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Loch Lomond To Oban

For the next thirty miles the road closely followed the west shore of Loch Lomond, and for the larger part of the way we had a magnificent panorama of the lake and the numberless green islands that rose out of its silvery waters. Our view in places was cut off by the fine country estates that lay immediately on the shores of the lake, but the grounds, rich with shrubbery and bright with flowers, were hardly less pleasing than the lake itself. These prevailed at the southern portion of the lake only, and for at least twenty miles the road closely followed the shore, leading around short turns on the very edges of steep embankments or over an occasional sharp hill, conditions that made careful driving necessary. Just across the lake, which gradually grew narrower as we went north, lay the low Scotch mountains, their green outlines subdued by a soft blue haze, but forming a striking background to the ever-varying scenery of the lake and opposite shore. Near the northern end on the farther side is the entrance to the Trosachs, made famous by Scott's "Lady of the Lake." The roads to this region are closed to motors, the only instance that I remember where public highways were thus interdicted. The lake finally dwindled to a brawling mountain stream, which we followed for several miles to Crianlarich, a rude little village nestling at the foot of the rugged hills. From here we ran due west to Oban, and for twenty miles of the distance the road was the worst we saw in Scotland, being rough and covered with loose, sharp stones that were ruinous to tires. It ran through a bleak, unattractive country almost devoid of habitations and with little sign of life excepting the flocks of sheep grazing on the short grasses that covered the steep, stony hillsides. The latter half of the distance the surroundings are widely different, an excellent though winding and narrow road leading us through some of the finest scenes of the Highlands. Especially pleasing was the ten-mile jaunt along the north shore of Loch Awe, with the glimpses of Kilchurn Castle which we caught through occasional openings in the thickly clustered trees on the shore. Few ruins are more charmingly situated than Kilchurn, standing as it does on a small island rising out of the clear waters, the crumbling walls overgrown with ivy and wallflowers. The last fifteen miles were covered in record time for us, for it was growing exceedingly chilly as the night began to fall and the Scotch July day was as fresh and sharp as an American October.

Oban is one of the most charming of the north of Scotland resort towns, and is becoming one of the most popular. It is situated on a little land-locked bay, generally white in summer time with the sails of pleasure vessels. Directly fronting the town, just across the harbor, are several ranges of hills fading away into the blue mists of the distance and forming, together with the varying moods of sky and water, a delightful picture. Overhanging the town from the east is the scanty ruin of Dunollie Castle, little more than a shapeless pile of stone covered over with masses of ivy. Viewed from the harbor, the town presents a striking picture, and the most remarkable feature is the great colosseum on the hill. This is known as McCaig's Tower and was built by an eccentric citizen some years ago merely to give employment to his fellow townsmen. One cannot get an adequate idea of the real magnitude of the structure without climbing the steep hill and viewing it from the inside. It is a circular tower, pierced by two rows of windows, and is not less than three hundred feet in diameter, the wall ranging in height from thirty to seventy-five feet from the ground. It lends a most striking and unusual appearance to the town, but among the natives it goes by the name of "McCaig's Folly."

From Oban as a center, numberless excursions may be made to old castles, lakes of surpassing beauty and places of ancient and curious history. None of the latter are more famous than the island of Iona, lying about thirty-five miles distant and accessible by steamer two or three days of each week in summer time. We never regretted that we abandoned the car a day for the trip to this quaint spot and its small sister island, Staffa, famed for Fingall's cave and the curious natural columns formed by volcanic action. The round trip covers a distance of about seventy-five miles and occupies eight or ten hours. Iona is a very small island, with a population of no more than fifty, but it was a place of importance in the early religious history of Scotland; and its odd little cathedral, which is now in ruins, except the nave, but recently restored, was originally built in the Eleventh Century. Weird and strange indeed is the array of memorials rudely cut from Scotch granite that mark the resting places of the chiefs of many forgotten clans, while a much higher degree of art is shown in the regular and even delicate designs traced on the numerous old crosses still standing. In olden days Iona was counted sacred ground after the landing of St. Columba in 563, and its fame even extended to Sweden and Denmark, whose kings at one time were brought here for interment. We were fortunate in having a fine day, the sky being clear and the sea perfectly smooth. We were thus enabled to make landing at both isles, a thing that is often impossible on account of the weather. This circular trip, for the return is made by the Sound of Mull—is a remarkably beautiful one, the steamer winding in and out through the straits among the islands and between shores wild and broken, though always picturesque and often impressive. Many of the hills are crowned with ruined fortresses and occasionally an imposing modern summer residence is to be seen. Competent judges declare that provided the weather is fine no more delightful short excursion by steamer can be made on the British coast than the one just described. Three miles from Oban lies Dunstafnage Castle, a royal residence of the Pictish kings, bearing the marks of extreme antiquity. It occupies a commanding position on a point of land extending far into the sea and almost surrounded by water at high tide. We visited it in the fading twilight, and a lonelier, more ghostly place it would be hard to imagine. From this old castle was taken the stone of destiny upon which the Pictish kings were crowned, but which is now the support of the coronation chair in Westminster Abbey. A place so rich in romantic legend could not be expected to escape the knowledge of the Wizard of the North and Scott made more than one visit to this solitary ruin. As a result the story of Dunstafnage has been woven into the "Legend of Montrose" as "Ardenvohr" and the description may be easily recognized by any one who visits the old castle.

Oban is modern, a place of many and excellent hotels fronting on the bay. So far, only a small per cent of its visitors are Americans, and the indifferent roads leading to the town discourage the motorist. Had we adhered to the route outlined for us by the Motor Union Secretary, we should have missed it altogether. We had made a stop in the town two years before, and yet there are few places in Britain that we would rather visit a third time than Oban.

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