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Glas-allt-Shiel, Glen Muick - - 927578 (cropped).jpg
Glas-allt-Shiel on the shore of Loch Muick
Grid reference: NO27558239
Location: 56°55’38"N, 3°11’26"W
Hunting lodge
Owned by: The Queen

Glas-allt-Shiel is a royal hunting lodge on the shore of Loch Muick in Aberdeenshire. Its name is Gaelic, and means "Green (or grey) stream lodge". The name is pronounced '[glæsəlt ʃiːl]'.[1]

The lodge stands on the Balmoral Estate, standing by the shore of Loch Muick. In its present form the lodge was built in 1868 by Queen Victoria, who called it Glassalt, and she termed it her "widow's house" where she could escape from the world following the death of her husband Prince Albert. It is now owned by Queen Elizabeth II.

Adam Watson considers that "Glas-allt-Shiel has undoubtedly one of the most spectacular situations of any lodge in the Highlands."[1] It is a category B listed building.


The Estate

From time immemorial, the land around Loch Muick had been owned by the Mormaer of Mar who later became the Earls of Mar. As vassals of the Crown the Bissetts became landlords in the 13th century, followed by the Fraser family. In 1351 Sir William Keith, Great Marischal of Scotland, took ownership, followed by the Gordons, Earls of Huntly, and then Clan Farquharson of Invercauld. The silk mercer Sir James McKenzie purchased it as a sporting estate in 1863.

This Loch Muick estate was formally incorporated into the Balmoral estate by George VI between 1947 and 1951. With the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the area was established as a nature reserve in 1974, but remaining also as a sporting estate.[2]

The original and rebuilt dwellings and their setting

Glas Allt and Glas-allt-Shiel from across the loch

Glas Allt is a stream running down from the 3,000-foot plateau of the White Mounth, near Lochnagar. Passing over the considerable Falls of Glas Allt, the burn runs into a point near the head of Loch Muick through a mouth broadening amidst otherwise hilly and rocky land. Here a single-storey stalker's cottage was built in 1851 for Charles Duncan, employed as an estate gillie, and his wife. This cottage seems to have had a room for royal parties and it predates the lodge of 1868.[3][4][5]


During the first visit by Victoria and Albert to Balmoral, in the autumn of 1848,[6] they visited the nearby hunting lodge called Allt-na-giubhsaich near the foot of Loch Muick and in August next year they stayed overnight at the lodge: in the meantime it had been extended and improved although Victoria still regarded it as our "little bothie". By the time they stayed at the lodge the following year John Brown had become one of the queen's attendants – he was one of a team of four servants who rowed her party to the head of the loch. On 30 August 1849 she wrote about the location:

The scenery is beautiful here, so wild and grand – real severe Highland scenery, with trees in the hollow.

We had various scrambles in and out of the boat and along the shore, and saw three hawks, and caught seventy trout. I wish an artist could have been there to sketch the scene; it was picturesque – the boat, the net, and the people in their kilts in the water, and on the shore.

As for the smaller and more primitive shiel, newly-built for Duncan, Victoria had fallen in love with the cottage and its setting – at the time on the Abergeldie estate which was leased by Victoria and Albert.[6] Around 1859 Victoria arranged for the Duncans to move to the foot of Glen Muick to live at Rhebreck leaving the shiel unoccupied.[7]

By 1868 the old two-room building had been demolished, to be replaced by the present fifteen-room dressed granite residence of twin gables and bow windows looking over Loch Muick. Between 1866 and 1869 stables and a keeper's cottage and offices were added to the rear and cellars were constructed. A slipway for boats was built about 1870, between twin jetties.[3][8][5]

Rebuilding of Glassalt

Red deer stag near Glas-allt-Shiel

From 1840, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert frequently visited the Highlands and in 1852 Albert purchased Balmoral. Albert became a keen deer stalker and found the area around Loch Muick ot be a good location. They had rebuilt the shooting lodge of Allt-na-giubhsaich at the foot of Loch Muick, which provided the Queen with a place to relax away from visiting dignitaries and to do painting.[6]

Albert died of typhoid in 1861: a bitter blow for Victoria. She visited Balmoral for solace but Allt-na-guibhsaich reminded her too much of its earlier happy associations. Another, smaller lodge stood at the head of the loch and so the Queen had this extended to convert it into a "widow's house".[6][9]

The lodge today

Glas-allt-Shiel is now a category B listed building owned personally by The Queen.

