The Glenbuchat Image Library
No Contributor Year: 188191 Wandering in the Highlands 1881
Wandering in the Highlands of Banff and Aberdeenshire
Written by J.G. Phillips (formerly Curator of the Elgin Museum)and printed by the Banff shire Journal Office in 1881, it describes in detail a walk through Strathdon including Glenbucket. In his wandering Mr Phillips meets many people and visits places easily still identifiable form the other information available in this web site. He also relates stories and beliefs still held by older residents in the area.
James Gordon Phillips, born in 1852, was a tailor to trade, from the Braes of Glenlivet. He developed a keen interest in the folklore, legends and history of his surrounding area and wrote on these subjects for several newspapers and periodicals. He eventually gave up tailoring to concentrate on earning a living as a journalist and writer of romantic historical novels.
From his base at the Braes of Glenlivet, he made excursions into the neighboring hills and glens, then little known to the outside world. Between 1875 and 1881 he wrote a series of articles on these walks for the Banffshire Journal and The Elgin Couriant, which were published in book form in 1881. Newspapers provided the main source of popular entertainment at this time, and his descriptions of the area were very popular with a mainly lowland readership, hungry for knowledge of these remote and romantic places with their high mountains and wild and heroic past.
Phillip’s account of a walk from the Chapelton of Glenlivet, over the Ladder Hills, down Glenbuchat, and returning by Glennochty is reproduced here. His walk was hurried and his descriptions fleetingly brief. But it gives an outsiders view of the Glen in the late 1870’s and raises a number of topics which are of historical interest today. The style of the article may be quaint and a little romantic to our eyes, but it was of its time, and what his readership wanted.
Throughout this site snippets of this text have been quoted but it was felt useful to put produce the whole text which relates to Glenbuchat.
“It was a bright morning, that 11th of October, when we sallied forth from Chapelton, in company with a young English stranger, to have a look of Glenbucket and Strathdon. The clouds of mist, which at dawn had been sleeping on the hillsides, were scattering and rolling away southwards as the hazy autumn sun shone forth from the east. We passed Auchnascraw, over the northern shoulder of Tomvouan, and wended our way downward to Demickmore, crossed a small stream, and were soon among the swamps and bogs of the Moss of Ladderfoot. We then passed the farm of that name, and were now marching along the ravine between the mountains of Ben More and Cairnlechtrach. We passed the Well of Kilahaul, where fays of old delighted to dwell, peered into its depths, but there was no offering there to the good spirit that once dispensed cure for all diseases that ever afflicted humanity for simply leaving a pin in the well, or anything else that was handy hence the name of the " Preen Wall," in local phraseology. But these times are fled. The schoolmaster gave the death blow to superstition, and the Highlander can laugh now without fear at kelpies and fairies, hobgoblins, and every other creature that ever the imagination conjured up. Leaving the well, we crossed the corries of Aultnasacht, and were soon panting up the Ladder. A climb of half-an-hour, and we reached the top.
The view from the Ladder was not nearly so good as we have seen it. A dull haze obscured objects at a distance ; yet the more prominent hills of Aberdeen, Banff, Moray, and Sutherland could be faintly traced. Bad though the view was, our English friend was delighted with the prospect, and exclaimed in ecstasy, " This is truly what your great countryman called:
Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
Land of the mountain and the flood ! "
Leaving the top of the Ladder, we turned to the left instead of following the tract that led to Glennochty. This path was altogether new to us, but we knew that it led to Glenbucket, and we followed it without the least hesitation. The long way over the Gilaharn was beguiled by our friend describing to us life in London. Thus talking, we entered the head of Glenbucket ere we were fully aware of it, and saw in the distance a smoking chimney. We pressed along towards it as rapidly as the rough nature of the ground would admit, pausing now and again to gather "blaeberries" and cranberries that grew thickly around. The place proved to be the farm-house of Backans, tenanted by Mr Brodie, a gentleman with whom we had some acquaintance. We received a warm welcome and a cup of fragrant tea, which was very refreshing after our walk. We spent rather more time here than could well be spared ; but this was so far made up for by Mr Brodie volunteering to accompany us down the Glen and show us the local places of interest.
