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Autumnal Rambles Among The Scottish Mountains
Hints to Pedestrians — Conclusion


On the 3d September I left Spittal of Glenshee, alone, early, and fasting, but without my reluctance. It was a wet, cold morning but the country being new to me, I did not much mind the state of ie weather. Though this glen is by no means so high as the Crathie and Braemar district, yet the crops were far behind—in many fields as green as leeks. This must be owing to the soil being deeper and wetter than that in Glen Dee. There is a neat Free Church and Manse at Cray, about four miles below the inn—one of the prettiest spots in the glen, and the minister is one of the best of his class, and esteemed accordingly. Though an old and much-valued friend, I could not think of disturbing his slumbers, especially as I had to proceed to Coupar-Angus in time to reach Edinburgh that night. In the immediate vicinity stands a remarkably well-kept, though small mansion-house, belonging to a military gentleman, who takes a warm interest in the adjoining church. A splendid flag was still flying here, in honour of her Majesty’s recent visit. At a place called Persie, there was to be held that day a great cattle fair; and here there is a remarkably small place of worship, belonging to the Establishment ; this being a detached portion of the parish of Bendochy. The bell and belfry are proportionally small, the former positively not larger than one belonging to a common bedroom. Great numbers of farmers and drovers, &c., were flocking to the fair from all directions.

About ten, I reached the neat little inn at Bridge of Cally, fourteen miles from the Spittal. On entering, I was much disappointed to find all in confusion. Mine hostess apologised, by saying, that her arrangements had been much disturbed by having to supply some scores of farmers and drovers with breakfast a short time before my arrival—sufficient, certainly, to account for all that was amiss; and, as they had left abundance of good things for me, I had no reason to complain. This is an interesting spot; and here may be reckoned the boundary of the Highlands in this district of Perthshire. The rivers Airdle and Shee meet a little way below the inn, and form the Ericht. At the bridge, the bed of the river is rocky, with amazingly deep black pools, which gives the scene a romantic appearance. Over the bridge was a very tasteful triumphal arch, richly festooned with heather, with tne Gaelic word FaiUe in large characters in the centre. I asked a schoolmaster-look-ing man the meaning of the word, pronouncing it according to my ability. He laughed at my abortive attempt, substituting a guttural ejaculation, no more like the spelling than any other sound in existence. The term, it seems, implies Welcome or HailI.

It is really high time the Gaelic were altogether suppressed, and fortunately this happy era seems not far distant. In Braemar and Glenshee, it is miserably adulterated with English and Lowland Scotch, as is the. case in all districts where there is much intercourse with the low country. But this is not the worst of it. Wherever Gaelic is the prevailing tongue, there must necessarily exist much ignorance and bigotry, as the population generally, not being able to read English, are at the mercy of those who are full of prejudices, and very much require to be themselves taught the first principles of civilisation. How can it be expected that any accessions to literature or science can emanate from districts where this undefined and fluctuating jargon prevails? In this point of view, such parts of Scotland are a dead loss to it, excepting in cases where individuals have migrated to more enlightened regions; and, as to religion, it is quite sufficient to say “the Men” will look after that. Similar remarks are applicable to Ireland and Wales.

Immediately after crossing the Bridge of Cally, the country acquires quite a Lowland aspect. Well-enclosed fields and heavy crops prove the food of man is more an object with the farmer than the food of cattle. A highly ornamental lodge by the roadside terminates a long approach to Glen Ericht Cottage, the beautiful seat of General Sir William Chalmers, one of the heroes of Waterloo, who has exchanged the sword for the ploughshare, as he seems now to be much interested in the agncultural improvement of this district Near this I observed a species of rake, different from any I have seen, for gathering the droppings of the harvest-field. It seemed about five or six feet long, with a wheel at each extremity about a foot in diameter, with teeth of six inches, fixed in what may be termed the axle-tree. One man draws this across the ridges, that the farrows may be reached. It appeared a very simple and effective mode of gleaning. A similar machine is used in the Lothians, drawn, by a horse. The next place deserving of particular notice is Craighall, certainly the most striking spot of the kind I ever saw. It stands on a very lofty perpendicular bank of the Ericht. There is a wicket-gate, and a good footpath down to the river, which for miles is of the most romantic description, richly wooded, and the banks very high and precipitous. The mansion-house ovei> looks the nver on the opposite side. Eight under the windows there is a pool of prodigious .depth, overhung at a great height by a semicircular balcony. The view very much resembles that at Hawthornden, but is much grander, as the river is far larger and the banks more imposing. I descended to the water’s edge, and walked upwards about 200 yards, where my progress was obstructed by a long, deep pool, on which, was a boat, apparently for scenic effect, as Lord Kinnoul has effectually prevented salmon from ascending so far—a service for which anglers in Glenshee may well have a rod in pickle for his Lordship. Whoever has it in his power should not pass this very singular and beautiful scene unexplored.

