagles, which soared stretches from sea to sea between high above Blaven, and then sailed the inlet of Sligachan and the bay majestically away.

of Scavaig. Picture a little grassOne thing I particularly noted plot at the edge of a pebbly seain this day's walk the shore, and by the mouth of a river abundance of frogs all along the with a deep-cut rocky bed. The hillsides, which raised the query valley is about a mile wide here, in my mind a naturalist could and comparatively level, but shut perhaps settle-how do they get in except to seaward by grim up there, and what do they feed mountain-barriers more often than upon ?

not part-hidden in mist and funereal In exploring great mountain gloom. One solitary farmhouse is features like these, the persevering to be seen near the further end of climber reaps the reward of his the flat, looking out upon the deep toil whence once he has surmounted bay. The camp consists of a small the main vertebra or watershed, marquee, bell - tent, and cooking and sticks to it. The whole caboose. Memories of a renowned country on both sides is then in magician haunt the spot, for it view as he advances; for, to use a was here that the “Great Unmilitary expression, he is working known” landed to wander up the along "inner lines," the great glen, and catch his first inspiration sloping declivities which are visible “Of Skye's romantic shore." from below radiating away from In the camp I took up my quarhim in all directions. Only in this ters for a few days, and from here way can one ever achieve a real was enabled to climb the peaks of knowledge and mastery of a moun the Cuillins. The first evening tain tract.

before getting under canvas had At the saddle nearly midway been most unpromising, -everybetween Garven and Blaven, fur- thing soaking wet, the streams ther advance is barred by an appar- swollen (one I had to wade to my ently impassable rock-turret. So, middle), the mists brooding low having scaled the latter peak a day down the hills. But by next or two before from the southern morning all had changed. After end, and the day being far spent, a dip in the cold salt water, and I scrambled down the precipitous breakfast of excellent porridge and crumbling hillside at this point, trout, my assistant (Mr C-) and the only practicable one hereaway I started off

' at eight o'clock for our for descent; and kept alongside the day's work. The river had first to tumbling runnel that winds its be forded, - obligingly taking way into the big valley by the little me on his back; then we turned loch "an Athain,” under the seamed our steps up its right bank to Loch ramparts of the Red Stack. From na Creitheach, a fine lake about a here a walk of some half-dozen mile inland, of which more anon. miles along an apology for a foot. Thence, skirting the long craggy track, which in places loses itself spire Sgurr Fidhne," in morass, brought me to the wel ascended it near where the rough come hostelry as the darkness was track from Sligachan to Coruisg closing in, after a tramp of just crosses it, and, when at the top, twelve hours,

looking back a marvellous

an

we

saw

- Mind your

a

pictorial effect. There, across the than for human being. A slight great glen, was the morning sun slip of the foot here, & grip of the shining upon the patches of rock wrong piece of the cliff, and nothalong the great fissured face of ing could save you. Blaven, giving the appearance as self, sir !" was the warning call of of innumerable glistering white my companion (a wary Aberdospots of large size, reflected in the nian); "one false step will land lake below, whose waters were you in, eternity.” And this was dead calm. No artist, however literally true. But what was one skilful, could, I believe, have so to do? What man worth his salt, rendered this mottled effect of having got up so far—at the

pendazzling silver and to make it in ultimate of his goal, with the telligible in a picture. Yet there crown of several hours' hard toil it was, a momentary but passing in sight just ahead—could go back strange phase of nature.

thwarted ? “Druim na Ramh” is indeed The chasm is passed; so is the laborious walking. If any future vast lumpy horn which towers Skye tourist is ambitious to try above it. Thence further the stoutness of his boots, the

scramble with hand and foot soundness of his lungs, and the along the precipices, and the toughness of his sinews, I can central mountain-spine is at last honestly commend to his notice reached at the “Gorge of the Great the ascent of the Cuillins viâ this Valley” (Bealach na Glaic Moire), formidable spur. Toiling upward, just under "Sgurr na Mhadaidh ” one finds the way blocked by im (the dog's scaur), whence you look mense parallel outcrops or ribs of down the western steeps of the the bossy gabbro rock, running mighty range into Glen Brittle. transversely athwart the ridge, From this point the main Cuillin of the dark-chocolate or blackish- chain curves northward to “Bruach brown hue which gives such a na Frìthe," and thence eastward to sombre forbidding aspect to this “Sgurr nan Gillean”; southward, chain of mountains. Water-pools round two sides of the great rectlie between these ribs, which stand angular trough, Coruisg,-a series many feet high, so that one has to of tremendous and mostly inaccespick one's way round them in a sible spires or skewers of rock, as peculiarly circuitous course that their namnes imply—all Sgàrrs, one adds enormously to the labour of of them, “Sgurr nan Each," overthe ascent. As you advance, the looking the awful dark depths of gulfs and precipices are something the Rough Corrie (Garbh Coire), fearsome to look down, - nature a spot especially dreaded by the everywhere in a colossal, savage, solitary shepherd who may have uncouth garb-enormous sheets

of at times to enter it. Welly indeed almost perpendicular rock walling might the great poet-romancer put in tho two great caldron - like

into the mouth of the kinglý fugi; valleys on either side. Near the tive, who is presented to us as gaz: summit of the main Cuillins, one

ing up into these terrible; heights tremendous cleft in the ridge stops

the words that broke from him the way; but by creeping round A scene so rude, so wild as this, the crags, and clinging to project Yet so sublime in barrenness, ing bits of them as best you can,

Ne'er did my wandering footsteps an uncertain foothold is afforded,

press." more suitable for ibex or chamois Nor could any one who has been

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