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A Description of the Scenery of Dunkeld
The Road to Blair - Moulinearn - Fascally


Though the pass of Birnam has brought the traveller into the Highlands, he has scarcely made his footing good till be has emerged from the King's pass. In approaching this, he cannot fail to be struck with the singularity as well as the romantic abruptness and beauty of its very first appearance, which are constituted by the landscape of PoI-na-gates already mentioned. If he is an artist, he will find an excellent subject for his pencil, from the very road; a single tree at its margin, brought into such a position as to cover the chasm, forming the mark for his station. As he enters the pass itself, the high rocks on each side, which overhang and darken it, will not less attract his attention than the huge fragments on the right, which cover the declivity with a fearful mass of ruin; the whole being wildly diversified by the trees which, though placed there by art, seem to have contended with nature to gain a footing among these inaccessible precipices. Inaccessible, however, they ought not to be, if fame says true, and tradition is to be trusted. Highland legends still show a fissure, once tenanted by a noted worthy of the olden time, called Duncan Hogg. At what period this Celtic Cacus flourished and robbed, the parish register says net; the records of these heroic ages not having been very accurately kept. It would be injuring Duncan, however, and deserving of a Highland clout, to say that he robbed: lifted, is the gentlemanlike term for those who never wanted beef while a lowlander had a cow, provided they were strongest; for Duncan and his fraternity preferred the moon to the sun, and what s vulgarly and improperly called thieving, to honest violence. Whether Duncan Hogg devoured his beef raw, as St. Jerom tells u« his ancestors did each other, or how it was cooked, is unknown; but unless he pulled his plunder limb from limb, according to that heroic and unfortunately lost method which is speedily and laudably to be revived, together with other lost improvements it is difficult to understand how-he dragged the carcases- of stots and stirks, and such like beasts, into a hole where a modern degenerate Celt can scarcely introduce his own.

I must not here pass without notice, a geological fact in which the King's pass is implicated, because it concerns those who never heard of floetz trap and formations, quite as much as it does the gentlemen who have written books that no one reads and few understand, or as it does even Ephraiin Jenkinson himself. If any one is inclined to ask what geology has to do with the picturesque arrangements of Dunkeld, let him wait with patience and he will soon sec. Thus the arts and sciences all illustrate each other; a? has been well observed of La Fleurs acquirements in drum beating and spatterdash making.

On the right-hand side, a good eye will see a part of the rock worn very smooth; and though somewhat obscured by the piece of ill fortune which carried the road through it, there is no difficulty in discovering that it was once the place of a cascade formed by the Tay. The fact itself is analogous to that already pointed out at the Hermitage:; and they mutually illustrate each other and the condition of this country in ancient times. Further search in the walk under the King's seat, formerly mentioned, will discover a similar mark, indicating a second cascade; and that, evidently formed after the river had shifted its bed laterally, and had also subsided to a lower level. A third place of the same nature will be found, by those who may be sufficiently interested in this subject to examine it, m the rocks at a short distance beyond the slate quarries of Newtyle. Now, in a general view, the altitude of these above the present river, may be taken at an average of an hundred feet, as their levels are, of course, not all alike; and thus the Tay once flowed at Dunkeld, at this elevation higher than it does at present.

This conclusion, which is not in the least doubtful, even from this evidence, is confirmed by the more interesting appearances, which must have attracted every eye, though unaware of their nature and causes. A flat terrace may be observed rising above the town of Dunkeld, levelled as if by art, and consisting entirely of the rolled gravel and stones of a river. Similar terraces, on the west side of the river, though now in some places obscured by trees, may be the seen extending along its course; and it will be found that these levels coincide on the opposite sides of the water. They also coincide in elevation with the levels of the ancient cascades; And it is evident, that they have been, not only levelled but deposited, by the Tay, once flowing, at least as high as an hundred feet above its present bed. Having once been made aware of the existence and nature of these appearances, the observer will have no difficulty in tracing them all the way to Logicrait, and even far beyond it; so as to receive convincing proof that the whole valley has been excavated in the same manner. He will equally trace them through the pass of Birnam, and there see the extent of the operations by which the Tay has deepened its own bed. The terraces which still exist, are the remains of a solid plain, or strath, through which the stream once wardered laterally, just as it wanders still; and all that is wanting has travelled downwards to form the Carse of Gourie, as more will yet reach the same spot, to make Dundee hereafter what Perth now is; converting =ea into land Had Perth existed when the Tay ran high in the hills, and when the place of Dunkeld was deep buried in the earth, it would have been what Dundee now is, a maritime town„

