When on the South Circuit of the High Court Lord Cockburn occasionally resided at Compstone, Twynholm. He kept a journal in which he recorded some of his forays in the Stewartry.

Circuit Journeys, by the late Lord Cockburn.

CUMPSTONE, near Kirkcudbright, Thursday, 26th September 1839. — We went to Dumfries last Sunday evening, under the influence of a mild and bright moon, and left it next day about eleven, and went round the coast by Southwick to Dalbeattie, and from thence to Gelston Castle, where we remained till Wednesday forenoon, the whole distance being only about thirty-two miles. The early part of the day was foggy, but after twelve it was calm, warm, and sunny.

We stopped and did homage to New Abbey, which I had not seen for above thirty years. It is a beautiful and venerable fragment. It would be difficult to find any building where the stone and the ivy combine more harmoniously. But though as yet time has only blended them beautifully into one composition, and breathed an unbroken reverence over both, the further insinuation and clustering of vegetable life ought to be repressed ; as it is, it has covered quite enough. The chief value, however, of this abbey, consists in its standing as a monument of the brutality of Scotland in these matters. It is only about twenty-five years ago that the whole pile was not only sold, but was bought actually for the purpose of being taken down and made into stone dykes! And this purpose was partly carried into effect. No proprietor could have made such a transaction in any country of right feeling, nor in such a country could any person have dared to have avowed such a design. The liberality (combined, I hope, with the indignation) of six or eight gentlemen saved the residue of the ruin by repurchasing it. It is theirs still, but I grieve to say that another specimen of our unworthiness to possess such relics is to be found in the disgraceful state in which it is kept. It is a byre. Beasts!

"The unlettered muse" seems never to have entered the churchyard. There is not even an attempt at an inscription in it, beyond names and dates. The name and the years are there, but no holy text around is strewed. They have even removed (at least, I could not find it), the stone which, when I was last there, contained the posthumous defamation of first stating that a young lady was an affectionate sister, and a dutiful daughter, etc., and then adding "and a chaste virgin.”

I had been told (but only by Galwegians) to expect something uncommonly fine along this part of the shores of the Solway, and from this highway. I was disappointed. It is the stupidest of all our Firths. Few rocks, no islands, and especially no edging of picturesque mountains. For to point, as the natives always do, to the dim ghosts of some distant hills, of which only the outlines are visible, and to explain, with an air of triumph, these are the English mountains, is mere stuff. They are too far off to be felt as parts of the real picture. They may serve the part of remote distance, but not of foreground.

Southwick is too far from the sea, at least for a place so near it; but still it has all the appearance of being excellent.

We stayed at Gelston — ugliness itself — till yesterday forenoon, that is, from the forenoon of Monday the 23d, till the forenoon of Wednesday the 25th, when we came here (to Cumpston) eight miles further.

CUMPSTON, Friday, 27th September 1839, Night. — Went up the Tarf yesterday, seeing and visiting. On the way home, I went with Edward Maitland over the eminence called Tongueland Hill, from which there is a good view of the Royal Burgh of Kirkcudbright and its waters, and down to the Dee, at present a noble stream, with its bridge, one of the largest, though certainly not one of the handsomest, arches in Scotland. A bad day.

