Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

A Description of the Scenery of Dunkeld
Lochs of the Lowes, and Distant Rides

Few are at the trouble of extending their investigations beyond the home grounds of Dunkeld and the Hermitage, and still fewer prolong them to the scenery which I am about to describe. Such it is, in other and graver cases than .his, to follow "peeorura ritu, anteceden-tium gregem" or the tour books, it is all one: tour books copied from each other, from gent-ration to generation of booksellers, by the printer's devil possibly, or by some one who is equally acquainted with the matter in hand. After so many moving adventures by flood and field, as have fallen to my share in this land of cakes and mountains, I am determine d to write a tour book for myself, on some of these coming days.

Motive-mongering is somewhat of an abstruse pursuit; and it is not much more easy to discover the reasons of those who have no reason; but, setting1 aside these trifling difficulties, the gentlefolks who travel in search of the picturesque, or because other people travel, or for any other reason why, seem not to have much other concern than to see a certain list of place®, nominally; little heeding any thing but to follow the prescribed route, to record in the private journal, perchance in the sketch book, that this has been done, and te> enter the names in due form at the porter's lodge. The judicious few, on the other hand, think it fully as good policy to visit, at the expense of half a day, half a dozen more places than the book of knowledge prescribes, as to go two or three hundred miles further, in pursuit of far inferior scenery .

In malting the journey of the valley, through which it is now purposed to lead the visitor Dunkeld seems as completely left behind and forgotten as if it had never existed; a totally new style of scenery occurring almost instantaneously after surmounting the brow of the hill, combining the lakes, and rocky hills, and wild woods of the interior Highlandrs with all the opulence of ornamental improvement are: cultivation.

A walk, and not a very long one, will display one of the lakes at least, and some of the most remarkable scents; but as the whole distance which requires to be risked, to do it justice, comprises about sixteen miles, it is necessary to have recourse to the foreign aid of horse, or gig, or barouche. The same assistance is required to visit the distant plantations of Loch Ordie, and those which lie towards St. Columb's farm; while a busy day will suffice for bo til, and it remains at the option of the visitor to commence in either manner.

The whole length of the valley, if Blairgowrie be taken as the boundary, is nearly twelve miles, but it is not perfectly defined in this direction. The breadth, generally speaking, ranges between one and two; bat is occasionally such as to do little more than give passage to the rner which drains off the waters from the whole. Of the five lakes which it contains, three lie near to Dunkeld, to which estate they belong; while those of Clunie and Marlie, further eastward, are separated from the former and from each other, by considerable spaces. It is unnecessary to go beyond Clunie; as the Loch of Mariie is not picturesque, though the country surrounding it is richly wooded and cultivated.

The northern boundary is of a rugged and mountainous character; in reality, being the proper termination of the great mountain tract of the Highlands in this quarter. The southern consists of a lower range of hills, which, on the other side, decline into the plain of Stormount. On each side of the valley, the skirts of the hills are covered with woods and with scattered trees, in termixed with cultivation, farm houses, and small villages; two or three quarries of slate and lime stone, in different places, adding an air of activity to the general lively character of the whole tract. The open part of the valley is similarly rich in asp< ct; being moreover diversified by the irregularity and the undulations of its surface, and by the masses of wood, which, independently of the scattered trees, surround the margins of the lakes.

The Loch of the Lowes, covering nil area of about two square miles, and that of Craiglush, much smaller, he nearest to Dunkeld; communicating by a stream, the relic of a larger channel by which they were once joined, after, by the process of filing up, the single lake became two. In different parts, the margins are wooded to the very water's edge; affording several very pleasing walks and rides, of which one is particularly conspicuous tor a luxuriant screen of holly, of most unusual growth and beauty. As the ever-greens of the fir tribe generally form the remainder of the woods immediately at ham', the winter walk at noon may here be enjoyed till we almost forget that it is not still summer My Lord Bacon's idea of a winter garden might here be easily perfected; so much, and on so great a scale, of that which is requisite for it, being already present On a smaller scale, Pol-la-gates, formerly mentioned, nearly realizes the lame conception; a species of improvement too much neglected in a climate where winter possesses rather more than its proper share of the year.

