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Braemar Highlands
Part the First - Chapter V


Glen Candlic—Invercauld House—Lion’s Face—Craig Cluny—Big Stone of Cluny—Falls of the Garrawalt—Glen of Abaredair— Caim-a-Quheen—Monaltrie—Balmoral.

BY the north side of the Dee, on a very conspicuous little knoll, stands a monumental column, erected to the memory of the late proprietor of Invercauld, and near that point is the mouth or opening of Glen Candlic. Its tributary is called the Sluggan Water. In this glen is the stone mentioned by Her Majesty as being the remnant of the shieling built by the first Farquharson.

Scarcely a mile farther down than Glen Candlic, we come upon Invercauld House, on the north side of the Dee. It is an irregular but exceedingly picturesque-looking pile of building, and forms the central figure of a framework of magnificent scenery, where it looks quite as much in place, as if nature had devised all the surroundings on purpose for it.

It stands on a great natural terrace, from which a beautiful lawn studded with trees slopes away down to the river, which here winds about on the beautiful strath in the form of the letter S, or rather of the figure 8, enclosing two little islands in its sparkling circles. Behind the house, a magnificent range of hills, hung with the dark verdure of a pine forest, forms an admirable background. From the extent of lawn in front, and also on account of the Dee, you cannot get near enough to break the spell of its weird-like beauty; so, as a finishing touch to the exquisite picture,

‘Distance lends enchantment to the view"

From this point to the bridge of Invercauld some miles down the valley, even the public road is exceedingly beautiful, the greater part of it being overhung with splendid specimens of the weeping birch, graceful larch, and many other trees. In early summer, a very curious and beautiful effect is produced by the light green tips of the various fir-trees, contrasting so artistically with the soberer green of the upper part of the leaves.    .

In addition to these beautiful trees, the southern side of the road is almost overhung with abrupt rocks and tremendous precipices, often rising almost perpendicularly to an immense height, and culminating in a curious kind of overhanging peak. At the base they are profusely wooded, while upwards trees and plants shoot from every rift and crevice; while on the summit trees of exquisite form, arranged like a coronet, give to the scene a wild and singular beauty.

One of these peculiarly romantic-looking craigs is called the Lion's Face! Formerly it was known as ‘Craig-na-Mhurdaire,’ i.e. the Murderers Craig. This place, independently of its name, is in reality one of the ‘lions’ of Braemar. Not far from the village is a road through the Duclaish or black furrow leading to it, which visitors are now permitted to traverse.

Next to the Lion's Face is Craig Cluny: It is described in the Deeside Guide as a most stately, and awful rock, rising up nobly from the bottom of the glen, almost straight as an arrow; and as you go along the road at the foot of it, presents a most awful appearance,—its great rocks rising up one above another, almost to the clouds, and hanging gloomily over the road, as if they were to fall and crush you to powder. A more noble rock than this is nowhere to be seen.

‘It is sometimes called the Charter Chest” because there the Laird of Cluny in times of danger used to hide his charter chest. After the battle of Culloden, Colonel Farquharson of Cluny hid himself in a cave far up this rock for the space of ten months ; and it is said, when lying there, could hear the sounds of merriment made by the soldiers in his own house.’ That is quite possible, as Cluny House stood at a very little distance from the rock, on the north side of the road ; only there was no road then. The old house is now demolished, and Cluny Cottage, a fanciful little dwelling, stands not far from the old site.

Along the road a small distance, is the Big Stone of Cluny. It was a favourite haunt of fairies. A man still living had one night a rather mischancy encounter with them. He was returning home by moonlight, and to his astonishment beheld a number of the tiny creatures dancing on its top. With the extremely agile movements of one he was exceedingly delighted ; but on his giving expression to his feelings, she in a fury flew at him, and had him almost strangled ere he could get ‘a prayer said!Happily he succeeded in giving it utterance, and was delivered. The fairy race are hardly extinct yet in Braemar, as one person yet living says that ‘people may say what they like, but she has seen them with her ain een!'

A little farther along is the new bridge of Invercauld, and not many hundred yards farther down is the old one. Travellers now cross the new bridge,- as the public road from this point lies on the north side of the river. There is a road also on the south side, through the Balloch-bhui Forest, and past Balmoral; but it is now strictly private, since that place became the residence of the Queen. It is open, however, as far down as the Falls of the Garrawalt.

Between the bridges the bed of the river is pretty rugged. And how the swift waters do come on!— rushing and dashing impetuously against the stoical-looking boulders, as if they would drive all the vis inertia out of them. The view from the old bridge is sublime; a strange combination there is of quiet loveliness and solemn grandeur. One seems in an amphitheatre of hills, most of them densely wooded, rising higher and higher in the distance, and above them all Lochnagar towering pre-eminent.

Dr. MacGillivray, after an animated description of the scene, which he considers a ‘perfect specimen of a Highland forest' adds,  eautiful scene! I almost weep when I look upon thee; for tears flow from the pure fountain of pure happiness, as well as from the troubled spring of sorrow/

The Old Bridge of Invercauld was built in 1752. A considerable time before that date lived Duncan Calder, ‘ the Seer of Glen Ltd! He had the misfortune to be laughed at for many of his predictions, and this one among the rest, ‘ that a thorn tree was to grow in a deep pool in the Dee, where it washed the base of Craig Cluny/ The correctness of it was, however, admitted when, after the bridge was built over the place, a thorn tree sprang up by the side of an arch near the middle of the river. There are still several trees in the same position, but they are fir, and not thorn.

