Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 8. Stirling to Callander

 

Leave Stirling [or the M9] by A84 (signposted Crianlarich). After Craigforth the road immediately crosses the Forth at Drip Bridge and enters the former county of Perthshire. At Blair Drummond a road (A736) goes to Port of Menteith and Aberfoyle. The old road from Stirling to the west dawdled beside the Teith via Ochtertyre and Blair Drummond. Indeed, much traffic went on the other side by Bridge of Allan and Dunblane.

Craigforth

Craigforth (at the junction of M9 and A84) is C17 laird’s house on the outskirts of Stirling, which was altered about 1830. It is now overwhelmed by an insurance company; but it was the one-time residence of a startlingly literary family. John Callander (d. 1789), antiquary and farmer, published an edition of two famous poems, perhaps written by Kings of Scotland, The Gaberlunzie Man and Christ’s Kirk on the Green [1782], and many other works, but his scholarship is regarded as suspect. His son, the notorious James Callander (1745-1832) changed his name to Campbell on inheriting Ardkinglass in 1810. His second daughter by his third legal wife became Mrs Caroline Henrietta Sheridan (1779-1851), wife of Tom Sheridan (1775-1817), a noted versifier. She was thus a daughter-in-law of Richard Brindsley Sheridan. She had three novels [1830-33] published in London, but is also remembered as the talented mother of ‘the three Graces’, her beautiful and gifted daughters.

Lady Caroline Norton

Lady Caroline Norton

 

The second of these was the Hon. Caroline Norton (1808-77) , who made an unhappy marriage which ended in divorce, but not before the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, had been compromised, unjustly it was decided. Her poetry was praised by James Hogg. Of her novels, Stuart of Dunleath [1851] is autobiographical, but she also wrote passionately, as a result of her experiences, about the custody and property laws as they adversely affected women, and contributed to their being changed. At the close of her life she married Sir William Stirling-Maxwell of Keir. Alan Chedzoy’s A Scandalous Woman [1992] describes her.

Blair Drummond

The Blair Drummond estate, five miles from Stirling, used to belong to Henry Home, Lord Kames, a highly representative figure of the Scottish Enlightenment. He was a noted judge, and a great improver of his policies. The subjects of his books include Philosophy, Criticism, Education and Agricultural Improvement and, if they are not much read now, they are recognised as having been years ahead of their time. Amongst his civilised suggestions was that the inscription about Smollett in Renton, to which Home contributed, should have been in English. Quite what the great man would have thought of a ‘Safari Park’ must be guessed, but it can be surmised that he would have been interested in it, and approved of the way in which it may have saved his estate.

Nearby is Ochtertyre. The residence of John Ramsay (1736-1814), the Diarist. He was an eccentric, happiest at home in his garden, but known everywhere in the neighbourhood, and a man with an entree into literary society in Edinburgh. His voluminous diaries are still a significant source of information about C18 rural Scotland. Burns called on him with a letter of introduction from his friend the Annan poet, William Blacklock. Ramsay characterised Burns as follows:

I have been in the company of many men of genius, some of them poets, but never witnessed such flashes of intellectual brightness as from him . . .

A further visitor to the house was Waiter Scott. He used Ramsay as the basis for Jonathan Oldbuck, ‘the’ antiquary in The Antiquary. Ramsay is buried in the Old Kirk of Blair Drummond, and there is a memorial to him in the New Kirk (not open).

Doune

James Edmonstone of Newton, near Doune, carried the Royal Standard at Sheriffmuir, and he rebuffed Rob Roy after a dispute at Doune market. One of the most intimate friends of Sir Walter Scott in his younger days was John James Edmonstone of Newton. Scott visited him there and is said to have begun Waverley at Newton. Robina Edmonstone of Cambus Wallace was there when, on her invitation, expressed in broad Scots, Prince Charles pree’d the mu’ (kissed) the lady.

