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Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Loch Muick

After the unrelenting succession of public duties and merciless scrutiny, no one should begrudge the King and Queen Consort a few days’ peace and quiet at Balmoral. That is where I would be in their place, with perhaps a couple of nights at Glas-allt-Shiel.

For me, events vividly brought back the time I lived near there. Place names from thirty-five years ago became familiar again, as did the way they rolled off the tongue. Best was “Pitterrr Cootterrr” (Peterculter)

One of my favourite walks then was the eight-mile circuit of Loch Muick (pronounced “Mick”) on the Balmoral estate. It was a comparatively undemanding way to experience the rugged Highland countryside, ideal for the short winter days or long summer evenings they have up there. I often took visiting friends there and must have done the walk more than half a dozen times. In those days you could park for free at Spittal, eight miles south of Ballater, and see no one else all day.

The walk is on public paths, so there are no access problems. One nutcase I worked with liked to plan his own off-path routes across the Balmoral estate and was more than once stopped by security.

Here is Loch Muick from the southern end (I didn’t take many photographs at that time, so all the images here are others’).

About half way around the walk in trees on the western shore of the loch (on the left in the photograph) is the lonely lodge of Glas-allt-Shiel, built by Queen Victoria in 1868 as an escape from the world after the death of her husband. The Royal Family still use it occasionally despite the lack of mains electricity.


Usually it was closed up, but on one occasion, although deserted, the blinds were open and you could see into a dining room exquisitely set with spectacular china and silverware. We stood at the window and stared in wonder for a time before continuing around the loch. Suddenly, three Royal green Range Rovers came speeding
along the track towards us. We couldn’t see who was in them.

My only other brush with Royalty was when the Queen visited the university where I worked. She gave us her famous warm and uplifting smile through the window of her Bentley and then disappeared into the Vice Chancellor’s building.

Not as close as others’ encounters, but they are mine.

30 comments:

  1. Nice memories, I think one of the late Queen's corgis is called Muick as well. As for links/blog posts mine seem to work. For some extrardinary reason, only you reside in my links column. Probably got it all wrong I suppose but it works.

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    1. I noticed one of the Corgis is called Muick. You might also remember Charles wrote a children's story "The Old Man Of Lochnagar, which is the mountain between Balmoral Castle and Loch Muich. It is a popular place to watch the summer solstace.
      I think that your sidebar contains a static List Gadget rather than a live/updating Links Gadget, and that my link appears in a separate list because you have two if them.

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  2. I enjoy your recollections. I could envision you gazing through the window into that dining room.

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    1. It was the left hand one on the picture. It was astonishing there was no security or anything. We wondered later whether if we had tried the door we could have walked in.

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    2. I imagine that there would have been staff inside to escort you right out. I wondered about security when I read that the queen was out walking with her body guard (his name was Dick). They came across some tourists walking, and got into a chat with them. They asked the queen if she lived in the area, and the queen replied that she lived in London mainly, but had a summer place nearby. They asked how long she'd been coming there, and she said, "Oh, since I was a little girl." The tourists said, "Have you ever met the queen?" And HRH said, "I haven't, but Dickie here has, " indicating the body guard. The tourists began peppering her with questions about what the queen was like. Dickie said, "Well, she can be quite cantankerous, but she has a wonderful sense of humor." They asked the queen to take pictures of them with Dickie. She obliged and then Dickie offered to take a picture of them with her. He did. The two of them walked back to Balmoral laughing themselves silly about what would happen when someone recognized the queen in the pictures. I also read that what one the great grands works in a garden center. That wouldn't happen here. I think it is neat that it CAN happen there.

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    3. A really amusing story. In the version I read, it added that the tourist (American) took photographs of themselves with them I wonder whether they've ever looked at the pictures again.
      Glas-allt seemed completely deserted. It's possible there was security inside - having a sleep at the back maybe - but honestly it was absolutely silent. The was around 1987 when walking out o the moors would have been regarded as a hobby for cranks. Looking on google now, the car park to the north of the loch is overflowing, but there wasn't even a car park then and it was unusual to see anyone else out walking. So it's possible that the place had just been left unattended.

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  3. Glas-allt-Shiel looks a lovely little place. O googled for images of Balmoral Castle and saw the whole area surrounding is so pretty and green.

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    1. You can find lots of images of Glas-allt too. Royal Deeside is a lovely area.

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  4. My only brush with royalty was about 45 years ago when I was in university. I was sitting at a bus stop in Winnipeg, waiting for a bus. I wondered why there was no traffic on the usually busy thoroughfare and then the Queen's Bentley and security detail went driving past. I saw the Royal Wave out the window. I'd forgotten the Queen was in town on a Royal Visit.

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    1. I'm often wished I could stop the traffic until I'm passed by. That would be my magical power.

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  5. Replies
    1. A likeable nutcase. Until he was over 50 only the exceptional student could beat him at squash. At Balmoral, they usually asked him to leave the private part of the estate by the shortest possible route, which was generally the way he wanted to go anyway. These days he would probably be shot.

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  6. Are my eyes deceiving me? King Charles appears to be wearing a tweed skirt in that photo! I never knew that he was into cross dressing like Eddie Izzard and Grayson Perry. I suppose it takes all sorts. Was it The University of Strathgirnock?

