Royal opening at Gelder Shiel – Ernie’s Bothy

HRH Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay, outside Gelder Shiel Bothy on Lochnagar, Cairngorms

Prince Charles outside Ernie’s Bothy

This blog has never had any real need for a Royal Correspondent, but I had to appoint myself to the job today for the official opening of the refurbished Gelder Shiel Bothy on the slopes of Lochnagar.

Back in May, the Ballater Charitable Chiels drove up en masse from Balmoral to carry out a major renovation of what up until then had been a cold, unwelcoming doss. The MBA, including your truly, were there, having drawn up the plans and been involved in negotiations with Balmoral Estate, but the real work was done by the experienced and tooled-up tradesmen of the Chiels, who had wanted to adopt the project as a tribute and memorial to their former president Ernie Rattray (who had also been a member of Braemar Mountain Rescue Team for many years).

Today (8th October) the transformed bothy – now called Ernie’s Bothy – was officially opened by HRH The Duke of Rothesay, better known to most as Prince Charles.

The Chiels were once again there en masse, along with members of Ernie’s family, and four of us from the MBA – Bert Barnett (who drew the plams), Kenny Freeman (project manager for a gazillion bothy work parties and renovations, Ian ‘Piper’ Shand (joint MO for the bothy) and myself (MBA Eastern Area Rep).

L to R Bert Barnett, Ian Shand, Neil Reid, HRH Prince Charles, at Gelder Shiel Bothy, Cairngorms

Prince Charles chats to the MBA crew: Bert Barnett, Ian Shand and Neil Reid. Photo by Kenny Freeman

Bert Barnett, Kenny Freeman and Ian Shand at Gelder Shiel Bothy, Lochnagar

Bert, Kenny Freeman and Ian outside the bothy

A jolly nice day out it was too. After a couple of pretty moist and mochy days, the sky cleared and the sun shone – and the four of us piled into Piper’s Land Rover to get a lift up there.

Prince Charles arrived, drams of Lochnagar 12-year-old Malt Whisky were handed round in commemorative glasses (all courtesy of the Lochnagar Distillery I understand?), speeches were said (some great stories about Ernie!) and a plaque was unveiled by the Prince and Ernie’s widow, Dot.

12-year-old Lochnagar Malt at Gelder Shiel opening

Refreshments at the opening

Then Ian Shand played a tune on the pipes, ‘Ernie’s Awa Tae The Hills’, which he had composed in memory of Ernie.

Charles stayed around to meet and greet the assembled cast (we chatted, no-one will be surprised to learn, about the amount of litter left in bothies) and then signed the bothy book before going back down the road.

Prince Charles' signature in the Gelder Shiel (Ernie's Bothy) visitors' book

Prince Charles signed the bothy book. (And there’s always one… so did Kenny Freeman!)

Before he had left, though, the bothy got its first official visitors since the opening, a quartet of Joyce K Low, Alan Ferrier, and two others whose names I missed, who had arrived intending to stay the night before tackling Lochnagar. They looked slightly puzzled as they arrived and had to wind their way through lots of identically-jacketed Chiels, but then came to an abrupt stop when they saw the guy in between them and the door was the next King of Britain. Cue much back pedalling as they decided they weren’t in such a hurry after all! At least they were able to enjoy an unexpected dram while they waited though – and a very nice drop it was too.

I’m not much of a royalist, but I’m with Charles on this one, hoping that people will treat this bothy (as any bothy) with the respect it deserves.

Commemorative plaque in Gelder Shiel (Ernie's Bothy), Lochnagar, Balmoral Estate, Cairngorms

The plaque in honour of Ernie Rattray, unveiled by HRH Prince Charles and Dot Rattray

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16 Responses to Royal opening at Gelder Shiel – Ernie’s Bothy

  1. David Johnstone says:

    As always Neil an eloquent script. Remind me to rib you about your socialist soul when next we meet!

  2. I’m really, really jealous! A fellow blogger was staying there a few weeks ago and the Royals were having a barbecue… I was up last week and saw no-one (and I’m a big Royalist) – and now, just a week later, I’ve missed Prince Charles! 😦
    Carol.

  3. Great to see Royal recognition for the outstanding renovation work carried out by all. A well justified dram or two in such fine weather, and midweek. Well done to all involved.

  4. My goodness Bert wearing a tie at The Gelder !

  5. Sinbad says:

    Sounds as thought it all went well.Sorry I couldn’t be there. It must have been a surprise for the visitors who mentioned they were heading that way, and received a few cryptic replies!!!

  6. Joyce Gordon says:

    Thanks for the mention Neil. The other two with us were Keir Gordon and Gordon Taylor. We had a great night in the bothy which is superb! My first visit. Another friend walked in with his bagpipes later so we (and 2 German students) had a wee birl on the lawn under a beautiful starry sky. We gave Lochnagar a body swerve and did the great wee corbett Conacraig before walking out.

  7. Mark says:

    Excellent work. I don’t suppose Charles doesn’t get many low key events like this. Sounds like he genuinely enjoyed himself.

    • He seemed to be quite happy but you never know – it’s his job to seem like he’s enjoying himself. Still, Kenny Freeman was doing a good job trying to persuade him to get himself away up to a bothy for a good ceilidh, and he was looking awfy tempted.

  8. John Wylie says:

    neil,  loved the bothy programme ! lot of folk asking me in the club ( blackrock mc)  what do you do with the bags after you change them at corrour ?    regards john wylie

    • Of all the things I never thought I’d be writing of when I were a lad… but I think I’ll have to do a post on this – so many people have asked.
      The bags are hung up in a storage area to dry out and once a year are transported to Mar Lodge for final disposal. This was done by vehicle, but from February will be done by helicopter, using a flight the estate pay for anyway for their deer counts. From Mar Lodge it will be taken by road (licensed contractor) to Aberdeen sewage treatment plant.

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