It stood embosom’d in a happy valley,
Crowned by high woodlands, where the Druid oak
Stood like Caractacus in act to rally
His host, with broad arms ‘gainst the thunder stroke.
The woods sloped downwards to the water’s brink and stood
With their green faces fixed upon the flood.
THIS noble mansion, rich in architectural beauty, and situated amid woods of the most magnificent description, is one of the seats of his grace the Duke of Argyll. The old house which according to Penant bore the date of 1634, was burned down in the beginning of the year 1802; and in the following year the present house was begun to be erected. It is to be regretted that it is not yet completely finished. The design, furnished by Bononi, is in the finest style of Italian architecture. The principal front, which is that seen in the engraving, is ornamented by a splendid portico of Ionic pillars, supporting an enriched entablature, and forming a covered entrance for carriages. The façades on either side, present Ionic pilasters between the windows, supporting an entablature similar to that of the portico. The southern front of the building is embellished with a large bow or semicircular projection, round which are ranged columns of equal size and of the same order with those seen on the northern or principal front. From the centre of the building rises a beautiful circular tower, whence there is a most extensive, varied, and delightful prospect. Taken altogether this edifice forms, perhaps, the most chaste and correct specimen of its style in the kingdom; and its magnitude gives it great dignity and splendour of effect. The interior arrangements exhibit a degree of elegance seldom surpassed. The vestibule and gallery, of exquisite proportions, are about 180 feet in length. The principal rooms are 36 by 22 feet, and of these there are six or seven on the first floor, besides billiard room, entrance hall, and minor apartments.
The site of the house is distant from that of the old house which was burned down, about 600 yards. We have heard that it was selected by Naismith the landscape painter, though we do not vouch for the truth of this; but whoever did so, has been most happy in his choice. It stands near the shore on the top of the bank where it slopes gently down to the waters of the Gare Loch. Surrounded, but not closed up, with trees of every variety, and of splendid dimensions, it appears to equal advantage whether approached from the water, or from the land. The pleasure grounds are extensive, and the walks which have been constructed through the magnificent surrounding woods, present a great variety of picturesque scenery. The view from the southern windows embraces a portion of these finely wooded grounds, varied by peeps of the sea and a range of distant blue mountains merging into the horizon, of a grand and broken outline.
Roseneath is the most westerly parish of Dumbartonshire. It is a peninsula nearly in the form of a parallelogram, about seven miles long and two broad; formed by Loch-long an arm of the sea on the west, by the frith of Clyde on the south, by the Gare loch on the east, and united on the north to the parish of Row, which originally formed a part of it. The surface presents a continued ridge of rising grounds, descending towards the east and west, without in any place rising into a hill or mountain. The mansion house and its pleasure grounds are situated at the south western extremity of the peninsula, where there is a considerable stretch of level ground along the shore. The woods, however, which surround the house extend up the ridge nearly to its summit. From the southern brow of this ridge, where it overlooks the Clyde, a magnificent view is obtained. It is o very easy access, as walks have been formed leading through the woods to it. There the Frith of Clyde from above Dumbarton Castle to Dunoon; the numerous promontories and bays of its varied shores; the towns of Port-Glasgow, Greenock, Gourock, and Helensburgh; Loch-long with its Highland scenery; and the Gare loch are all beheld from one spot.
In the Park, not a great way from the house, there is a remarkable rock, which though now at some distance from the shore, bears obvious marks of having at one time been washed by the sea. It is called “Wallace’s loup;” and popular tradition says that the Scottish patriot having been closely pursued by a party of the English, leaped on horseback down the rock, a height of thirty-four perpendicular feet, and escaped. his horse was killed by the fall, and was buried at the foot of the rock where the grave is still shown, but the hero escaped unhurt. Henry the MInstrel, although he details Wallace’s exploits in Roseneath, says nothing of this wonderful leap.
Roseneath, including the parish of Row, belonged at one time to the McAulays. Penant says they struggled long with the Campbells in defence of their rights, but they proved the weaker. In the beginning of the thirteenth century Amelic, a younger son of Alwyn, Earl of Lennox obtained from his father this district as his patrimony. It is probable the McAulays were the descendants of this Amelic, assuming afterwards the surname of McAulay, from Alwyn earl of Lennox their great ancestor.
The name may with probability be derived from the British Rhos-noeth, signifying the naked or bare promontory.