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Leaves from the Journal
Last Expedition 16 Oct. 1861


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 saw:—

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 distance.

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 say here.

From Balmoral to—
I.och Callater, four miles,
Left Loch Callater at 11 o’clock, a.m.,
Little Cairn Turc,
Big Cairn Turc,
I.och Canter,
Cairn Glaishie,
Cairn Lochan,
Ca-Ness, six miles.

Returning route:—

Cairn Lochan.
Cairn Glashie,
Garb Chory,
Month Eigie Read,
Glass Meall,
Fian Chory,
Aron Ghey,
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)


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