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
South Side of Garry - Killiecrankie - Cascade of Urrard

A road, admitting even a carnage, leaves the ferry below Blair, and, following closely the river side, joins the Tumel road to the westward of Garry bridge. To the charm of being hitherto utterly unknown, and even unsuspected, the scenery along this ride, adds that which requires no such concurrent advantages to recommend it. At the same time it is proper to add, for the visitor's convenience, that it is most advantageously viewed by proceeding down the course of the water, as the chief pictures face in that direction; and that he may return across Garry bridge by the high road, or, with some variety of incident, on the same side and in the same manner as he went, so as to well occupy a forenoon.

The valley of Blair is seen in this manner, under an aspect totally new, though the unchanging Ben Vrackie may still be recognized. Yet, being differently combined, even this steady ingredient of the landscape assumes a novelty of aspect, united to an importance even greater than before, on account of the far greater space which it occupies. It is indeed a most essential, as it is a most magnificent, feature; and it is partly to the difference which it exhibits from these points of view, that the landscapes on this side of the water owe so much of their novelty of character; the rest arising from the entire display of the richly-wooded hills that extend from Glen Tilt through Lude and Urrard to Kiliecrankie. and from the proximity of the road to the margin of the river for a considerable space.

Every point is beautiful, and the distinct land-scapcs which occur are numerous; too numerous to be named, much less described. Bui I must call the visitor's attention to that part of the river opposite to Alt Clune; well marked by a deep pool where it enters a pass among rocks, and by a group of fine ash tree, through which the road is conducted. It would be difficult, anywhere in Scotland, to point cut finer example; of what may be called open river scenery, than those which occur on every point of this stream, even from Blair to Killiecrankie. But the landscapes at this point art' peculiarly perfect in style and composition: adding variety to grandeur, and cultivation to wildness; uniting the broad magnificence of blue towering mountain, wild moorland hill, and woody and green acclivities, to all the richness of the plain, to noble trees in every variety of form and disposition, and to the banks of a stream alternately winding through rich and cultivated meadows, or foaming among rocks, or plunging from the cascade to the deep dark pool, or sleeping silently under high banks, and reflecting every branch and leaf of the fine trees by which it is overshadowed.

The artist will find, wherever he pleases to seek for them, foregrounds that leave nothing to be desired and nothing to alter; alike consistent with the general landscape, and perfect even to their minutest detail: : trees of the finest characters and in endless forms, whether grouped 01 single; rocks, of which every fragment is a study, as the collective masses are finely disposed : with all those varying and minuter circumstances of broken bank and wild plant and tangling thicket, and a thousand other nameless accidents of which he know s so well how to avail himself.

It is right to mention here, that the deep pool which, on this side of the Garry, forms a station for so much fine landscape, is equally a station on the opposite side of the water; presenting the same general scenery, yet with important variations, and, what is of much more moment, affording a considerable variety of rocky foregrounds of the finest imaginable character. In returning to Blair by the high road, the visitor has only to quit it for a few yards, to discover this spot; w here, if it be part of his pursuit to make drawings, he may pass no small part of a day with amusement and profit.

There is here a salmon fishery, as there are others in this neighbourhocd, as well noon the Tumel as on the Garry; while this fish is occasionally taken, even in the Tilt. Of course, none of these rivers are very productive in this respect, as the fish have a long gauntlet to run from Dundee, and as not a great many can contrive to reach the remote branches that contribute to form the many-headed Tay. These fisheries are rented by the different tanners on the banks, but I believe that the brothers of the angle art never refused leave to try their fortune even on salmon. Still less, is any obstruction throw in the way of fishing for trout, whether in the streams or in the lakes; nor is there any situation much better adapted than this entire neighbourhood for those personages who find solace and delight in waiting at one end of a rod for a rise or a nibble, while the black hackle or the unlucky worm is dangling at the other. Of all these waters, however, Loch Tumel is that which produces the finest trout; as does that river upwards to Loch Rannocli, and even Loch Rannoch itself. It is fortunate also for these philosophers in piscatory patience, that the season of Loch Tumel, in this respect, is peculiarly late, so as to be in perfection during the usual period of the autumnal tours: while it it is not a bad addition to the merits of this lake, that the flavour and quality of its produce are peculiarly fine.

