Anne Lister diary transcriptions Anne Lister's diary 1828 Anne Lister's diary June 1828

Sunday 22 June 1828



On coming to my room to bed last night, being a little excited, incurred a cross [1]. Did not see Miss McL-. Off as fast as I could at 7½ to Aberfeldy to see the falls. Drove there myself. Alighted at the turnpike on this side the village at 8 25/60. The guide living there or close by, off immediately. No one allowed to enter the grounds without him. He had charge of the walks to keep them in order. 10 minutes walking from the turnpike along the Crieff road (that we came on Friday) to the little gate opening into the grounds. Then 10 minutes more to the 1st fall (a side-stream, pretty little thing). Then in 6 minutes got to the great fall at 8 51/60. Very pretty 5, or counting little ones, 7 steps of fall into beautifully wooded deep cleft or dean (pronounced dane) of Moness, the hoary perpendicular birch-sprinkled rocks said to be 300 feet or upwards high, particularly on the opposite or eastern side. Did not know then the perpendicular depth of fall, but said the diagonal of the fall from top to bottom (“the length slopeways”) was 330 feet. Allowing for the steps the water ways fall 2 feet at a yard? and perpendicular fall maybe 220 feet? Fall perhaps 2 yards broad at the top & 4 or 5 at bottom. 7 minutes there at the station where there is a rustic seat only, regretting that the natural birches opposite go not beyond the clefts of the rock, the hill above being covered with scotch firs. In Burn’s time not a fir. All birks (birches, natural wood). Then in 11 minutes walked up the steep path along the wood (larches, but not entirely on this side) to the topmost fall at 9 3/60. About 100 feet nearly perpendicular fall. Pretty rustic bridge (of fir branches) over the top of it & 4 little regular steps of rock just below the bridge before the great shoot of the water. Falls into a fine basin of rock finely wooded round, but far too much scotch fir. Not all come to see this fall. Left it at 9¼. Fine sunshine. Delightful morning. In 5 or 10 minutes come down to Burn’s seat (now a large circular rustic bench, tho’ no such thing in his time) where he is said to have written the song (vid. Scottish Tourist, 93/415) [2].

Falls of Moness, Birks of Aberfeldy
Sarah Charlesworth / Falls of Moness, Birks of Aberfeldy / CC BY-SA 2.0

On getting back again into the Crieff road, eastward just above the bridge is the Down? (pronounced Doone) of Moness on which (covered with wood) the remains of a Roman camp, & close (westward) to the bridge a little below is a mound (also covered with planting) on which was a smaller camp or look-out post of the Romans. Got back to the turnpike at 9¾, having walked 3 miles. They call it ¾ mile to the 2nd or great fall. Off home at 9 48/60. Very pretty drive. At 10 35/60 instead of entering Kenmore, turn (left) along the lake to the fall of Acharn (2 miles from Kenmore). Alight at the foot of the hill at 10 48/60. Guide, & in 8 minutes walked up the hill to the hermitage, approached by a little underground, dark, winding passage. Not to me good taste. Would rather have come upon the fall more naturally. 1 fall (4 steps?) 210 feet, very narrow at top. 1 yard? at bottom, not much more. Winds down very pretty wooded glen. Principally fir timber hereabouts. Some fine larches & spruce firs. Planted by the late Lord Glenorchy about 60 years ago by when the hermitage was done. Inside hung with otters, wild cats etc. A queer garb (jerkin and trousers) of goat’s skin, in which the guide hastened to shewed me how he looked, saying it was in this they acted the hermit. From the other window of the hermitage beautiful peep of the lake & the village & white church of Kenmore. 2 little falls higher up. Got to the topmost in 2 minutes. Go chiefly for the view of Kenmore with the sun upon it. Ben Lawers capped with cloud. Could not see the 2 lines of snow still left upon him. 3 lines a week ago. The wet weather took it faster away than sunshine. The snow on this side. Not visible from Killin. Off back again from the top fall at 11 8/60. In the gig again & off home at 11½ & got back at 11¾. The distance must be 2 short miles. Breakfast immediately. Miss McL- left me in 10 minutes to go to church. Service at 12 & a sermon in English & then ditto ditto in Gaelic. About an hour over my breakfast then settled my accounts. Made her wash with strong tea.

