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Leaves from the Journal
First Ascent of Loch-na-Gar 16 Sept. 1848


Saturday, September 16, 1848.

At half-past nine o’clock Albert and I set off in a postchaise, and drove to the bridge in the wood of Balloch Buie, about five miles from Balmoral, where our ponies and people were. Here we mounted, and were attended by a keeper of Mr. Farquharson’s as guide, Macdonald [A Jager of the Prince’s, who came from Fort Augustus in the west : he was remarkably tall and handsome. The poor man died of consumption at Windsor, in May, 1860. His eldest son was Attache to the British Legation in Japan. He died in 1866. The third son, Archie, is Jager to the Prince of Wales, and was for a year with the beloved Prince.] —who, with his shooting-jacket, and in his kilt, looked a picture—Grant, [Head-keeper. He had been nearly twenty years with Sir Robert Gordon, nine as keeper; he was born in Braemar, in the year 1810. He is an excellent man, most trustworthy, of singular shrewdness and discretion, and most devotedly attached to the Prince and myself. He has a fine intelligent countenance. The Prince was very fond of him. He has six sons,—the second, Alick, is wardrobe-man to our son Leopold : all are good, well-disposed lads, and getting on well in their different occupations. His mother, a fine, hale, old woman of eighty years, “stops” in a small cottage which the Prince built for her in our village. He, himself, lives in a pretty Lodge called Croft, a mile from Balmoral, which the Prince built for him.] on a pony, with our luncheon in two baskets, and Batterbury on another pony. We went through that beautiful wood for about a mile, and then turned and began to ascend gradually, the view getting finer and finer; no road, but not bad ground—moss, heather, and stones. Albert saw some deer when we had been out about three-quarters of an hour, and ran off to stalk them, while I rested; but he arrived just a minute too late. He waited for me on the other side of a stony little burn, which I crossed on my pony, after our faithful Highlanders had moved some stones and made it easier. We then went on a little way, and I got off and walked a bit, and afterwards remounted; Macdonald leading my pony. The view of Ben-na-Bhoard, and indeed of all around, was very beautiful; but as we rose higher we saw mist over loch-na-Gar. Albert left me to go after ptarmigan, and went on with Grant, while the others remained with me, taking the greatest care of me. Macdonald is a good honest man, and was indefatigable, and poor Batterbury was very anxious also.

Lochnagar, Balmoral, Scotland
Lochnagar or Beinn Chìochan is a mountain in the Grampians of Scotland, located about five miles south of the River Dee near Balmoral. Our walk was 11m with about 2,800' of ascent and started from Glenmuick, it takes about 6 hours up and down.

I saw ptarmigan get up, and Albert fire—he then disappeared from my sight, and I rode on. It became cold and misty when we were on Loch-na-Gar. In half an hour, or rather less, Albert rejoined me with two ptarmigan, having come up by a shorter way. Here it was quite soft, easy walking, and we looked down on two small lochs called Na Nian, which were very striking, being so high up in the hills. Albert was tired, and remounted his pony; I had also been walking a little way. The ascent commenced, and with it a very thick fog, and when we had nearly reached the top of Loch-na-Gar, the mist drifted in thick clouds so as to hide everything not within one hundred yards of us. Near the peak (the fine point of the mountain which is seen so well from above Grant’s house, we got off and walked, and climbed up some steep stones, to a place w here we found a seat in a little nook, and had some luncheon. It was just two o’clock, so we had taken four hours going up.

But, alas! nothing whatever to be seen; and it was cold, and wet, and cheerless. At about twenty minutes after two we set off on our way downwards, the wind blowing a hurricane, and the mist being like rain, and everything quite dark with it. Bowman (Mr. Farquharson’s keeper) and Macdonald, who preceded us, looked tike ghosts. We walked some way till I was quite breathless, and remounted my pony, well wrapped up in plaids; and we came down by the same path that Albert had come up, which is shorter, but steeper; the pony went delightfully; but the mist made me feel cheerless.

Albert kept ahead a little while for ptarmigan, but he gave it up again. When we had gone on about an hour and a quarter, or an hour and a half, the fog disappeared like magic, and all was sunshine below, about one thousand feet from the top I should say. Most provoking! —and yet one felt happy to see sunshine and daylight again.

