By Louis Stott
Reproduced from The Voice with kind permission
Farewell to the land where the clouds love to rest,Walter Scott Rob Roy
Like the shroud of the dead, on the mountain’s cold breast;
To the cataract’s roar where the eagles reply,
And the lake her lone bosom expands to the sky
Inversnaid is where Walter Scott first encountered ‘The Trossachs”. At the Garrison of Inversnaid, the military fort built to contain the MacGregors, he found the key under the door when he was exploring the place. The Garrison is close to the mouth of the Snaid, the burn which gives the place its name. The Falls of Inversnaid are situated on the Arklet where it tumbles into Loch Lomond.; hence they are sometimes called the Arklet Falls.
Tourists only have to walk a few steps from the Hotel to see them. Most prominent are twin falls, between ten and fifteen metres in height, immediately above the loch. A footbridge, crossed by the West Highland Way, traverses the falls. In spate these rumbustious falls can be very impressive, but the Arklet can be much attenuated in dry weather. Further up, round a corner, is a fine, higher fall which is well seen from an old path, now incorporated in a circular hill trail leading from the hotel to Rob Roy’s View.
However, it was the Wordsworths who made the reputation of Inversnaid. One of the ferryman’s daughters made a lasting impression on William, who celebrated her in one of his better Scottish poems, ‘To a Highland Girl’, which ends with a memorable evocation of Inversnaid:
And these grey rocks; that household lawn
Those trees, a veil just half withdrawn
This fall of water that doth make
A murmur near the silent lake;
This little bay; a quiet road
That holds in shelter thy abode
In truth together do ye seem
Like something fashioned in a dream.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89), on his only visit to the Highlands – and that lasting for only a couple of days – discovered Inversnaid which gave rise to one of the most famous poems in the English language. Its famous sprung rhythm exactly captures the pace of this mountain stream. In a letter, Hopkins describes Loch Lomond in the summer of 1881:
The day was dark and partly hid the lake, yet it did not altogether disfigure it, but gave a pensive, or solemn beauty which left a lasting impression on me.
The poem is dealt with in detail in a beautifully illustrated book, Landscape and Inscape by Peter Milward and Raymond Schoder (1975):
This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
A wind-puff bonnet of fawn-froth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.
Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the brae that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.
What would the world do, once bereft
Of wet and of wilderness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
In 1907 one of the first hydroelectric turbines was
installed to provide electricity for the relatively remotely situated hotel at
Inversnaid. Between 1909 and 1914 Glasgow dammed Loch Arklet, and the material
was brought to Balloch, and conveyed in barges to a special landing stage south
of Inversnaid. Here a small powerhouse, was built, whence an aerial ropeway
carried the material necessary for the construction of the dam—chiefly
freestone, granite and Portland cement— to the site.
At one time Craigroyston was the projected site for a pumped storage scheme similar to those at Foyers and Cruachan. A storage reservoir was to be built in the corrie between Creag a’Bhocain and Cruinn a’ Bheinn, above Inversnaid, and power from the Grid would be used to pump water from Loch Lomond into it at night. The scheme was fought off, and it led to the foundation of the Friends of Loch Lomond.
Several writers, in addition to Scott and Hopkins, have found inspiration in Inversnaid. Both the American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife were lavish in their praise of Loch Lomond. In his English Notebooks (1871) Hawthorne (1804-64) wrote:
Close beside the hotel of Inversnaid is the waterfall; all night, my room being on that side of the house, I heard its voice, and I now ascended beside it to a point where it is crossed by a wooden bridge. . . . I rather think this particular stretch of Loch Lomond, in front of Inversnaid, is the most beautiful lake and mountain view I have ever seen. It is so shut in that you can see nothing beyond, nor would you suspect anything more to exist than this watery vale among the hills; except that, directly opposite, there is the beautiful glen of Inveruglas, which winds away among the feet of A’Chrois, Ben Ime, Ben Vane and Ben Vorlich, standing mist-inwreathed together. The mists this morning, had a very soft and beautiful effect, an John Muir, the famous founder of America’s National Parks, returned to Scotland and was at Inversnaid on July 22, 1893. There is a copy of a letter to Mrs. Muir about his visit from the Station Hotel, Oban on the Internet. d made the mountains tenderer than I have hitherto felt them to be; and they lingered about their heads like morning-dreams, flitting and retiring, and letting the sunshine in and snatching it away again.
John Muir, the famous founder of America’s National Parks, returned to Scotland and was at Inversnaid on July 22, 1893. There is a copy of a letter to Mrs. Muir about his visit from the Station Hotel, Oban on the Internet.
The Falls have been the subject of numerous illustrations In 1827 Vues Pittoresque De L’Ecosse, illustrated by François Alexandre Pernot 1793-1865 was published. The drawing of the Cascade d‘Inversnaid gives a highly dramatic view of the scene, suggesting the awe in which falls were held in those days.
One of the first photographs was by George Washington Wilson, the Victorian Photographer Royal:
The Falls were the subject of one of the earliest published chromo lithographs in A Souvenir of Scotland (1894):
The falls may not have the impact on visitors which they once did but they remain one of the principal attractions of Loch Lomond.