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TRIP ROUND THE NORTH OF SCOTLAND IN THE NEW STEAM-SHIP "BRITANNIA

"
IN 1845

From The Glasgow Courier
and Reprinted in The Colonial Times, published in Hobart, Tasmania, on Friday, September
26, 1845

In former times, before the era of steam navigation and railway locomotion, the
circumnavigation of the coast of Scotland would have beendeemed an achievement of
immense magnitude and one which would have taken as many weeks as it does now days to
accomplish. Knowing nothing from ocular demonstration of what is termed the Ultima Thule of
our own seagirt isle except what is supplied by books, the departure of the Britannia for her
appointed station presented an eligible opportunity for the gratification of an ancient desire to
scan withour own eyes the wild and magnificent scenery and interesting objects, which arrest
the attention of the voyageur at every turn in his course-a coursé which, as we have already
indicated, embraces the whole sea-coast line of Scotland, with the exception of an
inconsiderable part to the southward.

Bidding, therefore, an adieu to all matters appertaining to things diurnal, a brief space of time
sufficed to find us on the forenoon of Wednesday on board the splendidnew iron steam-ship
Britannia, Captain Peter Greig, the property of The Edinburgh and Dundee Steam-packet
Company.

It was about 11o'clock when we first put foot on deck, just as the leviathan steamer Achilles
was moving out of the harbour on her passage to Liverpool, followed by the Abercromby, a
large emigrantship, the latter being in tow of a steam-tug.

While one of our local artists was taking a sketch of the external proportions of the Britannia,
from the south bank of the river, we seized the opportunity of making a rapid survey of the
internal economy of her arrangements.

Although in some minor details unfinished particularly in the decorative department, one could
at a glance perceive that the tout ensemble possesses in admirable combination the dulce et
utile, the agreeable with the useful, comfortable in all the essentials and splendid without
ostentation or tawdry parade.

The decorations of the grand saloon and the private state cabins, are all in harmonious
keeping with the rules of correct taste and matured judgment.

The modern Gothic appears to be the pervading style of the furniture and up-fittings, which
are of solid oak. They are the workmanship of Mr. Thomas Anderson, of Ingram Street and are
certainly highly creditable tothe taste and tradesman-like abilities of that gentleman.

Luxurious couches and cushions of the finest velvet of Utrecht, of crimson andgreen, invite
repose, which the steady motion of the vessel is not calculated to disturb. Indeed, in all her
"appliances and means to boot", she is unique and everything about her is insome improved
style or other, both in designand execution.

This remark applies to the steerage department with equal justice, the comfort and
accommodation of steerage passengers being matters of the utmost consequence on such a
station as that of Dundee and Leith.

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The Britannia is above 200 tons register, is divided into five water-tight compart-ments, with
life-boats on deck, &c. The engines are of 150 horse power, constructed on the most approved
low-pressure condensation principle, with Mr. David Napier's patent quadruple piston and
other improvements and their performance in this trip is the best encomium we could pay the
maker, Messrs. Smith and Bodger, the marine engineers and iron shipbuilders of this city, who
have evidently spared no labour to finish the vessel in a style worthyof their established
reputation. In her symmetrical proportions, the Britannia is just such a model as the practised
eye loves to dwell upon, presenting, as it does, all the outward attributes of a fast sailer and
embracing, as subsequent experience demonstrated, sea-going properties of the highest
excellence

The hour appointed for sailing was 11 o'clock, but it was 15 minutes to 12 before she finally
left the Broomielaw. The weather was all that we could have desired-warm and genial, with a
cloudless sky'knd a gentle breeze from the westward.

The party on board was more select than numerous, certainly not more than a dozen
gentleman and all sociable, happy, and well-pleased with themselves and with each other. Few
as the number was, it embracedmen of opposite political views, for cheek by jowl might be
observed the doughty Dr. John Ritchie, of Potter Row, with our worthy friend Mr. James M'Nab,
in brotherly confabulation.

As the Btitannia passed down the river, she was saluted by hearty cheering from the people on
the banks and in the building yards, &c. In point of picturesque beauty and effect, the scenery
of The Clyde is scarcely to be equalled anywhere.

