See http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2012.html Day 11 for map
Distance: 33km (Cum 327)
Ascent: 500 metres (Cum 8800)
Time taken: 9.6hrs including some long stops
(Sue's reply to Alan R's fingers comment: "Why didn't you cross your legs as well?!")
Challengers encountered: numerous
Flora and Fauna: red squirrels and roe deer in Braemar, and lots more
Brief entries from now on, you'll be pleased to hear, due to a hectic schedule. Thanks for your comment Alistair - we heard about your walk with Isabel and we look forward to seeing you in Montrose.
We slept in, so started later than planned. Further delays arose due to meeting Geoff + Co, the kilted Doug Bruce and his wife, then Emma.
Lingered on Creag Choinnich summit in perfect weather, with fine views to Braemar and Balmoral.
Easy walking to Invercauld Bridge, built in 1752 to carry the Military Road that leads north to Corgarff Castle and Ruthven Barracks in Strathspey, encountering Valerie Hamilton, a first timer. Sue was the first lady Challenger she had seen!.
Hot woodland tracks led pleasantly to Balmoral Castle, which is in fact a large estate house. Balmoral has been one of the residences of the British Royal Family since 1852, when it was purchased by Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert. It remains the private property of the monarch, and is not part of the Crown Estate. Soon after the estate was purchased the existing house was found to be too small. It was demolished, and the current Balmoral Castle was completed in 1856. The castle is an example of Scots Baronial architecture.
The Balmoral Estate has been added to by successive members of the Royal Family, and now covers an area of about 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres). It is a working estate, including grouse moors, forestry and farmland, as well as managed herds of deer, Highland cattle and ponies. King Robert II of Scotland (1316–1390) had a hunting lodge in the area. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert first visited Scotland in 1842, five years after her accession and two years after their marriage. They stayed at Edinburgh, and at Taymouth Castle in Perthshire, the home of the Marquess of Breadalbane. They returned in 1844 to stay at Blair Castle, and in 1847 when they rented Ardverikie by Loch Laggan. The latter trip was extremely rainy, which led Sir James Clark, the Queen's physician, to recommend Deeside for its more healthy climate. Sir Robert Gordon died in 1847, and the lease on Balmoral reverted to Lord Aberdeen. In February 1848 it was decided that Prince Albert would acquire the remaining part of the lease on Balmoral, together with its furniture and staff, and the couple arrived for their first visit on 8 September 1848. Victoria found the house "small but pretty", and recorded in her diary that: "All seemed to breathe freedom and peace, and to make one forget the world and its sad turmoils". The house was quickly found to be too small, and John and William Smith were commissioned in 1848 to design new offices, cottages and other ancillary buildings.
Improvements to the woodlands, gardens and estate buildings were also being made. After seeing a corrugated iron cottage at the Great Exhibition of 1851, Prince Albert ordered a pre-fabricated iron building for Balmoral, to serve as a temporary ballroom and dining room. It was in use by 1 October 1851, and served as a ballroom until completion of the new ballroom in 1856. Major additions to the old house were considered in 1849, but by then negotiations were underway to purchase the estate from the trustees of the deceased Earl Fife. The sale was completed in November 1851, the price being £32,000, and Prince Albert formally took possession the following autumn.
After taking the Deeside path around Balmoral, we diverted to Crathie for tea with Laura (who as reported yesterday has dropped out of the Challenge) and her husband John. We were there for an hour and a half. Thanks, Laura.
A short road walk by-passed Creag nam Ban, which hill we failed to traverse due to access problems. A lovely green lane (pictured) followed by some deep heather took us to the south of Creag Ghiubhaig and back to the quiet road.
Then it was another lovely woodland track, partly beside the Dee (pictured) most of the way to Ballater. We saw kilted Doug Bruce and Richard Baker on the north bank of the Dee. We'd seen them earlier on the trail and apart from Valerie they were the only other Challengers we saw walking today.
Ballater is a centre for hikers and known for its spring water. The medieval pattern of development along this reach of the River Dee was influenced by the ancient trackways across the Grampian Mounth, which determined strategic locations of castles and other Deeside settlements of the Middle Ages. In the early 14th century, the area was part of the estates of the Knights of St John, but the settlement did not develop until around 1770; first as a spa resort to accommodate visitors to the Pananich Mineral Well, then later upon the arrival of the railway in 1866 (since closed). Ballater railway station was closed in 1966. Many buildings date from the Victorian era and the centre of the village is a conservation area.
The Habitat Bunkhouse supplied us with an excellent en-suite twin room, and the Alexandria sorted all our food and social requirements, including encounters with JJ and with Colin Tock, who told of a grand tour of the Highlands on this year's Challenge in order to keep his feet dry.
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