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The History of Blairgowrie
Chapter XIII


Walks and Drives around Blairgowrie—To Lornty and the Heughs— Round Knook-mahar- -Round the Golf Course—Places of Interest near Blairgowrie—Distances from Blairgowrie—The Royal Route— Blairgowrie to Dunkeld—To Alyth—To Coupar Angus.

To Lornty AND the Heughs.

ON a ramble up the river side we enter Lower Mill Street from the Wellmeadow, at the Victoria Hotel. Immediately before us, on a low-lying tract, are the Grain Mills, belonging to the representatives of the late John Panton. Next to them, after passing a jute store, are the buildings long known as the “Plash Mill,” now the property and works of John Abercromby, mill right. Next is the “Muckle Mill,” and on the north side of the road are Ericht Linen Works. On the heights to the left are the Parish Manse and part of the Glebe, and further up, on the summit, is “ Mount Zion ” — the Parish Kirk o’ Blair—the back wall of which forms almost a plumb line to the side of a grassy wooded ravine in which runs the Cuttle Burn. A short distance from this, the Ericht rushes impetuously down a gorge, forming a cascade known as “The Keith.” Tradition points out this as the scene of Cargill’s leap, when he was pursued by the dragoons of Claverhouse. Pleasantly situated on the opposite side is Linnkeith house, and further up, the residence and works of Keithbank. We now pass through Oakbank, with its works, warehouses, and workers’ dwellings, while the residence of the same name is seen nestling among the trees on the high ground to the left. Near this is Ashbank, and on the opposite side of the river the house and works of Bramblebank. We now pass Brooklinn, with its mill standing on the face of the ravine of Lornty, at its junction with the Ericht. Turning by a curve to the left, the road leads us to Lornty Bridge, where the north road from the “Cross” of Blair, up by the “ Hill ” and Burnhead, joins in. The bridge of Lornty has been three times built, one structure over the other—the lowest one attributed to the Romans about the year 80. Two nice walks branch off here—one on each side of the Lornty. The one on the left leads past Lornty Cottage and the old mill of Lornty, through the policies of old Lornty House on to the Dam and Falls. The Dam has been artificially constructed for storage of water to Lornty Mills. Beyond this, the walk ascends gradually the rugged heights, and abruptly descends to the water’s edge, where a rustic seat has been erected overlooking the placid waters of the Dam. The walk on the north side leads up to “Prince Charlie’s Well ” and the old castles of Glasclune and Drumlochy.

Having crossed the bridge and traversed a very rough road for about a fourth of a-mile, we strike a path to the right, and pursue our way to the “Heughs.” The track is a zig-zag but well-beaten one, through a deep hollow, then ascending a steep ridge to a grassy flat, where a rustic seat enables the traveller to rest. Near this is the Heugh mineral well, possessed of valuable therapeiitifc medicinal properties. The walk may be continued up the acclivity to the summit of the “Heughs,” turning to the right and gradually descending along the crest till we enter on the highway at Bridge of Craighall, crossing which and pursuing our way southwards, we pass through Westfields and Rattray, and re-enter Blairgowrie at the Bridge.

Round Knock-ma-har.

A pleasant walk may be had from the Cross of Blair, ascending the Hill by the Parish Manse and the Hill Kirk, through Hill Terrace—the High Street of Blairgowrie of 200 years ago—and turning to the right at Stormont Lodge, cross bridge over the Cuttle Burn, on to the “Board of Health.” A fine stretch of country is here brought into view, from Mount Blair in the north to Kinpurnie in the south, and Benachally in the west. Several seats have been erected to allow the traveller to enjoy the scenes at his leisure.

The road to the right leads down to Lornty, passing several gigantic specimens of beech trees. We pursue the Knockie Road to the left, passing Kuockie Quarry. Right down below us, stretching east and west, is the ravine of Lornty, while away to the north are the Carnashic Woods and Muir of Cochrage. To the west are the lochs of the Stormont and the hills around Dmikekt By a keen eye a distant view of Glasclune Castle may be had. Entering a wicket gate, we turn southwards, cross the summit of Knockie, and descend by Maryfield and Newton Castle to the town. Splendid views of the Howe of Strathmore may be had from various points of vantage on the descent.

