Page images

If it was ever roofed, it might once have been a dwelling, but as there is no provifion for water, it could not have been a fortrefs. In Sky, as in every other place, there is an ambition of exalting whatever has furvived memory, to fome important use, and referring it to very remote ages. I am inclined to fufpect, that in lawless times, when the inhabitants of every mountain ftole the cattle of their neighbour, these enclosures were used to fecure the herds and flocks in the night. When they were driven within the wall, they might be easily watched, and defended as long as could be needful; for the robbers durft not wait till the injured clan fhould find them in the morning.

The interior enclosures, if the whole building were once a house, were the chambers of the chief inhabitants. If it was a place of fecurity for cattle, they were probably the fhelters of the keepers.

From the Dun we were conducted to another place of fecurity, a cave carried a great way under ground, which had been discovered by digging after a fox. Thefe caves, of which many have been found, and many probably remain concealed, are formed, I believe, commonly by taking advantage of a hollow, where banks or rocks rife on either fide. If no fuch place can be found, the ground must be cut away. The walls are made by piling stones against the earth, on either fide. It is then roofed by large ftones laid across the cavern, which therefore cannot be wide. Over the roof, turfs were placed, and grafs was fuffered to grow; and the mouth was concealed by bushes, or fome other cover.


Thefe caves were reprefented to us as the cabins of the first rude inhabitants, of which, however, I am by no means perfuaded. This was fo low, that no man could stand upright in it. By their conftruction they are all fo narrow, that two can never pass along them together, and being fubterraneous, they must be always damp. They are not the work of an age much ruder than the prefent; for they are formed with as much art as the conftruction of a common hut requires. I imagine them to have been places only of occafional use, in which the iflander, upon a fudden alarm, hid his utenfils, or his clothes, and perhaps fometimes his wife and children.

This cave we entered, but could not proceed the whole length, and went away without knowing how far it was carried. For this omiffion we shall be blamed, as we perhaps have blamed other travellers; but the day was rainy, and the ground was damp. We had with us neither fpades nor pickaxes, and if love of eafe furmounted our defire of knowledge, the offence has not the invidioufnefs of fingularity.

Edifices, either standing or ruined, are the chief records of an illiterate nation. In fome part of this journey, at no great distance from our way, stood a fhattered fortrefs, of which the learned minister, to whose communication we are much indebted, gave us

an account.

Thofe, faid he, are the walls of a place of refuge, built in the time of James the Sixth, by Hugh Macdonald, who was next heir to the dignity and fortune of his chief. Hugh, being fo near his wifh, was impatient

impatient of delay; and had art and influence fufficient to engage feveral gentlemen in a plot against the laird's life. Something must be ftipulated on both fides; for they would not dip their hands in blood merely for Hugh's advancement. The compact was formally written, figned by the confpirators, and placed in the hands of one Macleod.

It happened that Macleod had fold fome cattle to a drover, who not having ready money, gave him a bond for payment. The debt was difcharged, and the bond re-demanded; which Macleod, who could not read, intending to put into his hands, gave him the confpiracy. The drover, when he had read the paper, delivered it privately to Macdonald, who being thus informed of his danger, called his friends together, and provided for his fafety. He made a publick feast, and inviting Hugh Macdonald and his confederates, placed each of them at the table between two men of known fidelity. The compact of confpiracy was then shown, and every man confronted with his own name. Macdonald acted with great moderation. He upbraided Hugh both with difloyalty and ingratitude; but told the reft, that he confidered them as men deluded and mifinformed. Hugh was fworn to fidelity, and difmiffed with his companions; but he was not generous enough to be reclaimed by lenity; and finding no longer any countenance among the gentlemen, endeavoured to execute the fame. defign by meaner hands. In this practice he was detected, taken to Macdonald's caftle, and imprifoned in the dungeon. When he was hungry, they let down a plentiful meal of falted meat; and when, after his

[ocr errors]


repaft, he called for drink, conveyed to him a covered cup, which, when he lifted the lid, he found empty. From that time they vifited him no more, but left him to perish in folitude and darkness.

We were then told of a cavern by the fea-fide, remarkable for the powerful reverberation of founds. After dinner we took a boat, to explore this curious cavity. The boatmen, who feemed to be of a rank above that of common drudges, enquired who the ftrangers were, and being told we came one from Scotland, and the other from England, afked if the Englishman could recount a long genealogy. What answer was given them, the conversation being in Erfe, I was not much inclined to examine.

They expected no good event of the voyage; for one of them declared that he heard the cry of an Englih ghoft. This omen I was not told till after our return, and therefore cannot claim the dignity of defpifing it.

The fea was fmooth. We never left the fhore, and came without any disaster to the cavern, which we found rugged and misshapen, about one hundred and eighty feet long, thirty wide in the broadeft part, and in the loftieft, as we gueffed, about thirty high. It was now dry, but at high water the fea rises in it near fix feet. Here I faw what I had never feen before, limpets and muscles in their natural state. But, as a new testimony to the veracity of common fame, here was no echo to be heard.

We then walked through a natural arch in the rock, which might have pleafed us by its novelty, had the ftones, 'which encumbered our feet, given us leifure to confider it. We were shown the gummy


feed of the kelp, that faftens itself to a stone, from which it grows into a strong stalk,

In our return, we found a little boy upon the point of a rock, catching with his angle a fupper for the family. We rowed up to him, and borrowed his rod, with which Mr. Bofwell caught a cuddy.

The cuddy is a fifh of which I know not the philofophical name. It is not much bigger than a gudgeon, but is of great ufe in these iflands, as it affords the lower people both food and oil for their lamps. Cuddies are fo abundant, at fome times of the year, that they are caught like white bait in the Thames, only by dipping a basket and drawing it back.

If it were always practicable to fish, these islands could never be in much danger from famine; but unhappily, in the winter, when other provifion fails, the feas are commonly too rough for nets, or boats,


From Ulinish our next ftage was to Talisker, the houfe of colonel Macleod, an officer in the Dutch fervice, who in this time of universal peace, has for several years been permitted to be abfent from his regiment. Having been bred to phyfick, he is confequently a fcholar, and his lady, by accompanying him in his different places of refidence, is become skilful in feveral languages. Talifker is the place beyond all that I have feen, from which the gay and the jovial feem utterly excluded; and where the hermit might expect to grow old in meditation,


« PreviousContinue »