It is plain that this is the true explanation of the appearances; because, had they been produced by the drainage of a lake, as has been imagined, no marks of the cascades at high levels could have existed. By these, the solid state of the land, up to that height at least, is established. To conceive what the condition of this valley must have been at that remote period, it is easy to ascend one of the terraces, and, by placing the eye on its level, to unite it with the opposite one, and thus exclude the valley beneath. To see towns, and fields, and woods, now flourishing where all was solid land, to imagine future excavations of the same nature, and to reflect on the ten thousand facts, of similar character, which the world everywhere presents, convey to the mind a feeling of the lapse of time, and of the mutability of things, greater ♦ban all the dates of history and chronology united. Well might the Welsh curate console himself for the laceration of his cassock, when such deeds as this are doing every day.

Presuming, as is usually tile case, that the visitor has yet seen nothing beyond the King's pass, he will be much struck by the first impression which he receives on the opening of Strath Tay. To every one. indeed, it must be striking; and even to those who have viewed it from the river side below, or from the hills above, it offers a very marked picture, from the depth of the woods that sweep down beneath, and from that huge obscure mass of Craig Vinean, uniting with them to overshadow the black waters of the Tay, which seem to vanish as if they had for ever sunk into the deep and dark recesses below.

The road, which had for some time remained open, so as almost to have satiated the eyes with scenery too near to bear long, closes about the fourth mile-stone. Here it is skirted by noble trees of beech and wych elm, which overhang and darken it, giving occasional glimpses into the distance; innumerable wild flowers and shrubs, with the everr-oriental ferns, springing out of the grey rocks, so as to give it the character of the closest forest scenery. Deep ravines, where the water seems to have given way to the infinitude of shrubs and trees which now occupy them, intersect it; the bridges serving to produce subjects among which the artist will easily contrive to find close scenery well adapted for his pencil.

The traveller scarcely perceives that he has been for some: time on the edge of a steep wooded declivity, till the trees, separating, show him the river rolling broad and deep below ; the road appearing to overhang it, but every step displaying new beauties as its banks vary, and as an occasional angle or a fresh tree opens or conceals the more distant landscape. To particularize all that belongs to that landscape as it varies its features at almost every step from Dunkeld to Blair, would be equally useless and impossible A few spots only can he noticed; but, of the whole, it may with truth be said, that no road or space of equal length in Scotland, or perhaps in Europe, assuredly not in Britain, presents its equal in prospects, whether wt regard their beauty, or their variety, or their uninterrupted succession. There is scarcely a blank spot throughout the whole twenty miles; and scarcely a few hundred yards that does nor produce something new. A high degree of fertility, for the most part a dense population, of cottages and houses in profusion, often indicating .comfort and ease, and very generally possessing some kind of picturesque beauty, serve to remove from this road that air of desertion and solitude which, throughout even the finest scenery of Scotland, in many parts, oppresses the mind with melancholy, in spite of all the beauty by which it is attended.

The village of Dovvally, like many other spots which I must in future pass without particular notice, will present many scenes for the pencil, to him who has that eye and that experience which enables the possessor at once to see what is and what is not matter of painting. Such scenery will be found in the combinations of trees and cottages, in bridges and brooks, in the ravines that carry a stream or bring a cascade from the hills above, in a mountain, or a rock, or a pool, or a broken bank; objects which, in all possible modes of variety and combination, will meet him at every turn; will meet him, at least, whose eyes are open, not merely to catch flies, but to see, and seeing, to feel and understand. Of the distant landscape it need only be said, that it is exhibited under many distinct forms, as the foregrounds vary: and that he who desires to draw it will find no other difficulty than that of not knowing when to cease. The sun w ill set on him unless he takes heed, and he will find him-self at Dowally when he ought to have been at Blair.

