SIR,-I am now just enter’d Scotland, and that by the ordinary way from Berwick. We tread upon Scots ground, after about three miles riding beyond Berwick; the little district between, they say, is neither in England or Scotland, and is call’d Berwickshire, as being formerly a dependant upon the town of Berwick; but we find no towns in it, only straggling farm-houses; and one sees the Tweed on one side, which fetches a reach north ward, the sea on the other, and the land between lies so high, that in stormy weather ’tis very bleak and unpleasant; however, the land is good, and compar’d to our next view, we ought to think very well of it.
The first town in Scotland is call’d Mordintown, where the minister, at that time, was a man of learning, particularly in matters of religious antiquity, and very well known for being author of a book, entitul’d, The Cyprianick Age, in defence of the Scots doctrines of the purity of the Christian ministers; a piece, that shews the author a man of a good share of learning, and a double stock of reading, especially in the most valuable part of church antiquity: His name is Lauder.
Mordintown lying to the west, the great road does not lie thro’ it, but carries us to the brow of a very high hill, where we had a large view into Scotland: But we were welcom’d into it with such a Scots gale of wind, that, besides the steepness of the hill, it oblig’d us to quit our horses, for real apprehensions of being blown off, the wind blowing full north, and the road turning towards the north, it blew directly in our faces: And I can truly say, I never was sensible of so fierce a wind, so exceeding keen and cold, for it pierc’d our very eyes, that we could scarcely bear to hold them open.
When we came down the hill, the strength of the wind was not felt so much, and, consequently, not the cold. The first town we come to is as perfectly Scots, as if you were 100 miles north of Edinburgh; nor is there the least appearance of any thing English, either in customs, habits, usages of the people, or in their way of living, eating, dress, or behaviour; any more than if they had never heard of an English nation; nor was there an Englishman to be seen, or an English family to be found among them.
On the contrary, you have in England abundance of Scotsmen, Scots customs, words, habits, and usages, even more than comes them; nay, even the buildings in the towns, and in the villages, imitate the Scots almost all over Northumberland; witness their building the houses with the stairs (to the second floor) going up on the outside of the house, so that one family may live below, and another above, without going in at the same door; which is the Scots way of living, and which we see in Alnwick and Warkworth, and several other towns; witness also their setting their corn up in great numbers of small stacks without doors, not making use of any barns, only a particular building, which they call a barn, but, which is itself no more than a threshing-floor, into which they take one of those small stacks at a time, and thresh it out, and then take in another; which we have great reason to believe was the usage of the antients, seeing we read of threshing-floors often; but very seldom, of a barn, except that of the rich glutton.
Being down this hill, we pass’d a bridge over the little River Eye, at the mouth of which there is a small habour, with a town call’d Eyemouth, or, as some call it, Heymouth, which has of late been more spoken of than formerly, by giving the title of baron to the late Duke of Marlborough, who was Duke of Marlborough, Marquis of Blandford, and Baron of Eyemouth in Scotland; and, by virtue of this title, had a right of peerage in the Parliament of Scotland. But notwithstanding all this, I never heard that he did any thing for the town, which is, at present, just what it always was, a good fishing town, and some fishing vessels belong to it; for such it is a good harbour, and for little else; in Queen Elizabeth’s time, indeed, the French held it and fortify’d it for their particular occasion; because, being the first port in Scotland, they might safely land their supplies for the Queen-Mother, who stood in great need of their assistance against the reformers: But they were oblig’d to quit both that and all the kingdom some time after, by a treaty; Queen Elizabeth supporting the reformers against her.
From this bridge we enter upon a most desolate, and, in winter, a most frightful moor for travellers, especially strangers, call’d Coudingham, or, to speak properly, Coldingham Moor; upon which, for about eight miles, you see hardly a hedge, or a tree, except in one part, and that at a good distance; nor do you meet with but one house in all the way, and that no house of entertainment; which, we thought, was but a poor reception for Scotland to give her neighbours, who were strangers, at their very first entrance into her bounds.
The place call’d Coudingham, from whence this moor derives, is an old monastery, famous before the Reformation; the monks of Coldingham being eminent for their number and wealth; as for any thing else, this Deponet saith not.
Here was formerly a little cell, or religious house also, sacred to the memory of St. Ebbe, or Ebba, daughter of King Edelfrid, King of Northumberland; who, her father being taken prisoner by the pagan Mercians, gat into a boat in the Humber, with three other women, and, by their own prayers only, for skill we may suppose they had none, nor could they labour much; yet, putting to sea, were miraculously preserv’d, and carry’d as far as Scotland; where, under a great promontory, they were driven on shore by a storm, and their boat dash’d in pieces, as indeed, any one, though knowing the place, might very well be, for the shore is all rock and high precipices for a long way.
However, being on shore, they labour’d with their hands, made themselves a little hut to lodge in, and continuing their devout prayers, the country people sustain’d them with food, till at length, gaining an opinion for their sanctity and austerity, they were address’d from far and near for their prayers, and, by the charity of the people, got enough to build a religious house at Coldingham.
Here, as fame says, when the cruel Danes came on shore, the religious lady, who was wondrous beautiful too, it seems, cut off her nose and upper lip, and made all her nuns do the same, to preserve, by that means, their chastity. But the barbarous Danes, enrag’d at them for their zeal, fir’d their nunnery, and burnt them all alive; from this lady, who, it is said, was sainted for these miracles, the promontory, where she landed, is to this day call’d St. Ebba’s Head; and vulgarly by our sailors, who nickname e very thing, St. Tabbs.
Having pass’d this desart, which indeed, makes a stranger think Scotland a terrible place, you come down a very steep hill into the Lothains, so the counties are divided, and they are spoken of in plural; because as Yorkshire is divided into the East and West Riding, so here is the East, and West, and Mid Lothain, or Louthain, and therefore justly call’d Lothains in the plural. From the top of this hill you begin to see that Scotland is not all desart; and the Low Lands, which then show themselves, give you a prospect of a fruitful and pleasant country: As soon as we come down the hill, there is a village call’d Cockburnspeth, vulgarly Cobberspeth, where nature forms a very steep and difficult pass, and where, indeed, a thousand men well furnish’d, and boldly doing their duty, would keep out an army, if there was occasion.
The first gentleman’s house we met with in Scotland was that of Dunglass, the seat of Sir James Hall; a gentleman so hospitable, so courteous to strangers, so addicted to improve and cultivate his estate, and understood it so well, that we began to see here a true representation of the gentry of Scotland; than whom, I must say, without compliment, none in Europe, understand themselves better, or better deserve the name of Gentlemen. We began also to see that Scotland was not so naturally barren, as some people represent it, but, with application and judgment, in the proper methods of improving lands, might be made to equal, not England only, but even the richest, most fruitful, most pleasant, and best improv’d part of England: Nor, if I have any skill in the nature of improving lands, which I a little pretend to, or judgment of what land itself is capable of, is the county of Middlesex, or Hertfordshire, which is esteem’d the most completely improv’d part of England, and the richest soil, capable of any improvement, which this country of East Lothain is not also capable of, if they had the same methods of improvement, and the Scots were as good husbandmen as the English; and even this too might easily be brought to pass, would the gentlemen set about it, as this gentleman has, in part, already done, at their own expence.
The truth is, the soil hereabout is very good; and tho’ they have not marle, or chalk, or much lime-stone to mend and manure it, yet, the sea-ware, as they call the weeds, which the sea casts up, abundantly supplies; and by laying this continually on the land, they plow every year without laying their lands fallow, as we do; and I found they had as much corn, as our plowmen express it, as could stand upon the ground.
