The return journey: Oban to Glasgow

Sunday 9 August 1829

Map of Mendelssohn's Journey from Oban to Glasgow, via Inveraray and Dunoon

The journey back from Oban to Glasgow took them the whole day of Sunday 9 August – a journey that, today, takes about three hours by train or car! We know from Klingemann’s letter, written from Glasgow on 10 August, exactly the route that they took: up the steep hill out of Oban and following what is now the A85 past Taynuilt where Felix paused to make the rough and unfinished sketch in his pocket notebook of cottages and two figures under an umbrella, all in the pouring rain:

Taynuilt between Oban and Inverary 9 August 1829

Taynuilt between Oban and Inverary 9 August 1829.  Bodleian notebook. 28r

Taynuilt between Oban and Inverary 9 August 1829

Taynuilt between Oban and Inverary 9 August 1829. Beinecke sketchbook.

Miraculously, in the “Beinecke” sketch of Taynuilt which he copied for Klingemann in 1846, more people have appeared making their way to church in the rain, and the church itself did not feature in the original sketch. Again, it is a mystery what source Mendelssohn used for these sketches which only appear in the “Beinecke” set, including the very next one, which is of Loch Awe, which they will have passed after leaving Taynuilt, and which is not included in either of the original Bodleian books:

Loch Awe 9 August 1829

Loch Awe 9 August 1829. Beinecke Sketchbook

From Taynuilt they would have travelled through the Pass of Brander, around the northern tip of Loch Awe, then south through Glen Aray to Inveraray where they had breakfast before taking a boat across Loch Fyne to Strachur from where they travelled the four miles overland to Loch Eck. Then down Loch Eck (to which Klingemann adds an “H” at the beginning!) and overland to Dunoon where they caught a ferry that took them all the way up the Clyde to Glasgow. All of this is summarised in Klingemann’s 10 August letter from Glasgow:

Karl Klingemann – letter, Glasgow, 10 August 1829:

At half past six on Sunday morning we landed at Oban in the rain. Not wishing to hear a Gaelic sermon, we mounted one of those eligible open vehicles that are called carts, “sheltered” from the rain; at last, however, the sun came out, warming our hearts and drying our cloaks. In Inverary we found an excellent inn and good quarters. Our host’s beautiful daughter in her black curls looked out like a sign over the signboard into the harbour, in which the newest herring are swimming about all alive at nine o’clock in the morning, and at a quarter past nine are served up fried with the coffee. Sympathising fellow-travellers eased our minds of our past suffering and our feet of our torn boots. The Duke of Argyll’s castle proudly looked forth from between the lofty trees; and from the tops of the surrounding hills the green trees held a colloquy with their relations below, who were already appointed to the navy and swam about in the water.

Our longing for culture and letters drove us to Glasgow by a wondrous road through divers “lochs” (ie lakes) and some land. Out of a steamboat on which we embarked, whilst our host’s black-curled daughter thumped the piano, we were to have been transferred into a steam-coach, but our locomotion was effected by horses, and the former vehicle stood idly by the road-side having already been used but not found quite practicable yet, and looking very ridiculous with a high funnel and a rudder. Then we were again lodged in a steamboat, which was said to be of iron: the walls, however, at which we knocked were of wood. Then again we drove a little distance on land, until we came to Loch Hech, there once more got on board a steamer, which finally delivered us to a final one in the mouth of the Clyde, and we sailed up the Clyde to Glasgow: a splendid sail, scarcely any waves, watering-places on the river with large vessels, sea-gulls, steamers fast gliding past, villas, a rock with Dumbarton Castle and a view of the clear wide distance, and the blue towering, magnificent Ben Lomond. We saw him for the first time. The country became more flat, and soft corn-fields gave us a familiar greeting like old acquaintances, after our long roaming along the proud and silent mountains. Everything was still and peaceful. Three kinds of stillness are here: between the mountains the water rushes, but it is sternly still; in the sea between the islands the waves roll, but it is dismally still; in the smooth water the steamboats fly, but it is mildly and recreatively still. The first are wild fellows, who refuse learning and working; the second are discharged gods, who are sulking; that last are good children after a good day’s work. In Glasgow there are seventy steamboats, forty of which start every day, and many long chimneys are smoking. An excellent inn refreshes us; the waiters minister to us with two hands and as many feet, as steam-service in hotels has not yet been invented.

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