The fine castle was the scene of the escape of John Home, the author, and others during the’ 45. He was a volunteer and, being captured, did not see much action, but the episode gave him considerable cachet for an author. It provides an instance of a method of escape much favoured by Hollywood, the use of knotted sheets or blankets. Home, from Falkirk, was the author of Douglas, the play which famously provoked the cry “Whaur’s yer Wullie Shakespeare noo!” It is partly set in the Stirlingshire of old (outside the boundaries of the National Park) on the Carron.
The town has long been connected with the castle’s owners and appears in the old ballad The Bonnie Earl of Moray:

He was a braw gallant
And he played at the glove;
And the bonnie Earl 0′ Moray,
0, he was the Queen’s love.
O lang will his lady
Look o’er the Castle Doune,
Ere she see the Earl o’Moray
Come sounding through the toun.

Uam Vahr is prominent, isolated mountain which dominates Callander from the southeast. Scott used it in the Chase in The Lady of the Lake, the subject of the first canto, and the source of most of the famous passages in that work. The reason for this was the magnificent view of the district from the brow of the hill. Indeed, here the stag appears to be surveying the alternatives provided by the two main routes to the Trossachs:

The noble stag was pausing now
Upon the mountain’s southern brow
Where broad extended, lay beneath
The varied realms of fair Menteith
With anxious eye he wandered o’er
Mountain and meadow, moss and moor
And pondered refuge from his toil
By far Loch Ard or Aberfoyle;
But nearer was the copsewood gray
That waved and wept on Loch Achray,
And mingled with the pine-trees blue
On the bold cliffs of Ben Venue.

Properly Uaigh-mor, is a mountain to the north-east of the village of Callander, in Menteith, deriving its name, which signifies the great den, or cavern, from a sort of retreat among the rocks on the south side, said, by tradition, to have been the
abode of a giant. In latter times, it was the refuge of robbersand banditti, who have been only extirpated within these forty orfifty years. Strictly speaking, this stronghold is not a cave, as the name would imply, but a sort of small enclosure, or recess,
surrounded with large rocks and open above head. It may have been originally designed as a foil for deer, who might get in from the outside, but would find it difficult to return. This opinion prevails among the old sportsmen and deer-stalkers in the
neighborhood” (Scott).

Cambusmore
Cambusmore is ‘a plain three-storey, stone laird’s mansion’ (Charles McKean) dating from 1800, but incorporating parts of an older house, the house that Scott first knew. It is well situated beside the Keltie near the old bridge spans that tributary of the Teith. It belonged to John MacDonald Buchanan (d 1817) whose son was a close friend of Scott’s. The poet went there with his wife and eldest daughter for a week in 1809. He ‘ascertained in his own person, that a good horseman, well mounted might gallop from the shores of Loch Vennachar to the rock of Stirling within the space allotted for that purpose to Fitzjames.’ (J.G.Lockhart) Charles Rodgers in his Week at the Bridge of Allan (1851) relates that:

Cambusmore House has claim to the peculiar distinction, as being the residence of Sir Walter Scott, when he conceived and commenced his singularly happy and popular poem of the Lady of the Lake. Sir Walter first became acquainted with the district, by being sent, as a writer’s apprentice, along with a small escort of soldiers from Stirling Castle, to enforce the execution of a legal instrument against a refractory tenant of the proprietor of Appin; but it was while residing at Cambusmore, during a series of autumns with “the young laird”, afterwards Major Buchanan, that he was led to cast over it the bewitchery of his genius. Major Buchanan was in the habit of relating the incident, that he and Scott having just alighted, on their return from a ride to the banks of Loch Katrine, which the poet had not previously visited, and with the scenery of which he was delighted, he repeated to him, while standing in the porch of Cambusmore House, those lines which commence the first stanza of The Chase, exactly as they afterwards appeared:

The stag at eve had drunk his fill
Where danced the moon on Monan’s rill,
And deep his midnight lair had made
In lone Glenartney’s hazel shade.

The incident has escaped the notice of Mr Lockhart, the minstrel’s distinguished biographer.

In fact Lockhart states that it was at Buchanan House, near Drymen, where the Duke of Montrose lived, that Scott first read to his friends the ‘Stag Chase’, which ‘he had just completed under the full influence of the genius loci’. Both stories could be true.

From Cambusmore it is but a short jouney to Callander .

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: