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Leaves from the Journal
Second Great Expedition:—To Invermarh and Fettercairn
20 Sept. 1861


Friday, September 20, 1861.

Looked anxiously at the weather at seven o’clock— there had been a little rain, there was still mist on the hills, and it looked doubtful. However, Albert said it would be best to keep to the original arrangements, and so we got up early, and by eight the sun shone, and the mist began to lift everywhere. We breakfasted at halfpast eight, and at half-past nine we started in two sociables—Alice and Louis [Prince Louis of Hesse.] with us in the first, and Grant on the box; Lady Churchill and General Grey in the second, and Brown on the box. We drove to the Bridge of Muich, where we found our six ponies, and five gillies (J. Smith, J. Morgan, Kennedy, C. Stewart, and S. Campbell). We rode up the peat-road over the hill of Polach and down it again for about four miles, and then came to a very soft bit; but still with careful management we avoided getting into any of the bogs, and I remained on my pony all the time. Albert and Louis had to get off and walk for about two hundred yards. The hills of Loch-na-Gor were very hazy, but Mount Keen was in great beauty before us, and as we came down to the Glen of Corrie Vruach, and looked down Glen Tanar, the scenery was grand and wild. Mount Keen is a curious conical shaped hill, with a deep corrie in it. It is nearly 3,200 feet high, and we had a very steep rough ascent over the shoulder, after crossing the Tanar Water. It was six and a half miles from the Bridge of Muich to Corrie Vniach.

When we were on the level ground again, where it was hard and dry, we all got off and walked on over the shoulder of the hill. We had not gone far when we descried Lord Dalhousie (whom General Grey had in confidence informed of our coining) on a pony. He welcomed us on the border of his “March,” got off his pony and walked with us. After walking some little time Alice and I remounted our ponies, (Albert riding some part of the time,) and turned to the left, when we came in sight of a new country, and looked down a very fine glen—Glen Mark. We descended by a very steep but winding path, called The Ladder, very grand and wild: the water running through it is called The Ladder Burn. It is very fine indeed, and very striking. There is a small forester’s lodge at the very foot of it. The pass is quite a narrow one; you wind along a very steep and rough path, but still it was quite easy to ride on it, as it zigzags along. We crossed the burn at the bottom, where a picturesque group of “shearers” were seated, chiefly women, the older ones smoking. They were returning from the south to the north, whence they came. We rode up to the little cottage; and in a little room of a regular Highland cabin, with its usual “press bed,” we had luncheon. This place is called Invermark, and is four and a half miles from Corine Vniach. After luncheon I sketched the fine view. The steep hill we came down immediately opposite the keeper’s lodge is called Craig Beesteck, and a very fine isolated craggy hill which rises to the left—over topping a small and wild glen—is called the Hill of Doun.

We mounted our ponies a little after three, and rode down Glen Mark, stopping to drink some water out of a very pure well, called The While Well; and crossing the Mark several times. As we approached the Manse of Loch Lee, the glen widened, and the old Castle of Invermark came out extremely well; and, surrounded by woods and corn-fields, in which the people were “shearing,” looked most picturesque. We turned to the right, and rode up to the old ruined castle, which is half covered with ivy. We then rode up to Lord Dalhousie’s shooting-lodge, where we dismounted. It is a new and very pretty house, built of granite, in a very fine position overlooking the glen, with wild hills at the back. Miss Maule (now Lady C. Maule) was there. We passed through the drawing-room, and went on a few yards to the end of a walk whence you see Loch Lee, a wild, but not large, lake closed in by mountains—with a farm-house and a few cottages at its edge. The hall and dining-room are very prettily fitted up with trophies of sport, and the walls panelled with light wood. We had a few of the very short showers which hung about the hills. We then got into our carriages. The carriage we were in was a sort of double dog-cart which could carry eight—but was very narrow inside. We drove along the glen—down by the Northesk (the Ey and Mark meeting become the Northesk), passing to the right another very pretty glen—Glen Effach, much wooded, and the whole landscape beautifully lit up. Before us all was light and bright, and behind the mist and rain seemed to come down heavily over the mountains.