The antiquary, at least, will open his eyes at Dowally on two erect stones, which, if he pleases, shall be Druidical. They are more probably monumental; that is, monumental either of men or events; of heroes, or battles, or covenants. It is very certain, that skeletons have sometimes been found beneath such stones; it is equally certain that nothing is present on other occasions ; and traditional history, as well as the usages nf analogous nations, assures us, that they once served the same purpose as parchment and lawyers do in these days of law and degeneracy. We need not trouble ourselves further about two stones at Dowally, as there are many weightier matters that we shall never solve. But, to have done with the Druids at once, there is a small circle in a field beyond Pitlochrie, visible enough from the roadside; and that notice must here be taken in lieu of all further dissertation, on a subject which was never understood till a worthy man lately proved that Druids wore fairies and fairies were Druids; that they all alike wore Lincoln green; and that he ought to be believed

The extraordinary beauty of the birch trees which skirt this road in some places, will attract the attention of those who find more sermons in trees than in stones. Those who love to find out faults, blaming alike the Nature who made them, and the writer who has not been sc kind as to point them out, shall be permitted to quarrel with the Tav for leaving sand banks to deform the road side ; as the German prince abused Nature for creating- sand at all. and with somewhat more of reason. But he shall -10' have this licence unless he travels in August, and at some period before the year 1840. In June, the golden flowers of the "Bonnv bloom," which then render these unfortunate hanks one continued scene of beauty and delight, shall leave him no room for ill humour: and the Duke of Atholl's oaks, raising, even now. their little heads above the grass, shall rescue, at no very distant period, the tame of the whole, as they have long since clothed, with rich coppice, that tract which succeeds to Dowally.

No one who values his reputation must pass Moulinearn without drinking of Mrs. Pennycuik's Atholi brose, even though his horses were willing to go forward without corn and water. It is not in the least of Mrs. Pennycuik's merits, to have hobnobbed m the nectar of the Highland Jove, with Mr. Sheridan. Poor Sheridan, their noses were then of a coloui, and. alas the day cannot be far distant, when they will again be undistinguishable. Mrs. Pennycuik's, at least, shall not want a historian; for it's fame shall be as imperishable as this book.

My artist, however, has something more to do here than to paint his nose with this broth. Moulinearn is not only beautiful as an albergo, inasmuch as its exterior is festooned with honeysuckles and roses, and its interior with hams and sausages, and as the limpid streams of water without, are rivalled by the more limpid rills of whiskey within, but it is beautiful in place and position ; too beautiful for an inn. "Mihi est propositrum in taberna mori," said the noted drunkard: other philosophers have proposed, on other considerations, to die in inns: but a wiser man would chose to live at Moulinearn. Let the artist take bis pencil in his hand, and he wiil carry away memorials that shall last when the taste of Atholl brose has long faded from his palate, and the colour of Mrs. Pennycuik's nose ha-i become aim in his recollections.

From this point, the scenery undergoes a complete change: all is new, yet all is beautiful. from quitting Mouilnearn, we hare left the junction of the Tay and the Tumel, and, with it, all that had attended us so long. The open vale is no more, and the Tumel is now our guide, to fresh scenes and coverts new The closer valley has succeeded to the wide strath: yet every thing is still rich ivith trees and cultivation, and the river still, for a time, rolls a wide stream through meadow s and com fields, and amidst a busy and a thriving population. On each side, the hills ascend, rapidly, yet long covered with woods, and trees, and farms, and fields; till, rising beyond the control of man, they stamp their rugged and rocky outlines on the sky. It is for the artist to watch for innumerable points whence he may press these scenes into his service: yet if he adheres to the high road, as the ordinary traveller can scarce a\ old, he will lose the better part of what he might obtain if, as the poet says, he wooed Nature in her coy retreats.

