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Leaves from the Journal
Third Great Expedition:—To Glen Fishie, Dalwhinnie, and Blair Athole 8 Oct. 1861


Tuesday, October 8, 1861.

The morning was dull and rather overcast; however, we decided to go. General Grey had gone on before. We three ladies drove in the sociable: Albert and Louis in a carriage from Castleton. The clouds looked heavy and dark, though not like mist hanging on the mountains. Down came a heavy shower; but before we reached Castleton it cleared; blue sky appeared; and, as there was much wind, Grant thought all would be well, and the day very tine. Changed horses at Castleton, and drove beyond the Linn of Dee to the Giuly or Geldie Water—just where last year we mounted our ponies, 18 miles from Balmoral. Here we found our ponies— “Inchrory” for me, and a new pony for Alice—a tall grey one, ugly but safe. The others rode their usual ones. The same guide, Charlie Stewart, was there, and a pony for the luncheon panniers, and a spare one for Grant and others to ride in turn.

We started about ten minutes past eleven, and proceeded exactly as last year, fording the Geldie at first very frequently. The ground was wet, but not worse than last year. We had gone on very well for about an hour, when the mist thickened all round, and down came heavy, or at least beating, rain with wind. With the help of an umbrella, and waterproofs and a plaid, I kept quite dry. Dearest Albert, who walked from the time the ground became boggy, got very wet, but was none the worse for it, and we got through it much better than before; we ladies never having to get off our ponies. At length at two o’clock, just as we were entering that beautiful Glen Fishie, which at its commencement reminds one of The Burn (Mclnroy’s), it cleared and became quite fine and very mild. Brown waded through the Etchari leading my pony; and then two of the others, who were riding together on another pony, dropped the whole bundle of cloaks into the water!

The falls of the Strou-na-Barin, with that narrow steep glen, which you ride up, crossing at the bottom, were in great beauty. We stopped before we entered the wood, and lunched on the bank overhanging the river, where General Grey joined us, and gave us an account of his arrangements. We lunched rather hurriedly, remounted our ponies and rode a short way—till we came near to a very steep place, not very pleasant to ride. So fine! numberless little burns running down in cascades. We walked a short way, and then remounted our ponies; but as we were to keep on the other side of the river, not by the Invereshie huts, we had to get off for a few hundred yards, the path being so narrow as to make it utterly unsafe to ride. Alice’s pony already began to slip. The huts, surrounded by magnificent fir trees, and by quantities of juniper-bushes, looked lovelier than ever; and we gazed with sorrow at their utter ruin. I felt what a delightful little encampment it must have been, and how-enchanting to live in such a spot as this beautiful solitary wood in a glen surrounded by the high hills. We got off, and went into one of the huts to look at a fresco of stags of Landseer’s, over a chimney-piece. Grant, on a pony, led me through the Fishie (all the fords are deep) at the foot of the farm houses, where we met Lord and Lady Alexander Russell last year—and where we this time found two carriages. We dismounted and entered them, and were off at five o’clock—we were to have started at four.

We four drove together by the same way as we rode last year (and nothing could be rougher for driving), quite to the second wood, which led us past Loch Luch„ but we turned short of the loch to the left along the high road. Unfortunately by this time it was nearly dark, and we therefore lost a great deal of the fine scenery. We had ridden 15 miles. We drove along the road over several bridges—the Bridge of Carr, close below the ruined Castle of Ruthven, which we could just descry in the dusk—-and on a long wooden bridge over the Spey to an inn at Kingussie, a very straggling place with very few cottages. Already, before we arrived there, we were struck by people standing at their cottage doors, and evidently looking out, which made us believe we were expected. At Kingussie there was a small, curious, chattering crowd of people— who, however, did not really make us out, but evidently suspected who we were. Grant and Brown kept them off the carriages, and gave them evasive answers, directing them to the wrong carriage, which was most amusing. One old gentleman, with a high wide-awake, was especially inquisitive.

We started again, and went on and on, passing through the village of Newtonmoore, where the footman McDonald comes from. Here the Spey is crossed at its junction with the Truim, and then the road ascends for ten miles more to Dalwhiimie. It became cold and windy with occasional rain. At length, and not till a quarter to nine, we reached the inn of Dalwhinnie,— 29 miles from where we had left our ponies,—which stands by itself, away from any village. Here, again, there were a few people assembled, and I thought they knew us; but it seems they did not, and it was only when we arrived that one of the maids recognized me. She had seen me at Aberdeen and Edinburgh. We went upstairs: the inn was much larger than at Fettercairn, but not nearly so nice and cheerful; there was a drawing-room and a dining-room; and we had a very good-sized bedroom. Albert had a dressing room of equal size. Mary Andrews (who was very useful and efficient) and Lady Churchill’s maid had a room together, every one being in the house; but unfortunately there was hardly anything to eat, and there was only tea, and two miserable starved Highland chickens, without any potatoes! No pudding, and no fun; no little maid (the two there not wishing to come in), nor our two people—who were wet and drying our and their things—to wait on us! It was not a nice supper; and the evening was wet. As it was late we soon retired to rest. Mary and Maxted (Lady Churchill's maid) had been dining below with Grant, Brown, and Stewart (who came, the same as last time, with the maids) in the “commercial room” at the foot of the stairs. They had only the remnants of our two starved chickens!

