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Autumnal Rambles Among The Scottish Mountains
A Fortnight on Deeside, Glens Dee, Deny, Lui-Beg, &c.


"Ye hills, near neebors o’ the s tarns,
That proudly cock your cresting cairns;
Ye cliffs, the haunts o' sailing yearns,
Where echo slumbers;
Come, join, auld Nature’s sturdiest bairns,
My wailing numbers.”

Thus does Bums pathetically invoke Auld Nature to condole with him for the demise of hi$ friend Matthew Henderson. In similar strains may I invoke her to condole with me in the change which must now come over the spirit of my narrative. Our ascent of Lochnagar was, in every point of view, eminently successful and satisfactory. But, as the Roman author asserts, “nihel est ah omni parte beatum;” or, as it may aptly be translated 1by our Scotch proverb, "we canna kep at a’ slapsor," as we have it in English, "they who play at bowls must meet with rubbers.” The ascent of Ben Macdhui was the grand object of my ramble on this occasion. The accomplishment of this I had contemplated for years. In public opinion, this mountain had, for at least a quarter of a century, snatched the laurels from the brow of Ben Nevis as being the highest point in the kingdom. Even children at all our schools were instructed to give the preference to this Aberdonian upstart; and it grieved me to think that I had once been half-way to the top, in the most favourable circumstances, and had, by mere accident, been prevented from reaching it.

These considerations led me to form the resolution of not only climbing Ben Macdhui, but also several mountains in its vicinity, especially Brae-riach and Caimtoul, which are only lower by about 150 feet. My plans were fully, and in my opinion, most judiciously matured. By consulting maps, charts, and guide-books, as well as by correspondence, I had completely mastered the geography of the district. Not only the mountains, but all the glens and bums, were familiar to me ; and I concluded that by one, or at most two nights’ bivouack, I could overtop all that is particularly interesting at the source of the Dee. That I might not be foiled in this long cherished enterprise, I had resolved to. go entirely alone; and in the prosecution of this object, I resisted lie proffered society of those who would, in many respects, have been most agreeable fellow-travellers. The elements, however, cannot be controlled. This achievement has hitherto bid defiance to the boasted ingenuity of man, and compels him to acknowledge that, whereas in many things he deals proudly, yet there is One above him.

As formerly mentioned, I had tarried as long at Castleton as time would permit, in hopes of the mountains becoming clear of clouds and falling snow. The Queen was to arrive at that village on the 31st August, upon which occasion, as a loyal subject, I was determined to be present. Accordingly, about mid-day, on the 28th, after having uncorked my whisky-flask at a blacksmith's vice, and stowed into my fishing-basket a fair supply of provisions for two or three days, I proceeded alone up the Dee. Three miles from Castleton, the river is joined on the north side by the Quoigh, on which there are several romantic falls. This stream flows from the precipitous sides of Ben Abourd and Benaven, mountains about 4000 feet high, and by no means difficult of ascent. Her Majesty and her Royal Consort visited the former this autumn, and, as they were highly gratified with the novelty of the scene, it is to be hoped they will extend their rambles to the Cairngorm range on some future occasion. Patronage of this description will soon bring mountain climbing into fashion, and banish that effeminate 'indolence which has long been gaining ground among all ranks. Men now-a-days allege mat they cannot rough it without imminent danger, and that a night’s lodging on the cold ground, even in summer, would be certain destruction. This may all be true enough, but what is the cause? their superfluous flannels and countless other unnecessary indulgences. Let them reflect that, if history is to be credited, our forefathers deemed it sufficient to have an occasional fresh coat of painty without troubling the tailor at all!

Benaven derives its appellation from the number of streams which issue from it on every side. It is still more remarkable for eight or ten odd looking excrescences at and near its summit. These consist, I believe, of solid rock, and have much the. appearance of being artificial when seen from a distance, especially that one which crowns the summit of the mountain. Their height is considerable, varying perhaps from 50 to 100 feet The river Aven runs chiefly from the north side of this mountain and the loch of the same name, and joins the Spey at Inveraven. The far-famed Glemivet whisky is manufactured from a tributary of this stream.

On the south side of the Dee, opposite Glen Quoigh, is Corriemulzie Cottage, the very interesting Highland retreat of that distinguished veteran, General Sir Alexander Duff. It consists of various, unpretending buildings, erected at different times, as the family increased, and has more of a classic and picturesque than a grand and imposing appearance. You might fancy it the elegant retreat of literature and science, rather than the residence of a soldier, the next heir to the vast estates of the Earldom of Fife. A wicket-gate and a well-kept footpath lead from the high road down to the Dee by the side of a stream, on which there are some beautiful cascades. No one should pass these unvisited. I followed the stream till it fell into the Dee. On a beautiful lawn by the side of the river, stands the effigy of a noble stag. It consists of iron painted, and is so well executed, that, when I first saw it, I half thought it might be some favourite of the General’s family that had become tame by their attentions and indulgence.

