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Full text of "Rothiemurchus"

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BOUGHT FROM THE 

ANDREW Preston Peabody 
Fund 

BEQUEATHED BY 

CAROLINE EUSTIS PEABODY 

OF CAMBRIDGE 



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ROTHIEMURCHUS 



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By tie Same Author 



G.F. WATTS 

R.A. 

IN TNB 

TEMPLE BIOGRAPHIES 
With Portrait, ctc^ 
crown 8vo. 
Second Edition, 
"No fuller, nobler life ever en- 
gaged a biofprapher's pen. As 
one reads this admirable book, 
one seems to have a new revela- 
tion of the possibilities of the 
human mind and of human 
industry." — Daily News. 



London: J. M. DENT & CO. 



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ROTHIEMURCHUS 

HUGH MACMILLAN, D.D. 
LL.D., F.R.S.E. 




WITH 

TWELVE 

ILLUSTRATIONS 



1907 

LONDON 

J. M. DENT & CO. 

*9 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



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:^rLr\2't.lL'fD 




ji-^t^-^f^*-'^^ 



AU Rights Reserved 



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CONTENTS 

rAGB 

I 

ROTHIEMURCHUS 3 

II 

R0THIBMVRCHU8 — continued 13 

III 

LoCH-AN-£lLAN fj 

IV 
LocH-AN-EiLAN — conttuved 39 

V 
Glen Eunach 57 

VI 
Glen Eunach — continued 73 

VII 
Lamg Ghru . . 85 

VIII 
Glenmore and Cairngorm 105 

IX 
Kinrara .123 



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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



The "Forest Cabin," where the Author Lived 

Frontispiece 
The Drvie in Snow .... facing page 15 

Rothibmvrchus Pines 

Loch-an-Eilan .... 

The Castle, Loch-an-Eilan 

On the Glen £vnach Road 

Precipices above Loch Eunach 

The Larig Pass .... 

The Pools of Dee 

Loch Morlich .... 

The Shelter Stone and Loch Avon 

Bridge of Alvie and Tor Alvib . 



17 
35 
41 
63 
75 
9« 

99 

109 

"5 
135 



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NOTE 

The following sketchesy with the exception of the 
last two, appeared originally in the Art Journal^ 
and are now collected and republished with a few 
alterations. Owing to the death of the author 
they have not had the advantage of his personal 
revision. The illustrations are reproduced from 
photographs taken by Mr. W. Dempster and Mr« 
Clarence G. Kerr. 



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I 

ROTHIEMURCHUS 



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ROTHIEMURCHUS 



ROTHIEMURCHUS 



Of all the districts overshadowed by the extensive 
Cairngorm range the most magnificent, by uni- 
versal consent, is Rothiemurchus. It is a 
region entirely unique. There is nothing like it 
elsewhere. If Scotland as a whole is Norway 
post-dated, this part of the country is especially 
Norwegian. Scotland is famous for its artistic 
colouring, which Millais compared to a wet Scotch 
pebble ; but here the colouring is richer and more 
varied than in any other part of the country. 
The purples are like wine and not like slate, the 
deep blue-greens are like a peacock's tail in the 
sun, the distant glens hold diaphanous bluish 
shadows, and a bloom like that of a plum is on 
the lofty peaks, which changes at sunset into a 
velvety chocolate or the hue of glowing copper 



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4 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

in the heart of a furnace. A day here in October 
is something to be remembered all one's life, when 
the tops of the mountains all round the horizon 
are pure white with the early snow, and their 
slopes are adorned with the brilliant tints of 
faded bracken, golden birch and brown heather, 
and all the low grounds are filled with the un- 
changeable blue-green of the firs. At Rothie- 
murchus the landscape picture is most beautifully 
balanced, framed on both sides by heath-clad 
hills, which rise gradually to the lofty uplands of 
Braeriach and Cairngorm, with the broad summit 
of Ben Macdhui rounding up its giant shoulders 
behind the great chain itself, all coifFed with 
radiant doud, or turbaned with folded mist, or 
clearly revealed in the sparkling light, bearing 
up with them in their aged arms the burden of 
earth's beauty for the blessing of heaven. All 
the views exhibit the most harmonious relations 
to one another, and each is enhanced by the loveli- 
ness of its neighbour. 

Rothiemurchus is a high-sounding name. It is 
a striking example of the genius which the ancient 
Celtic race had for local nomenclature. It means 
" the wide plain of the fir trees," and no name 
coxild be more descriptive. Nothing but the fir 
tree seems to grow over all the region. It has 



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ROTHIEMURCHUS 5 

miles and miles of dark forest covering all the 
ground around, and usurping spots that in other 
localities would have been cleared for cultivation. 
You see almost no trace of man's industry within 
the horizon. Whatever cornfields there may be 
are entirely lost and hid within the folds of this 
uniform clothing of fir-forest. All is Nature, 
primitive, savage, unredeemed. In the centre 
of the vast plain rises the elevated upland of 
Tullochghru, about a thousand feet above the sea- 
level, whose farms have a brighter green, smiling 
in the sunshine, contrasted with the surrounding 
brown desolation. It seems to emerge like an 
island out of an ocean of dark-green verdure 
flowing all around its base, and breaking in 
billows far up the precipices of the Cairngorms. 
The scenery as a whole is on such a gigantic scale 
that the individual features are dwarfed. The 
huge mountains become elevated braes or. plateaus, 
and miles of mountainous fir-forest seem to con- 
tract into mere patches of woodland. No one 
would suppose that the hollow which hides Loch 
Morlich in the distance was other than a mere 
dimple in the forest, and yet it is more than three 
miles in circumference, and opens up on the spot 
a large area of clear space to the sky. The eye 
requires to get accustomed to the vast dimensions 



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6 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

of mountain and forest to form a true conception 
of the relative proportions of any individual 
object. Nothing can be more deceptive than the 
distances, which are always supposed to be much 
shorter than they really are. 

The crest of the Grants of Rothiemurchus is a 
mailed hand holding a broadsword^ with the 
motto, " For my Duchus." Duchus is the name 
which they gave to their domain. It is a Gaelic 
word meaning a district which is peculiarly one's 
own, Rothiemurchus was always regarded by its 
proprietors as standing to them in a very special 
relation. Very touching expression has been 
given to this sentiment in that popular work, The 
Memoirs of a Highland Lady^ published some few 
years ago. The attachment of the authoress, 
who was a daughter of Sir John Peter Grant of 
Rothiemurchus, to her native place was un- 
bounded. She constantly speaks of her beloved 
" Duchus " ; and when about to accompany her 
father to India, when he was made a judge in 
Bombay, she gives a pathetic picture of her last 
walk in the " Duchus " with her youngest sister. 
Her fortitude gave way when she heard the gate 
of her home closing behind her, and she wept 
bitterly. " Even now," she says, after long years 
of absence, " I seem to hear the clasp of that 



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ROTHIEMURCHUS 7 

gate ; I shall hear it till I die ; it seemed to end 
the poetry of my existence." Even the casual 
visitor feels this strange spell which the place 
exercises upon him ; and if one has spent several 
summers in wandering among its romantic scenes, 
the fascination becomes altogether absorbing. 
Season after season finds your feet drawn towards 
this charming region ; and no other spot can 
replace it, no other scenery surpass it in its power 
over the imagination and the heart. There is 
little reference made in The Memoirs of a 
Highland Lady to the natural characteristics of 
Rothiemurchus. The book does not describe 
the grand mountain scenery, or give any account 
of the deer-stalking in the forest, or of the 
climbing of the great peaks of the Cairngorm 
range. It is occupied entirely with the mode of 
life and the social relations of this remote region 
at the beginning of last century. But you feel 
conscious all the time of the presence of the 
mountains. You feel that the grand scenery is 
not the mere background of human action, but 
mingles with it in the most intimate manner ; and 
all this makes the reading of the book, so fiill 
of artless simplicity and natural piquancy and 
humour, peculiarly delightful. 

The railway station for Rothiemurchus is 



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8 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

Aviemore, which has entirely changed its aspect 
in recent years. In the old coaching days it had 
hardly a single building except the inn, where the 
horses were baited and passengers on the way to 
Inverness halted to refresh themselves. This 
quaint hostelry, looking like an ancient Scottish 
peel, is still standing but is no longer used as an 
inn. Its upper garden wall marked the height to 
which the Spey rose during the celebrated Moray 
floods, which Sir Thomas Dick Lauder so 
graphically described, when living sheep were 
brought across the river and left in the trees of 
the garden by the overwhelming waters. The 
whole country was inundated and became one 
great lake, and the face of the hill behind was 
seamed with white roaring waterfalls, and a dense 
mist filled all the air. Aviemore is now a busy 
junction where innumerable trains in the summer 
months pass north and south, and passengers from 
all parts of the world meet each other on the 
platforms. A row of new villas is built along the 
line and a modern hotel, with a noble background 
of hills and an incomparable view in front of the 
Cairngorm range, where all the great peaks are 
seen grouped together in the most eflfective 
manner, occupies the rising ground behind. 
The lands of Rothiemurchus are bounded on 



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ROTHIEMURCHUS 9 

the west by the Spey that flows past Aviemore, at 
the foot of Craigellachie. This storied rock is 
not included in the possessions of this branch of the 
family, although it formed the slogan or war-cry 
of the whole clan, " Stand fast, Craigellachie." It 
comes out boldly from the general line of hills, 
and forms a most conspicuous feature in the land- 
scape. It is composed of mica-slate broken into 
ledges and rocky slopes, and in some places is 
quite precipitous. It is covered mostly with 
purple heather, interspersed with weeping birches 
and bushes of willow. The bare spaces are clothed 
with bracken, whose golden tints in autumn are 
indescribable ; and even the hard exposed rock is 
weathered and frescoed with yellow and hoary 
lichens. It is a rich feast of colour to the eye at 
all seasons of the year, and exhibits a poetry of 
fleeting hues fairer than an equal portion of sky, 
which it blots out, would show. By a poetic 
instinct it was chosen as the symbol of the clan, 
and its enduring steadfast character shadowed forth 
their unchanging faithfulness amid all the strains 
of life. The fame of this rock in the landscapes 
of their native region has always powerfully im- 
pressed the imagination of the warlike people. It 
has been the scene of many a gathering of the clan 
in times of war an4 foray ; and from this central 



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lo ROTHIEMURCHUS 

spot the fiery cross used often to be sent round to 
summon the clansmen together. Ruskin, during 
his visit to this region, greatly admired the 
picturesqueness of Craigellachie ; and he speaks 
thus of its associations : " You may think long 
over the words * Stand fast, Craigellachie,' without 
exhausting the deep wells of feeling and thought 
contained in them — the love of the native land, 
and the assurance of faithfulness to it. You could 
not but have felt it, if you passed beneath it at 
the time when so many of England's dearest 
children were being defended by the strength of 
heart of men born at its foot, how often among 
the delicate Indian palaces, whose marble was 
pallid with horror, and whose vermilion was 
darkened with blood, the remembrance of its 
rough grey rocks and purple heather must have 
risen before the sight of the Highland soldiers — 
how often the hailing of the shot and the shrieking 
of the battle would pass away from their hearing, 
and leave only the whisper of the old pine branches, 
* Stand fast, Craigellachie.' " 



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II 

ROTHIEMURCHUS 

{Continued) 



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II 

ROTHiEMURCHus — conthiued 

Thb Spey, as it forms the western boundary of 
Rothiemurchus, has a somewhat diversified course, 
being mostly swift and shallow, with extensive 
margins of white pebbles in its bed ; but where 
the high road from Aviemore crosses it by a 
modern iron bridge, it expands into a deep 
and wide pool as black as Erebus, as if it con- 
centrated in itself all the peaty waters of its source 
in the bogs of Drumochter, and gives one an im- 
pressive idea of the might of the river. The 
Spey is not a classic stream. No poet has sung its 
praises, but the murmur of its tide has found articu- 
late expression in the beautiful strathspeys which 
echo the swiftness of its pace and the swirl of its 
waters. It has been associated as no other British 
river has been with our national dance music. Its 
tributaries from Rothiemurchus, each ^^a mountain 
power/' sweU its volume and add to the beauty of 
the scenes through which they flow. They 

13 



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14 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

traverse the whole extent of the region from east 
to west, from the bare, bleak heights of Braeriach 
and Cairngorm to the rich green meadows which 
the Spey has made for itself in the low grounds. 
The vast pine-forests would be oppressive without 
those voices of Nature that inform the solitudes, 
and destitute pf those silvery pools which mirror 
the alders and birches. The Luineag issues from 
Loch Morlich, and exposes for most of its course 
its sparkling wavelets to the open sky, and the 
Bennie, uniting the stream that comes from the 
Larig Pass and the river which carries off the 
surplus waters of Loch Eunach, hides itself in the 
depths of the woods, whose green folds hush the 
soliloquies which it holds with itself. They form 
together at Coylum Bridge — which means the 
meeting of the waters, or literally the twofold leap 
— theDruie, a capricious river that often shifts 
its channel and converts much fertile land into a 
wilderness of sand and gravel. With its vagaries 
have been connected the fortunes of the House 
of Rothiemurchus, which were to be prosperous so 
long as the course of the river continued the same, 
but disastrous should it change its bed and work 
out a new channel for itself. Twice, at least, this 
change has happened, when the property passed 
from the Shaws to the Grants, and during the 



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ROTH I EMURCHUS 1 5 

great Moray floods which devastated the whole 
district. 

The subject streams of Rothiemurchus, which 
are the size of rivers and speak powerfully of the 
great range of mountains in which they rise, 
gather to their generous heart the whispered 
wanderings of a hundred rills. They bring down 
the grand music of the mountains, the roar of the 
tempest, and the sigh of the wind and the swoop 
of the mist in the wild corries, and the soft 
murmur of the upland brook. In the rhythm of 
their song may be detected all the mystic tones in 
which the mountains converse with one another. 
The Luineag is the stillest water, for its bed is 
least rugged ; but the Bennie is full of large 
granite boulders over which it rushes with a swift, 
clear current, whose harshness is made musical by 
the listening air. It is the sound of the Bennie 
alone that is heard, when the night deepens the 
oppressive stillness and lonesomeness by hushing 
aU other noises, and the great mountain range 
looms on the horizon beneath the stars — a gigantic 
silhouette, a geological dream, a vision of the 
primeval ages, whose shade inundates all the land- 
scape, and turns all the amphitheatre of valleys 
black as ebony. 

Nowhere are there more magnificent fir-forests 



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1 6 • ROTHIEMURCHUS 

than those of Rothiemurchus. These forests, 
about sixteen square miles in extent, are the relics 
of the aboriginal Caledonian forest which covered 
all this region with one unbroken umbrageous 
mass ; and there are here and there many of the 
old giants which the hand of man never planted, 
still growing in the loneliest recesses, and giving 
an idea of what the whole primeval forest must 
have been in its prime, ere the woodman, about a 
century and a half ago, invaded its solitudes and 
ruthlessly cut down its finest trees to be converted 
into timber. Most of the trees that now cover 
the area are of comparatively recent planting, and 
though well grown do not display the rugged 
picturesqueness for which the fir in its old age is 
so remarkable. A plantation of young Scotch 
firs is as formal as one of any other species of the 
pine tribe, and presents an orderly and monotonous 
appearance ; but as the tree grows older, it 
develops an amount of freedom and eccentricity 
of shape which no one would have expected of its 
staid and proper infancy. Its trunk loses its 
smoothness and roundness, and bursts out into 
rugged flakes of bark like the scales on the talons 
of a bird of prey or the plates of mail on an 
armed knight. Its boughs cease to grow in 
symmetrical and horizontal lines, and fling them- 



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ROTHIEMURCHUS PINES. 



To face Page 17. 



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ROTHIEMURCHUS 1 7 

selres out in all directions gnarled and contorted, 
as if wrestling with some inward agony or out- 
ward obstacle like a vegetable Laocoon. Its 
colour also changes ; the trunk becomes of a rich 
tawny red, which* the level afternoon sun brings 
out with glowing vividness, and the blue-green 
masses of irregular foliage contrast wonderfully 
with this rusty hue and attest the strength and 
freshness of its life. Such old firs are indeed the 
trees of the mountain, the companions of the 
storms that have twisted their boughs into such 
picturesque irregularities, and whose mutterings 
are ever heard among their sibylline leaves. 
They are seen to best advantage when struggling 
out of the writhing mists that have entangled 
themselves among their branches ; and no grander 
background for a sylvan scene, no more picturesque 
crown for a rocky height, no fairer subject for an 
artist's pencil exists in Nature. While the rain 
brings out the fragrance of the weeping birches, 
those "slumbering and liquid trees," as Walt 
Whitman calls them, that are the embodiments of 
the feminine principle of the woods, it needs the 
strongest and hottest sunshine to extract the 
pungent, aromatic scents of the sturdy firs, which 
form the masculine element of the forest. 

The fir is an old-world tree. Its sigh on the 



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1 8 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

stillest summer day speaks of an immemorial 
antiquity. Its form is constructed on a primitive 
pattern. It is a relic of the far-ofF geological 
ages, when pines like it formed the sole vegetation 
of the earth. It is the production of the world's 
heroic age, when Nature seemed to delight in the 
fantastic exercise of power, and to exhibit her 
strength in the growth of giants and monsters. 
It has existed throughout all time, and has main- 
tained its characteristic properties throughout all 
the changes of the earth's surface. It forms the 
ever-green link between the ages and the zones, 
growing now as it grew in the remote past, and 
preserving the same appearance in build and 
figure. 