The western extremity of the Loch of the Lowes affords one of the most agreeable specimens of tranquil lake scenery that can be imagined ; and perfectly adapted, as lake scenery rarely is, for a painting. It may not possibly strike the eye much at a first glance; but he who tries to reduce it to paper, will soon perceive its value It is the general property o{ this class of scenery, to be very imposing in nature, und very meagre on the canvas : and this is particularly true of the grander Highland lakes. There is always too much mountain , which, however magnificent in the reality, produces little more effect in painting, than the sky and the water which make up the remainder of the picture. There art few kinds of scenery, indeed, which more disappoint an artist; and few, I believe I may add, which more weary the mere spectator by their repetition. Here, the water tills no more space in the scene than may be advantageously represented in painting; while the middle ground which it occupies, is varied with woods and trees dispersed in all kinds of intricate groups; its own irregular boundary bung diversified by «mall bays and headlands} The back screen rises beyond this, in perfect harmony with the whole; not like a thin blue cloud floating on the surface of a wide meagre expanse of water, but covered beneath by a range of intricate forest, which gradually blends with the middle ground, and terminates at length on the sky, by a rude mountain outline, of an uncommon a« well as of a most graceful form.

I shall not pretend to describe the various pleasing scenes that may be round about the lake of Butterston, which lies next in order, nor in the different small valleys, and in all the creeks, and corners, and crannies, that exist in a tract of this nature. The experienced traveller or artist know s how to ferret out these coy beauties from their retreats; and he who does not, will scarcely see them even when pointed out to him

Those visitors who, in these days of universal (earning, choose to be interested in geology, will here find matter for study, and on a subject also m which the world at large has somewhat more concern than in gneiss, and graywacke, and other crabbed German terms, This is the process by which nature contrives to get lid of lakes, and to substitute dry land in lieu of them; "facta ex oequure terras'"—thus, in time, giving us bread in place of fish. The day is creeping on when pike and perch shall here yield to corn and potatoes; and when golden harvests, as the poets love to talk, shall wave where the finny tribes once cut their liquid way. It is easy to trace the original dimensions of these lakes, and to see that the lake of C'raiglush and the Loch of the Lowes were once a single piece of water. The annual encroachment of the land is equally visible, as is the process by which it is generated. In the shoaling of the reedy margin, in. the accumulation, first of gravel and then of plants, in the growth of peat, and lastly in the formation of turf, the whole of the stages may without difficulty be followed. Of a lake absolutely obliterated, and now a mere peat bog, a very perfect specimen, though on a small scale, occurs at the ' point where the road from Dunkeld first separates to ascend towards the hill plantations.

The last lake here selected for notice, is that of Clunie. It differs completely in character from the preceding ones, being surrounded by hills of moderate elevation, and offering, therefore, no AIpine features. But in its own character, it is very pleasing, and, from one or two points, not unfitted for a picture. The extent being inconsiderable, and the margin generally surrounded by ornamented grounds, the w hole has somewhat the aspect of an artificial lake; if ever such a work could be so large, or so well disposed. That air of intended ornament and of apparent artifice, is also increased by the small wooded island in the middle, bearing a house nearly as large as itself. This building was the ancient  seat of the Ogilvies, Lords Airly, and affords an earnest of the comfort and security of ancient times and manners. Such modes of defence are not uncommon in the Highlands; but this specimen is one of the most perfect examples remaining, and is the more remarkable from being situated in what may be considered the low country. He who may be ambitious of a seclusion not easily interrupted by morning visitors or midnight thieves, may chose his residence here. No w heels of- coach or barouche can shake his foundations, no nightly flambeaus will glitter-on his ceilings, nor thundering footman rouse his echoes. Like the cobbler, he is free from the risk of duns of his gate: for, no bailiff, no terrestrial one at least, could execute a warrant on him.

