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Oban To Inverness

The north of Scotland is rapidly becoming little more than a pleasure ground for the people of the Kingdom, and its attractions are yearly drawing a larger number of Americans. There are practically no European visitors, but that is largely true of the entire Kingdom. The people of the Continent consider Britain a chilly, unattractive land. Its historic and literary traditions, so dear to the average American, who holds a common language, do not appeal to those who think their own countries superior to any other in these particulars.

It is only a natural consequence that Scotland, outside of the three or four largest cities, is becoming, like Switzerland, a nation of hotelkeepers, and very excellent ones they are. The Scotch hotels average as good as any in the world. One finds them everywhere in the Highlands. Every lake, every ruin frequented by tourists has its hotel, many of them fine structures of native granite, substantially built and splendidly furnished.

We left Oban over the route by which we came, since no other was recommended to motorists. Our original plan to follow the Caledonian Canal to Inverness was abandoned on account of difficult roads and numerous ferries with poor and infrequent service. After waiting three hours to get an "accumulator" which had been turned over to a local repair man thirty-six hours before with instructions to have it charged and returned promptly, we finally succeeded in getting off. This delay is an example of those which we encountered again and again from failure to get prompt service, especially when we were making an effort to get away before ten or eleven in the morning.

It was no hardship to follow more leisurely than before the road past Loch Awe, whose sheet of limpid water lay like a mirror around Kilchurn Castle under the cloudless, noonday sky. A little farther on, at Dalmally, we paused at a pleasant old country hotel, where the delicious Scotch strawberries were served fresh from the garden. It was a quaint, clean, quiet place, and the landlord told us that aside from the old castles and fine scenery in the vicinity, its chief attraction to guests was trout-fishing in neighboring streams. We were two days in passing through the heart of the Highlands from Oban to Inverness over about two hundred miles of excellent road running through wild and often beautiful scenery, but there were few historic spots as compared with the coast country. The road usually followed the edge of the hills, often with a lake or mountain stream on one hand. From Crianlarich we followed the sparkling Dochart until we reached the shore of Loch Tay, about twenty miles distant. From the mountainside we had an unobstructed view of this narrow but lovely lake, lying for a distance of twenty miles between ridges of sharply rising hills. White, low-hung clouds half hid the mountains on the opposite side of the loch, giving the delightful effect of light and shadow for which the Scotch Highlands are famous and which the pictures of Watson, Graham and Farquharson have made familiar to nearly everyone.

At the northern end of the lake we caught distant glimpses of the battlemented towers of Taymouth Castle, home of the Marquis of Breadalbane, which, though modern, is one of the most imposing of the Scotch country seats. If the castle itself is imposing, what shall we say of the estate, extending as it does westward to the Sound of Mull, a distance of one hundred miles, a striking example of the inequalities of the feudal system. Just before we crossed the bridge over the Tay River near the outlet of the lake, we noticed a gray old mansion with many Gothic towers and gables, Grandtully Castle, made famous by Scott as the Tully-Veolan of Waverly. Near by is Kinniard House, where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote "Treasure Island."

A few miles farther on we came to Pitlochry, a surprisingly well built resort with excellent hotels and a mammoth "Hydropathic" that dominates the place from a high hill. The town is situated in the very center of the Highlands, surrounded by hills that supply the gray granite used in its construction; and here we broke our journey for the night.

Our way to Inverness was through a sparsely inhabited, wildly broken country, with half a dozen mean-looking villages at considerable distances from each other and an occasional hut or wayside inn between. Although it was July and quite warm for the north of Scotland, the snow still lingered on many of the low mountains, and in some places it seemed that we might reach it by a few minutes' walk. There was little along the road to remind one of the stirring times or the plaided and kilted Highlander that Scott has led us to associate with this country. We saw one old man, the keeper of a little solitary inn in the very heart of the hills, arrayed in the full glory of the old-time garb, plaid, tartan, sporran and skene-dhu, all set off by the plumed Glengarry cap, a picturesque old fellow indeed. And we met farther on the way a dirty-looking youth with his bagpipes slung over his shoulder, in dilapidated modern garb he was anything but a fit descendant of the minstrels whose fame has come down to us in song and story. Still, he was glad to play for us, and despite his general resemblance to an every-day American tramp, it was something to have heard the skirl of the bagpipe in the Pass of Killiekrankie. And after all, the hills, the vales and the lochs were there, and everywhere on the low green mountains grazed endless flocks of sheep. They lay leisurely in the roadway or often trotted unconcernedly in front of the car, occasioning at times a speed limit even more unsatisfactory than that imposed in the more populous centers by the police traps. Incidentally we learned that the finest sheep in the world, and vast numbers of them, are produced in Great Britain. When we compare them with the class of animals raised in America it is easy to see why our wool and mutton average so greatly inferior.

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