National Geographic : 1956 Jul
A Stroll to John o' Groat's This eloquent tribute seemed an inspiring send-off for the summit of my stroll, which now approached. I planned to cross the Grampian Mountains by an old drove-road known as Jock's Road, which crosses the mountains and descends into Glen Callater near Braemar. Glen Clova, one of the most beautiful of the glens in the Braes of Angus, cradles the River South Esk between steep mountains where some of Scotland's rarest alpine plants find a secret home. I slept in the hotel at the head of this glen. After breakfast I set out for my most adventurous walk. Queen Victoria Climbed This Mountain Jock's Road scrambles up to a plateau above the 3,000-foot level; the way was poorly marked on the summit and would be most difficult to follow if mist should gather. Burdened with my pack, I found it a stiff clamber up the steep zigzags. Stout fellows Jock and his beasts must have been, I thought as I panted after them. About four miles from Glen Doll the track disappeared. Soon I crossed a patch of snow. Only the harsh "churr-rr" of the ptarmigan and the distant sound of a falling cataract broke the silence. I hastened on, for mist had already blotted out the 3,786-foot crest of dark Lochnagar. This mountain is regu larly invaded on Midsummer Eve by parties of climbers going up to watch the sunrise. It has also the proud distinction of having been climbed on more than one occasion by Queen Victoria herself. Page 24 - P lastic Cape Makes a Hut on the Heather for a Pair of Rain-bound Cyclists On a bicycle built for two, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Kirkpatrick of Newcastle-upon-Tyne pedal through the Highlands. Here they wait out a storm along side the road between Tomintoul and Braemar. Dead branches of burned heather splotch the moors with gray-white. Roots live on. Scots regularly burn the land to destroy other plant growth and encourage the hardy heather by forcing young shoots. Upper: A rosy tide of heather washes against ever green Balmoral Forest. The low-growing shrub, Calluna vulgaris, covers the nakedness of the moors with raiment both beautiful and useful. Red grouse and other game birds feast on the tender young shoots and seeds. Flowers yield honey and, rarely now, famed heather ale. Highlanders once built their cottages of heather stems mixed with peat mud and straw. Even today some sheds are walled with the material and roofed with heather's soft, springy foliage. © National Geographic Photographer B. Anthony Stewart At last I reached the knaps of Fafernie, precipices that bristle above the steep drop into Glen Callater. Beyond lay lonely Loch Callater; now I felt I could rest and lunch, for its waters would be a sure landmark. It proved a long, tough walk to get there, but I forgot to feel tired when I reached the outskirts of Braemar and saw under a copper beech a house with sheltering eaves and some yellow poppies growing under the windows. A tablet over the door stated: "Here R.L.S. spent the summer of 1881 and wrote Treasure Island, his first great work." There it was! "The late Miss McGreg or's Cottage." The name greatly delighted Stevenson's father, for he said, "It was not everyone who could be addressed round by Heaven!" Robert Louis Stevenson came to Braemar in the first year of his marriage with his par ents, his wife, and his small stepson Lloyd Osbourne. It is said to have been in response to the boy's request "to try to write some thing interesting" that the opening chapters of The Sea Cook (as Treasure Island was first called) were written. Treasure Island Sold for £100 It was published in Young Folks in monthly installments, bringing its author £2 10s. a page. When it came out as a book in 1883, he received £100 for it and wrote to his father, "It does look as if I should support myself without trouble in the future." From time immemorial Highland Games have been held at Braemar, and every Sep tember the town is the scene of a truly royal gathering patronized by the British monarchs (pages 17, 19).* During this exciting time it is difficult to find accommodation, but in early May I was almost the only guest for dinner in the vast dining room of the Inver cauld Arms. Next morning I walked along the Dee Val ley to Crathie, where a notice suggesting "Supper, bed, and breakfast" attracted me to a cottage almost opposite the towers of Bal moral Castle (page 26). I spent a week end within sound of the castle clock, explored the castle grounds, and at Crathie Church on Sunday just missed by a week the first attendance of Britain's Heir Apparent, Prince Charles. * See "Clans in Kilt and Plaidie Gather at Brae mar," 11 illustrations in color, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, August, 1935.