From Bowling, the view of the reach is exceedingly fine. The expansive waters just opening up
to the view in the distance, the dusky outlines of The Highlands, the lofty rocks of Dumbarton
and Dumbuck in the foreground on either bank the eye meets.

The pomp of groves, the garniture of fields, which, with the charm of life and motion imparted
by the innumerable steam and sailing craft as they dance with as real lightness on the
glancing wave, present a panorama, the wonder of tourists and the admiration of all.

At this point we overtook the Abercromby, to which we have just alluded and which had just
succeeded in laying the funnel of a steam-tug, proceeding upwards, flat on deck, by coming in
contact with her bowsprit. As we passed, the tug presented the appearance of a steam punt,
with Mons Meg on board.

At five minutes before two afternoon, the Britannia, after repeated slowings of the engines in
her course down the river, passed Greenock, and held straight on for The Cumbraes, through
which she passed at twenty minutes before four.

In the interim, the interesting intimation that dinner was on the table, brought us all together
in closer connection.

Captain Greig occupied the chair and the duties of croupier were discharged by Mr. Bodger, of
the firm of Messrs.Smith and Bodger, the builders of the vessel.

The discussion of an ample and elegant dinner was succeeded by several rounds of toasts,
chiefly in relation to the occasion. Among the more prominent was the "Edinburgh and Dundee
Steam Packet Company," nor were the public-spirited proprietors of the new steamer
forgotten, their names individually being received with every demonstration of applause. This

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important matter over, the party separated till the steward should again summon them to tea
and supper.

Once more on deck we found the vessel abreast of Arran, with its lofty peak of Goatfell "the
observed of all observers" gilded by the genial rays of the sun. At twenty minutes past five we
passed the Pladda Light, Ailsa Craig looming in The distance, presenting an insular mass of
columnar trap rising abruptly from the water, firmed an admirable to real perspective to the
picture. In form the rock of Ailsa is not unlike the perches on The Clyde, but on somewhat of a
more magnificent scale, on a scale similar to what the peak of Teneriffe would be to the funnel
of a steam-boat.

As we neared the rocky promontory of The Mull of Cantyre, the sun was perceptibly sinking in
the horizon in the effulgence of lucid light. It was a glorious sight to behold the luminary of day
gradually sink into a sea of molten gold and leave "the 'red clouds to preside o'er the scene."

Those who have neverseen sunset at sea on a summer evening can scarcely form an accurate
idea of its grandeur. Nor was our pleasure lessened by our anticipations of the coming day,
when the scene recalled to memory the lines of Shakspeare : "The weary sun bath made a
golden set; And, by the bright track of his fiery car, Gives promise of a goodly day tomorrow."
With a fresh breeze, which now sprung upfrom the west, we made The Mull of Cantyre at a
quarter-past eight.

The clouds of night now closed in upon the scene, leaving objects impalpable to sight and at
11 o'clock, after theBritannia had passed the north part of the island of Gigha, the voyaging
party turned intotheir berths, leaving the careful watch to patrol the deck by himself alone.

Thursday, May 22 "The morning louredand heavily in clouds brought in the day."

We ascertained that while enfolded in the embrace of Somnus the Britannia encountered the
formidable Corryvreoken in passing betweenthe northern extremity of Jura and the
mountainous isle of Scarba. Noth withstanding the commotion of the tides the narrow passage
was made, but not without some difficulty.

None however, except a vessel of first-rate excellence, could do it so successfully or so well to
smaller inferior craft the terrible whirlpool of Corryvrecken is sure destruction.

At five o'olockin the morning we passed through he Sound of Mull and found ourselves off the
point of Ardnomurchan, with fresh winds from E. N. E.

As the morning advanced the scenery became more grand, more impressive and presented
none of the characteristic traits of general desolation and savage wildness.

Passing a small island called Muck or Muke, we came alonganother of larger dimensions
named Eig. The Scuir of Eig, a peculiarly shaped hill, terminating in a lofty peak, and
surrounded by highand perpendicular precipices, is its more remarkable feature.

