Fores, Calder and Fort George is the ninth chapter of Samuel Johnson's book Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, about a trip he took in 1773. The previous chapter was Elgin and the next is Inverness.
We went forwards the same day to Fores
, the town to which Macbeth
was travelling, when he met the weird sisters
in his way. This to
ground. Our imagination
s were heated, and
our thoughts recalled to their old amusement
We had now a prelude to the Highlands. We began to leave fertility
and culture behind us, and saw for a great length of road nothing
but heath; yet at Fochabars, a seat belonging to the Duke of
Gordon, there is an orchard, which in Scotland I had never seen
before, with some timber trees, and a plantation of oaks.
At Fores we found good accommodation, but nothing worthy of
particular remark, and next morning entered upon the road, on which
Macbeth heard the fatal prediction; but we travelled on not
interrupted by promises of kingdoms, and came to Nairn, a royal
burgh, which, if once it flourished, is now in a state of miserable
decay; but I know not whether its chief annual magistrate has not
still the title of Lord Provost.
At Nairn we may fix the verge of the Highlands; for here I first
saw peat fires, and first heard the Erse language. We had no
motive to stay longer than to breakfast, and went forward to the
house of Mr. Macaulay, the minister who published an account of St.
Kilda, and by his direction visited Calder Castle, from which
Macbeth drew his second title. It has been formerly a place of
strength. The draw-bridge is still to be seen, but the moat is now
dry. The tower is very ancient: Its walls are of great thickness,
arched on the top with stone, and surrounded with battlements. The
rest of the house is later, though far from modern.
We were favoured by a gentleman, who lives in the castle, with a
letter to one of the officers at Fort George, which being the most
regular fortification in the island, well deserves the notice of a
traveller, who has never travelled before. We went thither next
day, found a very kind reception, were led round the works by a
gentleman, who explained the use of every part, and entertained by
Sir Eyre Coote, the governour, with such elegance of conversation
as left us no attention to the delicacies of his table.
Of Fort George I shall not attempt to give any account. I cannot
delineate it scientifically, and a loose and popular description is
of use only when the imagination is to be amused. There was every
where an appearance of the utmost neatness and regularity. But my
suffrage is of little value, because this and Fort Augustus are the
only garrisons that I ever saw.
We did not regret the time spent at the fort, though in consequence
of our delay we came somewhat late to Inverness, the town which may
properly be called the capital of the Highlands. Hither the
inhabitants of the inland parts come to be supplied with what they
cannot make for themselves: Hither the young nymphs of the
mountains and valleys are sent for education, and as far as my
observation has reached, are not sent in vain.