The first town of note, from hence, is Dunbar, a royal burgh, so they are call’d in Scotland, which is (much what) we call a Corporation in England, and which sent members to parliament, as our corporations in England do, only that in Scotland, as is generally to be understood, they had some particular privileges separate to themselves; as that, for example, of holding a parliament, or convention of burghs by themselves, a method taken from the union of the Hans-Towns in the north, and not much unlike it, in which they meet and concert measures for the publick good of the town, and of their trade, and make by-laws, or Acts and declarations, which bind the whole body.
Nor have they lost this privilege by the Union with England; but it is preserved entire, and, perhaps, is now many ways more advantageous to them than it was before, as their trade is like to be, in time, more considerable than before.
This town of Dunbar is a handsome well-built town, upon the sea-shore; where they have a kind of a natural harbour, tho’ in the middle of dangerous rocks.
They have here a great herring-fishery, and particularly they hang herrings here, as they do at Yarmouth in Norfolk, for the smoking them; or, to speak the ordinary dialect, they make red herrings here: I cannot say they are cur’d so well as at Yarmouth, that is to say, not for keeping and sending on long voyages, as to Venice and Leghorn, though with a quick passage, they might hold it thither too: However, they do it very well. The herrings also themselves may a little make the difference, because they are generally larger and fatter than those at Yarmouth, which makes it more difficult to cure them, so as to keep in a hot country, and on a long voyage.
Between the town and the great road stands a little, but pleasant and agreeable seat of the Duke of Roxburgh, with a park well planted: And as the gentlemen of Scotland are now set upon planting forest trees, as well for ornament as profit, this park is, among the rest, very handsomely planted with young trees in vistas and walks, and will, when grown, add both to the value and beauty of the seat, which otherwise is but as a box. And here I would give an useful hint to the gentlemen who plant trees in Scotland, the want of which I have observ’d at several great houses and parks in that country, is the reason why they do not thrive, as they might otherwise do: The case is this. The gentlemen, at a great expence, get quantities of forest trees, either of their own raising, or from the nursery-men, as they call them in England. Those are set at a good length, perhaps, 12 to 15 foot high, handsome bodies, and good heads; and I acknowledge they are the best siz’d trees to plant, and that when set younger they seldom stand it, or come to the like perfection: But then these trees should be all secur’d by a triangular frame to each tree; that is to say, three large stakes set about them in an equilateral triangle, and fasten’d all together by three short cross pieces at the top; and these stakes should stand from 7 to 8 foot high.
In the center of the triangle stands the planted tree; which way soever the wind blows, the body bends from it to the cross piece, which joins the stakes on that side, and which make the triangle, and then can bend no farther; by which means the root is not shaken, or the earth mov’d and loosen’d about it, and then the tree will strike root, and grow.
But for want of this, the tree being left without support, before, as we may say, it can stand alone; and the winds, especially in winter, being very strong in that country, the tree is bended every way, the earth loosen’d continually about it, the root is often stirr’d, and the tree gets no time to strike root into the earth. And this is the reason why, in many of the gentlemen’s parks, I saw the trees stented and bauk’d; and that, tho’ they had been planted many years, they could not thrive: If this caution may be of use, as I recommend it with a desire it may, the gentlemen will not think their time lost in the reading it.
On the south west side of this town, under the mountains, near a place call’d Dun-Hill, is the fatal field where the battel, call’d the battel of Dunbar, was fought, between Oliver Cromwell and General Lesly, who then commanded the royal army; where the desperate few, for Cromwell’s army was not above 8,000 men, defeated and totally overthrew the great army of the other side, kill’d 6,000, and took 10,000 prisoners, to the surprize of the world; but that is matter of history, and none of my business at present.
Here we turn’d out of the way to see the Marquess of Tweedal’s fine park, and which is, indeed, the main thing, his fine planting at Yester, or, as Antiquity calls it, Zester; I say the park, because, tho’ there is the design of a noble house or palace, and great part of it built; yet, as it is not yet, and perhaps, will not soon be finished, there is no giving a compleat description of it.
The old Earl of Tweedale, who was a great favourite of King Charles II. tho’ not much concern’d in politic affairs, at least, not in England, yet took in from the king the love of managing what we call forest trees, and making fine vistas and avenues: The very first year after the Restoration the king laid out, with his own hand, the planting of Greenwich and St. James’s parks, and several others, and the said earl had seen them, and was extremely delighted with the method.
This occasion’d his lordship, as soon as he went down into Scotland, to lay out the plan and design of all those noble walks and woods of trees, or, as it might be call’d, forests of trees, which he afterwards saw planted, and of which a gentleman, whose judgment I cannot doubt, told me, that if ever those trees came to be worth but six pence a tree, they would be of more value than the fee simple of that estate; not meaning by that estate the land they grow on, but the whole paternal estate of the family: Nor is it unlikely, if it be true, that his lordship, and his immediate successor, planted above 6,000 acres of land all full of firr-trees; and that, where-ever it was found that any tree fail’d, they were constantly renew’d the next year.
It is certain, that many of the trees are, by this time, of much more value than six pence a tree; for they have now been planted near three-score years. And tho’ it is true, that a firr-tree is but a slow grower, and that most, if not all the trees I speak of, are firr; yet it must be allow’d that, the trees thriving very well, they must, by this time, be very valuable; and, if they stand another age, and we do not find the family needy of money enough to make them forward to cut any of them down, there may be a noble estate in firr timber, enough, if it falls into good hands, to enrich the family.
The park itself is said to be eight miles about, but the plantation of firr is not simply confin’d to the park, nor, indeed, to this estate; for the family of Tweedale has another seat near Musclebro, at Pinkey, where the same lord planted also a great number of trees, as his successors have likewise done at another seat, which they have in Fife, near Aberdour.
The house, however, must not be forgot; and if it shall be finish’d, as they now tell us it will soon be, it will not suffer itself to be forgot, for there will be few finer palaces in Scotland; I mean, if it be finish’d according to the magnificence of the first design.
As the success of this planting is a great encouragement to the nobility of Scotland to improve their estates by the same method, so we find abundance of gentlemen of estates do fall into it, and follow the example: And you hardly see a gentleman’s house, as you pass the Louthains, towards Edinburgh, but they are distinguish’d by groves and walks of firr-trees about them; which, tho’ in most places they are but young, yet they shew us, that in a few years, Scotland will not need to send to Norway for timber and deal, but will have sufficient of her own, and perhaps, be able to furnish England too with considerable quantities.
We saw an example of this at the Earl of Hadington’s house at Tinningham; where, tho’ the trees are younger than at Yester, yet, they seem to follow them apace, and to thrive so much, as that they may, one time or other, overtake them. The like we saw in Fife, at Sir William Bruce’s, and at several other places in this part of the country.
From this town of Dunbar to Edinburgh, the country may be reckon’d not only as fruitful and rich in soil, but also as pleasant and agreeable a country as any in Scotland, and, indeed, as most in England; the sea on the right hand, at a moderate distance, and the hills on the left, at a farther distance; and even those hills not extremely high, not barren, not desolate mountains, as I have given an account of some farther south, and have more to speak of farther north. But these hills are passable and habitable, and have large flocks of sheep, in many places, feeding on them, and many open roads lie over them, as from Edinburgh, and other parts towards England; as particular to Yester, and to Duns and Coldstream on the Tweed; another way to Kelsoe, where also there is a ford and a ferry over the Tweed, and likewise by another way to Tiviotdale, to Peebles and Jedburgh, of which hereafter.
The greatest thing this country wants is more enclos’d pastures, by which the farmers would keep stocks of cattle well fodder’d in the winter, and, which again, would not only furnish good store of butter, cheese, and beef to the market, but would, by their quantity of dung, enrich their soil, according to the unanswerable maxim in grazing, that stock upon land improves land.
Two other articles would encrease and enrich them, but which they never practise.
Folding their sheep.
Fallowing their plow’d land.