The ornamented grounds of Forneth, occupying the north bank, form the principal feature of this lake; and, certainly, he who projected Forneth, chose well, since he gains credit for possessing the whole. Equally pleasing is the situation of the Manse; nor indeed, if peace and comfort are to be found any where under the moon, and if these qualities in nature have any connection with them ir. the moral microcosm, would it be easy to find a place more promising of tranquillity and enjoyment, than the bonier? of this lake.

Clunie has the credit of having given birth to one of those lucky wrights, who, in this world, and not uncommonly, scramble up, no one knows how or why, into the temple of Fame. The garland seems to be distributed by this noisy gentlewoman pretty much, as the purse is by her blinking coadjutor in injustice. "Ille laqueam, hie diadema'"—'tis all one. Those ancients, who have stolen so many of our good things from us, foresaw well when they gave her a trumpet; although the reduction of puffing to a system, was reserved tor afier ages. The gentlemen of the Mirror seem to have done for the admirable Crichton, as they think proper to call him} in compliance with some vague traditions and tales, and without pay, what the Morning Post, and the Observer, anu others of this creed, only do for an adequate consideration. Yet the project answers; since Fame can thus be bought, not only in lease, but in perpetuity; and, indeed, I know not who can have a better right to any thing, than he who has paid down his money for it. As to this Crichton, he seems to have been the great humbug of his age, whet, this noble art was probably not quite so well understood as it is now. Less than Cagliostro and greater, with not half his resource, but with more impudence and profligacy he appears to have been the Katterfclto of the miserable trash which then went by the name of learning. Escaping the halter, ignorance and romance united, have clapped on his brazen brow, the diadem. But enough of him.

Here, also, there is food for a geologist. The lime quarry is well worth his inspection, m more points of view than one; but principally as furnishing a fine example of the interference of trap with the stratified rocks, and, particularly, of its influence on limestone. The most remarkable part of this is the production of steatite and of serpentine; the former being modified from the limestone, as it would appear, and the latter from the trap. A collector of specimens may procure most splendid varieties of these substances; together with a singular and beautiful red agate which is imbedded in the calcareous rock, as well as a mineral which, elsewhere, has only .yet occurred in volcanic rocks; namely, specular iron ore. Bat I cannot dwell on all the singularities of a spot, which presents more valuable instruction, than, perhaps, any of equal dimensions in Britain

The Duke of Atholl's plantations ought to be visited by a. those who take an interest in the agricultural or rural economy, not only of Scotland, but of Britain; and that, with the eye of a planter, a proprietor, and an economist I must not suffer myself or my reader to imagine, that all the interest of travelling, or all that belongs to this place, is limited to picturesque beauty, great as these beauties here are. It is the former consideration which gives the chief value to those rides which conduct, in various directions, to Loch Ordie, and round these widely-planted lulls, to St. Columb's farm; although, at Lock Ordie itself, in the Loch of Rottmell and Dowally, and at innumerable other points, he will be entertained by a variety of interesting and wild scenery; sometimes comprising, under different aspects, many of the objects which he may have seen before.

