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BALCONIE/INCHCOULTER

Journals of The Episcopal Journies of the Right Rev. Robert Forbes, M.A.

1762 - 1770

 

The Journal begins on Monday 12 July 1762 when Bishop Forbes left Kinghorn, Fife,
and continued through Perthshire and Inverness-shire until he crossed the ferry to the Black Isle, arriving in Fortrose on Monday 19 July 1762, where the extracts begin.

Mon July 26

We arrived at Balcony half an hour after 6 o'clock, upon which place Nature has luxuriantly shed her Beauties. It has been a Strong Hold, with a Fossee, and was anciently one of the Seats of the Earls of Ross. It is sited on the Verge of a rising Ground, with a Den on the North side, and washed on the West by the Water of Skiag, with a delightful vista of Cromarty-Bay, upon which Inchcoulter has an excellent Salmon Fishing by Boat or otherwise; but the Seals prove a great Destruction to the Salmon here. Near to Balcony is Plenty of Lobsters and Crab-fish. Down from the Castle to the Bay, and then along the side of it at Ebb, you have a charming Walk upon the green Grass of a long mile at least. There is a good Orchard here, and never did I see Trees more loaded with Pears and Apples than in it. Great Plenty likewise of small Fruit here. I ate at Inchcoulter's Table a reddish Berry, that grows wild in the mountains, as big as a Strawberry, or rather bigger, and is called the Cloud Berry. It eats extremely well with Sugar, and is formed of globular pieces. We had them twice every Day.

Tuesday, July 27 - After Prayers and Breakfast, Inchcoulter and Pitlundie were so obliging as to conduct me to view one of the greatest Wonders of Nature I had ever seen or read of, which is the Water of Aultgrad, i.e. the Ugly Burn; so called, it is thought, from the Blackness of its Current and the Roughness of its Rocks; for it rushes rapidly, for a mile, between two Ridges of perpendicular Rocks so near one another that, were one from the Countries where Earthquakes usually happen, to view it, he would readily give a solemn Asservation, that certainly it behoved to be a Rent or Fissure occasioned by an Earthquake; and for my own part, I am persuaded it has been originally formed by the Falling of the Waters of the deluge from off the Earth. You walk up the North-side of the Water - the very best way to have any tolerable View or Idea of this wonder - till you come to a deep Pool or Pot, about a mile from Balcony, into which the rapid Current disgorges itself from between the Rocks; which pot or depth is term'd in Galic, Pool-Intlugid, i.e. the Throat, or the Pool in the throat, and out of it Salmon have been fished. Up from this Throat is one continued Thicket of Wood on each side, arising out of the Openings or Fissures of the Rocks. In the compass of 6 or 7 yards of Circumference you can see Ash, Oak, Birch, Roan-tree, Allar, Hazle, Plane-tree etc. Box-wood likewise grows naturally here: And it is one continued Dove-Cote or Pigeon House; so that there are thousands of Doves constantly here Summer and Winter, and they would be many more were it not that the Hawks prey upon them. The Opening at Top is only about 22 or 24 Feet at most, and it grows gradually narrower to the Bottom, excepting some Caves or Bosoms that open here and there; and in some places it will not be above 20 Feet broad over the surface of the Banks. We walked up on the Verge of the Precipice, Inchcoulter and I Arm in Arm; but Pitlundie drew back and cried, "Come back, go not so near, Gentlemen; for I am frightened to look at you." "Oh! I wish I had a Tree across here," said I; "and then I would be astraddle upon it to look down into the amazing Gulph!" "O, Sir, you must have no Vertigo or Swimming in your head," said Pitlundie. And, indeed, if ever I return to that country, I intend, God willing, to enter the Depth from the Top of the Opening to the Surface of the Water. Sometimes we were agreeably entertained with a Murmuring, then with a Rushing, and after that with a Raging Fall, of water. We threw down some Stones at different places, and it is almost incredible how long it was before we hears the Plash in the Water, which made a great Echo; and several Echos happened in the going down, as the Stone chanced to strike a Tree or any part of the Rock; and when the stone rebounded from the one side to the other, which was frequently the case, then ye Echo was re-doubled, and had a fine Effect. I doubt not, but it may be 40 or 50, if not 60, fathoms deep down to the Surface of the Water; but there is no seeing of the water till you go up three-quarters of a mile from Pool-Intlugid. In some places the noise of the Fall of Water is so very great, that I am persuaded there are considerable Cascades in it; but no Discovery can be made of ym, as men, after being led down by a Rope 20 or 30 Fathoms, to cut Trees according to their Choice, have seen the water far beneath them. At length we came to a place over which there was lately a Bridge of Eight Trees, where it is just 22 Feet broad. Here we have a view of the water 10 or 12 Furlongs by looking up and down, and a terrible Depth it is, tho' far from being so deep as we may conjecture some Places below to be from the raging Noise of the Water.