The first would fatten the land, and the latter destroy the weeds: But this is going out of my way. They have, indeed, near the sea, an equivalent which assists them exceedingly, namely, the sea weed, they call it the sea ware, which the sea casts up from about November to January in great quantities, and which extremely fattens and enriches the lands, so that they are plow’d from age to age without lying fallow: But farther from the sea, and where they cannot fetch it, there they are forc’d to lay the lands down to rest; when, as we say in England, they have plow’d them out of heart, and so they get no advantage by them; whereas could they, by a stock of cattle, raise a stock of muck, or by folding sheep upon them, mend them that way, and lay them down one year in three or four, as we do in England, the lands would hold from one generation to another.
But at present, for want of enclosures, they have no winter provision for black cattle; and, for want of that winter provision, the farmers have no dairies, no butter or cheese; that is to say, no quantity, and no heaps of dung in their yards to return upon the land for its improvement: And thus a good soil is impoverish’d for want of husbandry.
I deliver this once for all; for I shall make all my farther observations of this kind very short, and only proper to the particular places where I shall mention them.
From Dunbar we pass another River Tyne, which, to distinguish it from the two Tynes in Northumberland, I call Scots Tyne, tho’ not forgetting to let you know it is not so distinguish’d there, the inhabitants thereabouts scarce knowing any other. It rises in the hills near Yester, and watering part of the fine and pleasant vale I mentioned before, runs by Haddington, an old half ruin’d, yet remaining town; which shews the marks of decay’d beauty, for it was formerly a large, handsome, and well built town, or city rather, and esteem’d very strong; for, besides the walls of stone, which were in those times esteem’d strong, the English fortify’d it with lines and bastions, four of which bastions were very large, as may be seen, by the remains of them, to this day; also they had a large ditch; as for counterscarps, they were scarce known in those times. However, it was so strong, that the English, commanded by an old soldier, Sir George Wilford, defended it obstinately against a great army of Frenen and Scots, till his garrison were almost all swept away by the plague; and, even then, held out till he was reliev’d from England, when the English army quitted the place, and demolish’d the fortifications.
However, Haddington is still a good town, has some handsome streets, and well built; and they have a good stone bridge over the Tyne, tho’ the river is but small. The church was large, but has suffer’d in the ruin of the rest, and is but in part repair’d, tho’ ’tis still large enough for the number of inhabitants; for, tho’ the town is still what may be call’d populous, ’tis easy to see that it is not like what it has been. There are some monuments of the Maitlands, antient lords of this part of the country, remaining; but as the choir of the church is open and defac’d, the monuments of the dead have suffer’d with the rest.
I saw here something of a manufacture, and a face of industry; and it was the first that I had seen the least appearance of in Scotland; particularly here, was a woollen manufacture, erected by a company, or corporation, for making broad cloths, such as they call’d English cloth. And as they had English workmen employ’d, and, which was more than all, English wool, they really made very good cloth, well mix’d, and good colours: But I cannot say they made it as cheap, or could bring it so cheap to market as the English; and this was the reason, that, tho’ before the late Union, the English cloth being prohibited upon severe penalties, their own cloth supplied them very well; yet, as soon as the Union was made, and by that means the English trade open’d, the clothiers from Worcester, and the counties adjoining such as Gloucester and Wilts, brought in their goods, and under selling the Scots, those manufactories were not able to hold it.
However, as I said, here was a woollen manufacture, and the people being employ’d in spinning, dying, weaving, &c. they turn’d their hands to other things; and there is still some business going on to the advantage of the poor. Also upon the Tyne, near Haddington, we saw very good fulling-mills; whether they still have employment, I am not certain. They talk’d also of setting up a paper-mill after the Union, the French paper being not allow’d to be imported as formerly.
At the mouth of this river stands the remains of Tantallon Castle, mostly bury’d in its own ruins; it was famous, in the Scots history, for being the seat of rebellion, in the reign of King James V. And hence came the old, and odd fancy among the soldiers, that the drums beating the Scots March, say, “Ding down tan-tallon.” That beat or march being invented by King James the Vth’s soldiers (or, perhaps, drummers) when they march’d against the Earl of Angus, who held out Tantallon Castle against the king. But this by the way: Tantallon is now no more a fortress, or able to shelter a rebel army.
Neither is the Bass worth naming any more, which being a meer rock, standing high out of the sea, and in its situation inaccessible, was formerly made a small fortification, rather to prevent its being made a retreat for pyrates and thieves, than for any use it could be of to command the sea; for the entrance of the Forth, or Firth, is so wide, that ships would go in and out, and laugh at any thing that could be offer’d from the Bass. The most of its modern fame is contain’d in two articles, and neither of them recommend it to posterity.
That in the times of tyranny and cruelty, under the late King Charles II. and King James II. it was made a state-prison, where the poor persecuted western people, call’d, in those times, Cameronians, were made close prisoners, and liv’d miserably enough, without hope or expectation of deliverance, but by death.
That after the Revolution a little desperate crew of people got possession of it; and, having a large boat, which they hoisted up into the rock, or let down at pleasure, committed several pyracies, took a great many vessels, and held out the last of any place in Great Britain, for King James; but their boat being at last seiz’d, or otherwise lost, they were oblig’d to surrender. The Soland geese are the principal inhabitants of this island, a fowl rare as to the kind; for they are not found in any part of Britain, that I can learn, except here, and at some of the lesser islands in the Orcades, and in the island of Ailzye, in the mouth of the Clyde. They come as certainly at their season, as the swallows or woodcocks, with this difference, if what the people there tell us may be depended on; that they come exactly, to the very same day of the month, or, if they change it for reasons best known to themselves, then they keep exactly to the new fix’d day; and so, upon any alteration of their time, which also is very seldom.
They feed on the herrings, and therefore ’tis observ’d they come just before, or with them, and go away with them also; tho’, ’tis evident, they do not follow them, but go all away to the north, whither, as to that, none knows but themselves, and he that guides them: As they live on fish, so they eat like fish, which, together with their being so exceeding fat, makes them, in my opinion, a very coarse dish, rank, and ill relish’d, and soon gorging the stomach. But as they are look’d upon there as a dainty, I have no more to say; all countries have their several gusts and particular palates. Onions and garlick were dainties it seems, in Egypt, and horse-flesh is so to this day in Tartary, and much more may a Soland goose be so in other places.
It is a large fowl, rather bigger than an ordinary goose; ’tis duck-footed, and swims as a goose; but the bill is long, thick, and pointed like a crane, or heron, only much thicker, and not above five inches long. Their laying but one egg, which sticks to the rock, and will not fall off, unless pull’d off by force, and then not to be stuck on again; though we thought them fictions, yet, being there at the season, we found true; as also their hatching, by holding the egg fast in their foot. What Nature meant by giving these singularities to a creature, that has nothing else in it worth notice, we cannot determine.
From hence, keeping the shore of the Firth, or Forth, due west, we find a range of large and populous villages all along the coast, almost to Leith, interspers’d with abundance of the houses of the nobility and gentry, at a small distance from them, farther into the country.
But I must enter a caution for your notice, and please to take it here once for all. I am writing a description of places, not of persons, giving the present state of things, not their history: And therefore, though in some cases I may step back into history, yet, it shall be very seldom, and on extraordinary occasions. For Scotland is not so barren of things, worth observation, that we should run into the history, and the genealogies of families, the description of the constitution, the laws, and manner of administration of civil justice, government, and such things as are remote from the profess’d business of a tour. I shall not, therefore, with every nobleman’s house, give a history of the family: The nobility of Scotland are antient, illustrious, and personally great, and, if spoken of at all, require and ought to have a full and authentic description of their families and glorious ancestors perform’d by itself; and, I must confess, ’tis great pity such a thing is not undertaken by some hands equal to so great a work, both here and in England also; for want of which, many, if not most of the great actions of the nobility and gentry of these two kingdoms, are either quite lost and dropt out of knowledge, or are dwindled into fable and romance, and, like the battle of Chevy-Chase, preserv’d only in bailad and song.