To-day we went and saw the Abbey of Dundrennan. Though greatly abridged, it is still a beautiful and interesting mass. But every other feeling is superseded by one's horror and indignation at the state in which it is kept. If it had been an odious and offensive building, which the Crown and the adjoining landowners were trying to obliterate as fast as possible, and to render disgusting and inaccessible in the meantime, what else could they do? Five pounds worth of draining, £20 worth of clearing and levelling, and £200 of masonry, would preserve it, in decency, for centuries. But (though a little has been done, and ill done) it is left a victim to every element, man included, by which architecture can be effaced. Not a trace of it will be discoverable in fifty years. Arches and windows might be rescued by the labour of one man for a single day; but it is dealt with as if spite hated it. No execration can do justice to the careless or selfish insensibility that can obstinately persevere in the daily perpetration of such atrocity. My excellent and esteemed host, in whose house I now am, and on whose ground this abbey stands, is the chief delinquent. And the value of the case is that he is a most liberal and right-minded gentleman, because this shows that the mischief proceeds from no positively improper object, but from that absence of right feeling which, on such subjects, seems to be nearly universal among Scotch proprietors. They gaze on the glorious ruins of noble buildings, over which time and history delight to linger, and which give their estates all the dignity they possess, with exactly the same emotion that the cattle do, to which these impressive edifices are generally consigned. It is a humiliating, national scandal.

A rainy, rainy day. Where's the old rainbow?

CUMPSTON, Saturday, 28th September 1839, Night. — The first half of this day had a famine-like appearance. Heavy, stook-rotting rain. About twelve it cleared up, and we had a rather splendid day for Cally. We passed some hours there. I had seen it before, but not since the new front has been added to the house, and the marble lobby made, and the furniture put in. The place, with its wood, its well-kept home ground, its varied surface, its distant, bounding hills, and its obvious extensive idea of a great and beautiful domain, is one of the finest in Scotland. As to the house — granite and marble though it be — and though its portico be designed by Papworth and admired by Playfair, I was disappointed. Solid, grave, and in good proportion, it ought to please, and I fancy I am wrong in not being sufficiently pleased. But for such a place, and such a house, it is all too small. And accordingly the chief defence of it, particularly of the portico, is that it is of granite, a strong stone, and that there are no larger granite columns in this country. Well, neither are there larger gold or larger gingerbread pillars, but if, whatever their substance be, they be not sufficiently large to satiate the architectural appetite, the peculiarity or difficulty of their material is nothing. Granite is admirable for fortifications, bridges, or other works of eternity, where durability is the only beauty. But for houses it is too cold (I speak only of the grey), and its seams don't admit of being well joined; and though great reverence be due to hardness, and to any size, however small, that for the material, is unusually large, it won't do to give us a mansion of great pretension, though perhaps the pretension were of modesty, and then, when we object to its want of greatness, to say, it is built of very hard and rare stone.

The marble lobby is new in Scotland, and beautiful. But for a thing of the kind, it is too little and far too fine for a mere common lobby. I advise whoever means to lay out enough of money, to cover a lobby with pure white marble, and to adorn it with beautiful busts, to put it well into the inside of the edifice, and to use it for sculpture, or music, or anything dignified, rather than as a passage.

The factor told me that the whole marble of this lobby was cut, and polished, and put up by a common workman from Whitehaven.

I wish I had the two busts of Napoleon and Washington.

CUMPSTON, Sunday Night, 30th September 1839. — A beautiful day. I passed it in the temple not made with hands. But I have nothing to record. The Dee, after the late rains, was glorious; not so much however from fulness, as from rugged, foaming whiteness. The prospect from Tongueland Hill is beautiful and peculiar. Kirkcudbright stands like a little Venice, in the midst of its surrounding waters.

THORNHILL, Monday Night, 30th September 1839. — We left Cumpston to-day about half-past ten, and got here, by New Galloway, about half-past five.

The whole of these thirty-eight or forty miles were new to me, and we had a perfect day for enjoying them.

The space is all partly agricultural, and partly pastoral; that is, better than either separately; though with a great preponderance of the pastoral. With moor and mountain enough to preserve the feeling of wildness, the prevailing character of the range is that of advancing cultivation, interrupted by many a tumbling stream, and broken by innumerable hillocks, and streaks and masses of wood, by which the whole surface of this half Highland country is diversified.

A shepherd, with whom I had a crack, was much offended at the slight put upon his river by my asking him if it was the "Tarf"? "Tarf! deil a drap o' Tarf's in't. That's the black water o' Dee! the auncientest water in Scotland.”

