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Scottish Highland Quotations

The bonniest lad that ever I saw,
Bonnie laddie, Highland laddie,
Wore a plaid, and was fullbraw,
Bonnie Highland laddie.
On his head a bonnet blue,
Bonnie laddie, Highland laddie;
His royal heart was firm and true,
Bonnie Highland laddie.
Robert Burns.

High above the Highland glen
Flamed and burned the purple heather
Colours never mixed of men,
Tints no painter put together;

And I guessed that, where I trod,
Quaffing his Olympian fill,
Rudely had some reeling god
Spilt his wine-cup on the hill.

Will H. Ogilvie.

It was a very humble dwelling, built of turf upon a foundation of stones, and roofed with turf and straw. One little window of a foot and a half square looked out on the universe. At one end stood a stack of peat, half as big as the cottage itself. All around it were huge rocks, some of them peaks whose masses went down to the very central fires, others only fragments that had
rolled from above. Here and there a thin crop was
growing in patches amongst them. A few of the commonest flowers grew about the door, but there was no garden. The doorstep was live rock, and a huge projecting rock behind formed the back and a portion of one of the end walls. . Facing the broad south, and leaning against the hill, as against the bosom of God, the cottage looked so high-humble, so still, so confident, that it drew Gibbie with the spell of heart-likeness. He knocked at the old, weather-beaten, shrunk and rent, but well patched door. A voice, alive with the soft vibrations of thought and feeling, answered, “Come on in, whoever you be.”
George MacDonald.

The misty bens and heather hills,
The sombre forest trees,
The lonely glens and mountain rills.
The deep clear inland seas,
Still ever haunt the mem’ry
Like some familiar strain,
And wake the hope within me
That I’ll return again.
TRUE hearts and strong limbs,
The beauty of faces
Kissed by the wind
And caressed by the rain.


The power of the Highland summer night to bring out the essential colour in flowers, as though by some inward illumination, is incredible until seen, and then can never be forgotten. Many a night, on the way home from fishing, I would see the big garden poppies glowing with
something richer than their noonday pomp of scarlet, and tapered lupins rise motionless like candles lighted from within. Until the end of May, the field below my house is full of Cheviot ewes and their lambs. At nightfall each lamb lies, a spot of snow, to the lee of its dam; and as I pass a score of white faces turn curiously, lighted by
the gleam from the north, where, not very far away, the sun still moves above the horizon. Gulls, drawn by the freshly turned earth of a neighbouring strip of ploughland, sit on the grass in long still rows. The whiteness of lambs, of ewes’ faces, of the breasts of gulls, is far beyond anything seen in the brightest noonday sun.

Margaret Leigh.

Sweet’s the lav’rock’s note, and lang,
Liltin’ wildly up the glen;
But aye to me he sings ae sang,
“Will ye no come back again?”

Lady Nairne.

Deer Stalking with the Sutherland High lander seems an almost invincible passion. His constant thoughts and dreams are about the mountain corrie and the stag; get him into conversation on any subject, and by some means it invariably comes round to deer and deer-stalking. He has stories without end, handed down from father to son, of wonderful shots, and dogs that never failed to pull down their stag. On most points silent and reserved, on this one he is talkative and eloquent. No man, too, has a greater taste for, and a more correct conception of, the beauties of nature. Summer or winter the Highland deer-stalker puts on his plaid when going out, and, if he does not carry a gun, has in his hand some favourite stick made of hazel or juniper. His telescope, though good, generally refuses to be seen distinctly through by any eyes but his own; somehow no
one else can hit off the focus. Though caring little for grouse shooting, he is usually a fisherman, and can throw a fly well enough on occasion, and a present of salmon flies goes straight to his heart.

Charles St. John.

The melancholy of the Scottish Highlands being far more morose, and having no tendency to misanthropy, seems rather to be a habit of mind produced by the combined effects of sensibility, solitude, and the habitual contemplation of sublime scenery. Little employed in cultivating the ground, his mind is not fettered by minute attention to a single spot; the range of his excursions is wide but it is lonely. In tending his flocks he scales the lofty mountains, and traverses the extensive moor or dusky forest, and has occasion from time to time to contemplate the grandest objects in nature, the war of the elements, the impetuous torrent sweeping everything before it, the thunder of heaven, reverberating, in repeated peals, among the mountains, the violence of the winds, rendered furious, by being pent up in a deep and narrow valley, and snow coiled up in heaps, that interrupts for weeks the intercourse of a whole district. All these circumstances, alike unfavourable to frivolousness of thought, are well calculated to fix down the mind to habits of sober thinking, and to impress it with serious meditation on the vicissitudes of human affairs. Notwithstanding this general character of what may be called pensive susceptibility, which belongs to the Highlander, he is in the highest degree alive to joyous
feelings. The Highianders are fond of music and of
dancing, with diversions of all kinds. In ancient times,
when the hospitality of the chieftain furnished subsistence to his numerous dependents, it is remembered in the traditions of the generation last passed, that the recitation of ancient Celtic poetry formed their favourite amusement; thus innocently did they twine the garland of poesy around dark Winter’s brow.
Beriah Botfield (1829)

