Selecting your favourite places is not easy as there are so many to choose from. But as it is August my selection this time will be Royal Deeside. For those not familiar with the location it is a fertile valley in the Grampian Mountains, with the Cairngorms to the north and Lochnager and the Angus Glens to the south. The River Dee rises on the Cairngorm slopes below Ben Macdui and flows in an ever widening course to the sea at Aberdeen. Why Royal Deeside, well simply it has enjoyed Royal patronage for a great number of year.
It is Braemar that for me captures the true essence of Deeside…….
The Dee below Braemar
The open valley at Braemar with the Dee taking a wide and winding course below the Cairngorms with Ben a’ Bhuird and Ben Avon, nearly always with a cap of cloud above, providing the perfect mix of mountain, river and glen.
The significance of August is that it is this month that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth traditionally travels to her Deeside Castle for her family holiday. I reckon that this year after all her Diamond Jubilee Tour and Celebrations, followed by the Olympics, that she does deserve a very well earned holiday…… and where better once her Royal duties to the Olympics are over than the peace and open space of Deeside.
Balmoral is her highland home, set on the banks of the Dee with views to the south over the mountain of Lochnagar*, and all surrounded by mile upon heather moorland and forest.
But Balmoral first became a Highland get away for the Royal family in the days of Queen Victoria, whilst it would be going to far to suggest that she discovered Deeside, she certainly took it to her heart and in so doing awoke peoples interest in exploring the Highlands and sharing in what she though was a great adventure. Royal Deeside it became and has remained so with succeeding monarchs.
But it is Queen Victoria that enhanced the ‘discovery’ of Deeside creating paths and tracks on which to walk and ride into the wilds. But travelling these ‘wilds’ (and it did seem wild in those days) required a degree of comfort to be provided for the Monarch so the valley became littered with buildings from substantial Halls and Hunting Lodges to small cottages which the Queen directed to be built. One of the simpler buildings is on a track into the Cairngorm alongside the River Quoich, in Glen Quoich, just above a place in the river known as the Punch Bowl of Quoich.
This modest cottage, now no longer used, was once used as a retreat in which to take Tea and perhaps entertain guest for an afternoons picnic, perhaps for the brave a swim in the river or simply to laze and smell the pine.
In one of the larger Glens on the Royal Estate is a much grander Lodge. In Glen Muick and nestling on the shore of Loch Muick in the shadow of Lochnagar below a waterfall know as Glas-alt-Shiel is a lodge of the same name. It is still used to-day by guest to Balmoral.
I hope these images provide a little flavour of the area, with or without the Royal connection it is well worth exploring …..and yes, I wish I was there.
* Lochnagar. I have referred to Lochnagar as a mountain. For some years now that has become the norm. But in fact Lochnagar is the Loch (lake) that nestles below the cliffs of the mountain and in English it translates as ‘The Little Loch of the Noisy Sound’. The mountain itself, in Gaelic is named Beinn nan Ciochan or ‘Mountain of the Paps’, Perhaps Princess Charles’s Book ‘The Old Man of Lochnagar‘ has resulted in the simple name now seemingly becoming the norm.