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Autumnal Rambles Among The Scottish Mountains
Hints to Innkeepers, Highland Pride, &c.


Before bidding adieu to Castleton, I shall quote a passage from Dr M'Culloch. It is quaint, and highly characteristic at once of the author and his subject:—

“Castletown is a wild, straggling village, scattered amid rocks and rapid streams, and among a confusion of all kinds, that seems as if it had been produced by the subversion and wreck of a former landscape. Those who enter it in the night, for the first time, will wonder where they are, and what is to happen next. After a house, you meet a plain, or a hillock, or a rock, or a thundering river; and then there is a house again, or a mill, or a bridge, or a saw-pit. You follow some jack-o’-lantern of a light, and, when you think it is close at hand, you find yourself separated by a ravine. All around you are lights, you cannot conjectore where, with the roaring of water, and the noises of saw* mills and fulling-mills; and when the village seems to be at an end three or four times, it begins again. I thought of Sancho and his mills more than once, and, when the day broke, was not much less surprised than I had been in the night.

This village, though greatly improved since the above was written, still retains symptoms of recent emergence from barbarism. Its cottages, as I have said, are generally neat and commodious; but there are still some observable of the olden school, much resembling Irish hovels. Altogether, it is what may be called a queer place. You may here find the aborigines, in their most primitive form, mingled for several months in the year with gownsmen from Oxford and Cambridge, who, with a laudable thirst of literature, have retired from the busy world, lest their studies should be marred. While here, a circumstance was narrated, the recital of which may perhaps amuse my readers as much as it amused myself. In a certain village, not Castletm, there is, or was, a notice to the following effect— “Knockin’ up done here at 3d.” Here is a riddle well worthy of the Sphynx herself. I have heard various guesses as to its intended meaning, but never the real one. Some surmised that it referred to ladies’ dresses “got up,” as I believe they call it, in proper style; others, that such a quantity of mountain-dew might there be had for the above sum, as would suffice to deprive a man of that which mainly distinguishes him from a beast. The real solution of the riddle, however, is, that, for the sum of 3d., lazy tourists or sportsmen, who are “ better risers at night than in the morning,” will have an opportunity of looking about them at an early hour, if they continue so disposed.

In the heart of the village are the remains of a very ancient castle, built, it is supposed, in the eleventh century, called Kyndrochit, once a hunting seat of the Kings of Scotland. Little more than the foundations of the walls are now to be seen above ground; but there are sundry vaults and secret passages, beneath the surface, which savour strongly of rugged times, when safety was more an object than comfort, even in royal residences. There is still extant a deed, in the original Latin, and lately published by the Spalding Club, signed by Robert II., some five centuries ago, dated from this castle, and securing an annuity to Barbour, the Scottish Poet, author of “The Bruce,” &c. Kindroghit, by interpretation, means Bridge-end. It was the name of the parish long after its junction with Crathie. There are several places in this vicinity whose Gaelic names indicate connection with a royal residence, so that Queen Victoria, the descendant of a hundred kings, is only treading in the steps of some of her less civilised ancestors, when she rambles among the mountains of “ Highland Dee.”

The nearest road from Castleton to Lochnagar, is by the east side of the Clunv. After going up that stream nearly as far as Loch Callater, you turn to the left, and find a tolerably direct and easy ascent, the whole distance to the top being nine or tei miles. A party of ladies and gentlemen, during our visit, went there and returned, after having, on the previous day, walked from the Spittal of Glenshee, sixteen miles. We saw them arrive cold and wet, but apparently not much fatigued. Had they been so, they might have availed themselves of their carriages, which they deserted for the purpose of exercising their pedestrian powers.

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left this interesting village; I say reluctantly as on the 5th the Queen and all her retinae were to attend the games here, which, upon that account, are always particularly interesting. My time was up. however; so, after partaking of a hearty breakfast at the Manse, the minister Kindly gave me a cast in his gig towards the Spittal, on my return to the south. We parted where the road becomes steep, I should be sorry, indeed, to think not to meet again. This pass through the Grampians is very wild and romantic. The mountains are steep and rocky, and the road in winter must be often impassable, especially at and near that part of it which is known by the appellation of the "Devil’s elbow.” Just above this, close to the road, is a delightful spring, called Caimwell, which gives its name to the pass. The counties of Aberdeen and Perth meet at the summit, where the Shee has its origin. It was once my intention to have proceeded to Ballater from this quarter, keeping Loch Callater on my left, and descending to Lochs Dhu and Muick. From this, however, 1 was dissuaded, though I am convinced, in clear weather, it would be quite practicable, and be a most fascinating excursion to the mountain tourist. I would leave the road about four miles above the Spittal Inn, climb a very high mountain, one extremity of which is called (as near as I could catch the abominable jargon) Glass-meal, and the other Craig-Leggich. After reaching Lodi Dhu, I would have gone to the top of Lochnagar, thence by the Hut to Ballater. This would be a delightful ramble for an active young fellow, if the weather were really fine. In mist or bad weather, it would be rash and dangerous. I do not think the whole distance would exceed thirty miles.