Further on we passed Poul Skeinnie Bridge and Tarf Bridge, both regular steep Highland bridges. To the right of the latter there is a new Free Kirk— further on Captain Wemys's Retreat, a strange-looking place,—to the left Mill Dane—and, on a small eminence, the Castle of Auch Mill, which now resembles an old farm-house, but has traces of a terrace garden remaining. The hills round it and near the road to the left were like small mounds. A little further on again we came to a wood, where we got out and walked along The Burn, Major Mclnroy’s. The path winds along through the wood just above this most curious narrow gorge, which is unlike any of the other lynns; the rocks are very peculiar, and the burn very narrow, with deep pools completely overhung by wood. It extends some way. The woods and grounds might be in Wales, or even in Hawthamdan. We walked through the wood and a little way along the road, till the carriages overtook us. We had three miles further to drive to Fettercairn, in all 40 miles from Balmoral. We came upon a flat country, evidently much cultivated, but it was too dark to see anything.

At a quarter-past seven o’clock we reached the small quiet town, or rather village, of Fettercairn, for it was very small—not a creature stirring, and we got out at the quiet The inn, ‘‘Ramsay Arms,” (quite unobserved, and went at once upstairs. There was a very nice drawingroom, and next to it, a dining room, both very clean and tidy—then to the left our bed room, which was excessively small, but also very clean and neat, and much better furnished than at Grantown. Alice had a nice room, the same size as ours; then came a mere morsel of one, (with a “press bed,”) in which Albert dressed; and then came Lady Churchill’s bed room just beyond. Louis and General Grey had rooms in an hotel, called “The Temperance Hotel,” opposite. We dined at eight, a very nice, clean, good dinner. Grant and Brown waited. They were rather nervous, but General Grey and Lady Churchill carved, and they had only to change the plates, which Brown soon got into the way of doing. A little girl of the house came in to help—but Grant turned her round to prevent her looking at us! The landlord and landlady knew who we were, but no one else except the coachman, and they kept the secret admirably.

The evening being bright and moonlight and very still, we all went out, and walked through the whole village, where not a creature moved through the principal little square, in the middle of which was a sort of pillar or Town Cross on steps, and Louis read, by the light of the moon, a proclamation for collections of charities which was stuck on it. We walked on along a lane a short way, hearing nothing whatever—not a leaf moving—but the distant barking of a dog  Suddenly we heard a drum and fifes! We were greatly alarmed, fearing we had been recognized; but Louis and General Grey, who went back, saw nothing whatever. Still, as we walked slowly back, we heard the noise from time to time,—and when we reached the inn door we stopped, and saw six men march up with fifes and a drum (not a creature taking any notice of them), go down the street, and back again. Grant and Brown were out; but had no idea what it could be. Albert asked the little maid, and the answer was, “It’s just a band,” and that it walked about in this way twice a week. How odd! It went on playing some time after we got home. We sat till half-past ten working, and Albert reading,—and then retired to rest.

Saturday, September 21.

Got to sleep after two or three o’clock. The morning was dull and close, and misty with a little rain; hardly any one stirring; but a few people at their work. A traveller had arrived at night, and wanted to come up into the dining-room, which is the “commercial travellers’ room;" and they had difficulty in telling him he could not stop there. He joined Grant and Brown at their tea, and on his asking, “What’s the matter here?” Grant answered, “It’s a wedding party from Aberdeen." At “The Temperance Hotel” they were very anxious to know whom they had got. All, except General Grey, breakfasted a little before nine. Brown acted as my servant, brushing my skirt and boots, and taking any message, and Grant as Albert’s valet.