The first object of interest that meets the eye in Glenbucket is the Shooting Lodge , tenanted by Mr Barnes. The Lodge is a fair sized, plain building, but the situation is very good, It stands on a level baugh on the left bank of the Bucket. Near it is a small plantation, with a large hill in the background. Moving down the Glen for a considerable distance, we reached a haugh of more than local celebrity it having once been the battlefield of two chieftains. The tale runs thus : The Earl of Mar, having had to fly from his home on Deeside, was wandering among the wilds of Badenoch and Lochaber. One night, when famishing for want of food, he came upon a lonely hut, and craved shelter for the night. The kind-hearted Highlander at once admitted him, and, whether judging by his appearance or otherwise that his guest was no ordinary man, he killed the only cow that he had to make provision for him. By and bye the time came when the Earl could return home, and, not forgetting the kindness which he had received, he gave him an invitation to visit him at Mar Castle. Cameron did so, and as a recompense for his kindness, he was granted certain lands in Kildrummy, on the Don. As time rolled on, the Camerons began to wax powerful ; but a quarrel with Mowat, a Deeside chief, put an end to the race at one fell swoop. A challenge was given, the conditions of it being that they should meet with a certain number of horsemen on each side. Both parties met at the appointed place, but Mowat took the liberty of placing two men on each horse, the consequence being that the Camerons were exterminated, with the exception of a young maiden, the daughter of the chief.
This young lady, as she grew up to womanhood, attracted the eyes of all by her beauty and grace. Many of the young nobility offered marriage, but she steadfastly refused them all, unless they solemnly promised to avenge her father and kinsmen's death. Few cared about taking such a feat in hand, Mowat being known as one of the ablest warriors in the county. The second son of Lord Forbes, however, was so enamoured of the young lady that he resolved to win her or die. He, accordingly, challenged Mowat to meet him in Glenbucket with all his force. Mowat came, and was met by young Forbes on the haugh mentioned above. Ere the battle began, a very sensible arrangement was made, viz. that, instead of killing so many men, they should fight it out themselves, the followers of both looking on. The combat then began, and Forbes seemed to be getting the worst of it for a time, but, fired by desperation to live, he fought on, and eventually overcame his stubborn foe. The place where Mowat fell is marked by a grey stone, and the hill on the opposite side of the Bucket is still called Ladylea the young heiress having watched the progress of the struggle from that eminence. This is a brief outline of the tragic tale, and in it is seen the style of match-making in vogue in the olden time.
Moving on a little further, and we reach Badenyon, a name no doubt familiar to many musical readers from the well-known Strathspey, " John, or Jock o' Badenyon." But there is more about Badenyon of interest to the passer-by. On a little height, close by the door of the present dwelling house, in byegone days, stood a rude stronghold. The site was pointed out to us by Mr Michie, a very intelligent man, and one seemingly well versed in the legendary lore of the district. He stated to us that its origin dated from 1590, but, from the description given, we are of opinion that it was of much older date. For example, the masonry was of rough, undressed boulders. Now, in the sixteenth century, it is not likely that a building of any pretensions would be built in that way. Within a stone-throw of it stood another stronghold, but even the site of it is now cultivated land. Yet, with the help of Mr Michie, we could trace the foundation and the moat. A little above Baden yon is the spot where "Thrummy Cap," of superstitious celebrity, is said to have dwelt. But time was pressing we had still a long way to walk, and, however reluctantly, we were forced to say good-bye to Mr Michie, and leave Badenyon and its legends behind us.
Moving along here, the Glen was very uninteresting. The principal objects that attracted the eye were the large hill of Craiginscore and the utter failure of all kinds of crop. We could not do otherwise than sympathise with our Glenbucket friends, for bad as everything was looking in Glenlivet, it was, if possible, even worse in Glenbucket. But the Earl of Fife is a good landlord, and we doubt not but he will come to the rescue.