By far the most striking thing I've seen of late was the Loch and Castle of Kenmure. It is a very curious scene. Whenever we hear of lakes in Scotland, we are apt to think of Highland ones, and to be disappointed if we do not find rocky promontories, and the water set in a deep frame of mountains, and all the other circumstances of Celtic scenery. There is nothing of this in Kenmure, nor in almost any of our southern lochs. Its bank is flat on the one side, and not picturesque on the other, though there be a hill, which however, with the exception of the single peak (of Dennans), is lumpish, and from the surface not lofty. But the cultivation on the low ground gave the loch an air of civilisation, and the water lay shining throughout its whole extent, under a bright, soft sun; and everything was calm and silent, while at the upper end the dark rebel tower frowned from its high mound, over all this peaceful loveliness, as if still retaining the scornful spirit which drove its owner to the ruin of his house in 1715. We stopped and made a slight, unobtrusive inspection of the restored Peer's eyrie. Everything denotes poverty. Money laid out chiefly on repairs and on planting, would make it a proud feudal keep, with a worthy subjected domain. One of the best, because one of the most barbarous, prospects of what is called the castle, is from the bridge, about half a mile after leaving New Galloway. There is only a streak of the loch visible and very little wood, but the high, solitary, old building is seen, backed by a bare moory mountain, and its vassal village cowering at its feet, exactly as it was in the days of the Stewarts. The Peer, now in his 90th year, I understand, is as much of the old school as his tower is.

CUMPSTON, Monday Forenoon, 23d September 1844. — Still here, and shall be so for a few days longer. It is an excellent and respectable place, with a competent portion of old wood. There are not many seats in this country with so much well-managed young wood, and not one that I know of with better turf. The pasture might be contended for in England. But, in general, the turf of Galloway has not the poor yellow verdure of the turf of ordinary Scotland, but is the good, firm, clean, green turf of the south. There is a delightful variety of surface here, and some very good prospects. The defects of the place are the want of level ground — though properly conducted walks might abate this — the absence of water, and the presence of the paltry puddle of ebbing and flowing mud, which the natives flatter themselves is the sea.

I have revisited Dundrennan Abbey, and claim the principal merit of its being in the state it now is. The objurgation which I have recorded in 1839 was freely administered verbally. This roused Thomas Maitland, now of Dundrennan, and he roused Lord Selkirk and others; and the result is that the Commissioners of Woods and Forests have cleaned out the rubbish, and drained the ground, and made some judicious repairs, and cleared away the abominable offices of the manse, and enclosed the whole. It is still far from what a reverenced ruin ought to be, because its preservation requires much more pinning and cementing, and purity; but compared to what it was, it is humanity to barbarism. It is another of several examples, that none of the hallowed architectural remains of Scotland, except those belonging to the Crown, will ever be kept in decent order. Something may always be expected to be done by the Woods and Forests, as Elgin, Arbroath, and Dundrennan attest. It is plain that every private ruin is destined to disappear. Mr. Maxwell of Terregles, the owner of Lincluden, a most liberal gentleman, and whose taste for old relics is excited by his Catholic faith, complained to me that he could not get that building preserved from the mischief of tourists and Dumfries picnickers. And what had this man of fortune, residing only two miles off, done to preserve it? Put a wall round it, or planted a keeper there, or prosecuted any profane hand, or commanded reverence for that beautiful and beautifully situated fragment by the order in which it has been kept? No, none of these. But he leaves it unenclosed, and may see the tenants' cattle in it any time he may choose, and lets spoliation proceed unchecked, and leaves every new ton of rubbish to lie, for the nettles, where it may fall. What can he expect from a broken placard, intimating that Mr. Maxwell of Terregles "requests" blackguards to do as little mischief as they like? Does he do no more for his pheasants?

