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A Cairngorm Diary

24th - 29th July, 1932

recorded by

James Nicoll Kerr Henderson (1908-1989)
Edited and word-processed from the original by his son
John Henderson
in April, 2000

Update of this Account
March 2008

John has sent in an update to this account including maps of the route in 5 .pdf files....

Part 1 - 24th July
Part 2 - 25th July
Part 3 - 26th July
Part 4 - 27th and 28th July
Part 5 - 29th July

Jim (JNK) Henderson writes,

Sunday 24th July, 1932

Arriving in Aviemore Railway Station from Stirling at 12.30 pm. the sun was shining - I remember my fellow adventurer Jim (JJ) Walker remarking that he hoped this was a good omen!. It wasn't, as just after we'd lunched at the Temperance Hotel and were half a mile on the way, the rain came down in torrents.

Aviemore, flanked by the swift running River Spey, consists of two luxurious hotels, a few scattered shops and villas, a Bank of Scotland, a railway station and has a very picturesque setting midst wooded slopes about 800 feet above sea level. Away to the South, the Duke of Gordon's Monument and the Waterloo Cairn are outstanding landmarks, while to the South-East today the enormous bulk of the Cairngorms was just visible in the mist.

Finding to our disgust that the Temperance Hotel didn't stock writing paper and thus forced to use telegram forms instead, we persuaded the proprietor to post our necessary arrival correspondence on the Monday despite our lack of stamps. This done we set out in a South-East direction, across the Spey towards the little village of Inverdruie where we left the main road and struck South through Rothiemurchus Forest.

At that point the rain abated leaving everything fresh and sparkling in the consequent bright sunshine. One could not but experience an exhilarating feeling of joie de vivre', fitness, and sublime content with the scent of pine wood in one's nostrils and the fragrance of honeysuckle, bell heather, fox gloves and bracken all around.

Soon civilization is left behind and pretty little Loch an Eilein meets our gaze - a peaceful scene, with the Wolf of Badenoch's ruined castle in its midst. A halt here and three snaps of it.

On again, forking through the forest, climbing steadily towards the foot of Gleann Einich, and alongside a rushing stream, Am Beanaidh, remarkable for its brown stones and water. Another lovely snap here then so on up the glen with the hugh 'pile' of Braeriach, patched with snow, towering before us in the south.

Soon the forest gives way to moorland, swept by a refreshing hill wind, which dispels our extraordinary following of flies - troublesome brutes - and the hills appear to enclose us more and more - they are inviting today.

And now, within a mile of the lower bothy we see, high up on Creag Dubh, to the West, the famous Argyll Stone (2766 feet).

Hail the bothy and tea! (6 p.m.). It is a dilapidated shack in two parts. One part is very snug but padlocked, while the other serves as a stable and has only half a roof.

A shower of rain comes on, so we make the stable waterproof by means of a piece of corrugated iron and ground sheets and regale ourselves with sardines, half a loaf, butter and strawberry jam. After JJ has mistaken salt for sugar and some sardines have fallen into my tea, we succeed in accomplishing a highly satisfactory 'meal'.

A wash! - first since 7 a.m. - is indicated in the stream hard-by - an outlet of Coire an Lochain on Braeriach and the highest loch in Britain (3250 feet).

It's a lovely evening now, about 8.30 p.m., so we decide to walk a bit up the glen to see Loch Einich at its Southern end. Three hundred yards from the lower bothy we come upon the cairn built in memory of Thomas Baird, the Glasgow 'Varsity boy - and pause to pay our silent tributes of respect, admiration and sorrow. What a tragedy! Only 300 yards from help and life! We place a lovely red granite block in the centre of the cairn and build it up all round. Up nearer the Loch, a horse shoe presents itself. So we have a good spit each and heave it over our shoulders.

