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A Description of the Scenery of Dunkeld
Outer Grounds of Blair - Tilt Walks - Fender


If the home grounds of Blair are yet bat imperfectly known to strangers, still more true is it of the remote; of which, indeed, it may be said without exaggeration, that their beauties are as little known as if they had never been, and that even the existence of many scenes is unsuspected. If a few persons, annually, may penetrate as far as Glen Tilt, attracted by the reputation of its marbles or its deer, there is scarcely one who is aware of its picturesque merits, and not an individual who ever deviates from the rigid read, to investigate the endless and striking scenes which here lie on the north-eastern side of the Garry.

From the home grounds, the visitor may proceed across the mad, to a beautiful field adorned with the most splendid ash trees, which will ton-duct him to that object, formerly noticed, called the Whim. But he is here counselled, first to make the entire circuit of this very extensive enclosure, termed the Colts; not only on account of the variety of ground which itself presents, in its greener swelling pastures, wild clumps of "wood, elegant scattered trees, deep moorland watercourses, and rocky knolls, but for the magnificently extended views which it affords over the whole of the grounds and the valley. Indebted originally to nature for its form, art has here happily concurred in rendering this magnificent park, (a park in every thing but the, here, unnecessary presence of deer,) a specimen of that to which Britain does not probably produce many rivals. Those who have vainly attempted, by the usual system, to produce this requisite ingredient of all extensive country scats, may here take example from a green field, surrounded by a solid mass of wood on one side, bounded by a road on the other, planted with clumps and with single trees, yet not giving the slightest indications of artifice ; free from hardness or constraint, and as unlike the productions of the Brown School as if Nature had misled the worm of which she laid the foundations.

The views of the valley of Blair which it gives, are amongst the most comprehensive, the most grand, and the best adapted for painting which ;an fee obtained here. Enough of the house is seen, to form the eye and indicate the chief object of the picture: and here, its white colour is advantageous; particularly from the contrast it offers to the dark hues of the massy woods in which it appears shrouded. The rich valley, extending far beyond it, with all its trees and cultivation and its meandering river, fade-gradually in the air tints that soften the elegant forms of the dark mountain masses which close above the pass of Killicrankie. On each side, the green hills rise with a gentle ascent, woody below with clump and forest, and rich with scattered trees, houses, and fields; till, gaining the edge of the sky, they terminate .a a finely broken outline of rude moorland and mountain. Nor is any thing wanting to complete these pictures, as the middle grounds are continued forward till they unite to foregrounds of rock and tree, harmonizing with the whole, and conducting the eye in uninterrupted consistency of character to the last blue summit.

Though the Whim itself does not claim my praise, it is an admirable station for a view of similar character; more commanding and detailed, and therefore more entertaining, but less adapted for punting. Broad green glades, the abodes of solitude and uninterrupted silence, lead hence, through open groves and closer forests, to the rides which are connected with the romantic scenery of the Banavie; and hence, along the wild hollow which conducts to the remote hunting lodge of Glen Bruar, or through tangled wild wood, or opener forests of fir and larch, to the rocky summit of Craig Urrard. From this commanding station, the ground of Bruar, and the whole course of the valley, north and south, are seen in a detail which is almost geographical, and here a more complete notion of the form and disposition of all this various and wide-extended tract can be obtained, than from any convieniently accessible station in his quarter. It is, therefore, one of those points which it is incumbent on those who are desirous of forming an adequate judgment of this place, to visit. While it commands the whole course of the Garry and of all its accompanying beauties, from the rude moors of Dalnacardoch to Killicrankie, displaying, almost as in a map, the immediate grounds of Blair and of Lude, and all that profusion of rich detail which seems to render the whole the continuous domain of one great occupant, it looks down majestically over the intensely dark wood which sweep in an unbroken sheet from its insulated summit, and round upon the varied circle of brown hill and distant blue mountains, which, rising in succession of form and colour beyond each other, hound the wide and wild horizon.

Hence descending again towards the Banavie, a varied ride, through open wooded field and close forest, conducts to Glen Tilt; presenting still the same scenery, yet under different aspects and with different foregrounds. It is unnecessary to dwell on these scenes, or to detail all these rides, beautiful as they are; while it will be more convenient and profitable to the mere visitor, to take Glen Tilt in a differed order. presenting, as it does, occupation enough for a forenoon, and displaying better, some of the most important parts of its scenery, at lower i5 points and nearer home. As far as a mete walk extends, it presents matter as singular as it is beautiful; but its greater and more distant features, of a totally distinct character, demand time that a ride alone can compass.