Whatever may happen as to this, he who can command, or borrow, or steal, an hour from time, will be unpardonable if he does not linger at Pitlochrie, and he who can rob the day of two or three, will be still more so, if he does not diverge to visit the unexpected and strangely placed village of Moulin, with all the other unexpected and strange places which, from Edradour up to the base of the hills, lie under the skirts of Ben Vrackie. He whose object is to sec what is to be seen, instead of to travel in search of what may never arrive, will manage his matters so that he shall say to himself, let Blair come when it may , I cannot be much better than well occupied. Much of this scenery is exceedingly picturesque in itself; from the combinations of houses, and villages, and trees, and mountains, and rocks, and mills, and torrents, which lie about in every direction. The cascade at Edradour, also, is much better worth visiting than many others which have had the honour, as the Royal Society said of the earthquake, to be noticed by my predecessors in book-making. !n addition to all this, a very beautiful tract of highly cultivated ground will be seen where its existence couid not previously have been suspected; together with views over the noble valley from which the traveller has for some time been parted, that exhibit it entirely m a new tight, and certainly not in a less magnificent one than before.

There are some specimens here of those ancient round forts which it is the fashion to attribute to the Danes, not only in Scotland, but throughout Britain generally. The theory is a 4alse one, notwithstanding; as they occur commonly in the Highlands, far from the reach of tile Danes at least, as well as in Cornwall, where that people certainly never penetrated. They are unquestionably British or Celtic works sometimes; but it is equally probable that the invaders and the invaded did not differ much more respecting the forms of buildings, which, for both, Had the same object, and which scarcely admitted of more than one plan, than they did in their modes of opening and shutting their mouths. 3ut an antiquary without an hypothesis would be a more uncommon animal than a griffin. However that may be, these forts are somewhat more remarkable here than elsewhere; because they seem to abound chiefly on a line which stretches westward into Glen Lvon; indicating, probably, some ancient fact in the occupation or military history of' the inhabitants, of which we shall never know more, and on which, of course there is room to write a great deal.

After the road quits Pitlochrie, its character still continues to change: the valley becoming narrower, and the scenery more alpine. The distant hills form more important objects in the landscape, and the whole assumes a closer and ruder character; though the ruggedness of the mountain outline is always and beautifully contrasted by the rich and varied forms of wood and cultivation that attend the course of the Tumel On the right hard, the skirts of Ben Brackie soon begin to impend over the road, rocky and wooded; till, at length, plunging among the woods which belong to Eascally, all external objects are shut out. and the attention, which had almost become wearied by a continued succession of scenery so splendid, is relieved by a space of what, in effect, becomes a forest road.

Emerging from this, the opener grounds of Fascally now come into view, wild, and strange, and romantic.; picturesque, in the common acceptation of the term, yet rarely so disposed as to admit of being forced into a picture. The characters of the hills are extremely peculiar, as o2 veil as ornamented End wild, the outlines being unusually rugged and abrupt, yet never inelegant; and the faces Being everywhere checquered and broken, even from the summit to the river below, by precipices and projecting reeks, interspersed with scattered trees or more continuous patches of wood. A chaotic, yet pleasing confusion, dissimilar to any thing elsewhere in Highland scenery, stamps the peculiar character on this place; yet this is somewhat relieved, while it is advantageously contrasted, by the fiat green meadows below, and by the richer and larger wood that skirts the course of the river and ornaments the lower grounds. It is sufficient to view this scenery from the road, as it gains nothing by change of position. It will only produce disappointment, on the contrary, to descend to the house of Fascally; which, inappropriate in itself, is so situated as to derive from the splendid and strange scenery by which it is surrounded, not the half of the effect which a more judicious arrangement might have commanded.

Hence, the Tumel and the traveller must part; as the river now takes a sudden turn the westward, and the Garry, which here joins it, descending from the north, becomes his future companion to Blair. Bat the Tumel must not thus be left unnoticed and unhonoured; since Scotland produces little to be compared with what a few miles of its course here presents. This scenery is however too extensive and beautiful to admit of being examined in a cursory manner: there is not even time for it to be seen, by diverging from a track which, in itself, furnishes full occupation for a day. I shall therefore defer it at present; proposing to reconduct the traveller to it from Blair; and allotting to it that degree of time and attention which it merits from him as well as myself. As it is indeed impossible for the most industrious to examine the various scenes which, from this point upwards to Blair, diverge from the road, it will be the best plan for the writer, as for the traveller, to proceed uninterruptedly onwards, and to reserve these for future examination; making Blair the. 'lead quarters.


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