Inchcoulter told me that the Cattle, Goats etc., by browsing on the South side too near the Verge, have tumbled down headlong, and have lain where they fell till the Rains or Thaws have so swelled the water as to bring down their Bodies forcibly to the Pool-Intlugid. He has frequently had Goats that have faln down, and, by luckily resting on a flat or shelve of the Rock, have been there 10 or 12 Days alive, and, at length, being discovered by their Cry, have been haled safe and sound by Ropes fixed about them by men lowed down for the purpose.

About half-way to the Pool from where the Bridge has been, upon the south side, near the precipice, there is a Rock above Ground, of a singular form, with the East End of it up from the Earth, so as several persons, 6 or seven, could lodge under it, and be sheltered from Rain. There is a flat stone under this End, with a gradual, easy Declivity, so as to make a good Bed for a Highlander in his Plaid. Both sides of this rapid current are the property of Inchcoulter. The Bishop [he died Sept. 25, 1765] of Ossory viewed this august and grand wonder of Nature; but, I am told, he took his Observations on the south side, where he could not discover the tenth Part of its Grandeur, the Bank being so steep and slippery in many places that there is no attempting to get near the Verge of the precipice. Inchcoulter, happening accidentally to meet his Lordship on the Highway upon his coming from Ault-Grad, made up to him in a very polite manner; and the Bishop, after Compliments, told him he had been viewing that Wonder, and that he admired it much, as one the greatest he had every seen in all his Travels. To which Inchcoulter said in Return - "Well, my Lord, that same Wonder is the property of a MacKenzie, every inch of it; and as I have the good fortune to be the Owner of it, your Lordship will do me much Honour by a visit at my House (pointing to it), qch is hard by here." But his Lordship begged to be excused, as he was in haste to be gone at present. So they parted with mutual Bows. Inchcoulter's kind Invitation, after so seasonable a Memento, was a Home-Thrust to his Lordship, as, remarkable as it is, he did not visit one MacKenzie in all Ross-shire, tho' it be the well-known Country of the Clan MacKenzie. A Gentleman [Dr Sinclair, at Thurso], a Sinclair by name, and, I have reason to think, a Whig, too, told me that Ossory was surely a narrow-thinking Man, and gave the above Omission or Neglect as a strong proof of it. This rapid Water issues out of a Loch, called Loch-Glass, in which there is great plenty of Trout, and it is about four miles long, and in some places about half a mile broad; and there is a small Brook that runs into this Lough.

At Balcony there was of old a Chapel, called St Ninian's Chapel. South from Balcony, hard upon the Frith of Cromarty, are the Kirk and Manse of Kiltearn. This is one of the closest neighbourhoods in any rural place; for within three miles East, and three miles West, that is, forming an Oval of five Miles in length, and about three in breadth, there are about 17 or 18 Gentlemen's Houses - a strong and convincing Argument of the Fertility of this Corner: And, indeed, richer Corn-Grounds I have never beheld in any country than what are to be seen here.