Wednesday, October 9.

A bright morning, which was very charming. Albert found, on getting up, that Cluny Macpherson, with his piper and two ladies, had arrived quite early in the morning; and, while we were dressing, we heard a drum and fife—and discovered that the newly-formed volunteers had arrived—all indicating that we were discovered. However, there was scarcely any population, and it did not signify. The fat old landlady had put on a black satin dress, with white ribbons and orange flowers! We had breakfast at a quarter to nine o’clock; at half-past nine we started. Cluny was at the door with his wife and daughters with nosegays, and the volunteers were drawn up in front of the inn. They had all assembled since Saturday afternoon!

We drove as we did yesterday. Fine and very wild scenery, high wild hills, and no habitations. We went by the Pass of Drumouchter, with fine hills on both sides and in front of us; passed between two, the one on our left called The Boar of Badenoch, and that on the right, The Athole Sow. The Pass of Drumouchter separates Perthshire from Inverness-shire.

Again, a little farther on, we came to Loch Garry, which is very beautiful—but the mist covered the furthest hills, and the extreme distance was clouded. There is a small shooting-lodge, or farm, charmingly situated, looking up the glen on both sides, and with the loch in front; we did not hear to whom it belonged. We passed many drovers, without their herds and flocks, returning, Grant told us, from Falkirk. We had one very heavy shower after Loch Garry and before we came to Dalnacardoch Inn, 13 miles from Dalwhinnie. The road goes beside the Garry. The country for a time became flatter; but was a good deal cultivated. At Dalnacardoch Inn there was a suspicion and expectation of our arrival. Four horses with smart postilions were in waiting; but, on General Gey’s saying that this was not the party, but the one for whom only two horses had been ordered, a shabby pair of horses were put in; a shabby driver driving from the box (as throughout this journey), and off we started.

The Garry is very fine, rolling along over large stones —like the Quoich and the Fishie, and forming perpetual falls, with birch and mountain-ash growing down to the water’s edge. We had some more heavy showers. A few miles from Dalnacardoch the Duke of Athole (in his kilt and shooting-jacket, as usual) met us on a pretty little chestnut pony, and rode the whole time near the carriage. He said, there were vague suspicions and rumours of our coming, but he had told no one anything. There was again a shower, but it cleared when we came in sight of Ben-y-Ghlo, and the splendid Pass of Killiekrankie, which, with the birch all golden,—not, as on Deeside, bereft of leaves,—looked very beautiful.

We passed by the Bruar, and the road to the Falls of the Bruar, but could not stop. The Duke took us through a new approach, which is extremely pretty; but near which, I cannot help regretting, the railroad will come, as well as along the road by which we drove through the Pass of Drumguchter. The Duke has made great improvements, and the path looked beautiful, surrounded as it is by hills; and the foliage still full, though in all its autumn tints—the whole being lit up with bright sunshine. We drove through an avenue, and in a few minutes more were at the door of the old castle. A thousand recollections of seventeen years ago crowded upon me—all seemed so familiar again. No one there except the dear Duchess, who stood at the door, and whom I warmly embraced; and Miss Mac Gregor. How well I recognized the hall with all the sporting trophies; and the staircase, which we went up at once. The Duchess took us to a room which I recognized immediately as the one where Lady Canning lived. There we took off our things—then went to look at the old and really very handsome rooms in which we had lived—the one in which Vicky had slept: two chairs, then not four years old! In the dining-room we took some coffee, which was most welcome; and then we looked at all the stags’ horns put up in one of the corridors below; saw the Duke’s pet dog, a smooth-haired black terrier, very fat; and then got into the carriage, a very peculiar one, viz., a boat—a mere boat (which is very light), put on four wheels, drawn by a pair of horses with a postilion. Into this we four got, with the Duke and Duchess and the dog;—Lady Churchill, General Grey, and Miss Mac Gregor going on another carriage; with our two servants on the box, to whom all this was quite new and a great treat. The morning was beautiful. It was halfpast twelve—we drove up by the avenue and about a favourite walk of ours in ’44, passed through the gate, and came on to Glen Tilt—which is most striking, the road winding along, first on one side of the Tilt, and then on the other; the fine high hills rising very abruptly frcm each side of the rapid, rocky, stony river Tilt—the trees, chiefly birch and alder, overhanging the water.

We passed the Marble Lodge, in which one of the keepers lives, and came to Forest Lodge, where the road for carriages ends, and the glen widens. There were our ponies, which had passed the night at the Bainoch or Beynoch (a shooting “shiel” of Lord Fife’s). They came over this morning; but, poor beasts, without having had any corn! Forest Lodge, is eight miles from Blair. There we took leave of the dear Duchess; and saw old Peter Frazer, the former head-keeper there, now walking with the aid of two sticks! The Duke’s keepers were there, his pipers, and a gentleman stopping on a visit with him.

