Cartlane Craigs and Bridge, pp.7-12.



                                     A wild and melancholy dell,
Where high and wooded banks o’erhang a rushing stream,
That brawls unseen among the rocks below.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
Within these dark retreats, Scotland’s patriots
Oft have sought and found secure asylum.


CARTLANE CRAIGS are situated about a mile distant from the town of Lanark. The river Mouss, in its course to join the Clyde, here flows through a deep narrow ravine, nearly half a mile in length; exhibiting in its various windings, a succession of the most wild and romantic scenery. On either side, the banks rise bold, rugged, and precipitous, but richly clothed with trees and copeswood. These, though they shed a gloom over the recesses of this extraordinary defile, give a character of picturesque beauty to its nearly perpendicular and rock-bound walls. The north bank, properly called Cartlane Craigs, is four hundred feet in height above the stream. At one part on this side, the Craigs have a truly terrific appearance, presenting an almost perpendicular front from top to bottom. In the summer of 1826, a young woman from the neighbourhood of Paisley, visiting Cartlane, incautiously ventured too near the edge of this frightful precipice, and attempted to look down. Terror or giddiness seized her, or her foot slipped; she fell over the Craigs, and was dashed among the rocks below. The mangled body was immediately brought up by the keeper of the Bridge, who had witnessed the accident, but life was found to be extinct. The south bank, or Baronald Craig, is not so high as the north; but it possesses great beauty, and is more enriched with trees. The bottom, where the river flows, is covered with great blocks of stone, and pieces of rock, that time, or the rude storms of winter have loosened from the sides, and hurled below. These have formed little islands in the stream, on some of which grow dwarf trees and underwood.

The access from the top, to this “zigzag den,” as Penant calls it, is exceedingly difficult and hazardous; almost every step is made on the verge of a precipice, and the slightest slip of the foot would prove instant destruction. Yet by the assistance of a guide, by clinging to trees and bushes, and getting from one ledge of rock to another, it may be effected; and laborious and dangerous as the attempt is, it is well repaid to those who love to contemplate nature in her wilder moods. Rocks in every fantastic form, and precipices overhung with wood, meet the view on either hand; and the beholder, like Sindbad in the Arabian tale, seems to have got into a valley from which there is no visible egress. In exploring the recesses of Cartlane, the varied aspect, and the succession of wild and striking scenery exhibited in its many windings, add greatly to the effect, its general appearance is calculated to produce. Here all is clothed with lofty trees, amidst the luxuriant vegetation of which, the rocks at intervals appear waving with brushwood. There, from the bed of the stream, rises a mural precipice, covered with lichens of every hue, from which springs out far over head, a small solitary tree, sown by the wind in one of its fissures, and appearing to grow on the bare surface of the rock. The water seems to well from the bottom of the precipice, which appears to bar all farther progress. As we approach, however, the dell opens up to one side; and thus a new, but equally interesting scene, is displayed at every bend of the stream. In one place, bare jutting rocks seem almost to hang in the air far above, threatening destruction to all beneath: in another yawn caves and deep recesses, their dark openings hung with wild flowers of varied shape and colour.

The course which the Mouss has here taken, is somewhat singular. Instead of following its more direct line by Baronald house, where the ground is lower, and less obstructed, it has found its way to the Clyde, through the high hill of Cartlane, a bed having been formed for it in the solid rock. The waters of the river could not have formed this vast chasm; and there is reason to presume, it has been caused at a remote period, by some great convulsion of nature. The living rock has been rent asunder, and a way opened for this inconsiderable stream. This is sufficiently apparent, as where the banks obtrude on the one side, there is always a corresponding recess on the other. The more prominent rocks, where they are not covered by the wood, bear the most obvious marks of this; and it is not a little remarkable, that notwithstanding the long lapse of ages which must have intervened, the correspondence should still be so apparent.

Across the chasm we have attempted to describe, a Bridge has been erected on the great line of road to England. It was first suggested, and a design was afterwards furnished by Thomas Telford, Esq. civil engineer, who surveyed the whole line of road, and under whose direction it was formed. The contractor and builder of the Bridge was Mr. John Gibb, Mason in Aberdeen. Mr. Telford’s genius, many as its fruits are, was probably never more apparent than here; and it is to be hoped, that Cartlane Bridge will long remain a monument ofhis professional talent and abilities. the manner in which the design has been executed, is equally honourable to the mechanic skill of Mr. Gibb. This splendid piece of Masonry was begun in 1822, and finished in the following year. It contains two piers, and three arches, and is one hundred and twenty-nine feet high above the stream. So level is it on the top, that the passenger would not be aware he was on a bridge, were it not for the yawning chasms seen on each side. When seen from below, its chaste and elegant proportions, its light and tapering piers, and the beautiful sweep of its arches, contrasting with the wild scenery around, give it an almost magical effect; and when the landscape beyond is lighted with the summer sun, it seems like a fairy illusion, or a creation of the fancy, than the work of man.

