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First Visit to Dunkeld 9 Oct 1865

Monday, October 9, 1R65

A thick, misty, very threatening morning! There was no help for it, but it was sadly provoking. It was the same once or twice in former happy days, and my dear Albert always said we could not alter it, but must leave it as it was, and make the best of it. Our three little ones breakfasted with me. I was grieved to leave my precious Baby and poor Leopold behind. At ten started with Lenchen and Janie Ely (the same attendants on the box). General Grey ’had gone on an hour and a half before. We took post-horses at Castleton. It rained more or less the whole time. Then came the long well-known stage to the Spital of Glenshee, which seemed to me longer than ever. The mist hung very thick over the 'hills. We changed horses there, and about a quarter of an hour after we had left it, we stopped to lunch in the carriage. After some delay we went on and turned into Strathardle, and then, leaving the Blairgowrie road, down to the farm of Pitcarmich, shortly before coming to which iMr. Small Keir [His father was presented to me at Dunkeld in 1842.] of Kindrogan met us and rode before us to this farm. Here we found General Grey and our ponies, and here the dear Duchess of Athole and Miss MacGregor met us, and we got out and went for a short while into the farmhouse, where we took some wine and biscuit. Then we mounted our ponies (I on dear Fyvie, Lenchen on Brechin), and started on our course across the hill. There was much mist. This obscured all the view, which otherwise would have been very fine. At first there was a rough road, but soon there was nothing but a sheep-track, and hardly that, through heather and stones up a pretty steep hill. Mr. Keir could not keep up with the immense pace of Brown and Fyvie, which distanced every one; so he had to drop behind, and his keeper acted as guide. There was by this time heavy driving rain, with a thick mist. About a little more than an hour took us to the “March,” where two of the Dunkeld men met us, John McGregor, the Duke’s head wood-forester, and Gregor McGregor, the Duchess’s gamekeeper; and the former acted as a guide. The Duchess and Miss MacGregor were riding with us. We went from here through larch woods, the rain pouring at times violently. We passed (after crossing the Dunkeld March) Little Loch Oishne, and I.och Oishne, before coming to Loch Ordie. Here dripping wet we arrived at about a quarter-past six, having left Pitcarmich at twenty minutes to four. It was dark already from the very bad weather. We went into a lodge here, and had tea and whisky, and Lenchen had to get herself dried, as she was so wet. About seven we drove off from Loch Ordie. There was no outrider, so we sent on first the other carriage with Lenchen, Lady Ely, and Miss MacGregor, and General Grey on the box, and I went with the Duchess in a phaeton which had a hood—Brown and Grant going behind. It was pitch-dark, and we had to go through a wood, and I must own I was somewhat nervous.

We had not gone very far when we perceived that we were on a very rough road, and I became much alarmed, though I would say nothing. A branch took off Grant’s cap, and we had to stop for Brown to go back and look for it with one of the carriage-lamps. This stoppage was most fortunate, for he then discovered we were on a completely wrong road. Grant and Brown had both been saying, “This is no carriage-road; it is full of holes and stones.” Miss MacGregor came to us in great distress, saying she did not know what to do, for that the coachman, blinded by the driving rain, had mistaken the road, and that we were in a track for carting wood. What was to be done no one at this moment seemed to know —whether to try and turn the carriage (which proved impossible) or to take a horse out and send the postilion back to Loch Ordie to get assistance. At length we heard from General Grey that we could go on, though where we should get out no one could exactly tell. Grant took a lamp out of the carriage and walked before the horses, while Brown led them; and this reassured me. But the road was very rough, and we had to go through some deep holes full of water. At length, in about twenty minutes, we saw a light and passed a lodge, where we stopped and inquired where we were, for we had already come upon a good road. Our relief was great when we were told we were all right. Grant and Brown got up behind, and we trotted along the high road fast enough. Just before we came to the lodge, General Grey called out to ask which way the Duchess thought we should go, and Brown answered in her name, “The Duchess don’t know at all where we are,” as it was so dark she could not recognise familiar places. At length at a quarter to nine we arrived quite safely at Dunkeld, at the Duchess’s nice snug little cottage, which is just outside the town, surrounded by fine large grounds. Two servants in kilts, and the steward, received us at the door. You come at once on the middle landing of the staircase, the cottage being built on sloping ground. The Duchess took me to my room, a nice little room, next to which was one for my wardrobe maid, Mary Andrews. Lenchen was upstairs near Miss MacGregor on one side of the drawing-room, which was given up to me as my sitting-room, and the Duchess’s room on the other. Brown, the only other servant in the house, below, Grant in the adjoining buildings to the house. The General and Lady Ely were at the hotel. We dined at half-past nine in a small dining-room below, only Lenchen, the Duchess, Miss MacGregor, and I. Everything so nice and quiet. The Duchess and Miss Macgregor carving, her three servants waiting. They were so kind, and we talked over the day’s adventures. Lenchen and every one, except the Duchess and myself, had been drenched. The Duchess and her cousin stayed a short while, and then left us, and I wrote a little. Strange to say, it was four years to-day that we paid our visit to Blair and rode up Glen Tilt, How different!

