Linlithgow, Stirling, And The Trossachs – Scotland

” WAS that it? Was that it? Oh, I could hardly see it at all! John, you bobbed your head at just the wrong moment. 0 dear ! I did so want to see Queen Margaret’s Bower! ” So fast had the train gone through Linlithgow that only a very hurried glance could any of them snatch at the imposing old palace, birth-place of Mary Stuart.

Those fortunate enough to pay it a visit find that the huge ruined pile in many ways still suggests its former elegance : by the broken fountain in the court from which that before Holyrood was copied; by its vast suites of apartments for use by the lords and ladies of the court; by its splendid banquet-hall; and by a curious window, like a horizontal ladder, which was especially designed to throw light on the fine ceiling of a drawing-room. One can understand why Scott thus described it : ” Of all the palaces so fair, Built for the royal dwelling,

In Scotland, far beyond compare Linlithgow is excelling; ”

” The good Regent Murray was assassinated in the streets of Linlithgow, you remember, and it was in one of the guardrooms, near the palace entrance, that he died. What was Queen Margaret’s Bower, did you ask? A little six-sided turret at the top of a certain high tower. It was a favorite retreat of Queen Margaret, from which she is said to have watched in vain for the return of her husband, James IV, from Flodden Field. Barbara, will you put up the window, please? What disgusting smoke ! ”

” Mother, didn’t you once tell me that it was at Linlithgow that some one took the place by fetching in some armed men in a load of hay? ”

” Quite right, Philip; I had almost forgotten that myself. It was Bruce, of course, who thought of the plan and thus took possession in 1313, turning out the forces of Edward I, who had held it for some years.”

” Bruce was like that ` Sentimental Tommy,’ ” put in Barbara; ” he could al-ways ` find a wy,’ too.”

” There was a farmer, named William Bunnoek, who traded with the garrison but who was secretly on the side of the Scotch,” continued Mrs. Pitt; ” it was he who drove in the huge load of hay. No sooner had it safely passed the drawbridge than a number of armed men sprang out and quickly overcame the guards ; reenforcements came and the castle was soon recovered by the Scotch.”

It was now nearing noon and they had come in sight of Stirling Castle, hardly less celebrated in history and situation than that of Edinburgh itself.

” Why, it’s just exactly like Edinburgh, isn’t it l ” exclaimed Betty.

Having first eaten their luncheon, they climbed one of the steep streets leading to the castle esplanade, entering by the Queen Anne gateway, marked with the dainty initials A. R. Mrs. Pitt pointed out a quaint little garden at their left, where roses appear quite content to wander over gray walls, the garden occupying part of the oldtime moat. Above is standing a portion of a very ancient building reached by a steep flight of stone steps.

” They lead to the room where the boy, James VI, used to study with his famous tutor, George Buchanan. You know,” said Mrs. Pitt, ” that Queen Mary sent him here to be educated by her Catholic friends and here he lived until he was thirteen years old. Mary herself knew this castle well; she was crowned here when but nine months old; she lived here for four years; and here she was privately married to Darnley. Come and walk around this old palace of James V. I think it is most interesting. It is much carved, you see, reminding one of the French style. The heavy iron bars at the windows were put there to insure the safety of the baby, James VI; of course there was always the fear that the Protestants would carry him off. But these old statues are most curious of all ! ”

” Well, I should say, yes! ” cried John, looking up at the quaint figures which are placed, at intervals, all around the palace walls. ” Look at this guy with the pointed cap and the big spoon ! ”

” He must be the cook ! ” laughed Barbara.

He is,” replied her mother, ” and here is a steward, a courtier, and a court lady, and around here they even pictured the king and queen. See, aren’t they delightful ! ”

They then saw the ancient Parliament House, and the Royal Chapel which James VI had hurriedly restored in 1594 for the baptism of his son, Prince Henry. This is now divided, one part being used as dining-hall and the other as schoolroom for some of the soldiers. (Some of them certainly look young enough to be still at their lessons!) Even the fine old palace, with all its gargoyles, is now serving as a barracks.

