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
Home Grounds of Blair

If every thing which has been designed for pleasure or an extensive subject, as :t occupies a very large tract of land. These grounds are indeed so wide, and, from the form of the country, so disposed, that a visitor neither easily comprehends nor appreciates them; particularly in the cursory view usually bestowed on this part of his tour. This is one reason why Blair seldom makes that impression which it ought, and which it is most amply calculated to produce. Another, and to some a much stronger one, the recollection of Dunkeld still fresh. Those who do not see here that confusion of close wooded scenery, and that crowded association of richness and splendour which is the characteristic of that beautiful spot, are apt to imagine it meagre, from its openness of display and disposition, and are unable to concentrate in their minds its wide extent and gigantic features. This is a misfortune which it requires time and reflection to correct; and is exactly akin to that which is of daily occurrence in landscape scenery, from the reading of descriptions which are apt to elevate the imagination to expectations that cannot be exactly realized in the detail, and are, most often, short of them in the quality and degree. With the image of Dunkeld in his mind, the visitor has formed, for Blair, a plan of his own; and finding it a false one, he is apt, like Horace's critic, to think that the reality is nothing. Hence it is that the scenery of Biair is far most impressive to those who, having taken a different course, arrive from the North. Seen in this manner, it has not only its own intrinsic merits to rely on, but, occurring suddenly after the dreary and tedious moors which occupy so much of the country from Inverness, and which increase in desolation as they extend further to the southward, it breaks on the eye with a splendour which is absolutely dazzling. It is but justice to this place, as well as to him who is desirous really to enjoy its beauties, to say, that three days would be required to see it properly; and these, too, actively employed. More, much more, will be found insufficient for the artist; since the number of scenes perfectly adapted for painting which it produces, is almost infinite. Every picture leads to some other; he who attempts to record them, finds them grow on his' hands; and when he has obtained an hundred, will find that he has left an hundred more untouched. In this, it infinitely exceeds Dunkeld; in which place', splendid as it is, the scenes adapted for pictures are, not only limited in number, but often marked by a predominant sameness of feature which becomes wearisome. At Blair, the variety is as endless as the numbers; cascades in every mode of dimension and character, forest scenes, lakes, wild mountain landscape, and the grandeur of a rich alpine country, being intermingled with river scenery in all its varieties, with that of cultivated and wooded plains, and with endless examples of those minuter and closer landscapes which are produced among ravines, and rocks, and by bridges, mills, wild wooded torrents, and all the concealed ornaments of a mountainous region.

There is an appearance of artifice m the grounds iinmediately about the house of Blair, which will immediately catch the eye, and more, perhaps, at the first view than after a longer acquaintance. It will also chiefly offend those whose notions of beauty in landscape are not the produce of their own taste, or feeling, or studies, but are derived from a sort of phraseology which has long been current on this subject, and for which the world is chiefly indebted to a canting and scribbling sect, which is, fortunately, fast failing into oblivion. Such as the fault may, nevertheless, be, it must be sought in the fashions of the day when Blair was ornamented, namely, soon after the year 1742. That will also form its apology, as far as apology may be wanting; for, with nothing before him but the example of a whole nation, and examples, too, of much worst taste than any thing which is displayed here, I)uke James has contrived to avoid ail that could really offend the eye, even at a day when the belter principles, those of landscape painting, which alone ought to regulate the disposition of extensive grounds, are generally understood Were the formal plantation on the lull of Tullluch absent, it would scarcely be discovered that Blair was not the work of the present day. but no proprietor would now willingly destroy that which would leave a blank, even more offensive, and, to modify it by any mode of planting, without leaving the traces of former art, would be no easy task. Of the fantastic architectural objects which were once thought so necessary in laying out ground, no defence can be offered, but the same, or worse, are found in places of much more modern date and higher celebrity. Time, however, is fast disposing of them; and a few years will see Blair divested of at least these relics of ancient taste and magnificence.