After passing the Public School, a tidy little building, Glenbucket began to show distinctive features. Before this it would be impossible to describe it otherwise than a ravine among the hills ; but now it suddenly opened out, and the country presented to the eye the appearance of a basin, or, if you will, a bucket with a single outlet, formed by the stream that drains the Glen, and has its confluence with the Don a little further down. There cannot be the shadow of a doubt but that the basin has been scooped out by the action of water. But we dare not approach the scientific in this sketch ; we only glance at the physical outlines of the district as they strike the eye. Here we saw two little hamlets slumbering in the side of the basin, as it were, named respectively Belnaboth and Belnacraig ; while down in the bottom of the basin stood the Free Church and Manse. Away further up we could also catch a sight of the Established Church and Manse, hid in a grove of trees. Close by. Ben Newe rears its somewhat conical summit, dividing Glenbucket from Strathdon. Near the foot of Ben Newe is the old Market Stance of Peterfair, now removed to Huntly, owing, it is said, to its being likely to prove a second Donnybrook, as far as free fighting is concerned. Following the course of the Bucket a little further, the scene spread out before us, and, panoramic like, at once rose from the commonplace to the picturesque and lovely. We shall not soon forget how that scene struck us. Direct before us stood, on an eminence, the old castle of the Gordons of Glenbucket, which we will notice by and bye; while a little further back the Don swept majestically down its hill-enclosed strath. Further back still, and the hills rose dark and sombre, relieved here and there by the stately pine woods, in which the last bright rays of the declining sun were fondly playing, bathing the landscape in a flood of yellow light, especially where the woods were showing the tints of autumn. These pine-clad hills that were so beautiful, stretched away in the direction of Glenkindy.
Leaving the highway here, we were conducted by Mr Brodie through a park to see two of the famous " cuppet stones." They are simply two huge boulders, lying close beside each other, and in the exposed surface are a number of the singular holes resembling a cup, and from which they doubtless take their name. Here we may mention that great quantities of boulders are scattered over the surface of Glenbucket. They belong no doubt to the time when our country was under an Arctic coating, these boulders being dropped in the march of icebergs. Another class of stones in fact a class that met our eyes at every turn struck us as extremely strange, especially when lying side by side with those of the boulder drift. We refer to schorl. We observed one dyke in which almost every stone had a large mixture of schorl in it. But a truce to this subject in the meantime. We must hasten on, else darkness will soon obscure everything from our view. Leaving the cuppet stones therefore to tell their own tale, we hurried away to the farm house of Tombreck, tenanted by Mr Forbes, auctioneer, a gentleman well known over a wide district of country. As a judge of cattle, Mr Forbes has few equals. We called while passing, but as usual he was away at a sale, therefore we could not see him. Moving on again, we came down to Milton, where we had the pleasure of an introduction to Mr Wattie, who is not only a newspaper correspondent, but also a poet. Leaving Milton, we crossed the Bucket and made the best of our way to the old Castle.
Whatever may be the opinions of men regarding the Rebellion of 1745, it is impossible to repress a sigh of pity for the gallant but unfortunate men who staked their all on its issue. Many of the more thoughtful among them, if not blinded by enthusiasm, must have foreseen the consequences of joining their fortunes with the chivalrous, if Quixotic, Charles Edward, and sharing in his brief but brilliant campaign. Of the ultimate good of that rising there can be no doubt. It settled for ever a dynastic struggle, broke the system of clanship and its concomitant evils ; fixed the destinies of a great nation ; and opened up the Scottish Highlands to milder and happier influences. Yet, it was with feelings of sorrow and pity that we approached the old castle of the Gordons of Glenbucket. Though now a ruin, enough is left to tell the tale of former grandeur, when the foot of the kilted warrior trod its halls, or mixed in the giddy whirl of the dance. Yes ; the imagination will picture such scenes in spite of the teachings of this prosaic age. The heart must be hard indeed that cannot feel a touch of pity when viewing the old Castle of Glenbucket for the first time. Among the many who followed the fortunes of " Bonnie Prince Charlie," there was none more gallant and true than Gordon of Glenbucket, the last of a powerful and brave race. The stately old trees that once adorned the park around the Castle, still stand there mute sign-posts of other years. Of the Castle itself little can be said. In every particular it is the old baronial castle of the middle ages. The spiral staircase, the vaulted chambers, the narrow windows, the loopholes, and oaken doors, studded with pondei'ous nails, all point to feudalism. The situation is very good. It commands a fine view of hill, and wood, and river, and in its hey-day it must have been a place of considerable strength. Close by the Castle is the Mains of Glenbucket, occupied by Mr Bremner, but we could scarcely spare time to glance at it, the sun having already set.
