[Scotland Illustrated Contents]
LOCH FAD is a small lake in the island of Bute, three miles south from the town of Rothesay. It is about three miles long, and scarcely half-a-mile broad; but from the rude, rocky, and picturesque appearance of the hills which surround it, it presents quite a miniature picture of some of the larger Highland lakes. The slopes of a few of these hills are cultivated; but the greater proportion, especially as we proceed towards the head of the loch, are in a state of nature. Though not remarkable for height, their outline is in general broken, varied, and interesting; and the serrated summits of the Arran mountains on the one hand, or the hills of Cowal on the other, afford fine terminations to the view, whether up or down the lake. Loch Fad forms a pleasant excursion for tourists, or sea-bathing visitors at Rothesay; and since the period that Kean made it a place of repose during the intervals from his exertions in his arduous profession, it has been much more visited than it had ever previously been. The house erected by Kean, though of sufficient size, s a very ordinary looking one, and generally disappoints the visitors. Had it been somewhat more of the cottage-style, it would have better pleased the eye, and been more in accordance with the situation, which is indeed well-chosen. The grounds are agreeably laid out, and form a singular contrast with the rudeness and romantic nature of the surrounding scenery. In 1827 – when Kean was in the meridian of his fame – the following account of his retirement on the banks of Loch Fad appeared in one of the Glasgow newspapers:- “The banks of Loch Fad now swarm with pilgrims to the residence of our greatest dramatic performer, who has kindly instructed the old lady – a native of London – who acts as guardian of the premises, to allow all respectable persons who may call a full view of the cottage and grounds. Nothing can be more rurally simple, and at the same time more tasteful and elegant, than the residence here erected by Kean. It is a tolerably capacious house, two stories in height, with a small one-story building at either end. On the ground-floor is a splendid dining-room, furnished in a costly manner, as is every other part of the house; and behind it is a library stocked with a valuable collection of books, among which are several containing fine engravings of the costumes of different countries at different periods, and also the works of Hogarth, Hume, Gibbon, Robertson, &c., a fine edition of the Spectator, and a beautiful old copy of Shakspeare in one volume folio, printed about the middle of the 17th century, and presented to Kean by Mr. Price, the manager of the New York theatre. In the library are also many items of the paraphernalia of an actor – such as swords, daggers, &c., besides an excellent engraving of Kean in Brutus, one of Garrick, one of the Earl of Essex, and several others of distinguished British characters. Within a niche in the lobby stands an admirable bust of Kean, also in the character of Brutus, which, as an accurate resemblance, exceeds the engraving. On the second floor, or upper story, is a large drawing-room, elegantly fitted up, and in a style entirely dramatic – in so far, at least, as regards the fancy papers with which the wall is decorated, these being full of scenic representations of character, most of them taken from prominent subjects in history and mythology. From the windows of this apartment an enchanting view is obtained of Loch Fad, and of the expanse of land and sea to southward, the remembrance of which can never be lost by those who once have seen it. Indeed no language can do justice to the varied charms of the situation; it must be seen to be fully appreciated. The garden and grounds are laid out in a style displaying the finest perception of the beauties of the place. Here a soft flower blooms in the hard cleft of some jagged rock; there a walk, edged with a box-wood, winds along amid sinuosities so serpentine as almost to render a continuous walk impossible; and on the top of the eminence at the base of which the cottage is situated, there stands a fog-house, supported by massy rustic pillars, its floor paved with small pebbles from the loch, its seats supported by hazle cuttings, and its prospect in front commanding a few glimpses of Loch Fad, and indistinct view of Rothesay in the distance, of the tranquil bay beyond it, and of the Argyle mountains still more remote, swimming in a kind of blue haze that softens their outline and imparts to them a character of almost perfect ideality. Mr. Kean” – the account continues – “has it in contemplation to erect, within the precincts of his little territory, an asylum for the retreat of decayed actors, who may be recommended to him either by personal knowledge, or by the society for the relief of such individuals, which has now for a considerable time been established in London.” We need scarcely add, that the benevolent design here recorded – like many others of the projector – never reached its consummation in performance.