The fact is, that the air of artifice, not very predominant it is true, but still sufficiently disagreeable, which is here visible, is derived from the neighbouring territory of Lude, and not from Blair itself. A piece of ground, naturally disposed in the most advantageous manner, had here been deformed by dry belts and drier formal clumps; nor has it required an ordinary degree of trouble to rnar that which Nature designed for beauty, and which no conspiracy against taste, short of that displayed by Brown and the offspring of his school, could have effected. The same conceit and ignorance appear to have presided over the bolttng of Tavmouth; and there also, nothing short of the most inveterate antipathy to nature could have succeeded in injuring that which the petty contrivances of the artist did not enable him to destroy, Blair and Lude, thus balanced, offer an excellent example of that retrogradation in taste which marked the unlucky avatar of Brown. From the topiary work of the Romans, and the flats, and canals, and terraces, and floods of Holland, to the more sof't and broad, if still forma', works of Kent, was a real step in improvement; but with Brown and his clumps and belts, matters went backwards, at least to tile age of Alcinous, or worse. The whole domain seemed but an enormous specimen of topiary; as if the same scissars which had formerly been kindly limited to dragons and peacocks, had been employed in squaring and trimming whole forests into the shapes of entrtmets and hours d'oeuvres. If we had not known that this reformer of nature had been a planter of cabbages and flower borders, we should have concluded that he had been a cook or a confectioner. It is difficult to comprehend any imagination could have ever flattered itself that it was rivalling or imitating nature in this most wretched and meagre system, destitute of variety as well as of resource, by which all grounds, at one period, were made by a receipt, as uniform as if the patterns bad all been sent out from a taylor's shop. It is equally difficult to conceive how, as an artificial disposition, it could ever have been thought beautiful. Nature, it is not, and never was. It never did, and never will, unite or harmonize with any natural forms. It is art deforming nature; and that, not on a scale to which we might shut our eyes, as in the times of more ancient schemes; of the same class, but over an extent of surface which renders it an evil, in more senses than one, of the first magnitude. As a specimen of art, it has every demerit. It is ugly art; and it is art which, in trying to conceal its true character, loses such little merit as it might otherwise claim, To bear the traces of human ingenuity and contrivance, confers some right to admiration; because we admire the power and the resources which effected their purpose; but ill the art which Crown's gardening displayed, we see nothing but the efforts of one to whom all tile best forms of art were as unknown, as the beauties of nature were beyond his comprehension, If never this system has been tolerable, it is because he was unab!e to carry his intentions into full effect, or because nature still refused control, or because nature, in taking matters out of his hands, has modified or destroyed much of what was most characteristic in his style.

It is not the least interesting circumstance in the history of this supposed improvement in English gardening, as it seems to have been exclusively considered, that a whole ration should so long have suffered itself to be misled, and so long have submitted to the dictates of such a pretender to taste; and that, too, at such an enormous expense as might have covered the land with cathedrals, or with forests and cultivation. So easily is the multitude ltd by him who claims to lead; and so rare, even m an age of universal pretensions, is it, to find any real taste, or any rooted principles, in matters of beauty. How this censure applies un a much wider scale, it would not be difficult to show. But to cut short criticism, it maybe remarked, that a taste for the beauties of nature, is perhaps among the latest to arise. It belongs to some of the highest stages of refinement. Of how late a date it is in this country, will be obvious on the slightest retrospect. When Gray wrote his letters, it had scarcely been suspected that ihe lakes of Westmoreland and Cumberland were objects of attraction. It was long after that period that they became the crowded resorts of those who now know, and of many who have not yet learnt to appreciate, their beauties. It is scarcely too much to say, that even their existence was scarcely known out of the immediate neighbourhood; since Guthrie, in enumerating the English lakes, in his well-known grammar, names Whittlesea Mere as the only object of any note in this division, adding, as if of little moment, that there were also some lakes in Cumberland, called Derwent Waters. Wyndham did for Wales what Gray effected for Cumberland. Scotland has now become in some measure understood, yet still partially and imperfectly; but it is a fact that, twenty-five years ago, Loch Cateran was, what may fairly be called, unknown; so little thought of, indeed, that there is a Scottish map, of no very distant date, in which it is not noticed.