Round the Golf Course.

This is the favourite Sunday promenade during the summer season. Leaving the town by the south at Bankhead, we pass the old Tollhouse and the entrance to Altamont House. Close by is Blairgowrie Quarry, producing a hard rough stone of gravelly formation. To the left is the home farm of Blairgowrie, with the Mansion House and policies of the same—the residence of the Superior of the town. This demesne was built n 1792, and is pleasantly situated. For upwards of half-a-mile from the Toll, southwards on the left, the path is delightfully shaded by the overhanging branches of the trees which, when in full leaf, presents a glorious appearance. Woodlands House on the right marks the site where the “Bloody” Cumberland camped on his way to Culloden. Adjoining this is Heathpark (built by Thomas Clark, the famous Edinburgh publisher), and Brownsville, both desirable residences. After passing through the muirland hamlet known as the “ Green Tree we come to the cross roads at Rosemount Station. The main road leads south-east to Coupar Angus and Dundee. The road to the left leads to Rosemount House, Park-head, and Coupar Grange, also to the "Welton" and up the riverside to Blairgowrie. The road to the right leads west to the Golf Course and “Dark Fas. By the great storm of November, 1S73, a large tract of Rosemount Wood was blown down, but the road is still lined with a row of beautiful silver birches which withstood the storm.

About half-a-mile west is the Golf Course, laid out in 1889, which extends on to the Perth Road near “Dry-briggs” at Druidsmere. Coming to the “Dark Fa’s” we join the main road leading from Blair to Perth via Cargill, and turning to the right, facing north, pass by the Cemetery and Falcon House. To the left, at a distance, is the pretty little hamlet of Muirton of Ardblair —a frequent and well-known resort of artists and lovers of the picturesque. The Essendy Road branches off here, leading to Lethendy, Delvine, and Dunkeld, passing the Druidical Circle about a mile down. From Cleekerinn on the left a fine view is had of the slope on which the town of Blair is situated.

There are many other pleasant and favourite walks in the immediate neighbourhood, of which mention might be made, as “Along the Loon Braes,” “Round the Coontlie,” “The Hatton Hill,” “Castle Hill,” the “Gallon bank,' down by “The Welton,” &c., &c.

Places of Interest near Blairgowrie.

The Hatton Hill, 2 miles east, through Rattray.
The Castle Hill, 2 miles south-east, through Rattray.
Craighall, 3 miles north, through Rattray.
The Heughs, 2 miles north, by Oakbank.
Glasclune Castle, 2 miles north, by Maryfield.
Newton Castle, at the back of the town.
Ardblair Castle, 1 mile west, via Dunkeld.
Marlee Loch, 2 miles west, via Dunkeld.
Druidical Circle, 1 mile west, Essendy.
Muirton of Ardblair, 1 mile south-west.
Golf Course, lú miles south.
Stormont Loch, 2 miles south.
Beech Hedge, miles south, via Meikleour.

Distances from Blairgowrie.


The Royal Route.

Before the extension of the railway system by Aberdeen to Ballater, the road from Blairgowrie to Glenshee and Braemar was on two occasions taken by Her Majesty the Queen, Prince Consort, and suite, on their way to Balmoral.

This was in the years 1842 and 1857; but since then many other Royal personages have journeyed thereon, hence its term, “The Royal Route.”

