Wednesday. October 16, 1861.
To our great satisfaction it was a most beautiful
morning. Not a cloud was on the bright blue sky, and it was
perfectly calm. There had been a sharp frost which lay on parts of
the grass, and the mountains were beautifully lit up, with those
very blue shades upon them, like the bloom on a plum. Up early, and
breakfasted with Alice, Louis, and Lenchen, in our room. At twenty
minutes to nine o’clock we started, with Alice, Lenchen, and Louis.
The morning was beyond everything splendid, and the country in such
beauty, though the poor trees are nearly leafless.
Near Castleton, and indeed all along the road, in the
shade, the frost still lay, and the air was very sharp. We took
post-horses at Castleton, and proceeded up Glen Clunie to Glen
Callater, which looked lovely, and which Albert admired much. In a
little more than two hours we were at Loch Ca Hater—the road was
very bad indeed as we approached the loch, where our ponies were
waiting for us. After walking a few paces we remounted them, I on my
good “Fyvie,” and Alice on “Inchrory.”
The day was glorious — and the whole expedition
delightful, and very easily performed. We ascended Little Cairn
There) on the north side of Loch Callater, up a sort of footpath
very easy and even, upon ground that was almost flat, rising very
gradually, but imperceptibly; and the view became wonderfully
extensive. The top of Cairn Turc is quite flat—with moss and
grass—so that you could drive upon it. It is very high, for you see
the high table land behind the highest point of Loch-na-Gar. On that
side you have no view; but from the other it is wonderfully
extensive. It was so clear and bright, and so still there, reminding
us of the day on Ben Muich Dhui last year.
There rose immediately behind us Ben Muich Dhui, which
you hardly ever see, and the shape of which is not fine, with its
surrounding mountains of Cairngorm, Brae Riach, Ben Avon or A'an,
Ben-na-Bhourd, &c. We saw Bcn-y-Ghlo quite clearly, and all that
range of hills; then, further west, Shichallion, near Loch Tay; the
mountains which are near the Black Mount; and, quite on the horizon,
we could discern Ben Nevis, which is above Fort William.
Going up Cairn Turc we looked down upon Loch
Canter, a small loch above Loch Callater, very wild and dark. We
proceeded to Cairn Glaishie, at the extreme point of which a cairn
has been erected. We got off to take a look at the wonderful
panorama which lay stretched out before us. We looked on Fifeshire, and
the country between Perth and Stirling, the Lomond Hills, &c. It was
beautifully clear, and really it was most interesting to look over
such an immense extent of the Highlands. I give a very poor
description of it; but here follows a rough account of the places we
To the North—Ben Muich Dhui, Brae Riach, Cairngorm,
Ben Avon, Ben-na-Bhourd.
To the East—Loch-na-Gar, See.
To the South-West—Ben-y-Ghlo or Ben-y-Gloc, and the
surrounding hills beyond Shichallion, and the mountains between Dunkeld and
the Black Mount.
Quite in the extreme West—Ben Nabs.
To the South—the Lomond Hills; Berth in the middle
We walked on a little way, and then I got upon my
pony. Another half hour’s riding again over such singular flat
table-land, brought us on to the edge of the valley of Cairn Lochan, which
is indeed “a bonnie place.” It reminded me and Louis of Clova; only
there one did not see the immense extent of mountains behind. Cairn
Lochan is a narrow valley, the river Isla winding through it like a
silver ribbon, with trees at the bottom. The hills are green and
steep, but towards the head of the valley there are fine precipices.
We had then to take a somewhat circuitous route in order to avoid
some logs, and to come to a spot where we looked right up the valley
for an immense distance; to the left, or rather more to the south,
was Glen Isla, another glen, but wider, and not with the same high
mountains as Cairn Lochan. Beyond Glen Isla were seen the Lomond
Hills behind Kinross, at the foot of which is Loch Leven.
We sat on a very precipitous place, which made one
dread any one’s moving backwards; and here, at a little before two
o’clock, we lunched. The lights were charmingly soft, and, as I said
before, like the bloom on a plum. The luncheon was very acceptable,
for the air was extremely keen, and we found ice thicker than a
shilling on the top of Cairn Turc, which did not melt when Brown
took it and kept it in his hand.
Helena was so delighted, for this was the only really
great expedition in which she had accompanied us.
Duncan and the keeper at Loch Ca Hater (R. Stewart)
went with us as guides.
I made some hasty sketches; and then Albert wrote on
a bit of paper that we had lunched here, put it into the Selters
water bottle, and buried it there, or rather stuck it into the
ground. Grant had done the same when we visited Ben Muich Dhui the
first time. This over, we walked part of the way back which we had
ridden to avoid the bogs,—we ladies walking only a short way, and
then riding. We altered our course, and left Cairn Glaishie to our
right, and went in the direction of the Cairn Wall. Looking back on
the distant hills above Glen Isla and Cairn Lochan (Lord Airlie’s
“Country”), it was even more beautiful; for, as the day advanced,
the mountains became clearer and clearer, of a lovely blue, while
the valleys were in shadow. Shichallion, and those further ranges,
were also most perfectly to be seen, and gave me such a longing for
further Highland expeditions! We went over Garbchory, looking down
on the road to the Spittal; and on the lower mountains, which are
most curiously connected one with another, and which, from the
height we were, we could look down upon.
Here follow s the account of our route, with all the
names as written down by Duncan. I cannot “mind” the names, as they
From Balmoral to—
I.och Callater, four miles,
Left Loch Callater at 11 o’clock, a.m.,
Little Cairn Turc,
Big Cairn Turc,
Ca-Ness, six miles.
Month Eigie Read,
Shean Spittal Bridge, 4.30 p.m.,
Shean Spittal Bridge to Balmoral, 16 miles.
This gave one a very good idea of the geography of
the country, which delighted dear Albert, as this expedition was
quite in a different direction from any that we had ever made
before. But my head is so very ungeographical, that I cannot
describe it. We came down by the Month Eigie, a steep hill covered
with grass, down part of which I rode, walking where it was
steepest; but it was so wet and slippery that I had two falls. We
got down to the road to the Spittal Bridge, about 15 miles
from Castleton, at nearly half-past four, and then down along the
new road, at least that part of it which is finished, and which is
to extend to the Cairn Wall. We went back on our side of the river;
and if we had been a little earlier, Albert might have got a
stag—but it was too late. The moon rose and shone most beautifully,
and we returned at twenty minutes to seven o’clock, much pleased and
interested with this delightful expedition. Alas! I fear
our last great one!
(It was our last one!—1867)