It is a novel experience to wander on an autumn 
afternoon through the unbroken forests of Rothie- 
murchus. The Scotch fir usually looks its best at 
this time, for the older leaves that have a yellow 
withered hue have been cast and the new ones 
developed during the summer shine with a 
beautiful freshness and greenness peculiar to the 
season. Wherever a breach occurs among the 
trees, the ground is everywhere covered with a 
most luxuriant growth of juniper bushes, some of 
which are of great age and attain a large size. 
The grey-green of the foliage contrasts beautifully 



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ROTHIEMURCHUS 19 

with the dark blue-green of the fira, A dense 
undergrowth of heather, into which the foot sinks 
up to the knee, clothes ail the more open spaces. 
Where the trees crowd together more closely the 
heather disappears, and in its place the ground is 
carpeted with thickly clustering bushes of the 
bilberry and cranberry, whose vivid greenness is 
very refreshing to the eye. The huge conical 
nests of the black ant, composed of withered pine- 
needles, are in constant evidence ; while on the 
forest paths, when the sun is shining, may be seen 
myriads of the industrious inhabitants passing to 
and fro on their various avocations. The labour 
involved in the construction of these nests must 
be enormous. Many of them are old and 
abandoned, and over these the cranberry and 
bilberry bushes, which are ever pushing forward 
th^ir roots on new soil, spread themselves so that 
they are half or wholly covered with a rank, ever- 
green vegetation, indicating their origin only by 
the undulations they make in the ground. The 
aromatic smell that pervades all the air is most 
refreshing. It stimulates the whole system as 
you fill your lungs with its invigorating breath. 
The sanative influence of the fir-forest is most 
remarkable. The plague and the pestilence dis- 
appear, the polluted atmosphere is deodorised, and 



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20 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

with an efFect as magical as that of the tree which 
sweetened the bitter Marah of the wilderness, the 
presence of the Scotch fir purifies the most deadly 
climate. 

There is no wood more durable than the timber 
of the old Scotch fir. It is proof, owing to its 
aromatic odour, against insect ravages ; and its 
texture is so hard and compact that it resists the 
decay of the weather. So charged with turpentine 
are the firs of Rothiemurchus, that splinters of 
the wood used to be employed as candles to light 
up the dark nights, when the people gathered 
together in some neighbour's cottage to ply their 
spinning-wheels and retail their gossip and old 
stories. These wood torches when set in sconces 
would burn down to the socket with an unwaver- 
ing and brilliant flame, and would thus give forth 
a large amount of light and heat at the same time. 
The darker days of late autumn were always 
brightened for us by splendid fires made of old 
roots which had been left in the ground when the 
patriarchal trees were cut down, and which con- 
tained a vast amount of resin. I know no fires 
so delightful — not even those made of the pine 
branches of the Vallombrosa forest in Italy — 
blazing up at once, as they do, and continuing to 
the end clear and bright, while emitting a pleasant 



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ROTHIEMURCHUS 21 

fragrance which fills all the room, and creating a 
most healthy atmosphere, which counteracts the 
noxious influence of the rain and damp. The trees 
in this cold mountain climate do not grow very 
rapidly, but they are valuable in proportion to the 
slowness of their growth ; the part of the wood 
which is exposed to the sunshine being little more 
than sap-wood of small value, while the part which 
is turned to the north, and grows in stormy situa- 
tions and takes long to mature, is hard and solid 
and very valuable. It is of a fine red colour, and 
when cut directly to the centre or right across the 
grain is very beautiful ; the little rings formed 
of the annual layers being small and delicate, and 
in perfectly even lines. The best part is nearest 
the root 

About two hundred years ago, such was the 
abundance of timber and the difficulty of finding 
a market for it, that the laird of Rothiemurchus 
got only IS. 8d. a year for what a man chose to 
cut down and manufacture for his own use. The 
method of making deals was by splitting the wood 
with wedges, and then dressing the boards with 
axe and adze ; saw-mills with circular saws and 
even the upright hand-saw and plane being alto- 
gether unknown. A very old room in Castle 
Grant is still floored with deals made in this way, 



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22 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

showing the marks of the adze across the boards. 
As a specimen of the immense size of the trees 
that were cut down in the forests of Glenmore 
and Rothiemurchus, there is preserved at Gordon 
Castle a plank upwards of six feet in breadth. 
The trees when felled were made into rafts and 
floated down the Spey into the sea. Large heaps 
of old roots dug up from the peat-bogs and from 
the clearings in the forest may be seen piled up 
beside every cottage and farmhouse for household 
fires ; and everywhere the people seem to be as 
dependent upon the. forests as the peasants of 
Norway. Indeed, what with the forests and the 
mountains and the timber-houses, one might easily 
imagine oneself wandering in some Dovrefield 
valley, instead of at the foot of the Cairngorm 
range. 

For the contemplative and poetic mind there is 
no more impressive scene than a fir-forest. It is 
full of suggestion. It quickens the mind, while 
it lays its solemn spell upon the spirit like the 
aisles of a cathedral. Here time has no existence. 
It is not marked as elsewhere by the varying 
lights and shades, by the opening and closing of 
the flowers, by the changes of the seasons, and the 
appearance and disappearance of various objects 
that make up the landscape. The fir-forest is 



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ROTHIEMURCHUS 23 

independent of all these influences. Its aspect is 
perennially the same, unchangeable amid all the 
changes that are going on outside. Its stillness 
is awe-inspiring. It is unlike that of any other 
scene in Nature. It is not solitude, but the 
presence of some mystery — some supernatural 
power. How vividly, in the ballad of the " Erl 
King," does Goethe describe the peculiar spirit 
or supernatural feeling of the forest. The silence 
is expectant, seems to breathe, to become audible, 
and to press upon the soul like a weight. Some- 
times it is broken by the coo of a dove which 
only emphasises it, and makes the place where it 
is heard the innermost shrine, the very soul of the 
loneliness. Occasionally you hear the grand 
sound of the wind among the fir-tops, which is 
like the distant roar of the ocean breaking upon 
a lee-shore. Sometimes a gentle sigh is heard far 
oflF, how originating you cannot tell, for there is 
not a breath of wind, and not a leaf is stirring ; 
it comes nearer and waxes louder, and then it 
becomes an all-pervading murmur. It is like the 
voice of a god ; and you can easily understand 
how the fir-forest was peopled with the dim, 
mysterious presences of this northern mythology. 
In its gloomy perspectives, leading to deeper 
solitudes, there seem to lurk some weird mysteries 



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24 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

and speechless terrors that keep eye and ear intent. 
You have a strange sense of being watched, with- 
out love or hate, by all these silent, solemn, 
passionless forms, and when most alone you seem 
least lonely. 



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LOCH-AN-EILAN 

LocH-AN^EiLAN IS OHC of the loveliest bits of 
scenery in Scotland, and the special show-place of 
the district. All roads in Rothiemurchus therefore 
lead to it. But the high-road goes round from 
Aviemore by the Doune, which is the residence of 
the proprietor. Doune House is a square, modern 
building, substantially constructed, in the midst of 
spacious parks and richly-wooded policies, on the 
banks of the Spey, whose soft, cultivated beauty 
contrasts strikingly with the bare rocks and brown, 
heath-clad mountains around. A high mound 
crowned with trees lies to the east, from which 
the mansion received its name. It was originally 
a fort, and tradition says that it was inhabited by 
a brownie which faithfully served the household 
for many years, probably a personification of the 
protection which the mound afforded. This family 
seat was occupied for many years by the Duke 
and Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess was the 

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28 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

daughter of the famous Jane, Duchess of Gordon, 
who lived on the neighbouring property of Kinrara, 
and seems to have inherited the vivacity of dis- 
position and the active benevolence of her mother. 
A large number of the leading men of the day were 
entertained in the Doune during her occupancy, 
among others Lord Brougham. A dispute arose 
one night among the visitors as to whether the 
Lord Chancellor of England carried the Great Seal 
about with him when he travelled. The Duchess 
put the matter to the test at once, and marching 
at the head of her friends to the bedroom of Lord 
Brougham, who was lying ill at the time, she per- 
suaded him to imprint a cake which she had just 
baked with an impression of the Seal, which, of 
course, settled the question. 

Rothiemurchus originally belonged to the 
powerful family of the Comyns, who owned all the 
lands of Badenoch. With the displacing of the 
Comyns is associated a tradition of the Calart, a 
wooded hill to the west of the little loch of 
Pityoulish. In the pass close to this loch one 
of the Shaws, called Buck Tooth, waylaid and 
murdered the last of the Comyns of Badenoch. 
The approach of the Comyns was signalled by an 
old woman seated on the top of the Calart engaged 
in rocking the tow, and Shaw, with a consider- 



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LOCH-AN-EILAN 29 

able force of his clansmen, sprang from his ambush 
and put them all to the sword. The graves of 
the Comyns are still pointed out in a hollow on 
the north side of the Calart, called Lag-nan- 
Cumineach. Unswerving tradition asserts that 
this Shaw was no other than Farquhar, who led 
thirty of the clan Chattan in the memorable con- 
flict with the thirty Davidsons of Invernahaven, 
on the North Inch of Perth, in 1396. His remains 
were interred in the churchyard of Rothiemurchus, 
and a modern flat monument with an inscription, 
and with the five cylinder-shaped stones, the 
granite supporters of the original slab, resting 
upon it, indicates the spot. Tradition says that 
these curious stones appear and disappear with the 
rise and fall of the fortunes of the House of 
Rothiemurchus. During the Duke of Bedford*s 
tenancy of the Doune, a footman removed one 
of them to test the truth of this tradition. But 
he was obliged speedily to restore it, owing to 
the indignation of the people. A few days after 
putting back the stone upon the grave he was 
drowned in fording the Spey, and his death was 
considered in the district the just punishment 
of his sacrilege. 

The Shaws held possession of Rothiemurchus 
till they were finally expelled by the Grants of 



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30 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

Muckerach in 1 570. On account of their frequent 
acts of insubordination to the Government, the 
lands of the Shaws were confiscated and bestowed 
upon the Grants, "gin they could win them." 
Many conflicts took place between the two rivals, 
one of them in the hollow now occupied by the 
large, well-stocked garden of the House. Though 
defeated and slain, the chief of the Shaws would 
not surrender his rights, but even after death con- 
tinued to appear and torment the victor, until the 
new laird of Rothiemurchus buried his body deep 
down within the parish church, beneath his own 
seat ; and every Sunday when he joined in the 
prayers of the congregation he had the satisfaction 
of stamping his feet upon the body of his enemy. 
The last of the Shaws of Rothiemurchus was out- 
lawed on account of the murder of his stepfather, 
Sir John Dallas, whom he hated because of his 
mother *s marriage to him. One day, walking 
along the road near a smithy, his dog, entering, 
was kicked out by Dallas, who happened to be 
within, when the furious young man drew his 
sword and cut off Dallas's head, with which he 
went to the Doune and threw it down at his 
mother's feet. The room she was in at the time 
is still pointed out, and the smithy where the 
murder occurred is now part of the garden. It 



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LOCH-AN-EILAN 31 

is said that on the anniversary of the tragedy, 
every August, the scent of blood is still felt in 
the place, overpowering the fragrance of the 
flowers. 

Muckerach Castle, some three miles from 
Grantown, and now in ruins, was the earliest seat of 
the Rothiemurchus family. The lintel-stone of the 
doorway was removed and built into the wall of 
Doune House. It has carved upon it the date of 
the erection of the Castle in 1598, and the pro- 
prietor's arms, three ancient crowns and three 
wolves' heads, along with the motto, " In God is 
all my trust." Several members of the Rothie- 
murchus family greatly distinguished themselves 
in the world of diplomacy and politics. Sir John 
Peter Grant, a clever barrister, was first M.P. for 
Great Grimsby and Tavistock, and in 1828 was 
appointed one of the Judges of the Supreme Court 
of Bombay. His son was Lieutenant-Governor 
of Bengal, and ultimately Governor of Jamaica, 
and for his valuable services was knighted. His 
sister, who married General Smith, of Baltiboys, 
in Ireland, wrote the charming Memoirs of a 
Highland Lady^ giving a social account of Rothie- 
murchus in the early years of last century. 

Not far from the garden of the Doune, on a 
knoll which commands an extensive view, is the 



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32 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

mansion-house of the Polchar, where the late Dr» 
Martineau resided for many years. The house 
has long sloping roofs and low walls, and is well 
sheltered by trees from the blasts which in winter 
must blow with great violence here. 

From June to November the venerable divine 
was accustomed to come to this place from London, 
and the change no doubt helped to prolong his 
valuable life. When he came first to Rothie- 
murchus he found that everything was sacrificed 
for the sake of the deer forest. Old roads were 
shut up, and the public were excluded from some 
of the grandest glens. Dr. Martineau set himself 
to counteract this spirit of exclusiveness, and in a 
short time he succeeded in securing free access to 
the loneliest haunts of Nature. Of an extremely 
active habit of body, he climbed the heights and 
explored all the recesses of the Cairngorms. In 
his later years, however, he seldom moved beyond 
the scenes around his own door. His refined face 
and earnest manner always impressed one. I shall 
not soon forget his look, when I called upon him 
on his ninety-second birthday to olFer my con- 
gratulations and good wishes, as of one already a 
denizen of another world, who had brought its far- 
reaching wisdom and experience to bear upon the 
fleeting things of time. The family of Dr. 



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LOCH-AN-EILAN 33 

Martineau have done an immense amount of good 
in the locality, having founded a capital library 
for the use of the inhabitants and visitors, and a 
school for wood-carvingy with an annual exhibition 
and sale of the articles made by the pupils, which 
has stimulated the artistic taste of the young 
people in a wonderful degree. 

Passing the low-browed manse, whose situation 
in the shadow of Ord Bin is exceedingly pictur- 
esque, a beautiful path at the foot of the hill 
conducts the visitor to Loch-an-£ilan. A stream 
flows all the way from the loch beside the path» 
which is over-arched by graceful birch-trees, 
such as MacWhirter loved, and which he actually 
painted on the spot several years ago while resid- 
ing at the manse in a series of studies of the 
Lady of the Woods, exceedingly beautiful and 
true to nature. The slender trees here hang their 
long waving tresses overhead and cast cool shadows 
over the white path, while the murmur of the 
stream soothes the senses and makes one see 
visions and dream dreams. In a little while the 
northern shore of Loch-an-£ilan comes in sight, 
embosomed among dark-green fir-forests. It 
occupies an extensive hollow, overshadowed on 
the east by the bare round mountain mass of Creag 
Dubh, one of the outer spurs of the Cairngorm 



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34 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

range, while on the other side rise up the grey 
precipitous rocks of the Ord Ban, clothed with 
birches and pines to the top. Ord Bin is composed 
mostly of primitive limestone and bands of mica- 
schist very much bent and twisted by the geologic 
forces to which it owed its origin. It is easily 
ascended, and the view from the summit, owing 
to its central position, is both extensive and 
magnificent, including the two horizons to the 
north-east and south-west, with their clothing of 
dark fir-forests in one direction, and of birch- 
woods in the other. Loch Morlich shows itself 
distinctly in its wide basin glancing in the sun, 
while far over the wild mountains that surge up 
tumultuously in the south-west, Ben Nevis storms 
the sky with its broad summit. 

Charles V. said of Florence, " It is too beautiful 
to be looked upon except on a holy day." The 
same might be said in a truer sense of Loch-an- 
Eilan, for it is a sanctuary of Nature. Its beauty 
touches some of the deepest chords of the heart. 
It is not a mere landscape, it is an altar picture. 
It is a poem that gives not merely a physical or 
intellectual sense of pleasure, but awakens the 
religious fiiculty within us, creating awe and 
reverence like a holy hymn. One of its great 
charms is its unexpectedness. It comes upon 



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LOCH-AN-EILAN 35 

you with a sense of surprise in the heart of the 
woods. Its water is the spiritual element in the 
dark fir-forest It is to the landscape what the face 
is to the human body — ^that which gives expression 
and imagination to it, — ^and therefore it lends itself 
easily to spiritual suggestiveness. It is the face 
of Nature looking up at you, revealing the deep 
things that are at the heart of it. All around the 
loch are fir-woods, miles in extent, in whose 
depths one may lose oneself. But here at the 
lochside one comes out into a wide open space, 
and finds a mirror in which the whole sky is 
reflected. There is a sense of freedom and en- 
largement. One sees more of the shadow than of 
the sunshine among the fir-trees, and only bits of 
the blue sky appear high up between the green 
tops of the trees ; but here the whole heavens are 
seen not only above but below, with the double 
beauty of reflection. The water makes the blue 
sky bluer, and the golden sunshine brighter. 
The sight awakens the thought that it is good to 
have clear open spaces in our life, in which heaven 
may be brightly imaged. It is good to have in 
our souls parts devoted to a different element 
from that of which our life is mostly composed, 
in which we may have large glimpses of the 
world that is above us, the spiritual and eternal 



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36 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

world. Life must broaden if it is to brighten. 
Over the narrow stream the trees arch, shut- 
ting out the sky. To the shores of the wide 
lake they retreat, leaving it open to the whole 
firmament. 