On our return we decide to apply gentle pressure to the steeple which holds the padlocked chain of the habitable quarter of the bothy (it has been obviously done before) and to our joy, it gives way very willingly. The time is now 9.45 p.m., so while waiting for supper, we settle down to our daily task - our diaries!

It has been a glorious afternoon and evening despite the short sharp showers which are a feature of these hills and every ridge and peak is now clearly defined against an almost cloudless darkening sky. One can hardly imagine that this place could ever be shrouded with mist, blinded by snow or rain, or swept by devastating winds

Our poor faces are 'peeling' from exposure but judging by their 'peeling rate' this process won't last long out here. Tomorrow we go up about 2 miles to Loch Einich at the head of the glen, then over the shoulder of Braeriach to the South East, thence visit Angel Peak, Cairn Toul, Wells of Dee and Braeriach before descending into the Lairig Ghru for the night at Corrour Bothy below Devil's Point.

Fauna have been scarce today but flora is abundant (even water lilies in Loch an Eilein), while all kinds of stone are to be found, though granite predominates.

I'm terribly sleepy and needing my bed - let's hope the porridge oats are good to-morrow after steeping the meal overnight.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
While to be young was very heaven.

Monday 25 July, 1932

Wakened at 7.40 a.m. by JJ asking me to go for water - the porridge are getting too thick. However breakfast was a great success, as was the following shave using a biscuit tin lid for a mirror.

About 10.30 a.m., we swept the bothy, shouldered our rucksacks and set out for the head of the glen. There we beheld Loch Emich looking dark but transparent and walled in by huge peaks of rock.

Our path now rose steeply South-East over the shoulder of Braeriach and by noon, when we looked back to the North-West, we were rewarded for our climb by magnificent views of Glen Einich and Rothiemurchus Forest beyond. Needless to say, the camera was in full operation.

As we climbed, our packs became heavier and our stomachs lighter, until we reached Corrie Garbh about 2 p.m. and 4000 feet above sea level. Here we decided to have lunch. Gosh it was cold! But hot tomato soup, cold meat and peas and then fruit salad for dessert soon made things better.

Thereafter we decided to dump our rucksacks at this point for later collection. So, having tied a white handkerchief to each of them, we headed off for Angel Peak and Cairn Toul, 3950 and 4241 feet respectively.

Our way lay eastwards, round the vast Corries which separate Cairn Toul and Braeriach, up Angel Peak, down the other side and then up Cairn Toul. As we were on a plateau of 4000 feet, the peaks were easy of access but oh! they were stony! Huge boulders which we had to mount in much the same way as you climb a Stair.

The peaks afforded us with a glorious view of the Corries, chiefly An Choire Garbh. The mist was rising out of it like steam from a gigantic cauldron, snow made all sorts of fanciful shapes in the clefts (including a perfect map of Australia!), while the water from the Wells of Dee (source of the River Dee) hurtled down a sheer precipice to a depth of about 1500 feet -the height of Dumyat!

Cairn Toul gave us a magnificent view of Corrie Bhrochain - another wild, rugged, unscalable mass, carrying no sign of any life at all. Here also we had a fine view of the Lairig Ghru being drained by the Dee and containing our target bothy and shelter for the coming night. Just over the pass to the North-East, and towering high above it, lay Ben MacDhui (4296 feet) and North-North-East behind it lay Cairn Gorm (4084 feet) - our objectives of the morrow.

On Cairn Toul we met up with the two ladies and a gentleman who had been tailing us all day from Glen Einich. We duly took photographs to record the meeting before descending thence back to our packs below.

Having secured our rucksacks without difficulty, we now went round the North-West ridge of Corrie Gharbh, passed the Wells of Dee and climbed the easy remaining ascent to the Cairn of Braeriach (4248 feet)... .more, wonderfully rugged, grandeur, tempered by peaceful vistas... ..... and it was here that we had a gorgeous sight of a rainbow end in the Lairig far below, while the sight of Loch an Uaine nestling in the bosom of Cairn Toul and spilling water over the side in the shape of a waterfall into the glen below was unforgettable.