At a quarter to ten we started the same way as before, except that we were in the carriage which Lady Churchill and the General had yesterday. It was unfortunately misty, and we could see no distance. The people had just discovered who we were, and a few cheered us as we went along. We passed close to Fetercairn, Sir J. Forbes’s house; then further on to the left, Basque, belonging to Sir T. Gladstone, who has evidently done a great deal for the country, having built many good cottages. We then came to a very long hill, at least four miles in length, called the Cairnie Month, whence there is a very fine view; but which was entirely obscured by a heavy driving mist. We walked up part of it, and then for a little while Alice and I sat alone in the carriage. We next came to the Spittal Bridge, a curious high bridge with the Dye Water to the left, and the Spittal Burn to the right. Sir T. Gladstone’s shooting-place is close to the Bridge of Dye—where we changed carriages again, re-entering the double dog-cart—Albert and I inside, and Louis sitting behind. We went up a hill again and saw Mount Battock to the north west, close to Sir T. Gladstone’s shooting-lodge. You then come to an open country, with an extensive view towards Aberdeen, and to a very deep, rough ford, where you pass the Feugh, at a place called White Stones. It is very pretty and a fine glen with wood. About two miles further to the north west, on the left, is Finzean; and, a little beyond, is “ ing Durdun’s Stone,” as they call it, by the roadside—a large, heavy, ancient stone,—the history of which, however, we have not yet discovered. Then we passed Mary's Well, to the left of which is Fallogie House, a fine property belonging to Mr. Dyce Nicol. The harvest and everything seemed prosperous, and the country was very pretty. We got out at a very small village, (where the horses had some water, for it was a terribly long stage,) and walked a little way along the road. Alice, Lady Churchill, and I, went into the house of a tailor, which was very tidy, and the woman in it most friendly, asking us to rest there; but not dreaming who we were.

We drove on again, watching ominous-looking clouds, which, however, cleared off afterwards. We saw the woods of Lord Huntly’s forest, and the hills which one sees from the road to Aboyne. Instead of going on to Aboyne we turned to the left, leaving the Bridge of Aboyne (which we had not seen before) to the right. A little beyond this, out of sight of all habitations, we found the postmaster, with another carriage for us. This was 22 miles from Fettercairn. We crossed the Tanar Water, and drove to the left up Glen Tanar—a really beautiful and richly-wooded glen, between high hills—part of Lord Huntly’s forest. We drove on about six miles, and then stopped, as it was past two, to get our luncheon. The day kept quite fair in spite of threatening clouds and gathering mist. The spot where we lunched was very-pretty. This over, we walked on a little, and then got into the carriages again, and drove to the end of the glen —out of the trees to Eatnoch, on to a keeper’s house in the glen—a very lonely place, where our ponies were. It was about four when we arrived. A wretched idiot girl was here by herself, as tall as Lady Churchill; but a good deal bent, and dressed like a child, with a pinafore and short-cut hair. She sat on the ground with her hands round her knees, rocking herself to and fro and laughing; she then got up and walked towards us. General Grey put himself before me, and she went up to him, and began taking hold of his coat, and putting her hand into his pockets, which set us all off laughing, sad as it was. An old man walked up hastily soon after, and on Lady Churchill asking him if he knew that poor girl, he said, “Yes, she belongs to me, she has a weakness in her mind;” and led her off hurriedly.

We walked on a few hundred yards, and then mounted our ponies a little higher up, and then proceeded across the other shoulder of the hill we had come down yesterday—crossed the boggy part, and came over the I'olach just as in going. The mist on the distant hills, Mount Keen, &c., made it feel chilly. Coining down the peat road [Grant told me in May, 1862, that, when the Prince stopped behind with him, looking at the Choils which he intended as a deer-forest for the Prince of Wales, and giving his directions as to the planting in Glen Muich, he said to Grant,—“You and I maybe dead and gone before that.” In less than three months, alas! his words were verified as regards himself! He was ever cheerful, but ever ready and prepared.] to the Bridge of Muich, the view of the valleys of Muich, Gairn, and Ballaterwas beautiful. As we went along I talked frequently with good Grant.

We found my dearest Mother’s sociable, a fine large one, which she has left to Albert, waiting to take us back. It made me very sad, and filled my eyes with tears. Oh, in the midst of cheerfulness, I feel so sad! But being out a great deal here—and seeing new and fine scenery, does me good.

We got back to Balmoral, much pleased with our expedition, at seven o’clock. We had gone 42 miles to-day, and 40 yesterday, in all 82.


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