On leaving Blairgowrie the road crosses the Ericht by a handsome bridge, up the Boat Brae, and, turning to the left, we enter Balmoral Road, passing some beautiful cottages and villas. Now and again we have a view of the Heughs of Mause. Passiug the entrance to Craighall House, we come to the Bridge. It was built in 1810, and is very passable, but the accesses to it are abrupt and dangerous. In the olden days vehicles and passengers to the north had to ford the river by what was known as the “ Rough Ford.” The building of the bridge was followed by an advantageous and better executed work in the cutting of a new road to Cally, several miles of the way taking a lower altitude and escaping the steep ascent of the old road up by Mause. The road is cut along the face of the left side of the Ericht, and at openings of the trees brings the eye in more immediate command of the opposite side, with views of the famed house of Craighall. As we journey on for nearly a mile, the scenery is of the most romantic and magnificent description, and can scarcely be excelled, not only as an enchanting, but a perfect embodiment of all that constitutes the essential elements of beauty and grandeur. Wood, water, chasm, and rock are finely intermingled in all the light and shade so dear to the lover of Nature in her grandest displays of panoramic sublimity. Through a deep ravine of savage rook and crag, rugged and bare, or clothed with dense foliage of hazel and oak coppice, here and there relieved by tall and graceful trees, imparting to the view the most delightful sylvan beauty, dark and sullen flows the “ireful” river. In the depth of its abyss the water rushes along its stony bed, filling the solitude with a ceaseless roar. To those who wish to have the incomparable scene at its best, let them go to its enjoyment during the summer months when it is decked by Nature in the mantle of green. Passing onw ard we round the heights of Mause, losing the track of the river and its rocky banks, while a new panorama is exposed to view. On the other side of the river, near the crest, is Ramia-gulzion, and almost below, near the river side, on a beautiful site, amid charming surroundings, stands Glen-ericht House.

A former proprietor of this estate, Sir William Chalmers, a Waterloo veteran, was knighted by the Queen on her first journey north this route to Balmoral in 1812.

A little further on is the Barony of Cally, which at one time included a considerable extent of country, from the revenues of which a monastery and nunnery connected with Dunkeld Cathedral were maintained. There were wont to be two Chapels in the Barony— one with burying-ground at Wester Cally, which has disappeared, and the other at Steps of Cally. This one had also a burial-place attached, which has been put in order and is still used.

Bridge of Cally, from the stone bridge spanning the Ardle, may be regarded as a leading entrance to the Highland Glens. The main road splits off into two here. One, striking to the right, leads to Clayquhat anti Ashmore; to Persie; up the Blacksater and Glen-shee to the Spittal of Glenshee; then up Glen Beg, round the Devil’s Elbow, over the Cairuwell (3030 ft.), and down Glen Clunie to Braemar, distant from Blairgowrie, 35 miles. The other road strikes off to the left up Strathardle, passing many desirable shooting lodges and mansions — Blackcraig with its house-bridge and castellated mansion, Woodhill, &c.—on through Ballintuim to Kirkmichael, the capital of Strathardle, distant from Blairgowrie, 13 miles. The read continues onwards through Enockdhu, along Glenbrierachau. over the hill at Badvo, and down through Moulin to Pitlochry.


Bridge of Cally.

Blairgowrie to Dunkeld.

Distance by the Upper Stormont—12 miles.
Distance by the Lower Stormont—13 miles.

Proceeding westward from the Cross of Blairgowrie we diverge to the right at Stormont Inn. Near by are the extensive agricultural engineering works of J. Bisset & Sons, Ltd. Beautifully situated is Ardblair Castle, an old fortress, of date 1668, but recently restored and modernised. The Rae Loch, or Loch of the Leys, is immediately to the west, while half-a-mile to the north is Craig Roman (600 ft.) A short distance further on are the Parish Church and School of Kinlocli, and Marlee Hotel, and to the left are Marlee House and homestead. A field-breadth to the south is Marlee Loch, a beautiful sheet of water, which abounds in trout, perch, and pike. Proceeding along, we pass on our right Kinloch House and the entrances leading to the mansions of Ballied and Logie. At the double turu of the road we pass Clunie Cottage on the left, with the farms of Tullyneddie on the right. We now approach Clunie Loch, having in its centre an island, on which, it is alleged, the Adrniiable Crichton was born. The scenery around the loch is extremely beautiful. On the high ground to the north of the loch is Porneth House. Just below the road and two miles further on is the residence of Laighwood. Near this part, we observe to the right Benachally (1594 ft.) A short distance from it is St Crux Well, to which pilgrimages were wont to be made. We now pass a succession of very beautiful lochs ith a rich diversity of scenery—Lochs Butterstone, the Lowes, and Craiglush —and, turning abruptly to the left, strike south-east down hill to Dunkeld.


Spittalfield.

This town occupies a site of rare beauty on the banks of the Tay, and is surrounded by hills—one the classic Birnam (1580 ft.) and another Craig-y-Barns, both well worth ascending. There are man}- interesting sights in this quaint old town worthy of a visit.