But I am not to go about this here, tho’ I shall, on all occasions, give the noble families a due homage, and speak of them as they ought to be spoken of; yet, as it is not the business of this undertaking, you will not expect me to enter into the history of families, or to look any farther into persons than into things, namely to give an account of their present situation and condition.
In order to this ’tis sufficient to mark, that this part of the country is delightfully spread with the seats of noblemen and gentlemen; as the Duke of Roxburgh’s at Dunbar, the Earl of Haddington’s at Tinningham, both mentioned before; the Lord Bellhaven’s, at Bellhaven; that of the family of Dalrymple ennobl’d in the Earl of Stairs, and honour’d in several branches of that house, the eldest being now Lord President of their Session, and another lately Lord Advocate, &c. These about north Berwick, where there is a small and a tolerable good market: They have also in the neighbourhood of this place several very fine seats, and finely planted. The house and estate of Dirleton, now in the family of Nisbet, is in this part of the country, and well situated also. Ormistoun, the seat of the present Lord Justice Clerk, of the antient house of Cockburn, or, as commonly express’d, Coburn.
And I must add here, the antient and noble house of Seaton and Winton: Both the palaces, for so they deserve to be call’d, of the late Earl of Winton, who did so many weak and rash things, to say no worse of him, in the affair of the late rebellion; and the kindest thing can be said of him now is, to leave it upon record, that he seem’d to be turn’d in his head. The houses are now in a state of ruin, and as fine an estate, for its value, as any in Scotland, all lying contiguous with itself, and valued at almost 5,000l . sterling per Annum besides; but all now under forfeiture, and sold to the York-Buildings Company. The fine gates and stone-wall were demolish’d by the government, after it had been made a garrison by the Highlanders; who, from hence began their hairbrain’d march to England, which expedition ended at Presten, as has been mention’d in my account of Lancashire. But I return to the sea-shore as above.
The towns upon this coast, as I said, stand very thick, and here are two or three articles of trade which render them more populous, and more considerable than they would otherwise be.
There are great quantities of white fish taken and cur’d upon this coast, even within, as well as at the mouth of the Firth; and, as I had occasion to inspect this part, I took notice the fish was very well cur’d, merchantable, and fit for exportation; and there was a large ship at that time come from London, on purpose to take in a loading of that fish for Bilboa in Spain.
There is great plenty of coal in the hills, and so near the sea as to make the carriage not difficult; and much of that coal is carried to Edinburgh, and other towns, for sale.
The coal being thus at hand, they make very good salt at almost all the towns upon the shore of the Firth; as at Seaton, Cockenny, Preston, and several others, too many to name: They have a very great trade for this salt to Norway, Hamburgh, Bremen, and the Baltick; and the number of ships loaded here yearly with salt is very considerable; nay, the Dutch and Bremers in particular, come hither on purpose to load salt, as they do on the opposite side of the Firth also, (viz.) the shore of Fife, of which I shall speak in its place.
They take great quantities of oysters upon this shore also, with which they not only supply the city of Edinburgh, but they carry abundance of them in large, open boats, call’d Cobles, as far as Newcastle upon Tyne, from whence they generally bring back glass bottles. But there has, within a few years, a bottle-house been set up at Leith, which, for a while, work’d with success; also some furnaces were erected at Preston-Pans, one of those villages, for making flint-glass, and other glass ware: But I hear they are discontinued for want of skilful hands.
It must not be omitted, that at several of those villages there are little moles and harbours, or piers, and heads built up at considerable expence, for the securing the ships that come to them to load salt, or other goods; as at Seaton, Cokenny, at north Berwick, at Preston, and other places.
We come now to Musclebro, a large borough-town and populous, and may, indeed, be said to be a cluster of towns, all built together into one, namely, Musclebro, Innerask, or Inneresk, and Fisheraw; all which amount to no more than this. Musclebro, or the main or chief town of Musclebro; Inneresk, or that part of Musclebro which stands within, or on the inner side of the River Esk, and Fisheraw, or the row of houses where the fishermen usually dwell; for here is still many fishermen, and was formerly many more, when the Muscle fishing was counted a valuable thing; but now ’tis given over, tho’ the Muscles lye on the shore, and on the shoals of sand in the mouth of this river, in vast quantities.
These three towns together make one large burrough, very populous; for here are thought to be more people than at Haddington. Here also we saw the people busy on the woollen manufacture; and as the goods they made here were an ordinary kind of stuff for poor peoples wearing, we do not find they are out-done at all from England, so that the manufacture is carried on here still with success.
They call this a sea-port town; but as their river, tho’ sometimes full enough of water, is not navigable; for, at low water, people ride over the mouth of it upon the sands, and even walk over it; so they do not meddle much with trading by sea.
At that part of the town call’d Inner-Esk are some handsome country houses with gardens, and the citizens of Edinburgh come out in the summer and take lodgings here for the air, as they do from London at Kensington Gravel-Pits, or at Hampstead and Highgate.
Adjoining to this part is the other fine seat of the Marquess of Tweedale. call’d Pinkey, which I mention’d before, and which the family resides at, rather than at Yester; for, tho’ Yester be the noblest and most magnificent building; yet this is, by far, the most agreeable situation; besides, the former is not finish’d, nor like to be finish’d in many years, tho’ they were to go faster on with it than they do.
The house of Pinkey has a park, which they call four miles about, but, I think, is not much above half so much: But the spirit of planting, which the old Earl of Tweedale so happily exerted at Yester, shew’d itself here also, and an innumerable number of fir trees are seen here in a very thriving condition, and promising, in time, to be of an inestimable value.
As the house at Yester is not finish’d, all the rich furniture, and especially pictures, of which the same Earl was a great collector, are lodg’d here; though, ’tis not doubted, they will hereafter be transpos’d and remov’d to adorn the chief palace and mansion of the family. Here are, indeed, a great many valuable pieces of painting, but the family pieces are particular, and very remarkable, some for their antiquity, and the antient dress of the age they were wrought in, and others, for the fineness of the workmanship; as especially that of the old Marquess of Tweedale, and his fifteen children, done after the manner of that of King Charles I. and his royal family, which formerly stood at the upper end of the long gallery, at Whitehall. So this stands at the upper end of a large room, fill’d up with other family pieces, and takes up one whole square of the room.
I cannot dwell upon the rest of the fine paintings here; it must surfice to add, here are a great many, and very good. Here are also three very fine altar pieces, with others of that kind, suppos’d to belong to private Oratories in Popish times, with Passion pieces, and others of that kind also.
From hence we have but four miles to Edinburgh. But, before I go thither, I must dip so far into story, as to observe that here it was the famous Battle of Musclebro was fought between the English, under the Duke of Somerset, in the time of King Edward VI. of England, and the Scots royal army under the Regent, which was afterwards call’d, the English way of wooing: The quarrel was to obtain the young Queen of Scots for a wife to King Edward, which the Scots Popish Party, back’d by the French, were obstinately against; and that so much, that tho’ the English won the battle, yet they lost the prize, for the young queen was privately embarqu’d, carry’d away into France, and there marry’d to the dauphin.
I say this battle was fought here, tho’ we call it the Battle of Musclebro: And some Scots gentlemen, who rode out with us afterwards to shew us the place, particularly mark’d out every step to us, where the action was both begun and ended, as well the fight as the pursuit; and we agreed that the Scots are in the right, who call it the Battle of Pinkie, not of Musclebro. ’Tis none of my business to give an account of battles and sieges; besides, the English being victors, I shall not mingle any of our trophies and triumphs with my account of Scotland; that would not be using the Scots fairly. I shall speak freely of those where they were victors, but not throw the English, as it were, in their faces; that would be to act the very part which I blame the Scots writers for, namely to be always crying up my own country, and my own people. Certain it is, the Scots’ great error at this battle, as it was afterwards at the Battle of Dunbar, was want of unanimity among themselves; for we must always blush when we pretend to say the Scots ever wanted courage in the field, let the cause, or the time, or the government be what, when, and how they will.