The view of Cartlane Craigs given in the engraving, is taken a little east from the Bridge, which appears in the centre of the picture. The Craigs here, although sufficiently wild and picturesque, have a somewhat softer character than they exhibit in other parts of the defile. The continuation of the Craigs, which gradually diminish as the Mouss approaches the Clyde, and the swelling banks on the opposite side of the river are beheld through the arches of the Bridge. In some situations, the little village of Kirkfieldbank, the property of Cochran of Kirkfield, can thus be seen.

In these wild and rugged recesses, Wallace, the most illustrious of Scottish patriots, often found refuge from the oppressors of his country. Although his history, particularly that of the earlier part of his career, is enveloped in much fable, there seems no good reason to doubt, as the traditions of the place confirm it, that here he received intimation of the murder of his wife. This barbarous deed seems to have been the immediate cause which roused him, and led to the first of his successes against the English, of which we have any thing like an authentic account. Issuing from his hiding place, with a few but faithful followers, he attacked the Castle of Lanark, then garrisoned by the English, obtained possession of it, and killed Haselrigg, or HIslop, the governor. Such was the effect of this enterprise, that Wallace soon found himself at the head of a numerous body of his countrymen, and was enabled to take the field openly. He advanced, it is said, to Biggar, where he attacked the English army, which he defeated in a regular engagement. The account of the battle is confirmed by many traditions still existing in the neighbourhood of the place where it is supposed to have been fought. “At the west end of the town,” says the statistical account, “is a tumulus, which appears never to have been opened; and there are vestiges of three camps, each of a roundish figure, at different places in the neighbourhood. There is a tradition of a battle having been fought at the east end of the town, between the Scots under Sir William Wallace, and the English, who were said to be sixty thousand strong, wherein a great slaughter was made on both sides, especially of the latter.” This account is certainly exaggerated as to numbers, but there is no good ground for doubting the general fact. Tradition reports that Wallace had repeatedly, previous to this occasion, found refuge in Cartlane, and a smallcave is still pointed out by the peasantry, as Wallace’s Cave. The entrance to this place is seen in the engraving on the left side, immediately opposite the small figure in the middle distance. Pinkerton, in a note to his edition of Barbour’s Bruce, calls it a large cave, it is however, very small, and if Wallace made use of it, it could only be as a place of rest during the night.

Much less is known of Wallace than could be wished, but enough of his history has been handed down to show, that he was an example of the purest and most disinterested patriotism. It is this, more than his valour or his deeds of prowess, that has made his memory still so fresh and fragrant among his countrymen. The power of England could not subdue his heroic spirit; her wealth had for him no temptations; nor could the hatred of a great number of the Scottish Barons – too many of whom had humbled themselves before the English King, that they might be exalted – lessen his love to his country. His life was one of suffering and exertion, without other reward than that which arises from the consciousness of virtuous actions. Posterity, however, has done him the justice which his contemporaries denied, and even yet, after the lapse of more than 500 years,

“At Wallace’ name what Scottish blood,
But boils up in a spring-tide flood.”

Monuments have not been erected to him, but it is perhaps better so. The whole land, its traditions, its poetry, are a monument to him – a record of his deeds. His memory is embalmed in the hearts of the Scottish people; and in every district of the country are still pointed out – some rock on which he sat to watch the foe, – some cave to which he fled for refuge, – a field on which he fought and conquered, – or a castle taken by him from the oppressors. Of such a man we may repeat, with no alteration but the name, the words of Milton.

“What needs” our Wallace “for his honour’d bones,
The labour of an age in piled stones?
Or that his hallow’d relics should be hid
Under a starry pointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory! great heir of fame!
What need’st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a livelong monument.”

At a much later period of Scottish history, Cartlane was often a place of refuge, and sometimes a place of worship, for the persecuted Covenanters; of whom, notwithstanding their bigotry and stern intolerance, we may well say with the greatest of Scottish writers, that many of them “united the independent sentiments of a Hampden with the suffering zeal of a Hooper or a Latimer.” Here, “leaning upon his spear, the lyart veteran heard the word of God, by Cameron thundered, or by Renwick poured in gentle stream.” The author of “Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life,” has here laid the scene of a tale illustrative of this people, which is not one of the least striking in his beautiful and poetic volume.

