TO THE HONEY WELL.
There is from this mound of the mountain views a choice of two rare rambles, that is for the hefty pedestrian; there is a more modest one suitable for the less robust rambler. I will take the last first. From the Mound looking directly south will be noted two converging roads skirting the golf course. These meet, and from their junction an old country road trails due south. Follow it. On the right is moorland soil with tufted gorse and a sprinkling of heather; on the left a green valley, through which meanders the Lochar Water. A walk of a mile or so and we cross the Lochar by a little bridge, where there is a sedge-fringed pool, and where the stream wends a devious way across a rushy meadow-a delightful spot for artist, photographer, or botanist. From the bridge the road rises steadily under the shadow of a wood of fir and larch and beech. Half a mile or less from the Lochar Bridge our road bends to the left through the plantation; take the branch straight ahead up an extraordinarily steep brae. Half way up, and nestling under the hedgerow is a sparkling spring, with water clear as crystal and cool as ice. It is a wishing well, famed to the older generation as the Honey Well, and certainly its pure liquid is sweet as honey to the lips of the dusty wayfarer on a hot summer afternoon. And by this little Valclusa you may rest and wish, and its purity and modest beauty will inspire the purest and best of wishes. On the crest of the rise turn sharply to the left; on your right is Lawmarnock Farm, and from this point a walk of a couple of miles through a fine countryside takes one back to Kilbarchan, a round of four mile from the flag-staffed Mound.
THE COVENANTERS’ HOLLOW.
To reach the Covenanters’ Hollow by the old farm of Ladymuir, follow the same road described in the last ramble. Follow it to the little bridge over the Lochar, but on this tramp do not cross the bridge. Take the road that goes uphill on the right just before you come to the bridge. The rise is sharp—from three hundred feet (O.S.) at the Lochar’s brig to 525 at Auchincloich Farm on the top of the hill, a mile from the brig and on our road. Another mile’s tramping at this high and bracing level, past Barnbrock Farm—a suggestive Scotch place-name—on the left, and we join the Lochwinnoch highway, the old Greenock coaching road. Where the roads join, and a little to the right, is an old farm road that leads over the moor to Ladymuir Farm. And at this lonely moorland farm we are at a spot where the unstoried moor joins hands with history. In the murderous tyranny of the “killing times,” of which, and the men who were persecuted, we now profess to be so proud because they suffered for liberty to speak and act according to the dictates of conscience, Ladymuir was a haunt and refuge of the Covenanters. The Blairs, who tenanted the old farm, were kindly disposed to the hunted folk, and, as the Paisley records show, conventicles were often held in the wilderness which stretches around. The present tenant is a descendant of the Blairs, and he readily grants permission to wander round the farm toun, where you may see the ancient steading, a rudely-lettered stone, and trace the foundations of the old farmhouse. Across the moor, about a mile from the farm, is a miniature valley hidden in the heath, one of the hiding-places of the hunted men. We come on it unexpectedly. It is a lovely spot full of pleasant sounds, the hushed whisper of hidden moorland streams: a place for Pan and his nymphs of the glen, a paradise for lovers, though youths and maids but rarely frequent this distant glen, and still more rarely the divinities.
From this glen of the hiding-places—there are several and well concealed—follow the sheep tracks back across the gorse on to the gated ridge to the left and above the farm. The Covenanters’ Hollow, known to the moorland shepherds as the Big Ring, lies a good mile across the moor from the gate on the ridge, and just under the shadow of the curious rocky escarpment of Craigminnin, with its background of Misty Law—Renfrewshire’s highest hill, 1,663 feet—filling up the background. At this storied Hollow we are in the very heart of the upland wilderness which lies on the southern borders of Renfrewshire. The Hollow itself is a green spot, a gleaming emerald on a great undulating bosom of dark heather and bracken, “the bent sae brown” of the mediaeval makar. It is a hollow of dreamy solitude, in which we are absolutely alone with earth and sky, and where the only sound that tells of life is the lonesome cry of the peesweep and the whaup. It is a hollow in which there linger old memories of long dead feuds, and in which we may feel the hushed rhythm of an old story—let us hope not to be repeated by the clerical bigots of the present day—of religious intolerance and persecution. The scene is hallowed by the memory of “the guid and godly James Renwick,” a martyr for the faith, and of whom old. Wodrow says, “the smoke of his sacrifice was as a far-travelling incense.” The hapless young preacher, “the last of the Cameronians,” growls Carlyle, was executed in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh on 17th February, 1688. On the scaffold we find this gentle youth of twenty-six telling the spectators, “I lay down my life for disowning the usurpation of my prosecutors and the clergy” and it was in this Hollow wherein we rest, that on a bleak winter’s day in 1684 Renwick held forth to a big conventicle of the Remnant. Outed men and hunted men listened to this pure herald of the Cross, while grim-visaged sentries on Craigminnin kept watch and ward on the trackways from distant Paisley, where the dragoons were quartered to assist the official clerics in hunting and persecuting the objectors to the official religion of the time.
A marvellous panorama unfolds itself from this moorland eyrie—the whole of the Clyde valley from Lomond to Coulter Fell with Glasgow as a centrepiece. From this height the city is a pattern of tender blue, suggestive of romance and of many other pleasant things which the reality rarely fails to shatter. The rambler blessed perchance with
“that inward eye
That is the bliss of solitude,”
may see this green hollow peopled with grey and grizzled men, the “remnant” of a long-vanished generation of leal Scots: dusky figures which flit across the dusky moor, looking with ghostly gaze on the same scene as they looked upon two centuries ago, listening with ghostly ears to the same sounds of rest and calm. At this height, and even on a summer day, the caller air of the moorlands keeps one on the move. But it is grand air, clarifying to body and mind, and lending a spring to our walk that sends us forward with almost noble stride. Back then past the farm, and to the Lochwinnoch road. Keep to the left on leaving the farm road, and you will find fine going on this old Greenock coaching road. Moorlands stretch to right and left for a couple of miles, with a solitary grey farmhouse, Carruthmuir, to our left: then downhill, passing a gamekeeper’s cottage nestling in a wood, and turn on to the road to the right, some four hundred yards beyond the aforesaid cottage. This is a beautiful stretch of road, avenue-like as it runs between lines of majestic beech and elm trees, the policies of Carruth House. The farm on the high ground to the right is East Torrs, and across the green valley to our left are to be seen Quarrier’s Homes, a blessed institution, and the Sanatorium and its grounds, wherein victims of the dreaded “white scourge” sun themselves on summer days. Before us and to the left are the towers of Torr Hall, a Scotch baronial edifice that stirs memories of shooting lodges in the Highlands. Another mile takes us into Bridge-of-Weir, and other three miles from “The Brig”—so it is termed locally—to the car at Kilbarchan, a round of fourteen miles and a bittock: a splendid ramble over the far-flung uplands of Renfrewshire.