There is much to be seen from the corner of the Douglas Garden. In the far distance rise the Highland mountains, blue and hazy, the mountains of ” The Lady of the Lake,” and the haunts of Rob Roy. But all this they were to see the next day, so they turned their attention from the. wonderful view to things nearer at hand.

” There’s the tall Wallace Monument,” said Mrs. Pitt, ” and the Old Bridge of Stirling, built about 1410, and for centuries the only gateway to the Highlands ; near it Wallace won his greatest victory over the English in September, 1297. It was under that bridge, too, Betty, that David and Allan, in ` Kid-napped,’ hid when they had at length ventured down from the mountains. There’s the beheading-stone,—no, there ! on the hilltop ! It’s covered by an iron grating. Many a gallant man has looked his last from that unlucky spot! The hill was sometimes called ‘ Hurley-Haaky,’ too,” she added ; ” in old Scotch, ` hanky ‘ meant cow, and ‘ hurley,’ to coast. James V used to coast down that slope on a cow’s skull, so they say.”

” Why on earth did he choose that? ” inquired John. ” Must have been awfully jolty, for a king ! ”

” James V was a very merry and democratic person, you know; it was he who used to disguise himself as the ‘ Gudeman of Ballengeich,’ and wander all over the country in . search of adventures to make him better acquainted with his people. ` Ballengeich ‘ means windy pass, and was the name of this rough road beneath us, which was once the main approach to the castle.” They were still standing on the battlement of the Douglas Garden and, following Mrs. Pitt’s example, they leaned over as far as possible to see the picturesque road and gateway.

” Down the Ballengeich Road James V used to go, and so he took its name for his incognito.

” I remember a story about the ` Laird of Ballengeich’s ‘ meeting a farmer named John Howieson,” said Barbara presently. ” Several gypsies had attacked the King, who was doing his best to protect himself when Howieson appeared, just in time to save him. But, of course, he didn’t know it was the King. James, still dis guised, went to the farmhouse, where Howieson washed his wounds and then insisted upon seeing him safely back to the city. On the way the ` Gudeman ‘ told Howieson that he lived at the castle and he invited the farmer to go to see him there the next Sunday. John had never been to the castle and felt a bit shy, but his host showed him all about and then led him to a room full of people. They all took off their hats except Howieson and his companion, but even the farmer didn’t realize right away that his friend was the King. He knew finally, of course ! James gave him the land on which he lived at Braehead on condition that he and his descendants should always be ready to offer a basin of water for the King of Scotland to wash his hands.”

” Did you know,” added Mrs. Pitt, ” that when George IV was in Scotland in 1822, a Howieson of Braehead came to the castle and offered the King a silver basin of water? The old terms had not been forgotten.”

” That’s certainly a lovely story,” remarked Betty contentedly, as they were walking towards the Douglas Room.

It is supposed to have been in this room that James II killed the Earl of Douglas, who had entered into a powerful league with the Earls of Ross and Crawford, thus angering his sovereign. When the Douglas refused to with-draw from the league at command of the King, the latter, in sudden rage, drew his sword and killed him. A spirited poem describes this scene, and makes the Douglas say:

” ‘No, by the cross it may not be; I’ve pledged my knightly word,’ And like a thunder-cloud he scowled, And half unsheathed his sword. Then drew the king that jeweled glaive, Which gore so oft had spilt, And in the haughty Douglas’ heart He sheathed it to the hilt.”

The Douglas Room is rather disappointing; there was a fire not long ago and part of the paneling is new. One may see a motley collection of relics and weapons, and in the adjoining closet is a Douglas memorial window, placed there by Queen Victoria’s order.

At the ” Ladies’ Lookout ” they paused some time to enjoy another superb view. Just below the great castle rock, which is clearly seen from that point, is the ancient King’s Park and the King’s Knot, the quaint shapes of the latter’s flower-beds now like faint ghosts of the old royal garden. On this day there was visible something so modern, so much more real, that one hardly noticed the old Royal Park at all; this was a huge white cross on the grass of a neigh-boring field which marked the spot where an aviator from Edinburgh was expected to land that afternoon.

