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Leaves from the Journal
The First Stay at Alt-na-Giuthasach 30 Aug. 1849


August 30, 1849.

After writing our letters, we set off on our ponies, with Miss Dawson, Macdonald, Grant, Batterbury, and Hands Coutts; Hamis is Gaelic for James, and is pronounced “Hamish.” The road has been improved since last year, and though it is still very rough, there are no fords to pass, nor real difficulties any longer. We rode the whole way, and Albert only walked the last two miles. He took a Gaelic lesson during our ride, asking Macdonald, who speaks it with great purity, many words, and making him talk to Jemmie Coutts. Albert has already picked up many words : but it is a very difficult language, for it is pronounced in a totally different way from that in which it is written.

We arrived at our little “bothie” at two o’clock, and were amazed at the transformation. There are two huts, and to the one in which we live a wooden addition has been made. We have a charming little dining-room, sitting-room, bed-room, and dressing-room, all- in suite; and there is a little room where Caroline Dawson (the Maid of Honour) sleeps, one for her maid, and a little pantry. In the other house, which is only a few yards -distant, is the kitchen, where the people generally sit, a small room -where the servants dine, and another, which is a sort of store-room, and a loft above in which the men sleep. Margaret French (my maid), Caroline’s maid, Lohlein (Albert’s valet), a cook, Shackle (a footman), and Macdonald, are the only people with us in the house, old John Gordon and his wife excepted. Our rooms are delightfully papered, the ceilings as well as walls, and very nicely furnished. We lunched as soon as we arrived, and at three walked down (about twenty minutes’ walk) to the loch called “Muich;” which some say means “darkness” or “sorrow.” Here we found a large boat, into which we all got, and Macdonald, Duncan, Grant, and Coutts rowed; old John Gordon and two others going in another boat with the net. They rowed up to the head of the loch, to where the Muich runs down out of the Dhu Loch, which is on the other side.

The scenery is beautiful here, so wild and grand,— real severe Highland scenery, with trees in the hollow. We had various scrambles in and out of the boat and along the shore, and saw three hawks, and caught seventy trout. I wish an artist could have been there to sketch the scene; it was so picturesque—the boat, the net, and the people in their kilts in the water, and on the shore. In going back, Albert rowed and Macdonald steered; and the lights were beautiful.

We came home at a quarter-past seven. At eight we dined; Lohlein, Macdonald, and Shackle waiting on us.

This faithful and trusty valet nursed his dear master most devotedly through his sad illness in December, 1861, and is now always with me as my personal groom of the chambers or valet. 1 gave him a house near Windsor Castle, where he resides when the Court are there. He is a native of Coburg. His father has been for fifty years Forster at Fulbach, close to Coburg, who was very active and efficient. He is now a Page.

After dinner we played with Caroline Dawson at whist with dummy, and afterwards walked round the little garden. The silence and solitude, only interrupted by the waving of the fir-trees, were very solemn and striking.


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