Really these hills and glens are gripping with their foregrounds of placid lochs, plunging waterfalls, rushing torrents and delicate tints adding their influence to the constantly changing scenic tones caused by the subtle effects of sun, mist and cloud. All within a background of rugged grandeur - absolutely invincible!

By now it was 6 p.m. and tea was indicated but alas no water in die vicinity. Accordingly, we decided to scramble down the side of Corrie Bhrochain for 1000 feet by way of loose sand and very stiff rocks. It was sore work and a bit dangerous, but thrilling and necessary... and worthwhile too as we startled a dozen red deer on the way.. .the first we'd seen.

Shortly after 7 p.m. we reached a convenient pool and drank our fill as we ravenously did justice to tinned salmon and a loaf of 'Bermaline' malt bread. We had felt dead tired before eating and drinking but this energising, coupled with a wash, made us fighting fit again and at about 8.30 pm. we set out on the remainder of our scramble into the Lairig Ghru 2000 feet far below.

Here we found a network of streams and boggy ground a real slog and very tiring to our weary limbs. But we plodded on to reach Corrour Bothy about 10.15 p.m. We were not alone in our glory as six Dundonians (two parties) were there as well to share the hikers' haven with us.

After partaking of the usual supper and exchanging questions and answers with our fellow lodgers, we washed (feet too!) and settled down to our diaries about 11.30 p.m. with the lantern hanging in the window above us to guide any other wanderer to safe harbour. Yes, of course we remembered to steep the meal before retiring... despite having to scrape half of it off the floor when JJ tripped and spilled the pot. It's after midnight before I crawl into 'bed' - been a great day climatically and in so many other ways. I think of Chapman's Homer - 'Much have I travelled in the realms of .....' Tomorrow we mean to cross the Lairig and climb Ben MacDhui, thence Northward to Cairn Gorm and descend by continuing North to rest at a bothy called 'Ryvoan'.

It's a great life, full of solitude and grandeur and sweet content. There are no worries except physical ones and it is realised here in these mountains, if anywhere, just how frail man is! Ah, well! Sleep! I wonder if all my loved ones are abed and how they've fared to-day?

Tuesday 26th July, 1932

Wakened at about 7 a.m. and rose about 8 a.m., forestalling the Dundonians for use of the communal table and making a very hearty breakfast of porridge and bacon. However you learn something new every day ...... the Dundee lads had a novel use for loaves of pan-bread - they used them as pillows all night! And for once JJ and JNK had bitten off more than they could chew because when we left at about 11 a.m. we had to leave at least four slices of brown bread and butter behind. Before leaving though, we exchanged photos with the Taysiders, and signed the visitors' book presented by the U.C.D. Cairn Gorm Club.

Then it was away and firstly we forded the Dee and approached the slopes of Cairn a Mhaim, a stepping stone to MacDhui. It was pretty steep going but, just after Jim had found some white heather, we struck a deer path which took us up to the summit in comparative comfort.

On again to the second climb, which was again steep and also stony - a sure sign that we were getting high. Ptarmigan were abundant here and JJ had a really fine cross-country race up and down the hill trying to photograph them. I don't know what he'd do without that camera of his and what endless amusement we cull from it.

About 2 p.m. we reached the summit of Ben MacDhui and once more we are provided with an orgy of beauty. In the South-East, another Loch an Uaine (3142 feet). There are four of these 'green' lochs - one on each of Cairn Toul, MacDhui and Cairn Gorm and the last one just about a mile West of Ryvoan Bothy, our home for this evening. North-East of the cairn of MacDhui lay another Loch - Etchachan, while to the South-East towered Cairn Gorm (3788 feet).