Ben Lawers in April – much more than 2 lines of snow!
Rob Burke / Ben Lawers from a field above Acharn / CC BY-SA 2.0

Off from Kenmore (we 2 & the driver in a gig) at 2 10/60. Kenmore a pretty, picturesque, small village. At 2 35/60 alight (the gig going round to cross the Tay at a ford) & in 10 minutes get to the ferry at Castle Comrie (a small, old house castle in ruin) a little cottage close by. Soon over the river (Tay), neither very broad nor full of water, tho’ that it is otherwise in winter is sufficiently attested by the ruin (close left) of a good 3 arched stone bridge completely destroyed by the force of the stream 6 or 8 years ago. Off again in the gig from the ferry at 2 55/60. At 3¼ ruins of castle of Garth (little distance left) & village of huts (Fortingal), just above it. Road turns. We leave Fortingal alongside (left). At 3 55/60 Loch Fruin (according to the driver’s pronunciation) little small pond full of trout, surrounded by bare brown heather mountains. The heather mountains would look less sterile if the people did not everywhere so burn up heather to make the grass grow, so that nothing can look more barren & desolate than the charred tops of the heather, whatever grass there may be being hid beneath. At 4 5/60 pretty descent upon the valley of the Tummel, the little loch (Loch Tummel) a little to the right mid trees & green [fields] with a few cottages, like an oasis in the wild. (Vid. Scottish Tourist, 210/415 et seq.). Ben Law? according to our driver (Bengloe, I suspect, these men seldom know much about things), fine seen from the top of the descent. At 4 20/60 on coming down upon the river (Tummel) good, broad, rapid stream, a picturesque cascade (right) of the whole breadth of the river. Alight at Tummel-bridge Inn at 4½. While the horses bait wrote out the 1st 13 lines of today. Comfortable little white inn. Might well stay there a day for the purpose of exploring Loch Rannoch & Loch Tummel. Two gents there for fishing.

Loch Tummel
Richard Slessor, Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

Off again at 5½. At 6 (distance left) Dunalister or Mount Alexander, white house, Robertson of Struan, “a doctor” (medical man) (211/415). Loch Rannoch in the hollow just beyond. At 6½ 2 or 3 good farm houses & gentleman’s house & small scattered [word missing?].  2nd turnpike & village of Trinafour at a distance below us to the right, amid fields of pretty patches of corn & meadow. Stream (the Erochky) & nice valley. Turn left cross the Erochky & at 6¾ pass close under the gentleman’s house (white and very neat). We are now in Glen Erochky. Pretty smiling valley. The bottom green with corn & meadow, the hills covered with sweet gale, Scotch myrtle, very pretty. Reminds me of the rose of the alps (rhododendron alpinum). At 7 20/60 ‘tis a beautiful valley. Village (Strowan?). Ben Gloe. The Erochky (right). At 7 25/60 cross picturesque rocky channel (of the Garry?), the scattered village (Strowan? this road not marked on the maps) very pretty & get into the Inverness road. At 7 40/60, having just passed the 3rd turnpike, alight at the bridge over the Bruar & walk up to see the falls (vid. Scottish Tourist, 217/415 et seq.). Take our guide, en passent, at a neat little cottage not far from the high road. Path along the Bruar. Fine, deep, rocky channel. Thro’ fir plantation (both sides fir). At 8 get to the 1st hermitage (like that at Aberfeldy). Over looking a basin into which the Bruar makes a very pretty fall at 3 breaks or steps, then passing under the stone bridge (just below the hermitage) makes 1 little fall & rushes thro’ a natural arch worn thro’ the rock, winds round a point & (in rapids) foams down its rocky course. Very picturesque. The fall from the bridge called the 1st fall, that in front of the 1st hermitage called the 2nd fall & then from here at the 3rd largest fall in 10 minutes at 8 12/60. Here too another hermitage. Decidedly the finest fall I have yet seen in Scotland. (217/415) “Here is an alpine bridge thrown across the stream… It consists of 3 falls or breaks, whose united height is 200 feet, the lowest forming an unbroken & perpendicular descent of 100 feet.” The bridge 1 arch, [strong], rough stone-mason-work, spoilt by a great round hole or opening (for ornament) at each end thro’ which the eye wonders why it is forced to look. Whoever saw “an alpine” or Swiss bridge so spoilt? Fall 5 steps. 210 feet of which last step = 75 feet. Left Miss McL- & in 8 minutes walked up from the hermitage to this bridge. Spoilt too by 4 great round holes pierced thro’ the battlement walls, as if the 4 squary holes to let the water off were not enough. No good view of the fall from the top of the bridge. Best seen from the hermitage. Certainly very fine fall. But the Swiss falls have more weight of water and all the scenery in Switzerland is on grander scale. The channel of the Bruar is hereabouts, & above & down to the high road, a remarkably fine, deep, rugged cleft. Got back to the gig (much pleased) at 8 50/60 & off again at 8 55/60 &, passing the duke’s great white house, crossed the good 3 arch bridge of Tilt, & alight at the inn close by at 9 20/60. Did not go to the inn at Blair Atholl because this more convenient on account of the coaches stopping here. Fine valley (Strath Garry) from the bridge over it where we 1st entered to here.

