October 12th 1855
My dear Papa,
Yesterday we returned from a four days tour in the wildest part of the Highlands, and now I want to tell you all we did and saw, though there is so much to say that I am afraid my letter will not be finished for today’s post.
After several days of rainy and unsettled weather, Monday was so exceedingly fine, that without delay at twelve o’clock we set out for Blair Athole, determined to return next day or go on farther according as the weather permitted. – The first remarkable object we saw before leaving Dunkeld was an extremely tall and wild looking highlander, with very handsome features in full costume, and such a quantity of bushy black hair and beard! On inquiry we found he was one of the Duke’s <2> keeper’s for apparently he obliges all his servants and retainers to wear the highland dress, which is a very good thing.
We made a halt at the village of Pitlochrie, which derives its chief interest from being in the neighbourhood of the Pass of Killicrankie and other beautiful scenery. We passed next through the beautiful grounds of Fascally belonging to Mr Butler, who allows carriages to pass close before his front door. The house stands at the junction of the beautiful rivers the Tummel and Garry, surrounded by the most enchanting scenery of woods and mountains. – Immediately on rejoining the high road, it begins to ascend the famous pass of Killiecrankie which
was proved far beyond all we had dared to anticipate. The great height of the wood-covered rocks, and the foaming torrent appearing at intervals below in the deep abyss is indeed one of the sublimest scenes imaginable. Immediately after we passed Urrard house, where poor Dundee <3> was killed by a stray shot after the victory. <4>
Of course we thought of him all the time and Mamie sang her favourite song of Bonnie Dundee. – Blair Athole rather disappointed us being somewhat tamer than we expected, but not having time to see Glen Tilt or the falls of the Bruar, the two Lions of the place, perhaps it is not fair to condemn it. Going out for a walk in the evening we met a very gentlemanly looking man in Highland dress and asked him if the Duke’s grounds were shown: he answered exceedingly politely and without the least scotch accent that he did not think they could be seen without a guide. We thought he certainly he must be some friend of the Duke’s, and learned with surprise, that he was only his under butler! – Soon afterwards a large, ugly, white building came it [sic] sight, looking exactly like a manufactory, only there was a flag flying on the top so we thought, can that possibly be the Duke’s Castle? We accosted a woman to know what it was, but [illegible deletion] she began talking very fast in Gaelic, the
the only word we could distinguish was something about [illegible] in short she could not understand a word of English. – Seeing another woman at a short distance, we ran to ask her the same question, but she only laughed and answered No English. Then we indeed felt ourselves really in the Highlands and were happy in having penetrated beyond the limits of civilization. – The Hotel – Bridge of Tilt, was very comfortable, except that it is infested by rats which made a horrible noise all night and prevented Mama and Mamie from sleeping – Next day was very fine & we retraced our steps to Killicrankie, and walked all through the pass by a beautiful path following the edge of the torrent Garry. – The guide showed us the precise spot where Our Majesty made a sketch. – It is surprising how everybody here is always talking of the Queen’s <5> visit as if it happened yesterday instead of ten years ago. – We were walking along the old highway, of the time of Dundee, and could well conceive what a dreadful things it must have been for an army to get entangled in those defiles – The road to Loch Ranoch [sic] where we were to sleep follows traverses for miles the most beautiful wild mountainous country covered with a natural birch woods, and then follows the shores of the Loch Tummel, the wildest and most desolate lake imaginable – Arrived at bridge of Tummel we made a halt.
And here I must stop as the post is going – Matilda <6> will give you an account of our farther adventures tomorrow. –
Good bye, dear Papa, your affectionate daughter
H. F. Talbot Esqre.
1. Near Perth, Scotland.
2. George Augustus Frederick John Murray, 6th Duke of Atholl (1814–1864).
3. John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount of Dundee (1648–1689), known as “Bonnie Dundee”.
4. In 1689 Dundee led an uprising in support of the Roman Catholic King James VII who, in the Glorious Revolution, had been deposed by his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange. Rallying forces in the central Highlands, he ambushed General Hugh Mackay at the Pass of Killiecrankie on 17 July 1689. Dundee's forces were completely victorious, but he was mortally wounded.
5. Victoria (1819–1901), Queen of the United Kingdom (1837–1901), Empress of India (1876–1901).
6. Matilda Caroline Gilchrist-Clark, ‘Tilly’, née Talbot (1839–1927), WHFT’s 3rd daughter.