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IV 

LOCH-AN-EILAN 

(Continued) 



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IV 

LOCH-AN-BILAN — coutinued 

Thb little island which gave the loch its name 
was originally a crannog or artificial lake-dwelling. 
After affording a secure retreat for ages to the 
primitive inhabitants by its wicker huts built on 
wooden platforms, it finally formed a foundation 
for a Highland feudal stronghold of considerable 
dimensions, covering all the available space and 
appearing as if rising out of the water. Tradition 
asserts that it was originally built by the Red 
Comyns, who once owned all the country round 
about. The lands of Rothiemurchus having been 
granted by Alexander XL to Andrew, Bishop of 
Moray, in 1226, the Earl of Buchan, son of 
Robert II., better known on account of his 
ferocity as the Wolf of Badenoch, took forcible 
possession of these lands, and was in consequence 
excommunicated. In revenge he sacked and burned 
the Cathedral of Elgin. For this sacrilegious act 
he had to do penance by standing barefoot for 

39 



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40 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

three days at the door of the cathedral, and was 
restored to the communion of the Church on 
condition that he would return to the Bishop 
of Moray the lands he had wrested from him. 
This castle was one of the possessions which the 
Wolf gave up. During his occupation we may 
well suppose that it was the scene of many bloody 
deeds and crimes. It was afterwards bestowed in 
lease upon the Shaws, whose chief dwelt there for 
more than a hundred years without molestation. 
From the Shaws it ultimately passed to the 
Grants of Muckerach, who have continued to 
hold it ever since. One event only has been 
recorded since they took possession. In 1 690) 
after the disastrous battle on the ^^ Haughs of 
Cromdale," so long celebrated in song and 
dance in Scotland, the remnant of the defeated 
adherents of James II., the followers of Keppoch 
under General Buchan, fled to Loch-an-Eilan for 
refuge, and made an attempt from the mainland 
to seize the castle, which was defeated by the 
Rothiemurchus men under their valiant laird. A 
smart fire of musketry greeted them from the 
walls of the castle, the bullets for which were cast 
by Grixxel Mor, the laird's wife, and they were 
repulsed with great loss. Since then the castle 
has become a roofless ruin, whose time-stained 



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LOCH-AN-EILAN 41 

walls, mantled with a thick growth of ivy, add 
greatly to the picturesque appearance of the loch. 
The stumps of the huge fir-trees, from which the 
timber for the roofing and flooring of the castle 
was obtained, may still be seen on the margin of 
the peat-bogs behind the loch from which the 
people of the neighbourhood obtain their fuel, 
preserved as hard and undecayed as ever after the 
lapse of all these centuries. It has been persist- 
ently said that a xigzag causeway beneath the 
water led from the door of the castle to the shore, 
the secret of which was always known only to 
three persons. But the secret has never been 
discovered, and the lowest state of the loch has 
never given any indication of the causeway. On 
the top of one of the towers the osprey or 
sea-eagle, one of the rarest of our native birds, 
used to build its nest. For several seasons un- 
fortunately the birds have abandoned the locality, 
possibly because they were not only persecuted 
by the crows, which stole the materials of 
their eyrie, but also frightened by the shouts of 
visitors on the shore starting the curious echo 
from the walls of the castle. I was fortunate 
enough, one recent summer, to see the male 
bird catching a large pike and soaring up into 
the sky with it, held parallel to its body, with 



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42 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

one claw fixed in the head and the other in the 
tail. After making several g}rrations in the air, 
with loud screams, it touched its nest, only to 
soar aloft again, still pertinaciously holding the 
fish in its claws. A seagull pursued it, and 
rising above, attempted to frighten it, so that 
it might drop the fish, but the osprey dodged 
the attacks of the gull, which finally gave up the 
game and allowed the gallant little eagle to 
alight on its nest in peace, and feed its clamorous 
young ones with the scaly spoil. The fish in 
Loch-an-Eilan are principally pike, which often 
attain a large size, especially in the eastern bays, 
being there so little disturbed. 

Sir Thomas Dick Lauder realised the capa- 
bilities of Loch-an-Eilan for figuring in romance^ 
and has given us a vivid description of its 
picturesque features in his story of Lochandhu. 
It combines within the small area of three miles 
in circumference all the elements of romantic 
scenery. There is no monotony, but, on the 
contrary, an infinite variety along its shores^ 
which form coves and inlets and low, rocky points 
and gravelly beaches and open green banks. On 
the east side the rocky precipices rise almost 
immediately from the water and fling a dark 
shadow over it The path here is seldom used. 



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LOCH-AN-EILAN 43 

and one rarely meets a visitor in the solitude. 
On the nearer or western side there is a large 
promontory of green meadow-land^ standing out 
against the richly- wooded background of the Ord 
Ban, on which is situated an ornamental cottage 
with a red roof, which in summer is frequented 
by crowds of visitors who come from all parts of 
the country in carriages and on bicycles and make 
delightful picnics on the shore. The site of this 
picturesque cottage was first occupied by a house 
which was built by a General Grant for his 
widowed mother in accordance with her own 
wishes. This General was originally a turnspit 
in the kitchen at Doune. Quarrelling one day 
with the cook, the boy cut off her hair with his 
knife and then ran off down the avenue at full 
speed. The cook came crying to her master who 
shouted after him in Gaelic, "Come back, you 
black thief, and get your wages." "Wait till I 
ask for them,'' was the reply. He then enlisted 
as a soldier and rose rapidly from the ranks to the 
highest position in the Indian army and amassed 
a large fortune. He never came back to his 
native glen, but he provided for all his relations 
and gave his mother a pension, on which she 
lived happily for many years, not priding herself 
very much on her son's wonderful career, nor held 



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44 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

in any high consideration by her neighbours in 
consequence. On the promontory below the 
cottage stands a rough granite monument in- 
timating that at this point General Rice, who did 
a great deal of good in the locality during his 
sojourn in it, and whose portrait may be seen in 
almost every house, was drowned by the breaking 
of the ice while skating on the loch on 26th 
December 1892. 

The southern end of the loch is formed by 
precipitous grey rocks in the background, crowned 
with dark woods, the haunt in former times of the 
wild cat, and surmounted at the highest point by 
a monument now almost entirely concealed by the 
trees, erected by her husband to the Duchess of 
Bedford, whose favourite outlook was from this 
place. The shore here consists of magnificent 
moraines covered with grass, heather and bracken, 
which produce in their autumnal fading the most 
gorgeous effects of colour. Beyond these im- 
mediate boundaries the open country reveals 
itself, taking into the horizon the round peaks of 
the Boar of Badenoch and the Sow of Atholl, and 
so completing the magic picture of the loch by 
the ethereal blue colours of the far distance. The 
quieter bajrs are white with whole navies of water- 
lilies, and when the hills and open parts of the 



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LOCH-AN-EILAN 45 

woods are crimson with the heather in full bloom, 
almost changing the water of the loch by the 
enchantment of its reflection into wine and con- 
trasting with the rich blue-green of the fir-trees, 
there is no finer sight to be seen in all the land. It 
was feared at the time that the terrible conflagra- 
tion which ravaged the wooded shores on the 
eastern side some years ago would destroy for 
ever much of the beauty of the loch. But while 
a vast portion of the luxuriant undergrowth of 
the woods was burnt down on this occasion, the 
loss was more than made up by the revelation of 
the varied rocky features of the scene, which this 
undergrowth had hidden by a monotonous cover- 
ing of uniform vegetation ; and now, after the 
rains and storms of several winters have washed 
away the charred and blackened wrecks, the re- 
cuperative powers of Nature have already spread 
over the naked spaces a healing mantle of tenderest 
green. The woods at the head of the loch were 
left altogether untouched ; and here, by the side 
of the charming path, which at every step dis- 
closes some new combination of beautiful scenery, 
there is a number of very ancient firs, whose 
gnarled, exposed roots form the banks of the path, 
and whose venerable trunks and branches over- 
shadowed the spot long before the castle on the 



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46 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

island was built. They are the relics of the great 
aboriginal Caledonian forest ; their huge red boles, 
armoured from head to foot with thick scales like 
a cuirass. Nature's own tallies, record in the mystic 
rings in their inmost heart the varying moods of 
the passing seasons. 

Beyond Loch-an-£ilan is a much smaller loch 
where the conflagration began, and which, there- 
fore, suffered greater havoc in the destruction of 
its woods. It is called Loch Gamhna, or the Loch 
of the Calves, on account of its old connection 
with the creachs which used to take place along 
its shores. On the eastern side there is a path 
through the forest called Rathad-na-Meirlich, or 
"the reivers' road," because along it the cattle 
stolen by the Lochaber marauders in Speyside 
were driven to the south. There is a tradition 
that Rob Roy himself took part in such raids, and 
was no stranger in these parts. An old fir-tree, 
to which the Speckled Laird of Rothiemurchus, 
as he was called, tied a bullock or two during 
these forays, in order to procure immunity for 
his own herds, was standing until it was burnt 
down by the recent forest fire. I possess some 
fragments of this old tree, so surcharged with 
turpentine that they act like torches, and burn 
down to the hand that holds them with a 



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LOCH-AN-EILAN 47 

steady bright flame. Several of the Macgregors 
whom Rob Roy took with him from the south to 
aid in one of these expeditions remained behind 
and settled in Rothiemurchus, and became allied 
with the laird's household. A tombstone pre- 
serves their memory in the churchyard. The 
laird, Patrick Grant, who got the name of 
Macalpine because of his friendliness to the un- 
fortunate clan Alpine or Macgregors, was greatly 
helped by Rob Roy in a time of sore need. 
Mackintosh, the nearest neighbour of Grant, 
built a mill just outside the west march of 
Rothiemurchus, and threatened to divert a stream 
from Grant's lands to it. A fierce quarrel arose 
between the two Idirds on this account, and 
Mackintosh threatened to burn the Doune to 
the ground. Marching for this purpose with 
his men, he suddenly encountered the forces of 
Rob Roy, and fled precipitately. Rob Roy set 
fire to Mackintosh's mill, and sent him a letter 
in Gaelic, in which he threatened to kill every 
man and burn every house on the Mackintosh 
estate, unless he promised to abstain in future 
from molesting Rothiemurchus. A song was 
composed on the occasion, entitled "The 
Moulin Dhu," or Black Mill, the tune of which 
is one of the best reel tunes in Highland music. 



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48 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

The Street of the Thieves is the most celebrated 
of the forest paths of Rothiemurchus ; but the 
whole district is full of paths, used for more 
innocent purposes. They are most intricate and 
bewildering to one who does not know the 
ground, but are easily traversed by the natives. 
Being covered with russet carpets of pine-needles, 
as if Nature herself had made them, and not man, 
they are always dry and elastic to the tread. 
What heavenly lights and shades from the 
branches overhead play upon them ; and how the 
westering sun with its level rays brings out the 
red hues, until the forest paths glow in sympathy 
with the splendid Abendgluhen on the sunset hills ! 
The dense mass of vegetation in these forests 
strikes one with astonishment. Not an inch of 
soil but is covered with a tangled growth of 
heather, blaeberry and cranberry bushes and 
juniper ; and feeding parasitically upon the 
underground stems are immense quantities of 
the yellow Melampyrum or cow wheat, and pale 
spikes of dry Goodyera^ that looks like the ghost 
of an orchis. Here and there in the open glades 
the different species of Pyrola^ or winter-green, 
closely allied to the lily of the valley, send up 
from their hard round leaves spikes with waxen 
balls of delicate whiteness and tender perfume. 



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LOCH-AN-EILAN 49 

The one-flowered Moneses grandiflora, exceedingly 
rare, is found in some abundance in the woods at 
the south-west end of the loch. And it may 
chance that in some secret spot the charming little 
Linneeay named after the father of botanical science^ 
may lurk, reminding one of the immense pro- 
fusion with which it adorns the Norwegian forests 
in July. The mosses are in great variety and 
extraordinary luxuriance, espedally the rare and 
lovely ostrich-plume feather moss, which grows 
in the utmost profusion on the shady knolls. 
The Rothiemurchus forests have always been 
famous for their rare fiingi, especially for their 
Hydnay a genus of mushroom, which has spikes 
instead of gills on the under surfece of its cap» 
One species, the Hydnum ferrugineum, is found 
only in these forests, and exudes, when youngs 
drops of blood from its spongy substance. There 
are innumerable ant-hills of various sizes, some 
being enormous, and these must have taken many 
years to accumulate. You see them at various 
stages. Some are fresh and full of life, crowded 
with swarms of their industrious inhabitants. 
But many are old and deserted, either half grown 
over with the glossy sprigs of the cranberry, or 
completely obliterated by the other luxuriant 
vegetation. 



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so ROTHIEMURCHUS 

All through the forest you see little mounds 
covered with blaeberry and cranberry bushes, 
which clearly indicate their origin. They were 
originally ant-hills. Each particle of them was 
collected by the labours of these insects. If you 
dig into them you will find the foundation to be 
composed exclusively of pine-needles, and you 
can trace the tunnels and galleries made by the 
ants. It is a curious association this — of plant 
and animal life — a kind of symbiosis. The 
struggle between the two kinds of life is seen 
here in a most interesting way. The wave of the 
undergrowth of the forest, in its slow, stealthy, 
irresistible progress, encroaches upon the ant- 
hills, and forms at first a ring round their base. 
Gradually it creeps up their sides, and you see 
one-half of the ant-hill covered with cranberry 
bushes and the other half retaining its own 
characteristic appearance of a heap of brown fir- 
needles with the ants swarming over them, busy 
at their work. But the vegetable wave still ad- 
vances and finally extinguishes the last spark of 
animal life on the mounds, and rolls its green 
crest over their buried contents. In this re- 
markable way the soil of the forest is formed by 
a combination of the labours of plant and animal 
life. Looking at the vast mass of animal and 



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LOCH.AN-EILAN 51 

vegetable life, you feel that there is something 
almost terribly impressive in this rapacious, ever- 
splendid Nature, tirelessly working in its un- 
conscious forces, antagonistic to all stability. 
You have an overpowering conception of vital 
energy, of individual effort, upreaching to the 
sun and preserving the equilibrium of Nature ! 
One has no idea from the uniform clothing of 
the fir-forests of the extraordinary irregularity of 
the ground, except here and there in the open 
parts and places bare of timber, where the ups 
and downs of the landscape may be seen to per- 
fection. Huge moraines and heaps of river-drift 
show what elemental forces were at work, in the 
later geologic periods, in moulding the aspects of 
the scenery. Volcanic forces first piled up the 
gigantic granite masses of the mountains on the 
horizon, and great glaciers planed down their 
sides and deposited the debris over the low 
grounds where the forest now creeps. The past 
here seems to be all Nature, a theatre where only 
the physical powers have been operating. Human 
life at the beginning must have been on too small 
a scale to contend with the mighty natural forces, 
and was soon wiped out and effiiced. In a fir- 
forest, with its heather and juniper, man could 
find almost no subsistence in his primitive state — 



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52 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

no kind of scenery could have been so inhospitable 
to him. And yet over the green upland slopes 
of Tullochghru, where the ground has not been 
broken for centuries, great quantities of burial 
c^rns and circular dwellings and artificial mounds 
or places of popular assembly show that there was 
here, in ^r-off times, a large population. At a 
place called Gu-n-rhu--ffinachan, near the Croft, 
where evidences of glacial action are most striking, 
there is a green hillside which must have been the 
earliest clearing in the great aboriginal forest, on 
which lies a half-hidden stone with three cup- 
marks rudely hollowed out on its surface by a 
flint implement, surrounded by f^nt traces of 
human habitation. These cup-marks are as sig- 
nificant as the footprints which Robinson Crusoe 
saw on his lonely island. They are the only ones 
I have been able to find in all the district. They 
people the past for us, and give it that human 
interest without which the grandest scenery be- 
comes desolate and uninviting. They show that 
where man had made a home for himself in the 
primeval forest, there beside it he prepared an 
altar for the unknown god of his unconscious 
worship. Older far, and of happier memory than 
the castellated lair of the Wolf of Badenoch on 
Loch-an-£ilan, these primitive cup-marks speak, 



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LOCH-AN-EILAN 53 

not of man's inhumanity to man, but of man's 
reverence and upward look of soul, and of the 
peace that binds heaven and earth. The eternities 
of the past and the future are associated mth these 
rude symbols. We feel that the persons who 
scooped them out with their flint tools were men 
of like passions with ourselves ; that they had 
similar experiences and similar fears and hopes. 
Their dust has utterly disappeared, their memories 
have altogether perished, but what they dedicated 
to religion has survived, has shared in the im- 
mortality of religion ; and Nature has here pre- 
served the first feeble steps of primitive man 
along the upward path with sacred inviolability 
amid the inhospitable waste. 



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RoTHiEMURCHus Is essentially a sporting estate. 
More than three-fourths of its lands have no 
agricultural or pastoral value, and are fit for no 
other purpose than a deer forest. The vast up- 
land regions and luxuriant fir-woods would 
hardly yield any subsistence for sheep or cattle, 
and the climate is too bleak and cold for them. 
But they are admirably adapted for the antlered 
denizens of the forest, which frequent in large 
herds the mountain corries, where the patches 
of grass have a peculiarly fattening quality and 
the deer thrive well. The deer forest of 
Rothiemurchus has always occupied a high 
place in the estimation of sportsmen, and com- 
mands a large rental It has often been held 
season after season by the same tenant, and the 
result has been uniformly satisfactory. For the 
accommodation of the deer-shooters, a very 
elegant and commodious lodge, Drumintoul, has 

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58 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

been built on the other side of the Druie, not far 
from Loch Pityoulish, from whence access is 
obtained to the high grounds by a capital driving- 
road through the woods. Glen Eunach forms the 
principal part of the deer forest, and from this 
circumstance its magnificent scenery is not so 
well known as it ought to be. It is naturally the 
object of the proprietor and tenants to keep the 
glen secluded to avoid the scaring of the deer. 
But before the stalking season commences, parties 
are allowed to visit the place with certain necessary 
precautions. To the vast majority of visitors to the 
district, however, it must obviously be a sealed spot. 
Entering by a gate at Loch-an-Eilan, over 
which the Scottish Rights of Way Society has 
fixed a board indicating that this is the commence- 
ment of the public road to Braemar by the Larig 
Pass, you skirt the northern shore of the loch, 
which you soon leave behind, and proceed through 
old fir-forests around the base of the bare 
mountain mass of Creag Dubh, one of the outer 
spurs of the great Cairngorm range. This hill is 
well worth ascending for the sake of the splendid 
view which the top commands of the whole region. 
A pathway leads to the sununit, the fir-trees 
becoming more dwarfed and stunted the higher 
up you climb. Near the top of the first height 



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GLEN EUNACH 59 

there is a gully where the deer often resort, and 
the ground is torn up by their combats during the 
rutting season. In this place I have several times 
found a curious moss which grows only on the 
droppings of deer, a spedes of Splachnum^ which 
has a very fine appearance with its large red 
capsules and bright green foliage. Developing 
only on animal substances, it seems to reverse the 
great rule that plants precede animals in the scheme 
of creation. On the highest ridge the ground is 
remarkably bare and storm-scalped. The winds 
rush over it with almost irresistible fury, even on 
a comparatively calm day, and sweep everything 
before them. The vegetation that clothes this 
bleak altitude is Polar in its character, rising only 
an inch or two above the soil, or creeping along 
and holding firmly by its roots. Arctic willows 
and azaleas form the only patches of verdure 
among the large heaps of white granite dibris ; 
and over the tangled masses of dark mosses and 
lichens that cling closely tc^ether for mutual help 
against the common foe, a curious stringy lichen 
of a straw colour, the Alectoria sarmentosa^ un- 
known except in such Polar situations, forms 
tortuous knots. A bit of ground with its 
characteristic plants from this ridge would remind 
one of a spot in Greenland or Spitzbergen. 