The road from Dunkeld to Blairgowrie by the Lower Stormont is also famed for its scenery. For a few miles after leaving Dunkeld the road winds along the romantic banks of the river Tay.

Close to the road is the mansion-house of Stenton, with Stenton Craig to the north, while on the other side of the river may be seen, embosomed amid the trees, the old and new Castles of Murthly. In a short time we pass through Caputh and Spittalfleld, the latter one of the prettiest villages in Perthshire. Near by is the mansion-house of Delvine, with traces of a Roman station. The picturesque Tower of Lethendy may be seen to the north-east. The next place of interest along the route is the charming village of Meikleour, which was in former times a place of considerable importance. In the middle of the village stands the Market Cross, bearing date lfi98, in good preservation. In a field almost opposite is the “ Tron ” of former days, with an iron necklet, doubtless used as “ the jouggs.” The entrance to the mansion of Meikleour is directly off the Market Square.

On this estate, alongside the main road from Blairgowrie to Perth, is the famous “Beech Hedge,” one of the arboreal wonders of the world. The length of the hedge is about 580 yards, and it has an average height of SIC feet. It is believed to have been planted in 1746. Fo over ha -a-century the hedge has been regularly cut on the side next the road, in order to 'keep the road clear and give to the row a truly hedge-like character. The operation of pruning is carried out every five years, and, from the height and extent of the hedge, the work is of no ordinary labour. Turning to the left, the road passes through the woods of Meikleour, up by and tluougl the woods of Carsie to the Muir of Blair. On the right may be seen the Golf Course, and on the left the beautiful residence of Druidsmere. Rounding the bend of the road at “Dark Fa’s,” and passing the Cemetery and Falcon House, we enter the west end of the town. Pretty little cottages and villas dot the side of the road from Falcon House right in for nearly half-a -mile.

On the road which strikes off to the west at Falcon House, about half-a-mile away, is a Druidical Circle, arranged as a hexagon, with a block of stone at each angle point. The road passes directly through the centre of two opposite sides. To the south is the village of Muirton of Ardblair, where a famous Admiral in the Russian service was born about the year 176!).

Blairgowrie to Alyth, &c.

Crossing the Bridge of Blair we climb the Boat Brae, in Rattray, at the top of which the road divides, one leading off to the left to Kirkmichael and Glenshee, the other to Alyth, Kirriemuir, &c. We pursue our way along the latter to the Cross of Old Rattray. Another road branches off to the left to Alyth and Glenisla. About half-a-mile along this road is the mansion of Parkhill, commanding a magnificent view of the Valley of Strathmore. Getting clear out of Old Rattray, in a short time we pass through Bevershire, a small village near the Littleton of Rattray. Immediately east of this the road descends and again ascends the Hollymill Brae. Driving along this road eastwards a very fine vieAV is had of the Howe of Strathmore, which has been compared to the scenery along the banks of the Rhine.

About 5 miles east from Blair is the town of Alyth, the old part of which is irregularly built on a steep declivity of the Grampians. Several miles to the northeast are the “ Reekie Linn,’ the Den of Airlie, and Airlie Castle, the ancient seat of the Ogilvies, Earls of Airlie —“The Bonnie Iloose o’ Airlie” of Jacobite song. Southeast from Blair about 7 miles is Meigle, a small village, and seat of a Presbytery. In the churchyard are several upright pillars adorned with emblematical figures, which are of great interest, particularly to archaeologists.

This route goes down Reform Street, along to the right at Bankhead, and, turning to the left at foot of William Street, enters on the Coupar Angus Road at the old tollhouse. A short distance down is the entrance to Altamont House on the right and that to Blairgowrie House on the left. The road leads down a fine stretch to Rosemount Station, past several interesting residences, in a district almost given up to the cultivation of that most luscious of all fruits—the strawberry. The road crosses the railway at Rosemount Station, goes away south-east by Moorfield, Mayriggs, Couttie, and Bridge of Isla, to Coupar Angus, distant from Blairgowrie about 4| miles. The chief attraction of this place is the ruins of the once-famous abbey of St Benedict, founded with great ceremony on Sunday, 12th July, 1164, by King Malcolm IV. A fragment only of this building now remains, having survived the storm of iconoclastic fury which broke over Scotland at the Reformation.


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