Tuesday, October 10.

A hopelessly wet morning. I had slept well, but felt sad on awaking. Breakfasted alone with Lenchen downstairs, each day waited on by Brown. A dreadful morning, pouring rain. Sat upstairs in the drawing-room, and wrote a good deal, being perfectly quiet and undisturbed.

Lenchen and I lunched with the Duchess and Miss MacGregor, and at four we drove up to the Duchess’s very fine model farm of St. Colme’s, about four miles from Dunkeld; the Duchess and I in the phaeton, Lenchen, Janie Ely, and Miss MacGregor going in the other carriage. We went all over the farm in detail, which is very like ours at Osborne and Windsor, much having been adopted from our farms there; and my dearest Husband had given the Duchess so much advice about it, that we both felt so sad he should not see it.

We took tea in the farmhouse, where the Duchess has kept one side quite for herself, and where she intends to live sometimes with Miss MacGregor, and almost by themselves. From here we drove back and stopped at the “Byres" close by the stables, which were lit up with gas, and where we saw all the cows being milked. Very fine Ayrshire cows, and nice dairymaids. It is all kept up just as the late Duke wished it. We came home at past seven. It never ceased raining. The Cathedral bell began quite unexpectedly to ring, or almost toll, at eight o’clock, which the Duchess told us was a very old custom—in fact, the curfew-bell. It sounds very melancholy.

Dinner just as yesterday.

Wednesday, October 11

Another wretchedly wet morning. Was much distressed at breakfast to find that poor Brown’s legs had been dreadfully cut by the edge of his wet kilt on Monday, just at the back of the knee, and he said nothing about it; but to-day one became so inflamed, and swelled so much, that he could hardly move. The doctor said he must keep it up as much as possible, and walk very little, but did not forbid his going out with the carriage, which he wished to do. I did not go out in the morning, and decided to remain till Friday, to give the weather a chance. It cleared just before luncheon, and we agreed to take a drive, which we were able to do almost without any rain. At half-past three we drove out just as yesterday. There was no mist, so that, though there was no sunshine, we could see and admire the country, the scenery of which is beautiful. We drove a mile along the Blair Road to Polney Loch, where we entered the woods, and, skirting the loch, drove at the foot of Craigy Barns on grass drives —which were very deep and rough, owing to the wet weather, but extremely pretty—on to the Loch Ordie road. After ascending this for a little way we left it, driving all round Cally Loch (there are innumerable lochs) through Cally Gardens along another fine but equally rough wood drive, which comes out on the Blairgowrie high road. After this we drove round the three Lochs of the Lowes—viz. Craig Lush, Butterstone, and the Loch of the Lowes itself (which is the largest). They are surrounded by trees and woods, of which there is no end, and are very pretty. We came back by the Blairgowrie road and drove through Dunkeld (the people had been so discreet and quiet, I said I would do this), crossing over the bridge (where twenty-two years ago we were met by twenty of the Athole Highlanders, who conducted us to the entrance of the grounds), and proceeded by the upper road to the Rumbling Bridge, which is Sir William Stewart of Grantully's property. We got out here and walked to the bridge, under which the Braan flowed over the rocks most splendidly; and, swollen by the rain, it came down in an immense volume of water with a deafening noise. Returning thence we drove through the village of Inver to the Hermitage on the banks of the Braan, which is Dunkeld property. This is a little house full of looking-glasses, with painted walls, looking on another fall of the Braan, where we took tea almost in the dark. It was built by James; the second Duke of Athole, in the last century. We drove back through Dunkeld again, the people cheering. Quite fair. We came home at half-past six o’clock.

Lady Ely and General Grey dined with us. After dinner only the Duchess came to the drawing-room, and read to us again. Then I wrote, and Grant waited instead of Brown, who was to keep quiet on account of his leg.

Thursday, October 12

A fair day, with no rain, but, alas! no sunshine. Brown’s leg was much better, and the doctor thought he could walk over the hill to-morrow.

Excellent breakfasts, such splendid cream and butter! The Duchess has a very good cook, a Scotchwoman, and I thought how dear Albert would have liked it all. He always said things tasted better in smaller houses. There were several Scotch dishes, two soups, and the celebrated “haggis,” which I tried last night, and really liked very much. The Duchess was delighted at my taking it.