Open bothy

Glas Allt with the lodge behind

Since 1991 an outhouse at the back of the lodge has been maintained by Dundee University Rucksack Club as an open bothy – it is a good base for climbing Lochnagar.[10][11][12] Equipped with a stove and a composting toilet (as well as a candelabra) it used to be a storeroom and is now available to anyone free of charge for overnight stays. However, there is no electricity, the water supply is from the Glas Allt very near by, and there is no fuel unless it has been left by previous users.[10][13] When royal parties are visiting the lodge backpackers are still allowed to stay in the bothy but they are asked to keep discretely out of the way.[14]

Although it is not one of the many bothies in the Highlands maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association, in 2017 the Association contributed financially towards considerable improvements.[15][16]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Watson, Adam: 'The place names of Upper Deeside' (Paragon Publishing, 2014) ISBN 978-1-78222-191-3, Pages 86–87
  2. Young, Mark R.: 'Loch Muick and Lochnagar Wildlife Reserve' (Scottish Wildlife Trust and Balmoral Estates, 1983) pages 4–5
  3. 3.0 3.1 Loch Muick, Glass Allt Sheil with cottage and boat slip – Historic Environment Scotland
  4. 'Queen Victoria's Journals - Royal Archives
  5. 5.0 5.1 Nikolaus Pevsner: Pevsner Architectural Guides
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Duff, David: 'Victoria in the Highlands' (Frederick Muller, 1968)
  7. CANMORE (RCAHMS) record of Balmoral Estates, Rhebreck
  8. Geddes, Jane: 'Deeside and the Mearns: an illustrated architectural guide' (Rutland Press, 2001) ISBN 1-873-190-409 page 132}}
  9. 'Where Victoria went in secret It is 100 years since Queen Victoria died, but her presence on Royal Deeside is as strong as ever, Graeme Smith discovers': The Herald
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Club Bothy". Dundee University Rucksack Club. Archived from the original on 20 May 2017. Retrieved 20 May 2017. 
  11. Reid, Neil (25 May 2013). "Glas Allt Shiel page". Archived from the original on 20 May 2017. 
  12. Glas Allt-Shiel Bothy - YouTube
  13. Allan, Geoff (1 February 2017). The Scottish Bothy Bible. Wild Things Publishing. pp. 182–183. ISBN 978-1910636107. 
  14. Allan, Geoff. "Glas Allt Shiel". Bothies on a Bike. Archived from the original on 20 May 2017. 
  15. Reid, Neil (18 May 2017). "Hotting it up at Glas Allt Sheil". Archived from the original on 20 May 2017. 
  16. "MBA History". Mountain Bothies Association. Archived from the original on 4 July 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2017. 
  • Clark, Ronald: 'Balmoral' (Bloomsbury Publishing, 1981)
  • Queen Victoria: 'Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands from 1848 to 1861' (ed. Arthur Helps) 1868 (Smith, Elder & Co)
  • Queen Victoria: 'More Leaves from the Journal of a Life in the Highlands from 1862 to 1882' (ed. Arthur Helps) 1884 (Smith, Elder & Co)
  • Queen Victoria's Journals – Royal Archives
  • Watson, Adam: 'The Cairngorms, Lochnagar and the Mounth', 6th edition (Scottish Mountaineering Trust, 1992) ISBN 0-907521-39-