[from D. Robertson, Tour, 1794]



WE passed the day at Balasalla, and next morning proceeded through some romantic scenery to Derby-Haven, a small village which only claims attention from its excel lent harbour. In a little isle dedicated to St. Michael, a fort was erected by one of the Earls of Derby, with a view of defending the entrance of the haven. Though the tower is now falling to decay, part of the Derby arms may still be traced over the entrance, dated 1667. Near the tower is a ruined chapel, in which the remains of an altar piled up with rude stones, are still visible. But the line view we had of Castle. town and its romantic bay, afforded us far more pleasure than our researches among those ruins. At Derby-Haven we engaged a boat for the Calf; where, after a very pleasant sail, we arrived about noon. The Calf is separated from the main Island by a very narrow rocky channel, through which the tide rushes with astonishing violence. The Isle is about five miles in circumference: and is fenced round by gloomy caverns and stupendous precipices; which not only seem to threaten immediate dissolution to every approacher, but really prove fatal to many mariners. A few years since, a Russian vessel, of 700 tons burthen, was dashed to pieces against these rocks, and every one of the numerous crew perished. The caves and precipices of the Calf are tenanted by a great variety of sea-birds, whose shrill discordant tones increase the wildness of the scenery. Gulls, wild-pigeons, and puffins, are the most numerous, This last bird is not to be seen in any part of the main Isle. The Calf (I presume from its solitariness) is its only residence. It breeds in the rocks; and though remarkably fat and of a fishy taste and flavour, is esteemed by many of the natives as a great delicacy.

We landed in a small creek; and, leaving the sailors beneath, with some difficulty and danger, gained an eminence, from which we had a spacious and delightful prospect of the ocean, with a variety of shipping for many leagues; terminated on the south by the high mountains of Wales, and on the west by Ireland: while around lay the broad summit of the Calf covered with rich verdure, and underneath the rich vallies of the neighbouring shore,

This Isle is the property of the Duke of Athol; and the land, with some little attention,would afford excellent pasturage. Several black cattle were grazing around; and formerly there was a large flock of sheep: but these, having only an old shepherd and his wife to protest them, soon became a prey to the nightly depredators from the neighbouring Island.

In the close of the last century, one of the Earls of Derby was so charmed with the beauty and variety of this spot, that he sent over some quantities of red and fallowdeer; but these have long since disappeared. Hare, partridge, and heath-game, are however plentiful; and to the few sportsmen who visit this spot afford ample amuse meet. But at present what constitutes the chief importance of the Calf are the rabbits; the skins of which, with the feathers of the sea-birds, lately produced more than 200l. per annum. In our ramble round this solitary Isle we could discover no human vestige, except a shepherd's hut now falling to decay. Near the middle of the Calf there are three pointed pillars, which from their novelty claimed our attention; one half from the base being of a black bastard marble, and the other of a shining spar, white as the new-fallen snow.

Solitude is frequently the nurse of woe. The wounded hart seeks the deepest shade; and the man of sorrow the most solitary retreat. According to tradition, this spot was once the haunt of a woe-worn hermit, who by his splendour and affluence had been distinguished in the court of Queen Elizabeth; but having, through an illfounded jealousy, murdered a most beautiful woman, he sought shelter here from the vengeance of her friends. Squalid in his attire, uncouth in his person, and wounded in his mind, amid the caves and lonely recesses of the Calf, he lengthened out a miserable existence; atoning by the severest mortifications for his criminal temerity.

The day, being delightfully serene, was highly favourable to our excursion; but the shades of evening now warned us to retire: when, after a long and lingering look on this very romantic solitude, we descended to our boat; and enjoying another charming sail, arrived at Castletown, highly pleased with the amusement of the day.


Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000