The isle of Eig is associated with an act of inhuman atrocity and horror, said to have been
committed by one of the lairds of Macleod, which involved the extermination of the whole of
the inhabitants.

The story runs that, in consequence of some insult offered to one of the laird's clansmen, he
threatened vengeance on the natives, who took refuge in a cave and for a time eluded the
search of the Macleod. Ultimately, however, the poor people were discovered in the cavern

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and the laird, having lighted a large fire, closed up the mouth and smoked the whole of them
to death.

Traces of some such catastrophe having occurred, is authenticated by the circumstance of
humanbones having been found collected in heaps in the cavern.

Leaving Eig we now came along the island of Rum, just as the weather was clearing up. The
appearance of this island partakes much of the general desolation which pervades the district,
bleak and mountainous with a precipitous coast, with generally a strong swell rolling in from
The Atlantic.

As we proceeded onward we obtained a fine view, though at some distance, of Armndale
Castle, the seat of Lord Macdonald, its appearance being somewhat in the Gothic style of
architectur, a broad oblong building, w ith a tower rising from each side of the entrance. Its
position on the south coast of Slate gives it a commanding view towards the sea which it
overlooks and the country at the mouth of Loch Hourn and Loch Nevis, on the mainland of
Scotland. The extensive plantations around the Castle present an agreeable contrast to the
barren wild around. It may be noted by the way that the estates of Lord Macdonald in the
western islands comprehend a coastline of nearly a thousand miles, embracing a population of
upwards of 16,000 souls.

After breakfast, the island of Skye next became the object of attention ! Proceeding through
the Sound we met the Toward Castle steamer on her weekly voyage fhrough those lonely
regions, between which and Glasgow she is the principal means of communication. As the
Britannia swept past, the Toward Castle gave her a salute by firing her deck guns, which we
returned by a hearty cheer, which made welkin ring again. As we neared the narrow strait
which separates Skye from the main land, the scenery becomes more diversified and presents
some of the softer graces of landscape.
Through the narrow channel the tide runs with great velocity, and abounds in strong eddies
and currents. The most prominent object are theruins of an old square building, called Castle
Maiol, which tradition has invested with some interest, as having been built by a daughter of
one of the old Norwegian king, who married to a Mackinnon or a Macdonald, (but which
deponent saith not,) for the purpose of levying an impost on all vessels passing through.

To render it more effective, a strong chain was laid across the channel and fastened to the
opposite rock, an effectual though somewhat primitive mode, certainly, of preventing the
evasion of the Sound dues, which we recommend to the attention of our Clyde Trustees. At
hand is the village of Kyle Rhea, teeming within habitants, who appeared surprised at the
appearance of such a vessel as the Britannia so near their habitations. To us, the people
peeping out of their low mud huts had much the appearance of rabbits skipping out of their
warrens. Not a cheer nor sound of any kind escaped their lips, but they stood mute with stupid
wonderment at the steamer as she passed along.

Exactly opposite the village and ferry of Kyle Rhea, on the main land, stand the old barracks of
Bernero, a goodly looking building and the only positive symptom of civilization in this lonely
region of our isle.

It was now midday, the sun shone with unclouded brilliancy and exposed to view the summits
of the highest mountains.

Even the Cuchullin hills, which shook their naked rocky peaks intothe clouds, were laid bare to
the eye. The scene was beyond all description truly impressive and magnificent. On the right,
we had the district of Glenelg, and farther on, Apple-cross, in the counties of Inverness and
Ross respectively.

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Keeping the islands of Raza and Rona on the left, the gallant ship proceeded through the strait
to The Minch, having made Ru Rea at half-past two o'clock, when the steward intimated that it
was necessary we should dine, ere we encountered the jumble of Cape Wrath, to which we
were now fast approaching, although not quite in sight. In excellent spirits, and with whetted
relish for the good things on the table, the party enjoyed themselves for a reasonable period.
On deck again, when we found the steamer coasting along the iron-bound shore of the most
northern part of the mainland of Scotland. We descried the high and steep headland with a
dangerous-looking cluster of rocks called The Stags, and the light-house standing at an
elevation of some 400 feet above the level of the sea. In passing the Cape, which we did at six
or a few minutes after, the pilot, Mr. M'Kelvie, who is familiar with all the soundings
andbearings round the North of Scotland, gave it a wide berth, in order to avoid the sunken
rocks which stretch for a considerable distance into the sea.