Not far from Craighall is Blairgowrie, the situation of which is remarkably fine; but the mills, with which it abounds in all directions, remind you that you have emerged from the Highlands, and prove that the picturesque is not so much an object with the inhabitants as the rise and fall of cotton. Many neatly kept places in the vicinity, how* ever, evince the proprietors to have an eye to the dulce at well as the utile. From Blairgowrie to Coupar-Angus the distance is five miles. There are plenty of coaches here for the railway; but being quite fresh, and as there were none to start for an hour or two, I proceeded on foot, completing my twenty-five miles easily by three o’clock. Just before reaching Coupar, the Isla is crossed, the largest feeder of the Tay, excepting perhaps the Tummel. The Ericht is a branch of the Isla. Soon after arriving in Coupar, a train came up from Aberdeen, which entered, and, to our mutual surprise, my friend and I met in the same carriage, and were carried to Edinburgh, through Perth and Fife Shires—the same line on which we had travelled northwards a fortnight before.

After spending a day in Edinburgh and its vicinity, we returned to the south, parting at Abington, where we had started together. I passed two days much to my satisfaction in Moffat, which is progressing faster as a fashionable summer resort than any place of the kind in Scotland. Around it are many neat lodging-houses springing up like mushrooms; and hundreds of gay people frequent the Well every morning, many of them with handsome equipages, but the far greater number on foot. It is pleasant to think that, as the railway has in a great measure made Moffat, so Moffat, on the good old principle of riff-oaff, is the best spoke, perhaps, in the wheel of the Caledonian betwixt Carlisle and Glasgow.

I have now finished my mountain rambles, probably for ever, in so far at least as the public is concerned. I make no doubt many will be disposed to ridicule me for egotism and magnifying my exploits; bat such captious, carping critics do not annoy me. while my unpretending lucubrations have been so favourably noticed in many of our most popular and respected periodicals. Even though this had not been the case, I have had nearly as mueh enjoyment in recording my wanderings as I had when actually engaged with them. As the comic song says, "All have their hobbies.” Mine has been hill climbing, and it would be well if all were of as innocent a description. This taste has been cultivated by many men distinguished for literature and science. Why, then, should I be ashamed to avow it? We have even seen that the highest Lady in the land has overtopped some of our noblest mountains, and she will yet, I trust, stand on the loftiest pinnacle of her European dominions. Many of her sex are fired with similar ambition. Among others, I may mention the authoress of "Self Control and Discipline”— a lady not less distinguished for high literary talents than for the still nobler graces of morality and religion. In writing to her friend, the celebrated Miss Joanna Baillie (see "Memoirs"), she says—“I am not sure that the benefit is lasting; but I know that the climbing of hills has an admirable effect on the spirits at the time. Perhaps my feeling is partly prejudice; but it is not quite so—therefore, though you should not join in it, do not hold it in utter derision. I jumped with joy when, from the top of one of our own mountains, l have unexpectedly seen, as it were just at my feet, some well-known object which I had thought far beyond my sight.”