The walk which extends, within the home grounds of Blair, and by the side of the Tilt, down the stream, also ascends it, by crossing a bridge thrown over the high road. On the left hand, or else by crossing another bridge, similarly placed, opposite to the garden, the visitor will find a range of beautiful open park, land, diversified with knolls and irregularities, and interspersed with singularly fine and ornamental birches. It well deserves to form a more intimate part of those accessible grounds from which the high road has in a great measure excluded it. Neglecting, for the present, this ride, together with a parallel walk which preceeds hence up the valley, another, to the right, conducts along the narrow ravine through which the Tilt here runs, into a deep rocky amphitheatre, which will most deservedly attract the attention of all, and not least of those who, from want of acquaintance with alpine scenery, art most struck with that which adds somewhat of the feeling of danger as well as wonder, to rudeness and wildness of picturesque character.

For a short space, this walk, emerging from the wood which extends far up this valley, is fearlessly, yet, to the timid, fearfully, conducted by excavation, along and upon the side of a rock, literally, and not according to the usual Hyperbolic phrase, precipitous; which, high overhanging like a wall, plunges perpendicularly down a space of more than an hundred feet, to the invisible river below. The depth and darkness of this narrow chasm add a sense of fear, which even the feeling of security does not quite remove, to that which proceeds from the narrow rocky ledge on which the spectator must walk, and from the rude staircase which conducts him down to the cavern-like, yet spacious hollow where a seat will allow him to contemplate this extraordinary scene at his case.

Here he finds himself buried from the day, in that grey and green atmosphere of reflected light so peculiar to these deep and wooded alpine recesses, and so incapable of being described, either by the pen or the pencil. Behind and above him, a dark grey and dripping face of broad rock rises high aloft; crowned with wood, and here and there giving root to some slender shrub, or to an occasional tern, or to a patch of bright green moss. The road which he has descended, seems now frightfully to overhang the dark and deep fissure, in which the river loses itself under the shadow of the trees which, flinging their crooked branches across, advance to overshadow it with all the variety of darker green and of light, tender, foliage. As the footpath winds from his position under the high precipice in the opposite direction, guided over the rude margin of broken rocks which here confines the stream, it ascends till it is lost among the dense and closing woods, whence the river is seen breaking out in foam and mist from amidst a dark rocky aperture thickly shaded and enclosed by trees, and hurrying, in a succession of whitening cascades and boiling eddies among huge rocks, till, rolling its brown dark water through the deepening channel, it plunges beneath, into the invisible abyss, smooth, black, and silent.

On the opposite side, the rocky precipices, which equally bound the river and conspire to produce this rude and wild scene of cool shade, fit haunt for the naiads of classical poetry, give root to trees of bolder growth, whose huge and twisted grey stems, stretching wide over the water, suspend their light, green, transparent leaves and moss-covered branches above it, adding a deeper shadow to the recesses of the rock which they overhang, and to the brown wave which, dimpling in quieter eddies beneath it, sails slowly round against the stream, to lodge its floating masses of snowy fonds within some crevice. Above, forest, and field, and tree, intermixed, succeed, till the wood} outline meets the sky; a drooping birch or ash of taller growth, perched high on some of the nearer elevations, breaking and varying the outline, and adding richness, if to add richness were possible, to this romantic recess.

To complete this picture of alpine grandeur, a profound and narrow fissure divides the lofty and rocky wooded cliff which faces the spectators station. The Fender, giving name to a scene which would scarcely miss if were it absent, descends through this chasm : a series of cascades ; its origin lost, in the darkness of the overshadowing rocks and woods, and whitening in a shower of foam as it reaches the stream below. For those to whom the noise aid sow. fusion of falling water bear a superior to all which a cascade, reality, only serves to embellish, the season of rain will here have superior charms; but a correct taste will not regret the heat and sunshine of July, which, causing the Fender to retire deep within its dark channel, substitutes for tumult and that sobriety of colour and tranquillity of character which are more peculiarly appropriate to the place.