The house of Blair, or the castle, since it has the claims of an actual right to this term, is a conspicuous object; and though without the least pretence to architectural, or even picturesque beauty, it unites well, and often very unexpectedly and perfectly so, with the character of the surrounding landscape. Having been the gradual produce of additions and alterations, dictated by utility or necessity, and generally intended only to serve their purposes provisionally, it presents no consistency of design. Yet its long lines, its irregularity of outline and form, added to its extent and the appearance of solidity which it carries, render it, for the purposes of the landscape, a better object than a building of far higher pretensions to that taste to which it makes none, might have been. Those who may introduce it into their designs, will soon be convinced of this; however disconcerted as to the colouring of their drawings they may be, by the glaring and unnecessary white of its surface. As it is indebted for its useful, if not its ornamental, additions, to the wide hospitality of its successive noble owners, so, to collateral circumstances, much less pleasing to dwell on, it owes the loss of that which, in depriving it of its office as a military post, deprived it also of the honours of a castle; honours descended on it from unknown antiquity. Having been occupied by Sir Andrew Agnew and the King's forces in 1745, when it defended itself for nearly a month, until it was relieved, the two upper stories were removed after its evacuation, with the intention that it should never again he subjected to such a fate. Thus the irregular and castellated aspect of the outline was destroyed, leaving that anomalous appearance which it now presents. It would not be difficult to restore it to a form, even more appropriate, and far more beautiful than the original one, by very slight additions in the manner of turret and bartizan, and without infringing on its leading characters.

It is a building of great strength, and was the work, as this estate was once the property, of the great family of Cumin; but the records of its erection have followed the fate of much more which appertains to the ancient history of Scotland. It is supposed, however, to have been built by John of Strathbogie. who was Laird of Atholl in right of his wife; and a tower, which has, in losing its summit, become an inconspicuous part of the building, is still called Cumin's Tower. In 1644 it was occupied by Montrose; and, undergoing the usual fate of the limes, it was taken by Daniel, in 1653, for Cromwell. Still destined tor a military post, to which, from its covering one of the main roads into the Highlands, it was well adapted, it was taken possession of by an officer of DundeeV army. Lord Murray, en this, threatened a siege, in consequence of which, Dundee marched to its relief; an event which was followed by the battle of Killlicrankie. It is- a circumstance worth notice respecting the siege of 1746 already mentioned, that Lord George Murray's artillery fired red-hot shot against it; an expedient which, although known to the earlier artillerists, and used by the great Frederic, among others, had nearly fallen into disuse, when it was again rendered so conspicuous by its extensive adoption at Gibraltar.

To be sensible of the full effect of this building in the landscape, it is best viewed from the end of the avenue near the gardener's house Here, on turning the angle of the wall, it breaks suddenly on. the eye - rising boldly, with its long irregular wings, in the midst of a wide and noble hollow sweep of lawn and wood, bounded on each side by lofty hills and forests, and backed by a rich valley, through which the Garry winds; the dark bro*vr and purple hues of the mountain ridges beyond it terminating in the elegant corneal form of Schihallien, as it fades, misty and blue, in the horizon I need only name two other points whence it forms the chief object, in landscapes of an extremely perfect character and of great magnificence: because they might not readily be discovered by a casual visitor. One of these is situated not far from the entrance of the shrubbery walk which leads to the church, and the other lies near to the obelisk in the deer park, Both of these points offer magnificent and comprehensive views of the nearer grounds: and, from the latter commanding situation in particular, the landscapes m every direction are very grand. A group of ancient firs, throwing their knotted and twisted branches out in wild and picturesque forms, affords admirable objects for the immediate foreground.