Although MacDhui was found to be very stony at the top and no gentler than the others, it was very mild when we got there. Hunger hastened lunch preparation and in a few minutes we had the stove heating the soup to a nice temperature. The tin-opener exposed corn beef and baked beans and having consumed this, we finished off with a dessert of fruit salad and semolina. After lunch was evaluation time for our respective diaries and on exchange reading we agreed that both passed muster. However despite the air being wonderfully mild, the scene pleasant, placid, grand and very congenial to a full stomach, a glance at the heavy clouds gathering, and a hint of thunder, suggested that we must soon be on our way.

Not a living soul in sight and we just remarked on how quickly the cold hard world could fall into obscurity and oblivion. Thus philosophising we journey on Northward towards the Shelter Stone at the West end of Loch Avon - but keeping our height. As we circled the ridge we had a lovely view of both lochs, Loch Etchachan and Loch Avon. The latter is a particularly 'bonnie' loch.

Meanwhile the clouds were descending lower and becoming thicker and Cairn Gorm was just visible amidst overhanging mist. By 5 p.m. the thunder was reverberating through the hills and we were plodding manfully on, up one slope, down the next, towards the summit. The last 1000 feet was a real tough climb in driving rain and clammy mist and, on reaching the top, we had to 'fumble' for the Cairn. However we stumbled on it eventually at about 6 o'clock, duly deposited our boulder and set about what had become a very serious task - to get down from there expeditiously and safely.

The driving rain turned to hail - huge lumps - but setting our backs to the Cairn and taking a compass bearing from our map, 1 degree West of North, we struck out hopefully for the valleys below where we trusted that there'd be better visibility and friendlier elements.

Fortunately we had taken an accurate bearing for soon we found a pile of stones (white) at intervals of 20 yards or so to guide us down in the way we should go. So on we stepped and slithered down, past the Marquis' Well, down the Coire na Ciste. But oh! It was miserable going! We were wet through, soaked to the skin as was everything else around us. The heather was knee deep, the gradient steep and tea time was being clearly indicated but impossible to execute. Still, in spite of my own misery, I had time to look for, and find white heather.

In due course - it seemed an eternity - the rain ceased and about 8 p.m. - 'Squelch! Squelch! Squelch!' - we reached an 8 foot high fence cutting off the private estate or preserve of Glenmore. Our path lay this way, and, as no one was likely to be about, we climbed the obstacle and approached our first trees since Sunday.

It started to rain again, so we rigged up a couple of ground sheets between two trees, and, in spite of wet clothes and terrible flies, had an excellent tea of chicken, ham and tongue and 'Bee-Zee-Bee' bread with butter and jam.

Cheers! It faired again, so, after a smoke, a consultation over the map, and a time exposure of Loch Morlich and the hills to the South-West, we set off once more 'doon the burn' for 2 miles, climbed the 8 foot fence on the North side of the estate and struck North-East towards Ryvoan Bothy, only two miles away now.

I must not forget to thank JJ here for saving me from strangling - if he hadn't rescued me, I'd still be hanging from that 'blessed' fence by my rucksack. Talking of rucksacks, these ones we have are real friends. Everything was bone dry inside them, although every item of clothing we were wearing was soaking. I wondered vaguely what people would think if they could have seen us then or knew of our condition. And yet we were as happy as crickets, though the word 'tired' could not do justice to describing our aching bodies.

Indeed this valley lying between Aviemore and Ryvoan, almost East and West, is a lovely sight as was proved as the weather improved into a fine evening. Nonetheless sighting the bothy at about 10 p.m. was great - never was 'home' in the hills more appreciated! Better still! Two 'kilties' from Nethy were there with a huge pine fire in the grate to welcome us.

An immediate dry down, cold wash and change was performed, the wet things hung up to dry, and cocoa and biscuits consumed before settling down, with admirable discipline, I thought, to our daily task - our diaries. It's 11.45 pm. now as I finish off this log for today.