A bottle, properly sealed, containing a communication addressed to the editor of one of the
Glasgow newspapers, was consigned to the deep, shortly after rounding the Cape. Should the
document ever reach its destination, we have no doubt the editor willduly acknowledge its
receipt in his notices to correspondents.

After clearing the Cape, the weather became a little hazy, and indicated astormy night, to
meet which, however, preparations were made to have everything snug a salutary precaution,
when we had the Pentland Frith still to go through.

About half past ten at night we came abreast of Dunnet Head, the entrance to the Frith. This
maybe termed the Eastern Gulf stream of The Atlantic, the strait which connects it with the
German Ocean. From the Hebrides and Cape Wrath the flow of the Atlantic comes rollingin in
one unbroken stream, and as it approaches the eastern sea it dashes with indescribable fury
against the projecting headlands of Caithness and Orkney, which contract its channel, and
chase it through between with the velocity of a water-spout. As we entered the tide
wasfortunately in our favour, and by midnight wewere off Duncansbay Head, clear of the
Pentland, all well.

Friday, May 23

During the night the Bri.tannia stretched away across the mouth of theMoray Frith, out of sight
of land, with a fresh breeze from the N.E. Passed off Kinnaird Head at half-past five in the
morning. Breakfasted while off Peterhead. Buchaness was made at a quarter before 8 and two
hours subsequently passed Girdleness, having previously taken observation of Slains Castle,
belonging to The Earl of Errol, which stands at a great elevation on the coast. Thence onward
we came off Girdleness, with the mouth of the Dee and Aberdeen in the distance. The next
prominent objects were Stonehaven and Dunnottar Castle. At one p.m. we passed Red Head,
having sighted Bervie and Montrose on1 our course. Passing Arbroath, we stood up the Tay
towards Brougbty Ferry, with a fresh breeze S.E. by E., and arrived at Dundee at exactly half-
past two o'clock, the Britannia having thus steamed the whole course from he Clyde to the Tay
without stopping, or the engines missing a single stroke, an achievement, we may venture to
assert, unparalleled on any similar occasion. Her arrival created considerable sensation among
the good folks of Dundee, if we may judge from the crowds of people who came on board
while she lay at the pier. They appeared highly gratified, and the new steamer was the theme
of general admiration. After a stoppage at Dundee of more than an hour, the Britannia left for
Leith at a quarter before four, amidst the vociferous cheering of vast crowds which lined the
shore and proceeded on her destined course up the Frith.

Crossing St. Andrew's Bay, our party dined together for the last time, amidst mutual
congratulations on the happy termination of the trip. Passing gallantly up the Frith, the

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Britannia announced her arrival by a flight of rockets and blue lights off Inchkeith, and at a
quarter-past eight she arrived at Granton, after having performed a steam voyage of about
600 miles without accident or casualty of any kind.

In the transcription of these hurriednotes we have exceeded our limits, otherwise we should
have remarked on the sterling sea-going qualities of the vessel, the smooth working of the
engines, the steady motion, even in rough water, and the absence of all disagreeable
vibration.

The Captain, though young in years, in experience old, did his part of the duty with much
judgment and discretion. Mr. M'Kelvie, the pilot, possesses all the requisite qualities of a first-
rate pilot, who knows and can appreciate the responsibility of his trust; and even the steward
is entitled to thanks for his quiet and respectful attentions to the comfort of the passengers.
The passengers, after partaking of a few glasses of champagne at the Chain Pier Inn (Greig's)
separated, and each went their several ways, "happy to meet, happy to part, but happy to
meet again."

[We cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of mentioning the names of two worthy individuals,
who contributed largely to the happinessof the party on board, namely, Jas. Ferguson,Esq., of
Colinton Bank, near Edinburgh, andMr. Alexander Bain, of that city.]

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