The remainder of the walk on this side of the Tilt leads among woods high above the banks of this deep chasm; so deep and so thickly wooded, that the water is seldom visible, and never heard: unless w hen, swelled with rams, it boils and thunders through a channel too narrow to give it a free passage. At one point only, it attains that advancing angle of a precipice so steep as to exclude all trees beneath; where, perpendicularly stationed on a dizzy and narrow point, the spectator view= the water roiling along far beneath; the thick woods closing the skirts of Ben-y-gloe. Hence, the path readies at length the opener part of the chasm that conducts the river ; which now, less deep, as well as wider, forms an angle, displaying a fine view of a rocky and woody amphitheatre, where the water, spread out at liberty, assume? a broader and more majestic character. But here, unfortunately, his walk terminates in the last remains of a wooden and rustic bridge, which time, with the ravages of winter waters and winter frosts, has demolished.

What remains of this scenery can only therefore be attained by a new route on the southern side of the Tilt; and as it is far too fine and too various to be omitted, I must conduct the visitor to it, by causing him to cross the bridge of Tilt by the high road, and to ascend the hill on the left hand, through a picturesque scene of houses,-and mills, and rude bridges, and trees, and falling waters. Many beautiful scenes, and much that is susceptible of being represented in painting, both in near and distant scenery, may be obtained during this short ascent. At the distance of about a mile, a singularly secluded den, with a mill, surrounded by fine ash trees, and terminating in the high mountain tract of Ben-y-gloe. will also be found And that I may terminate at once all which may be said of the more distant expeditions in this direction, I shall add that a good road conducts hence, to a point not tar from the top of Ben-y-gloe, situated about twelve miles off. along hat is called the Queen's Road. This mountain may be ascended, to within no great distance from its summit, on horseback; a circumstance which may tempt many who are ambitious of such views: but 1 am bound, at the same time, to say, that the prospect from Cairn (rower, the highest point, is by no means interesting, since it commands little else than a continued succession of rude and uniform mountains, heaped on each other to the very margin of the horizon, without any of that variety of vale, and lake, and river, and opener lowlands, which render the views from Ben Lomond, Ben Lawers, and many other mountains, so various and so magnificent.

To return to the scenery on the Fender and the Tilt, the visitor must first avoid crossing a bridge which will immediately meet him on the left, after ascending the hill. Taking a rude path on the edge of a steep bank, among some wood of no note, a deep dell appears, through which the Fender holds its course beneath the bridge just named. At the upper extremity of this dell, is the first and the most remarkable cascade which this river forms. The water, being collected in a dark cavity above, glides quietly over a single ledge of rock, between high enclosing sides, till it dashes, in a single fall, into a second receptacle, and then into the turbulent pool below, whence it sails away among rocks and bushes till it disappears. With very little of appendage o- ornament, this cascade is exceedingly picturesque in disposition and effect: although not very easily rendered the subject of painting. The obliquity of its direction, the obscurity of its origin, its height, and the mass of water, which is considerable, united to the very beautiful form of the shadowy hollow through which it plunges, render it as singular a specimen of this class of scenery as it is a beautiful one. With much more of wood, and by some care and attention to accompaniments, where every thing is in a state of neglect, it might easily be rendered more ornamental in effect, without losing its peculiar character: it being of the very essence of cascades, at least when on a small scale, to receive improvement from any attempt at art Appearing almost to have been designed for captivating the eye of man, and frequently exciting some notice of human power or of the human presence, the waterfall seems as if it always claimed the protection and the care that are bestowed on the scenes which he selects for his peculiar enjoyment. And on these, art also making labour even to do mischief, without effecting it Their channels arc beyond the control of the tasteless improver; they laugh at his masonry, as their margins refuse to bend to his line, and his rule, and his scissars. No perverstness of taste car. formalize then bushes and their trees, nor gravel their precipices with serpentine walks. When all that bad taste can do is done, unless indeed it builds a pagoda or a painted bridge, nature still prevails, and renders art what it ought to be. its foil and its handmaid.

In returning from this spot by the same path, the spectator must not fail to open his eyes to a view of no common splendour, which fronts him about the middle of this rude walk. It is rare indeed that a composition so perfect in all its path is to be found, and not often that we sec one equally magnificent and well-balanced in all its details. The deep dell beneath, and the bridge which crosses it, seem as if they had been borrowed from one of the landscapes of Claude; while the trees and banks of the spectator's position which afford the foremost foreground, appear as if they had been taken from the same source. A simple and broad knoll crowned with tine wood, forms a middle object, towering high into the sky, as in those landscapes which are far more common on canvas than in nature; the deep wooded ravines of the Fender and of the Tilt beneath it, catching deep and varied shadows, ant* prolonging the middle ground to the opposed woody hills that rise above. The rich vale of Blair, surmounted at one extremity of the picture by the long range of hills so often described, and terminating, at the other, in the blue and distant mountains where Schihallien rises last and highest, complete this admirable composition.

