DOWN all the rocks the torrent roars;
Away its hurrying waters break,
Faster and whiter dash and curl,
Till down yon dark abyss they hurl.
Rises the fog-smoke white as smow,
Thunders the raging stream below.
THE fall of Corehouse, or, as it is very commonly called Cora Lynn, is about a mile below that of Bonniton already described, and within a mile and a half of Lanark. It receives its name from the estate of Corehouse, which lies on the south bank of the Clyde, opposite to the lands of Bonniton.
After passing the first fall, as we have mentioned, the river entirely changes its character, and for some miles, from a calm and placid stream, becomes a raging and impetuous torrent. Its course from Bonniton to Corehouse fall, displays a succession of Scenery the most remarkable. It flows through a deep narrow chasm, bounded on either side by perpendicular rocks, which rise up from the bed of the stream, steep as a stone wall to the height of more than one hundred feet. These mural precipices, which form, as Mr. Pennant says, “a stupendous natural masonry,” are nearly equidistant throughout their whole extent; are smooth and naked, with the exception in some parts of their surface, of small grey moss and lichens; and are crowned at the summit with lofty and beautiful trees. At their base, the river, its bed descending with great rapidity towards the second fall, rushes turbulently onward, at one time among rocks and stones, at another along a smooth and shelving bottom; now extending to the foot of the perpendicular sides, and again contracted in a narrow gulley, little broader than an ordinary mill-stream. Where it is thus contracted, the rocks from a natural pavement on each side, on which the spectator may walk as along that of a street.
At the top of these walls, as they may well be termed, the banks covered with wood, slope upwards, on the Bonniton side, to a considerable height farther. Here winding among the trees, romantic walks have been made, forming as it were terraces above each other, from which this singular scenery can be viewed, in various situations and at various heights. In some places, the walks run along the verge of the precipice, and the psectator’s feelings are thus increased by the terror with which he is inspired; but in all, the great contrast between the cultivated and beautiful grounds, and the rugged and savage appearance of the stream below, is most striking.
It is from these walks, that the fall of Corehouse is generally viewed; and few scenes, in this country at least, are better fitted for producing those feelings, which constitute the sublime. Escaping from the chasm in which it has hitherto been confined, and already almost a sheet of foam, the river is here precipitated over a height of eighty five feet, into the yawning gulph below. It does not descend, however, like the upper fall, in one uniform sheet, but in three different, though almost imperceptible leaps. Broken, therefore, among the rocks which intercept its passage, it is thrown down in boiling and raging foam, “white as the snowy charger’s tail;” and thundering in its descent, the ear is stunned with its continual din. Although contracted at the top by its rocky banks, it spreads out as it reaches the bottom, thus assuming somewhat of a fanlike shape. On the top of the perpendicular rock, immediately above the fall, stands the ancient Castle, the residence of the old proprietors of Corehouse; and below it, on the edge of the cataract is a Mill for grinding corn, where the Miller plies his industrious occupation, unmindful of the terrors and turmoil with which he is surrounded.
The awe, the terror, the astonishment, which this scene produces on an unaccustomed observer, may indeed be partially conceived, but can hardly be described. The white and foaming torrent in front, the yawning cahsm from which a smoke-like mist continually ascends, the black and frowning rocks covered with overhanging trees, crowned with the ancient castle, the whole bounded by the distant hills, form altogether a coup d’oeil of the most sublime description, infinitely heightened by the thunder of the falling water, and the depth of the tremendous precipice on the verge of which the spectator stands. In such a situation, and contemplating such a scene, the truth of the following description and personification is powerfully felt.
“High o’er the headlong torrent’s foamy fall
Whose waers howl along the rugged steep,
On whose loose-falling rocks, or mould’ring wall,
See where gaunt danger lays him down to sleep!
The passing winds, his mournful vigil keep;
The lightenings blue, his stony pillow warm;
Anon, incumbent o’er the dreary deep
The fiend enormous strides the lab’ring storm,
And ‘mid the thund’rous strife expands his giant arm.”