There was still, notwithstanding, a considerable twilight left to us, and, bidding Mr Brodie good-bye, who had kindly acted as our guide thus far, we turned our faces southward, and moved rapidly up the Strath. Quickly we passed in succession hill, wood, and rock, all very lovely, no doubt, if we had only had more time to look at them. Soon we came in sight of Castle Newe, the beautiful seat of Sir Chas. Forbes, Bart. We were very much disappointed that the light did not linger a little longer, so that our companion, Mr Smith, might view the beauties of this princely mansion, but it could not be. We could only dimly trace its outlines through the gathering gloom and the trees. Reluctantly, therefore, we turned our backs upon it, and continued our journey up Strathdon until we reached Belnaboddach, where we were to spend the night with Mr Farquharson.
Next morning dawned clear and bright, and we sallied forth, just as the sun had arisen above the eastern hills, to have a look at the surrounding country. Our first walk was along the southern side of the estate of Belnaboddach, where we noted some of the improvements Mr Farquharson had lately made, and marked the advancement of former ones since we last visited the district. Returning along the northern side of the estate, we talked of the present depressed state of agriculture, and the relative effect which it had on landlord and tenant. Such a theme could not be otherwise than interesting when we looked around and saw the lateness of every kind of crop. After breakfast, we ascended the highest hill in the neighbourhood, and had a beautiful view of Strathdon and the Deeside hills, conspicuous among which were Lochnagar and Morven, names which Byron has rendered immortal. Looking further westward, we could see the dark masses of the Grampians looming directly before us, capped with eternal snow, while at our feet lay the fine wooded hills of Strathdon, with patches of cultivation along the banks of the river. Further down, and the tall spire of the Parish Church divided attention with the more distant Castle Newe. Descending again to Belnaboddach, we dined, and started on our homeward march, Mr Farquharson accompanying us a considerable distance on our way, in fact, nearly half-way to Glenlivet, where, bidding him goodbye, we hurried forward, so as to pass the treacherous swamps of Monsack ere night would settle down. We at length reached the top of the Ladder, and were soon descending its steep breast into the Braes of Glenlivet. ……..
………A little beyond this is the ruins of the old Castle of Invernochty. It is called the " Doune of Invernochty." It is situated on the top of an artificial mound, rising abruptly from the plain to about the height of 60 feet. We climbed to the top, and examined the ruin, which we found to be very small indeed. Only a small part of the fort for there can be little doubt but that it is an old Pictish stronghold on the east side remains to tell that humanity once dwelt there in ages so remote that even fertile tradition fails to give us any information about it. The mound measures 208 paces round the top, and is surrounded by a moat. In byegone days it was said to be a favourite haunt of fairies (a race of beings that have now altogether disappeared), whose mischievous pranks often disturbed the peace of families in the neighbourhood. One is related of a poor man who had been at the Mill of Bellabeg for meal. When on his way home, in company with a neighbour, while passing the Doune, they heard the sound of music. The one with the meal, with foolhardy courage, ascended, and immediately found himself in the midst of a party of dancers, who induced him to join them. The poor man did so, and, as the story goes, had to dance there a whole twelvemonth, when the man who bore him company formerly chanced to pass on the same night, and again heard the sound of music, which by the way, was Hallowe'en, the night of all others which our simple and rude forefathers believed to be given up to those merry little gentry, who frisked through the air in company with less musically inclined customers, namely, witches, following in the train of the fairy queen, who had the privilege of riding a fine milk white pony, playing up all sorts of devilish games on any one who was unlucky enough to be outside. It was the temerity of that gentleman before-mentioned in venturing out on that dread night that cost him a year's dancing, and he might have been dancing still, had not his neighbour, with great dexterity and not a little nerve, seized him by the coat tail while whirling past with his meal pock on his back, in company with a gay young fairy. Immediately when human hands touched him the spell was dissolved, and fairies and all disappeared from their sight, and the dancer was conveyed home to his son-owing wife and family, who had mourned him as dead ; but he would never believe that he had danced more than one reel, and even insisted, it is said, on having another. Many are the wondrous tales told about these old castles, and the above is one picked from a few that has connection with the " Doune of Invernochty."
