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Autumnal Rambles Among The Scottish Mountains
A Fortnight on Deeside, The Queen, Crathie Church, &c.


While we sojourned in this vicinity, a very remarkable feat was performed by an English gentleman, who had taken the shooting at Loch Cal-later. While on the moors, a herd of ill-starred deer came past him, out of which, by dexterous management on his part, or an unaccountable fatality on theirs, he killed no less than eleven fine stags! It is reckoned fair enough sport to bring down one stag in a day, even in regularly preserved ground; but here eleven were shot dead by one sportsman, and on ground not exclusively allotted to deer. It was generally accounted for by their having strayed, and got into confusion from the loss of their leader; though, even on this supposition, one can hardly conceive how they came to be so easily victimised. We were in great luck as to venison during all the time we were on Deeside. In one form or another, it was presented to us almost at every meal. When kept a considerable time, and properly dressed, it is excellent food; but, generally speaking, this was not the case. The flesh of the animal is very solid, so that it requires several weeks’ keeping, and slow deliberate cooking, to make it tender and fit for the table. Unless this be attended to, it is not to be compared with ordinary mutton; but on two or three occasions, we had it all right, and then it was excellent. I do not know that 1 ever relished it more than at Peter M'Hardie’s, where it was presented cold, and slightly salted, after it had been long and slowly boiled.

On the day preceding her Majesty’s arrival, all was preparation and bustle at Castleton. Invercaulas men were actively engaged in furbishing their beautiful tartans, as there was to be a general turn-out of that clan upon the occasion. Saturday, the 31st, proved very propitious as to weather, and from all quarters there were arrivals long before there was the least chance of the great event taking place. About the middle of the day, a flag was is played on the castle, and similar demonstrations of loyalty were observable in all directions. The village was swarming not only with denizens of Deeside, but with tourists from all quarters, and the best spirit prevailed among them all. From two till six o’clock, the hour of the Queen’s arrival, the rallying-point was the Invercauld Arms. About the former hour, the Duchess of Kent and suite arrived from Abergeldy, and partook of luncheon at the above hotel. Her appearance is grave and dignified, and her stature rather above the middle size. Contrary to expectation, she did not await the arrival of her royal daughter, but returned to Balmoral, after staying about an hour and a half. At four o’clock, Lady Agnes Duff drove up in a handsome pony chaise, having several young people as her companions. This lady is nearly related to the Queen, and has a considerable resemblance to the royal family. She is very good-looking, but remarkably embonpoint for so young a woman, so that a little mountain training, along with her distinguished relative, might be a salutary prescription. Ben-abourd and Ben-aven are directly in front of Corriemulzie Cottage, and there cannot be better training ground.

As all were on the qui vive, every carriage arrival created fresh excitement. The Celts were repeatedly mustered and disbanded, before certain intimation was brought that the moment of gratification was at hand. The royal party were conveyed in about half-a-dozen carriages, each drawn by four horses. The first was a sort of pilot, that the way might be cleared; to the second contained the Queen, Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales, and his eldest brother, Prince Alfred. They drove up close to the porch of the hotel, and, as tne carriage was open, every one was gratified to the utmost. There was no crowding, as all seemed quite satisfied with the places they had selected. Mine was in the porch, just behind Lady Agnes Duff, who was immediately recognised in the frankest manner by her Majesty, to whom she introduced her little daughter held in her arms. Nothing could be more calm, lady-like, and unpretending, than the Queen’s appearance and manners, insomuch that one could hardly realise the fact, that the greatest and most influential personage alive was within a few feet of us. She wore a plain black dress, and looked particularly interesting and intelligent; the vivacity and youthful glow which characterised her when first she wore the diadem, gradually and gracefully yielding to the matronly look and air which become the wife and mother. She smiled, and seemed pleased with her reception, which was respectful ana kindly, but by no means vociferous. Prince Albert’s appearance is bluff and manly, far more that of an Englishman than is common with foreigners. The young princes conducted themselves quietly and modestly, so as to lead one to infer that they are under proper parental discipline. Their looks are ordinary enough, and, were it not for their lofty lineage, would pass wholly without observation. I was so much engrossed with the contents of the first carriage, that I took but a very cursory glance of the other members of the royal family. After remaining about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, the whole drove off for Balmoral, amidst a hearty cheer from all ranks of spectators.

