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Derry Lodge

Photographs of Derry Lodge Show on Bing Maps

Derry Lodge - 28th July 2010

Derry Lodge is the (boarded up) 19th century shooting lodge in lower Gleann Doire on Mar Lodge Estate, Aberdeenshire.  It stands on the ‘peninsula’ between Uisge an Doire and the Laoigh.

Derry Lodge is surrounded by hand-planted pines ; planted at least as early as 1860.  The strange ground-plan of the lodge gives away its phased-construction, with the ‘wing’ facing south being the original lodge, and the wing facing the approach from Eas Dé being added last. 

In 1850 Francis D'Arcy-Osborne, 7th Duke of Leeds was renting the ‘old forest’ from James, 4th Earl Fife - the site now occupied by Derry Lodge was (and is) in the heart of the old forest, and it's unlikely that work on Derry Lodge would have begun while the old forest was in the hands of a tenant.  An account of a visit to Gleann Laoigh Beag, and Gleann Doire about 1850 significantly makes no reference to a shooting lodge in the area.  In Grierson (1851) the author describes his visit to the area - writing :

I spent the night very comfortably, and, after an early breakfast, went up Glen Derry with my entertainer and his assistant, on their customary rounds. Glen Derry and Lui-Beg are unlike anything one meets with even in the Highlands. The forester's house is the only one they contain

– Grierson (1851) (p198)

The lease held by the Duke of Leeds almost certainly expired sometime before the mid-1850s, and I don't think the striking resemblance between bridge over Eas Dé (opened in 1857), and Derry Lodge is a coincidence.

By 1859 a shooting-lodge of some description had certainly been built ; and it was certainly fit for a queen.  In Victoria (1877) - the author describes returning from the summit of Ben Macdui in 1859 - writing :

By a quarter-past six o'clock we got down to the Shiel of the Derry, where we found some tea, which we took in the ''shiel,'' [footnote explaining term] and started again by moonlight at about half-past six.

– Victoria (1877) (p138)

The shooting lodges of the 18th century were bigger, but often no more sophisticated than the shieling huts they made redundant as land-use changed from traditional agriculture to deer forest.  The 'shiel' reference is a quaintism the Victorians continued the use of in reference to shooting lodges.

By 1861 the name Derry Lodge appears in the census, when it was occupied by the 24 year old deer watcher Hugh McCrostie, and evidently in use.  In Crombie (1861) the author refers to the lodge - writing :

we have driven on for two or three miles, and entered at a gate into a young fir plantation, surrounded by a high paling to keep out the deer, at the end of which we find ourselves beside a neat hunting-shieling of Lord Fife

– Crombie (1861) (p130)

The south-facing wing appears to have been the Derry Lodge when it was built in the mid to late 1850s - the west, and east-facing wings were later addions.

By 1866 when the area was surveyed by the Ordnance Survey, the west-facing wing had been added since an L-shaped Derry Lodge is shown on the old 6-inch map (1869) based on that survey.

In the 1880s Donald Fraser became the resident keeper at the lodge.  He lived there for over twenty years with his wife Elizabeth, and daughter Mary until his death in 1913.  Donald must have been well known to earlier generations of Cairngormers - being referred to often in the books of Seton Gordon, and articles in the Cairngorm Club Journal. 

Evidently the Frasers had lived in Derry Lodge all year-round, but 'things' changed after the death of the Duke of Fife in 1912, and Donald Fraser in 1913.  In Alexander (1928) – the author writes :

Starting from Derry Lodge (1400 ft.), the path crosses the Derry and proceeds west along the left bank of the Luibeg. On the opposite side of the stream is Luibeg Cottage, occupied all the year by a keeper : Derry Lodge is not occupied in winter

Alexander (1928) (p 103)

During the 1939-1945 war the Cairngorms were heavily used for training, and the lodge was occupied by the military.  Even then the Cairngorm Club were contemplating their own use of it, and at their 1943 AGM they decided to approach the Trustees of the Duke of Fife.  The response was positive, but it was 1951 before they took possession of the lodge - holding it until 1967.

Since then the lodge has been unoccupied - apart from occasional short-term occupations.  I remember sometime in the late 1970s a unit of Royal Engineers (Territorials I think) lived in the lodge for the few weeks it took them to build a bridge across the Laoigh near the downstream edge of the plantation.