” I shouldn’t wonder if the King’s Knot faded away altogether before that flying ma-chine comes,” said Betty dreamily.

Later they stood once more in the wide esplanade, beside the statue of the Bruce, and like the form of the hero, looked off towards the southeast.

” And over there was Bannockburn, Bruce’s greatest victory ! ” Betty was musing. ” I could stay here forever and imagine things ! It was in 1314, wasn’t it? Well, just look straight over all these houses with their dirty black chimneys, and it’s just as easy to see the little burn with Bruce there beside it, thinking what to do next.”

This was more than John could bear. ” The idea! ” he ejaculated. ” Wasn’t the battle going on? He wouldn’t stand still like an idiot and wonder what to do next, you stupid ! He just had to do it, right off !

But Betty dreamed on, unheeding. Bruce had women dressed in plaids and carrying weapons, who were on the hills all around. They couldn’t really have fought much, of course, but the English thought they were a whole new army. And Bruce dug trenches and the English fell into them, horses and all ! ”

What does Bannockburn mean, anyhow? ” John demanded. Whereupon Barbara explained to him that a burn was a brook, of course, and that a bannock is a flat Scotch cake, made of oatmeal. ” The soldiers carried these bannocks with them,” said she, ” and they dipped them in the burn to moisten them. Wasn’t that how the name originated, Mother? ”

Mrs. Pitt agreed that that might easily have been the explanation. And then they walked back to the station, passing through different streets and seeing many fine old churches and houses, and the Tolbooth, with its adjoining Mercat Cross.

From Stirling to Callander is not a long trip, and upon arrival there they found a big coach in readiness to take them to the Trossachs Hotel.

By this time the sun was getting low, but it still lay brightly upon certain hillsides and lighted up the leaves on the topmost branches to an almost dazzling green. There had been a short but heavy shower during the day, freshening everything after the heat, which had been most unusual for Scotland. The mountain-sides, covered with heather, had great dark patches on them, but the rounded peaks were still in bright sunlight.

It need not be thought that John was unappreciative, because he was busily talking to the coach-driver all the way. He felt that he could not afford to miss anything they were passing, and now and then he turned to interrupt the reveries of the others in order to give them some word of information. It was usually in reference to the happenings in ” The Lady of the Lake,” of course.

Here, the driver told him, was Lanrick Mead, the place of meeting of the Clan Alpine when-ever the fiery cross was being carried from one clan to another as a signal of war. Here was Coilantogle Ford where Fitzjames fought with Roderick Dhu; here they crossed the picturesque Brig o’ Turk and followed the road along beside Loch Achray.

By the time they had reached the hotel, and a porter, lifting the ladder, had helped the ladies to descend from the coach, John’s friend, the driver, had become most confidential. He had decided not to go to America, he was saying. He supposed he could make more money there, but here we like to get into our slippers and be comfortable,” said he. Overhearing this remark, Mrs. Pitt reflected how very much better it would be if only more of the Scotch would be satisfied with what they have and earn at home, and not go over to America to find their eyes rudely opened to the fact that there one must work even harder for one’s living.

The following morning they left their lug-gage to be brought on by the coach, while they walked through the charming woodland pass known as the Trossachs, or ” bristling country.” There are bare hills and hills covered with purple heather and overhung by great gray rocks ; wild flowers are everywhere, and deep, dense, fragrant woods. It is a fairyland of rainbows, of sun, and of shadow. It was very pleasant to walk here as slowly as one might wish. At the little pier on dainty Loch Katrine, a steamer waited, but as it would not start for an hour, John decided to row his sister out to Ellen’s Isle, no great distance from the shore.

We want to climb all over it,” said Betty.

Perhaps. we can see where they lived, Ellen and her father and all the rest.”

They rented a boat, scorning the offer of a boatman who desired to do the rowing for them. Betty took her place in the stern, her brother picked up his oars, and they were off. Their trip was not a very successful one, how-ever. Heavy mists hung over mighty Ben Venue, although brilliant sunshine prevailed on the peaks opposite; every now and again a heavy shower fell upon them, and a brisk little breeze was blowing. Betty cheerfully put up her umbrella, not desiring to have her hat ruined. As they drew a bit nearer the little green island, Betty was reading from her plaid-covered copy of ” The Lady of the Lake.”