Crossing the bridge, a narrow, ornamental, and winding footpath leads down a steep descent, accompanying the deep ravine which now conducts the Fender to the Tilt. Oil one side of this chasm, the precipitous sides rise, covered with wild tangled wood and shrubs, and greet with the luxuriant plants that spring from every turfy protuberance and crevice on their broken faces. The trees of all kinds which crows the lofty bank above, form a transparent and broken outline on the sky, sweeping down to join those of the Tilt below: and the more practicable declivity which conducts the path downwards, gradually quits the scattered masses of trees which attend it. to open into a richly-swelling and wooded Held, extending far to the right, and relieving the almost continuous forest which covers the opposite hills.

Two cascades fall in thin and scattering streams over the high opposed precipice; producing more variety than effect, and disappearing among the woods and shrubs that clothe them and fill the bottom of the ravine through which the Fender runs after it is lost to the eye. But by descending into the bed of this stream, with an effort which w ill be amply repaid, the Fender itself will be found tailing from beneath the bridge, in a cascade, which, though of small dimensions, is exquisitely disposed for beauty and effect, and which admits of being formed into a picture with unusual facility: from the happy arrangement of the water, the depth and mass of the including boundaries, and the simplicity and breadth of the ornamental parts. Here also the botanist will find the rare and beautiful Cocvallaria verticiliata, already mentioned as occurring near Dunkeld, and only yet known in this country in these two situations.

Pursuing this downward path along the now deeper, but naked, chasm, we arc led to the margin of the Tilt, and to the summit of the cascade formerly mentioned as falling from the Fender into it. Here the scene, already described, is viewed under other forms and a very different aspect. To see it, however, under the most advantageous points of view, it is necessary to descend within the bed of the Tilt itself, which is easily done, and where an extensive and safe footing will be found on a rude ledge of rocks that, projecting from the crags above, hang over its dark water. The grey naked scar which, on the opposite side, rises boldly on the sky, here seems to impend over the landscape; but surmounted now by continued wood, and fringed by the delicate forms of the drooping birch. The rocky, but practicable, passage, ascends the course of the stream, over which it projects, for a short space; itself overhung by the broad shelf which rises above it, whence ancient ash trees, throwing their branches boldly across, form a green canopy overhead; adding further gloom to the obscure light that is reflected from the water, imperfectly illuminating these cool and shadowy recesses.

The pictures thus formed arc singularly adapted foi painting; from the breadth of the rocky masses, the characteristic and decided outlines, and the depth of broad shadow below, opposed to the full light above: the fine forms of the trees, which extend horizontally in the foreground from the impending rock to define and enclose the upper edge of the picture, and the general balance and contrast of the whole being superadded to a variety, without confusion, of minuter ornament, and a perspective of the most favourable and practicable kind.

Here also, access is afforded to the cascade of the Fender itself, as it reaches the Tilt, by a succession of falls, beautifully broken, the nature and forms of which could not be appreciated from the former station on the opposite side. The stream, descending from among the woods above, is heard rushing deep in the dark and narrow chasm, but as yet unseen. Here, whitening into foam, the water becomes at length faintly visible, illuminating the obscurity of the profound recess with its own pale light: till approaching the day, it breaks into successive cascades, bulling and eddying by degrees into the full light to form a green transparent pool, whence, gliding gently over the rock on which the spectator must take his station, it passes him. breaking suddenly into whiteness, and thundering down into the dark Tilt below

Hence also the further course of the Tilt, formerly invisible, is seen ; presenting an extraordinary and unexpected appearance. The deep and narrow chasm into which it enters on leaving this place where its waters had wandered unrestrained, is prolonged for some hundred yards in a straight line, retiring so directly before the eye as to render the whole course of the stream visible. The trees which close it over-head, added to its own narrowness and depth, serve to exclude the light, except where, shining faintly on a few spots, it serves to indicate the presence and progress of the black smooth water, which, though flowing on, seems to rest undisturbed in its caverned channel. The parallel sides of the fissure add to that singularity of character by which the river here emulates the canal of a subterraneous navigation.


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