Another mistake of the Scots, at this fight, was that they ventur’d to engage so near the sea, as to be within reach of the cannon from the English men of war, in the road of Musclebro, who, very much to their damage, flank’d their army, and kept firing on the left wing all the while of the battle, till the troops were so mingled with one another, that they could not, from the ships, distinguish their enemies from their friends. This was a great disadvantage to their whole army, and especially discourag’d and disorder’d their infantry, and was owing to the inadvertency of the general officers, not want of courage or bravery in their men; and it would have been the same to the English had the case been theirs.
I am now at the gates of Edinburgh; but before I come to describe the particulars of that city, give me leave to take it in perspective, and speak something of its situation, which will be very necessary with respect to some disadvantage which the city lyes under on that account.
When you stand at a small distance, and take a view of it from the east, you have really but a confus’d idea of the city, because the situation being in length from east to west, and the breadth but ill proportion’d to its length, you view under the greatest disadvantage possible; whereas if you turn a little to the right hand towards Leith, and so come towards the city, from the north you see a very handsome prospect of the whole city, and from the south you have yet a better view of one part, because the city is encreased on that side with new streets, which, on the north side, cannot be.
The particular situation then of the whole is thus. At the extremity of the east end of the city stands the palace or court, call’d Haly-Rood House; and you must fetch a little sweep to the right hand to leave the palace on the left, and come at the entrance, which is call’d the Water Port, and which you come at thro’ a short suburb, then bearing to the left again, south, you come to the gate of the palace which faces the great street. From the palace, west, the street goes on in almost a straight line, and for near a mile and a half in length, some say full two measur’d miles, thro’ the whole city to the castle, including the going up the castle in the inside; this is, perhaps, the largest, longest, and finest street for buildings and number of inhabitants, not in Britain only, but in the world.
From the very palace door, which stands on a flat, and level with the lowest of the plain country, the street begins to ascend; and tho’ it ascends very gradually at first, and is no where steep, yet ’tis easy to understand that continuing the ascent for so long a way, the further part must necessarily be very high; and so it is; for the castle which stands at the extremity west, as the palace does east, makes on all the three sides, that only excepted, which joins it to the city, a frightful and impassable precipice.
Together with this continued ascent, which, I think, ’tis easy to form an idea of in the mind, you are to suppose the edge or top of the ascent so narrow, that the street, and the row of houses on each side of it, take up the whole breadth; so that which way soever you turn, either to the right, or to the left, you go down hill imediately, and that so steep, as is very troublesome to those who walk in those side lanes which they call Wynds, especially if their lungs are not very good: So that, in a word, the city stands upon the narrow ridge of a long ascending mountain.
On the right side, or north side of the city, and from the very west end of it, where the castle stands, is a lough, or lake of standing water; there is, indeed, a small brook runs thro’ it, so that it cannot be said to be quite standing water. And we were told, that in former days there was another lough on the south side of it, which, being now fill’d up, is built into a street, tho’ so much lower than the high street, or ridge, that, as I said before, the lanes or wynds between them are very steep.
It is easy to conclude, that such a situation as this could never be pick’d out for a city or town, upon any other consideration than that of strength to defend themselves from the suddain surprizes and assaults of enemies: And, tho’ the building is so antient, that no history has recorded the foundation, either when, or by who, or on what occasion it was built; yet, I say, it seems most natural to conclude, that it was built for a retreat from the outrages and attempts of the Picts or Irish, or whatever other enemies they had to fear.
On the top of the ridge of a hill, an impregnable castle and precipice at one end, a lough, or lake of water on either side; so that the inhabitants had nothing to defend but the entrance at the east end, which it was easy to fortify.
If this was not the reason, what should have hinder’d them from building the city in a pleasant, delightful valley, with the sea flowing up to one side, and a fresh water river running thro’ the middle of it; such as is all that space of ground between the city, as it now stands, and the sea, or Firth, and on the south shore, whereof the town of Leith now stands?
Here they had had a noble, a pleasant, and a most useful situation, a very fine harbour for their trade, a good road in the Firth for their ships of burthen, a pleasant river, which, with small art or charge, might have been so drawn round the city as to have fill’d its ditches, and made its fortifications as impregnable as the two loughs did the city, and as the French, when they fortify’d Leith, found easy to do. Or had they gone to the south side of the city, beyond the deep lough, which, they say it was, and which is now call’d the Cowgate, and extended the city towards Libertoun, and towards Good-Trees, where now stands the delightful seat of Sir James Stuart, late Lord Advocate of Scotland, and the antient seat of Craigmiller, the seat of Sir Alexander — of Craigmiller. Here had been a plain large enough to have contain’d a second London, and water’d on the south part with a pleasant brook, sufficient, by the help of pipes, to have carried water into every street, and every house.
These things they did not foresee, or understand in those days; but, regarding immediate safety, fix’d on the place as above as a sure strength, form’d by Nature, and ready at their hand. By this means the city suffers infinite disadvantages, and lies under such scandalous inconveniences as are, by its enemies, made a subject of scorn and reproach; as if the people were not as willing to live sweet and clean as other nations, but delighted in stench and nastiness; whereas, were any other people to live under the same unhappiness, I mean as well of a rocky and mountainous situation, throng’d buildings, from seven to ten or twelve story high, a scarcity of water, and that little they have difficult to be had, and to the uppermost lodgings, far to fetch; we should find a London or a Bristol as dirty as Edinburgh, and, perhaps, less able to make their dwelling tolerable, at least in so narrow a compass; for, tho’ many cities have more people in them, yet, I believe, this may be said with truth, that in no city in the world so many people live in so little room as at Edinburgh.
On the north side of the city, as is said above, is a spacious, rich, and pleasant plain, extending from the lough, which as above joins the city, to the river of Leith, at the mouth of which is the town of Leith, at the distance of a long Scots mile from the city: And even here, were not the north side of the hill, which the city stands on, so exceeding steep, as hardly, (at least to the westward of their flesh-market) to be clamber’d up on foot, much less to be made passable for carriages. But, I say, were it not so steep, and were the lough fill’d up, as it might easily be, the city might have been extended upon the plain below, and fine beautiful streets would, no doubt, have been built there; nay, I question much whether, in time, the high streets would not have been forsaken, and the city, as we might say, run all out of its gates to the north.
This might have been expected, if the city had been in a state of encrease, for the trade having flourished, as was reasonably expected upon the Union, the inhabitants had likewise encreas’d; whereas, there being reason to doubt that this is not the case, but rather the contrary, we cannot talk of this as prospect in hope.
Having thus consider’d the city in its appearance, and in its present situation, I must look next into its inside, where we shall find it under all its discouragements and disadvantages, (and labouring with whatever inconveniences) a large, populous, noble, rich, and even still a royal city. The main street, as above, is the most spacious, the longest, and best inhabited street in Europe; its length I have describ’d; the buildings are surprizing both for strength, for beauty, and for height; all, or the greatest part of free-stone, and so firm is every thing made, that tho’ in so high a situation, and in a country where storms and violent winds are so frequent, ’tis very rare that any damage is done here. No blowing of tiles about the streets, to knock people on the head as they pass; no stacks of chimneys and gable-ends of houses falling in to bury the inhabitants in their ruins, as we often find it in London, and other of our paper built cities in England; but all is fix’d, and strong to the top, tho’ you have, in that part of the city call’d the Parliament-close, houses, which, on the south side, appear to be eleven or twelve story high, and inhabited to the very top.