” When lo ! forth starting at the sound, From underneath an aged oak, That slanted from the islet rock, A damsel guider of its way, A little skiff shot to the bay,”

I like the part where Malcolm Graeme comes in,” she was saying, when she heard an exclamation from John, and noticed that their `’ skiff ” was not ” shooting to the bay ” at all.

” I’d like to know how you expect me to row with these crazy oars and that umbrella of yours up ! Say, Betty, put it down, or I’ll turn back ! How can I row with that umbrella catching the wind and holding us back all the time? ”

The wind seemed to be rising, and as Betty persisted in refusing to get herself wet, he did turn back, and grumbling much, finally brought up alongside the pier, just as the steamer was about to start. With a comfortable awning over them as a protection from the rain, they surveyed the little island, now covered with trees and much tangled underbrush, which once served as a home for the Douglas and his daughter, Ellen.

The showers were soon over and they were sorry when the boat-ride ended at Stronachlacher, where they took places on the coach to make the trip across to Loch Lomond. The country between the two lochs is associated with Rob Roy, whose wife, Helen Macgregor, lived in Inversnaid.

” Rob Roy belonged to the Clan Macgregor, too,” said Mrs. Pitt, ” but he called himself a Campbell, and for this reason: the Clan Macgregor met with more terrible persecution than any other clan, even their territory being added to that of the Campbells. It was merely for protection that Rob Roy called himself a member of his enemies’ clan. He was not always a wild outlaw, you know, but a cattle-dealer, living a peaceful life for many years. He would collect his cattle from the sides of these mountains (there are only a few sheep here now) and drive them to market in England or in the Lowlands. He was at one time associated with the Duke of Montrose in a cattle speculation which was a failure; not only did Rob Roy lose all he had, but the Duke tried to make him pay more than his share. When Rob Roy refused to do this, the Duke advertised him as a thief and a swindler, so he was obliged to flee to the mountains. Gradually there gathered about him many who had wrongs to avenge, and together these men got their living in any way they could, principally by ` lifting ‘ other people’s cattle. They often took from the rich to supply the poor. You see, it was Robin Hood all over again! All the rest of his life Rob Roy spent in this way, annoying the Duke when he possibly could and always outwitting him. The Duke built a fort here at Inversnaid and Rob Roy carried away every gun in it. It is said that he, at length, asked to be allowed to return to a peaceable life, but this request was refused and Rob Roy died an outcast. He is buried not far from here, at Balqiihidder, and a broad-sword is all that is carved on his tomb ! ”

They had time for a visit to the pretty water-fall at Inversnaid and for a hurried tea at the hotel; then the boat started for the long after-noon’s sail on Loch Lomond. Here the mountains are not as rugged as near Loch Katrine but the coloring and the lights and shadows are as lovely. Many hotels and the summer homes of Glasgow people are along the lake shore, and, in the foreground, there is always the strange, transparent green of the water.

” There were many ‘ good people ‘ about here,” remarked Mrs. Pitt, when some one had spoken about the tint of the water. ” They acted for years as dyers to the clans of Loch Lomond. It was only necessary to leave cloth, wool, or thread near the loch, with a sample of the desired shade, to have the dyeing care-fully done. But the tale is that some one once asked jokingly to have the fleece of a black sheep dyed white. Offended at this, the fairies poured all their dye-stuff into the mountain brook which flows into the loch, and ever since that its waters have been of this beautiful shade. ”

As the afternoon wore on, they wearied of scenery. Mrs. Pitt sat dreamily gazing off across the water to the lavender-tinted mountains ; John spent much time in taking the photograph of two little Scotch travelers in Highland kilts ; Barbara and Philip discussed some subject of great moment, while Betty turned her attention to her long-neglected diary. There was a change from the boat to a train at Balloch pier; then a short ride transported them from the region of lakes and mountains to busy, smoky Glasgow.