The whole of the deer park throughout, is romantic and singular, from the irregularity of the ground and the happy disposition of the fine trees which are scattered in profusion about it. Even the obelisk is insufficient to give an artificial character to that which here, as everywhere else about Blair, is so stamped with the strong markings of Nature's hand as to neutralize all which art would interfere with. Not, however, to particularize all the interesting parts of the irregular ground which forms the mass of the home domain, and where no pretensions to ornament and no provision for walks exist, I ill all only add in general, that there is scarcely a point throughout all the fields that surround the house, and which may be said to belong to the pleasure grounds, that does not afford some grand or striking view, and that, generally, under some novelty of aspect and combination. Different elevations, as well as different positions, produce different pictures: a consequence arising, partly from the irregularity of the ground, which admits and excludes alternately different notions of the splendid scenery around, and partly from the masses and groups of wood or of trees, singly placed or disposed in different combinations, with which every part is thickly studded. To these causes must be added the endless variety of the distance; which, favourably disposed for the reception of all those transient atmospheric effects so common in au alpine country, and varying as it is viewed under the new light of the early morning, the broad glare ot' noon, or the deep shadows of evening, is displayed in the most favourable manner, in consequence of the fine ascending sweep of the hills beneath, which bound this capacious valley, and tile long vista of brown and blue mountain land which, above, conducts the eye to the far-off and rude Highlands.

Hercules, the last remaining hero of his leader, race, continues to preside over a green and broad walk, which those who have determined that they will admire nothing straight, shall be allowed to make a cause of unhappiness or criticism, as it may happen; and which the more fortunate, who borrow their delights from other things than systems anu fashions and hypotheses, will not require directions to admire and enjoy. In the deep and obscure glades of the grove to which it leads, after gently ascending, cool, and soft, and green, and spacious, amid shrubs and flowers, over a swelling knoll skirted by magnificent larches, the botanist w ill find, thickly growing in fragrant profusion, the sweet flowers of the Fyrola. Hence he may proceed in various directions through green lawns shaded with trees, or along winding gravelled walks; or he may plunge into rude thickets, where the hare and the partridge h 5 starting before him, or some stray deer bounding from the cover, will make him forget, in the rude and judicious negligence which has abandoned these spots to Nature, tile equally judicious art which has conducted him there.

The garden at Blair no less demands the attention of those who have not made such advances in taste as to have discovered that a garden is a deformity, a receptacle of cabbage', and dunghills; that it ought to be concealed from human eye and removed from human reach, consigned to the gardener and his crew, and reserve! to supply the owner's table, as is a necessary consequence of this banishment, with one tenth of its produce, and the neighbouring thieves or markets with the remainder. In the days of out ancestry and of ignorance, before improving gardeners and cabbage gardeners had combined and conspired to rob us of that which formed the occupation and pleasure of Eden, the garden was a portion of the house, the seat of hourly resort and hourly pleasure, of solitary musing and social enjoyment, of the fresh morning exercise, the shaded noon-day walk, and the evening feast. But the days and the honours of "the flower and the lefe" are past: some demon whispered—England, have a taste; and we have been curtailed of more than half of our fair proportion of recreation, and of all our most hourly and accessible ones, to make way for a cold shaven lawn, wet at night, vet in the morning, and broiling in the noon day, and where the House appears as if it had been dropped ready-made from the clouds. What peculiar charm there is in vacuity, it would be hard to discover; or in what respect a patch of green meadow is more ornamental than shrubs and flowers and fruit, or more fitted to enjoyment, or a mort; appropriate receptacle for the house with which it neither harmonizes nor unites. Surely the projector of this system must have been a grazier; it could only have been dictated by a vacuiity of feeling. They managed this matter better formerly, even in our own country, and they manage it now far better in Trance arid Italy. lie will deserve more than the whole herd of Kents and Reptons that ever existed, who shall once more restore the garden to its place and its Honours: even though it should bring back all its parade of terraces, and steps, and topiary box. with its lumber of Naiads, and Cupids, and Mercurys.