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6o ROTHIEMURCHUS 

The Creag Dubh^ though looking like an inde- 
pendent summit over Loch-an-Eilan, whose sky- 
line it forms, is in reality the elevated foot of the 
Sg6ran Dubh, a lofty hill opposite Braeriach, and 
only two or three hundred feet lower in height. 
The easiest way to ascend the Sgoran Dubh is over 
the long-extended ridge at the back of Creag 
Dubh, rising higher and higher by gentle elevations 
to the sharp conical summit. On the sky-line, 
not far behind the ridge of Creag Dubh, is a huge 
boulder left by glacial forces on this exposed point 
called the " Argyll Stone." After the disastrous 
battle at Aberdeen, Montrose fled across the 
country to the Spey, intending to make use of the 
ferry-boats on the river to pass over to the other 
side. But finding them removed and an armed 
force waiting to oppose his passage, he marched 
his army back through the forest of Abernethy, 
where he remained for several days, and then pro- 
ceeded through the forest of Rothiemurchus over 
the hills down into Badenoch. Argyll followed 
fast upon his heels and caught sight of the 
vanishing host at this point. Learning that many 
of the natives had joined the standard of Montrose, 
Argyll took vengeance upon the whole district, 
which he laid waste with fire and sword. Not 
far from the Argyll Stone there is another large 



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GLEN EUNACH 6i 

boulder called Clach Mhic Allan, or the Duke 
of Atholl's Stone. The Duke was taking refuge 
behind it, when he was set upon and killed near 
the summit of the ridge. 

At another index board of the Scottish Rights 
of Way Sodety in the heart of the forest two 
ways meet and cross each other. The one to the 
left leads through the Larig to Braemar, the other 
to the right is the path to Glen Eunach. Near 
the point of divergence there is a small shallow 
lake, which in hot summers is often dry. For 
about a mile and a half the road proceeds in a 
straight line on a uniform level through the well- 
grown plantation which has superseded the old 
aboriginal forest of giant trees. In this wood I 
have several times seen and heard the crested tit — 
a bird which is now almost wholly confined to the 
Rothiemurchus forest and is becoming more rare, 
though once it was abundant wherever the ancient 
Caledonian forest extended. By and by you come 
to the pass of the glen, where the precipitous 
banks on either side contract, and the stream, 
deep down below, forces its way with considerable 
difficulty, roaring and foaming, over the great 
boulders that fill its bed. Directly opposite on 
your left hand is the bare, elegantly-shaped cone 
of Carn Eilrig, which rises to an imposing altitude 



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62 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

from this point It is the " sanctuary " of Rothie- 
murchus, where, in former times, the deer escap- 
ing into it were not allowed to be shot. This 
humane practice, however, no longer obtains. 
This hill, like a grand, solemn sphinx, is set to 
guard the portals of a mountain region of mystery 
and romance. The murmurs of the stream in its 
bed are all-pervading. You hear them a good 
way off— filling all the air like the voices of a 
multitude. The steep rocks on either side, accord- 
ing to the folk-lore of the place, are inhabited by 
two different ** brownies," perpetually quarrelling 
and shouting at one another. Wild shrieks and 
mocking laughter are heard, especially when the 
belated pedestrian approaches the pass at twilight, 
and recalls, with fear and trembling, its uncanny 
reputation. No mortal was ever the friend of the 
one ** brownie *' without deeply oflFending the 
other, who manifested his anger in very oflFensive 
ways. The sound of many waters at the pass 
accounted for a good deal of this supernatural 
superstition. Beyond the pass the last solitary 
firs of the forest contend with the elements, and 
are twisted and dwarfed by the severity of the 
struggle; but you hardly notice them, for they 
are extinguished by the universal magnitude of the 
inorganic masses and forces around. From this 



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GLEN EUNACH 63 

point the pass opens up a wide treeless waste of 
utter solitude. Terraces of moraine matter, 
broken and gleaming white in the sunshine, in- 
dicating the different levels at which the stream 
formerly ran, bank up its course, and little rills 
coursing down the mountains from both sides 
fall into it to swell its volume. This region has 
never been animated by human life. It is above 
the zone of cultivation. No ruins of hamlets, 
with nettles growing round the cold hearth-stones, 
cluster on the spots where the turf is softest and 
greenest among the heather, to testify of forcible 
evictions and heart-broken farewells, and of the 
new homes of exiles far away across a world of 
seas. The peace here is not the peace of death, to 
which man's works return, but the peace of the 
primitive, untamed wilderness. From time im- 
memorial the region has been dedicated to the 
noble pastime dear to the old kings and chieftains 
of Scotland. Large herds of red deer frequent 
the corries ; but you may wander for days over 
the boundless waste without seeing a single antler, 
when all at once you may behold on the ridge 
over your head a score of deer standing motionless, 
gazing at you with their horns piercing the sky- 
line like skeleton boughs. It is a grand sight, 
but it is only momentary, for, scenting danger, 



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64 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

they disappear over the shoulder of the mountain, 
noiselessly, like a dream, into the safe shadows of 
another glen. 

On the right-hand side, shortly after the pass is 
traversed, a solitary pine may be seen on the high 
ground isolated at a considerable distance from 
the last straggler, which marks the spot where the 
old inhabitants of Rothiemurchus used to take 
leave of their friends when they went to the 
summer shielings. This was considered an import- 
ant occasion, and several old-world ceremonies 
were performed in connection with it. A large 
company helped to lead the cattle and to carry 
the dairy utensils and household bedding of the 
women who were to stay behind and occupy the 
rudely-constructed bothies, where they carried on 
the manufacture of butter and cheese for winter 
consumption. After seeing to their comfortable 
settlement in the huts, usually constructed in 
some green sheltered place beside a mountain rill, 
the friends would depart to their own farms down 
in the low grounds, and at the end of three or 
four months, the women of the shielings would 
return home laden with the products of their 
summer industry. Glen Eunach, as I have said, 
was never inhabited. It had no agricultural 
capabilities, but here and there beside the streams 



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GLEN EUNACH 65 

there were green spots that grew very nourishing 
grasses, which enabled the cows to give large 
quantities of milk, and the shielings of Glen 
Eunach in ancient times were justly celebrated. 
On the left-hand side of the stream there is a 
large extent of ground principally covered by 
moraines, which is hid from the visitor along the 
road by the elevated terraces forming the banks of 
the stream. Among these moraines is a small 
lake, marked on the Ordnance map by the curious 
name of **Loch Mhic Ghille-Chaoile," which 
means the lock of the lean matCs son. It obtained 
this curious name from the circumstance that a 
native of Rothiemurchus was killed beside it long 
ago, in connection with the raiding of the cattle 
in the summer shielings of Glen Eunach one 
Sunday morning by the Lochaber reivers. The 
herdsman in charge of the cattle, as the Rev. Mr 
M^Dougall graphically tells us, rushed to the 
church of Rothiemurchus, where the people were 
met for worship, and informed them of the robbery. 
Mac Ghille-Chaoile, who was the fleetest of foot, 
because of his hereditary leanness, outstripped 
his companions in the pursuit, and came up 
alone with the marauders at the little loch in 
Glen Eunach, where he found the cattle gathered 
together in one spot ready to be removed. Here 



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66 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

a fierce altercation took place, in consequence of 
which Mac Ghille-Chaoile was slain. Taking up 
his body and hiding it in a hollow near at hand, 
called ** Coire Bo Craig/' the raiders decamped, 
so that when the rest of the pursuers arrived they 
saw no trace either of their companion or the 
reivers. Some five or six weeks later, a Lochaber 
woman visiting Rothiemurchus told the people of 
the manner of Mac Ghille-Chaoile's death, and of 
the spot where his body was concealed, as she had 
been told by the reivers, whereupon his friends 
brought down his remains and laid them devoutly 
in the churchyard. The loch after this became 
associated with his name, and the discovery in 
recent years of an old rusty dirk beside the loch, 
with which probably the ruthless murder was 
committed, gave confirmation to the story. 

Crossing the stream by a wooden bridge you 
come to the first bothy, built of timber, for the 
use of deer-stalkers. Here it is customary to 
leave the road and climb Braeriach, over heath 
and peat bogs, by a foot-track by the side of a 
tributary burn that comes down from the heights. 
From this point you do not see the full pro- 
portions of the mountain ; you see only a part of 
its long-extended sides rising tier above tier to the 
sky. You must go farther away in order to take 



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GLEN EUNACH 67 

in the whole view. Perhaps the best point of 
observation is the railway station at Avicmore, 
where you see the huge mountain rising up from 
the extensive fir-forest of Rothiemurchus in a long, 
swelling, massive slope, with immense rounded 
shoulders, catching alternate sunshine and shade 
from the passing clouds, and exhibiting, even 
under sudden gleams of light, a peculiarly grey, 
barren aspect About a thousand feet from the 
sunmiit the uniformity of the slope is broken up 
by two great corries, divided from each other by 
a narrow neck or ridge connecting the shoulders 
of the mountain with the top. One of them is 
occupied by a bright green transparent tarn, 
perhaps the highest lakelet in Britain, into which 
a streamlet trickles down the face of the cliff in a 
series of waterfalls, a mere slender thread in dry 
weather, but presenting a magnificent sheet of 
unbroken foam when swollen by a storm. The 
conies look at a distance, when filled- with the 
afternoon shadows, like the hollow eye-sockets 
of a gigantic sktdl. In the rifts and shady re- 
cesses patches of snow linger almost throughout 
the whole year, and appear dazzlingly white by 
contrast with the dark rocks around. 

The loneliness of the wooden bothy is oppres- 
sive. I have rested in it both in storm and in 



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68 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

calm. Even on the brightest summer day it is 
desolate in the extreme ; and the rivulet that 
murmurs past has a forlorn sound, as if it missed 
the cheerfulness of human habitations. This one 
bothy emphasises the solitude, as a single tree 
does in a treeless wilderness. It reminds you 
of social instincts and companionships for which 
there is no gratification in this glen. I remember 
spending an hour or two in it along with the 
Master of Balliol and Professor Jones, having 
been compelled to take refuge from a wild storm 
which shrouded all the mountains in a dense, 
leaden mist, and soughed in fierce gusts among 
the corries, raising the voice of the stream 
that flowed behind to a loud upbraiding. A 
cheerful fire of wood dispelled the gloom and 
made us warm and cosy. In one recess there was^ 
a rude bed, with a shelf and candles and tea-cups, 
proving that the hut was often occupied at night. 
You can -imagine the eeriness of the solitary 
tenant, especially if he had a superstitious mind 
filled with the ghost stories of the district. The 
very coldness of the night would give him a 
sensation of the supernatural, such as might pre- 
cede the advent of a spectre, and the wailing of 
the winds would seem like the voices of the dead. 
A feeling of expectancy would take possession of 



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GLEN EUNACH 69 

him as if some mysterious being were coming 
out of the vast darkness to hold commune with 
him. The very room itself would be filled with 
some unknown presence, some one of the powers 
of darkness. It is a wonder that anyone can be 
found hardy enough to pass through such an ex- 
perience. One must be matter-of-fact and un- 
imaginative indeed to do so. But a summer day 
in such a spot is a delicious sensation, when the 
whole glen is filled with a subdued and softened 
light, and the mountain sides seem as if a blue 
smoke were rising over them like a veil, giving 
them a spectral charm, and the ripple of the streams 
is musical, and the purple heather just beginning 
to bloom and to tint the bogs has a faint odour, 
a "caress of scent," the very soul of perfume. 



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GLEN EUNACH 
{Continued) 



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GLEN EUNACH — coHtinued 

Beyond the first bothy the scenery becomes 
grander and lonelier. The glen contracts, the 
slopes of Braeriach on the one side and those of 
the Sgoran Dubh on the other become steeper and 
loftier. Nature is more awe-inspiring, and seeks 
to impress us more and more the nearer we 
approach to her heart. In a short time the great 
precipices of the Sgoran form peaks and spires of 
indescribable grandeur. The face of the perpen- 
dicular clifis, more than two thousand feet in 
height, is broken up into deep rifts, with long 
trailing heaps of debris at the foot, and great out- 
standing buttresses of rock, as if these mighty 
masses required additional support ; and the 
colour of the granite is a rich dark blue, like the 
bloom on a plum. The rocks have caught this 
hue from the sky during untold ages of exposure 
to sun and storm. The effect of these gigantic 
rocks with wreaths of mist and cloud writhing up 

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74 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

their sides, and revealing more and more of their 
great height and steepness, cannot be described in 
words. The stream at the foot of these precipices 
flows darkly and sluggishly over a wide peaty 
hollow amid the stumps and tortuous roots of old 
pine-trees, testifying that this place was once 
densely wooded with the primeval forest. How 
these trees could exist then, and why they cannot 
flourish now, is a problem not easy to solve. It 
is not that the climate or any of the conditions 
requisite to the growth of the pine-tree have 
changed. The probable reason is not the height 
of the spot, or the bleakness of the climate, but 
the exposure of the individual trees, when planted, 
to the prevailing storms. When once a gap was 
made in the serried, ranks of the pines as they 
grew in the original wood, they yielded one by 
one to the force of the tempest ; and the reason 
why we cannot now make our planted firs to grow 
in such a situation, where we see thousands of their 
fallen progenitors cumbering the ground with their 
bleached remains, is that we cannot imitate the 
slow, gradual method of Nature in giving them 
the shelter which, through long centuries of 
mutual crowding together, they afibrded to each 
other. 

Farther on the picture is complete when the 



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GLEN EUNACH 75 

first glimpse of Loch Eunach is seen at the next 
bothjr, which is built of stone^ and is meant for 
longer habitation. There a waterfall tumbles 
down from a huge bastion of Braeriach, the sound 
of which is lost in the immeasurable silence ; 
while beyond it the mountain ascends out of 
sight, plateau above plateau. Loch Eunach re- 
poses in the hollow between the great cliffs of 
Sg6ran Dubh and the gigantic sides of Braeriach, 
whose gloomy shadows are cast down upon its 
waters. From its situation it is exposed to all 
the winds of heaven, which often come in immense 
sweeps, lifting the water in blinding spindrift far 
over the shores. A universal darkness sometimes 
gathers over it on the brightest day without a 
warning, in a moment, and torrents of slanting 
rain descend that sting your face and wet you 
through and through. But the clouds and 
the mist vanish as rapidly as they appear, and an 
azure world is revealed in the clear depths below> 
unflecked and dazzling, and the clouds, even 
when they again form, are suspended overhead 
in soft, ethereal masses in reposeful majesty and 
calm, and the waters are broken everywhere by 
multitudinous swift-flowing ripples, that seem like 
shuttles working backwards and forwards, weaving 
the sheen of the waves that glance in the sun like 



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76 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

watered silk. The lower end of the loch is 
dammed by huge banks of granite sand of the 
whitest hue, formed by the disintegration of the 
rocks around by the ever-restless waters ; and 
here a walk along the shore reveals tufts of Alpine 
vegetation, Oxyria and Alpine Ladfs Mantle and 
rare Kteracia^ such as delight the botanist's eye 
and heart. Loch Eunach, like many of our 
Alpine lochs, abounds with delicate char, which 
make excellent eating. 

The head of the glen, beyond the loch, is shut 
in by a lofty and rugged amphitheatre of cliiFs 
called Corrour, which pass across between 
Braeriach and Sgoran Dubh, and down whose 
dark faces are long streaks and patches of light 
green, marking water-courses. Between the loch 
and these cliiFs there is a large tract of level land, 
of wonderful smoothness and verdure, which is a 
favourite haunt of the deer. Here they may 
often be found in the earlier and later seasons of 
the year, cropping the rich grass in security, while 
in summer they seek the higher elevations for the 
sake of the cooler air. This spot used to be 
included in the shielings of Rothiemurchus. 
One summer, about the beginning of the 
eighteenth century. Lady Mary, the wife of the 
famous laird, Patrick Grant, surnamed Macalpine, 



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GLEN EUNACH 77 

accompanied the maidens to the shielings of 
Corrour, for change of air ; and there, without 
nurse or doctor, in a mere hut tenanted by the 
cattle, was suddenly born her second son John, who 
got the name of Corrour from this circumstance. 
This son had a distinguished career as an officer 
in the army, and died abroad after a good deal of 
service. This incident has been commemorated 
by the name of Corrour being given to a large 
villa recently built by a relation of the present 
laird on the way to Aviemore. In all the district 
there is not a grander spot than Corrour. There 
are very few that can come up to it in all Scotland. 
The scenery of the deep corrie recalls that of 
Loch Coruisk among the Cuchullin Hills in Skye, 
and Loch Eunach equals, if it does not surpass, 
the wonderfully wild view of Loch Avon from 
the heights of Ben Macdhui above it. In that 
weird caldron of the storms, that den "where," 
as Wordsworth boldly says, "the earthquake 
might hide her cubs," the imagination could revel 
in the most dreadful shapes of ancient superstition. 
We do not wonder that before the Highland 
fancy, in such lonely places, visions of water-bulls 
and ghostly water- kelpies should shape themselves 
out of the gathering mists. 