I may here narrate an anecdote, which will amuse those who are not aware of the homely habits of these distinguished individuals when among the mountains of the North. The superintendent of the county police, upon a former occasion, had given suitable directions to his men to see the road quite clear of all obstructions between Castleton and Glenshee; but, lest there should be any vagrants who had eluded detection, he rode off by himself to meet the royal party just before their expected arrival. About half-way, the road is very steep and bad, and here the royal visitors had preferred walking, and had even got the start of the carriages. They were attired in a very simple, rustic manner, and were all engaged in playing at some game by the wayside, when they attracted the notice of Captain A. His first impression was, that, in defiance of his precautions, they were a strolling party, bent upon asking charity, who had escaped the observation of the police, and he hastened his pace that he might have them removed. On a nearer approach, he recognised the real character of the vagrants; but, though he relates the anecdote, I have not heard that he ever mentioned to them the nature of his mistake, though there is little doubt that his doing so would only have added to their amusement.

On the evening of the 31st, I went to the very comfortable inn at Inver, in order to be near Crathie Church, which the Queen was expected to attend next day. I walked by the private drive through the woods, from which there is the finest possible view of Invercauld House. In going, you pass the forester’s lodge behind the’ village of Castleton, and right under the u Lion’s Face,” as a shaggy projecting rock is called. No stranger should omit taking this walk. At Inver, I met a gentleman whom I conjectured, from his shrewdness and intelligence, to be in connection with the Aberdeen newspaper press. We spent a very comfortable evening together; but, in common with many others, were sadly disappointed next day as to seeing her Majesty m church. She had been fatigued by the long journey of the previous day—about 150 miles—and, I believe for the first time, absented herself, though we were gratified by seeing the Duchess of Kent there, and many other distinguished individuals.

In attending divine service at Crathie, her Majesty giving a most important lesson to very many of her Episcopalian subjects, especially to those addicted to Puseyism. It has been stated in the newspapers, and, in so far as I know, without contradiction, that the Bishop of London presumed to remonstrate with her Majesty on this subject, and that he was answered in a way which will probably check a repetition of his zeal. We have no reason to doubt of her Majesty’s attending divine service from the best of all motives—that of worshipping her Maker. But, in subordination to this, she is no doubt well aware of the propriety of supporting all our valuable and venerable institutions; and, as the Church of Scotland is just as much the Established Church there, as the Episcopalian Church is in England, nothing but ignorance or bigotry can account for his Lordship’s interference.

The Parish Church of Crathie is a convenient and well-lighted modern building, but, in my opinion, its architecture is not in keeping with the romantic scenery around it. Something in the Gothic style would certainly have been preferable. It is directly opposite Lochnagar, of which there is a splendid view from the front. Balmoral Castle is on the other or southern side of the Dee, and not above a mile distant. In this parish, the Secession has been insignificant, considering the exertions njade to promote it. The minister of Crathie is deservedly a favourite among all ranks of his parishioners, from the Queen to the beggar; so that, I am convinced, had the people not been unduly tampered with, not one would have deserted his ministry.

On the Sabbath evening, my travelling companion and I parted, he having arrived at the Manse of Crathie in the morning. It was his intention to proceed to Aberdeen by the Don, and mine to return southwards, next day, by Glenshee. My original plan was to have returned by Olen Tilt, having obtained a pass from the Duke of Athole, through the application of a highly valued friend, but it did not reach me till I had decided upon a different route. On my return to Castleton, the evening was still and peaceful. In passing Balmoral, it was not easy to fancy that there was the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland enjoying, with her family, the Sabbath repose, as quietly as any family in the land!—the only symptom of there being an illustrious personage in this Highland retreat, being a flag floating from the top of the Lochnagar Distillery in the immediate vicinity.

In going up the Dee from Crathie, one is struck with the extremely neat appearance of the foresters’ lodges on the estate of Invercauld. They look like genteel cottages in the precincts of a town; and, were they not decorated with deers’ horns above the doors, as is the custom, one would conceive their inmates were of a higher and more refined grade. On the side of the steep, rocky hills overhanging the Forest of Ballochbowie, there is a white speck much resembling snow. Upon asking what it was, I was told it was occasioned by lightning, during a violent thunder-storm, which threw off the heath and moss, thereby exposing the surface of the white granite. An exactly similar effect was produced on Criffel, two years ago, just above Loch Kindar. On re-entering Castleton, I found it in that state of stillness and tranquillity so characteristic of the Scottish Sabbath, which has been so admirably described by our national poet, Graham, and which, I trust, mil continue to signalise our country, till her example shall have had a salutary influence on every nation on the face of the earth. The following lines struck me as being particularly fine and appropriate:—

"Oh Scotland! much. I love thy tranquil dales:
But most on Sabbath eve, when low the sun
Slants through the upland copse, *tis my delight,
Wandering and stopping oft, to hear the song
Of kindred praise arise from humble roofs.”


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