The road over this bridge and along the south side of the river is open as far as the Falls of the Garra-walt. Only this liberty is not to be abused : you are expected to walk straight through ; only, of course, taking as long time as you please to see and admire the fine views as you enter the forest, or the stately pines which thicken upon you as you enter deeper and deeper into its shades.

Friendly boards point out the way to the ravine of the Garrawait, i.e. Rough Brook. How it riots in its solitude!—good-humouredly for a time dashing its waters against the stones in noisy laughter; but as

‘It reaches the place
Of its steep descent,
Great tumult and wrath in
The cataract strong, plunges along,
Striking and raging, as if a war waging
Its caverns and rocks among,
'Dizzying and deafening the ear with its sound;
And this never ending, but always descending,
Its sounds and motions for ever and ever are blending,
All at once, and all o’er, with a mighty uproar.’

A short distance below the bridges is a road leading to the glen of Aberairder. This road leads through a dense wood for some distance ; but when it is cleared, the bare hills of the glen have a very desolate appearance. Aberairder runs nearly parallel with Stratlidee, and opens into it about two miles from Balmoral, and was the scene, tradition says, of a very summary administration of justice.

Farther down the valley, and close by the brink of the river, is a considerable heap of smallish stones, surmounted by a flagstaff and vane. This is Cairn-ci-Chuimhue, or Quheen, i.e. Cairn of Remembrance, and is of some note as being the only really historical cairn on Deeside. It represents the number of Strathdee men, or of the Clan Farquharson, that fell in battle from about 1562, when their feuds with the Forbeses began, to at least the end of the wars with Montrose.

It was formed in this manner : As the spot on which it stands was the rendezvous of the clan, when all were assembled, each man brought a stone, and laid it on a clear space of ground, so forming a small cairn or heap. When they returned home, each survivor took a stone from the heap. The remaining stones indicated, of course, the number of the fallen, and were then carefully removed and placed on the original cairn, or Cairn-a-Quheen.

Next comes the Street of Monaltrie, i.e. a few small houses on each side of the road, built for some of the old Highlanders after their return from the American war. On the south side of the road are some stones, supposed to be the remains of a Druidical temple. On the north side of the road, a little farther down, is a farm-house, built on the site of the Old House of Monaltrie, which was burned down after the rebellion of ‘’45.’ Donald Oig, or Domhnull-Og-na-h-Alba, i.e. Young Donald of Albion, a great celebrity in olden times, had his residence there.

The next and greatest point of interest is Balmoral, lying on the south side of the river. So much has been recently made known of this interesting place, by one best fitted to touch on the subject, that room is only left for a few minor details.    ,

The Castle stands on a beautiful level, round which the Dee curves with gentle sweep. Behind it Craig-na-Gowan rises to a considerable height, with all its harsher features toned down to picturesque beauty by the soft and fragrant foliage of the extensive birch woods which drape its sides.

There are so many interesting points in the district, that it becomes difficult to select or describe satisfactorily. The Castle is, in short, surrounded by all the varieties of Highland scenery, so that the eye can turn to any of its elements, from the rude to the beautiful, the sternly grand, or where they all unitedly rise into the sublime, while its pure air is invigorating almost to exhilaration.    .

The estate of Balmoral extends from the Dee southwards to the summit of Lochnagar, where it joins the Birkhall and Abergeldie properties. The three estates contain upwards of 35,000 imperial acres, and extend along the south bank of the Dee for eleven miles.

The new Castle is a magnificent and very extensive pile of building, built of the finest dressed granite, and presents the clean appearance so characteristic of the stone. In its main features it is of the Scotch baronial style of architecture, which in this modernized condition gives to the castle the appearance of the ancient stronghold blending with the elegances and comforts of a modern mansion.

The large square tower, 100 feet high, is a massive structure, and visible at a great distance, and has a magnificent view from its summit. It has also a fine clock, which regulates the time all over the district, being set twice a-week to that of Greenwich.

The dining, drawing, billiard rooms, and library, are on the ground floor, and above them are the Royal apartments. If an admirable chasteness of design and exquisite workmanship characterize the outside of the castle, simplicity of style and purity of taste prevail within.

The entrance is from the south. Two beautiful statues of 'Fair Ellen' and 'Highland Mary’ are, if I remember aright, almost the only ornaments of the entrance hall. The windows of the dining-room are hung with crimson bordered with Stuart tartan, and the walls with paper of green and gold. In the drawing-room the hangings are of Victoria tartan ; chairs, couches, etc. etc., are all covered with the same. The carpet is of Stuart tartan, and on the walls a paper of blue and gold.

The Queen’s private apartments are more richly furnished than those below, yet still with chastened elegance. In the different rooms, the paintings, prints, cartes, etc., are exceedingly numerous and interesting.

The grounds are tastefully laid out, and have now two new points of interest, though sad ones. These are-the statue of the lamented Prince Consort, and the obelisk erected by the tenants to give expression to the deep affection and respect in which they held his memory, and their profound sorrow for his loss. A massive cast-iron bridge connects Balmoral with the public road on the north side of the valley.


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