It was barely two o’clock when we started. We on our ponies, the Duke and his men (twelve altogether) on foot—Sandy McAra, now head-keeper, grown old and grey, and two pipers, preceded us; the two latter playing alternately the whole time, which had a most cheerful effect. The wild strains sounded so softly amid those noble hills; and our caravan winding along—our people and the Duke’s all in kilts, and the ponies, made altogether a most picturesque scene.

One of the Duke’s keepers, Donald Macbeath, is a guardsman, and was in the Crimea. He is a celebrated marksman, and a fine-looking man, as all the Duke’s men are. For some little time it was easy riding, but soon we came to a rougher path, more on the “brae” of the hill, where the pony required to be led, which I always have done, either when it is at all rough or bad, or when the pony has to be got on faster.

The Duke walked near me the greater part of the time; amusingly saying, in reference to former times, that he did not offer to lead me. as he knew I had no confidence in him. I replied, laughingly, “Oh, no, only I like best being led by the person I am accustomed to.”

At length, at about three, we stopped, and lunched at a place called Dalcronachie, looking up a glen towards Loch Loch—on a high bank overhanging the Tilt. Looking back the view was very fine; so, while the things were being unpacked for lunch, we sketched. We brought our own luncheon, and the remainder was as usual given to the men, but this time there were a great many to feed. After luncheon we set off again. I walked a few paces; but as it was very wet, and the road very rough, by Albert’s desire I got on again. A very-few minutes brought us to the celebrated ford of the Tarff, (Poll Tarff it is called,) which is very deep—and after heavy rain almost impassable. The Duke offered to lead the pony on one side, and talked of Sandy for the other side, but I asked for Brown (whom I have far the most confidence in) to lead the pony, the Duke taking hold of it (as he did frequently) on the other side. Sandy McAra, the guide, and the two pipers went first, staying all the time. To all appearance the ford of the Tarff was not deeper than the other fords, but once in it the men were above their knees—and suddenly in the middle, where the current, from the fine, high, full falls, is very strong, it was nearly up to the men’s waists. Here Sandy returned, and I said to the Duke (which he afterwards joked with Sandy about) that I thought he (Sandy) had better take the Duke’s place; he did so, and we came very well through, all the others following, the men chiefly wading—Albert (close behind me) and the others riding through—and some of our people coming over double on the ponies. General Grey had little Peter Robertson up behind him.

The road after this became almost precipitous, and indeed made riding very unpleasant; but being wet, and difficult to walk, we ladies rode, Albert walking the greater part of the time. Only once, for a very few steps, I had to get off, as the pony could hardly keep its footing. As it was, Brown constantly could not walk next to the pony, but had to scramble below, or pull it after him. The Duke was indefatigable.

The Tilt becomes narrower and narrower, its first source is almost invisible. The Tarff flows into the Tilt, about two miles or more beyond the falls. We emerged from the pass upon an open valley—with less high hills and with the hills of Braemar before us. We crossed the Bainoch or Bynack, quite a small stream, and when we came to the “County March’’—where Perth and Aberdeen join—we halted. The Duke gave Albert and me some whisky to drink, out of an old silver flask of his own, and then made a short speech proposing my health, expressing the pleasure with which he and all had received me at Blair, and hoping that I would return as often as I liked, and that I should have a safe return home; ending by the true Highland “Nis! nis! nis! Sit air “a-nis! A-ris! a-ris! a-ris!” (pronounced: “Neesh!“ neesh! neesh! Sheet eir, a-neesh! A-rees! a-rees! “a-rees!”) which means: “Now! now! now! That to him, now! Again! again! again!” which was responded to by cheering from all. Grant then proposed "three cheers for the Duke of Athole,” which was also very warmly responded to;—my pony (good “Inchrory”), which went admirably, rather resenting the vehemence of Brown’s cheering.

We then went on again for about three miles to the Bainoch, which we reached at ten minutes to six, when it was already nearly dark. As we approached the “shiel,” the pipers struck up, and played. The ponies went so well with the pipes, and altogether it was very pleasant to ride and walk with them. They played “the Athole Highlanders” when we started, and again in coming in.

Lady Fife had very kindly come down to the Bainoch herself, where she gave us tea, which was very welcome. We then got into our carriages, wishing the good Duke of Athole good-by. He was going back the whole way—which was certainly rather a hazardous proceeding, at least an adventurous one, considering the night, and that there was no moon—and what the road was! We got home safely at a quarter-past eight. The night was quite warm, though slightly showery—but became very clear and starlight later.

We had travelled 69 miles to-day, and 60 yesterday. This was the pleasantest and most enjoyable expedition I ever made; and the recollection of it will always be most agreeable to me, and increase my wish to make more! Was so glad dear Louis (who is a charming companion) was with us. Have enjoyed nothing as much, or indeed felt so much cheered by anything, since my great sorrow. [The death of the Duchess of Kent.] Did not feel tired. We ladies did not dress, and dined en famille; looking at maps of the Highlands after dinner.


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