Being the avowed “Pedestrian Tourist’s Friend” I shall close my communications with a few homely but useful hints:—If a man’s constitution be tolerably sound, he should not encumber himself with much clothing. I have never been half so much annoyed by rain and cold, as by heat. Continued exercise promotes and preserves warmth, and if you get yourself all right at the end of your day’s work, as will generally be the case, the contrast will amply repay you for a pretty effectual drenching: “he never knew pleasure that never knew pain.” An umbrella I never could think of, as it always reminded me of Bowbells and Cockneyism. Besides, there are now such admirable wax cloth contrivances, light and waterproof, as to supersede the use of an umbrella, which, when rain is accompanied with high wind, is a miserable encumbrance, and is often blown into ribbons. I never even carried a greatcoat till this season, when I expected to have been obliged to pass several nights m the open air. In my Highland trips, I never wear either flannel or cotton under garments; these, however, cannot be safely dispensed with by those who are accustomed to use them. A couple of spare shirts, as many pairs of socks, and a pair of shoes, are the principal things required; and if these, alone with a book or two, maps, &c., be carried about with you from morning till night in hot weather, you will find them quite enough of luggage. To accommodate them and yourself, the best thing I know is a pretty large fishing basket, covered with wax cloth, having the security of a padlock. This has a light and gentleman-like air with it; and if you carry a staff-rod, with the reel upon it, there is no saying but you may pass for a gentleman altogether, whose carriage and horses await him at the next stage.

As to the description of shoes that should be worn, I have already been pretty explicit; I may add, however, that they are generally got too heavy. We all know, that, in horse-racing, a few pounds tell strongly against any horse; as was recently proved in the case of the. till then, unbeaten Flying Dutchman. Now, it in a three mile race, the horse is thus encumbered by a few pounds, it may readily be conceived that a man carrying an unnecessary half-pound on each foot, during a whole day, will not be much the stronger for it. Besides, a very thick shoe, with large nails, wants that elasticity which is required for comfortable walking, while it beats and bruises the foot. A shoe an inch thick on the heel, and half an inch on the sole, is the outside thickness that should be worn, with sparables instead of jackets, where they are most likely first to fail. For the information of my English readers (of whom I am glad to say I have many), I may explain that the former of these terms implies small nails without heads; and the latter, short nails with very broad heads, which are apt to slip among the rocks, and annoy you in this way, as well as by their superfluous weight.

As the preservation of the feet is a primary consideration, I must not here omit giving some instructions on this subject, with which I was lately favoured by a friend. To my u Si quid novisti challenge formerly promulgated, he takes up the gauntlet, boldly replying "Quid novi” I do know a more excellent way; and I consider his communication well worthy of attention. “Before starting" says he, “procure one or two large bladders, dried of course; cut them into soles, so as to cover the whole of the foot, and well round the edges, the farther up the better. Put one on each foot next the skin, stitching them slightly to the stocking. When first put on, you will feel them stiff and cold, but in a short time the heat brings out the latent oil, and prevents all friction. If your journey is to be long, you should have several pairs, in this way, all scalding, beating, and blistering, are avoided. This I know by experience; and I knew a man, seventy years of age, who thought nothing of walking fifty miles a-day, when thus prepared for the task.”

As to the pace to be observed, let it not be quick, if you are not walking for a wager. The exertion in quick walking produces excoriation (unless, to be sure, my friends panacea be used), and by the end of the day you will lament your mistake. Remember the fable of the Hare and Tortoise. If walking close for several weeks, you will find thirty or even twenty-five miles a-day fair enough work, and the pace should not exceed three-and-a-half miles in the hour; or three, stoppages included. I have heard of wonderful performances in the way of quick walking; but, for my part, I never could manage above six miles in the hour, and if I had tried it longer I should have been much distressed. I recollect reading of a man in Glasgow who walked fourteen miles in two hours. I did not believe it That he went over the ground in that time, I doubt not; but that he walked over it, I cannot believe, as I do not think the human body is so framed as to admit of it I regard it as physically impossible, unless the two feet are off the ground at the same time, which implies running. I need scarcely add that frequent ablution will tend greatly to the comfort of the pedestrian in various ways, and among the rivers and lakes of the Highlands, he can never be at a loss for indulgence in this luxury.

