John Macculloch.

The Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, containing descriptions of their scenery and antiquities, with an account of the political history ... present condition of the people, &c. ... founded on a series of annual journeys between the years 1811 and 1821 ... in letters to Sir Walter Scott, bart (Volume 1) online

. (page 32 of 37)
Online LibraryJohn MaccullochThe Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, containing descriptions of their scenery and antiquities, with an account of the political history ... present condition of the people, &c. ... founded on a series of annual journeys between the years 1811 and 1821 ... in letters to Sir Walter Scott, bart (Volume 1) → online text (page 32 of 37)
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will not enjoy the same effect of contrast ; but, fortu-
nately, it is sufficient in itself to disdain all such adven-
titious aids.

A book might be written about Blair and its neigh-
bourhood, without exhausting the subject ; as I ought to
know, since T have written one. Nothing less than the
art which squeezed the fairy's teni into a thimble, could,

412 BLAIR.

cram this country into a letter ; and therefore I pray you
not to expect it. Read my book, as those dexterous
persons say, who write one work to pufF off another, and
then you will know all about it. But 1 must say some-
thing: or it would be ingratitude to a place, of which 1
know each dingle, bush, and alley green; ingratitude to
its lovely scenes and to its hospitable towers ; to the Noble
Owner of which, this country owes a deep debt, for the
unwearied activity of his exertions and his example,
and of whom it is praise enough to say, that he is the
pattern of a truly British Country Gentleman.

The well-known cascades of the Bruar, are the first
objects which meet those who arrive from the north. But
he who has that eye for scenery, without which travelling
loses half its value, will see here something more, in a
fine landscape of the valley, and in some very pleasing
pictures of close scenery, about the mills beneath the
bridge. Hence to Blair itself, different views occur by
the road-side ; the elegant conical form of Ben Vrackie
constituting the termination of the picture. He to whom
landscape is a leading object, ought also to diverge into
a spacious park on the left of the road; remarkable, not
only for the beautiful disposition of its own ground, but
as affording some of the finest views of the vale of Blair.
Similar views, but under considerable variations, will
be found in the same direction, at higher elevations :
and, at a still higher stage, upon Craig Urrard, the same
materials are displayed : but assuming now a far different
character, from the altitude of the position, and affording
a view of the valley, splendid and rich in the extreme,
though somewhat approaching to a bird's-eye view. The
interior grounds, or the park, of Blair, abound in beauti-
ful scenery in various styles; nor is it too much to say
that, excepting Dunkeld, it has no rival in Scotland :


while the difference of character in the latter is, at the
same time, such, that the two will not admit of a com-
parison. Indeed, if all that lies within the immediate
reach of this spot be included, it may justly be said to
contain a greater quantity of landscape than any tract of
equal dimensions in Britain. Besides this, it presents a
g-reater variety ; the objects being as different as the
styles, each scene having a decided character, and the
compositions being remarkable for their integrity and
perfection. But an ordinary eye will not at first suspect
all this ; and thus the first impression made by Blair,
is far different from what will be found by industry
and attention, and by that power of discovering natural
beauty under all its combinations, which only belongs
to taste, experience, and education.

Such appearance of artifice as occurs in these grounds,
belongs to the period of 1742, at which they were laid
out. But it scarcely any where offends ; being over-
whelmed by the majesty and extent of the scene, and
by the careless or felicitous arrangements of the princi-
pal objects : while it is also proper to observe, that the
artifice which chiefly catches the eye, is that which
belongs to Lude, ornamented on the clumping system :
though it may be doubted whether this is not, on the
whole, an advantage to the general scenery, rather than
a blemish. The house is a conspicuous object, from its
magnitude and extent ; but it is to be regretted that it
is not the grey castle which it anciently was; and still
more, that its castellated character has been destroyed.
Its ancient outline was irregular, and it was much more
lofty. But having been besieged by the Highlanders in
1745, when it held out for a month under Sir Andrew
Agnew, and until it was relieved, the two upper stories
were afterwards removed, with the design of preventing

414 BLAIR.

its ever being used again in a similar manner. It is a
building' of great strength ; and although the date of
its erection is not known, it is supposed to have been
built by John of Strathbogie, a Cumin, who became
Earl of Atholl in right of his wife. His name is still
preserved in Cumin's tower, now an inconspicuous part
of the building, in consequence of the loss of its summit.
As a Highland castle, it has shared, on other occasions,
in the casualties of domestic warfare ; having been also
occupied by Montrose in 1644, and taken by Daniel in
1653, on the part of Cromwell. Subsequently, it was
taken possession of by an officer of Dundee's army :
and being then threatened by Lord Murray, Dundee
marched to its relief: that event being followed by the
well-known battle of Killicrankie.

