September 30, 1859.
At twenty minutes past eleven we started with Helena
and Louise in the sociable, Grant on the box, for Loch Bulig, passing
the farms of Blairglass and of Dali Dounie, and the shooting-lodge
of Corndavon, ten miles distant. Here we found our ponies (mine
being “Victoria!’), and rode along the edge of the lake, up a
beautiful glen by a path winding through the valley, which appeared
frequently closed. We then rode along a small river or burn, of
which no one knew the name; none of our party having ever been there
before. The hills were sprinkled with birch-trees, and there was
grass below in the valley; we saw deer. As we approached Inchrory (a
shooting-lodge of Lord H. Bentinck’s) the scenery became finer and
finer, reminding us of Glen Tilt, and was most beautiful at Inchrory, with
the fine broad water of the Avon flowing down from the mountains.
We inquired of the people at Inchrory whether there
was any way of getting round over the hills by Gairn Shiel, and they
said there was ; but that the distance was about 11 miles. Neither
Grant nor Brown had been that way. However we accepted it at once,
and I was delighted to go on a l'improviste, travelling about in
these enchanting hills in this solitude, with only our good
Highlanders with us, who never make difficulties, but are cheerful,
and happy, and merry, and ready to walk, and run, and do anything.
So on we went, turning up above Inchrory by a winding road between
hillocks and commanding a glorious view towards Laganaul. Here, on a
little grassy knoll, we lunched in a splendid position.
After our luncheon, and walking a little way, we
remounted, and proceeded by the so-called “Brown Cow” (on the other
side of which we had driven), over a moor, meeting a shepherd, out
of whom Grant could get little information. Soon we came to
corn-fields in the valley; passed Favanché and Inchmore, and got on
to a good road, on which Brown and Grant “travelled” at
a wonderful pace, upwards of five miles an hour without stopping;
and the former with that vigorous, light, elastic tread which is
quite astonishing. We passed Dalna-Damph Shiel (a shooting-lodge of
Sir Charles Forbes); and went along the old “Military Road,”
leaving Cock-bridge, a small straggling “toun,” which is on the road
to Inverness, to our left, and the old Castle of Corgarf to our
right. We looked over into Donside. The road was soon left for a
mountain one in the hills, above one of the tributary streams of
the Don, and was wild and desolate; we passed Dal Chcupar and Dal
Vown, and, as we ascended, we saw Tornahoish, at a distance to the
left. After going along this hill-track, over some poor and
tottering bridges, we joined the road by which we had driven to Tornahoish. It
was fast getting dark, but was very fine. I and the girls got off
and walked sharply some little distance. Albert had walked further
on, Grant riding his pony meantime. P. Robertson and Kennedy,
besides those I have named, carried the basket alternately.
We remounted our ponies, and Brown led mine on at an
amazing pace up the Glaschoil Hill, and we finally reached Gairn
Shiel after seven, quite in the dark. There, at the small
public-house, we found the carriage, and drove off as soon as we
could; the ponies were to be given half a feed, and then to come on.
We had to drive home very slowly, as the road is not good, and very
steep in parts.
A mild night. Home by ten minutes past eight,
enchanted with our day. How I wish we could travel about in this
way, and see all the wild spots in the Highlands! We had gone 35
miles, having ridden 19 and a half! The little girls were in great
glee the whole time.