We had to leave it, however, with its legends, and, while moving down, we caught sight of the Church of Strathdon, a stately structure with a handsome spire. Though our time was limited, we determined on having a nearer view of the Church. Stepping from the high road, therefore, we crossed the Don, and in a few minutes reached it. We found it a most handsome Presbyterian Church, dating from about 1850, and built in the form of a cross, with the fine tapering spire resting on one of the arms of the cross. On one side of the Church is the burying-ground, with the usual number of headstones some of them newly erected, others quaint and old, the inscriptions on which it would have taken a considerable time to decipher. The interior of the Church is very handsome, and it was interesting to notice that within the walls is the burying-place of the family of Newe and Edinglassie.
Round the walls are inserted marble tablets to the memory of, among others, members of the families of Newe, Inverernan, Caudacraig, and Allargue. The inscriptions number 24 in all ; and one of them, erected by the Strathdon people, runs thus : " In memory of Hugh Robert Meikle- john, eldest son of the Rev. Robert Meiklejohn, minister of Strathdon, and Lieutenant H.E.I.C. Engineers, killed at Jhansi, Central India, 3rd April 1858, aged 22 years. Gallantly leading one attack of stormers, he was the first to scale the wall, and there fell died, deeply lamented by all who knew him. Erected by the inhabitants of his native Strath, to testify their high admiration of his bravery and moral worth, their sincere sorrow for his premature death, and their heartfelt sympathy for his bereaved family."
Leaving the church and manse, we recrossed the Don, and reached the point where we struck off. Here the stream Nochty, which drains the Glen of that name, tosses its turbulent waters into the Don. Crossing this stream, we reach Bellabeg, where there is a handsome little shop and bank. Mr Wattie, merchant, keeps a store of general goods, and a member of the same family is agent for the Aberdeen Town and County Bank. Near it, is the Mill of Bellabeg, connected with the foregoing legend. A little further down, and we reached Bellabeg House, now belonging to Sir Charles Forbes; it has nothing of the castle about it, but is a good old fashioned house. A little further from here, and we reached Forbestown, a beautiful and picturesque little hamlet, composed of nice little cottages, built in the English fashion, with projecting roofs. They are built on the left side, and are all new. Each cottage has its trim little garden, sloping gently down to the highway, rich with flowers and vegetables. Sir Charles must have the interest of his tenantry thoroughly at heart, for the fact of his having built all these beautiful cottages for the poor people, and granted many other privileges besides, places this beyond dispute, " for facts are chiels that winna' ding." The people appear to be happy and contented, and poverty seems to be an unknown guest among them. A little beyond Forbestown, is the Newe Arms Inn, a large and commodious house for a country inn, kept by Mr M'Grigor. Close by are the remains of the old Castle of Colphahonie. The walls are of prodigious thickness, and built of rough undressed boulders, now overgrown with grass. It has been of considerable size at one time, and, doubtless, its halls have echoed the clank of many a mailed warrior's tread, in the long forgotten past, and many a fairy form has lightly glided through the dance, or listened to the tales of other years, chanted by the hoary ministry! of the family. Often, perhaps, from that broken old window has the fair white hand waved adieu to the departing lover, whom she might see no more, but she knew that his thoughts would be of her, when he met in the shock of battle, or lay dying in the field of glory. But though these oldwalls may have witnessed all this, and much more, it is now a complete ruin, with the exception of a vault that is used as a wine cellar. In the immediate vicinity, is Lonach Hall, which, when we passed it, was used as a female school, but a beautiful new one has now been built in the hamlet of Forbestown. On the haugh below the Inn, the celebrated Lonach Gathering is held.