It was necessarily an important military post, from
its commanding one of the main communications with the
northern Highlands ; while it also derived importance
from the same cause that rendered it necessary, namely,
the position of this district towards the low country.
Atholl was thus a sort of border land : and from this
cause also it arose, that the Atholl men were among the
most celebrated of the Highland soldiers : their habits
of warfare and depredation rendering them, like the other
borderers elsewhere, always prepared for war. I know
not, however, that they were ever noted as marauders,
like the Liddisdale men, of whom Maitland says, " They
plainly throw the country rydis, I trow the mekil devil
them gydis ;" carrying off " hors nolt and scheip, and all
the laif, quhatever they haif." As soldiers, on the other
hand, the esteem in which they were held, appears in
the histories of Montrose, to whom, it is said, they dis-
played an extraordinary attachment. Dundee also is
reputed to have had 1500 of them in his army. The

BLAIR. ^i&

proverb of the Atlioll tinkers arose, as you doubtless
know, from the circumstance of Alister Mac Colla, your
friend Colkitto, having been relieved by an Atholl
tinker, in one of Montrose's actions, when he had been
surrounded in a sheep-fold by a body of Covenanters.

Of the scenery immediately at hand, the cascades of
the Fender are peculiarly worthy of notice : as well from
their differences of character, as for the beauty which
each, in its several way, exhibits. Though the stream
is not large, the accompaniments of the whole are such,
that no additional force of Avater could improve them. If
the uppermost is the most singular, the middle one is
the most picturesque and the most ornamental. The
lowest depends more for its interest on the scenery of
the Tilt, into which it falls. There are few scenes in
this class of landscape more novel and more striking
than this last; from the depth and narrowness of the
rocky chasm which conveys the Tilt, the wild and deep
basin into which its thundering waters are first received,
the prolonged narrow tunnel which affords it an exit,
and the variety and ornament of the trees which over-
shadow it, leading the eye up along the overhanging and
romantic landscape to the sky.

The beauties of Blair extend along the whole valley
into the pass of KilJicrankie ; but they will be imper-
fectly seen by those who are contented to pursue the
ordinary road, attractive as that is throughout. On the
opposite side of the water, the hill of TuUoch affords a
magnificent display of the grounds and the valley;
offering a totally distinct picture from those on the eastern
bank, and introducing a view of the mountains of Glen
Tilt and Ben y Gloe, before invisible. On the summit
of the hill, this view is as splendid as it is extensive:
admitting, together with the whole valley, the surround-

416 BLAIR.

ing mountains to a wide and far range. Below, and
near the river, a new style of landscape appears ; con-
tinuing for two or three miles, and displaying some of
the most perfect compositions in river scenery that can
well be imagined : uniting also the richness of cultivation
and wood, with the grandeur and variety of an alpine
country. There is one spot on the river in particular,
marked by a deep and wide pool surrounded by rocks,
where, on both sides of the water, the views are pecu-
liarly fine, and where, from the variety and perfection of
the foregrounds, nothing is wanting to render the pic-
ture complete. The character of the rocks are in them-
selves studies ; and the water presents every variety,
from the dark silent pool sleeping under the shadowy
banks and under the trees and bushes which spring up
around, to the smooth flowing stream, the rushing tor-
rent, and the clear waves rippling over the pebbly shore.
Ash trees of the most elegant forms, in groups, or scat-
tered along the banks, assist, with the farms and the cul-
tivation, and with all the splendour of woods and trees
diminishing as they retire in gay confusion, to produce
the luxuriant middle grounds; while the distances are
formed by the richly covered hills which rise high on
each hand, closed, far off, by the elegant conical out-
line and rocky surface of Ben Vrackie, and by the bold
and woody mountains that impend over the pass of Killi-