The bothy here is wonderful, relatively speaking. We've had another hard day and trying, but I wouldn't have missed the experiences for all the comforts and luxuries to be had elsewhere. To emphasise the point - we've just seen our first newspaper, 'The Bulletin', since last Saturday - but it holds no interest to us in our present environment and states of mind. Again I repeat, no one can possibly imagine the power, the majesty and natural beauty of the surrounds, the variety of scenery and plant life, and the constant, irresistible and relentless changes brought about by the incessant fluctuations of the elements.

Tomorrow we walk to Aviemore, a mere 10 miles away, for more food and then return here to sleep - an easy day, but, by jove, despite being in the 'pink', we're needing it! Our stores have held out very successfully and everything has worked out according to plan, almost! That's four peaks over 4000 feet now, and on Friday, from Deeside, we mean to do the last two of the big 'six' - Ben an Bhuird and Ben Avon, thence to Ballater and Aberdeen. It's been a dull and overcast night so far, but we hope and pray for a good day tomorrow. ......... Excelsior!

Wednesday 27th July, 1932

Wakened at about 5.30 a.m. by the Nethy boys making breakfast - roasting 'mealy jerkers'. Later, on becoming more fully conscious, we found the bothy deserted, so had porridge and eggs alone in our glory. The porridge is really successful, especially when you've taken the time to steep the meal overnight. Shave next and a cold plunge in the nearby stream - both new men - ready for anything!

We leave our stuff in the bothy but take one empty rucksack and set out with light hearts and burden for Aviemore about 11 a.m. It's a lovely morning and the walk along the valley past Glenmore Lodge and the northern shore of Loch Morlich is very refreshing. Away to the South we scan the now familiar landmarks of the Caimgorms and our minds are well occupied with many recent associations.

As we get closer to Aviemore, we have a fine view of the northern entrance to the Lairig Ghru and, further to the West, of our first day's journey up Glen Einich. We can also follow quite clearly now, that ghastly descent from Cairn Gorm, 'midst mist and rain. Soon we reach Coylumbridge, just two miles from Aviemore, and, as the local 'hold-all' store offers nearly everything we need in the way of food, we grace the helpful, talkative proprietrix with our order and promise to return to uplift it at about six in the evening. Before leaving her we purchase seventeen postcards - views of hills and, while choosing them, are amused by the way the said woman gleans her information about the hills and stores it up for the benefit of her many patrons.

Aviemore, drier than when we last left it, is reached by about 2 p.m. and we lunch well, digesting concurrently, the heavy mail which awaited us there. After further necessary shopping was done, we repaired to the Temperance Hotel for tea and both of us agreed that it was a queer, unnatural feeling to be amongst houses and people and shops etc. - cramped, confined and bored.

We made a good tea, including honey we shouldn't have had, before squaring the proprietor. He asked us where we had been and told us of three young men who'd taken refuge in his establishment the previous night. On further inquiry we discovered them to be the same fellows that we'd left at Corrour Bothy on the Tuesday morning.

On our way back to uplift our other purchases at Coylumbridge we met many of the 'elite', out for their pre-dinner strolls. They looked at our mud-stained shoes, tanned faces and heavy pack of provisions with what appeared to be awe and wonderment - and a tinge of admiration too, we hoped! Good progress was made on our road 'home' to Ryvoan and, it being a beautiful night, we thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the ten miles tramp. Walking along pine guarded roads, the wind whispering in the tree-tops, the burn chattering by our side, we remarked on how one could adapt and settle to such solitude, especially after our boisterous camp life of the previous three days.

Soon the stream gave way to Loch Morlich again, still processing its abundance of fine sand - on then, past Glenmore Lodge, lovely little Lochan Uaine and so to Ryvoan. We were both tired, a different kind of fatigue compared to the day before, but a cold tub, rub down and supper of bread, butter, jam and biscuits revived us somewhat. Preparing for my bed, I see JJ firmly installed before the huge log fire, dreaming up fine phrases for his diary and my thoughts turn to the morrow and Deeside. It's raining slightly now - hope it's fair for tomorrow's trek.