The view, as one descends, overlooking Invercauld and the wood which is called Bulloch Buie, is most lovely. We saw some deer in the wood below. We rode on till after we passed the bum, and had nearly got to the wood. We came another way down, by a much rougher path; and then, from the road in the wood, we walked up to the Falls of the Garbhalt, which are beautiful. The rocks are very grand, and the view from the little bridge, and also from a seat a little lower down, is extremely pretty. We found our carriages in the road, and drove home by six o’clock.

We met Captain Gordon, and then Lord John Russell and Sir James Clark. They had come to look after us, and when we got home we found the two ladies at the door waiting most anxiously for us.

With perfect weather forecast for the weekend it was a 4am rise to pick Peter up in Glasgow at 5am and head off to the Lochnager circuit to hopefully complete all 5! (you've got to set your sights high after all). Had a backup plan drawn up for the Cairnwell 3 if the weather hadn't been great. We were very pleased to be able to speed on past those Cairnwell 3 on the A93 up to Lochnagar.

We parked up at the car park at 8am and due to the continued lack of power the 2 machines were out and a sign said "Enjoy your walk", so £3 saved. We followed the walk highlands route so headed off in an anti-clockwise direction to tackle Lochnager first. It's a right tease of a mountain by giving you a wee glimpse now and again but saving the BIG WOW for when you first climb onto the lip of the Coire.

We headed along the long flat section before the houses, amazed at how tame the deer appear to be here. Then it''s into the lovely woods, a section that is just far too short as soon you are on the excellent path and gaining height quite easily. It's not too long before the views are opening up around you and then you reach the fork, where you veer left for Lochnagar. The climb gets a bit steeper here and then you are there - looking over the Corrie of Lochnagar. WOW, WOW, WOW and WOW. It doesn't get any better than this!

Our decision to attack the circuit is vindicated as the Corrie is fully illuminated by the sun (we reckoned if we'd left it to last, then it's have been backlit).

We take lots of photos and have our first cup of tea and a snack.

Then it's time to experience the ladder, a well built path of large stones, which gets you right up onto the Corrie Rim. This is FUN! Camara out again for pictures of the cliffs. Can't get too close to the edge as its VERY blowy up here!

The further round you go the better it gets. After a bit, you need to follow the path which is a bit away from the cliffs, to reach the upper parts of the Corrie and ultimately the summit cairn. Just before the cairn, there is the spout, which is a high gulley, still filled with snow.

The summit is quite busy and there is both the trig point and the marker stone which points out the surrounding munros.

After shooting another few dozen photos, it's time to descend he obvious path in a south westerly direction to catch munro No2. You detour just opposite the point where you'd head right to get to the viewpoint that is The Stuic, heading left. Not far and you have bagged another munro - I like this route! Rather than retrace our path, we head diagonally down to regain the main path.

At this point the path crosses a burn - easily crossed but you can't miss it! A chance to replenish those water bottles and have a bite to eat.

Then the climb begins to Munro No3, the one with the aircraft wreckage from the crashed Canberra. You don't bump into this stuff on the patch you need to hunt for it. We found some nose gear and a bit of wing less than 100 feet near the summit.

Then downhill before a gentle climb to catch Munro no4, then another nice walk down and up to get Munro no5 - Broad Cairn. This is the pointy one visible from the carpark.

WOW, 5 munros completed, now for the rub. The walk back to the car is LOOOOOOONG. It's a great walk mind you.

On descending Broad Cairn, we disturbed a pair of ptarmigan, and I managed to get a few photos of them before they eventually flew off. The descent down from Broad Cairn is a boulder field. You do regain a path which leads down to the "bulldozed" path, which you follow all of the way back. At this point you have a choice, drop down to the banks of Loch Muick to take the low road or stay on the highroad (I'm sure there's a song in there somewhere?)

We stayed on the highroad, to stay in the sunshine. The Loch Muick waterfall looked great as did the Queen mum's house right on the shoreline surrounded by the conifer forest.

Eventually the path descends in a steep zig zag manner and you meet up with the low road. The car park is getting nearer and nearer, the feet sorer and sorer. It's not long until we are back in the car park for a well earned seat in the car!


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