On the east side of the Garry, or along the high road,
the whole valley offers a continued and unremitting suc-
cession of new landscapes, among which Alt Girneg is a
place to dwell on. Even along the road, it cannot fail to
attract attention ; from the striking and strong characters
of its landscapes. The lofty precipice on the opposite
side of the river, the noble and picturesque ash trees, the


Splendid confusion of bold and varied ground, the bridge,
the river, the wooded banks, the mills, and the houses,
form altogether a group of objects condensed into a small
space, seldom equalled for romantic beauty, and of a
character as peculiar as it is beautiful. It is a spot
which, like others in the dazzling course of the Tay
and its branches, reminds us of Barnaby's description ;
" Pontes, fontes, montes, valles, Caulas cellas, colles,
calles, Vias, villas, vices, vices." Nor is it a small
part of the merit of this singular collection of marked
and striking objects, that it is impossible to move, even
for the shortest distance, without entirely varying the
composition ; so that within the small space of a few
yards, Alt Girneg presents numerous landscapes of dis-
tinct and decided characters, and of such equal, though
different, merits, as to render a choice among them

The cascade of Urrard, little known, but not often
excelled, lies on the same stream. The breadth of the
river is inconsiderable, nor is the fall high. But why
should I say again, that the beauty of these Highland
cascades does not consist, either in the bulk, the breadth,
the violence, or the height of the fall. The beauty at
Urrard lies where it must exist every where ; in the re-
ceptacle and course of the water, in its boundary, and in
the including landscape. It consists in the deep, shadowy,
and wooded chasm out of which the river appears to flow,
as from some magical and unknown source, in the exqui-
site disposition of the falling and departing water, in the
forms of the rocks which surround and divide the stream
below it, in the overshadowing woods which receive it
into depths as unknown as its source, and in the orna-
ments of plants, and shrubs, and stones, and the no less
beautiful colourino- which harmonizes the whole into such


VOL. T. E 12


a scene of mixed reality and deception as is seen in the
dark mirror or the camera obscura.

To pass over endless scenes on which I dare not dwell,
Killicrankie is, among others, a place too well known to
require more than a bare mention. That remark must
however be limited to the views from the high road ; as
it possesses much fine scenery, hitherto unknown. The
site of the chapel, whence it probably derived its name,
recently existed here. Its military history is almost as
familiar as that of Culloden or Marston Moor; but the
stone commonly shown as a monument erected to Lord
Dundee, appears to have been a far more ancient mark.
Nor was that the spot where he fell, which was in the
grounds of Urrard far above: while he was interred in
the burying ground of Blair church. Omitting such
scenery belonging to this romantic and magnificent pass
as is visible from the high road, the most detailed and
perfect conception of its general form must be sought
from an elevated spot in the grounds of Coilivrochan : a
scene well detailed in Robson's popular and accurate
work. A totally different style of landscape will be found
by descending into the bed of the river, generally sup-
posed inaccessible, and consequently unknown. The
bridge of the Garry here ajfTords a striking- object from
below, as it does from above : but the most interesting-
part is that where the river is seen from the high road,
struggling through rocks and forming a dark pool. At
this part, and for a considerable space, its course is
under high cliflfs and banks and amid obstructing rocks ;
sometimes forming cascades and rapids, at others a rip-
pling and gentle stream ; now breaking like a miniature
lake on a pebbly shore, and, in another place, a silent
pool sleeping beneath the shadow of overhanging trees.
Dense woods tower aloft on one side, and, on the other,


noble ashes and oaks, perched high above, throw their
arms wide over the water ; while, springing from the
chasms of the rocks below, the silvery branches and the
pale trembling foliage of the aspen, serve to contrast
with their dark recesses ; aiding, with the bright green
of the woodrush, the feathering ferns, and the wild roses,
to relieve the broad masses of rock, and adding ornament
of detail to grandeur of forms. Nor is it a small cause of
the peculiarly striking effect of this scenery, that almost
in an instant, after leaving a village and a frequented
road, Ave find ourselves in a spot Avhich human foot
has never trod, where all traces of the world without
have vanished, and where no sound breaks the silence
but the murmuring of the stream and the whispering of
the leaves. It is as if we were suddenly transported into
the deepest wilds of vinknown mountains, amid masses of
ruin and marks of violence, strangely contrasting and en-
hancing the profound stillness, while they speak the de-
vastations of past ages, which seem as if they could
never again return to disturb the calm repose of this

