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Inverness To Stonehaven

A clean, quiet, charming city is Inverness, "the capital of the Highlands," as the guide-books have it. It is situated on both shores of its broad, sparkling river, so shallow that the small boys with turned-up pantaloons wade across it in summer time, while an arm of the sea defines the boundary on the northeast. Though tradition has it that Macbeth built a castle on the site of the present structure, it disappeared centuries ago, and there is now little evidence of antiquity to be found in the town. The modern castle is a massive, rambling, brown-stone building less than a hundred years old, now serving as a county court. The cathedral is recent, having been completed in the last quarter of a century. It is an imposing church of red stone, the great entrance being flanked by low, square-topped towers. As a center for tourists, Inverness is increasingly popular and motor cars are very common. The roads of the surrounding country are generally excellent, and a trip of two hundred miles will take one to John O'Groats, the extreme northern point of Scotland. The country around has many spots of interest. Cawdor Castle, where tradition says Macbeth murdered Duncan, is on the Nairn road, and on the way to this one may also visit Culloden Moor, a grim, shelterless waste, where the adherents of Prince Charlie were defeated April 16th, 1746. This was the last battle fought on British soil, and the site is marked by a rude round tower built from stones gathered from the battlefield.

From Inverness an unsurpassed highway leads to Aberdeen, a distance of a little over one hundred miles. It passes through a beautiful country, the northeastern Scottish Lowlands, which looked as prosperous and productive as any section we saw. The smaller towns appeared much better than the average we had so far seen in Scotland; Nairn, Huntly, Forres, Keith and Elgin more resembling the better English towns of similar size than Scotch towns which we had previously passed through. At Elgin are the ruins of its once splendid cathedral, which in its best days easily ranked as the largest and most imposing church in Scotland. Time has dealt hardly with it, and the shattered fragments which remain are only enough to confirm the story of its magnificence. Fire, and vandals who tore the lead from the roof for loot having done their worst, the cathedral served the unsentimental Scots of the vicinity as a stone-quarry until recent years, but it is now owned by the crown and every precaution taken to arrest further decay.

The skies were lowering when we left Inverness and the latter half of the journey was made in the hardest rainstorm we encountered on our tour. We could not see ten yards ahead of us and the water poured down the hills in torrents, yet our car ran smoothly on, the fine macadam road being little affected by the deluge. The heavy rain ceased by the time we reached Inverurie, a gray, bleak-looking little town, closely following a winding street, but the view from the high bridge which we crossed just on leaving the place made full amends for the general ugliness of the village.

It would be hard to find anywhere a more beautiful city than Aberdeen, with her clean, massively built structures of native gray granite, thickly sprinkled with mica facets that make it fairly glitter in the sunlight. Everything seems to have been planned by the architect to produce the most pleasing effect, and careful note must have been taken of surroundings and location in fitting many of the public buildings into their niches. We saw few more imposing structures in Britain than the new postoffice at Aberdeen, and it was typical of the solidity and architectural magnificence of the Queen City of the North. But Aberdeen will be on the route of any tourist who goes to Northern Scotland, so I will not write of it here. It is a great motoring center, with finely built and well equipped garages.

As originally planned we were to go southward from Aberdeen by the way of Braemar and Balmoral in the very heart of the Highland country, the route usually followed by British motorists. It passes through wild scenery, but the country has few historic attractions. The Motor Union representative had remarked that we should probably want to spend several days at Braemar, famous for its scenic surroundings, the wild and picturesque dales, lakes and hills near at hand; but to Americans, from the country of the Yellowstone and Yosemite, the scenery of Scotland can be only an incident in a tour. From this consideration, we preferred to take the coast road southward, which, though it passes through a comparatively tame looking country, is thickly strewn with places replete with stirring and romantic incidents of Scottish history. Nor had we any cause to regret our choice.

Fifteen miles south of Aberdeen we came in sight of Dunnottar Castle, lying about two miles from the highway. We left the car by the roadside and followed the footpath through the fields. The ruin stands on a high, precipitous headland projecting far out into the ocean and cut off from the land side by a deep, irregular ravine, and the descent and ascent of the almost perpendicular sides was anything but an easy task. A single winding footpath leads to the grim old gateway, and we rang the bell many times before the custodian admitted us. Inside the gate the steep ascent continues through a rude, tunnellike passageway, its sides for a distance of one hundred feet or more pierced with many an embrasure for archers or musketeers. Emerging from this we came into the castle court, the center of the small plateau on the summit of the rock. Around us rose the broken, straggling walls, bare and bleak, without a shred of ivy or wall-flower to hide their grim nakedness. The place was typical of a rude, semi-barbarous age, an age of rapine, murder and ferocious cruelty, and its story is as terrific as one would anticipate from its forbidding aspect. Here it was the wont of robber barons to retire with their prisoners and loot; and later, on account of the inaccessibility, state and political prisoners were confined here from time to time. In the frightful "Whig's Vault," a semi-subterranean dungeon, one hundred and sixty covenanters, men and women, were for several months confined by orders of the infamous Claverhouse. A single tiny window looking out on the desolate ocean furnished the sole light and air for the great cavern, and the story of the suffering of the captives is too dreadful to tell here. The vault was ankle deep in mire and so crowded were the prisoners that no one could sit without leaning upon another. In desperation and at great risk, a few attempted to escape from the window, whence they clambered down the precipitous rock; but most of them were re-taken, and after frightful tortures were thrown into a second dungeon underneath the first, where light and air were almost wholly excluded. Such was Scotland in the reign of Charles Stuart II, and such a story seemed in keeping with the vast, dismal old fortress.

But Dunnottar, secluded and lonely as it was, did not escape the far-reaching arm of the Lord Protector, and in 1562 his cannon, planted on the height opposite the headland, soon brought the garrison to terms. It was known that the Scottish regalia, the crown believed to be the identical one worn by Bruce at his coronation, the jewelled scepter and the sword of state presented to James IV by the pope, had been taken for safety to Dunnottar, held in repute as the most impregnable stronghold in the North. The English maintained a close blockade by sea and land and were in strong hopes of securing the coveted relics. The story is that Mrs. Granger, the wife of a minister of a nearby village, who had been allowed by the English to visit the castle, on her departure carried the relics with her, concealed about her clothing. She passed through the English lines without interference, and the precious articles were safely disposed of by her husband, who buried them under the flagstones in his church at Kinneff, where they remained until the restoration of 1660. The English were intensely disappointed at the loss. The minister and his wife did not escape suspicion and were even subjected to torture, but they bravely refused to give information as to the whereabouts of the regalia.

We wandered about, following our rheumatic old guide, who pointed out the different apartments to us and, in Scotch so broad that we had to follow him very closely, told us the story of the fortress. From the windows everywhere was the placid, shimmering summer sea, its surface broken into silvery ripples by the fresh morning wind, but it was left to the imagination to conceive the awful desolation of Dunnottar Castle on a gray and stormy day. The old man conducted us to the keep, and I looked over a year's record in the visitors' book without finding a single American registered, and was more than ever impressed as to the manner in which the motor car will often bring the tourist from the States into a comparatively undiscovered country. The high tower of the keep, several hundred feet above the sea, afforded scope for a most magnificent outlook. One could get a full sweep of the bleak and sterile country through which we had passed, lying between Aberdeen and Stonehaven, and which Scott celebrated as the Muir of Drumthwacket. It was with a feeling of relief that we passed out of the forbidding portals into the fresh air of the pleasant July day, leaving the old custodian richer by a few shillings, to wonder that the "American Invasion" had reached this secluded old fortress on the wild headland washed by the German Ocean.

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