Wednesday, July 28 - Set out from Balcony between 10 and 11 o'clock, Inchcoulter complaisantly giving us the Convoy, and came to Newmore-Castle - 4 miles - 15 minutes before 12, and dined with the Widow-Lady of the Place, a Grand-daughter of the Family of Culloden, and being a Forbes, expressed much Fondness to see me in her House. This seat is on the South Side of a rising ground, beautified, amongst other things, with commanding prospects; for, by going only to the Barn-Yards, you have a [full] View of [all] the Cromarty-Bay from the Mouth to ye Head thereof above Dingwall. Here we were most politely and kindly entertained, and plenty of Fruit after Dinner, good Wine and Punch.

From thence to Ballblair, only an English mile from Newmore, and drank Tea with Mrs Gorrie, Niece to Bp. Archibald Campbell, who was not a little surprized to find that I knew so much about him, and, still more so, that I should have his fine Seal of three Sides and two Top Ones cut in Steel, which I shewed to her, as also some of his Hand-writing, very like unto her mother's Writ, she declared. She kept the Seal long in her hands, viewing it nicely with a Critic's eye, and then said [with a smile] - "I think, sir, I have a good Right to this." Making a low Bow, I returned - "You see, Madam, it is mine in the meantime;" and then told her how I came by it, as she was anxious to know that. Mr Gorrie was from Home. He is Factor to Gordon of Invergordon, which Seat, environed with Planting, is hard by, both it and Ballblair being close upon the Cromarty-Frith. Here is the Kirk, and the Manse - one of the best in Scotland - of Roskeen. Inchcoulter took leave of us here, and returned home.

We came to the house of Dr Alexr. MacKenzie at Milntown of New-Tarbat half after 6 o'clock, travelling along the North Side of the beautifulPortus Salutis, within a few yards of it, upon the verdant Carpet [of] about [five] Scots miles. The Doctor shewed us the Skin of a Crow, the long Feathers of which in the Forepart of the Wings, and the Feathers on the Throat, were white as snow.

Tuesday, Augt. 17 - Went to Newton, the Seat of Munro of Culcairn, in Company with Inchcoulter and Mr J. Stewart, and dined there. Culcairn is a Gentleman of great Address, and one of the best Farmers in Scotland. He has made an excellent Garden of 2-1/2 acres out of a Bogue or Morass in his Wood, and has much good Fruit, many Shrubs and Flowers, and a Pond with Trout in it. His Grounds produce the best of Wheat, and he has erected a Flour-Miln for dressing it. His House lies very low, and is yet quite dry by his good policy of Sunk-Fences and proper Drains. We drank here the best of Strong Ale, Claret of Vintage, '49 and good Coffee, made of his own Wheat. In our return to Balcony we made a short visit to Mr Robertson (11), preacher at Kiltearn, and Brother to Mr Robertson, at Kirk of Clyn.

A later entry:

Friday, Augt. 27 - In the Morning, Donald MacRah, Catechist, presented to me one Murdock Mackay for Confirmation, whom he had brought from Ross-shire, which was done accordingly, after that Mr John Stewart had discoursed the man in Galic. After Matins, Mr Stewart and I paid some visits, and I bought two pairs of black Stockings from Mr Hugh Fraser.

Mr Stewart having informed me that Culcairn had made him a present in Gold at Foulis-Castle, though he himself be a Whig and a Presbyterian, I thought myself obliged to write him a Letter of Thanks, and the more so as Culcairn never fails to make Mr Stewart such a present when he happens to see him in Rosshire. Here follows a Copy of that Letter, which was addressed thus:

To John Monroe of Culcairn, Esqre., at Newton.

Sir, - Not to insist upon the polite and elegant manner in which we were entertained at Newton and Foulis-Castle, I think myself obliged to testifie a grateful Resentment of that particular and most seasonable Place in your Regard, with which you are pleased repeatedly to favour Mr Stewart. All I can say is that if it ever be in my Power to tender you the Smallest Service, you may with Freedom command,

Sir, 
Your most grateful well-wisher, 
And very humble Servant, 
Robert Forbes
Inverness, Aug. 27, 1762.




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