Even yet the unknown scenery of Killicrankie is not
exhausted. On the west side of the Garry, access may be
obtained to the summit of that dark and steep woody
hill, which, almost overhanging the river, forms the most
conspicuous feature of the pass. The river is here invi-
sible, intercepted by the Avoods beneath, which, like
a precipice of forest, sweep down to a fearful and un-
known depth ; an interminable surface of trees and rocks.
On the opposite side, rises, steep and sudden, the moun-
tain face; bare and rocky above, its light birch groves
below, scattering as they ascend, then skirting a ravine
or a mountain torrent, till at length they disappear; while
a single tree, perched here and there on some solitary

E F. 2


rock, stands like a centinel on the brink of the sky. It
is difficult at first to feel the full effect of this scene: it
seems as if we could almost touch the opposite side, or
discern the minutest objects below. It is with difficulty,
however, that we perceive the road, undulating, like a
white thread, along the side of the hill ; and it is only
when a carriage chances to pass, when we see it an almost
invisible point, advancing with almost imperceptible mo-
tion, that the whole magnitude of the landscape breaks
on us in all its overwhelming depth and dimensions.

Such is the closer landscape here : but the same place
affords views more general of the valley of Blair and of
the hills which surround the pass, equally grand, but in
a far different style. Let the spectator, if he can, choose
the evening for these views; when the western precipices
are under deep shadow and the pass seems a bottomless
chasm; and when the sun, shining full on all the splen-
dour of wood and water and cultivation below, gilds the
whole valley upwards to Blair ; glistening on every reach
of its bright river, and tinging the sides of the noble
mountains, which, rising- from beneath his feet, and tow-
ering high aloft in all their variety of rock and wood and
ravine, retire in a long and bold perspective till they
vanish in the conical and airy summits of Ben-y-gloe.
Nor must he quit this place till he has ascended to the
Cairn above, commanding a view all round this majestic
country ; ranging down the vale of the Tumel, and
adding to that of the Garry, the wild forest of Atholl,
with all the long succession of moorland and mountain
that stretches away to the rude ridge of Ferrogon, the
elegant cone of Schihallien, and far beyond it, to the wild
lands of Glenco. But if I have eaten of lotus at Blair, that
is no reason why I should serve it all up again to you,
recoctus: let us shift our ground to the Tumel.

TUMEL. 421


If the course of the Tumel is not extensive, it is still
a very considerable stream ; receiving, among* many
minor tributaries, the united and powerful aid of the Tilt
and the Garry. With a total course not exceeding-
twenty-five miles, it is thus, at its termination, the rival
of many Scottish rivers of a far longer career. But the
Tumel has no infancy; no period of weakness and uncer-
tainty struggling through moss and moor, and claiming',
rather from caprice than right, the honours of dominion
over contesting streamlets. It rises in its vigour from
Loch Rannoch, already a river; yet a vassal, and owing
feudal service to the all-devouring Tay, in which its name
and its waters are alike swallowed up at Logierait. The
fate of the Tumel is too often that of human life;
for if merit and beauty could have rescued it from a
violent and premature death, it would have borne its name
to the latest hour, and only have terminated its existence
in that emblem of eternity where, sooner or later, all must

There are no rivers in Scotland that possess more
beauties; there are few that possess greater : but there is
not one which presents so few blanks, and there is not
therefore one which, through an equal course, displays
the same proportion of landscape, the same number of
scenes so brilliant, so various, and so perfect. Yet, with
the exception of its splendid cascade, the Tumel is, to the
world at large, as if it had never been; unpraised, nay,
unrecorded and unknown.