I have now said all that I deem necessary on this subject, and trust my remarks will not be thrown away, as they have been penned with a sincere desire to extend that rational happiness to others, which, through a kind Providence, I have so long enjoyed myself. My remarks will not be wasted if the animate the young and healthful duly to improve these blessings, while, at the same time, they cultivate their minds by acquiring an experimental knowledge of men and things. Let them not keep aloof from any stranger who may casually be thrown in their way, if they have reason to believe him to be an honest ana well-meaning man. Something may be learned almost from any one, if you can hit upon that subject to which his attention has been particularly directed. Frequently I have asked mv entertainer to join me in my evening meal, and I never failed in this way to obtain such local intelligence as amply to repay me for this trivial mark of civility. As my concluding advice, I would counsel you not to be readily disconcerted, nor yield to despondency in bad weather, as a few days of that will only cause you to enjoy good weather the more—

*Think not clouds will always lout;
Hope not sunshine every hour.”

I would have closed this series of rambles with a graphic account of the ascent of Snowdon by a young friend who was accidentally my companion, two years ago, at Ben Wyvis, had he not therein stated, that there is now a confectioner’s shop dose to the summit of the Welsh champion! A cook-shop on the top of Snowdon, where you may be supplied with all sorts of pasties and foreign liqueurs, and sleep on a feather, instead of a leather, bed! This is going a-head with a vengeance. I trust the Prince of Wales, young though he be, will assert the dignity of this splendid mountain, the main ornament of his principality, and scatter the above abomination to the four winds of heaven. This absurdity is only surpassed by the celebrated Right in Switzerland, to which you may be wafted in a coach-and-four, meet with hundreds of people from all nations for several months in the year, and be regaled with all the delicacies of Italy and France, while shoals of pampered and pernimed lackeys are fluttering in all directions! This is certainly the acme, the ne plus ultra of European Cockneyism. The bare idea of the thing is revolting to the feelings of a genuine mountaineer. Away with such monstrosities from our British shores! They may be suited for the aged, the infirm, and the softer portion of the softer sex, but ought, upon no account, to be countenanced by the healthy and robust Let our young men cultivate hardihood and activity—those manly virtues which now-a-days are too apt to be overlooked—and shun those effeminate, enervating indulgences, which have always been the harbingers of national degeneracy ana ruin. Rather than satisfy my taste with such delicacies, infinitely would I prefer sitting all alone on the summit of Caimtoul or Brae-ri&ch, my whole repast being a crust of bread soaked in the infant Dee. This is the true way of enjoying such scenery. The buoyancy of spirits of a hardy pedestrian, whose mind is qualified for duly appreciating the sublime grandeur of our Scotch Highlands and Islands, can hardly be adequately described; and, under Providence, such a man will be as active at threescore as he would have been at

“Thy spirit, Independence, let me share,
Lord of the lion-heart, and eagle-eye;
Thy steps I’ll follow with my bosom bare,
Nor heed the storm that sweeps along the sky.”

P. S.—Since writing the above, I have had the pleasure of receiving the following very satisfactory information from my friend, the minister of Braemar. It will be seen from it that I had been in error as to the Queen’s lease of Balmoral. The public will rejoice with me in learning that there is every prospect of Scotland being honoured with her Majesty’s presence for a much longer period than I had at first been led to imagine, even supposing she were not ultimately to be the purchaser of Balmoral:—

“You ask me to inform you if I detected any inaccuracies in your letters. Instead of that, I have been particularly struck with the extraordinary correctness of your statements, and the amount of information connected with the district, considering the shortness of your sojourn in it. I have seen many most inaccurate and absurd things reported of Deeside and its lions during the last three years; but there is nothing of this kind in your "Rambles." The only inaccuracy I observe in the whole series, is your remarking that the lease of Balmoral is nearly expired. This is not the case. The late tenant, Sir Robert Gordon, had a lease of the place secured not only during his own life, but for twenty-eight years afterwards, which his brother, the Earl of Aberdeen, inherited on Sir Robert’s death in 1847. On this we learn, as I have always understood, the Queen entered three yean ago, so that she has the secure possession of Balmoral, as tenant, for about a quarter of a century to come. It is generally surmised that she is anxious to become proprietrix of the estate; and it is hoped the proprietors will be disposed to meet her Majesty’s views in the matter."


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