At a quarter past twelve Lenchen and I walked with the Duchess in the grounds and saw the Cathedral, part of which is converted into a parish church, and the other part is a most picturesque ruin. We saw the tomb of the Wolf of Badenoch, son of King Robert the Second. There are also other monuments, but in a very dilapidated state. The burying-ground is inside and south of the Cathedral. We walked along the side of the river Tay, into which the river Braan flow's, under very fine trees, as far as the American garden, and then round by the terrace overlooking the park, on which the tents were pitched at the time of the great dejeuner that the Duke, then Lord Glenlyon, gave us in 1842, which was our first acquaintance with the Highlands and Highland customs; and it was such a fine sight! Oh! and here we were together—both widows.

We came back through the kitchen-garden by half-past one o’clock. After the usual luncheon, drove with Lenchen, the Duchess, and Miss MacGregor, at twenty minutes to four, in her sociable to Loch Ordie, by the lakes of Rotmell and Dowally through the wood, being the road by which we ought to have come the first night when we lost our way. It was cold, but the sky was quite bright, and it was a fine evening; and the lake, wooded to the water’s edge and skirted by distant hills, looked extremely pretty. We took a short row on it in a “coble” rowed by the head keeper, Gregor M‘Gregor. We took tea under the trees. The evening was very cold, and it was getting rapidly dark. We came back safely by the road the Duchess had wished to come the other night, but which her coachman did not think safe on account of the precipices ! We got home at nine. Only the Duchess and Miss MacGregor dined with us. The Duke’s former excellent valet, Christie (a Highlander, and now the Duchess’s house-steward), and George McPherson, piper, and Charles McLaren, footman, two nice, good-looking Highlanders in the Athole tartan, waited on us. The Duchess read again a little to us after dinner.

Friday, October 13

Quite a fine morning, with bright gleams of sunshine lighting up everything. The piper played each morning in the garden during breakfast. Just before we left at ten, I planted a tree, and spoke to an old acquaintance, Willie Duff, the Duchess’s fisherman, who had formerly a very long black beard and hair, which are now q ite grey. Mr. Carrington, who has been Secretary in the Athole family for four generations, was presented. General Grey, Lady Ely, and Miss MacGregor had gone on a little while before us. Lenchen and I, with the Duchess, went in the sociable with four horses (Brown and Grant on the box). The weather was splendid, and the view, as we drove along the Inverness Rood —which is the road to Blair—with all the mountains rising in the distance, was beautiful.

We passed through the village of Ballinluig, where there is a railway station, and a quarter of a mile below which the Tay and the Tummel unite, at a place called Logierait. All these names were familiar to me from our stay in 1844. We saw the place where the monument to the Duke is to be raised, on an eminence above Logierait. About eleven miles from Dunkeld, just below Croftinloan (Captain Jack Murray’s), we took post-horses. You could see Pitlochry in the distance to the left. We then left the Inverness Road, and turned to the right, up a very steep’ hill past Bunavourd (Mr. Napier’s, son of the historian), past Edradour (the Duke’s property), over a wild moor, reminding one very much of Aherarder (near Balmoral), whence, looking back, you have a beautiful view of the hills Schiehallion, Ben Lomond, and Bui Lowers. This glen is called Glen Brearichan, the little river of that name uniting with the Female, and receiving afterwards the name of the Ardle. On the left hand a shoulder of Ben-y-Gloe is seen.

We lunched in the carriage at ten minutes past twelve, only a quarter of a mile from the West Lodge of Klndrogan (Mr. Reids). Here were our ponies, and General Grey, Lady Ely, and Miss MacGregor. We halted a short while to let General Grey get ahead, and then started on our ponies, Mr. Keir walking with us. We passed Mr. Keir's house of Kindrogan, out at the East Lodge, by the little village of Enoch Dhu, up the rather steep ascent and approach of Dirnanean Mr. Small’s place; passing his house as we went. Mr. Small was absent, but two of his people, tall, fine-looking men, led the way; two of Mr. Keir’s were also with us. We turned over the hill from here, through a wild, heathery glen, and then up a grassy hill called the Larich, just above the Spital. Looking back the view was splendid, one range of hills behind the other, of different shades of blue. After we had passed the summit, we stopped for our tea, about twenty minutes to four, and seated ourselves on the grass, but had to wait for some time till a kettle arrived which had been forgotten, and had to be sent for from the Spital. This caused some delay. At length, when tea was over, we walked down a little way, and then rode. It was really most distressing to me to see what pain poor Brown suffered, especially in going up and down the hill. He could not go fast, and walked lame, but would not give in. His endurance on this occasion showed a brave heart indeed, for he resisted all attempts at being relieved, and would not relinquish his charge.

We took leave of the dear kind Duchess and Miss MacGregor, who were going back to Kindrogan, and got into the carriage. We were able to ascend the Devils Elbow before it was really dark, and got to Castleton at half past seven, where we found our own horses, and reached Balmoral at half-past eight.

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