Loch Etive

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Etive, a river and a sea-loch in the Lorn district of Argyllshire. The river issues from Lochan Mathair Etive (½ x ¼ mile; 970 feet) on desolate Rannoch Muir, at the mutual border of Lismore and Glenorchy parishes, 2 miles E of Kingshouse inn. Thence, past Kin gshouse and Dalness, it runs 15¼ miles west-south-westward and south-westward, mainly through the parish of Ardchattan, till it falls into the head of the loch. It is fed by rivulets innumerable; near Dalness and Coileitir it forms two fine cascades; and the fishing is good for salmon and sea trout from Dalness downwards, for river trout higher up. Glen Etive is grandly alpine, flanked on the right by Buachaill-Etive (3345 feet) and Bien Veedan (3766), which art it from Glencoe; on the left by Clach Leathad (3602) and Ben Starav (3541). ` Several houses or huts, ' says Professor Wilson, ` become visible no long way up the glen; and though that long hollow-half a day's journey-till you reach the wild road between Inveroran and Kingshouse-lies in gloom, yet the hillsides are cheerful, and you delight in the greensward, wide and rock-broken, should you ascend the passes that lead into Glencreran or Glencoe. But to feel the full power of Glen Etive, you must walk up it till it ceases to be a glen. When in the middle of the moor, you see far off a solitary dwelling-perhaps the loneliest house in all the Highlands-and the solitude is made profounder, as you pass by, by the voice of a cataract, hidden in an awful chasm, bridged by two or three stems of trees, along which the red deer might fear to venture; but we have seen them and the deer-hounds glide over it, followed by other fearless feet, when far and wide the Forest of Dalness was echoing to the hunter's horn. ' Loch Etive extends first 10½ miles south-westward to Bunawe, and then winds 8¾ miles westward, till at Dunstaenage Castle it merges in the Firth of Lorn. Its width-from ¼ to 1½ mile over the upper loch-is 12/3. furlong at Bunawe ferry, 1¼ mile at Airds Bay, and 1½ furlong at Connel ferry. Prof. Geikie sees in Loch Etive a good example of an ancient submerged glen, belonging to the secondary stage of submergence, higher than Loch Fyne and lower than Loch Maree. ` It narrows, ' he remarks, ` at Connel ferry, and across the straitened part runs a reef of rocks, covered at high water, but partly exposed at ebb. Over this barrier the flowing ide rushes into the loch, and the ebbing tide rushes out, with a rapidity which, during part of the time, breaks into a roar of angry foam like that of a cataract. The greatest depth of the loch above these falls is 420 feet; at the falls themselves there is a depth of only 6 feet at low water; and outside this barrier the soundings reach, at a distance of 2 miles, 168 feet. Loch Etive is thus a characteristic rock-basin, and an elevation of the land to the extent of only 20 feet would isolate the loch from the sea, and turn it into a long, winding, deep, freshwater lake.' Many have described the beauties of Loch Etive, none better than Dorothy Wordsworth. ` The loch, ' she writes, ` is of a considerable width; but the mountains are so very high that, whether we were close under them or looked from one shore to the other, they maintained their dignity. I speak of the higher parts of # loch, above Bunawe and the river A we, for downwards they are but hills, and the water spreads out wide towards undetermined shores. On our right was Ben Cruachan (3611 feet), rising directly from the lake, and on the opposite side another mountain, called Ben Duirinnis (1821), craggy, and exceedingly steep, with wild wood growing among the rocks and stones. We crossed the water, which was very rough in the middle, but calmer near the shores; and some of the rocky basins and little creeks among the rocks were as still as a mirror, and they were so beautiful with the reflection of the orange-coloured sea-weed growing on the stones or rocks, that a child, with a child's delight in gay colours, might have danced with joy at the sight of them. It never ceased raining, and the tops of the mountains were concealed by mists, but as long as we could see across the water we were contented; for though little could be seen of the true shapes and permanent appearances of the mountains, we saw enough to give us the most exquisite delight: the powerful lake which filled the large vale, roaring torrents, clouds floating on the mountain sides, sheep that pastured there, sea birds and land birds. Cruachan, on the other side of the lake, was exceedingly grand, and appeared of an enormous height, spreading out two large arms that made a cove down which fell many streams swollen by the rain, and in the hollow of the cove were some huts which looked like a village. The top of the mountain was concealed from us by clouds, and the mists floated high and low upon the sides of it.. Friday, Sept. 2, 1803.-Departed from Taynuilt about seven o'clock this morning, having to travel 8 miles down Loch Etive and then to cross Connel ferry. Our road was at first at a considerable distance from the lake, and out of sight of it, among undulating hills covered with coppice woods, resembling the country between Coniston and Windermere; but it afterwards carried us close to the water's edge, and in this part of our ride we were disappointed. We knew that the high mountains were all at the head of the lake, therefore had not expected the same awful grandeur which we beheld the day before, and perceived by glimpses: but the gentleman whom we met with at Dalmally had told us that there were many fine situations for gentlemen's seats on this part of the lake, which had made us expect greater loveliness near the shores, and better cultivation. It is true there are pleasant bays, with grounds prettily sloping to the water, and coppice woods, where houses would stand in shelter and sun, looking on the lake; but much is yet wanting-waste lands to be ploughed, peat-mosses drained, hedgerows reared; and the woods demand a grant of longer life than is now their privilege. But after we had journeyed about 6 miles, a beautiful scene opened upon us. The morning had been gloomy, and at this time the sun shone out, scattering the clouds. We looked right down the lake, that was covered with streams of dazzling sunshine, which revealed the indentings of the dark shores. On a bold promontory, on the same side of the loch where we were, stood Dustaffnage Castle, an irregular tall building, not without majesty; and beyond, with leagues of water between, our eyes settled upon the island of. Mull, a high mountain, green in the sunshine, and overcast with clouds, an object as iuviting to the fancy as the evening sky in the west, and, though of a terrestrial green, almost as visionary. We saw that it was an island of the sea, but were unacquainted with its name: it was of a gem-like colour, and as soft as the sky. The shores of Loch Etive, in their moorish, rocky wildness, their earthly bareness, as they lay in length before us, produced a contrast which, with the pure sea, the brilliant sunshine, the long distance, contributed to the aërial and romantic power with which the island was invested. ' In 1871, Dr R. Angus Smith discovered, in a large moss on the shores of Loch Etive, an ancient lake-dwelling, 50 feet long and 28 broad, on a platform 60 feet in diameter; whilst a large cairn disclosed two megalithic chambers, connected by a narrow passage, and each of them 20 feet long. Relics these, possibly, of that dim, far-away Fingalian age, whose memories linger round ` Beregonium, ' Dunstaffnage, and other spots on or near to the shores of Loch Etive.—Ord. Sur., shs. 54, 53, 45, 187377. See pp. 143-153 of Dorothy Wordsworth's Tour in Scotland (ed. by Priuc. Shairp, 1874); Professor Archibald Geikie's Scenery and Geology of Scotland (Lond1865); and Loch Etive and the Sons of Uisnach (Lond. 1879).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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