This same district, that is, from Blair to Dalwhinnie, is also celebrated for its grouse-shooting; but, of course, under the usual restrictions to the friends of the several proprietors. It is, indeed, in this respect, the paragon of ail Scotland: the moors belonging to the Duke of Atholl and the Marquis of Huntly, in particular, abounding in game to a degree which occurs no where else.

This arises, not merely from the ordinary practice of preserving, but from the deer forest; which, being excluded hum general shooting, on account of the deer, even to the proprietor himself, forms a natural preserve, as well from sportsmen as from sheep: which latter arc the great cause, in other parts of the country, of that diminution of the game which is now becoming so sensible everywhere.

I should also add, while on these subjects, that all these rivers produce the pearl muscle, and. many of them, in considerable abundance. Many of the country people make a petty trade of this fishery; and there art often offered for sale, pearls of a very good quality, and at a very inorderate price. The greatest dealer m this line, however, is a certain Mac Alpin, at Killin: a genuine specimen of a Highlander; an excellent fiddler withal, and, what is not much worst, a very ingenious and a very honest fellow. I owe him as much immortal fame, at least, as these pages are likely to confer on him; and Hereby he is accordingly entered on the imperishable record.

That I may shorten the details respecting this ride, I must now suppose that the spectator has reached the hilly part of that road, which, overlooking the valley, is conducted beneath the lofty precipice that forms so conspicuous an object from Alt-Girneg. From this singular: and wild pass, the vale of Blair is seen under a new aspect, as are the mountains that, hence, continue the chain of connection, as it had never been seen before, from Ben Vrackie to Ben-y-gloe. Every new turn and every few yards of ascent, teem with fish beauties; nor. are there many points in this tract of country, rich as it is in all the variety and modes ot landscape, that afford more magnificent combinations of mountain forms. The proximity of the huge broad face of Ben Vrackie impending above the deep pass, gives to these pictures a grandeur of manner rarely found, even in a mountainous district ; impressing the spectator, at the same time, with that sense of the absolute magnitude of these objects, which so generally vanishes in the foreshortening of even far loftier mountains. The combinations of masses equally broad and simple, retiring in succession beyond it, preserve this grandeur of character in the leading features; while the deep shadow of the pre. found woody chasm that conducts the Garry relieves the bread this of light and of dark-tint that rest on the broad forms of the hills, as its solid and continuous wood embellishes, by contrast. the endless multiplicity of objects, the woody knolls, and scattered groups, and trees, and farms, and field of, which, lying almost beneath the spectator's feet, stretch far away in diminishing perspective along the blight wandering course of the river, till the view is closed by the dark pine forests of Blair and the last taint blue of the western hills. It is on scenery of this class and character, that the variations of light produce their chief effects, nor will the spectator know how, duly to appreciate the whole merit and beauty of these scenes, unless he has viewed them in all lights, and, most of all, when the setting sun, throwing the shadows of the western ridge across the pass of Killiecrankie. casts it into a deep abyss of form its shadow, glittering on the windings of the Garrv, and bringing the richly crowded and dazzling objects that attend its course, while, gleaming in one broad light on the opposite hills, its last ray vanishes on the lofty summit of Ben Vrackie This, and more, may bt seen without deviating from the road; since views, of great effect and of the richest alpine character, are also obtained by looking in the opposite direction, or down the course of the Garry as it issues from the pass. But it would be inexcuseable to leave this place thus, half unseen. Let the tourist, therefore, dismount, reckless of time, which, like the Garry beneath him, is hurrying to that dark abyss whence it will not, like that Garry, again emerge, and, heedless of the transient mishaps of bogged shoe or torn galligaskin, make his way into the woods that overhang the pass of Killicrankie. Here he will find mossy stones and "banks of thyme, where he may sit without any companions but the mountain and the mountain bee; where he may look from a dizzy height, over a precipice of forest plunging deep down into the invisible abyss beneath him, and where he must imagine the river flowing, since, like the Spanish fleet, it is not in sight. Here, too, he may moralize, like Mad Ton. on Dover and with somewhat more of lesson ; since even the mountain goat would hardly dare to gather samphire here ; and here, perchance, he may see the gay barouche, diminished to the size of Queen Mary's midnight equipage, a mustard seed in the mighty void. following its invisible horses, with invisible motion, along the. white thread which undulates on the face of the mountain, If he does not see and fee) to much more effect than I have written, he might as well have gone to the '.op of the Monument, and "speculated on the lung legs of Sir Thomas Graham's grasshopper.

He who :s ambitious of emulating Caesar, in considering nothing dune till it is finished, will not yet quit this hill till he has ascended a road which winds along the base of the steep precipice, on which an obelisk, or rather a cairn, marks the highest elevation. At that cairn let him rest; and, taking his tablets from his pocket, sharpening the point of his pencil, and making all other usual note of preparation for writing a description which will dazzle the eyes and confound the judgment of all the subscribers to Mr. Sams's circulating library, very quietly put it into his pocket again. There are things in this world, unattempted yet in prose or rhyme; and which are very likely to remain so.

Those who have, in present possession or future command, that, of which every one who visits this part of the world should secure a proper store, will find o mountain road that will conduct them back to Blair by the same side of the water; but high on the face of the hill, over such moorlands, and among such rocks, and across such wooded ravines, and amid such trees, and farms, and fields, and in sight of such views as never were dreamt of, and never will be. The less judicious, whose minds are like eight-day clocks, wound up on Sunday morning to run down on Saturday night, happen what may, conforming to nothing, providing for no contingencies, but labouring against wind, weather, and events, because they have predetermined to pare their nails at a particular inn, on a particular day, at a particular minute, must put aside this cairn, as they will have to put a ride many other things, and return by Garry Bridge to Blair.

I shall now, however, presume, that this one day has been bisected, or multiplied, or swelled out in some manner, so as to have been converted into two; and, upon this hypothesis, shall lead him, for whose especial use I have taken all this trouble, into those recesses which were promised when first we proceeded together on our road to Blair.

From the bridge across the Garry, there art two views well worthy, even of the pencil. This romantic bridge is placed, and even designed, like almost every bridge in this country in which an architect, or a gentleman, or a conceited road-making engineer, has not interfered, as if every Highland mason had been himself spawned on the principle of equilibration, and had passed his life in studying the fitness of things. He fits the river, and the read, and the bank, and the ravine, to say nothing of the carts and horses, better than Paliadio could have done, (at least if he built the Rialto) . and, what is much more to the purpose, he fits them all, just as if he had had nothing else to do than to make friends with nature, as well as art, and to embellish a landscape which, for aught that has ever been written to the contrary, he thinks no more of than his trowel.

Of the two views obtained from the bridge, ore looks down the stream flowing deep beneath, through the narrow chasm which, rising in high facts of broken rocks, is crowned, at the summits, by the thick woods which cover the face of the hills above on one side, and which, on the other, extend in variety of confusion up the valley of the Tume!; the junction of this river with the Garry vanishing, just at the point where it h formed beneath the rocky and wooded mountain that closes in upon Fascally. Upwards, one of the far-distant conical summits of Ben-y-gloe terminates a view, not very dissimilar, but of a closer character ; tracing the course of the Garry as it flows down through the pass, deeply buried in woods, and foaming along its dark and rocky channel. Of the bridge itself, different views can be obtained, both above and below, all, :n their several characters, interesting; nor is it difficult to descend into the bed of the stream at a short distance above, so as to see it far elevated, and springing on each side from the high vertical faces of the chasm, which close in on the water and cast on it a profound and perpetual shadow.

Quitting the high road, a green alley will be found parting from it at a lower elevation, an< wandering through a wild thicket of birch and alder, nearer to the river. This is the rain of the ancient road; but it is still passable on foot, and will conduct the spectator through a series of wild and romantic scenes, alike unknown and unsuspected. Few, few at least of those who know, even at a distance, where the elements of landscape lie concealed, and few, possibly, of those who have no better quality than that propensity to pry into creeks and corners which distinguishes cats, have passed through Killicrankie without casting a longing took at that dark pool when the river, forcing its way through a narrow and high rocky pass, promises strange things Since the day of creation, it has had the reputation of being inaccessible; and hence that increase of interest which belongs alike to all that is forbidden and unattainable. The path in question conducts to the side of the river not far from this place; and, by clambering over the rocks, there is no difficulty in finding a passage along its bed, so as to reach at length a wild foot-path that leads to Alt Girneg.

To omit much striking scenery which occurs before reaching this spot, there is no one who will not think the little labour he has be-to wed on this attempt, well repaid by the number and nature of the pictures which it affords. A series of cascades and of rapids, of dark pool and smoothly-gliding river, high rocks rising above and covered with woods, or thrown in enormous masses across the river; these are objects that would seem to promise, in words, nothing but what the spectator may think he has seen under every possible form before. But the variety of Nature is endless; and, with the same materials, she produces that infinitude of combination and fo. ms, no conception of which can be conveyed by a mere enumeration of these materials, vary their epithets as we may;

The seclusion and stillness of this most unexpected scene, powerfully aid the effect resulting from its fine forms and romantic character; giving to these a kind of moral interest which constitutes a large part of all the pleasing impressions that are produced by natural objects, even on 'hose who, unaccustomed to analyse their feelings, are unaware of the cause from which their chief pleasure is derived. Every thing bears the marks of force and ruin: of the rending of the solid rocks and the devastations of the torrent. An enormous mass, stretched across, and narrowing the stream, lifts high its Droken pyramidal summit; and heaps of fragments, piled in confusion, lie beneath the dark precipice that overhangs the water In the rushing of the river as it issues below, and in the more intermitting sound of' the cascade above, we recognise the causes of this devastation. But the devastation seems alike past and forgotten the world of other ages. The ruin reposes in peace; and. for the turbulence which we thought to find, we hear only the distant and taint indications of violence, like the murmur which reminds us of the retiring storm. Deep in this noble amphitheatre of rock end wood, we view the river rippling in bright gleams as it enters through its narrow and dark cavern, overhung with trees, then spreading out into a wider stream to murmur among the fragments that impede its course, and sending its miniature billows ia succession to break on the white pebbled shore, till, collecting its glassy waters in one black and silent expanse, it plunges into the narrow chasm to be seen no more. All is stillness and solitude and repose; a silence rendered more impressive by the gentle murmurs of falling and rushing waters as they intermit on the breeze, and bj the aspect of past violence; bv the presence of all the elements of force and ruin. Where the deep shadow of the lofty woods darkens on the water, every leaf is reflected in sober colouring; the bright sparkling waves that follow the plunging trout disturb tht picture but to collect again: opposite, the broad sunshine tinges the high grey rock, the feathering fern, und the bright crimson of the wild rose, silvering the grey branches of the aspen, as they hang with ali their trembling and transparent foliage over a dark and dripping cavern, where the green damp covering of moss and the tall pale grass that shuns the light, are contrasted by the glossy an broad leaves of the wood rush, cushioned on every projecting fragment, and starting from every crevice The gnats, dancing their bright wings kt the sunshine, complete the picture of peace among images of rudeness and turbulence, of summer calms amid the ravages of the wintry torrent.

The artist will here find abundant occupation for his pencil; scenes combining all the varied minuteness of rich detail which renders close scenery so captivating, with the utmost simplicity of fine and bold forms and the most exquisite colouring. As the points of view cannot be overlooked, it is unnecessary to detail them. On emerging from this recess, through an intricate and tangled pass of rock and wood, the valley of Blair again comes into view, seen now from a very low point of sight, and under a new aspect The scenery here is rendered interesting, not only by this rich distance, but by a cascade over which the Garry falls in foam, through a singularly intricate and narrow pass among the rocks. He who can trust to the steadiness of his head and the firmness of his toot, may almost place himself in the midst of the roaring water as it descends from above in ail its violence to plunge into a deep abyss beneath him. The scene is not ornamental; but it is impressive, and even grand: adding a variety to that often-recurring feature, the cascade; a feature which is apt to pall, in a very unexpected manner, on the eye of those to whom its novelty once held out endless charms.

A foot-path through a wild field, varied with rocks and coppices and trees, will conduct the spectator hence to Alt Girneg, and to the high road; at the distance of only a few hundred yards; and, in a wooded ravine with its accompanying mill, and in the rich confusion of the surrounding scenery, will afford the artist employment. If the water be low, he may cross this small stream itself where it joins the Garry , and thus ascend it to the bridge. In either case, he ought to examine the hanks of the water, from this junction to a point above the bridge, since it presents a succession of beautiful scenery in this class, that is unequalled any where in the neighbourhood of Blair. I know not indeed that all Scotland produces a soot which, in the narrow limit of two or three hundred yards, affords so many distinct pictures and of so rich a character- The bridge itself is an important object, whether seen from above or below, and from many points on both sides. The splendid ash trees, in themselves studies, that surround it and skirt the green meadows, which, on one hand, and the rough rocky banks which, on the other, bound this little river, are sources of endless variety, as they combine with the bold objects around, with the high precipice formerly described, the hills that close over the pass of Killicrankie, the mountain valley whence this river descends, and all the minuter and crowded objects of rock, and bank, and woody knoll, and mill, and distant forests retiring till they vanish on the high acclivities. As a -specimen of alpine river scenery, this spot is as singular as it is rich and romantic; while the pictures which it affords are perfect in an un common degree; since nothing is wanting which an artist could wish, and as there is little present that he would desire to remove. To say that he may find occupation here for days, and that he may fill his portfolio with drawings, is not to over-rate of fertility of Alt Girneg

