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Victoria's Highland Journals

Volume One

The First Visit | Thursday, September 1, 1842
After a stormy passage north, young Victoria and Albert set foot in Scotland

At a quarter to one o'clock, we heard the anchor let down -- a welcome sound. At seven we went on deck, where we breakfasted. Close on one side were Leith and the high hills towering over Edinburgh, which was in fog; and on the other side was to be seen the Isle of May (where it is said Macduff held out against Macbeth), the Bass Rock being behind us. At ten minutes past eight we arrived at Granton Pier where we were met by the Duke of Buccleuch, Sir Robert Peel and others. They came on board to see us, and Sir Robert told us that the people were all in the highest humour, though naturally a little disappointed at having waited for us yesterday. We then stepped over a gangway on to the pier, the people cheering and the Duke saying that he begged to be allowed to welcome us. Our ladies and gentlemen had landed before us, safe and well, and we two got into a barouche, the ladies and gentlemen following. The Duke, the equerries, and Mr. Anson rode.

There were, however, not nearly so many people in Edinburgh, though the crowd and crush were such that one was really continually in fear of accidents. More regularity and order would have been preserved had there not been some mistake on the part of the Provost about giving due notice of our approach. The impression Edinburgh has made upon us is very great; it is quite beautiful, totally unlike anything else I have seen; and what is even more, Albert, who has seen so much, says it is unlike anything he ever saw; it is so regular, everything built of massive stone, there is not a brick to be seen anywhere. The High Street, which is pretty steep, is very fine. Then the Castle, situated on that grand rock in the middle of the town, is most striking. On the other side the Calton Hill, with the National Monument, a building in the Grecian style; Nelson's Monument; Burns' Monument; the Gaol; the National School, etc.; all magnificent buildings, and with Arthur's Seat in the background, overtopping the whole, form altogether a splendid spectacle. The enthusiasm was very great, and the people very friendly and kind. The Royal Archers Body Guard met us and walked with us the whole way through the town. It is composed entirely of noblemen and gentlemen, and they all walked close to by the carriage; but were dreadfully pushed about. Amongst them were the Duke of Roxburgh and Lord Elcho on my side; and Sir J. Hope on Albert's side. Lord Elcho (whom I did not know at the time) pointed out the various monuments and places to me as we came along. When we were out of the town, we went faster. Every cottage is built of stone, and so are all the walls that are used as fences.

The country and people have quite a different character from England and the English. The old women wear close caps, and all the children and girls are barefooted. I saw several handsome girls and children with long hair; indeed all the poor girls from sixteen and seventeen down to two or three years old, have loose flowing hair; a great deal of it red.

As we came along, we saw Craigmillar Castle, a ruin, where Mary, Queen of Scots, used to live. We reached Dalkeith at eleven; a large house, constructed of reddish stone, the greater part built by the Duchess of Monmouth, and the park is very fine and large. The house has three fronts, with the entrance on the left as you drive up. The Duchess of Buccleuch arrived directly after us, and we were shown up a very handsome staircase to our rooms, which are very comfortable. We both felt dreadfully tired and giddy.

We drove out together. The park is very extensive, with a beautiful view of Arthur's Seat and the Pentland Hills; and there is a pretty drive overhanging a deep valley. At eight we dined -- a large party. Everybody was very kind and civil, and full inquiries as to our voyage.

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The First Visit | Wednesday, September 7, 1842
The Coronation Stone of the ancient Scots kings, then a great celebration at Taymouth Castle

We walked out, and saw the mound on which the ancient Scotch kings were always crowned; also the old arch with James VI's arms, and the old cross, which is very interesting.

Before our windows stands a sycamore-tree planted by James VI. A curious old book was bought to us from Perth, in which the last signatures are those of James I (of England) and of Charles I, and we were asked to write our names in it, and we did so. Lord Mansfield told me yesterday that there were some people in the town who wore the identical dresses that had been worn in Charles I's times. At eleven o'clock we set off as before. We drove through part of Perth, and had a very fine view of Scone. A few miles on, we passed the field of battle of Luncarty, where tradition says the Danes were beaten by Lord Erroll's ancestor. We also passed Lord Lynedoch's property. We then changed horses at the "New Inn" at Auchtergaven. The Grampians came now distinctly into view; they are indeed a grand range of mountains.

To the left we saw Tullybelton, where it is said the Druids used to sacrifice to Bel; there are a few trees on the top of the mountain.

To the left, but more immediately before us, we saw Birnam, where once stood Birnam Wood, so renowned in Macbeth. We passed a pretty shooting place of Sir W. Stewart's, called Rohallion, nearly at the foot of Birnam. To the right we saw the Stormont and Strathtay. Albert said, as we came along between the mountains, that to the right, where they were wooded, it was very like Thčringen, and on the left more like Switzerland. Murthly, to the right, which belongs to Sir W. Stewart, is in a very fine situation, with the Tay winding under the hill. This lovely scenery continues all along to Dunkeld. Lord Mansfield rode with us the whole way.

Just outside Dunkeld, before a triumphal arch, Lord Glenlyon's Highlanders, with halberds, met us, and formed our guard -- a piper playing before us. Dunkeld is beautifully situated, in a narrow valley, on the banks of the Tay. We drove in to where the Highlanders were all drawn up, in the midst of their encampments, and where a tent was prepared for us to lunch in. Poor Lord Glenlyon received us; but he had suddenly become totally blind, which is dreadful for him. He was led about by his wife; it was very melancholy. His blindness was caused by over-fatigue. The Dowager Lady Glenlyon, the Mansfields, Kinnoulls, Buccleuchs, and many others were there. We walked down the ranks of the Highlanders, and then partook of luncheon, the piper played, and one of the Highlanders danced the "sword dance." (Two swords crossed are laid upon the ground, and the dancer has to dance across them without touching them.) Some of the others danced a reel.

