Loch Katrine

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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Katrine, Loch, a lake, the western shore of whose upper 2½ miles belongs to Buchanan parish, Stirlingshire, but which elsewhere extends along the mutual border of Callander and Aberfoyle parishes, SW Perthshire. Lying 364 feet above sea-level, it curves 8 miles east-south-eastward, and, opposite Letter farm, has an utmost width of 7¼ furlongs, with a maximum depth of 78 fathoms. Glengyle Water flows 37/8 miles south-eastward to its head, and from its foot it sends off Achray Water 1¾ mile east-by-southward to Loch Achray, belonging thus to the basin of the Teith; whilst forty-eight rivulets leap down the hill-sides to its shores. Chief elevations to the N of the lake, from head to foot, are Meall Mor (2451 feet), An Garadh (2347), Stob a Choin (2839), Cruinn Bheinn (1787), Meall Gaothach (1981), Bealach-na-h Imriche (1592), Ben A,an (1500), Meall Gainmheich (1851), and Ben Vane (2685); to the S, Maol Mor (2249), Meall Meadhonach (893), Beinn Uaimhe (1962), Ben Lomond (3192), Druim nan Carn (1495), and Ben Venue (2393). A small iron steamer was launched on its waters in 1843; and the Rob Roy now plies to and fro from Stronachlachar Hotel, 23/8 miles SE of the head of the lake and 5 ENE of Inversnaid on Loch Lomond, to a pier at the foot, 1¼ mile W of the Trossachs Hotel and 9½ miles W by S of Callander. On board of her the Queen, with the Princesses Louise and Beatrice, sailed up the lake, 6 Sept. 1869. Loch Katrine belongs to the Duke of Montrose and Lady Willoughby de Eresby; it contains some char, abundance of good trout, and pike running up to 20 lbs. Its waterworks have been fully described under Glasgow. See also Bealach-nam-Bo, Ellen's Isle, and other articles already indicated.