Some yew hedges in this "beautiful garden still betray their former office, in the remains of peacocks' tails and of other shapes, which, for want of the baber's accustomed art, have so long been suffered to enjoy their own way, that scarcely a feather is now in its duty. I could almost weep over the fall of the peacocks; not from aav peculiar pity for their own fate, but because when reformation of this nature begins, it rarely stop-* at cutting off the heads of peacocks; or of kings either, as the event has proved. Hence the destruction of the magnificent garden of Glamis, the last relic of the taste and splendour, in this department, of our ancestors in Scotland. And, doubtless, the modern Goth who sanctioned or effected this ruin, thought that he was rendering •aste, the world, and himself, an especial service, instead of robbing the whole, as he hap done, at one blow. We would all willingly have exchanged even his house for his garden, m spite of its architectural merits and beauty; standing, as it now does, naked, incongruous, as if it had beer, just imported from a Flemish toy-shop, or had risen "from the ground," an exotic "exhalation."

Where there are no principles of action, there is no medium in reforms. Lawrembergins, in his Essay on Horticulture, describes, with great affection, a garden at Chartres, where the seven wise men of Greece, the twelve labours of Hercules, the three Graces, the feast of the Gods on Olympus, and a Roman symposium, were all cutingi box, and accompanied, moreover, by explanatory verses. This was a refinement, even on Martial's topiary architecture, it must be admitted, nor need we lament because all the lions and tigers which once adorned Hampton Court, in privet, have lost their animal natures, «r that the Royal arms are no longer to be recognised, even by Garter King or Rouge Dragon. But if the reformers had been only content to rest and look on, Nature would soon have resumed all her lights; the Gods and the Graces alike would have undergone the metamorphoses of Baucis and Philemon, without the interposition of Jove or man : and " Leisure" might still have been allowed " in trim gardens to take his pleasure," instead of being deprived, as he has been, of pleasure and of garden both.

The Garden of Blair is not all that it ought to be, because it is ton far from the house; but it is better than a garden should be even at the distance of a walk, than that we should not have one fit 'o walk in. It forms a delicious retreat, sheltered from all those common evils of life which high walls, and trees, and hills, can exclude ; spacious enough to take off all feeling of limit or confinement; green enough, and thick enough with foliage, to conceal its walls and its art; and, in its disposition, happily mixing enough of splendid confusion with needful regularity to produce a picturesque effect sufficient even for the followers of Price and roughness. Bacon's idea of a garden is here so realized, that we can almost imagine his essay had been its model. There are cabbages for the cook, and flowers for delight, and fruit for prodigality as well as for use; with shrubs and trees for ornament, and walks for pleasure. No one need faint at the smell of a leek, for it grows under the shadow of a rose. Celery is bordered by carnations, delicate ranks of lady-like lettuces art attended in spring by regiments of beau tulips; and, in autumn, the tender green of succeeding generations mingles with the bright blue of the larkspur, the fragrant yellow of the lupin, and the varied blaze of the Chin* aster. On that sunny bank where the strawberry tempts with its brilliant fruit, the mignonette perfumes the air with its sweets; and where tall rows of twining pea®, decked in crimson and purple, diffuse their odours on the breeze, rival ranks, of snowy whiteness, give earnest of the future fragrance of roast duck. The useless shrub and the barrer. tree, even here are permitted to add ornament and shade; and here also arc the delights that dwell in beds of roses and twining honeysuckles But the pefutned raspbeiry and scariet currsat disputing their places with the empty laurel and the profitless spires, combine use and pleasure; and the solid pudding and pie, which hang in promise from apple and from pear, make good their pretensions against empty praise.