I have also been at Cally again, and I retract much of what I have formerly said of that house. It is not too small; and, indeed, being in just proportions, size is not very material. The joining of the stones is almost entirely concealed by the angular groove in which they are set. And, on the whole, it is a beautiful portico; and Papworth's taste may be observed in all the internal details.

CUMPSTON, Morning, Wednesday, 25th September 1844. — After another of many visits to Kirkcudbright and other places, George Maitland and I closed the day by a pilgrimage on foot to the monument raised a few years ago to the covenanting martyrs in the Glenken Hills. We found it about seven miles from this — a small, and rather ill-built, granite obelisk, placed beside the spot where James Clement and four others were murdered in 1685, and Clement buried, in a hollow, well suited by its seclusion for the concealment of the persecuted, yet equally suited, on rising a few steps, to inspire them by a splendid prospect of still, solitary plains and mountains. The funds for the erection of this testimony were produced by a sermon preached on the spot upon the 11th of September 1831, to which, notwithstanding the month and the elevation, about 10,000 people listened. So unchanged are the religious feelings of the Scotch; so unextinguishable is indignation of persecution and admiration of courage. Yet this is the people whom an ignorant Government lately thought would submit quietly to a greatly increased interference of patrons and Civil Courts with their spiritual concerns. The Free Church is the pillar to this folly.

CUMPSTON, Thursday Morning, 26th September 1844. — Yesterday was given to an expedition to the lighthouse on the island of Little Ross, about six or seven miles below Kirkcudbright, Some rode and some drove, and George Maitland walked till we all came to the alehouse on the peninsula of Great Ross, where we took boat, and after about a mile's sailing, were landed on the island. It is one of the lesser lights. All its machinery was explained to us by a sensible keeper. I never understood the thing before. The prospect from the top, and, indeed, from every part of the island, is beautiful. But I was more interested in the substantial security and comfort of the whole buildings, both for scientific and for domestic purposes. No Dutchman's summer-house could be tidier. Everything, from the brass and the lenses of the light to the kitchen, and even to the coal-house, of each of the two keepers, was as bright as a jeweller's shop.

Eleven people lunched at the alehouse on our return upon the oatcakes, cheese, butter, and ale of the house. In a frenzy of generosity I resolved to pay the bill, and was rewarded by finding it amounted to only one sixpence. There's a hotel for you! I shall tell this to William Clerk, and he'll take up house there.

George Maitland and I walked home - a tough tramp. But it lay all the way along the shore, and mostly through ----- Woods. Admirable woods most scandalously mismanaged. He is one of the poor creatures who have become the slaves of their own vermin. His pleasure is in death. He must be perpetually killing something. And when his existence reaches any unhappy season in which there is nothing killable at home, he goes to Sweden or Norway and torments the unprotected fishes of these countries. There is one other rising youth in Scotland at present who soars far beyond what is called game, and, for mere pleasure, kills sheep and poultry, and particularly swine, the shedding of whose blood is his especial delight. These are Young Scotland. -----, grovelling in his own tastes, sacrifices everything to the creation of game. His estate is a great preserve, it is absolutely crawling with rabbits. For them, and for hares and pheasants, everything else is neglected. The worse state his woods get into, he thinks it the better, so as they be only suffering from growing into tangled masses of branches and of underwood. Tall jungles are his object. I could overlook the meanness of his taste, for it is his own loss; and I could almost endure the cruel war which he and his mounted patrols of gamekeepers carry on against the people, because he gets properly cursed for it; but it is impossible to forgive the selfishness which bequeaths the beautiful scenery which has the misfortune to call him master in a state of decay to the next generation. We passed to-day through miles of the finest sweet chestnuts — all under sacrifice, in order that, during his hour, he may boast of his battues.