From the palace gate, westward, this street is call’d the Cannon-Gate, vulgarly the Canni-gate, which part, tho’ a suburb, is a kind of Corporation by itself, as Westminster to London; and has a toll-booth, a prison, and a town-guard by itself, tho’ under the government of the provost and bailiffs of Edinburgh as Leith itself also is. In this part of the street, tho’ otherwise not so well inhabited as the city itself, are several very magnificent houses of the nobility, built for their residence when the court was in town, and on their other occaasions, just as was the case in the Strand between London and Whitehall, before the encrease of the city prompted the building those fine houses into streets. Of those the Duke of Queensberry’s, the Earl of Wintoun’s, the Duke of Roxburgh’s, and the Earl of Murray’s are the chief; the first and last are very magnificent, large and princely buildings, all of free-stone, large in front, and with good gardens behind them, and the other are very fine buildings, too many to be describ’d.
At the upper, or west end of this street, and where it joins to the city, is a gate which, just as Ludgate, or Temple-Bar, stands parting the city itself from the suburb, but not at all discontinuing the street, which rather widens, and is more spacious when you are thro’ the gate than before. This gate, or Bow, is call’d the Nether-Bow, or, by some, the Nether-Bow port.
Just at this port, on the outside, turn away two streets, one goes south to a gate or port which leads out of the city into the great road for England, by the way of Kelso, and is call’d St. Mary Wynde; and, on the right hand of it, another port turns away west, into the low street, mention’d before, where was a lough formerly fill’d up, and is call’d the Cowgate, because, by this street, the cattle are driven to and from the great marketplace, call’d the Grass-market, where such cattle are bought and sold, as also where is a horse-market weekly, as in Smithfield. This street, call’d the Cowgate, runs parallel with the high street, but down in a bottom, as has been said. But to go back to the Nether-Bow Port, as this turning is on the left hand going into the city, so on the right hand goes another street, which they call Leith Wynd, and leads down to a gate which is not in the city wall immediately, but adjoining to a church call’d the College-Kirk, and thro’ which gate, a suburb runs out north, opening into the plain, leads to Leith; and all along by the road side, the road itself pav’d with stones like a street, is a broad causeway, or, as we call it, a foot way, very firm, and made by hand at least 20 foot broad, and continued to the town of Leith. This causeway is very well kept at the publick expence, and no horses suffer’d to come upon it.
At the turning down of this street, without the Nether-Bow port, which they call the head of the Cannon-gate, there stood a very great pile of building which went both ways, part made the east side of the turning call’d Leith Wynd, and part made the north side of the Cannon-gate; the whole was built, as many such are, for private dwellings, but were stately, high, and very handsome buildings, seven or eight stories: But great part of this fine pile of building was very unhappily burnt a few years ago; whether they are yet fully rebuilt, I cannot say.
We now enter the city, properly so call’d; in almost the first buildings of note on the north side of the street, the Marquess of Tweedale has a good city house, with a plantation of lime-trees behind it, instead of a garden, the place not allowing room for a large garden; adjoining to which are very good buildings, tho’ in the narrow wynds and alleys, such as if set out in handsome streets, would have adorn’d a very noble city, but are here crouded together, as may be said, without notice.
Here the physicians have a hall, and adjoining to it a very good garden; but I saw no simples in it of value, there being a physick garden at the palace which furnishes them sufficiently: But they have a fine Musæum, or Chamber of Rarities, which are worth seeing, and which, in some things, is not to be match’d in Europe. Dr. Balfour, afterwards knighted, began the collection. Sir Robert Sibbald has printed a catalogue of what was then deposited in his time. The physitians of Edinburgh have preserved the character of able, learned, and experienc’d, and have not been outdone by any of their neighbours: And the late Dr. Pitcairn, who was the Ratcliff of Scotland, has left large testimonies of his skill in nature and medicine to the world.
It must not be expected I can go on to describe all the buildings of the city; I shall therefore only touch at such things, and go on. From the Nether-Bow, you have an open view up the high street. On the south side is the trone kirk, and a little farther, in the middle of the street the guard house, where the town guard does duty every night. These are in the stead of our watchmen; and the town maintains two full companies of them, cloth’d and arm’d as grenadiers.
Those are as a guard to keep the publick peace of the city; but I cannot but acknowledge that they are not near so good a safeguard to the citizens, against private robberies, as our watchmen in London are; and Edinburgh is not without such fellows as shop-lifters, house-robbers, and pick-pockets, in proportion to the number of people, as much as London itself.
About midway, between the Nether-Bow and the Castle-Hill, is the great church, formerly it was call’d the cathedral, and was all one church, dedicated to St. Giles: But since the abolishing episcopacy, and that the Presbyterian church is now establish’d by the Union, so as never legally to suffer another change; I say never legally, because it cannot be done without dissolving the Union, which I take to be indissolvable: Since this establishment, the cathedral church is divided into four parochial churches.
In one of those churches, which they call the new church, were seats for the Parliament, high commissioners, and the nobility, when the Parliament was assembled, tho’ that occasion is now over: In a room, formerly a kind of consistory room, on the south side of the church, the General Assembly hold their meetings once a year, as also does the Commission of the Assembly in the intervals of the General Meeting, as occasion requires. In the great tower of this church they have a set of bells, which are not rung out as in England, for that way of ringing is not known here; but they are play’d upon with keys, and by a man’s hand, like a harpsicord; the person playing has great strong wooden cases to his fingers, by which he is able to strike with the more force, and he plays several tunes very musically, tho’ they are heard much better at a distance than near at hand; the man plays every day, Sunday and fast days excepted, at twelve a clock, and has a yearly salary for doing it, and very well he earns the money.
On the south side of this church is a square of very fine buildings, which is call’d by the name of the Parliament Close; the west side of the square, and part of the south, is taken up with the Parliament House, and the several Courts of Justice, the Council-Chamber, the Treasury, the publick offices, registers, the publick library, &c. the court for the meeting of the Royal Boroughs, and several offices needful, when the independency of Scotland was in being, but now not so much in use. But as the Session, or College of Justice, the Exchequer, and the Justiciary, or courts for criminal causes still exist, the usual places for their assembling are still preserved. These buildings are very fine, all of free-stone, well finish’d, and very magnificent. The great church makes up the north side of the square, and the east remaining part of the south side is built into private dwellings very stately, lofty, and strong, being seven story high to the front of the square, and the hill they stand on giving so sudden a descent, they are eleven or twelve story high backward.
The publick part was first finish’d by King Charles I. and an equestrian statue of King Charles II. stands in the middle of the square; all the east part was burnt down by a most terrible fire, in the year — or thereabouts; but ’tis rebuilt as fine as ever. The great opening into the High Street, being the only passage into it for coaches, is at the north east corner, between the south east corner of the High Kirk, and the opposite high buildings, and a little from the opening is the market-cross, where all their proclamations and publick acts are read and publish’d by sound of trumpet. Here is the great parade, where, every day, the gentlemen meet for business or news, as at an Exchange; the usual time of meeting is from eleven to one. Here is also another passage at the north west corner, which goes into the Land-market, and another passage down innumerable stone stairs, on the south side, leading into the Cowgate.
On the west end of the great Church, but in a different building, is the Tolbooth, or common prison, as well for criminals as debtors, and a miserable hole it is, to say no worse of it; tho’, for those that can pay for it, there are some apartments tolerable enough, and persons of quality are sometimes confin’d here. The great church and this prison also standing in the middle of the street, the breadth and beauty of it is for some time interrupted, and the way is contracted for so far as those buildings reach on the north side.
But those buildings past, the street opens again to a breadth rather wider than before, and this is call’d the Land-market, but for what reason I know not. This part is also nobly built, and extends west to the Castle Hill, or rather to a narrower street which leads up to the castle.