On the north bank of the Mouss, and on the edge of the Craigs, there about 200 feet high, are situated the remains of an ancient stronghold, called the Castle of the Qua; of the history of which, however, nothing is known. Hardly any vestiges of this place are now apparent above ground, as the whole is grown over with brushwood; but there are still some traces of the foundation of a wall. There is some appearance also on the side unprotected by nature, of a wide, or rather sdouble ditch, enclosing a space of ground of nearly the eighth part of an acre. These remains were examined more than twenty years ago, and an account of them has been given by Mr. Lockhart of Baronald, in his Report of the Parish of Lanark.1 That gentleman mentions some curious vaults or caves, which were discovered within what appears to have been the foundations of the Castle. The one which he saw opened, was about seven or eight feet in length, four feet wide, and three and a half feet high, and went in a bending direction from the brink of the rocks, towards the centre of the enclosure. It was composed of huge blocks of freestone, rude and unpolished, and the common moorstone of the country. It was not arched over the top, but the stones forming the sides, were laid horizontally incourses, each course approaching nearer than the one immediately below, till they joined and were united at the top. In the bottom of this singular opening, a fat black earth was found, mixed with the ashes of bones. Several other vaults similar to this, and running in different directions, according to Mr. Lockhart, then existed, but had not been examined. I have not been able to ascertain, that any of them have since been opened. There was no appearance of these places having been constructed with lime or mortar, nor was any lime rubbish found among the ruins; Mr. Lockhart therefore presumes, they must have been erected previous to the time of the Romans. Subterraneous buildings of a somewhat similar kind, were discovered in the parishes of Applecross, Tealing, and Lesmahago. They were probably temporary places of concealment, of the ancient Britons. The well was to be seen within the remains of the Castle, about sixty years ago, but it has long been filled up. The name of the place has been supposed to be derived from the Gaelic Cuach, a cup, the Quech of the Lowlands; to which it is alleged, the adjoining chasm, as seen from the Castle, bears a striking resemblance. Mr. Lockhart says it is perhaps from the Gaelic Uaidh, a cave, alluding to the vaults above decribed.

About a quarter of a mile farther up the Mouss, are the ruins of Castle Lockhart, an ancient stronghold of the family of Lockhart, who have long been powerful in this part of the country. These ruins stand on a high promontory, formed by two small burns, which, at the bottom of two deep dells, flow into the Mouss, one on each side of the Castle. It was therefore well protected by nature on three sides, and appears to have been a place of some strength. On the land side, the vestiges of a ditch and outwork, are still, though indistinctly, to be seen. The only part of the Castle now remaining above ground, is a wall, which formed part of the keep or principal tower; it is of great thickness and considerable height. The situation of this ruin, towering over the steep and wooded banks of the three waters, which nearly surround it, is extremely picturesque. It was in all probability erected at a remote periodd, by the ancestors of the Lockharts of Lee, in which family, the property of it, as well as the adjoining lands, still remain. This fortress is alluded to by Miss Porter, in her clever, though unequal romance of the Scottish Chiefs.

Nearly opposite to Lockhart Castle, on the south side of the river, rising amidst some fine old trees, is seen the house of Jarvieswood. It was the residence of the famous Robert Baillie, of Karvieswood, one of the most eminent of those who suffered martyrdom during the persecution in Scotland, in the reign of Charles II. Woodrow2 says of this gentleman, “he had the testimony of some of the greatest men of the age, whom I could name, for one of the best of men, and greatest of statesmen, and so was a very proper object of the fury of this period, and could scarce escape the rage and malice of the Duek of York, and such as were with him in carrying on the plot against our religion, reformation, and liberty.”

Several Roman remains have been discovered in this neighbourhood; and the great Roman Iter, in passing through Clydesdale, here crossed the Mouss. Between Cleghorn and Stobbylee, on the north side of the river, are the remains of a large Roman camp,3 capable of containing 10,500 men. It is nearly six hundred yards distant from the Roman road; and from its vicinity to the camp at Castledykes, near Carstairs, it may be presumed not to have been a permanent station. On the opposite side of the Mouss, or Lanark Muir, are the vestiges of another camp. Its original size, however, cannot be ascertained, as a part of the entrenchments on one of the sides, and part of one of the ends only can be traced. No Roman remains have been discovered at Lanark.

I have seen no etymon of the name of Cartlane. The British word, Cardd, signifies what is narrow or confined. Has this been applied to these rocks, from the narrow chasm they embank? Is the second syllable, “lane,” a corruption of the british, lhynn, a pool?


1  Statistical Account, vol. xv. p. 11.
2  History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 394.
3  Roy, p. 61, pl. 18.

2 thoughts on “Cartlane Craigs and Bridge, pp.7-12.

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