HOWWOOD AND CLOCHODRICK STONE.
The car runs practically on the lower shoulders of the Gleniffer Braes, from Elderslie to Thorn and Quarreltown, where a tree-shadowed country road branches off the main tram highway and leads to the pleasant township of Howwood, whence the rambler may cross the Black Cart, and skirting the policies of Castle Semple, strike the Lochwinnoch road to Kilbarchan. At the junction of the roads, and in a field to the right stands a massive boulder, the Cloch-a-Druid (locally Clochodrick Stane), or Stone of the Druid. This is an interesting relic, not an outcrop, but a mass hewn out of the adjoining whinstone. Tradition says it was a rocking stone; Chalmers, in his “Caledonia,” ventures the opinion that it was a battle stone of the tribes of Strathclyde. Its name suggests a remote antiquity, a link with a long vanished religion and people. The highway to the right takes us to Kilbarchan, a pleasant walk of some six miles from Thorn.
THE PEESWEEP AND STANLEY KEEP.
From Thorn also there is another pleasant ramble up and over the Gleniffer Braes. Take the road that on the left goes uphill by the smithy and skirts the wooded policies of Johnstone Castle. The rise is sharp; in half a mile two hundred feet, where we pass Auchinlodoment (? the field of the grave mound) and at Windyhill, half a mile beyond this, we have climbed another hundred feet. The place-names hereabouts are significant—Windyhill is descriptive of the situation, for the dwellers here will get a fair share of the snell blasts of winter and spring; Craigbog, Meiklebog, Craigmuir—a trio of names with the tang of the Scotch—and at Craigmuir you are two miles from Thorn and in the brief tramp have risen five hundred feet. It is exactly a mile from Craigmuir to the old, and in days gone by, justly celebrated Peesweep Inn, an old-fashioned and bien howff where, in 1840 (I quote from a writer of the period), the wayfarer over the moorland desolation of the Gleniffers could get “a farle of oatcake and a gill of mountain dew with a commendation to thirsty lips of the water from a spring in the moss as both cold and pure.” Until quite recently the Peesweep maintained an open door. It is now a private house, and “teas” are not available. Mountain dew had been long forbidden. Why, asks the reflective and perchance thirsty and wearied wayfarer. Let the gods reply. Still one may be pardoned for presuming to think that an age which glorifies war and slaughter would hesitate to frown upon the imbibition of what the reverend Mr. Stiggins in touching and simple phrase once described as “vanities.” In the days of the reverend gentleman’s “vanities of which the less odious is the liquor called rum,” the Peesweep was the scene of many a merry splore, and by other than “gangrel bodies.” It was a favourite objective of the bohemian brotherhood of the city, and these ways and days are focused in the pithy lines of that jovial Glasgow poet and journalist, the late William Freeland:
“Then out into the night we stept, heavens! how the planets reeled.
The blaze of moon-girt Jupiter flash’d o’er us like a shield;
And belted Saturn old rolled dim upon a larger field;
And from the low north-west wheeled up the golden mottled moon,
And westward in a dream of stars the Milky Way did swoon;
While eager in the far south-east Orion raised his chin
In time to hear our farewell to the Peesweep Inn.”
From the Peesweep a straight mile of road takes you on to the brow of the Gleniffer Braes, where you look down on a landscape, beautiful and far spreading, and in which every wood and green knoll, quiet nook and mountain, has been consecrated by the muse of Robert Tannahill. He knew and he loved these verdant hills and of them he penned the haunting lines:
“Keen blaws the wind o’er the braes o’ Gleniffer
The auld castle turrets are covered wi’ snaw
How changed frae the time when I met wi’ my lover
Among the broom bushes on Stanley green shaw.”
And over the little fountain at which you quench your thirst as you go adown the Braes, there has been woven the spell of a sweetly tender poetic immortality. No Glasgow rambler can pass
“The bonnie wee well on the breist o’ the brae,
Where the hare steals to drink in the gloamin’ sae grey”
and fail to think of the most lovable of Glasgow ramblers, Hugh Macdonald—a portrait of whom has been this year added to the collection at Kelvingrove.
About a mile below “the bonnie wee well” stands Stanley Castle, a 15th century keep of massive build, and now surrounded by the waters of the Paisley reservoir. It was built by the Maxwells who owned the lands of Stanley, was unroofed in 1714, since when “the auld castle turrets” have been wasted sadly by the keen winds and rains of the passing years. On the bank of the reservoir adjacent to the castle is to be seen the mutilated shaft of an ancient cross, and from this headless cross it is an easy walk to Paisley Cross and the car—a round of six miles from Thorn.