At the upper end of this Land-market is a stone building, appropriated to several publick offices of lesser value, and is call’d the Weigh-house; for below stairs are warehouses, with publick weights and scales for heavy goods.
Here the High Street ends, and parting into two streets, one goes away south west, and descending gradually, leads by the West Bow, as ’tis call’d, to the Grass-market, This street, which is call’d the Bow, is generally full of wholesale traders, and those very considerable dealers in iron, pitch, tar, oyl, hemp, flax, linsced, painters colours, dyers, drugs and woods, and such like heavy goods, and supplies country shopkeepers, as our wholesale dealers in England do: And here I may say, is a visible face of trade; most of them have also warehouses in Leith, where they lay up the heavier goods, and bring them hither, or fell them by patterns and samples, as they have occasion.
There are large gates in the city which they call ports, including those to the Cannon-gate.
The Water-Gate, which is the east gate by the palace, leading out of the city towards Berwick, and is the great post road to England.
The South Port, mention’d before, leading likewise into the road to Soutra Hill, and so to England by way of Kelso.
The Cowgate Port, at the east end of the Cowgate, and entring from the street leading to the South Port.
The College Port, or the gate going south by the wall of Harriot’s hospital.
The West-Bow Port, spoken of before in the middle of the street, mention’d above where the wholesale dealers dwell.
The North Port, a gate leading from the butchery, or flesh-market, over the end of the lough.
The Nether-Bow Port, spoken of at large, leading into the city from the Cannon-gate.
The College-Kirk Port, at the bottom or foot of Leith Wynd.
The West Port, which is the only gate in the west end of the city, and leads out to all the west and north parts of Scotland, and especially to Glasgow, to Sterling, and to the Queens Ferry, the two last being the principal passages into the north.
The markets in Edinburgh are not in the open street, except that in the High Street, where there is every morning an herb and fruit market, which yet abates before noon, and what remains then is no grievance. Besides this, there are several distinct market places wall’d in, and reserv’d for the particular things they are appointed for, and very well regulated by the magistrates, and well supplied also; as
|1. The Meal-market.|
|2. The Flesh-market.|
|3. The Poultry-market.|
|4. The Butter-market.|
|5. The Grass-market.||}||Kept open, and in the same street just within the west port, with several others.|
|6. The Horse-market.|
There is also, in the street call’d the Land-market, a weekly market for all sorts of woollen manufactures, and some mercery and drapery goods, and also for linnen cloth.
But I must not omit the seminaries of learning, and the attendants upon them, nor the surgeons and apothecaries, with the great hospital, all which stand on the south side of the city; the first of them is the surgeons hall, or surgeon-apothecaries, for here they make but one profession. They have set up a large building all at their own charge, in which is their great hall, hung round with the pictures of all the surgeons of the city, that are, or have been since the building was erected, as also the pictures of Duke Hamilton and the late Lord Chancellor. They have also a Chamber of Rarities, a theatre for dissections, and the finest bagnio in Britain; ’tis perfectly well contriv’d, and exactly well finish’d, no expence being spar’d to make it both convenient and effectually useful.
In their Chamber of Rarities they have several skeletons of strange creatures, a mummy, and other curious things, too many to be particular in them here.
The Humanity school is kept in the same part, which is reckon’d as a part of the university, as being employ’d in the finishing youth for the college. West of these is the college itself, they call it the university: But as it consists of but one college, I call it no more. However, here are all the usual methods of academick learning in their full perfection. The principal, or master, has a handsome dwelling-house and garden in the college: There are, besides a Professor of Divinity, four Regents, or Professors of Philosophy; a Professor of Greek, another of Hebrew, another of History, of the Mathematicks, and of the Civil Law.
The college has a very handsome publick library; and, though not famous for number of books, is yet so for its being a valuable collection of antiquity, and has some very good manuscripts. The late Act of Parliament for settling the right of copies, has made provision for a constant supply of modern books, especially such as are printed in England; so the library is like to encrease, in time, to a great one.
Here was formerly a mint, but that is now laid aside, the Union having made one and the same coinage common to the whole island.
The churches in this populous City are but ten, (viz.)
There are also many meeting-houses of the Episcopal party who call themselves Church of England, though they do not all use the English Common-Prayer. These are the dissenters in Scotland, as the Presbyterians are Dissenters in England.
There are also two churches at Leith, and very large and very full they are, and so indeed are all the churches in the city, for the people of Scotland do not wander about on the sabbath-days, as in England; and even those who may have no more religion than enough, yet custom has made it almost natural to them, they all go to the kirk.
They have also one very good custom as to their behaviour in the church, which I wish were practis’d here, namely, that after the sermon is over, and the blessing given, they all look round upon their friends, and especially to persons of distinction, and make their civilities and bows as we do here, for, by the way, the Scots do not want manners. But if any person come in when the worship is begun, he takes notice of no body, nor any body of him; whereas here we make our bows and our cringes in the middle of our very prayers.
I have now done with the city; the palace only, and the castle remain to be mention’d; the last is strong by situation, not much better’d by art, and far from being impregnable, as has been prov’d more than once. It is now of little use, unless for salutes, and firing guns upon festivals, and in some cases to lay up a magazine of arms and ammunition, and to receive prisoners of State.
The Governor has very good apartments, and so has the Lieutenant Governor, as also the Fort-major, and some other officers, and there are deep vaults in the rock, which they say are bomb-proof, and I doubt not but they are so, for they go down into them by a great number of steps. There is also a well of very good water in the castle, and it is carefully kept, but it is a prodigious depth. Here are not a great many guns planted, neither, indeed, is there room to place many guns, or use for them where they can be plac’d, the works being so very high.
The palace is a handsome building, rather convenient than large. The entrance is majestick, and over the gate a large apartment, which the Duke of Hamilton claims as housekeeper, or rather gate-keeper of the palace; within this is a large, irregular court, where, I must needs say, are very improperly plac’d the coach-houses and stables, which should much rather have been farther off, either in the park, or without the outgate: And, if here had been a barrack, or guard-house, like the Horse-Guards at Whitehall, it would have look’d much more like a royal palace for the king. On either side of this court are gardens, yards the Scots call them, whereof one is like our apothecaries garden at Chelsea, call’d a physick garden, and is tolerably well stor’d with simples, and some exoticks of value; and, particularly I was told, there was a rhubarb-tree, or plant, and which throve very well. In this garden stands Queen Mary’s Dial, which is a very curious one, but neglected.
Antiquity claims the fee simple here, and tells us that the church is still ground landlord; for, before the Reformation, this was a monastery; and, tho’ it was converted into a palace before the suppression of religious houses, yet, that till then the monks had a fair apartment, and was therefore call’d Haly-Rood House, and they did but entertain the kings and queens in the other as a kind of Guest Mates, or, as we call them, lodgers.
But, be that as it will, the Reformation found a good house upon the premises, which serv’d the kings for some ages before, and which King Charles II. after the Restoration, caus’d to be pull’d down, except the two rondels, or towers, and built the whole fabrick new as it now stands. It is a firm, strong building, square in form, having one court only in the center; and the lower story being divided, the inner part makes a very handsome piazza, tho’ the work is plain, and very little ornament, therefore not to be describ’d as one author does by the pillars of the Exchange of London, which are set off with almost all the ornament art could invent.