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    1. Are you not entitled to wear a tartan? How common!

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    2. I am entitled to wear a flat cap, own a whippet and keep my money under the floorboards but wearing a tartan skirt is for cissies.

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    3. Kilt=what happened to the last man who called it a skirt.

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  7. I guess the lovely royalty tales are ended. Charles seems impersonal and Camelia will never elevate herself, either.

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    1. A lot of people here seem to be saying that the way King Charles and Camilla have handled themselves during the last couple of weeks has won them over. I have to admit that although I have reservations about the principle of hereditary monarchy, I am a royalist at heart because the alternative - all that scrabbing for votes by lying spin doctors - would be appalling, and we would not necessarily end up with anyone better. The best of the Royals work hard and give value for money.

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  8. This looks like an amazing area to walk and explore, and I love the picture of then-Prince, now-King Charles III with his sons. I have spent very little time in the countryside of Scotland. I'll have to remedy that.

    I, too, have seen the Queen through the window of a passing car! And on a wharf across a waterway, where she appeared as a tiny speck from my distant perspective.

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    1. In Scotland you have to be lucky with the weather - and the midges. I prefer the even more rugged area more to the west around Fort William for walking, but there is also a lot to be said for the eastern side, especially when I lived there.

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  9. Nice legs!
    I quite like the idea of a retreat without elctricity mains. It reminds me of many a weekend spent in a hut in the woods when I was young, no electricity and no water mains, and only a woodburning stove for heat and a gas ring to cook on. My Dad and I loved it there, and it has firmly cemented the love of being in the woods in my heart. Nowadays, I prefer luxurious hot water showers and good reading lamps by the bed.

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    1. We used to wear garters like those in the scouts.
      I'd like to spend a few nights there too. Apparently, the outbuilding behind the main house was available until quite recently as a bothy, and you camp there for free so long as you kept discreetly out of the way if Royals were staying in the house at the same time, but it is now closed because of vandalism. That's the thing about walking in the 1980s: there weren't loads and loads of others there, and those who did go walking respected the countryside and behaved responsible.

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  10. No electricity! I only recently learnt how bad midges can be in Scotland. I wonder why they thrive so well. We were lucky in The Highlands, with very warm weather. A little too warm at times. It's a nice photo of our King and his lads. Who knew where that story would go.

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    1. Midges can be awful when camping. I guess they thrive because of all the water, damp grass and wet ground. Hot weather probably reduces them.

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  11. *Wearing a tartan skirt is for cissies.*

    After this unspeakable remark Yorky will be a pariah in his bailiwick.
    Sheffield's royalists will drive him out of Yorkshire.
    Who remembers, who celebrates the Duke of Cumberland ?
    Cumberland the Butcher, who harried manly men in kilts because he himself had legs like a ballet girl, no doubt.

    Yorky may find refuge on the island of Muck (population 38) living in a tent and looking across fondly on neighbouring Eigg, Rhum and Canna.
    Alternatively he could bury himself in the Black Forest hoping Meike will take pity on him and find him a disused garage to doss down in.
    A shudder is passing through Spittal of Glenmuick even as I write these words.
    King Charles III is a forgiving man & will prove a wise monarch in spite of what that Sunday Times hack in London is saying about him.
    Haggerty
    As my Pa used to say, Rabbie Burns never wore a kilt in his life.

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    1. A dae nae ken fit tae dee. Delete him?
      And to think he went to university at Stirling.
      The English words slide so smooth from your throat that you know they can never say anything that is worth saying at all.

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    2. Nay Nay, Ma Guid Maun.
      Fit's wrang wi thi Engleesh tongue ? unless it's Cromwell's,
      a scunnerin religeeous maniac wha kilt the Irish in their thoosands as weel as chapping aff King Cherlie's noble heid.
      I heard it took twa blaws o' the axe to sever Ollie's heid, he howled like a banshee in a thunder-stoarm they say.
      As fur the buiks, ye've got Wee Jen Austen and the quines whit wrute Jen Eyre an Wutherin Heights an then there's Howard's Eend and Missus Dalloway an Ah'm haulfway through Edwin Drood the noo an lovin every meenute o' it.
      How in the Dickens did the auld lad learn to write like he was on the Blue Tins (yons the Super Lager) plus smokin the Whacky Baccy an Mither Ayahuasca tae ?

      As for Yorky, the Big Loon dons the keelt secretly like.
      In the closet, ken.

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    3. Just paraphrasing Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

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    4. Grassic Gibbon's dialogue in his A Scots Quair was as rich as a clootie dumpling.
      Terence Davies, one of my favourite film directors, ditched Gibbon's dialogue, the 'speak of the Mearns'.
      Agyness Deyn and Peter Mullan were outstanding; Davies has an eye for landscape.
      The BBC Television adaption, with Vivien Heilbron as Chris Guthrie, was wonderful. Bits of it were on YouTube.

      My late brother George, who was at the National Film School with Terence Davies, was impressed by Heilbron's portrayal, on one of his trips home from Los Angeles. A natural star.
      Gibbon (1901-35) died in Welwyn Garden City, a strangely anonymous place after his life in north-east Scotland..
      Haggerty

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