422 TUMEL*

The northern division of the beautiful road between
Dunkeld and Blair, as far as from Moulinearn to Garry
bridge, owes all its charms to the vale of the Tumel, in
which it lies; following the river so as nearly to keep it
in sight the whole way. At that inn, better known from
its interior merits and the colour of Mrs. Pennicuik's
nose, than for its picturesque situation, ungratefully over-
looked, the beauties of the Tumel commence. On the
opposite side of the river, there is also a good road, dis-
playing the scenery of this romantic valley under totally
different characters, and finally conducting to Loch
Tumel. The ordinary high road presents a succession
of beauty too obvious to require detail : and by diverging
a mile or more from Pitlochrie to the village of Moulin,
much beautiful and unexpected scenery will also be
found. It would be difficult to point out a village more
picturesque: an irregular mixture of houses, and mills,
and bridges, and falling waters, and noble trees ; a care-
less profusion of the elements of rustic landscape, to
Avhich is added a rich and singular surrounding country,
offering all the characters of ancient wealth and cultiva-
tion, backed on one hand by the beautiful declivity of
Ben Vrackie, and extending its views over the mag-
nificent expanded vale of the Tay. Edradour presents a
cascade far too important and striking to be overlooked;
and hence also there is a very pleasing mountain ride
into Strath Airdle, and thus into Braemar or Strathmore.
The closing of the road, by the hills on one hand, and
by the woods of Fascally on the other, render a con-
siderable space, after passing Pitlochrie, a sort of forest
side, always romantic and full of character : but, near
Fascally, the scenery opens again, to display the singu-
larly wild hills which enclose this part of the valley.
This too is well known; but all the beauty of Fascally is

TUMEL. 423

exhausted at the first view ; for, from the lower grounds
and near the house, the forms of the mountains become
rather distasteful than otherwise, nor does the greater
proximity of the river offer any compensation. Hence,
however, the peculiar and most characteristic beauties of
the Tumel commence ; occupying, first, a space of five
miles or more, included between the exit of the lake and
the junction of the Garry. Here the river runs through
a close and woody valley, with a lofty and various boun-
dary ; so narrow throughout, that, with very little excep-
tion, the mountain acclivities rise immediately from the
water, leaving no flat land or space of any kind on its
margin. While this range of scenery, with the exception
of the cascade, is nearly unknown, and, through a very
large part, utterly so, there is no exaggeration in saying
that no equal space can any where be selected in Scot-
land, so full of beauties in so grand and romantic a style,
and, at the same time, so thoroughly distinguished from
all other Scottish landscape. To say that it is a woody
valley, is to use terms applicable to a hundred places.
The distinguishing characters of this one, consist in its
narrowness and prolongation, in the sudden rise and
loftiness of the boundaries, in the great variety of their
rocky outline, in the wonderful intricacy of their surfaces,
and of the woods, rocks, and ravines, which cover and
intersect them, in the highly ornamented and varied
course of the river, and in the exquisite forms and ar-
rangements of the forested and scattered birches which
here constitute the only wood. So large and so perfect
are these trees, that, where they form continuous woods,
their eflfect in the landscape is equal in richness to that of
oak forest ; round, full, and swelling, and, from the shape
of the land, thrown into broad masses of endless variety ;
while, where they are disposed in groups or in scattered

424 TUMKL.

clumps, or where they stand as solitary trees, their effects
are even more beautiful ; more airy, and more in character
with that general lightness which, here, as at Loch Ca-
teran, forms so essential a part of the effect of the scenery.
To see all this, however, it is necessary to take three
distinct lines, each having its separate kind of beauty
and style of landscape; nor can any one duly appreciate
the high merits of the Tumel, who does not bestow this
labour on it. These are, the two roads which conduct to
Loch Tumel, and that which follows the margin of the

There is a great difference of character between the
scenery along the southern road and that on the other two
lines; while it is in a grander style; lying also rather
above the woods than among them. There is here a con-
stant succession of new pictures through a space of four
or five miles; every angle of the road producing a dif-
ferent one, and almost every one being such as to make
us forget the preceding. The termination of this road,
as far as our purposes are concerned, is at Loch Tumel :
of which beautiful lake it exhibits views quite distinct
from those which are obtained from any other quarter.
There is no generally known scenery by which this can so
well be illustrated as the skirt of Ben Venu at Loch
Cateran, to which it does not yield in variety or grand-
eur. In taking the northern and best road, the views
from Garry bridge, both upwards, and down the stream,
are striking: and they are still more so within the giite of
Coilivrochan, where the bridge itself forms an important
object: the deep vista of the Garry and of Killicrankie,
terminating in the finely conical form of Cairn Gower.
But among these endless landscapes, the most splendid
are to be obtained from various positions near the house

Online LibraryJohn MaccullochThe Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, containing descriptions of their scenery and antiquities, with an account of the political history ... present condition of the people, &c. ... founded on a series of annual journeys between the years 1811 and 1821 ... in letters to Sir Walter Scott, bart (Volume 1) → online text (page 32 of 37)