To be alone on the shores of such a loch during 



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78 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

a tempest would be the height of sublimity. 
All Ossian*s terrors would be seen in the 
writhing mists and foaming waters and frowning 
rocks appearing and disappearing through the 
clouds, and the howling of the winds would seem 
like the spirits of the lost. Even on the 
brightest summer day, when sitting on the pure 
white granite sands on the margin of the loch, 
one feels as if sitting "on the shore of old 
romance," and has an eerie sensation as if the veil 
that separated the seen from the unseen were 
thinner in this place than anywhere else, and might 
be lifted up at any moment and some uncanny 
shape appear. 

Braeriach is in the Rothiemurchus forest, which 
extends to the Duke of Fife's forest on the Brae- 
mar side. It is one of the foremost of the great 
group of mountains which forms the roof of 
Scotland, and occupies the most imposing elevated 
ground in Britain. The boundary between the 
counties of Aberdeen and Inverness runs along the 
ridge of Braeriach, and is one of the grandest lines 
of delimitation in the kingdom. A well-made 
zigzag path, constructed by the deer-stalkers for 
bringing down the produce of the chase from the 
mountain, ascends from Loch Eunach, by which 
it is comparatively easy to climb to the top. On 



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GLEN EUNACH 79 

the way up many fascinating rills cross one's path, 
which flow down a course lined with the softest 
and greenest moss, inexpressibly pleasant to the 
eye in the desolate wilderness, while here and there 
cushions of the lovely moss-campion, starred with 
its numerous crimson blossoms, form a delightful 
sward by their side. You can hardly tear your- 
self away from the charm of the little transparent 
pools and from the sweet gurgling sound they 
make in the awestruck silence, and the delicious 
coldness of the sparkling water which you are 
tempted at every step to scoop up with your hand 
and drink, infusing new vigour into your parched 
frame. The granite rock holds these rills like a 
crystal goblet, and from its hard sides no particle 
is worn away to pollute the purity of the element 
or tame its brilliant lustre. The cairn crowning 
the highest point is only two or three yards from 
the brink of a tremendous precipice, which forms 
part of a long wall extending for upwards of two 
miles, perhaps the most formidable line of preci- 
pices to be found in Britain. Cairntoul, which 
rises up across the gorge to almost the same height 
as Braeriach, shapes the huge granite boulders of 
its top into a gigantic cairn, and bears in its highest 
corrie a beautiful little circular lake, which shows 
as green as an emerald in the afternoon light, and 



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8o ROTHIEMURCHUS 

gives rise to the white waters of the Garachory 
burn. Near the summit of Braeriach, at the 
north-east extremity, are five springs, which are 
perennial, and are called the ** Wells of Dee," 
The rills from these springs unite a little lower 
down the mountain at an elevation of about 40cx> 
feet, and farther on to the southward join the 
Garachory. These rills are supposed to form the 
principal source of the Dee. At this height you 
cannot distinguish the varied tones of the minstrelsy 
of the united stream as it breaks into foam among 
the numerous boulders in its course ; but you 
hear instead an all-pervading sigh or murmur in 
the air, like the distant echo of the shout of a 
multitude, which has an indescribably grand effect 
upon the mind. 

The panorama of the whole Highlands of 
Scotland, from the long broad summit of Ben 
Macdhui, gleaming red in the level afternoon 
light, surrounded by the wild grandeur of the 
crags about Loch Etchachan and Loch Avon, 
"the grisly cliffs that guard the infant rills of 
Highland Dee," to the highest point of Ben 
Nevis in the far western distance, scaling the 
heavens, and gathering a fringe of dark clouds 
around its brow, seems to spread out in one 
uninterrupted view before you — a tumultuous 



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GLEN EUNACH 8i 

ocean of dark mountains, with here and there 
the solid mass crested with glistening snow. 
Gazing on the sublime picture, in which the 
wild chaos of Natiu-e has swallowed up all traces 
of man's presence, and not a single human habita- 
tion or sign of cultivation is visible in all the 
immeasurable horizon, you feel to the full the 
inspiration of the scene. So quickened is the 
pulse, so elevated are the feelings^ that one hour 
in such a situation is worth a whole month on 
the tame level of ordinary life in the city or 
on the plain. The mind receives a keener edge, 
and is quick to perceive the interest that lies not 
only in the great whole of the view, but also in 
the smallest details of it. The mystery of the 
mountain is in the eye of the lonely wildflower 
that strives in a forlorn way to embellish the 
brown weather - beaten turf, and every tuft of 
grass that waves in the wind, and every little 
rill that trickles in the silence, seems to be con- 
scious of the sublimity of the spot. Problems of 
the original upheaval by some mighty internal 
force of the mass of primary rock which forms 
the base of the whole group of mountains occupy 
and stimulate the mind. The granite detritus, 
of which you take up a handful from the ground 
beside your feet, and let it pass through your 



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82 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

fingers, seems like sand from Nature's great hour- 
glass, speaking to you of worlds that have passed 
away in ages for which you have no reckoning, 
of universal decay and death ; and you are re- 
minded that these seemingly everlasting moun- 
tains are perishing, slowly when measured by 
man's notions of time, but surely, for, as the 
poet tells us, they are only clouds a little more 
stable and enduring that change their shapes and 
flow from form to form, and at last disappear for 
ever in the eternal blue. 



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VII 
LARIG GHRU 



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VII 

LARIG GHRU 

In the grand, beautifully-balanced view of the great 
Cairngorm range, obtained from the platform of 
the railway station at Aviemore, a remarkable 
cleft is seen between the lofty, long-extended 
plateaus of Braeriach and the great massive slopes 
of C^rngorm. This gloomy pass is called the 
Larig Ghru, or, to give it its full name, the Larig 
Ghruamach, or Savage Pass, from its extreme wild- 
ness. It is generally filled with writhing mists or 
dark shadows, but when the sun shines directly 
into it, it discloses its rocky sides moistened by 
the melting of the snow in the clefts above, and 
lit up with a silver radiance. You can then see far 
into its inner recesses, almost half-way through, and 
the vista reveals visions of bleak diils, red granite 
slopes, an almost perpendicular watercourse, 
rounded summits retreating one behind the other 
until the end is filled up with the huge shoulder 
of Ben Macdhui, which appears and disappears in 

85 



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86 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

the mist. Grand as it looks at a distance, you 
can only form a true conception of its savage 
sublimity when you actually enter for a consider- 
able distance into the rugged jaws of the pass 
itself. From both near and far points of view it 
has often attracted the attention of the artist, and 
pictures of it in oil or water-colours not seldom 
adorn the walls of the exhibitions of the Royal 
Academy in London. 

The Larig Ghru pierces the great Cairngorm 
range from south to north, and is the principal 
route by which the pedestrian can cross from 
Speyside to Braemar. It used to be much 
frequented by drovers and shepherds, who trans- 
ported their flocks and herds by this route from 
the hillsides of Aviemore and Kingussie to the 
markets of Castletown on the Dee. But since the 
opening of the Highland Railway between Inver- 
ness and Perth these markets have been discon- 
tinued, and the surplus sheep and cattle of the 
district are sent by train to the large towns and 
cities of the south ; consequently the pass has 
fallen into desuetude as a great public road, and is 
now used almost exclusively by the adventurous 
tourists who wish to penetrate into the sublime 
solitudes of the Cairngorms. There never was 
any road worthy of the name in its palmiest days 



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LARIG GHRU 87 

— only a species of bridle track ; but such as it 
was, it was kept in the best repair of which it was 
capable. But since its abandonment to the summer 
tourists, it has been allowed to revert to the wild- 
ness of Nature ; and were it not for the zealous 
efforts of members of the Cairngorm Club, who 
have taken the matter in hand, it would by this 
time have become impassable. They have in many 
places smoothed the roughest parts of the track, 
and in others indicated its course, when it would 
otherwise have disappeared in bog or rocky desert^ 
by the erection of stone men as guides. Especially 
welcome are these rude cairns amid the vast be- 
wildering heaps of d6bris that have fallen from the 
Ic^ty cliffs on both sides of the pass at its highest 
point, and meet together in the narrowest parts 
to bar the way. 

A gang of labourers employed for a few weeks 
would have removed all these difficulties of the 
route, and made it easy and pleasant for the tourist> 
either on foot or on horseback. But there are no 
public funds available for this purpose ; indeed, it 
is not considered desirable by the powers that be, 
that the track should be maintained at all. It 
would be considered a piece of good fortune if it 
should disappear altogether and these solitudes be 
entirely unvisited, so that the deer forest through 



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88 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

which it passes might not be disturbed. For 
many years the pass was closed to pedestrians, lest 
they should scare the game ; and it was only after 
many unpleasant struggles that the Scottish 
Rights of Way Society succeeded in opening up 
a through communication between Aviemore and 
Braemar, and re-establishing the public right of 
way through this defile, which had existed from 
time immemorial, although for a period it had 
been foolishly suffered to pass into abeyance. But 
though the freedom of passage was ultimately 
conceded, it was restricted to the narrowest line 
consistent with going through at all. No margin 
on either side of the track was permitted, and the 
pedestrian has in consequence to plant his feet in 
the exact footsteps of his predecessors, and so 
make the ruts ever deeper and more trying. In 
this way the path is the most difficult and tire- 
some of any in Great Britain, It is a pity that a 
more generous interpretation was not given to the 
licence allowed, so that the arduousness of the 
passage might have been somewhat mitigated. No 
one visiting this sublime solitude for the sake of 
the wild scenery would wish to inflict the slightest 
injury upon the sport of the huntsmen — their 
interests would have been as sacred to him as his 
own ; and the likelihood is that, treated with a 



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LARIG GHRU 89 

generous trustfulness, he might be even more 
zealous of the rights of the proprietor than, as 
human nature is constituted, he can be at present. 
The entrance of the Larig Pass is about six 
miles from Aviemore. There are two routes by 
which it can be reached, both equally delightful 
all the way. The most direct route is by the 
high road past the village of Inverdruie, which 
consists of a cluster of grey wooden houses like 
a Norwegian settlement, situated in a wide clear- 
ing in the fir-forest. The clang of the black- 
smith's anvil sounds musical in the still air, and 
the busy hum of the long row of wooden hives 
in the blacksmith's garden, filled with delicious 
heather honey, charms the summer silence. The 
schoolmaster's garden has bright borders of flowers 
in it, and the schoolhouse windows are filled 
with large pots of geranium in full scarlet blossom, 
which still further increase the resemblance to a 
Norwegian village. A bypath leads to the Dell, 
now let to summer visitors. The first lairds of 
Rothiemurchus lived here in the simplest fashion, 
and it was long used as a jointure house, com- 
manding in the centre of the plain, beside the 
much-divided channels of the Druie, covered 
with thickets of alder and willow, a very fine view 
all around the horizon. The main road passes the 



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90 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

neat and substantial United Free Church — built 
with much taste, principally of the granite 
boulders of the place, with its interior ceiling and 
fittings made as fragrant as a house of the forest 
of Lebanon with the aromatic smell of red-grained 
fir boards — and makes a wide opening in the 
forest all the way up to Coylum Bridge. At this 
point a board indicating that this is the com- 
mencement of the public road to Braemar by the 
Larig Pass stands in the wood on the right-hand 
side of the road before you cross the bridge. A 
delightful track along the bank of the shady 
river takes you through thickets of alder and 
clumps of fir to the rustic wooden bridge that 
crosses the Bennie, about two miles farther up 
in the heart of the forest. The loud murmurs of 
the river, whose many boulders awaken its volume 
to a wilder music, accompany you all the way, 
and the current of cool air carried along by the 
flowing waters cools your heated brow. At the 
wooden bridge, the other route from Aviemore 
round by the north shore of Loch-an-Eilan and 
through the long fir-woods, joins this route, and 
both cross the Bennie over the rustic steps. A 
kind of ford has been made a little above, by 
which vehicles can cross in a most jolting fashion 
when the water is low. The path after a while 



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LARIG GHRU 91 

emerges into open pasture ground beside the 
quiet stream lined with alders and birches. This 
green oasis was once cultivated, and on the other 
side of the river there are the ruins of two large 
substantial houses connected with the farm of 
Altdruie. They were tenanted by Macgregors, 
who were brought to this region by Rob Roy 
from the Braes of Balquidder. The farm has 
been allowed to become a waste wilderness, and 
is now part of the great deer forest, a solitary 
house and stable being built for the accommoda- 
tion of gillies and horses employed in connection 
with the sport. Beyond this bothy the path soon 
takes you through the luxuriant heather and 
gigantic juniper bushes, which form the under- 
wood of the forest, along the bank of the stream, 
to the direct opening of the Larig Ghru Pass. 
Here at the end of a fir-wood, a stone pillar and 
a guide-post stand, with the necessary directions. 
Were it not for these patent indications, the 
obscure entrance would often be missed by the 
stranger. 

For nearly a mile the path passes through a 
scraggy fir-forest, its narrow course almost con- 
ceded by the luxuriant heather meeting over it 
from both sides. The quality of the ground 
varies continually from soft peat-bog to hard 



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92 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

granite gravel and rough boulders, and one has 
to walk by faith and not by sight, getting many 
rude shocks and sudden trippings from unseen 
and unexpected obstacles. In wet weather this 
part of the route is altogether deplorable, and is 
the occasion of so many disasters that one becomes 
utterly reckless, plunging on, heedless of the 
sodden state of one's shoes and the draggled 
wretchedness of one's clothes. The track mounts 
continually upwards until at last you rise above 
the straggling forest into the wide open moorland, 
with a grand view all around, and the free air of 
heaven playing with grateful coolness on your 
face. Thereafter you pursue your way over 
huge moraines, the relics of the ancient glaciers 
that once swept over this region and converted it 
into an undulating strath of the most surprising 
labyrinthine heights and hollows. The path takes 
you along the edge of these great mounds, where 
their broken sides slope down precipitously to the 
channel of the burn that foams and roars over its 
boulders far below. On the other side, directly 
opposite you, the bare conical hill of Carn Eilrig 
rises to an imposing altitude. It is a magnificent 
spectacle, and the sound of many waters, that 
comes up to you and seems to fill all the hushed 
listening air like the shout of a multitude, is very 



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LARIG GHRU 93 

inspiring. The sides of the moraines are covered 
with masses of blaeberry and cranberry bushes 
loaded with their purple and scarlet berries ; for 
whatever may be the failiu-e of the wild-fruit 
harvest in the low grounds, where sudden frosts 
and blights in spring and early summer are so apt 
to wreck the richest promise, an abundant crop 
may always be gathered here, above the risk of 
such casualties. In the pass there are no less 
than six different kinds of berries growing — 
blaeberry, whortleberry, cloudberry, cranberry, 
crowberry, bearberry — in great abundance. The 
crowberry offers its refi"eshing black berries to the 
parched palate in great abundance beside the path ; 
the cloudberry, with its broad, currant-like leaves 
and orange, rasp-like fruit, haunts the bogs ; while 
the whortleberry mingles with the blaeberry in 
the same situations, but is easily distinguished 
from it by its more straggling habit and by the 
glaucous or grey-green colour of its leaves. Its 
berries are very like those of the blaeberry, only 
of a somewhat flatter shape and with a more 
refined taste. 

At the large boulder, surmounted by a stone 
man, which crowns the highest point of this part 
of the pass, and which commands a splendid 
vista of the richly-wooded scenery of the Spey 



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94 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

around Aviemore, the defile contracts, and on the 
one side are the great precipices of Braeriach, and 
on the other the rugged frowning buttresses of 
Creag-na-Leachan, which look as if they threatened 
to fall down and crush the visitor. These rocky 
jaws of the pass are composed of red granite, 
which looks in the heaps of broken debris at the 
bottom of the defile what it really is, but up in 
the overhanging difFs has taken on a dark purple 
bloom by weathering, which completely disguises 
its true character, and in stormy weather assumes 
a most gloomy and forbidding appearance, greatly 
enhancing the savage aspect of the gorge. 
Granite, wherever it occurs, is always characterised 
by a special type of scenery. It usually exhibits 
a tame uniformity of outline, unrelieved even by 
the great height to which it is often elevated. 
Owing to the ease with which this rock may be 
decomposed by the weather, and the protection 
which the angular rubbish thus formed gives the 
surface, being constantly renewed as often as it 
is wasted away by the elements, it forms long, 
uniform, gently-inclined slopes. But owing also 
to its being traversed by innumerable vertical 
joints, this rock forms savage corries and dizzy 
cliflFs, which the decays of Nature only make more 
precipitous, as they remove slice after slice from 



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LARIG GHRU 95 

their faces. Thus the different angular exposures 
of the rock to the wasting powers of Nature at the 
front and at the back of Braeriach, for instance, 
have given rise to the widely-different appearances 
of the hill from those two points of view, which 
so astonish the visitor. The smooth, undulating 
slopes and tableland on the west side of the hill 
contrast in a remarkable manner with the vertical 
walls into which the mountain breaks down all 
at once on the east and north sides, descending 
sheer for two thousand feet into the profound, 
mist-hidden glens. There is no other rock which 
combines these apparently incongruous features on 
the same range — the grandeur of lofty precipices 
and the smoothness of sloping shoulder and level 
top. 