The next object worthy of notice is the handsome "Victoria” Bridge leading to Mar Lodge, the Highland residence of the Duke of Leeds. An ornamental cottage is here tenanted by a very old woman, on whom I called, who has seen better days, but who has still much cause of gratitude in being so near a neighbour of the General and the Duke.

On my telling her I was going to Ben Macdhui, she remarked, “Wi’ leave, Sir, I think ye’re o’er het at hame; they tell me it’s deep wi’gnaw.” Mar Lodge is beautifully situated on the north side of the Dee, at the foot of Ben Abourd, with an extensive lawn in front, and on both sides. I have given Invercauld the first place, and Balmoral the second, in point of splendour and beauty on the banka of the Dee. Mar Lodge, in Doncaster phrase, u comes in a good third.” Its architectural pretensions ate not great, but the situation is splendid; and, as a sporting residence in autumn, it is unrivalled. The only bridge above this is that at the Linn of Dee. The river is here so narrow that it is easily spanned by a single arch, though above and below, the channel expands to 40 or 50 yards. This linn consists of a succession of falls of no great height, but imposing on account of the vast body of water dashing through rocks so contracted, that, for the space of 18 or 20 feet, any active boy or girl of twelve years of age might easily leap across. The only circumstances to prevent the frequent accomplishment of this, are the sudden rise of the rock on the south side, where you alight, and the certainty of destruction should you slip and fall into the roaring gulf below. The river being high and the wind boisterous, the spray was flying about in all directions while I was there; this, and there being no one to witness the feat, if so it may be termed, prevented me from the attempt Tiie extent of the linn from head to foot may be about 80 or 100 yards. In various places there are hideous eddies or whirlpools, which some of the good people in the vicinity declare to have no bottom.

After crossing the Dee, I turned to the right and then to the left, near its confluence with the Lui I then proceeded up Glen Lui for three or four miles, as far as the forester’s lodge, at the entrance of Glen-Lui-Beg. The stream is here divided into two, the Derry being the larger branch. On entering the lodge, 1 was informed that the forester, Peter M‘Hardy, was not at home, but was civilly received by his spouse, and the evening being showery and cold, 1 was glad to sit down with her and her young folks round an excellent peat fire. Soon after, she apprised me that, as she had kindled a fire in the room end, I would find myself more comfortable there. Ihree splendid broadswords were suspended on the wall, which, along with other implements connected with his profession, proved Peter to be no greenhorn. In the course of the evening he arrived, and kept me company. M'Hardy is about as good a specimen of a Highlander as can well be imagined. He is considerably above six feet in height, straight and active, without an ounce of redundant flesh. Like all these foresters whom I have seen, he is remarkably intelligent, and, from frequent intercourse with men of rank and education, their manners are much superior to those of our ordinary peasantry. Some years ago, he was an adept at throwing the hammer and putting the stone, as was testified by several elegant silver medals which he showed me, and to which, I make no doubt, he might still be adding, had he not thought proper gracefully to retire from the arena, while facile princeps. Had there been six Peters instead of one, the learned Doctor and his "Girse gatherers” might have felt a little discomposed ere they forced the Pass of Glen-Lui-Beg, regaling the deer with their cigars, grog, &c. &c. At our first meeting, I informed him that I had letters from the Duke, to whom I had applied for a pass through the forest. He said it was unnecessary to produce them, as he had been informed by his Grace, of my intended visit, and had been instructed to afford me every facility. Here, therefore, I spent the night, somewhat more comfortably than had I been once more stretched among the rocks and heather, as at one time I thought I should have been compelled to be.

I have heard some lamenting that so much ground should be devoted to deer forests, considering that much of it is well adapted for sheep. In this lamentation, I cannot sympathise. There is comparatively little of Scotland devoted to this purpose; and, when we reflect that it can only be in the wildest and most desolate parts of the country the object can be successfully accomplished, there can be no just foundation for such regret, provided lawful roads and footpaths are not interfered with. In addition to this, let it be kept in view, that this system brings annually a great number of noblemen and gentlemen into our country, who*would otherwise be utter strangers to it—that, not only do these men liberally spend their money in the Highlands, where it is most wanted, but very frequently take an interest in promoting the welfare of the inhabitants—patronising our patriotic and benevolent institutions, and, in not a few instances, finding employment abroad of a lucrative and honourable description for those who would otherwise have spent their lives in idleness and starvation at home. We should also consider, that, for the preservation of the deer, as many men are required as had the ground been under sheep, and that their families are, in almost all instances, kept in more comfortable circumstances than those of the generality of our shepherds. Besides all this, would it not be a national disgrace, that this noble breed of animals, the red deer, should be extinguished for such a paltry and questionable lucrative consideration for this would most certainly very soon be the result, were they not so preserved.


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