Thursday 28th July, 1932

In spite of good resolutions to get up at 6 a.m., it was 8 o'clock before we dragged our weary limbs without our sleeping bags. However as the porridge had been cooked the night before and eggs could be boiled in the tea water, we were seated by 8.30 a.m.- like lords - before a sumptuous repast. Unfortunately, there was a thick Scotch Mist all around and it didn't look promising for our 17 mile walk through the hills to the foot of Dubh Gleann. However by 10 o'clock blinks of sunshine brightened the prospect and we prepared to leave after duly charcoaling our names on the wall and photographing the bothy.

Ruined Bothy

No sooner had we started than the rain came on again and, at the end of a mere half mile, our feet had that cold, damp, clammy, feeling which is bad enough later in a day on the hills, but more than a trifle demoralising early on. But we just had to shrug our shoulders and soldier on.

As our way lay over the shoulder of Bynack Hill after we crossed the Nethy, we became more or less shrouded in mist and battered by driving rain. It was wretched going but we had a fairly decent path, albeit streaming with water. It also disappeared at times but little heaps of stones kept us in the right direction, so we made good progress over the summit on an easterly bearing, down past the Barns of Bynack (a huge pile of stones) into Lairig Laoigh The map indicated a path but it seemed to have been transformed into one of the many burns which flowed around us.

Then quite suddenly the rain stopped for a few minutes - the next cloud wasn't all that far off - and in that blink of sunshine we spotted the Lairig looking South, and soon approached the East end of Loch Avon - a dismal sight! As the weather looked ominous and it was almost 1.30 p.m., we decided to try to snatch lunch before the storm. Alas! 'Davy' was having no mercy today and, just as we settled behind a hopelessly inadequate rock, he let it rip.

Nevertheless, and nothing daunted, we 'set to' with a will, consuming soup, corn beef, peas and fruit salad in the vilest of weather. Never, in all my life, have I eaten under such cold conditions! Needless to say, we didn't linger, but hastened on to restore the circulation. Verily, people would have considered us mad had they seen us and no one ever gave rheumatism or pleurisy a better chance!

Just after wading through the Avon, which flows East out of Loch Avon, - the ford was in flood but we were wet through anyway - we struck the semblance of a path once more. It's a great sensation wading through a stream with your shoes and stockings still on and knowing that you won't get any wetter!

When the summit of the pass comes into sight the path becomes very rough and stony. We stumble on, falling occasionally and feeling our limbs, especially our fingers, becoming gradually stiffer and numb. What a 'road' - it was supposed to be a cattle-pass at one time. Well, we thought aloud, 'We can't be quite all animal yet', for we found it nigh well impassable at places. And still the clouds came sweeping over us with intent to drown ..... and they nearly succeeded with monotonous regularity!

About 3.30 p.m., we at length reached the summit of the pass - a very stony desolate place - and just opposite in the West, we were able to feast our eyes on the rugged Corrie Etchachan with a ridge of Ben MacDhui providing a suitable backdrop. This fleeting look was soon blanketed by mist and thus photography was prevented in that direction. However, looking North into the Lairig did provide a view for JJ to snap. Moments later away to the South we just managed to snatch a glimpse of the Forest of Mar and as our way lay several miles to the East of the forest and time was precious, we decided to win two miles away from the track by climbing the hill on our left, crossing its flat top diagonally, and then going down a steep, dark glen, known as Dubh Gleann, at the foot of which we hoped lay our bothy for the night. All that sounds relatively easy, but the going was boggy and the ground, if that is what it was supposed to be, smelt not in the least like 'Yardley's'! And still the clouds hovered ready to drift down at any moment, so we had to hustle to be safe.

Despite our worst fears and predictions, the weather improved dramatically for an hour or so as we hurried along, giving us some really fine views of Deeside from various 'velvety plateaux en route. Indeed these were the first clear glimpses of anything we'd had all day.