CUMPSTON, Friday, 27th September 1844, 4 p.m. — Yesterday was (almost) wasted on a voyage from Kirkcudbright to a place about six miles below, on the east side of the bay, called Dirk Hatteraick's Cave. The party consisted of George and James Maitland, a Captain Dun, with whom, when he was in the Kirkcudbright Militia, I, a gallant captain of volunteers, was quartered in Leith, in the year of our Lord 1807, the present provost, Mr. Gordon, the old provost, Mr. Macbean, myself, and four of a crew. Like all other aquatic expeditions of pleasure, the only pleasure was in getting out of the boat. A squally, dull day, a leaky boat, bad oars, and no captain, completed our comfort. The only thing that diverted me was the constant advices and entreaties of each provost to the other how to steer. The old one was clearly the best seaman, and indeed was admitted to be the best on the river. But then he was out, and a Whig. So, out of respect to the Tory, who was in, the ruling authority on shore took, and though plainly unfit, was allowed to keep the helm on the water: and if the point had been out or in at the Council board, the altercations could not have been more keen or frequent. "Keep her head up!" "Keep her head down!" "Keep off yon bank, can't ye!" "What the deevil are ye doing now?" "Oh, man, gie me less of your advice!" "Hullo! We’ll be all swampt in a minute." "I wish you would try the rudder yourself." "Na, faith; keep it, since you've got it; only keep her head up," etc.

And, after all, the said cave is perfect nonsense. A narrow, wet, dirty slit in a rock, produced by the washing away of the loose matter between two vertically laminated rocks, and answering Scott's scenery in no one respect, either outside or in. The coast is rocky and bold.

To-day I went to Tongueland Hill to have another view of Kirkcudbright. I doubt if there be a more picturesque country town in Scotland. Small, clean, silent, and respectable; it seems (subject, however, to one enormous deduction) the type of a place to which decent characters and moderate purses would retire for quiet comfort. The deduction arises from the dismal swamps of deep, sleechy mud, by which it is nearly surrounded at low tide. It is a dreadful composition. And what fields, and streaks, and gullies of it! The tide rises at an average about twenty or twenty-five feet, and often a great deal more — sometimes thirty-five. This great flow fills up all the bays, making a brim-full sea for three miles above the town, and for six or eight below it. It is then a world of waters. But when the sea, ashamed of its advancement, shrinks back, what a change! It becomes a world of sleech. It is worse than even at Chepstow, where the abomination, though deeper, does not cover so extensive a surface. I believe that painters don't dislike this substance, which they don't require to touch. It is not unpicturesque. Of a leaden grey colour, very shiny, in the sun even silvery in appearance; utterly solitary, except to flocks of longbilled and long red-legged sea birds, and to occasionally a heavy fisherman working at a stranded boat in huge boots; and its dull plains interspersed with odd streaks and pools of shallow water, it has hues and objects enough to afford subjects for many pictures. But, Lord, how horrible it is for real life! Think of being surrounded by a dirty substance, impossible to be touched, and most dangerous to be gone upon. A town surrounded by a lake of bird-lime!

It is only at full tide, or nearly so, that Kirkcudbright is to be viewed therefore, or at such a distance that the difference between water and watery mud is lost. And then, how beautifully does it stand! With its brown ruin of a castle, its church spire, the spire of its old town-house, and the square tower of its new one, all seen above its edging of trees, and the whole village surrounded by wooded hills and apparently glittering sea. There is no point from which it can be viewed, whether high or low, and I have seen it from all possible points, at which it does not present the same appearance of picturesque peacefulness, of intermingled wood and water. From several aspects it is the Venice of Scotland.

So I must go and pack up. For we plan being in Bonaly to-morrow, but only by being off soon after five in the morning.

But I have forgot the two humble and very rustic churchyards of Christkirk and Senwick, both on the western or right bank of the river; Christkirk nearly opposite Kirkcudbright, Senwick about five miles lower down. If the Scotch could keep a churchyard decent, the positions and solitude of these two would make them beautiful. Few of their epitaphs are old, and not one good. Mere names and dates.

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