River Foyers

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Foyers or Fechlin, a small river of Boleskine and Abertarff parish, central Inverness-shire, issuing from Loch Killin (11/8 X ¼ mile; 1050 feet), and thence winding 9 miles north-north-westward and northward, till it falls into Loch Ness, opposite the peak of Mealfourvonie (2284 feet), and 10½ miles NE of Fort Augustus. Its course is chiefly along a high glen, with wild mountain screens, and during the last 1¼ mile it makes a total descent of 400 feet, including two surpassingly picturesque falls, amid grandly romantic accompaniments of rock and wood. Foyers House, the property of Fountaine Walker, Esq. of Ness Castle, stands at the left side of its mouth; and on the right side, above the steamboat jetty, is the Foyers Hotel, on the site of what was called the 'General's Hut,' from General Wade of road-making celebrity. A carriage-way ascends by easy traverses from the pier to the falls, and footpaths afford short cuts for pedestrians. The upper fall is a leap of 40, and the lower fall of 165, feet. Dr E. D. Clarke, the celebrated traveller, pronounced the lower fall to be a finer cascade than that of Tivoli, and inferior only to the Falls of Terni; and Robert Burns, as he stood beside it on 5 Sept. 1787, wrote:-

'Among the heathy hills and rugged woods,
The roaring Foyers pours his mossy floods,
Till full he dashes on the rocky mounds,
Where thro' a shapeless breach his stream resounds,
As high in air the bursting torrents flow,
As deep recoiling surges foam below.
Prone down the rock the whitening sheet descends,
And viewless echo's ear, astonish'd, rends.
Dim-seen. thro' rising mists and ceaseless showers,
The hoary cavern, wide surrounding, lowers;
Still thro' the gap the struggling river toils,
And still below the horrid caldron boils.'

'The fall of Foyers,' says Professor Wilson, 'is the most magnificent cataract, out of all sight and hearing, in Britain. The din is quite loud enough in ordinary weather-and it is only in ordinary weather that you can approach the place from which you have a full view of all its grandeur. When the fall is in flood-to say nothing of being drenched to the skin-you are so blinded by the sharp spray smoke, and so deafened by the dashing and clashing and tumbling and rumbling thunder, that your condition is far from enviable, as you cling, 'lonely lover of nature,' to a shelf by no means eminent for safety, above the horrid gulf. In ordinary Highland weather-meaning thereby weather neither very wet nor very dry-it is worth walking a thousand miles for one hour to behold the fall of Foyers. The spacious cavity is enclosed by 'complicated cliffs and perpendicular precipices' of immense height; and though for a while it wears to the eye a savage aspect, yet beauty fears not to dwell even there, and the horror is softened by what appear to be masses of tall shrubs or single shrubs almost like trees. And they are trees, which on the level plain would look even stately; but as they ascend, ledge above ledge, the walls of that awful chasm, it takes the eye time to see them as they really are, while on our first discernment of their character, serenely standing among the tumult, they are felt on such sites to be sublime. Between the falls and the strath of Stratherrick, a space of three or four miles, the river Foyers flows through a series of low rocky hills clothed with birch. They present various quiet glades and open spaces, where little patches of cultivated ground are encircled by wooded hillocks, whose surface is pleasingly diversified by nodding trees, bare rocks, empurpled heath, and bracken-bearing herbage. It was the excessive loveliness of some of the scenery there that suggested to us the thought of going to look what kind of a stream the Foyers was above the fall. We went, and in the quiet of a summer evening, found it

'''Was even the gentlest of all gentle things.'''

See Stratherrick, Boleskine and Abertarff, and chap. iv. of James Brown's Round Table Club (Elgin, 1873).— Ord. Sur., sh. 73, 1878.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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