Soon, but not too soon, we reached the top of Dubh Gleann and, while scrambling down its fairly steep head, we were met with a wonderful sight - at least a hundred red deer in two herds, startled by our advent, making their stately way up the sheer face of the hill.

The worst of the descent over, we consulted the map for names etc. and found we'd only about two miles to go now to our bothy. Were we sorry? Not likely! What a harrowing day it had been! One doesn't worry for one's own sake - it's the people who worry about us!

Tired, but looking forward to a tin of 'Skippers' and a 'Youma' loaf for tea, we hurried on, hoping to find a fire to dry our clothes at. But then, strange cries, high up above us, met our ears as we plodded down this glen - like a child crying. On looking up, we were amazed at the multitude of deer to be seen - appearing like ants to us in the distance. Then the rain came on again; but the bothy should be somewhere near here! 'Holy smoke!' 'That's not it, is it?' - A ruin of wood, chairs, glass and masonry lay before us and our hearts sank. Not one decent bit of cover for having our tea, far less spending a night in.

We look around and, just beside the ruin, I find, a little 'box'. It is about 6 feet by 5 feet by 4 feet, closed on three sides and with a wooden 'roof', almost watertight, or so it appeared. 'Fair enough, this would have to do, at least until we've had our tea. Then we'll rig up a better shelter for the night from this shell.'

While the kettle is boiling, we doff our shoes, stockings, shirts etc. and change into dry ones, discussing the prospect the while. Then we noticed the following on one of the 'walls'

17th July 1932

Wretched with mist and driving rain
AND   We sought a bothy and found these ruins
From these we built this hut
David Smith

And were we thankful! And we blessed our companions in misery for their shed.

Tea was a great success and soon after 7 p.m. the rain ceased, then to be followed by a fine dry night - blue sky and high clouds. JJ kindled a lovely pine fire just two feet away from the open South side of our 'box' and we soon dried four stockings and two shirts, to say nothing of making ourselves as warm as pies too. There we were, writing our diaries, poring over the map for names and directions and looking like real 'old timers' with a certain amount of stubble further adorning our tanned faces.

Supper and bed early to-night as to-morrow, God willing, we mean to do Ben an Bhuird and Ben Avon before going on down to Deeside. It's been tough work today. Hard? Yes, and miserable sometimes, but then we have that 'something accomplished, something done feeling'. We've kept to our time-table despite the weather and, now, gloriously tired, we are enjoying the consequent peace and quiet of an idyllic evening outdoors before a lovely fire. ............ 'Kings may be blessed ...............'

Supper is over, the washing all dried, and, having knocked the knob off the door which serves as floor and mattress, I have a Craven 'A' until JJ is ready for diary audition and reflection. In due course we settle down for the night, gazing out at the 'pioneering in the wilds' scene, fitfully lit by the gleam of the log fire now dying. The night looks calm, and anyway, two ground sheets on the roof will keep us dry. Oh my! I'm tired!

Friday 29th July, 1932

Wakened at 8 a.m., after a very sound sleep, I was so stiff and sore that I was almost afraid to rise. However, porridge and sausages made things better, and, as it was a lovely morning, we loitered over our departure, taking some photographs and leaving our card - an acknowledgement of the shelter.

About 10.45 a.m. we set out over heather and bog, up Glen Quoich for about 3 miles. It was a real toil getting up that Glen but by 12.30 p.m. we'd reached the path which leads up to Ben an Bhuird. There we stopped for lunch and a 'pow wow'. It transpired that we both felt that we were asking too much of ourselves as the climbs, at best, would take 5 to 6 hours, and even then a resting place for the night had still to be found. Slugain Lodge was only about 2 miles away but we'd no idea what it was like. So we swithered - would we admit defeat and make discretion the better part of valour? Our exchange of looks said it all. It could not be done in safety, especially if we hit any snags en route. Decision taken!