At quarter to four we left Dunkeld as we came, the Highland Guard marching with us till we reached the outside of the town. The drive was quite beautiful all the way to Taymouth. The two highest hills of the range on each side are (to the right, as you go on after leaving Dunkeld) Craig-y-Barns and (to the left, immediately above Dunkeld) Craigvinean. The Tay winds along beautifully, and the hills are richly wooded. We changed horses first at Balanagard (nine miles), to which place Captain Murray, Lord Glenlyon's brother, rode with us. The hills grew higher and higher, and Albert said it was very Swiss-looking in some parts. High ribbed mountains appeared in the distance, higher than any we have yet seen. This was near Aberfeldy (nine miles), which is charmingly situated and the mountains very lofty. At a quarter to six we reached Taymouth. At the gate a guard of Highlanders, Lord Breadalbane's men, met us. Taymouth lies in a valley surrounded by very high, wooded hills; it is most beautiful. The house is a kind of castle, built of granite. The coup-d'¤il was indescribable. There were a number of Lord Breadalbane's Highlanders, all in the Campbell tartan, drawn up in front of the house, with Lord Breadalbane himself in a Highland dress at their head, a few of Sir Neil Menzies' men (in the Menzies red and white tartan), a number of pipers playing, and a company of the 92nd Highlanders, also in kilts. The firing of the guns, the cheering of the great crowd, the picturesqueness of the dresses, the beauty of the surrounding country, with its rich background of wooded hills, altogether formed one of the finest scenes imaginable. It seemed as if a great chieftain in olden feudal times was receiving his sovereign. It was princely and romantic. Lord and Lady Breadalbane took us upstairs, the hall and stairs being lined with Highlanders.

The Gothic staircase is of stone and very fine; the whole of the house is newly and exquisitely furnished. The drawing-room, especially, is splendid. Thence you go into a passage and a library, which adjoins our private apartments. They showed us two sets of apartments, and we chose those which are on the right hand of the corridor or ante-room to the library. At eight we dined... The dining-room is a fine room in Gothic style, and has never been dined in till this day. Our apartments also are inhabited for the first time. After dinner the grounds were most splendidly illuminated, -- a whole chain of lamps along the railings, and on the ground was written in lamps, "Welcome Victoria -- Albert."

A small fort, which is up in the wood, was illuminated, and bonfires were burning on the tops of the hills. I never saw anything so fairy-like. There were some pretty fireworks, and the whole ended by the Highlanders dancing reels, which they do to perfection, to the sound of the pipes, by torchlight, in front of the house. It had a wild and very gay effect.

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The First Visit | Saturday, September 10, 1842
Echoes of Sir Walter Scott, rowing across Loch Tay

We walked to the dairy and back -- a fine bright morning; the weather the two preceding days had been very unfortunate. I drove a little way with Lady Breadalbane, the others walking, and then got out, and each of us planted two trees, a fir and an oak. We got in again, and drove with the whole party down to the lake, where we embarked. Lady Breadalbane, the Duchess of Sutherland and Lady Elizabeth went by land, but all the others went in boats. With us were Lord Breadalbane and the Duchess of Norfolk and Duchess of Buccleuch; and two pipers sat on the bow and played very often. I have since been reading in the Lady of the Lake, and this passage reminds me of our voyage:

See the proud pipers on the bow,
And mark the gaudy streamers flow
From their loud chanters down, and sweep
The furrow'd bosom of the deep,
As, rushing through the lake amain,
They plied the ancient Highland strain.
Our row of sixteen miles up Loch Tay to Auchmore, a cottage of Lord Breadalbane's, near the end of the lake, was the prettiest thing imaginable. We saw the splendid scenery to such great advantage on both sides: Ben Lawers, with small waterfalls descending its sides, amid other high mountains wooded here and there; with Kenmore in the distance; the view, looking back, as the loch winds, was most beautiful. The boatmen sang two Gaelic boat-songs, very wild and singular; the language so guttural and yet so soft. Captain McDougall, who steered, and who is the head of the McDougalls, showed us the real "brooch of Lorn," which was taken by his ancestor from Robert Bruce in a battle. The situation of Auchmore is exquisite; the trees growing so beautifully down from the top of the mountains, quite into the water, and the mountains all round, make it an enchanting spot. We landed and lunched in the cottage, which is a very nice little place. The day was very fine; the Highlanders were there again. We left Auchmore at twenty minutes past three, having arrived there at a quarter before three. The kindness and attention to us of Lord and Lady Breadalbane (who is very delicate) were unbounded. We passed Killin, where there is a mountain stream running over large stones, and forming waterfalls.

The country we came to now was very wild, beginning at Glen Dochart, through which the Dochart flows; nothing but moors and very high rocky mountains. We came to a small lake called, I think, Laragilly, amidst the wildest and finest scenery we had yet seen. Glen Ogle, which is a sort of long pass, putting one in mind of the prints of the Kyber Pass, the road going for some way down hill and up hill, through these very high mountains, and the escort in front looking like mere specks from the great height... It came on to rain, and rained almost the whole of the rest of the time. We passed along Loch Earn, which is a very beautiful long lake skirted by high mountains; but is not so long or so large as Loch Tay. Just as we turned and went by St. Fillans, the view of the lake was very fine...

... We passed by Sir D. Dundas's place, Dunira, before we changed horses at Comrie, for the last time, and then by Mr. Williamson's and by Ochtertyre, Sir W. Keith Murray's.

Triumphal arches were erected in many places. We passed through Crieff, and a little past seven reached Drummond Castle, by a very steep ascent. Lord Willoughby received us at the door, and showed us to our rooms, which are small but nice.

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