Glen Cluny—Castleton of Braemar—Auchendryne—Morrone—
Kenneth’s Craig—Croy, etc.
AS we return to Castleton, down Glen
Cluny, we observe that it widens out very gradually, and at its
mouth assumes something like a bell-shape; then, by means of the
rounded hills of Morrone on the west, and Craig Choinaich on the
east, gracefully turns itself into Strathdee. The Cluny Water, which
about half a mile up the glen, winds very near the base of Morrone,
then strikes diagonally across the plain, and enters the Dee in
front of Craig Choinaich.
In the centre of the triangular plain formed by the widening of Glen
Cluny, lie the united villages of Castleton and Auchendryne. Glen
Cluny separates the Glen Ey range of mountains from those of
ochnagar range, which terminates in Craig Choinaich, while the hill
Morrone is the most outlying of the Glen Ey range; and an immense
mass it is, one side of it running parallel with Glen Cluny, while
the other fronts Strathdee, so forming a sort of corner-piece.
The base of this hill slopes very gradually; so much so, that it is
cultivated to the height of 1500 feet, the highest cultivated land
in Scotland. This cultivated part of the hill is called Tomintoul’ i.
e. the Hill of the Two Views, from the fact that it commands a view
of both glens. ‘The Highlanders' it has been remarked, ‘are famous
toponimists;’ and-they do generally, in the names they give places,
express in the shortest, simplest manner possible, their principal
At the head of the cultivated part of Tomintoul there is a plateau
of considerable size, from which rises Morrone, rough and bleak, to
the height of 2796 feet. In the hollows and crevices in its sides
the snow lies until midsummer.
It is a stiff climb to the summit; but by the time you reach it,
such is the delightful effect of, I suppose, the rarefaction of the
air, that you begin to imagine it quite a possible thing to fly,
‘if/ as a friend remarked, ‘one were only started.’
When at the highest point, you quite lose sight of the village and
glens, but are fully compensated by the wondrous panorama of hills
spread out before you ; while from the position of Morrone one has
the idea that it is the great centre-piece round which they all
spread, circular fashion.
If you look to the south, Lochnagar presents its scarred front, and
seems to frown at you over the heads of its lesser neighbours. If to
the north, the noble Ben-Macdhui demands your homage, as king of the
mountains; if to the east, the Glengairn hills lower themselves a
little, that you may catch a distant glimpse of the sylvan palace of
our much-loved Queen.
Looking in the same direction, through vistas of the nearer hills,
Invercauld House appears at this distance pre-eminently beautiful.
You have, however, to descend from the highest point ere you see it,
and only then from certain positions.
At a still lower point, and looking towards the north-west, you have
a view of the whole valley of the Dee—a gorgeous mosaic, on which,
according to season, there is a perpetual change of beauty. If it is
August, the hills are draped in rich crimson, contrasting
beautifully with the dark green of the stately pine, or the lighter
shades of the graceful birch. And then, in the depths of the valley,
amid the deep, rich, almost transparent green which fills up the
centre, the Dee winds gracefully, flashing back the light like a
long wavy line of burnished silver.
If it is autumn, the drapery of the hills is a rich colouring of
brown, in all its variety of tints, which, with the green and
sparkle beneath, produces a singular effect. If it is winter, they
are grand beyond description, as they assume such a defiant
appearance. Theirs is then stem grandeur; but it is grandeur, and
the magnificence of it!
But I must have done with Morrone, after stating that, at a point
still farther down, the village and many other points of interest
come into view. And here, when one has become sufficiently
acquainted with the storied legendry of the district, what
traditional visions will pass before the mental eye, as you gaze on
the places connected with them!
While descending the hill, a large handsome edifice attracts
attention: it is the Roman Catholic chapel. Fully one-half of the
population are of that persuasion. It stands on one of the angles
formed by the junction of the Dee and Cluny. Behind it is a small
height named Tom-Ghainmkaine, pronounced Geean, i.e. Hill of Peace.
Also on the Auchendryne side of the village are the Free Church,
manse, and schoolhouse—all within a very tasteful and well-kept
enclosure. On the Castleton side, close by the banks of the Cluny,
is the Established Church, a small handsome structure, in a
beautiful situation. Dalvreckachy, the manse, lies just at the foot
of Tomintoul, embowered in a beautiful birch wood. The school and
schoolhouse are on the Castleton side of the Cluny.
I must notice, in passing, two points on the Cluny Water, close to
the Established Church: these are the Cheese Peev, or Pool, and ‘Put
an Sassenieh; i.e. the Englishman’s Butt; I will have occasion to
notice them after.
Nearly opposite the Established Church is the Invereauld Anns, a
large, handsome inn. The Fife Anns, also very extensive, is on the
Auchendryne side of the village, on the Earl of Fife’s property.
Behind the Invercauld Arms, where its offices now stand, was an old
building, formerly known as the Earl of Mars Courthouse. After his
defection it was used as an inn, but was accidentally burned down
some years ago.
On a knoll in front of the present inn, the standard of rebellion
was raised by the Earl of Mar in 1715. The exact spot where the
standard was fixed is now occupied by a large bow-window at the east
side of the inn.
Passing on the road a little is the churchyard, on the left, a
secluded spot: it is surrounded with a large wall and some fine
trees. In the centre of the churchyard, formed partly from the ruins
of the old church, is the burying-place of the Farquharsons of
Invercauld. Near the entrance to this enclosure is a grave of some
note—that of Peter Grant, the last rebel in Scotland. He outlived
all his compeers at Culloden, etc., as he reached the extreme age of
a hundred and ten years.
Another thing in this churchyard which strikes one, is that people
of the same name are all laid beside each other, in their own
division; but perhaps this is common in the Highlands. This, too, is
the place where another local celebrity absolutely refused to rest
after he was buried, and obliged his relations to let him have his
own way, and bury him, as he wished to be, in the churchyard of
Passing the churchyard a short distance, we come upon Braemar
Castle, as already described, at the mouth of the Cluny, near its
junction with the Dee. The road passes along the side of the park in
which the castle stands, round the base of Kenneth Craig. This road
is modern : conceive it away, and the situation of the old castle is
Craig Choinaich, or Kenneth Craig, is a remarkably beautiful hill.
‘Romantic’ and ‘picturesque’ are words commonly used in describing
it, and they are not unfittingly applied. It takes its name from
Kenneth II., who, it is said, used, when he was old, and no longer
able to enjoy the pleasures of the chase, to go up this hill, and
view it conducted by others through the strath below.
Near the junction of the rivers there is a ford, a place also called
the Croy, i.e. large stones laid at regular distances through the
bed of the river. These stones, tradition says, were laid there by
the Romans about 185.