About a mile farther up the pass you have 
to cross over the stream at a point where an 
enormous avalanche of angular masses of rock 
has poured down the left side of the hill into the 
valley. Through this cataract of stones you hear 
the loud rumble of an unseen cataract of water 
falling from the heights and forming one of the 
tributaries of the stream at your feet. The spot 
makes a kind of cut de sac or a recess on the 
route, where you can get shelter from the wind, 
soft materials for a couch to lie upon, fuel to 



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96 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

kindle a fire, and plenty of the coldest and most 
delicious water, all inviting you to rest a while, 
and make ready an alfresco meal. In this favoured 
corner of the pass, which may well be named le 
jarditty you may gather in abundance on the slopes 
around the rare and interesting cornel, the Comus 
suecicay beautiful alike in its flowering and fruiting 
stage. It has a large, brilliant white, strawberry- 
like blossom, but in the centre is a dark purple 
tuft, almost black, which gives it a very singular 
appearance. The apparent white petals are 
actually bracts, which remain on the plant when 
the flowers are fertilised, and gradually go back 
to the green colour of ordinary leaves, as is the 
case in the Christmas rose. The dark purple tuft 
in the centre consists in reality of the true flowers. 
In autumn the foliage of the cornel fades into 
beautiful red and orange tints, and the blossoms 
give place to one or more large, transparent scarlet 
berries. In its fruiting stage it is a very striking 
and conspicuous plant, and cannot fail to attract 
the eye even of the greatest novice in botany. I 
remember seeing the peasants in Norway hoeing 
it away as a weed in the potato-fields 1 

The stream above this spot for a considerable 
distance disappears below the ground, and the 
channel where it should flow is covered with 



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LARIG GHRU 97 

blaeberry and whordeberry bushes. Higher up 
you see it again pursuing its rejoicing course in 
the light of day and in unabated fulness, over 
stones covered with the softest and richest mosses 
of the most vivid green and golden colours. 
These mosses in the bed of the stream give to the 
music of the waters a peculiarly subdued and 
muffled tone, like a prolonged sigh, which greatly 
increases the feeling of melancholy in the forlorn 
waste around. The path here passes over ground 
peculiarly bare and storm-scalped. Hardly any 
vegetation grows on it save the white reindeer 
lichen, the brown alpine cudweed and grotesque 
tufts of upright clubmoss. The stones are 
blackened with various species of tripe de roche^ 
looking like fragments of charred parchment, 
which crunch under your tread into black powder. 
Nothing can exceed the loveliness of the lemon 
crust of the geographical lichen, which spreads 
over the granite boulders everywhere in great 
patches, looking like maps with its glossy black 
fructification and little waving lines. Its vivid 
yellow colour contrasts in the most charming 
manner with the vivid red of the surface of the 
granite stone on which it grows. It is a perfect 
feast of beauty to the eye that can appreciate it. 
Beyond this point you enter on a region of 



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98 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

extreme desolation. The stream that has been 
your companion all along has disappeared. You 
are now on the watershed of the pass, about 
2750 feet above the level of the sea. On your 
left hand the south-west side of Ben Macdhui 
rises up to the lofty sky-line in almost per- 
pendicular slopes of granite detritus, on which 
hardly a speck of grass, or lichen, or moss is seen. 
These slopes stand out against the clear blue, 
cloudless sky, when the sun on a bright day is 
shining full upon them, with the most intense 
scarlet radiance, like mounds of newly-burnt 
slag at the mouth of a mine. You have a sense 
of imprisonment, of oppression. Each rock and 
height seems endowed with personality, and im- 
presses you with a feeling of hostile and irresistible 
power. The red screes take on a look of cruel 
menace. Where the rocks of Creag-na-Leachan 
form the western boundary of these screes, there 
is a breakneck descent from Ben Macdhui into 
the pass called the Chimney, which presents 
almost insuperable difficulties to all but the ex* 
perienced climber. The course of a side stream, 
descending from the heights in a series of white 
cascades, breaks the uniformity of these great 
slopes, and is supposed to form the true source of 
the Dee. Immense heaps of rough and crowded 



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LARIG GHRU 99 

blocks of stone that have fallen from the clifls on 
both sides of the pass obstruct the way, and being 
often sharp and set on edge in all varieties of awk- 
ward positions, the footing is exceedingly precari- 
ous, and the progress over them must be slow and 
cautious. The stone men of the Cairngorm Club 
are an immense help in the perplexing intricacies 
of the track. Here and there oases of Alpine 
verdure occur among the leafless cairns, where 
the weary eye is refreshed by seeing frequent 
grey-green rosettes of Alpine cudweed upholster- 
ing mossy ground, tufts of glossy dark green 
Alpine rue, and, in one or two places, clusters of 
the rare and striking Saussurea alpinay with its 
pale blue composite flowers and large, handsome 
leaves. In hollow basins among these heaps of 
detritus are the three principal pools of Dee. 
They are evidently formed by the perpendicular 
stream that falls from the shoulder of Ben 
Macdhui, and is lost for a time under the cairns, 
to reappear at intervals in these sheets of water, 
where the ground is unobstructed. 

Clambering over the last barrier of wreckage 
from the cliffs, you come down on the other side 
to the sourte of the Dee. There you see the 
river rushing full-bodied and complete at once 
from under the huge mass of moss-covered stones. 



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loo ROTHIEMURCHUS 

proclaiming its freedom in a loud, confused roar- 
ing. You obtain a long vista of the other side of 
the pass, with the narrow, rugged path gleaming 
white at intervals, and the noble river, which has 
no superior in Scotland for the clearness of its 
waters and the uniform swiftness of its current, 
winding down at its side to the cultivated glens 
and straths. Amid an array of giant mountains 
unequalled in Scotland within a similar area, 
forming the guardians of the pass on either side, 
your eye catches the magnificent steep sides and 
conical top of Cairn Toul, which fills up the 
whole southern side of the gorge. You sit down 
beside the clear waters that give you such a sense 
of overflowing, unfailing fulness, and yield your- 
self freely to the thoughts and feelings that arise 
in your heart. You feel that there is a spell 
upon you which it would be sinful to disturb. 
The imagination of a Dor6 could suggest nothing 
more wildly desolate than this secluded fountain- 
head of waters, with the mountain streams mur- 
muring around it and the vast solitary peaks 
rising above it, shutting it out from all except the 
sun for a few hours at midday and the stars at 
night. Nothing can exceed the loneliness of the 
place. One coming here alone would almost 
thank his shadow for the suggestion of companion- 



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LARIG GHRU loi 

ship which it afforded. But what a field for 
meditation to one who is in league with the 
stones of the field, and who can interpret the 
mysterious signs in which the dumb mountjuns 
speak to him ! The stream has the voice of a 
sibyl uttering mystic oracles ; and an occasional 
Alpine bird flitting about, made almost tame by 
its ignorance of man, soothes the listening air 
with its tender twitter, and makes the place where 
it is seen and heard the very soul of the loneli- 
ness. How full of significance does every stone 
become, and how touching is the mute appeal of 
each Alpine flower by your side ! You feel your- 
self a small and unheeded atom in the midst of 
the overwhelming mass of matter around you ; 
and yet you feel at the same time that you belong 
necessarily to the heart of things, and supply the 
element of consciousness to them all, and are 
folded closely round in the arms of Infinite Love. 
In all your life you have never been so alone with 
Nature, in the very heart of it, as here. You 
seem to hear the pulse of the earth, to feel some- 
thing of the eternal leisure of the mountains. 
Nature lays her calm cool hand upon the tumult 
of your heart, and while she humbles you, and 
makes you poor in your own esteem, she exalts 
and enriches you with her wealth of grand 



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I02 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

suggestions. On a calm summer's day the 
mystery of the origin of the river in this spot 
captivates the mind and recalls all the romance 
and tenderness of *^ youth and buried time." But 
what must it be in winter, or in a storm, when the 
shallow waters are changed into raging torrents, 
and the wind is shrieking fiercely among the 
rocks, and the sky is blotted out with dark 
clouds, and the conies are filled with swirling 
mists and stinging rains and blinding snow ! 



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VIII 
GLENMORE AND CAIRNGORM 



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VIII 

GLENMORE AND CAIRNGORM 

The estate of Rothiemurchus is very compact and 
is all comprehended within our horizon. Nearly 
the whole of it may be seen at the same time from 
any elevated central point. But its attractions 
are greatly enhanced by the estates that are im- 
mediately contiguous to it, viz. Glenmore on the 
north and Kinrara on the south. Glenmore is 
within the circuit of the same hills, and so also is 
a part of Kinrara, whose higher points may be 
seen included in the same comprehensive view. 
But the Ord Ban separates between the scenery 
of Rothiemurchus and the scenery of Kinrara, 
while it reveals Loch Morlich and the landscapes 
around the shooting lodge of Glenmore lying at 
the foot of Cairngorm, which are unseen from the 
low grounds around. From the top of this con- 
spicuous hill you see the horizon of Rothiemurchus 
to the north, a horizon of dusky fir-forests, and 
the horizon of Kinrara to the south, a horizon 

105 



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io6 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

of graceful birch-woods, another and altogether 
different world of beauty. Both Kinrara and 
Glenmore belong to the Duke of Richmond and 
Gordon, and Rothiemurchus comes in between 
them, partaking of the characters of both places, 
passing gradually into the upland grandeur of 
Glenmore, and shading insensibly into the quiet, 
soft loveliness of Kinrara. 

To begin with Glenmore, which is bounded by 
the same hills to the north and east as Rothie- 
murchus, there are two routes by which the 
shooting lodge may be reached. The first is by 
Coylum Bridge and Altnacaber and through the 
fir-forests that line the banks of the Luineag or 
past the farm of Achnahatnich. The road is a 
remarkably pleasant one. The open spaces at 
Achnahatnich are a beautiful contrast to the 
dusky woods around. Before they were broken 
up for cultivation they were covered exclusively 
with an immense growth of heather and juniper 
bushes, from the latter of which the place gets its 
name of the Field of the Junipers. The light 
green meadows and cornfields, with the sun shin- 
ing full upon them, refresh the eye through the 
vistas of the dark trees, and the occasional 
cottages, far separated from each other, relieve 
the oppression of the solitude. The hills are not 



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GLENMORE AND CAIRNGORM 107 

very high, but extremely picturesque, forming 
one continuous line of rounded masses of nearly 
equal altitude, their bases covered with pine-woods 
and their summits with bracken and variegated 
mosses and purple heather. At the western ex- 
tremity they terminate in a steep declivity, with a 
red scaur running down the face of it. On the 
highest point are the ruins of an ancient Celtic fort, 
which commands a magnificent view, and below 
it is a cup-marked stone, beside which the early 
defenders of the fort used to worship. This ridge 
descends towards the uplands, and between it and 
the range of hills beyond there is a deep depres- 
sion, which is the commencement of the Sluggan 
Pass, leading straight from Abernethy to Glenmore, 
and becoming grander as you proceed through it. 
A considerable stream lies far down at the bottom, 
and the sides of the defile are exceedingly steep, 
covered with a rout of trees that seem to clamber 
up, one beyond another, and occupy the most 
precarious positions. It looks more like a scene 
in Switzerland or Norway than any in this country. 
Through the Sluggan Pass the way opens out 
upon the richly-wooded plains of Kincardine, 
and the valley of the Spey northward past Boat 
of Garten, and the blue fields around Grantown, 
until the far horizon is closed by the traditionary. 



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io8 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

sharply-cut hill called Benn-na-CIaidh — or the 
Cut of the Sword — cleft from summit to foot by 
one stroke of a prehistoric giant's brand. 

Returning to the Glenmore route the path 
reveals at every turn some new aspect of land- 
scape loveliness. A herd of deer may often be 
seen quietly feeding in the open grassy spaces at 
a little distance from the road, unheeding the 
presence of the passer-by, if he does not shout to 
them. Feeding for the most part on the low 
grounds, where the grass is sweeter and more 
abundant, such deer seem larger than usual, and 
confirm a statement often made that before our 
native deer had been driven by men to the higher 
and poorer regions of our country, they were 
a larger race. In the superficial strata of the 
earth, horns of at least sixteen tines have been 
found ; and it is a well-known fact that when a 
herd is confined to the luxuriant conditions of a 
deer-park, it will develop larger horns than when 
left wild on the hills. Midway on this route a 
rustic wooden bridge crosses the river and a path 
over it leads to a mineral well in the forest — 
which has drawn patients from far and near — and 
strongly impregnates the surrounding air with the 
smell of sulphuretted hydrogen. About two 
miles beyond, the shores of Loch Morlich come 



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GLENMORE AND CAIRNGORM 109 

in sight, and the drive up to the lodge is as fine 
as anything in this country. The loch itself is a 
beautiful sheet of water, surrounded on all sides 
by fir-woods, and the road passes along the edge 
of the water. It is about three miles round, 
forming a wide circular basin, every part of which 
is visible, without any bays or promontories. 
There are hardly any trout or char in it, the 
prevalent pike having nearly extirpated them. 
The loch is 1046 feet above the level of the sea ; 
and the view, looking down its vast area to the 
hills beyond, seems much more extensive than 
one could believe, looking up at it from the 
reverse way. At the upper end there are great 
banks of the smoothest white granite sand, formed 
by the attrition of the waters on the rocks around, 
in which grow dwarf juniper bushes and willows, 
spreading widely and flatly over the surface, and 
knitting the particles of sand into a compact 
sward. The fir-trees and alders along these 
banks are most magnificent specimens of their 
kind. As you go round the head of the loch you 
come upon some giants of the ancient forest that 
were spared when the Glenmore Company, a firm 
of wood merchants from Hull, bought the forest 
from the Duke of Richmond for about ^20,000. 
The timber of these glorious trees was extremely 



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1 1 o ROTHIEMURCHUS 

valuable, and in all Scotland the firs of Glenmore 
were considered by far the grandest and oldest. 
The company, it is said, even with the gross 
wastefulness of their mismanagement, cleared 
;^70,ocx) of profit. Among green and vigorous 
trees you come upon the wrecks of the ancient 
forest, trees of enormous girth and great height, 
stripped by the winds even of their bark, and like 
huge skeletons, holding up their bleached bones to 
the pitying heavens, or, broken by the violence of 
the storms, strewing the ground with the fragments 
of their trunks and boughs and leaving their 
twisted and entangled roots with large masses of 
the surface soil clinging to them high in air. 
The alders are equally magnificent and venerable. 
They are the largest and oldest specimens I have 
ever seen, their branches, tortuous by age and 
long resistance to the weather, knotted into the 
most fantastic forms. The trunks of such trees 
are often hollow, or filled with mouldering dust, 
and they are frequented by the rare crested tit, 
the phantom bird of these old Caledonian forests, 
which is oftener seen in the Glenmore woods 
than anywhere else. Among the interesting 
plants that occur in this forest are the Moncses 
grandifloray the one-flowered winter-green, with 
its delicate white fragrant blossoms crowning its 



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GLENMORE AND CAIRNGORM iii 

lily-of-the-valley stem. The LintuBa borealis is 
also somewhat frequent in flower among the 
recesses of the woods. These two plants may 
be said to be relics of the old Caledonian forest, 
whose flora and fauna were similar to those of 
Norway and Sweden. From its far inland, 
inaccessible position, Glenmore was less exposed 
to the ravages of the invading foes than any other 
part of Scotland ; and hence the trees were 
allowed to grow age after age and generation after 
generation with impunity — without risk of axe or 
fire — and it became the great nursery of the pine- 
forests of Scotland, where we see the conditions 
of the old Caledonian forests reproduced at the 
present day. 

The road along the shores of the loch com- 
mands an unbroken view on the opposite side of 
the great wall of mountains between Cairngorm 
and Braeriach, which is one of the most stupendous 
lines of precipices in Britain. It rivets the 
attention all the way by its simple grandeur and 
its wide extent. This wall of mountains is not 
seen from other points, being lost in the mass of 
Cairngorm, which seems to form part of the 
mountains around the Larig Ghru Pass. It is 
only as we advance that they reveal themselves 
along the sky-line, forming lofty acclivities and 



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1 1 2 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

huge precipices, and long horizontal plateaus, 
rising up abruptly from the basin of the loch. 
The snow lingers far on in summer among the 
rifts and shady recesses, and brings out by con- 
trast the blackness of the grim rocks, adding 
greatly to the sublimity of the landscape. On a 
gloomy day, when the sky is covered with dark 
clouds, the lofty wall of granite assumes a wild, 
uniformly forbidding appearance. Very little 
detail is seen, and the eye can form no true idea 
of the great height of the precipices. But on a 
clear bright day, the sunshine illumines each scaur 
and cleft of the granite rocks, and shows the 
great variety of their appearance, and they gain 
immensely in sternness of expression and in vast- 
ness of height. Glenmore Lodge before its recent 
reconstruction was a curious conglomeration of 
buildings, added, one after the other, to the 
original central structure. It is now a well- 
designed Highland lodge with a picturesque 
effect which harmonises well with the character 
of the surrounding scenery. 

