Location:- Balmoral Castle, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
A Castle fit for a Queen.
Please Remember ….
Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other
(C) David Oakes 2021
A Castle fit for a Queen.
(C) David Oakes 2021
A Ladies age is supposed to be one of those ‘secrets’ that should always be observed, one should never ask, and if you do know, never ever tell….But if you are a member of the Royal family it is never ever a secret. So it is congratulations to-day to Her Majesty Queens Elizabeth II on her 88th birthday.
Location: Balmoral Castle, Royal Deeside, Scotland…….Her Majesties favourite Summer Residence.
© David Oakes 2014
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.
At this time of the year I always collate together this years images. This starts a process which reminds me of the Favourite Places we have visited this year. I say ‘favourite’ but in truth we have enjoyed all our travels around the U.K. and it is sometimes hard to choose the best. But here goes…………
Derwent Water, Cumbria
Anytime, any year, this is my all time favourite location. Brandelhow Woods, Otter Bay, the shore below Cat Bells and the view across to Skiddaw just has to be the best. AND in the Lake District that is saying something when you have so many great locations to choose from. The Langdales, Wast Water, Tarn Hows…the list could go on.
Wast Water, Wasdale
Of course no visit to Cumbria would be complete in springtime without a glimpse of Daffodils….perhaps the best of which are here at Dora’s Fields near Rydal.
North of the border and into Scotland for our next brief review of places I love to linger. The first stop is the Cuillin Hills, on the Isle of Skye from the Sligachan. More often than not covered in cloud but occasionally offering a brief glimpse of the dramatic black ridges.
The Cuillin’s from the Sligachan
The Torridons, Wester Ross are the next stop with the mountain of Beinn Eighe towering above equally as great mountains such as Liathach at the head of Loch Torridon.
The Torridons from Shieldaig
The Castle of Mey we are told was HRH Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother favourite Castle and holiday home. Perched above the Pentland Firth you can understand just how captivating its isolated location can be. During the season the castle is open for well informed guided tours and make any visit to the castle extra memorable.
The Castle of Mey
A little to the south the Scottish countryside is just a touch mellower and Royal Deeside and the Balmoral Estate offer some spectacular scenery. We only discovered the Royal Glen Muick this year and without doubt we will be back to explore further. Loch Muick, in the shadow of Lochnagar was one of Queen Victoria’s holiday haunts where she built a magically located Lodge.
The Lodge, Loch Muick, Glen Muick
But like all mountainous areas the weather in Deeside is often inclement but still spectacular……….
The Dee, Braemar, Royal Deeside
Deeside is on the southern flanks of the Cairngorms but to the north hidden in one of the many glens is this small but beautiful group of lochs. Part way down Glen Feshie and hidden by woodland is this little gem…..
We head back south of the border to Northumberland a county overflowing with history and castles. It is hard to choose my favourites but if forced to choose would have to select Bamburgh and Warkworth. Bamburgh stands dominant on a crag above the North Sea whilst to-day Warkworth gives you the appearance of being some way from the sea but was once linked to the sea via the River Coquet.
In Part 2 of this little tour of Britain we will head to the south of England and also into Wales. But before we close Part 1I have to include the location that has given me so much pleasure. It is also an area that is not well visited despite its close location to Blackpool lying off Morecambe Bay to the south of Lancaster. It is a favourite wintering site for waders and wildfowl but also a great birding site throughout the year…it is the Wyre Estuary, wild yet very accessible and well worth a detour if in that area…..
a Morning Feast, The Wyre Estuary @ Skippool Creek, Stanah
28th December…..to be continued
A day that started so grey and unpromising soon turned into one of those special days that come along and surprise you with there intensity. We had decided to explore GLEN MUICK one of the many glens that are a part of Royal Deeside and a one of the few glens we have never ventured down (or up). As we started to clear the Silver Birch that cover the bottom of the glen the sun started in a rather timid way to break through the clouds. Once the Glen open out into a wide marsh area, the River Muick winds and glides on its way down to the Dee, the sun had really broken through and blue skies were starting to encourage us on our way.
The Mountain of Lochnagar. Inchnaboban
Soon we reached The Spittal of Glenmuick where there is a small car park (fees in support of the Cairngorm Access Society) and it was from here our walk began. After heading off through the village of a farm and a couple of houses, along one of many estate tracks, we caught our first sight of Loch Muick. A circular walk with a few diversions was planned.
As the day progressed so did we, each step opening up an ever extending vista of the Loch with Cairn Bannoch and The Broad Cairn as a backdrop. The path helps by ascending the hills to the left whilst still hugging the edge of the Loch. The heather clad and the more open sides eventually turning to richly clad Birch shores.
The superbly sited Country House, Glas-alt-Shiel, named after the water fall that descends from Lochnagar behind the house. It is another Scottish legacy built by Queen Victoria – this one in 1868, comes into view on the far side of the Loch. Well sheltered from the winds by a forest of pines It looks an idyllic location. I certainly wouldn’t mind it as a ‘holiday home!’ not that there is much chance of the Balmoral Estate and the Queen agreeing to that.
As you begin to reach the head of the Loch equally as good views back down the Loch start to appear and the track starts to descend to the Loch side and a great spot for your packed lunch break. It is also a great spot to watch the Brown Trout jumping. Then it offer across a bridge that allows you to cross the Allt an Dubh.
From the head of the Loch looking back along the way we came you get yet another perspective of these dark waters and the Pines that surround the house.
I have to admit that the walk back on the north side of the Loch is not as memorable but still invigorating in the feel of the surrounding mountains. With blue skies and a sun that warmed you into travelling in just short sleeves it was quiet a day…all the more so for being an unexpected pleasure both for the scenery and the weather….but it was nice to take a breather by the Loch. Yes, a 10 mile walk in just great walking weather in superb surroundings.
But even the last view down the Glen before returning to the car provided yet another change of character to this hidden gem of the Balmoral Estate and grateful that it is available for us all to enjoy.
Written 15th September to be published at a later date when signal available.
If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing YOU can be. Maya Angelou
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