Leaving the Newe Arms Inn, we proceeded down for nearly a mile, when we turned to the left, and entered the approach to Newe. A splendid approach it is, and of considerable length. We traversed it rapidly, and soon found oui'selves in front of Castle Newe, the seat of Sir Charles Forbes, one of the most superb edifices I ever saw. It is so simple in its structure, and yet so grand. It is a solid block building, built altogether of dressed freestone. Before, or rather on each side of the hall door, is a miniature cannon with the word " Lonach " marked upon them. We spent more time gazing at this princely residence of the chief of the Forbeses than we could well spare, for the sun had already gone down, and we had ten miles before us yet. Reluctantly therefore we turned our backs upon it, without seeing the gardens, which we were told are of the first quality. We retraced our steps, and soon reached the Mill of Newe, a large mill, almost new. On we went, as hard as we could walk, until we reached Bellabeg, where we turned up Glen Nochty on our way home. About a mile up the Glen, and we reached Belnabodach, an estate belonging to my friend Francis Farquharson, Esq. We called on Mr Farquharson, and were received with true Highland hospitality. During ourconversation, Mr Farquharson favoured us with some account of the Clan Farquharson, and of the connection which his family had with that once powerful Highland sept. He is descended from the leading branch of the family of Invercauld, and his fathers settled in Strathdon about a century ago. They were a warlike race, as most Highlanders were, and loved the sound of the bugle better than the rush of their native river. That is the reason why so many of his relations have been soldiers, and the present proprietor of Belnabodach inherited a portion of his sires' enthusiasm, and also entered the army, but sold out after a time, and now occupies his spare hours in reading collections from his well-filled library.
Leaving the house of Belnabodach, we walked over the cultivated part of the estate, in company with Mr Farquharson. It carries an admirable stock of cross cattle. The estate is of about 458 acres, half cultivated, and half in rich pasture. The situation is pleasant, on the south side of the Nochty. From the house a beautiful view of Strathdon is obtained. On the opposite side of the Nochty is Invernettie, now become the property of the Rev. Mr Watt, minister of Strathdon. Torrincroy, away on a height above Invernettie also belongs to that gentleman, who bought it from the Earl of Fife a few years ago. Continuing our homeward march, we soon entered the avenue leading to Auchernack, one of the seats of Forbes, laird of Dunnottar. On reaching the Castle, we found that it bore a resemblance to Candacraig in beauty, and, I am sorry to add, also in decay. The house is a handsome modern mansion, built on the face of a brae, a situation rendered rather pretty by planting and other improvements. The principal feature of attraction at Auchernack to a stranger is the collection of armour, ancient and modern. There are steel helmets, used in the days of chivalry ; a number of arrows, not very ancient apparently by their make, which have been done by very skilful hands ; swords, and other implements of warfare belonging to different nations. The house was built by the late General Forbes, father of the present proprietor, who amassed an enormous fortune in India. He was a strange, eccentric old gentleman, and had a strong love for Auchernack and its surroundings, as the following anecdote will sufficiently testify : The Earl of Fife's factor wrote to him in India, telling him that the Earl had bought up all the property near Auchernack, and that his little patch was now surrounded on every side, and he thought it was no use for him to keep it longer, for the Earl would give him a good price for it. The patriotic old General sent the following characteristic reply : " Tell him that I would sooner part with the skin of my face." When living at Auchernack, he never attended church, but occupied his time on Sunday in going about with an old woman, pruning trees. The woman carried the primings on her back. While engaged at this occupation one day, the old woman suddenly exclaimed, " Here's the minister, laird ! " Quoth the laird, " I wonner fat he wants wi' me 1 I'm sure I dinna aften disturb him ! "