Thus, at about 1 o'clock, we both lay down on a heather bed and slept ingloriously and unabashed for almost 3 hours. Great stuff! Fresh again, we set out across the Quoich and the moor, down Glen Slugain and past a roofless lodge which had been the planned sleeping place if we'd done the peaks. When, not long after this, we met four ladies in the glen, we suddenly realised that these were the first humans we had seen since the Wednesday!

As we swung downhill, Deeside looked so perfectly natural and did not belie her name of Royal. Then Lochnagar became visible away in the South-East. After another four or five miles down the glen, we traversed a private estate and spied the main road running parallel to the River Dee in the valley to the South, while, about 3 miles to the West, Braemar lay basking in the summer sun.

Several lodges, all empty, and their grounds were taken in our stride - we hoped they didn't mind - but the crowning bit of cheek was when we walked into the grounds of Invercauld House and marched out down its main driveway! What a lovely house in the Scottish Baronial style, a well kept estate and so thickly wooded too. Indeed Deeside is remarkable for its abundance of firs, birches etc. Its grazing sheep look very healthy too. Little wonder with such rich pasture to nurture them.

Reaching the main road at about almost 6 o'clock, we were greeted immediately by an Alexander's bus en route from Ballater to Braemar. But by this time the pangs of hunger were getting stronger. So we climbed a dyke, sat down by a stream running into the Dee, and thereby disposed of another tin of salmon. The 'troops' were in much better fettle after that, and, after a much needed wash, it was agreed on both sides that we looked almost normal and respectable again. So, just as the sun was beginning to set in a blaze of glory we stepped once more onto the 'King's Highway'. It was nearly 9 o'clock, and about 3 miles from Crathie, when we struck an inn. Unanimously we decided to do ourselves proud and sleep on a soft bed.


Outdoor life somehow loses its charm when civilisation approaches; and nature is not nature when disturbed by rattling cars, chimney smoke and milestones! Well we'd reached 'Joumey's End' and after all 'variety is the spice of life.' And what have we not had over these last six days? We've walked, climbed, descended, in blazing sun, mountain sleet, mists - aye, and hail too. We've spoken to not more that a score of folks and otherwise it's been just we two, absolutely isolated and self-reliant. Every meal has been satisfying, and nary a blister between us, and clearly, despite our strong shoes becoming a delicately lighter shade than when we started out, they've stood the test. Esprit de corp has been excellent, though perhaps it was due to the fact that we both had the ability to pity ourselves to a large extent and cast no blame. There was never a cross word between us and many a bright one.

It has been great, and though arduous, it is really one form of hard work that is uniquely enjoyable. ....... 'When can their glory fade' ?........ All these unforgettable experiences! Wow!

My Henderson Blood-line

James Henderson (b.1702, Wemyss, Fife) & Elspeth Ingles - m. 1731, Wemyss, Fife

Andrew Henderson (b. 1735, Wemyss, Fife) & Janet Fife - m. 1763, Markinch, Fife

James Henderson (b.1774, Markinch, Fife, Labourer) & Janet Patrick - m. 1801, Markinch, Fife

John Henderson (b.1814, Kennoway, Fife, Ploughman) &  Agnes Hunter - m. 1845, Leslie, Fife

James Henderson (b.1850, Leslie,Fife, Gardener) & Jessie Nicoll - m. 1879 - Brechin, Angus

John Henderson (b.1885, Newtyle, Angus, Railway Station Master & Janet Kerr m. 1907 - Stirling

James Nicoll Kerr Henderson (b.1908, Dunblane, Headteacher) & Agnes Telfer - m. 1934 - Falkirk

John Henderson (b.1939, Stirling, Headteacher) & Olive Margaret Dale - m. 1963 - Glasgow

Evan John (Stirling,1964) Lindsay Margaret (Montrose,1970) Robert Kerr (Montrose,1968)

Click here to read a mini biography of James Nicoll Kerr Henderson

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