It is too generally known to require mention, that the Duke of Atholl has planted more than any British proprietor; the total amount exceeding thirty millions of trees. The plantation of Dunkeld alone, amount to about eleven thousand English acres, and are still in progress. For a long period, larch formed the exclusive object, and it now exceeds and other species in extent; but the Norway spruce has also been largely introduced, and with the promise of equal success. The earlier plantations consisted chiefly of Scotch fir, now judiciously abandoned; besides which, very considerable numbers of the usual deciduous forest trees have been planted, wherever the boil and situation were favourable The ornament which these have already added to the country, is too obvious to be pointed out; as it is that, in fact, which has converted scenes of no usual rudeness, into what Dunkeld now is. What they are still to effect, will be evident to those who can look with a planter's foresight, to the infant and flourishijg woods which cover these once bleak and barren hills. To have added such ornament, or rather, to have substituted beauty for deformity, is no small praise. But it is far more substantial and permanent merit, to have raised the value of a barren territory, in a degree which is nearly incalculable; thus adding to the permanent resources, not only of heirs unborn, but of the empire itself. Nor must this praise be limited to that which may here be seen; to the efforts of the noble improver alone; since his example, early, as it has been persevering, and marked by activity and judgment alike, has, by stimulating others, diffused over many thousands of acres, and to many hundreds of individuals, the promise, as well as the possession, of similar advantages.

Those who are interested in the details of this subject, will know that the present general cultivation of the larch, was the consequence of the examples before them. They will also be pleased to see that it is capable of growing, and that with luxuriance, at elevations here approaching to a thousand feet, and amid rocks covered by a most scanty soil. In these respects, they may also observe that it is superior in value to the Scotch fir as much as it exceeds that tree in the quality of its produce. It is further extremely important to note, that where planted on the roughest ground, previously covered with nearly useless plants and heath, it excludes and destroys them in a few years; inducing a green covering of herbage applicable to the pasturing of cattle, and not less than twenty times the value of the original surface. Wee the price of the wood even nothing, the expense of planting would be more than repaid by these results. Of the spruce, they will also remark, that it thrives perfectly in those spots, common in ail this country, where the moisture of the soil is unfavourable alike to fir and to larch; so that, by means of these two valuable trees, the most rude lands can be entirely and advantageously occupied In the woods of Craig Vincan and elsewhere, they may also see, that it is a property of the spruce to grow without check or stint of foliage, even m the deepest shade of other trees; so that it may be advantageously used in filling up chasms, from the moment they occur, without waiting till the wood is opened to the light. I need only add. on this subject, that the value of both these woods, as grown on these lands, has been fairly put to the test, in ship-building, and in many other works; the Atholl frigate, now at sea, having, among other smaller vessels, beer constructed from them.

I must now suppose that the visitor has arrived at St. Columb's farm, in his route; and although he should not have chosen to follow that one which has here been pointed out, he cannot be excused from at least visiting this most exquisite point of view. By diverging half a mile from the high road, near the live-mile stone, it may be seen in continuing the tour towards Blair. The plan of this set of offices, of which then are other specimens in Scotland, is admirable, as combining utility, together with picturesque effect and chasteness of design; the w hole being obtained at no more expense than what is, commonly, bestowed ou the production of deformity.

It is a wretched mistake in the dictatorial, and, too often, ignorant persons, who call themselves improvers, the capability gardeners, who have thrust themselves everywhere, contaminating the whole region with their vile offspring, to imagine that an useful object may not be a beautiful one, or that nothing good can be obtained but through what is useless or fantastic, Greek, Gothic, or Chinese. If it were possible to teach them that all beauty luav be obtained by purity of form and propriety of colour-but it is vain to try. Thus expense is accumulated on folly and folly on expense, in concealing that which it is indispensable to possess, offices are sunk under ground, and farms covered with trees, or they are be-thatched and be-chimneyed and be-trellised into absolute gingerbread, making nature hideous, and its fools the slaves of every one who can fill a quarto with fantastical aquatints. If the expense is to be incurred, and incurred it must be unless we are to do without tenants, or horses, or cooks, or servants, it requires but little sense to render it subservient to use and ornament at the same time. Whether utility is the foundation of beauty, or not, is a question for the metaphysician; but assuredly it constitutes nine of its parts, and may always be rendered accessory to it. A Greek temple has as little to do with British landscape as a pagoda or a sphinx: an obelisk and a mausoleum have no business in a Christian country, but of a church-yard. We do not w ant to be reminded of Jupiter and Juno, and still less of death. There are places, and there were times, in which these objects were appropriate: the times are past away, and Britain is not the place. The farm, and the stables, and the porter's lodge, and even '.he dog-kennel, are the temples of our landscape; and he is but a bungling architect, who cannot render them subservient to its beauties as they are appropriate to its character- he has choice of colour and choice of form, and what more can he desire. There is a vain terror about architecture in landscape; unless indeed the buildings should be magnificent or absurd; as if the traces of man and his occupations did not constitute the basis of all its interest. It is the architecture too which forms the moral physiognomy of a country; and, (not to enter further into this important view of the matter) it should harmonize with the natural; while, in departing from just views of this subject, we act as if we should dress up Hercules in a full-bottomed wig, or apply a portico and a few slices of pilaster to the pyramid of Cheops.