The ascent of Cairngorm is made by the path 
that winds across the stream at the bottom of the 
valley. The distance to the top may be about 
five miles by a tedious, but not a difficult route, 
a distinct path marking the gradual course to the 



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GLENMORE AND CAIRNGORM 113 

cairn that crowns the highest point The first 
part of the way leads past a solitary farmhouse 
called Ricaonachan, which used to be the shooting 
lodge, for two miles through a wooded defile 
formed by a large burn from the southern side of 
Cairngorm. Crossing this burn by a rustic wooden 
bridge, you climb the actual side of the hill and 
emerge on a wide open moorland, from whence, 
by a long, gradual incline by a deer-shooters* zig- 
zag path, you are brought up to the ridge, from 
which the summit is soon reached. The surface 
of the mountain is extremely barren, consisting 
mostly of rough granite gravel and boulders with 
hardly any vegetation. The naked soil produces 
very few of the Alpine plants that are conspicuous 
on other mountains of similar elevation. Here 
and there a rare sedge or scale-moss gladdens the 
eye of the botanist ; and large tufts of a chocolate- 
brown AndrecBay and patches of a snowy scalloped 
lichen called Cetraria nivalis^ both almost entirely 
confined to the Cairngorm range, remind you of 
the vegetation of the Polar regions. In the 
southern corrie near the top, well-shaded from the 
sun, a large wreath of snow usually lingers till 
August, and then melts completely away. The 
mountain is entirely bare of snow for about a 
month or six weeks ; the last relics of the past 



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1 14 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

winter almost mingling with the first fall of next 
winter's new snow. The origin of the large 
burn at the foot of the hill is from the melting of 
the snow in this corrie. The course of the water 
downwards may be traced by the tract of rich 
green verdure which it nourishes, and which forms 
a great contrast to the barren sterility of the rest 
of the region. It is this green tract of verdure 
that has given its name to the mountain. 

A few hundred yards beyond the crowning 
cairn, there is a spring of deliciously cold water 
called Fuaran-a-Mharcuis or the Marquis's well, 
which is often a spot of blackness amid the snow, 
or entirely obliterated by it. The tourist is not 
infrequently induced to go on from this point to 
the summit of Ben Macdhui, which adds con- 
siderably to the arduousness of the feat. Descend- 
ing over the steep cliife by the stream on the 
south-western side of Cairngorm, you come to the 
shore of Loch Avon, which is unequalled among 
the Scottish lochs on account of its utter loneli- 
ness and the stern magnificence of its mountain 
setting. For a large part of the year the sun 
cannot reach it on account of the loftiness of the 
rocky walls which shut it in. The wind for the 
same reason does not often ruffle its surface, and 
it stretches before the eye for a mile and a half, a 



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GLENMORE AND CAIRNGORM 115 

calm mirror in which the wild solitude sees itself 
reflected with double grandeur. Its waters are of 
a startlingly blue colour, breaking at the shore into 
green and cobalt hues like the bickering colours 
on a peacock's neck. At the west end of this 
loch is the famous Clach Dhian or Shelter Stone, 
which is an immense boulder of granite resting on 
other stones, and thus forming a cave suflScient to 
accommodate five or six men. This spot is often 
used as a sleeping-place when the tourist is over- 
taken by the darkness, and it is suflSciently wind- 
proof and dry to provide fairly comfortable 
quarters for a summer night. Bearing south-east 
from this well-known landmark, and climbing up 
by the stream to Loch Etchachan, a foot-track 
leads to the top of Ben Macdhui, where an un- 
equalled and uninterrupted view of all the High- 
land hills will reward the climber's pluck and 
perseverance. 

The views from Cairngorm, notwithstanding 
its great elevation, are by no means remark- 
able — the distant ones being too vague and 
indistinct to produce a deep impression, and the 
near ones consisting of rolling billows of granite 
mountains unbroken by bold precipice or deep 
ravine, and leaving little to the imagination. But 
what has distinguished it more than anything else is 



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1 1 6 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

the peculiar crystals that are found upon it. The 
upward path is strewn with large pieces of granite 
interspersed with veins of quartz, which have been 
broken in order to find transparent gems. But in 
every case the quartz has crystallised into opaque, 
white hexagonal crystals, which have no beauty 
or value. It is very rarely that one comes upon a 
perfect specimen of the gem among the debris of 
the mountain. The best crystals have been found 
in drusic cavities in the granite, and they vary 
in colour from an almost black or dark smoky 
hue, to a brilliant yellow like an Oriental topaz. 
The largest specimen ever found is in possession of 
Mr. Farquharson of Invercauld. It was picked up 
in 1780 on the top of Ben Avon, and weighed 49 
lbs. Invercauld gave ^40 for it. Cairngorms have 
been purchased at a cheap rate by the local jewellers, 
but an extravagant price has been charged for them 
elsewhere. Very fine specimens used to be dis- 
covered on the mountain in tolerable profusion ; 
but they are now comparatively scarce. 

The other route by which Glenmore Lodge is 
approached is more roundabout. It proceeds 
past Loch - an - Eilan, the cross-road to Glen 
Eunach and the entrance to the Larig Ghru Pass. 
The track goes through the forest, which in this 
place is somewhat thin and open, and admits of 



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GLENMORE AND CAIRNGORM 117 

the continuous luxuriant growth of heather among 
the trees. It used to be much frequented by 
the country people, but it has gradually fallen 
into desuetude, until now it has almost ceased to 
be traversed. The consequence is that the heather 
has grown over it, obliterating the ruts of the 
wheels, although still leaving sufficiently distinct 
traces of the existence of the path, which the 
horse has no difficulty in pursuing. It is a 
delightfully soft track, freed from bumping and 
jerking by the elastic cushions of the heather, 
although it passes over irregularities of the surface, 
over heights and depths that might otherwise 
endanger the safety of the vehicle. There is no 
forest-path in Rothiemurchus so charming as this 
is. It offisrs at every turn far-stretching views 
over the forest of the open country to the west 
and north and splendid glimpses of the dark 
Cairngorm mountains on the right, while the 
vistas in the forest itself are enchanting. To do 
justice to it, one ought to traverse it leisurely on 
foot on a bright summer day, when every knoll 
and decaying old root, covered with mystic vege- 
tation, affords endless sources of delight. Here 
and there huge moraines, covered with heather, 
and crowned by clumps of fir-trees, with wooden 
huts on the highest points as lookout stations 



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1 1 8 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

for the deer, rise up on the right hand, between 
you and the vast wall of mountains filling up the 
sky behind, and bear witness to the destructive 
forces that in far past glacial times sculptured the 
landscape. Marshy places and little lochans add 
the variety of their black, still, shining waters, 
fringed with reeds and rushes, to the whole scene, 
and mirror the fir-trees in their depths. I re- 
member vividly how on one occasion the sunset 
glow reddened -all the pines of this forest path, 
rested as an indescribable glory on the grey 
mountain peaks, and filled all the air with a 
suffused golden sheen that made every object 
which it illumined a picture. The track con- 
tinues the same to the end. It takes you to the 
high deer-fence which separates the property of 
Glenmore from Rothiemurchus, when passing 
through the gate you come to Loch Morlich. 
The margin of stones and sand is decked with 
bright green water-mosses in great variety and 
with immense quantities of sundew of unusually 
large size. The extraordinary profusion of the 
tufts of this curious carnivorous plant or vegetable 
spider along the beach is due to the great develop- 
ment of insect-life which is often seen by the side 
of a loch, the one acting and re-acting upon the 
other. I was struck by the same circumstance at 



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GLENMORE AND CAIRNGORM 119 

Loch Gamhna near Loch-an-Eilan, where large 
masses of luxuriant sundews form quite a reddish- 
brown sward on the margin of the loch ; and at 
Loch Insh the shore is equally covered with large 
tufts of the rarer long-leaved species, the Drosera 
anglica. The road comes to a large sluice where 
the Luineag issues from the western end of Loch 
Morlich, over which you pass on foot, while your 
vehicle crosses by a shallow ford a little farther 
down. This sluice was constructed to regulate 
the flow of the water of the loch into the river, 
when floats of timber, cut in the forest, had to be 
sent down into the Spey, and from thence on to 
the sea. The dam banked up the waters of the 
loch to a higher level than the ordinary one, and 
all at once the imprisoned flood was released, and 
carried the timber with it over every obstruction 
down to the Spey with great impetuosity. 

The ordinary road to^ Glenmore Lodge is 
crowded with vehicles and bicycles during the 
season, for this is one of the show places of the 
district, and most of the visitors wish to ascend 
Cairngorm. At the lodge there gather visitors 
from all parts of the world, and parties can be 
traced by aid of a glass all the way up the slopes 
of the mountain to the top. In the afternoon 
the crowd disappears, and there falls a great 



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1 20 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

stillness upon the place. It reverts then to its 
wonted loneliness, enhanced by the contrast of 
the bustling scenes that preceded. The presence 
of such a multitude of people interferes no doubt 
to a certain extent with one's thorough enjoyment 
of the solitude, and is apt to take away the bloom 
and sentiment of romance, which requires loneliness 
for its development, and to prevent the peculiar 
thoughts which the Alpine landscapes themselves 
suggest, while it introduces alien ideas of the 
great world left behind. But the scene is on 
so vast a scale that humanity seems to be entirely 
swallowed up, and the great dumb mountains 
necessarily subdue the soul to a kindred peace. 
The popularity of Cairngorm does not seem to 
scare away the deer from their accustomed haunts 
in the neighbouring hills and corries, or to destroy 
in the least degree the sport of the huntsmen. 
There is room for all ; and Nature and human 
nature act and re-act upon each other, for it is 
to be hoped that the crowd of visitors take back 
with them to the busy haunts of man the visions 
and inspirations that come to them from the ever- 
lasting hills. 



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IX 
KINRARA 



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IX 



KJNRARA 



The names given to various localities on the 
banks of the Spey — that river of wondrous 
reels and strathspeys — are very musical. They 
have a poetical charm which captivates the 
imagination and suggests ideal pictures. Cairn- 
gorm, Rothiemurchus, Rebhoan, Altdruie, Kin- 
rara, speak of an older language, of a haunted 
past, and of traditions of romance which inform 
all the scenes. Kinrara sounds like one of the 
names which the poet Campbell gave to his 
mystical creations of Highland lore. When we 
hear it we think of Lochiel, and CuUoden, and 
Glenara. I remember the first time I came 
across the name. It was in the midst of 
the forest of Rothiemurchus, near Aviemore, 
that I saw it, inscribed on a white board of 
the Scottish Rights of Way Association with 
an arrow pointing the way to it to the tourist 

123 



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1 24 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

across the rough Larig Pass from Braemar. At 
the head of Loch-an-Eilan, farther on, I saw the 
magic name again on a similar board with a 
similar arrow indicating its proximity. But it 
seemed to me to retreat the nearer I got to it, 
like the foot of the rainbow, and it was not till 
some time afterwards that I was able to locate and 
visit it. I then found that the reality behind the 
name did not belie its melodiousness. It recalled 
fair visions that were quite in harmony with its 
musical sound. 

The horizon ofKinrara isquite diflferent from that 
of Rothiemurchus, the district that lies next to it on 
the north. Rothiemurchus obtains its name from 
the dark, continuous forest of firs which covers 
the extensive plain at the foot of the Cairngorm 
mountains ; whereas Kinrara is covered mostly 
with birches, which give a much softer aspect to 
the scenery. The principal hill of the district, 
which rises behind Kinrara, called Tor Alvie, is 
covered with birch- trees, and many fine specimens 
of this tree, self-sown, occur among the woods, 
with pure white stems and long, drooping branches. 
The woods are all natural. They climb over 
rocky ground with whose rugged features their 
mottled stems of black corrugated bark, below 
hoary with lichens and showing milk - white 



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KINRARA 125 

smoothness of stem above, exquisitely harmonise. 
Here and there they gather into thick, shady 
clumps or open out into sunny glades, where 
shadow and sunlight play over the mossy ground 
and freckle the sward with delicious wavelets. 
The landscapes partake of the character of wild, 
disordered, natural scenes and carefully-dressed 
park scenery. The situation of Kinrara House is 
exceptionally fine. Overshadowed by the birch- 
clad hill behind and shrouded by groves of 
ornamental trees, it seems to have too much 
seclusion, and yet the policies cover such a 
wide space that they afford ample room for all 
the trees that crowd around. The trim and 
velvety lawns gradually lose their formality and 
merge imperceptibly into untutored wilderness. 
The view in front from the elevated terrace is 
over open and widely-extended ground on to the 
huge masses of mountains from the Sgoran Dubh 
to the dark blue hills of Glenfeshie in the distance, 
comprehending a vast variety of scenery within 
its bounds. Ridge after ridge seems to come 
down from the blue firmament in ever-graduating 
shades of deeper blue ; the far horizons are full 
of peaks and plateaus whose vast spaces and 
intervals are so crowded and foreshortened that 
they can only be distinguished by their varying 



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126 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

colours, and look like a wondrous mosaic built up 
against the sky. In late autumn it is a painter's 
palette ; ever jr shade of green and red and yellow 
is to be seen in the foliage. The house is not 
visible among the trees from the public road. It 
has no beauty of architecture, being a plain square 
building, depending for its effect entirely upon the 
loveliness of its situation. 

This retired spot was chosen by the celebrated 
Jane, Duchess of Gordon, as her summer residence 
for many years. She was devotedly attached to 
it, and drew to it, by the charm of her manner and 
her brilliant conversation, crowds of the highest 
nobility of England and Scotland from July to 
November. In London the duchess was the life 
and soul of courtly circles. She greatly delighted 
George III. by her wit and vivacity ; and his 
household was charmed by her personificatio^ of 
the provincial peculiarities of the natives of 
Scotland and Ireland. Knowing a few words of 
Gaelic she could represent the nasal pronunciation 
and vehement gestures of a Highland minister in 
the pulpit, and give examples of the Scottish dialect 
and Aberdonian intonation, which always threw 
the royal listeners into convulsions of laughter. 
Her influence at Court was used to help on 
candidates for military or civil situations from the 



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KINRARA 127 

Highlands ; and the ministers of state could not 
resist the earnestness of her pleading when she 
espoused the cause of some rural prot^gd from 
Badenoch or Strathspey. Pitt, **that heaven- 
born minister," as he was called, was often cajoled 
into placing her favourites in high positions in the 
Treasury and Horse Guards. She was of the 
utmost service in increasing the military forces 
of our country during the Napoleonic wars. She 
fanned the ancient martial spirit of the people, 
and by the powerful patronage of the Gordon 
family she helped to produce a host of brave 
officers whose honourable deeds will long live 
in the annals of the British army. Dressed in 
Highland bonnet and feathers with tartan scarf 
and short tartan petticoats, she appeared on festive 
occasions in the district, and raised recruits by 
offering to dance with any likely young man to 
the music of the bagpipes ; and at the end of the 
reel she handed to her partner a guinea and a 
cockade, in the name of King George and the 
Duke of Gordon. It was even said that she did 
not hesitate to bestow a kiss as a reward to those 
who enlisted in this way ; and thus many scores 
of young men, the finest in the countryside, in 
spite of the remonstrances and lamentations of 
their female friends, were decoyed into the military 



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128 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

service of their country. By devices like these 
was formed the famous 92nd Regiment or Gordon 
Highlanders, which added fresh glories to the 
national banners in every country and clime. Mrs. 
Grant of Laggan wrote a song* in connection 
with this regiment, which has always been very 
popular : — 

** Oh, where, tell me where, is your Highland laddie gone ? 
He's gone with streaming banners^ where noble deeds arc 

done. 
And my sad heart will tremble till he comes safely home. 

Oh, where, tell me where, did your Highland laddie stay ? 
He dwelt beneath the holly trees, beside the rapid Spey, 
And many a blessing followed him the day he went away." 

At the southern extremity of Tor Alvie, a high 
cairn of stones was erected by the late Duke of 
Gordon, the son of this famous duchess, with a 
tablet commemorating the brave officers belonging 
to this district who fell at Waterloo— Sir Robert 
MacAra of the Black Watch, and Colonel John 
Cameron of the 92nd Regiment, and their valorous 
countrymen. On the eastern brow of the hill is a 
rustic hermitage, commanding a most magnificent 
view of cultivated valley and heath-clad brow, 
dark forests and frowning mountains. Here there 
is also a pillar to the memory of the last Duke of 
Gordon, the popular chief and landowner, which 
stands out prominently above every other object 



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KINRARA 129 

in the centre of the vast landscape and is seen from 
all directions. 

The Duchess of Gordon was as much at home 
among the humble cottages of the poor on her 
estate as among the splendours of a Court. She 
was greatly beloved bjr all her tenantry, and de- 
lighted in making others sharers in her own 
happiness. Mrs. Grant of Laggan said of her 
that " she presented the least favourable aspect 
of her character to the public," and that "she 
showed most in her Highland home, where her 
warm benevolence and steady friendship were 
most felt." There is a sprightly song in Eraser's 
" Gaelic Airs," which records the gaieties of the 
times when she was the leading star of the bright 
social firmament. Correspondingly great, there- 
fore, was the gloom and sorrow when the news 
came that she had died on 12th May 1812 ; and 
Mrs. Allardyce of Cromarty wrote the following 
elegiac verses regarding the sad event : — 

*' Fair in Kinrara blooms the rose. 

And softly waves the drooping willow, 
Where beauty^s faded charms repose. 

And splendour rests on earth's cold pillow ; 
Her smile, who sleeps in yonder bed, 

Could once awake the same to pleasure. 
When fashion's airy train she led, 

And formed the dance's frolic measure. 



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I30 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

When was called forth our youth to amis» 

Her eye inspired each martial spirit ; 
Her mind, too» felt the Muse's charms, 

And gave the meed to modest merit. 
But now, farewell, fair northern star, 

Thy beams no more shall Courts enlighten, 
No more lead youth, our youth, to war. 

No more the rural pastures brighten. 

Long, long! thy loss shall Scotia mourn, 

Her vales, which thou wert wont to gladden. 
Shall look long cheerless and forlorn. 

And grief the minstrel's music sadden $ 
And oft amid the festive scene. 