The apartments are all upon the first floor, the offices below, and some upper rooms are allotted to the servants of the court when the court is there. I have not room to describe the particular apartments, nor is it of moment. The great staircase is at the south west corner of the house, and the guard-chamber and rooms of state take up the south side of the house, as the king’s lodgings do the east side, which the Lord Commissioner makes use of in time of parliament; and the west side would be suppos’d to be the queen’s lodgings, if such a thing was to be seen again in Scotland, but at present are out of use. The north side is taken up with one large gallery, reaching the whole length of the house, famous for having the pictures of all the kings of Scotland, from King Fergus, who, they say, reign’d Anno ant. CHR. 320. But, in my opinion, as these pictures cannot be, and are not suppos’d to be originals, but just a face and dress left to the discretion of the limner, and so are all guess-work, I see no rarity, or, indeed, any thing valuable in it. As to their later kings there may be some pretence to have their pictures from old preserv’d draughts, or from their coins or medals, and such may be, indeed, worth preserving; and, tho’ they were but copy’d again, it would have been worth seeing; but, as it is, I must confess it seems a trifling thing, rather than a gallery fit for a court.
The old Chapel Royal, or church of the convent, stands in its disshabile, ruin’d and decay’d, and must fall down. In King James IId’s time, the old council-chamber was consecreated for a chapel, instead of the antient fabrick; and there the Roman priests officiated for some time, promising themselves not only to restore the great antient chapel, but even to seize upon the palace itself in the right of the Church, and make a noble monastery of it which it must be confess’d might have been done with very little change: But their reign was too short for the undertaking.
On the side of the park was a part set out for fine gardens, and they are still call’d St Ann’s Yards, that is gardens; but they have never been planted or form’d.
I must now visit Leith, the sea-port of Edinburgh, as it is properly call’d: It is a large and populous town, or rather two towns, for the river or harbour parts them, and they are join’d by a good stone bridge, about half a mile, or more, from the mouth of the river.
Up to this bridge ships of burthen may come, and, at high water, lay their sides close to the shore; but at low water people pass over on foot, even without the pier; but the water flows in the Firth near three fathom right up and down.
Here is a very fine key well wharf’d up with stone, and fenc’d with piles, able to discharge much more business than the place can supply, tho’ the trade is far from being inconsiderable too. At the mouth of the harbour is a very long and well built pier, or head, which runs out beyond the land a great way, and which defends the entrance into the harbour from filling up with sand, as, upon hard gales of wind at north east, would be very likely: There are also ranges of piles, or break-waters, as the seamen call them, on the other side the harbour, all which are kept in good repair; and by this means the harbour is preserv’d, and kept open in spight of a flat shore, and a large swell of the sea.
On the other side the bridge is the remains of a strong castle, built by Oliver Cromwell to command the port, but demolish’d; yet not so much, but that a little expence and a few hands would soon restore it. Here the late rebel Highlanders made a bold stop, and took possession of it for one night; but not finding their friends in the city in any condition to join them; and the troops preparing to attack them, they quitted it in the night, and march’d off to the Earl of Winton’s house, as has been said. Leith, tho’ it has a particular bayliff, is yet under the jurisdiction of the magistrates of Edinburgh, and is govern’d by them. The town had a great disaster a few years before the Union, by a store-house of gunpowder taking fire, which demolish’d almost a whole street of houses; the loss is not fully repair’d to this day: Many lives also were lost, and many people miserably hurt and bruis’d, which, I think, should serve as a hint to all governments, not to suffer quantities of powder to be kept in populous towns.
This town was once very strong, when the French held it, as they did for many years against the Reformers, and were not at last driven out, but by an army from England, which Queen Elizabeth sent to assist the Protestants.
From Leith, the Firth, which is there, at least, two leagues over, holds that breadth for five or six miles, and then narrows a little beyond Cramond; and again at the Queens-Ferry, it is reduc’d to two miles breadth, and an island in the middle also.
There is also a ferry at Leith, the boats going from Leith to Burnt-Island, or, as the Scots call it, Bruntillian; but as ’tis no less than seven miles, and that sometimes they meet with bad weather, the passengers are so often frighted, that I knew several gentlemen that would always choose to go round to the Queens-Ferry, rather than venture over at Leith; this, I suppose, gave beginning to that homely piece of proverb poetry, that
There is never a laird in Fife,
But once a year he would give his estate for his life.
Queens-Ferry is not a passage over the water only, but a very good town also, and a Corporation. And here I must take notice of a thing which was to me surprising, I mean as to the quantity of herrings taken, and that might be taken in those seas. There was, at that time, a fleet of between seven and eight hundred sail of Dutch Busses come into the Firth, loaden with herrings, and their convoy with them, for it was in the time of the late wars; the Scots themselves had taken a vast quantity, for they said they had had a very good fishery all along upon the coast of Fife, and of Aberdeen, and the Dunbar men, and the Firth boats, were every day taking more; and yet the water of the Firth was so full of fish, that passing at the Queens-Ferry in a little Norway yawl, or boat, row’d by two boys, the boys toss’d the fish out of the water into the boat with their naked hands only: But I shall have occasion to mention this again.
Between Edinburgh and this town the Marquess of Annandale has a small, but very pleasant house: And here I observ’d his lordship was making bricks, in order to build walls round his garden; a thing hardly to be seen in Scotland, except there. On the other hand, it is for want of brick walls that the wall-fruit in Scotland does not thrive so well there as it would otherwise do: And whereas they have no peaches or nectarines, or but very few, it is evident, had they brick walls they might have both; but the stone will not do it. The reflexion of the sun is not equally nourishing, nor does the stone hold the warmth of the sun, after it is gone, as the bricks do.
All the country between Edinburgh and this place, is throng’d with gentlemen’s houses, also as it was observ’d to be on the other side: But the beauty of all this part is Hopton House, built upon a delightful plain, and yet upon the edge, as we may say, of a high precipice; from whence you, as it were, look down upon the ships as they sail by, for you stand above the top-mast heads of them.
The house was originally a square; but the earl is now adding two wings to it, which will greatly add to the beauty of the building; the situation is so good, and gives so fine a prospect, as well to the sea as to the land, that nothing can be finer. It is exquisitely finish’d, both within and without; and besides family-pieces, the earl has some fine pieces of painting that are very curious. The stables and riding-place are by far the finest and most magnificent in Scotland; and his lordship, who delights in good horses, has the best, without comparison, in all the country. But it would be endless to dwell upon the description of gentlemen’s seats, in a country where they are so numerous, and where, indeed, they are the chief thing of value that is to be seen.
From hence the Firth widens again, and soon after is three or four miles wide, and makes a safe and deep road, with good anchor ground; and if there was a trade to answer it, here might ride a thousand sail of ships of any burthen.
On the south-shore, upon a narrow slip or point of land, running far into the water, lyes Blackness Castle, in former times infamous for the cruel confining state-prisoners, and especially such as were taken up for religious differences, where many perished, either by the unhealthiness of the place, or want of conveniences, or something worse. It might be of use, if the harbour, as I have said, was frequented; but as it is, there seems to be no occasion at all for it.
Farther west is Boristown Ness, a long town, of one street, and no more, extended along the shore, close to the water. It has been, and still is, a town of the greatest trade to Holland and France, before the Union, of any in Scotland, except Edinburgh; and, for shipping, it has more ships belong to it than to Edinburgh and Leith put together; yet their trade is declin’d of late by the Dutch trade, being carry’d on so much by way of England: But, as they tell us, the Glasgow merchants are resolving to settle a trade to Holland and Hamburgh in the Firth, by bringing their foreign goods, (viz.) their sugars and tobacco by land to Alloway, and from thence export them as they see occasion. I say, in this case, which is very probable, the Boristoun Ness men will come into business again; for as they have the most shipping, so they are the best seamen in the Firth; and particularly they are not sailors only, but even pilots for the coast of Holland, they are so acquainted with it, and so with the Baltick, and the coast of Norway also.
As I resolve to go through my account of the south part of Scotland first, I shall not pass the Firth at all, till giving you an account of the western part, I come back to Sterling Bridge, and there I suppose I may finish my next letter; mean time
I am, &c.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07