The best station for viewing the magnificent landscape from which I have thus diverged, is on the terrace; but the artist who wishes to draw ai his ease, free from sun, and wind, and rain, and flies, and gnats, and the ten thousand other nameless evils that ever beset him, may take his station in the dining room ; with the luxury of a table and a chair, instead of his knee and a lump of damp, cold, sciatic turf. Stirling is indeed the jewel of Scotland: but, excepting this, certainly that country does not produce many landscapes in this class of extended scenery, superior to the present in richness and splendour of ornament, and in grandeur of disposition and outline, while there arc few which so easily admit of being formed into a picture. The middle ground and the distance are, in this latter respect, unexceptionable: nor will it require much contrivance to modify the foreground into a proper form, without infringing on that which ought never to be perverted—the character. All lights show it to advantage; but perhaps the western one, throwing a shade on the long screen of mountain to the left, is to be preferred. While the elevation is not so great as to produce that fault Mi landscape which arises from a bird's-eye perspective, it is sufficient to display the whole course of the Tumel and the Tay, from the moment the former quits the narrow and wooded valley, here distinctly seen, that leads to Killicrankie. The faint blue ridge of hills, where- the graceful outline of lien Yrackie rises pre-eminent, is well relieved by the darker wooded mass of mountain above Logierait, conducting the imagination, rather than the eye, up the western Valley of the Tay. As the river meanders, in all the splendour of light, through the rich, various, and wooded plain, it increases in consequence, till, beneath our feet, it rolls along its broad mass of dark water, overhung bv the trees of all character and foliage that skirt its banks, and here rise, from its hilly boundary, in one mass of varied green. To the left, the bold mountain ridge which backs Dalguise, displays a luxuriance and variety of wood, intermixed with green swelling pastures and grey abrupt rocks, w here an artist would not displace a line or eradicate a tree; a tortuous stream, which appears to flow from it, struggling into day through the intense shadow of the trees that close above , till it falls into the Tay. On the right, all the intricacies of the high road are' traced, as, passing the romantic village and church of Dovrallv, it holds its course on the margin of the plain, skirted by detached trees on one side, and, on the other, ovejstopped by the luxuriant green of the oak woods which rise, in variety of forms, among the sides of the hills.

There are two ways of returning from St. Columb's farm to Dunkeld; but the upper one is preferable; not only on account of" the peculiarly tine prospects which it affords, but because the lower one is the ordinary road, which must, at any rate, be travelled. I need not however dwell on these views; as they cannot fail to attract the spectator's eye, since they face him as he descends the side of Craig-y-barns, amid rich woods, and under the shade of impending hill and rock: this road finally landing him at the King's pass.

He who has seen Dunkeld as it ought to be seen, and who has felt it as he ought to feel, will be less ready to quit it than the tourist w ho performs the task as an act of duty, and. is impatient for the renewal of his locomotion; expecting, as usual, to find in the future what the present has not given. It is the former who is in danger of eating Lotus. But time cannot all be spent at Dunkeld; and it is necessary that, like John Bunvan, both he and I should gird up our loins for that journey to Blair. There is yet much to be done before the short summer of his holiday fades.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus