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"Big Tree Country" - Part 3


By david


Dunkeld, Birnam and Inver : Part C.

A “compendium” of 8 forest walks (totalling only 36 miles) in this one part of Perthshire, Scotland, has been already covered in Parts 1 and 2 of this blog series. And, what a compendium this is! This small region would be the ideal forest setting for a “I’m an Historical Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here!” series (Macbeth, William Shakespeare, Niel Gow, Robert Burns, Henry Raeburn, the “Planting Dukes”, Felix Mendelsshon, Beatrix Potter, and others, would be up there).

With scenery like this, however, our favourite walk has to be through “The Hermitage”, just outside of Dunkeld.

The River Braan, a tributary of the great River Tay, flows through a natural gorge close to Dunkeld, and enters the said Tay close to the town. In the 18th Century, the landowner, the 3rd Duke of Atholl, inspired by the “Romantic Movement” and the new fashion for landscape gardening, as well as this natural beauty, decided to have the banks planted up with the “in” plants of the time, namely rhododendrons, azaleas and trees.

The “Romantic Movement”, along with the 18th century fashion for landscape gardening, led to further developments here, with the erection of “follies”, in the form of Ossian’s Cave and “Ossian’s Hall”.

“Ossian’s Cave”

Ossian is a semi-mythical Celtic bard, with Scots and Irish connections. He is thought to have been of 3rd century origin, with his “works” supposedly re-discovered in the 18th Century, hence the link with this place and its 18th Century origins.

“Ossian’s Hall”.

This was built in 1758 as a viewing point, the interior of which was lined with mirrors, to reflect the waterfalls from every direction. It was “refurbished” in 2007, the mirrrors being replaced with panels bearing excerpts from supposed works by Ossian.

The Hall’s balcony gives a great view down into the Falls of Braan. In October and November, wild salmon can frequently be seen leaping up the torrents, especially in the section on the right of the above picture.

The Falls of Braan flow into a still pool called the Black Linn Pool. On one bank stands an old Douglas Fir (almost in the centre of the above pic). It was planted in the 1860s and was, until recently, acknowledged on the Tree Register as being the tallest tree in Britain (now superceded by another tree farther north in Inverness-shire).

This tree is 212 ft (64.6metres) tall. The Douglas Fir is only one of over 200 plant species introduced to Britain by the famous planthunter, David Douglas (1799 – 1834), who was born in Perthshire. The Douglas Fir was introduced here in 1827 following Douglas’ intrepid exploration of America’s Pacific Northwest three years earlier.

David Douglas.

It is interesting to note, however, that the Douglas Fir’s scientific name, Pseudotsuga menziesii, is named after Archibald Menzies (1754 – 1842), a contemporary of Douglas, another native of Perthshire, whose most well-known introduction to Europe was the Monkey Puzzle tree (Auricaria auricana) from Chile.

It now seems logical, to me, to make my way to the parish of Scone (pronounced Scoon), to visit the David Douglas Memorial there. I will report on this later, but, firstly, I want to post one final picture from Dunkeld.

This is a tree-planting project, currently being carried out by the local schoolchildren. It is fantastic to see them following in the footsteps of their local predecessors!

More blog posts by david

Previous post: "Big Tree Country" - Part 2

Next post: "Big Tree Country" - Part 4



Wonderful to venture back to the past through your pictures and stories, and great to see into the future with the above photo of the many young trees planted by the children.
Excellent blog. Well done. :o)

4 Dec, 2008


Beautiful scenery in this area, David! Good to read about just who influenced it, as well.

4 Dec, 2008


what a great blog David. it looks tooo good to be real...

4 Dec, 2008


Very interesting blog, David. Thank you for sharing :-)

5 Dec, 2008


Many Thanks for the kind comments, folks. We do hope to get a few more walks here over the holiday period.

17 Dec, 2008

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