Last time we visited Loch Muick it was so windy we had to shout at one another to talk. We haven’t been back until today. We checked the weather forecast first to be sure we wouldn’t face another gale but I’m beginning to suspect Loch Muick and wind are two words that always go together because it was windy again today.
After 20 minutes of walking head-wind towards the loch, Ben said to me, “Next time you suggest we all go for a walk around Loch Muick the appropriate response will be, ‘Fuck off’”.
Loch Muick is a moody place. It makes you feel small and insignificant. You are truly at the mercy of the elements here and feel so exposed. As you walk towards the loch it looks so near and yet seems to take forever to reach, like a mirage in the desert that’s always in the distance. It’s a beautiful place with its sandy shores at the bottom of steep and unforgiving cliffs.
I guess you’re wondering how it is that we had lunch at the Queen’s house? About an hour’s walk from the car park at the Spittal of Glen Muick is an old hunting lodge that was built by Queen Victoria in 1868. It’s called Glas-Allt-Shiel. Queen Victoria apparently called it her “widow’s house” and used it as a place to escape after Alfred’s death. The path around the loch goes straight past her house. We didn’t see this house last time because we walked around in the other direction and didn’t do the full circuit. If you just want to walk to the lodge then you need to go right when you reach the loch and walk counter-clockwise.
The pathway to the lodge is very good and wide enough for a car. I suspect that’s how the royal family get to it when they visit because there’s no road there.
The trees and stone wall you can see in the distance in this next photo form the entrance to Glas-Allt-Shiel.
It’s very sheltered from the wind on the Queen’s property, probably because of all the lovely trees and perhaps also because of its location.
It was so pleasant that we had a little picnic on the beach just in front of the Queen’s house.
This is Glas-Allt-Shiel:
The inscription above the door reads, “Built by Queen Victoria in 1868” and on the other side it says, “Bought by King George VI in 1950”.
It was a truly magnificent spot for a picnic. I can see why Queen Victoria built a house there. I took this next photo to copy the royal photo below it. Daniel looks miserable but I think he just had a mouth filled with blueberry muffin.
What is truly amazing about this place is that one of the outhouses of the royal house is a bothy that anyone can use. If you’re wondering what a bothy is it’s a mountain hut where hillwalkers can take shelter. They are typically simple stone huts without power or running water or even toilets but they are unlocked all year round and can be a life-saver for people walking in the hills.
We had a look inside the Glas-Allt-Shiel bothy and it was very dark but it has a log burner and lots of candles which, had they been lit, would have made it a warm and reasonably inviting space. There was even wood there, toilet paper, and pasta! I took a photo but it’s not very good because it was so dark and there was no electricity.
There are two bunks downstairs. If you slept here you could say you slept in the Queen’s house!
Upstairs is just a timber floor for sleeping on.
People climbing the nearby Lochnagar often use this bothy as a base. I don’t think it’s usual to find wood in a bothy so if you do go I recommend you bring your own wood. There’s a toilet in a separate building but it’s just a hole in the ground that you tip water from the nearby stream into.
The bothy is just behind the main house, 5th door along in this next pic:
Overall it was a fabulous outing in every respect. The wind at the start of the walk died down when we reached the side of the loch so Ben had to eat his words: we’ll definitely go back again.