Scott visited the Trossachs and Loch Katrine on several occasions during 1790-1809, the year before the publication of the Lady of the Lake; and, as Principal Shairp remarks, ' the world believes, and will continue to believe, that he was the first Sassenach who discovered the Trossachs, as it was his poem which gave them world-wide celebrity.' In 1790, however, and 1800 the Rev. James Robertson, minister of Callander, had described them in the Old Statistical and his Sketch of the most remarkable Scenery near Callander; and in 1804 we find William Wordsworth endeavouring to make his visit hither 'appear not so very foolish, by informing the dwellers by the lakeside that this was a place much celebrated in England, though perhaps little thought of by them.' No better description exists of Loch Katrine than that which is given by his sister Dorothy, the more so as it depicts it in its twofold aspect -dreary and naked at the held, wooded and ever more beautiful towards the foot. a Coleridge and I, 'she writes, 'as we sate [near Stronachlachar], had what seemed but a dreary prospect-a waste of unknown ground which we guessed we must travel over before it was possible to find a shelter. We saw a long way down the lake; it was all moor on the near side; on the other the hills were steep from the water, and there were large coppicewoods, but no cheerful green fields, and no road that we could see; we knew, however, that there must be a road from house to house; but the whole lake appeared a solitude-neither boats, islands, nor houses, no grandeur in the hills, nor any loveliness in the shores. When we first came in view of it we had said it was like a barren Ulswater-Ulswater dismantled of its grandeur, and cropped of its lesser beauties. When I had swallowed my dinner I hastened after William, and Coleridge followed me. Walked through the heather with some labour for perhaps half a mile, and found William sitting on the top of a small eminence, whence we saw the real head of the lake, which was pushed up into the vale a considerable way beyond the promontory where we now sate. The view up the lake was very pleasing, resembling Thirlmere below Armath. There were rocky promontories and woody islands, and, what was most cheering to us, a neat white house on the opposite shore.. We were rowing down that side of the lake which had hitherto been little else than a moorish ridge. After turning a rocky point we came to a bay closed in by rocks and steep woods, chiefly of fullgrown birch. The lake was elsewhere ruffled, but at the entrance of this bay the breezes sunk, and it was calm: a small island was near, and the opposite shore, covered with wood, looked soft through the misty rain. William, rubbing his eyes, for he had been asleep, called out that he hoped I had not let him pass by anything that was so beautiful as this; and I was glad to tell him that it was but the beginning of a new land. After we had left this bay we saw before us a long reach of woods and rocks and rocky points, that promised other bays more beautiful than what we had passed. The ferryman was a good-natured fellow, and rowed very industriously, following the ins and outs of the shore; he was delighted with the pleasure we expressed, continually repeating how pleasant it would have been on a fine day. I believe he was attached to the lake by some sentiment of pride, as his own domain-his being almost the only boat upon it-which made him, seeing we were willing gazers, take far more pains than an ordinary boatman; he would often say, after he had compassed the turning of a point, "This is a bonny part," and he always chose the bonniest, with greater skill than our prospect-hunters and "picturesque travellers;" places screened from the winds-that was the first point; the rest followed of course,-richer growing trees, rocks and banks, and curves which the eye delights in. The second bay we came to differed from the rest; the hills retired a short space from the lake, leaving a few level fields between, on which was a cottage embosomed in trees: the bay was defended by rocks at each end, and the hills behind made a shelter for the cottage, the only dwelling, I believe, except one, on this side of Loch Ketterine. We now came to steeps that rose directly from the lake, and passed by a place called in the Gaelic the Den of the Ghosts,* which reminded us of Lodore; it is a rock, or mass of rock, with a stream of large black stones like the naked or dried-up bed of a torrent down the side of it; birchtrees start out of the rock in every direction, and cover the hill above, further than we could see. The water of the lake below was very deep, black, and calm. Our delight increased as we advanced, till we came in view of the termination of the lake, seeing where the river issues out of it through a narrow chasm between the hills. Here I ought to rest, as we rested, and attempt to give utterance to our pleasure: but indeed I can impart but little of what we felt. We were still on the same side of the water, and, being immediately under the hill, within a considerable bending of the shore, we were enclosed by hills all round, as if we had been upon a smaller lake of which the whole was visible. It was an entire solitude; and all that we beheld was the perfection of loveliness and beauty. We had been through many solitary places since we came into Scotland, but this place differed as much from any we had seen before, as if there had been nothing in common between them; no thought of dreariness or desolation found entrance here; yet nothing was to be seen but water, wood, rocks, and heather, and bare mountains above. We saw the mountains by glimpses as the clouds passed by them, and were not disposed to regret, with our boatman, that it was not a fine day, for the near objects were not concealed from us, but softened by being seen through the mists. The lake is not very wide here, but appeared to be much narrower than it really is, owing to the many promontories, which are pushed so far into it that they are much more like islands than promontories. We had a longing desire to row to the outlet and look up into the narrow passage through which the river went; but the point where we were to land was on the other side, so we bent our course right across, and just as we came in sight of two huts, which have been built by Lady Perth as a shelter for those who visit the Trossachs, Coleridge hailed us with a shout of triumph from the door of one of them, exulting in the glory of Scotland. The huts stand at a small distance from each other, on a high and perpendicular rock, that rises from the bed of the lake. A road, which has a very wild appearance, has been cut through the rock; yet even here, among these bold precipices, the feeling of excessive beautifulness overcomes every other. While we were upon the lake, on every side of us were bays within bays, often more like tiny lakes or pools than bays, and these not in long succession only, but all round, some almost on the broad breast of the water, the promontories shot out so far.' See pp. 86-107, 220-235, of Dorothy Wordsworth's Tour in Scotland (ed. by Princ. Shairp, Edinb. 1874); and Sir George B. Airy's Topography of the 'Lady of the Lake ' (Lond. 1873).

* Goblins' Cave.

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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