Where pleasure cheats the midnight pillow, 
A sigh shall breathe for noble Jane, 

Laid low beneath Kinrara's willow/' 

The remains of the Duchess of Gordon wetc 
brought north from London when she died and 
laid in a spot which she had often indicated in 
her walks as the place where she wished to be 
buried. It lies not far from the mansion house 
in a spacious park on the banks of the river 
where it has a quick clear current and fills its 
banks from side to side, murmuring a perpetual 
requiem as it flows past, deepening the peace of 
the dead. There is no other grave but her own 
in this quiet resting-place ; but the secluded spot 
was an ancient graveyard connected with some 
chapel dedicated to St. Eda, which disappeared 



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KINRARA 131 

ages ago, and of which not a trace now survives. 
Who this St. Eda was is not known, some sup- 
posing that he was the Bishop of Farus in Ireland, 
but the probability rather is that this is a dedica- 
tion to St. Aiden corrupted into St. Eda — the 
celebrated Celtic saint of Lindisfarne, who was 
highly popular throughout the Highlands, and 
had many churches consecrated in his name. A 
handsome monument, in the shape of a truncated 
obelisk, formed of granite from the neighbouring 
mountains, was erected on the spot by her noble 
husband, and on it is commemorated, at her own 
request, the names of all her children, with the 
exceptionally brilliant marriages which they had 
made ; her own name being inscribed on a plain 
marble slab covering the grave. Lord Huntly 
planted some larches round the enclosure which 
have grown into fine trees and cast down an 
appropriate funereal shade on the sod ; and Lady 
Huntly laid out a beautiful shrubbery and ex- 
tended the larch plantation, making paths through 
it. To the charming scenery around Kinrara this 
lonely tomb gives an air of tender sadness. 
Sleeping there, far from the stately mausoleum 
where the dust of her illustrious kindred reposes, 
she has taken complete possession of the spot, 
that was so dear to her in life, by her inefFace- 



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132 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

able memory which mingles with every object 
around, sighs in the wind, and syllables her name 
by the airy voices of the solitude, by the waving 
of the trees and the flowing of the river. One 
of the distinguished visitors at Kinrara during 
the lifetime of the duchess was Prince Leopold, 
the husband of the lamented Princess Charlotte, 
and subsequently King of the Belgians. On the 
day of his arrival he was taken up to the top of 
the Tor Alvie, and there he was surprised to 
meet the Marquis of Huntly, who at a precon- 
certed signal summoned his clansmen from their 
places of concealment among the heather and 
birch-trees around, who rose in their plaided 
array to give the prince a right royal welcome. 
" Ah ! " exclaimed the prince, surprised and 
greatly pleased at the sight, " we have got 
Roderick Dhu here ** — alluding to the scene in the 
Lady of the Lake where — 

" The mountaineer then whistled shrill, 
And he was answered from the hill ; 
Instant, through copse and heath, arose 
Bonnets and spears and bended bows ; 
And every tuft of broom gave life 
To plaided warrior armed for strife ! 
Watching their leader's beck and will, 
All silent there they stood, and still." 

It would take several weeks to exhaust all the 



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KINRARA 133 

varied beauties of Kinrara. Tor Alvie, the 
wooded hill behind the house, affords endless 
walks and outlooks on the surrounding scenery. 
Paths through the birch-woods leading to lovely 
seclusions of Nature ; large lochans and sheets of 
marshy water covered with myriads of water- 
lilies ; dark sweeping forests of fir that skirt the 
bases of the mountains, and rows of pine-trees 
crowning an eastern height, every one of whose 
spear-tops the rising sun flashes into a sort of 
sudden presenting of arms to the celestial poten- 
tate along the whole sky-line ; the rapid Spey 
flowing between beaches of white pebbles accumu- 
lated here and there by its waters, and under 
graceful trees whose light foliage throws down 
flickering lights and shadows on its dimpled 
siurfkce; and here and there some rustic farm- 
house, with its cultivated fields and picturesque 
steadings — all these details of the landscapes, 
contrasting with the trim walks, the rich gardens 
and the trailing vines of the mansion house, make 
a paradise in the wilderness. Kinrara is now the 
shooting-lodge of the Duke of Richmond and 
Gordon, and has been occupied for a number of 
years by the Earl of Zetland. 

The way to Kinrara from Aviemorc skirts the 
foot of Craigellachie, and opens up many charm- 



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1 34 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

ing vistas of the surrounding scenery. At the 
foot of Craigellachie, immediately above the 
village, is a little lochan, concealed in a field of 
green mounds, called Loch Balladern. Its 
surface is covered with the large floating leaves 
and red mottled spikes of Potamogeton and with the 
little lemon flowers and neat round leaves of the 
Nuphar pumila^ the smallest of the water-lilies, 
found only in a few of our lochs. The lochan 
is a lovely mirror for the birch-clad rocks that 
rise precipitously above it, and is full of small 
sweet trout. Strangely enough, during the earth- 
quake of Lisbon, its waters were greatly agitated, 
dashing about in its little shrouded basin in a way 
that made a deep impression upon those who saw 
it. Almost at the gates of Kinrara is the charm- 
ing Loch Alvie, of which one gets the most 
tantalising glimpses from the railway in passing 
along. The name of this little lake is derived 
from the fact that in former times it was visited 
by wild swans on their southern migratory flight 
from the Arctic regions. It is about a mile in 
length and half a mile in breadth, but has an 
irregular outline, forming a large promontory at 
the western end, running far out into the water, 
on which is picturesquely situated the church of 
the parish with the manse and glebe, which are 



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KINRARA 135 

almost surrounded by the loch. The Church of 
Alvie ociiupies a knoll on which there was a 
religious cell from the time of St. Columba. 
It is even older than the knoll of Adamnan at 
Insh, for tradition ascribes its dedication — if 
not its actual foundation — to St. Drostan, the 
nephew of St. Columba, to whom there are 
many dedications in the north and north-east 
of Scotland. This famous saint founded the 
Monastery of Deer, as the Book of DeeVj the 
oldest MS. in Scotland, tells us, built a church 
and lived a hermit's life in Glenesk, Forfarshire, 
where he wrought some miracles and died. 
Under the floor of the Church of Alvie, when 
renewed some time ago, 150 skeletons without 
coffins were found — the remains probably of 
some ancient local battle. They were re-interred 
in the churchyard. The charm of the surround- 
ing lake consists not in its magnitxide or grandeur, 
but in the blueness of its surface when the sun 
shines, reflecting the shadows of the birch-trees 
around it, and the clouds lying still as itself above 
it, in the purity and transparency of the little 
wavelets that ripple to the shore with a placid 
murmur infinitely soothing to the tired spirit, and 
in the sheets of dazzlingly white water-lilies that 
cover large spaces in the quiet bogs with the most 



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1 36 ROTHIEM URCHUS 

refined bloom and verdure. From its eastern end 
a pleasant little burn flows through the woods, 
round the base of Tor Alvie, and falls into the 
Spey. It has sometimes happened, when swollen 
by the autumn storms, that the waters of the loch 
have risen so high as almost to cover the pro- 
montory on which are situated the church and 
manse ; and on one occasion, during the unpre- 
cedented flood of 1829, the ministers who had 
been assisting at the communion on Sunday were 
detained on the spot till the waters abated on 
Wednesday. Near the top of the hills on the 
north side of the loch the dwarf birch, Be tula 
nana^ which is one of the rarest of our Alpine 
plants, and one of the most diminutive of our 
native trees, grows in considerable abundance 
among the bogs. One of the ministers of this 
parish, the Rev. William Gordon, lived to the 
advanced age of 10 1 years, remarkable for his 
generous nature and noble life. When the clans 
fled from Culloden, many of the fugitives came 
south past the manse of Alvie in a state of 
destitution and applied for relief to Mr. Gordon. 
The Duke of Cumberland, hearing of his benefi- 
cence and suspecting his loyalty, summoned him 
to his presence at Inverness by a military guard, 
when Mr. Gordon stated that he was straitened 



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KINRARA 137 

between two contrary commands. His heavenly 
King's Son commanded him to feed the hungry ; 
his earthly king's son commanded him to drive 
them from his door. Which of these two 
commands was he to obey? The duke, taken 
aback, replied, ^^ By all means obey the command 
of the Son of your heavenly King," and dismissed 
him with several tokens of the royal approbation. 
In the middle of an arable field at Dalfour, about 
a mile west from Loch Alvie, there is a nearly 
perfect Druidical circle, forming a ring about sixty 
feet in diameter, enclosing another ring of stones 
of smaller size, set on end, about half that 
diameter. Connected with this remarkable relic, 
there is in the immediate vicinity a stone pillar 
about eight feet high, without any sculpture or 
inscription, recording some event which has long 
passed into oblivion. Beyond Loch Alvie there 
used to be a dreary moor, covered only with 
stunted heather, and incapable of being cultivated, 
owing to the shallowness and stoniness of the soil. 
The Duchess of Gordon planted it with Scotch 
firs, mingled with larch-trees, which have thriven 
and greatly relieve the barrenness of the waste. 
The hostelry of Lynwilg, for many years the only 
inn on the road past Kingussie, is welcome as 
a resting-place for the weary traveller. This 



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1 38 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

whole district was once part of the ancient Barony 
of Dunachton, which passed into the possession of 
the Laird of Mackintosh about the year 1500, 
through his marriage with the daughter of the 
baron. The new proprietor was a man of high 
character and conspicuous ability, and was much 
regarded by his tenants ; but a conspiracy was 
formed against him by a treacherous member 
of his own clan who wished himself to rule, 
and so murdered his chief. He and his lawless 
band took refuge in a castle on an island of 
Loch Alvie, since burnt down, but the enraged 
clan besieged him there and put him to death. 
A few miles farther on is the romantic, richly- 
wooded village of Kincraig, at the end of a spur 
from Craigellachie, which gleams forth like a 
beautiful oasis in the wilderness. Here a pro- 
fusion of graceful, natural birches rises up among 
the knolls and rocks picturesquely grouped 
together and hides the fashionable villas which 
have recently been built upon the spot. At 
Kincraig the Spey expands into a large lake called 
Loch Insh, which is a mile long and half a mile 
broad. Nowhere does the combination of loch 
and birch-wood appear so beautiful as here. The 
blue waters shining through the small glistening 
leaves, and between the silvery colonnades of the 



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KINRARA 139 

trees, produce the most exquisite effects, especially 
when the multitudinous ripples on the surface 
laugh in the breeze and sparkle like jewels. At 
the foot of the loch, where the Spejr flows out of 
it, there are two large knolls covered with fir and 
other trees. When the river is in flood these 
knolls are completely surrounded by water, and, 
converted into an island, are shut off from the 
mainland. This circumstance has given origin to 
the name of the loch, which means the loch of 
the island. On the northern mound called Ion 
Enonan, or Adamnan's Island, is situated the 
Church of Insh, whose ancient name proves that 
the conditions which prevail at present during 
spates of the river have prevailed from time 
immemorial. The church is the most interesting 
object of antiquity in the whole district. Its 
foundations go back to the days of St. Colxmiba, 
who visited the Picts north of the Grampians, and 
is said by St. Adamnan, his biographer, to have 
converted Brudeus the King in his Court at 
Inverness. The dedication of this church to St. 
Adamnan in 690, or thereabouts, was a conse- 
quence of this visit. Previous to its occupancy 
as a place of Christian worship, the fir-crowned 
knoll had a religio lociy as a site of Druidic rites. 
It was the place where for ages the people had 



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I40 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

been accustomed to meet and practise the adora- 
tion of the sun, and other acts of Nature-worship, 
and the consecration of the heathen altar was 
continued to the Christian Church, and the people 
met as of old in the same spot, with a diilerent 
religion, and the Sunday of the iformer dispensa- 
tion became the holy day of rest of the new. 
In a basin carved out of a slab of granite forming 
the sill of one of the windows of the church is 
preserved a very ancient square bell of cast 
bronze, which is one of the series of early Celtic 
bells still existing in Scotland. Its shape and size 
are like those of the bell of St. FiUan in the 
Antiquarian Museum in Edinburgh. It has an 
oval-shaped handle and a moulding round its 
mouth, and a big iron tongue protruding from 
its mouth. The basin-shaped depression in which 
it rests was probably the font of the original 
church erected on the knoll, or belonged, it may 
be, to the system of cup-marked stones peculiar 
to sun-worship, which occupied the spot in pagan 
times. There is a tradition connected with the 
bell similar to that associated with the bell of 
St. Fillan, that if carried away from the locality 
it breaks out into a constant cry of *^ Ion Enonan, 
Ion Enonan/* which ceases not until it is brought 
back to the knoll on which the church stands. 



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KINRARA 141 

In all probability the bell is as old as the time of 
Adamnan, and was blessed by him in person. 
The saint's day was originally a holy day of 
worship, but it became, as was generally the case, 
a fair, called Feil Columcille, or St. Columba's 
Market. At this fair it was the custom of the 
women of the district to attend dressed in white 
garments ; and the late aged minister of the church 
remembered an old woman showing him the white 
dress in which in her young days she went to 
the Fair of St. Columba, and which she carefully 
preserved in order to be buried in it. No doubt 
this was an unconscious survival of a ceremonial 
usage of the Early Church, in which candidates for 
baptism required to appear clothed in a white 
dress ; and the custom came afterwards to be 
associated with the festival day of the saint, as 
commemorative of his Christian work. The spot 
on which the Church of Insh stands, I have said, 
has been a sacred spot from time immemorial, 
and the church itself is the only one in Scotland 
in which Christian worship has been carried on 
continuously from the seventh century to the 
present day. The present building is no doubt 
the last of a series of buildings often renewed on 
the spot, but the lowest part of the walls shows 
traces of much older structures ; and until 



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142 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

recently, when the internal fittings were com- 
pletely restored, the galleries, seats and pulpit 
made of fir, warped and wizened by age, were of 
very primitive forms and had been suffered to fall 
into a state of considerable dilapidation. 

The road on the other side of the Spey winds 
along the shore of Loch Insh, and at some dis- 
tance crosses the Feshie by a steep and narrow 
bridge, where the stream forms a deep dark pool 
far below. The view is very wild and somewhat 
alarming at this spot. The parapets of the bridge 
have been heightened to increase the feeling of 
security, but the precipitous banks of the river, 
and the wide Stygian pools which they enclose, 
excite the imagination and fill it with terror. An 
accident might easily occur at this place ; as in 
point of fact one did happen to a carriage, which 
was upset and life was lost. The Feshie drains 
one of the grandest and most extensive of the 
Highland glens, and is a splendid stream with a 
large volume of water. Owing to the vast 
quantity of detritus it has brought down from the 
mountains it has formed a bar which has dammed 
up the course of the Spey, causing it to expand 
into a lake, which is now Loch Insh. During the 
flood of 1829 its waters filled the whole glen. A 
shepherd's house high up on the side of the hill. 



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KINRARA 143 

beyond the utmost possible reach of a spate, was 
overwhelmed by the river, and the inmates barely 
escaped with their lives in the middle of the night 
to the highest ground they could reach, where 
they were imprisoned till the evening of the 
following day. The scenery of Glen Feshie was 
greatly admired by Landseer, who left as a 
memento of his having been in the place a draw- 
ing of a deer above the mantelpiece on the wall 
of a gamekeeper's cottage in the glen — now shut 
up in order to preserve it. Thomson of Dud- 
dingston also made several sketches of the giant firs 
of the forest, and during his sojourn in the district 
was immensely impressed by its sublimity. So over- 
powered with emotion was he on one occasion in the 
forest that he exclaimed, ** Lord God Almighty ! " 
and said to his host and companion, Sir David 
Brewster, that " the sky over such a scene seemed 
the floor of heaven.*' Macculloch, in one of his 
letters to Sir Walter Scott, before the authorship 
of the Waverley Novels had been found out, 
wrote that the unknown writer should lay the 
scene of his next story in Glen Feshie. Her late 
Majesty Queen Victoria passed through it on the 
way from Braemar to Strathspey, and has re- 
corded in her journal the excited feelings which 
the memorable journey produced. 



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144 ROTHIEMURCHUS 

The extensive birch-woods of South Kinrara 
and Dalnavert, which add so much to the at- 
tractiveness of the landscape, were long ago 
called the Davochs of the Head. They were 
given in compensation for the head of the L^rd 
of Mackintosh, who was decapitated while paying 
a friendly visit to the Earl of Huntly in 1556. 
Sir Walter Scott refers to this incident in an 
article on the " Highland Clans " which he con- 
tributed to the Quarterly Review. He informs 
us that Mackintosh, in his bitter quarrel with the 
Gordons, burnt their castle of Auchindoun, and 
thereby aroused their implacable vengeance. The 
earl reduced him to such extremities by his con- 
stant persecution that he had at last to surrender 
himself to his foe. Coming to the seat of the 
Gordons, he found the master absent, but yielded 
himself up to the countess instead, who informed 
him that the earl had sworn never to forgive his 
crimes until he should see his head upon the 
block. Thereupon the humbled chief knelt down 
and laid his head upon the kitchen dresser where 
the oxen were cut up for the baron's feast No 
sooner did he make this humiliating allegiance 
than the cook, who stood behind him with the 
cleaver uplifted, at a sign from the inexorable 
countess, let the cleaver fall and severed Mac- 



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KINRARA 145 

kintosh's head from his body by a single stroke. 
Dalnavert was the last remnant of the extensive 
possessions of the ancient Shaws, the earliest lords 
of this district. It how belongs to the estate of 
The Mackintosh. About eighty years ago the 
local company of volunteers used to assemble here 
for drill. Both the mother and the wife of the 
late well-known Premier of Canada, Sir John A. 
Macdonald, were born in this place. The mother 
went from thence after her marriage to Glasgow — 
where the great statesman was born ; but he 
returned from America for his bride to his 
maternal country on the banks of the Spey. 



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COLSTON AND COT. LTD. 

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