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Will ye go to the Highlands, my Mary,
And visit our haughs and our glens ?
The river Don, the subject of the following sheets, rises in a morass, on the western extremity of Aberdeenshire, sixtyone miles from the capital, in the upper part of the parish of Strathdon, a parish, Crathie excepted, the largest in the county, being nearly twenty-eight miles in length, intersections excepted, “ from east to west, and from five to eight in breadth, from north to south, the valued rent being £3039 1s. 6d. Scots.” (a)
66 The grand ridge of hills called the Grampians, which truly forms the most striking picture in the history of Scotland, originate at Greig and Girdle-ness, on the south side of the river Dee, and runs with a variety of windings an extent of ninety-nine miles, and reaches Cairn Ealer, on the southwest corner of Aberdeenshire;—descending from this to an isthmus almost level one-fourth of a mile broad, and separates a branch of the Dee from the river Feshie, and forms
(a) Playfair's Description of Scotland, vol. 2.
two grand peninsulas. A ridge gradually ascends from this to the hill Braeriach, and then abruptly descends to a chasm, and again ascends to the lofty Cairngorum" (6) " or blue mountain, four thousand and sixty feet above the level of the sea. (c) On many of the mountains covering the source of the Dee, and on Cairngorum, are found a variety of gems, topazes, silicious agates, rock chrystals; and a limped spring called the Marquis of Huntly's well (d) on Cairngorum.
“ From Cairngorum a ridge descends in gentle gradations on the east of Lake or Loch Morlich to the river Spey; and then appears another, steeply rising, on the north side of Loch Aven, and ascends to Beinn-na-bynack, again descending on a ridge which gradually trends through a comparatively low country, from which ascending to the Cromdale hill, which runs to the junction of the river Aven with the Spey.
“ A third ridge proceeds from Cairngorum to Beinn-namuich-dhui, Beinn-na-bord, and Beinn-aven, and makes a steep declivity to the southern extremity of Lake Bulg, rises to a chain, and forms an elliptical curve round the springs, give rise to the river Don : on the north side of which this chain rises, and after throwing off from it several extensive ridges or chains, and after many grand inflections in the course of seventy miles from Cairn Ealer, it terminates in the Lordship of Strathbogie, at a hill called the Beim of Huntly, near the conflux of the rivers Isla and Doveron,
Where Ceres' gifts on labor'd furrows grow,
While noon-day jubars sparkle on the tide.
This ridge, from its elliptical curve near Lake Bulg, runs along the south verge of the Don to the hill of Morven,
(6) Robertson's Map. (c) Annesly's Map.
where many ridges spring from it; it then descends to the Don, and passes the river, and becomes very steep on the north side to the rock on the eastern summit of Beinn-nachie. From Beinn-na-chie a ridge runs westward, on the north side of the Don, by the hill of Coreen, descends to an extensive plain, from which a ridge ascends to the Bụck of the Cabrach, and returns in a curve to the main chain. These ridges, on the opposite sides of the Don, nearly resemble the figure of an ellipsis, and enclose an extensive district of country, through which the river Don meanders in many beautiful and serpentine windings.” (e)
The spring or source of the Don forms a boundary or march to the counties of Aberdeen and Banff, as part of the spring Ald-ruah-spinan (the place where the lambs were weaned) falls into the Aven, and the other part falls into the morass called the Vhea Vatch, (the soft mire where cattle sink.)
An apparent error appears in the notes of the two last editions of the pamphlet called Don, a poem, printed 1798 and 1819, asserting that Don takes its rise in Glenaven.
The river Aven originates in Lake Aven, in Glenaven, at the foot of Beinn-na-aven, a part of the Grampian chain, which mountain separates the countries of Mar and Badenoch. Aven, (the river, it implies no other meaning in the Gaelic or Welsh tongues,) after a long run, falls into the Spey. This majestic current issues also from a lake called Loch Spey, in the southern extremity of Badenoch, " and running in a serpentine form, passes Pitmain, where a majestic cataract or linn is seen, where the water is thrown over a ledge of rocks in a semi-circular form, dashing to a distance the spumy spray, which again descending in drizzling showers, combines sublimity and grandeur truly picturesque. Here the Truim falls into the Spey." (f) In this country are many elegant villas, and castle Ruthven, the ancient seat of the Cummings, Lords of Badenoch, which lastly was occupied
(-) Robertson's Map.
