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of it into his story of “The Antiquary.” Are
mad? said the mendicant; Francie o' Fowl'sheugh, and he was the best craigsman that ever speeled a heugh (mair by token, he brak his neck on the Dun Buy of Slains), wad na hae ventured upon the Halkethead craigs after sundown.”
My favourite rock is one which the oftener I see it strikes me the more. It is some two or three hundred yards in length, surrounded by the sea, but lying in the mouth of one of these rifled fissures with vertical sides. On the side towards the land it presents a smooth surface of red granite, apparently as smooth as if dressed with a chisel, and in the centre it is perforated with a triangular hole, of gigantic dimensions. The upper surface is covered with grass and sea flowers, Galium vernum, Statice armeria (thrift), Silene maritima (catchfly), saxifrages, &c. &c., and it is the secure breeding-place of thousands of sea fowl. When the sun shines brilliantly on this rock, lighting up its reflection in deep emerald water, it is a sight to gaze at for hours together.
The famous open cave called the Bullers of Buchan, or in the local dialect Birs Buchan, is in this locality. On the north side of a little creek, presenting the usual perpendicular walls of immense height, the rocks jut out some way into the sea. In this promontory, a huge circular pot has been scooped out. Its sides present perpendicular walls of rock, and towards the sea they are of inconsiderable thickness, at one point, on the upper edge, not more than one or two yards, narrowing even to less for a very little way. It is reckoned a feat to walk round, and a story is told of a man who, in a drunken fit, took a wager that he would gallop round on horseback. He accomplished the feat, but, on becoming sober, was so startled by the risk he had run, that he died of fright. The sea flows in by a natural arch. In stormy weather, with an easterly wind, the dashing of the waves through this narrow aperture, and the recoil they make
against the sides of the chasm, resemble the boiling of a huge caldron; and hence the name. I visited it once (among many visits) on a beautifully calm day. Taking boat we rowed round the point, and found the entrance not much wider than admitted an ordinary sized four-oared fishing boat. Even in the smoothest weather there is inside a peculiar roll in the water, and as the rock is caverned out in all directions, and to great depths, there is a hollow roar, which adds greatly to the impressiveness of the strange scene. In the pompous language of Dr. Johnson, which is, however, well adapted for such a description as this: “We found ourselves in a place, which, though we could not think ourselves in danger, we could scarcely survey without some recoil of the mind. The basin in which we floated was nearly circular, perhaps thirty yards in diameter. We were enclosed by a natural wall, rising steep on every side to a height which produced the idea of insurmountable confinement. The interception of all lateral light caused a dismal gloom. Round us was a perpendicular rock, above us the distant sky, and below us an unknown profundity of water." He adds, with a naïveté perhaps still more descriptive of the characteristic "awesomeness" of the place, “If I had any malice against a walking spirit, instead of laying him in the Red Sea, I would condemn him to reside in the Buller Buchan."
Beyond Cruden, the coast line extends about five miles through the parish of Peterhead, commencing a little to the south of the point of Buchan-ness, and reaching beyond the town of Peterhead, to the mouth of the river Ugie. "Between the parish of Cruden," I quote from the Statistical Report, "and the fishing village of Boddam, in this parish, the sea is bounded by high cliffs of granite and other primary rock, forming mural precipices : and this part of the coast is indented with many chasms, fissures, and caves, and these in some cases divide the granite from the trap rock. From Boddam, to the Bay of Sandford, the coast is low and rocky. The Bay of Sandford, extending some distance inland, is bounded by a flat sandy shore, intermixed with pebbles.” Between the point of Salt House Head and Keith-point, on which the town of Peterhead is built, the Bay of Peterhead extends about a mile inland. Its shores are flat and rocky, terminating in sand and pebbles at its innermost bound. All this coast, from Boddam to Peterhead, although low towards the sea, the rocks scarcely appearing above high water, except where the heads run out, and a flat sandy beach extending most of the way, is nevertheless abutted upon by cliffs of clay of considerable height, so that the general outline of the coast appears high. From Keith-point, which is the most easterly nook of Scotland, the coast recedes till the mouth of the Ugie is reached, preserving the same character of a rock bottom, a sandy beach, and steep diluvial cliffs abutting on the sands.