The Inn at Spittal of Grlenshee is beautifully situated near the junction of several small streams issuing from fine Highland glens. A few miles back, a gentleman came up with me, mounted on a beautiful bay pony, which, a day or two before, had carried him from Avie More to Castleton—a path, one would imagine, all but impassable on horseback. We had met repeatedly at Castleton, and now claimed acquaintance. Besides his pony, he had another companion, not so much to my fancy—a large adder, which he had killed, or rather disabled, at the foot of Ben Macdhui! He was carrying it home with him, in a strong paper bag, for the purpose of preservation. When we arrived at the inn, having several hours of good daylight, we agreed to have some fishing in the Shee. Between us we caught several dozens, but the trout were small, and, being miserably cooked, were indifferent food The fact is, river fishing in the Highlands, excepting for sea trout, is generally baa, not to be compared with some of our low country rivers. The water is too clear, and the current too rapid, for large, fat, and good trout.

At the Spittal, we, in the traveller’s room, did not meet with that attention which we expected, and met with elsewhere. As this inn is generally well spoken of, we ascribed the neglect to the Queen and suite having had luncheon there two days before, and to several fashionable arrivals while we were there. By all means, let honour be paid to whom honour is due. But I maintain, that every traveller who is able and willing to pay for his accommodation, and conducts himself with propriety, has a right to look for common civility at a house of public entertainment; and this was not the case with us upon this occasion. All innkeepers would do well to imitate the “ good old country gentleman,” who,

“While he feasted all the great, yet ne’er forgot the small.”

I shall never forget my first visit to the English lakes, thirty-five years ago, in company with another young pedestrian. We had spent ten days among the interesting scenes there, and ware returning to Scotland by Ullswater. The day was throughout one of the wettest I ever saw. We had travelled from Lowood in a perfect deluge, and, upon our arrival at Pooley Bndge, there was not a dry stitch upon either of us. So completely drenched were we, that, in the ardour and tolly of youth, we actually leapt into the lake, and swam about with our clothes on. We found there an admirable inn; but, as there were several fine carriages about, we almost despaired of admission on any terms. When the jolly landlord, however, heard of our plight, he brought us two complete suits of his own clothes, one of which would nave held us both, and told us we should find dinner ready, piping hot, as soon as we came down stairs. When we begged him not to mind us, but to attend to the great folk, "No,” said he, “you do not know William Russell of Pooley. These big ’uns have plenty of their own people to look after them; my business is with your Such conduct is an honour to human nature, and should serve as a pattern to all landlords. I shall be sorry if, in one form or another, it is not heard of at the Spittal of Glen-shee.

In the course of the evening, we had some amusing specimens of Highland pride; and I cannot refrain from alluding to those ludicrous displays of it which occur at gatherings, and such great occasion.

It is not so prominent in the Highlands, as when the clans are mustered to play at soldiering during Royal visits to Edinburgh. There they seem to think that they are almost superhuman, and much of this is owing to their being pampered and spoiled by* over much attention. It is by no means confined to the lower orders; for it has always seemed to me that their superiors, who drill and command them, are even more absurdly mighty and consequential, especially if they have an eagle’s feather in their bonnet, and a profusion of red hair all around their mouths. In these circumstances, their self-importance, or, as it may be termed, turkey-cockism, knows no bounds. I remember, during the Queen’s first visit to Scotland, going out in a steamer to the Roads to see the vessel in which she had sailed. It was fall of people. Among them was a Highland gentleman in mil costume, plaided, kilted, plumed, Cairngorumed, &c. He was in company with some ladies, to whom he paid marked attention. It so happened that a friend of mine inadvertently sat down upon a camp-stool which the Celt had intended for one of his fair friends. The moment the error was discovered, the seat was politely relinquished; but the bristling up of her male attendant to the unconscious offender caused a general titter. The look was one of extreme indignation, which was returned by another of ineffable defiance and contempt. Luckily for the lady’s champion, he did not follow up his 'look with a blow, which many of us were expecting; for, if he had, he would in all probability soon have found himself awkwardly situated, his opponent being as hardy and active as any Celt among them all, and particularly conversant with the use of his hands, which he was by no means averse to prove on all suitable occasions. This description of pride to which I hate been alluding, was never more happily ridiculed than in the following lines of the talented and much-lamented Sir Alexander Boswell:—

“First, the Grants o’ Rothiemurchus,
Every man his sword and durk has,
Every man as proud's a Turk is—
Fee-faa-fum.
Niest, the Grants o’ Tullochgorum,
Wi' their pipers gaun before ’em;
Proud the mithers are that bore ’em—
Fee-faa-fum.”


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