A beautiful though more distant view of this extraordinary scene, may be had from the window of a pavilion, erected by Sir James Carmichael of Bonniton, in 1708, as appears by an inscription over the entrance. Here the spectator, placed far above, on the very summit of the sloping bank which rises from the perpendicular rocks, can contemplate the whole, freed from those feelings of terror with which in nearer situations, he cannot fail to be visited. Indeed, the scene has here more of the effect of a picture, or a beautiful panoramic view; the trees through which it is seen adding their interest to the foreground, or forming as it were a framework at the sides. At the opposite end of the pavilion, a Mirror is placed, in which this rich landscape is reflected; and from its position, the spectator is almost led to believe that the cataract is tumbling over his head. Unfortunately, however, the illusion is not made so perfect as it might obviously be. The Mirror is neither of sufficient size, of a proper shape, or sufficiently concealed in the wall. Were a little expence laid out on this pavilion, which appears to be exactly as it was left by Sir John, a hundred and twenty years ago, the illusion might be made exceedingly striking.
A variety of views of this most striking fall, may be obtained from the grounds of Bonniton, all possessing varied interest in the foreground or extreme distance; but they unfortunately all have the disadvantage, of being too high above the top of the fall, by which its apparent height is very obviously diminished. That has been selected for the present work, which seemed to be the best, and was at the same time as far down as it was possible with safety to descend.
The town of Lanark, which we have mentioned as being about a mile and a half distant from this fall, is a Royal Burgh of considerable antiquity; and has been the scene of many important incidents recorded in Scottish History, as its castle has been the residence of some of our early Kings. It received its charter of erection from William the Lyon, which, with the subsequent ones of Robert I. and James V. were confirmed by Charles I. in 1632. Notwithstanding its antiquity, it is but a small town, possessing nothing to interest the traveler, except the natural scenery, with which it is surrounded. Its own site however, has very little beauty, and from its lying on the high ground above the river, it has a cold and bleak appearance. The principal street is wide, in many places of which good and substantial new houses havebeen erected, but the greater part of the town is old, and irregularly built. There are no public buildings except the church and town house, neither of which require any particular notice. Lanark with the adjoining parish, possesses a population of nearly six thousand inhabitants; of these there are about nine hundred families engaged in trade or manufactures, and about one hundred and fifty families in agricultural employment. The principal inn is large and commodious, and fully capable of affording every accommodation to the numerous travelers, who visit this part of the country in the summer months. Besides it, there are three or four smaller inns, where strangers may be comfortably and cheaply entertained. Not far to the south east of the town stand the interesting ruins of the old church of Lanark, which Cardonnel supposes may have belonged to the Convent of Franciscan Friars, founded here by Robert Bruce in 1314. Were we to judge by the style of its architecture, an earlier date than even this would be assigned for its erection. It seems to be in the Norman, or earliest style of English Architecture, which was little used after the end of the twelfth century. Nothing now remains of this, at one time fine old building, but the south aile; the body of the church and the north aile, having long ago entirely gone to ruin.
To the south west of the town is the Castle hill, on which was formerly situated the Castle. Gough mentions, that in some old writings it was called King David’s Tower, and presumes that it may have been built by David I. That it was of great antiquity is certain, as the charter of William the Lyon erecting the town of Ayr into a royal burgh, is dated from thence. This castle and castellany, with those of Ayr and Rutherglen, and the rents of Clydesdale, were afterwards pledged to Joan, princess of England, at her marriage with Alexander II. as security for her jointure of £1000 yearly, in the event of any deficiency from her jointure lands. We have already mentioned, that the Castle was in the hands of the English during the interregnum, previous to Robert Bruce, ascending the throne, and that it had been taken by the bravery and address of Sir William Wallace. Like most other strong holds in the kingdom, it again fell into the possession of the oppressors, after the death of that great patriot. Upon the return of Bruce, however, from the western isles, it was re-taken by the brave Sir James Douglas, of whom, and of Randolph, Earl of Morray, Froissart says, that they “were renomed as chief in all dedis of armes, and great prowisse in all Scotlande.”1 The mode in which Sir James got possession of the castle, is characteristic of the times. He caused some of his men to lie in ambush near it, while another party came with horses, on which were loads, as of corn, going to Lanark. The captain od the Castle, whom Barbour calls “Schir John of Webiton,” seeing the loads of corn, as he thought, passing, rushed out with a part of the garrison to seize them. But he soon found his mistake, for those he conceived to be the country people, he was accustomed to rob and harass, throwing aside their disguise, and mounting horses, attacked him and his party sword in hand. Thus disappointed, they attempted to return to the Castle, but were met on the other hand by Sir James, and those who had been lying in ambush. The captain, Sir John of Webiton, and a number of his followers were killed; the rest of the garrison seeing this, delivered up the Castle, which was immediately dismantled by Sir James, that it might not be useful to his enemies, as he had no force sufficient to garrison it himself.2 No vestige of this ancient fortress now remains. Its site having been long used as a bowling green and garden.