“ The whole of the parish of Peterhead (I quote again from the Statistical Report) is upon primitive rock. In the Stirling Hill, Black Hill, and Hill of Cowsrieve, the granite or syenite rises to the surface. Along the coast, and in other parts of the parish, it is covered with clay, supposed to be diluvial, and other matters, to a greater or less depth. Upon the Stirling Hill the granite rises to the surface, or nearly so, over an extent of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty acres. In every place where the syenite or granite is laid bare, embedded masses, veins, or dikes of primitive trap, gneiss, quartz, and compact felspar alternate with and run through it. In some cases one-half of a block is granite and the other primitive trap, in complete cohesion, and often passing into each other. At the old Castle of Boddam the rock is separated by a fissure or chasm, one side of which is granite and the other primitive trap. This chasm runs east and west, the granite being on the south and the trap on the north, with a considerable angle to the horizon. Near the Buchan-ness Lighthouse there is a pretty extensive bed of hornstone porphyry. The rock along the coast, from Buchan-ness to the mouth of the Ugie, may be seen at low-water mark, and consists of granite, primitive trap, syenite, gneiss, compact felspar, felspar porphyry, and quartz, variously associated with each other. The Meet-hill is covered with a deep mass of diluvial clay. At the Brickwork, which is about fifty yards from the beach, and where the clay has been cut to the depth of from thirty to forty feet, it exhibits various strata, which appear to have been deposited at different times, from their differences in quality and colour: some of the deposits are not above an inch in depth, while others are several feet. The skeleton of a bird was (in 1837) dug out of the clay here, at the depth of twenty-five feet from the surface, and about fifteen or twenty feet above the level of the sea." This clay, mixed in some places with rounded pebbles, covers a very considerable part of the parish.
When I come to speak of the chalk flints I shall have to recur to this portion of the coast.
Meantime I pursue my general sketch.
The next three miles represent the coast line of the parish of St. Fergus. The beach is flat and sandy, and the whole line of shore is thrown into two divisions by the rocks at Scotston Craig, each division forming a rude segment of a circle; the one extending from the mouth of the Ugie to the craig, and the other onwards to near Rattray Head. The shore is completely cut off from the inland by a series of hills, which have been formed by the drifting of sand, and which, being thickly covered with bent-grass, prevent the sand-drift from encroaching on the rich arable lands of the interior.
The only rocks in situ are to be seen at Craig Ewen, near the mouth of the Ugie, and at Scotston Head.
At Craig Ewen we have a granite containing very little quartz in its composition, and exhibiting, although rarely, veins of compact felspar of a deep red colour.
At Scotston Head the rocks are accessible only at low water. They consist of granite, gneiss, trap, quartz, and limestone. "The gneiss and granite," says the Statistical Report, appear often in close and inseparable union.
The granite varies in appearance as it comes more or less into contact with the gneiss. When the junction is complete it is white; where the granite underlies the gneiss, but without any union between them except contiguity, it assumes a dark colour, and discovers more hornblende in its composition than in its other positions. At one point the granite is graphic (i. e. the crystals of felspar are large, and so disposed as to present the appearance of rude lettering). The limestone is separated by a fissure from the granite, bnt appears in one or two places united to the gneiss; and there is reason to believe that it forms a junction with the granite at a more remote distance from the shore. At Hythie, in the parish of Old Deer, and in a line due west from Scotston Head, limestone and granite of the same character as at the latter place make their appearance, in very intimate union. At Blackstones, between Scotston rocks and Craig Ewen, there are three distinct congeries of large boulders within the flood-mark, consisting indiscriminately of granite, graphic granite, primary and secondary limestone, puddingstone, grauwacke, gneiss and basalt."
I have copied these sentences from the statistical account, and have retained the words primary and secondary limestone because I found them there. I have, however, no evidence to give as to the distinction between the limestones, further than that the description denominated secondary is said to contain fossils of the Ammonite genus, and also mussels; these last being, however, distinct from any of the known existing species.