(f) Mrs. Anrray's Guide, vol. 2.
as a garrison by government, in 1745. Near this is Kinrara, belonging to his Grace Alexander, fourth Duke of Gordon. Here her Grace Lady Jane Maxwell, Duchess of Gordon, was sepultured in 1814.
The Spey passes Garviemore, where there is an extensive view down the Strath of Rothiemurchus, with the lofty Cairngorum in the distance. The current rolls on and passes Castle Grant, and the rock Craigellachie, (rock of alarm.) This rock is the crie du guerre, or war cry of the clan Grant, and their badge of distinction is the Empetrum Nigri, (blackberry bearing heath): after leaving this rock, the river washes the stupendous Craig Elchies, (improperly called Craigellachie) where stands a cast-iron bridge, of one arch, erected at an expense of £8000 sterling. Leaving this and following the stream to Fochabers, another bridge meets the view, having “ four arches, two of them are 95 feet in the span, and the other two are 75 feet, founded by Mr. George Burns, of Haddington, (g) from voluntary contributions, which being expended, and the task not completed, Mr. Exle finished the work for £13,000 sterling, in 1803.”
A little below this the river falls into the German ocean, after a run of one hundred and twenty miles north-east.
Returning from this digression, to the river Don, having shewn where it originates, we shall pursue the chain of history of that place. · Many more springs fall into the Tullich (pleasure ground) which is the name given to the streamlet for some distance, until several chrystalline urns unite and form a body of water, and then it receives the name Don.
Every small streamlet has the name of burn assigned to it; and all the names are in the Gaelic tongue, which once was the only language used in this country, but since the introduction of the English tongue, and the commerce carried on with the low country, it has fallen into desuetude, is rarely spoken, and what is spoken is greatly corrupted.
(9) Literary and Commercial Magazine, 1811.
The streamlets that fall into the Tullich, I shall mention in order, until the conflux of the Vannich, and then conclude with some observations on the country and its inhabitants.
On the one hand falls Cuachan-dhu (black burn), and on the other the Altn Mhical (Michal's burn), the Alt Noin (the burn of the hind or female deer), and a spring falling from a shaggy mountain side, which, from its appearance, has the name of Cloch Faun (grey moss stone.) Near this another small spring meanders through a hollow place covered with rough grass, and is called Esk-na-slisach (spell burn), and the Alt-na-dalyn (the burn where the turfs are cut.) These turfs are sometimes cut with the spade, to a certain degree of thickness, and are used as fuel, being found to contain a gaseous substance, from the entwined roots of heath and mossy earth, and when enkindled afford a comfortable fire, used singly or combined with peats. At other times they are cut with the breast-plough, of an oblong form and thin, and then they are used to cover their houses.
On the south side the Vannich pours her tribute into the stream, and when joined it is called Don. The Vannich rises partly from a hill called Moor Vannich (middle grains, or rather waste and barren ground), and here the first habitations meet the view. On the verge of this streamlet stands a neat hunting seat, called a Sheil, erected in 1797, by Sir Arthur Forbes of Craigievar, Bart. and belonged in 1826 to Sir Charles Forbes of Edinglassie, Bart. Near this is a large stone, without any inscription, called Cloch Couttsich (Coutt's stone), where a Captain sirnamed Coutts was killed.
The country bears the name of Corgarff, (or Rough Quarry), as there are several veins of calcareous or limestone, moorstone, granite, and coarse slate-stone. On the whole, the country is but thinly populated, and very poorly cultivated, as the elevation of the ground and frigidity of the atmosphere, blast often the only hope of rewarding their toil.
As the young plants, in verdure paint the scene,