On the death of a Highlander, the corpse being stretched
on a board, and covered with a coarse linnen wrapper, the friends lay on the breast of the deceased a wooden platter, containing a small quantity of salt and earth, separate and unmixed; the earth, an emblem of the corruptible body; the salt an emblem of the immortal spirit. All fire is extinguished where the corps is kept; and it is reckoned so ominous for a dog or cat to pass over it, that the poor animal is killed without mercy. The Late-Wake is a ceremony used at funerals. The evening after the death of any person, the relations and friends of the deceased meet at the house, attended by a bagpiper or a fiddle; the nearest of kin, be it wife, son, or daughter, opens a melancholy ball, dancing and greeting, i.e. crying violently at the same time, and this continues till day-light; but with such gambols and frolicks among the younger part of the company, that the loss which
occasioned them is often more than supplied by the
consequences of that night. If the corps remains unburied for two nights, the same rites are renewed. Thus, Scythian-like, they rejoice at the deliverance of their friends out of this life of misery.

Thomas Pennant.

The water gently down a level slid,
With little din, but couthy what it made;
On ilka side the trees grew thick and lang,
And wi’ the wild birds’ notes were a’ in sang;
On either side, a full bow-shot and mair,
The green was even, gowany, and fair;
With easy slope on every hand the braes
To the hills’ feet with scattered bushes raise;
With goats and sheep aboon, and kye below,
The bonny banks all in a swarm did go.


Donald Gunn, one of the tightest and most active of
Highlanders. Indeed, every possible element which
entered into the structure of this man’s mind, as well as
into the size and make of his body, combined to constitute him the very model of a Highland peasant. He was exactly of the middle size, and well made, with just as much flesh on his bones as simply served to cover them, and no more. He had a face full of expression, which conveyed most unequivocally the shrewdness, cunning, acuteness, and caustic humour so strongly characteristic of his race. Donald Gunn surpassed his whole neighbourhood and, perhaps, the whole parish, in all rustic and athletic exercises. At a brawl, in which,
however, he but seldom engaged, none could exceed him
in the dexterity and rapidity with which he brandished his
cudgel; and though many might exceed him in physical strength, his address and alert activity often proved him
more than a match for an assailant of much greater weight and size. Then in dancing he was without a rival. With inimitable ease and natural grace he kept time, with eye and foot and fingers, to all the minute modulations of a Highland reel or Strathspey. He was also a good shot, a
successful deer stalker, angler, smuggler, and poacher.
Donald, however, with all these secular and peculiarly
Highland recommendations was little better than a
heathen. He was always under suspicion, and latterly
made some hair-breadth escapes from the gallows, for he
was, by habit and repute, a most notorious thief.
Donald Sage

The ceremony of smooring the fire is artistic and symbolic, and is performed with loving care. The embers are evenly spread on the hearth, which is generally in the middle of the floor, and formed into a circle. This circle is then divided into three equal sections, a small boss being left in the middle. A peat is laid between each section, each peat touching the boss, which forms a common centre. The first peat is laid down in the name of the God of Life, the second in name of the God of Peace, the third name of the God of Grace. The centre is then covered over with ashes sufficient to subdue but not enough to extinguish the fire in name of the Three of Light. The heap slightly raised in the centre is called ‘Tulla nan Tn’, the Hearth of the Three. When the
smooring operation is complete the woman closes her eyes, stretches her hand, and softly intones one of the many formulae current for these occasions:

The sacred Three
To save,
To shield,
To surround
The hearth,
The house,
The household
This eve,
This night
Oh this eve,
This night,
And every night
Each single night.
Alexander Carmichael (1900)

I am returned from Scotland charmed with my expedition: it is of the Highlands I speak: the Lowlands are worth seeing once, but the Mountains are extatic, and ought to be visited in pilgrimage once a year. None but these monstrous creatures of God know how to join so much beauty with so much horror. A fig for your poets, Painters, Gardiners, and Clergymen, that have not been
among them: their imagination can be made up of
nothing but bowling-greens, flowering shrubs, horse-
ponds, Fleet-ditches, shell-grottoes, & Chinese-rails.
Thomas Gray

The air of the Highlands is pure, and consequently
healthy, insomuch that I have known such cures done by
it as might be thought next to miracles I mean in
distemper of the lungs, as coughs, consumptions &c.
Edward Burt

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.
Robert Burns, (1759 - 1796)
Scottish poet. My Heart's in the Highlands.

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland lass!
William Wordsworth,
The Solitary Reaper

There lives in our Hghland neighbourhood, at a castle called Culloden, a gentleman whose hospitality is almost without bounds. It is the custom of that house, at the first visit or introduction, to take up your freedom by cracking his nut, as he terms it, that is, a cocoa-shell, which holds a pint, filled with champagne, or such other sort of wine as you shall choose. Few go away sober at any time, and for the greatest part of his guests, in the conclusion, they cannot go at all.
Edward Burt

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