Roseneath at last
It was only about a 30 minute drive to Roseneath from Keppoch House (all the way around the banks of the Gareloch) but already the sky was looking ominous so we decided to explore before the rain arrived. We took the path up the hill behind the Clachan, partly to get a good view of the village from above and partly because I felt sure that Georgiana must have enjoyed exactly the same walk many times. The steep fields behind the church can’t have changed at all since she stayed there.
Even on a thundery afternoon, the western isles of Scotland are beautiful. Wild, silvery and open to the sky. We had to walk through farmland and this old gate shows just how slowly time passes in those hills.
From the top of the hill we looked down onto the Clachan. You can see the ruins of the church where Georgiana worshipped and just to the right, the new manse where we would be staying for the next two nights. If you ignore the telephone wires, this view is just as it would have been in 1829.
You can also see how very close the other shore of the Gareloch is at Roseneath. Almost certainly, Georgiana would have used the little ferry when she visited rather than making the long journey around the head of the loch as we had to do. For her, it would have been a short carriage drive from Keppoch House and then a tiny wooden boat across the narrows at Rhu (or ‘Row’), to land on the stony beach at Roseneath.
We went back down to the village and walked to the beach where the ferry used to come and go.
The pathway from the ferry point back up to the Clachan is tarmac now but clearly covers exactly the same route. No-one around and just the trees on either side and birds singing. She must have walked that way so many times.
I sat on the beach there for a while, thinking about how G would have felt when she first set foot in that beautiful spot, just as I had and how she must have compared it with the beach at Augusta – just as I was doing. I also recorded the sound of the loch lapping against the shore – I’ll be able to listen to that when I get home to WA but she only had her memory to rely on.
The old Ferry Inn is still there, a private home now but we took a photo. Those steps up to the inn must have been the first welcome for many travellers in the 19th Century.
Richard Fryer gave us a warm welcome at Easter Garth, the manse that the Storys had built several years after G had left for Australia, when the old one fell into bad disrepair.
The first delight was the garden.
An old gate is still there between the house and the glebe land where the new church stands. I’m not a gate expert but it looks very old. I imagined Georgiana going through the garden and up the hill through this gate, the way we had walked earlier.
Jennifer and I had always wondered whether the new manse stood on the same spot as the old one where G stayed with Helen and her husband, the Rev. Robert Story. Richard told us that they had found clues that this was the case. When Richard and his wife, Helena, did some renovations, they found old rubble under the floor and filling in a wall. It seems unlikely that anyone would have taken the trouble to move house rubble far in an era when they would have to do it with shovels! The new graveyard was the orchard of the old manse so that, too, shows the likely position of the original building.
It was exciting to think that we were going to stay in exactly the place that G had loved so much, and the home that that Helen lived in for many years until her death, bedridden at the end just like her close friend Georgiana.
Our second surprise was the room we were given. Our window looked straight down onto the old churchyard and just a few metres below us was the grave of Helen Boyle Story (Dunlop) – the one that Jennifer and I found on our last visit, hidden under the brambles. I was overwhelmed…
We planned to explore the graveyard the next day and went off for dinner at the castle-like hotel where Jen and I had rested our weary bones a year earlier. And wher Jen had her first (and last!) taste of Scottish kipper for breakfast…
Then we spent the evening reading old books that Richard had kindly provided about the history of the area. I really didn’t want to sleep – it felt so strange to be there and so wonderful – but I slept like a log.