The cause of the great fertility of this place in landscape, arises from that very crowding of numerous and different objects which renders this spot at once so romantic and so singular. At the same time, the various objects are all so near to the eye, that their effects in the picture are no less striking than the magnitude of the changes which they produce by slight alterations ot the spectators place. It is a kind of close scenery, if such a term may be applied to landscape where the objects are of such magnitude', but it is the close scenery of mountains and precipices and torrents and wood; not that which a practised artist finds in those minutias of landscape so often overlooked by ordinary observers. Altogether. it is by much the most romantic and beautiful spot on the Blair road; yet it is on which, however it may, and must strike, even the most rapid traveller, will not be appreciated except by those who delay at it; from the momentary and transient appearance of many of the scenes. That general similarity which they seem to possess when thus viewed, disappears when more critically examined: every picture is abund sufficiently distinct from every other, and every one is, almost without alteration, adapted for painting.

There is yet one scene which must be visited before returning to Blair ; and the path to it leads from the bridge just mentioned. The walk through the grounds of Urrard is, in itself-beautiful; not only from the disposition of the paths and woods themselves, but from those views of the distant scenery which, under some new forms, are always present. While on this subject, I may add generally, for those who may have time, that the v hoi;- face of the bills, from this point to Blair, is accessible, by means of -roads, either private or public; and that it presents endless beauties and incessant variety. The ornamented grounds of Lude, in particular, deserve to be named; as do the farms of Strath Gray, and others, which occupy the acclivities at various elevations.

The cascade of Urrard, which is the object here immediately under review, lies on the river of Alt Girneg; and the mass of water is therefore amply sufficient for those peculiar effects which are expected from waterfalls. The height of the fall, nevertheless, is inconsiderable; but as far as the disposition of the water itself is concerned, whether in the breaks of the cascade, or in the descending- stream, or in the departing torrent, it leaves nothing to desire. A rustic and well-conceived bridge of rough wood, not only giveĢ access to the best points of view, but adds materially to the picturesque effect of the scene. The whole is full of character, and presents as striking an example as it is possible to conceive, of the endless resources of Nature in landscape. Though, to all the cascades already enumerated, the spectator should have added an acquaintance with every other example in Scotland, still the novelty of this one would excite his attention, as its beauty would probably place it among the very first in the scale. Well disposed as the water is, the scenery would itself be beautiful, even were that wanting. The far-retiring and deep shadowy channel out of which it suddenly appears, the forms of the rocks, and the profusion of trees and rich ornamerit, are in themselves sufficient to constitute u romantic landscape of the first order in close scenery; while, to the most happy disposition of light and shadow, there is added a tone of colouring which seems quite peculiar to this place.

There is an effect in cascades of this class, where the surrounding scenery is capacious in proportion to the fall, arid where it is at the same time close, or where a small torrent falls through a wide and shadowy chasm, that is not ill described by the cant term, magical, of painters. It is, in fact, the effect of painting united to the reality of nature. The real objects, we know are before us, yet they are all subdued to the colouring of art j conveying the impression perhaps yet more accurately, of a landscape viewed in the camera obscure. or in the reflection of the black mirror. This character also belongs to the fall of Moness, to the second one. where a similar general disposition of the parts, although on a much smaller scale, prevails; and it appears to be produced by a vapoury atmosphere, which harmonizes all the local colours to one leading hue, just as they are in painting, or as in the optical machines, they are reduced in tone by the diminution of the light. This same cause, the subdued and general light, resulting, in these scenes, from moderated sunshine and the multiplicity of reflections produced from objects of various colours, is perhaps also an accessary in producing this beautiful effect.

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