Upper Falls of Bruar & bridge in 1805, Rosser1954
(check out those awful holes in the bridge!)

Tea & excellent boiled salmon at 9¾. Went to my room at 11 20/60. Very fine day. Lovely evening. Double bedded room. With her from twelve and twenty five minutes till three, then got into my own bed. Preciously hot after three kisses. Had lain awake talking, telling her all kinds of things. Exciting young girls of fourteen whipped or struck gently to make them fit for gentlemen etc etc [3]. This done in York had been found out and made a noise some years ago etc etc. Just before getting into her looked at her linen. Her whites not very much nor of a bad sort so did not take fright.  

Kenmore to Aberfeldy & back     12 [miles]
To Acharn & back                             4
Kenmore to Blair Atholl                 28

[1] ‘Incurred a cross’ is a euphemism invented by Anne Lister to refer to having an orgasm from masturbation. Helena Whitbread writes that ‘[t]he quasi-religious and penitential nature of both the symbol [Anne wrote a ‘x’ in the margin of her diary when she had ‘incurred a cross’] and the terminology signifies Anne’s sense of religious guilt…’ (Whitbread, Helena (2016) Secret Diaries Past & Present, p. 45)

Whitbread goes on to write that although Anne:

‘considered her sexuality as God-given, natural and therefore not sinful… Her real sense of sinning against God arose from her masturbatory practices. Anne struggled with her conscience when erotic reading or late night sexual fantasising about one or other of her loves led to what she described as ‘self-pollution,’ about which she had an overwhelming sense of sinfulness. She regularly prayed to God for the willpower to resist such sexual indulgences…’ (Whitbread, Helena (2016) Secret Diaries Past & Present, pp. 92-93)

[2] The Falls of Moness (Aberfeldy) inspired Robert Burns was inspired to write ‘The Birks of Aberfeldy’ song lyrics in 1787.

[3] I asked Helena Whitbread to provide some explanation about this ‘story’ and she very kindly obliged. This is what she said: ‘The gentle whipping or gently striking of young girls in their genital area was practised in brothels in days gone by to stimulate and ready them for sex with clients.’

You can read the original diary entry here:

10 thoughts on “Sunday 22 June 1828

  1. I love how obsessed with bridges she is, has to check out every one she sees. I laughed out loud at her response to the ridiculous holes!

    1. I’ve become really tired of transcribing descriptions and measurements of bridges on this trip. Every time I see the word ‘bridge’ I sigh.

      1. She’s such a nerd and I love it. I’ve recently transcribed her trip to North Wales with her aunt and she does the same thing, gets super excited about a new suspension bridge that’s being built and climbs all over the walls, as you do

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