Leaving Auchernack, we trudged onward, for the dim twilight was now giving place to the darker and deeper shades of night. We passed several small farm steadings before we reached Mrs Thane's, better known as " Lucky Thane," an old woman, over 90 years of age, who lives at the very top of Glennochty, a house well known in the days of smuggling, and many are the spirit-stirring tales which old Lucky can tell of the daring deeds and hairbreadth escapes of those hardy men. We could not wait to hear them, how- ever, but once more started forward, and soon entered the heather. We had a long climb before us xip the Ladder not the best of roads in the dark but the thought of the many who had trod that path before us, in, perhaps, worse circumstances, cheered us on. It is one of the steepest and highest hills in this quarter, rising to a height of about 2000 feet above the sea. It has been used as a highway to the south for hundi'eds of years. The natives of Lochaber and Badenoch crossed by this natural pathway when there was scarcely a road in the north of Scotland ; and in the days of " shearin'," troops of them could be seen, male and female, picking their way among the loose stones, or winding by the wild corries of Aultnasacht, chanting their native songs,
relieved at intervals by the bagpipes, whose shrill notes made the wild hills reverberate. The few travellers who now cross the Ladder are generally natives of Glenlivet or Strathdon, or occasionally some tourists. Thinking on these old times, we entered a huge snow wreath which covered the whole of dark, swampy Monsack, a very dangerous piece of mossy ground, which lies in a hollow of the lull. It was the scene of John Milne o' Livet Glen's rhyme, entitled " Nochty's Glens in the Mornin'," in which he depicts a fight between the smugglers of that glen and a body of preventives. The fight seems to have been a stiff one, if we ai'e to credit John, who says that fire-arms were used by the smugglers, and that one fellow's coat was bored in several places by the bullets, though the preventives were ultimately driven off. John, zealous of the honour of the Braes of Glenlivet, means to say that the smugglers who thrashed the gaugers were Brae's men, though there was not a single one of them there. The wreath which we had entered taxed our strength greatly, but at last we reached the top, and turned round and bade adieu to Strathdon and its kind hearted inhabitants. We envied them not their lovely strath, for I am convinced that a better race could not inhabit it than now does. We began to descend, and soon reached Ladderfoot. Another half-hour, and we reached home, a little footsore and weary, after a walk of 30 miles; yet, the remembrance of that walk still gives me pleasure, for Strathdon and its inhabitants will ever hold a warm place in my breast.
(1) Phillips was correct, 1590 is the date of construction of the ‘new castle’ at the foot of the Glen. This building at Badenyon was the original medieval stronghold mentioned in early charters and maps. Today, nothing visible remains of the 'Halltoun of Glenbuchat'. The mention of a second site at Badenyon is interesting and awaits future archeological investigation..Could it be the long lost St Wallochs chapel?
(2)Thrummy Cap was the fictional hero of a lengthy, supernatural, comic poem written in broad Scots in 1796 by John Burness, a second cousin of Robert Burns. It was said to be known and recited in almost every clachan and cottage in rural Scotland. Burness is thought to have lived for a time at Taylorsheils, between Badenyon and Newseat, long since abandoned with no trace left.
(3) This is one of the few references to Peterfair, the annual fair held in the Glen. Until the late 19th century, virtually every parish had at least one annual fair, usually held on its Saints feast day (Strathdon had St John's fair). They could be rowdy events with copious drink consumed and locals and men from neighboring parishes brawling it out, much to the disgust of more genteel folk.
(4) Cup marked stones date from Pictish times, their significance is not known. The exact site of those stones has been lost to local knowledge and awaits rediscovery, should they still exist.
Picture added on 07 January 2011 at 23:00
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