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Geldie Lodge

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Geldie LodgeGeldie Lodge - 9th September 2008

Geldie Lodge is the (ruined) 19th century shooting lodge in upper Gleann Gheallaidh - south of Uisge Gheallaidh, on the left-bank of Allt Coire an t-Seilich.

Geldie Lodge lies south of Uisge Gheallaidh, and as such, is among the Am Monadh (the Mounth) rather than Am Monadh Ruadh (the Cairngorms).

The photograph shows Geldie Lodge from the south, looking north across Gleann Gheallaidh towards the summits of the central Cairngorms.

The earliest reference I've found relating to any habitation in Gleann Gheallaidh is GD124/17/75 a draft lease of 1696 – showing :

… to pasture 100 head of goods [gelds ?] and 8 mares on water of Die or Geldie within forest of Corrivran, as forester of said Earl shall appoint, and to build a sheiling in said forest, for term of 19 years

– GD124/17/75

Although only a draft – this document shows that commercial grazing was at least being considered during the time of the Earls of Mar. 

What's certain is a bothy existed near the head of Gleann Gheallaidh in 1696, or soon after, because Farquharson (1703) shows (what appears to be) Boandū Geoldie - meaning black bothy of Gheallaidh.  Although Farquharson (1703) is hand-drawn (its scale, and orientations are wrong), it is drawn by someone who knew the glen, and its relative positions are correct.  It shows Allt Damhaidh Beag, Allt Damhaidh Mór, and An Caochan Ruadh Mór entering Uisge Gheallaidh from the north in their relatively correct positions.  Boandū Geoldie is shown on the south of Uisge Gheallaidh in the relatively correct position between Allt Damhaidh Mór and An Caochan Ruadh Mór, and upstream - Allt a' Chaorainn, and the nameless tributary flowing from the north-eastern corrie of Carn an Fhidhleir are also clearly shown in their relatively correct positions. 

From the relative position of Boandū Geoldie on Farquharson (1703) I conclude that Geldie Lodge was either built over the top of the earlier bothy, or its ruin is one of the many dotted around the ruin of Geldie Lodge.  Interestingly - Roy (1745-1755) shows no buildings in Gleann Gheallaidh suggesting the bothy had gone out of use before the middle of the 18th century.

Gleann Gheallaidh is dotted with shieling huts, but it's not clear when the traditional shieling practice ended in the glen.  What is certain - is that the traditional shieling practice had given way to commercial grazing by the late 18th century, and that continued into the middle of the 19th century.  In Keith (1811) the author while describing typical highland farms in the county uses the farm of Charles McHardy of ''Delavorar'' (Dail a’ Mhorair) as an example (and incidentally recording the extent of the grazing in Gleann Gheallaidh at the time) -  writing :

Mr. Charles McHardy's farm at Delavorar ... The annual expence [sic] of his family and servants, including that of the shepherds who take care of his live-stock, on the mountains of Scarsoch, and the valley of Glean-geaullie, is equal to all the produce of his arable land.  It is, therefore, to the pasturage of horses and black cattle, and to the profits of sheep-farming that he must look for every farthing of his rent

- Keith (1811) (p562-563)

After 1830 - the glen was no longer grazed by tenant farmers - from Clark (1872) it appears the glen was first grazed by James, 4th Earl Fife before being leased commercially with George Clark (who'd serve as Factor to James 5th Earl Fife) being the last lease-holder from 1850 to 1855.  George Clark's testimony makes it clear he thought the potential profits from grazing the glen was marginal, and after his lease expired the grazing in the glen was taken over by Earl Fife.

In 1860 Queen Victoria passes through Gleann Gheallaidh on the way to Gleann Feithisidh, but doesn't mention any buildings being further upstream than 5 miles from Eas Dé - which I take to be a reference to Ruighe Ealasaid.

Another contemporary description of Gleann Gheallaidh gives the clear impression that Ruighe Ealasaid
was the only building in the whole glen at the time.  In Crombie (1861) - the author writes :

Glen Geaully ... commences at Scarsach, and runs first N., and then due E., to the junction.  It is low and of little width throughout, consisting entirely of bare, bleak moorlands, where the heather is varied only by deep bogs, yeilding marshes, and tracts of peat ... For a short distance, however, towards its mouth, it becomes grassy, and contains good pasturage.  With the single exception of a shepherd's shieling in this portion, it bears no traces of having ever been inhabited

- Crombie (1861) (p22)

Crombie is certainly overstating the case - the length of Gleann Gheallaidh is dotted with the ruins of shieling huts, but their use was seasonal, and their ruins could easily escape the notice of someone following the estate road.

Apparently then - the glen was used mainly (at least) for grazing into the 1860s in spite of the Duke of Leeds leasing the old Forest (including the hills north of Gleann Gheallaidh) from the early 1830s into early 1850s.  

The census of 1861 records the names of two buildings in the glen - Geldie Cottage, and Geldie House (both unoccupied).  The appearance of these buildings the 1861 census suggest a period of building in the glen starting in the early 1860s.  That period of building may have included the building of Ruighe nan Clach as well as the first phase of Geldie Lodge - both buildings are shown on the old 6-inch map (1869).

The old 6-inch map (1869) shows, but does not name, the first phase of the shooting lodge as a rectangular oddly oriented building - its front apparently facing south-east at nothing in particular.  A square building shown a short distance to the south may have been a stable.  I suspect the larger square building shown standing alone, near the west bank of Allt Coire an t-Seilich was a larder - the building where carcases were kept before being taken to Mar Lodge.

The second phase of building appears to have added the western gabled wing.  This had the effect of turning the shooting lodge to face the high tops of the Cairngorms by adding more windows to that side.  Later building phases further extended the shooting lodge by adding gabled wings to the east, and south.