In sober earnest, there is nothing hideous in a cauliflower or a radish, nor is there any thing inherent in a kitchen garden which can render it an object of distaste. The hot-bed may properly conceal its fragrance among embowering lilacs and laburnums, bung "minus nptus acutis naribus," but there is no plant cultivated for us which is not beautiful in itself, and which is not, commonly, disposed in a beautiful manner. There are few merely ornamental shrubs anc1 trees more beautiful than the fruit-bearing ones; and, over most, they have the advantage of possessing two distinct seasons of beauty The aromatic plant" that are cultivated for the kitchen, are both fragrant and ornamental. and the flowers of girasol, (Jerusalem artichoke) endive, scorzonera. and artichoke, to say nothing of the blossoms of the strawberry, the apple, the cherry, the pear, and the peach, may well rival, even as mere ornaments, hundreds that are cultivated for no other purpose.

With such materials, were even no more admitted, it is perfectly easy to construct a mere-kitchen garden that shall be beautiful. The constituent materials are the same as those for the flower garden and the shrubbery, as far as disposition and effect are concerned; and these are the essential points. This not necessary for the health of the plants or the convenience of the gardener, that every thing should be classed and arranged over a naked surface of dry ground, the very aspect of which, cultivate it we may, conveys the sense of sterility; or that an avaricious economy of space should be added to a wooden formality, as if the rigid policy of a nursery was necessarily to be adopted. There is no difficulty in making arrangements equally useful and ornamental, even out of our most ordinary objects of cultivation. But there is no reason whatever why the kitchen garden should not admit ornament, why its buds should not be bordered by flowers, or shaded by merely luxurious shrubs. It is but a step further to intersperse the two; or to render the useful garden subservient, in point of appearance as well as space, to the ornamental one. Thus disposed, all the culinary plants may even be concealed, if it is thought necessary. But that cannot be requisite: because their colours, and masses, are perfectly capable of being combined with those which belong to pure ornament, so as to add to ii, or to become undiscoverable to the eye which is only in search of beauty. Thus also, by a due succession of flowering plants or shrubs, the kitchen garden may be made an object ot interest as long as a green leaf or a flower shall remain : and an autumn of fruit may be accompanied by a spring of flowers.

From the garden of the Hercules walk, a wall conducts through green open glades, and groves of fine larch and other forest trees, to a gravelled path, with a parallel green ride, traced downwards, close to the wild margin of the hill below a bridge which conducted the ancient road, a small fall of water, called the York cascade, is pointed out to visitors, projected from above, over a woody precipitous bank, into the river. From this point the rude course of' this always turbulent stream is continued through rocks and amid overhanging trees, affording different picturesque scenes, till it falls into the Garry. The accompanying walk is various and wild, shadow} with fir and larch, and, commonlv. impending over the river, which, below, forces its foaming and brawling way amidst innumerable obstructions, under high rocks, and through deep crevices, or amidst enoruous fragments. worn and furrowed by the violence of its waters.

One conspicuous rock, of a pyramidal shape, is here pointed out by tradition, as a place of punishment in the envied days of feudal government: with what truth, must not be asked; since it is the very character of tradition to wince under the smallest symptom of doubt, and to demand for itself a credence more unhesitating than is claimed by those records, which, if they are not true from their nature, ought at any rate to preserve more of that volatile spirit of truth, so difficult to retain at all times, and so apt to evaporate in repeated distillations. Whatever may be the fact, this rock was not a Tarpeian rock, however, but a Kind of Sombrero: on which the culprit who could neither stem the stream nor wade the ford, might starve, "stans" like St. Simon Stylites, "pede in uno."

It is true, and pity 'tis 'tis true, that if there be a Tom-na-croich, as there is, by the bye, in the park of Blair, or a gallows tree, which is a good for the purpose as a gallows hill, or any other abominable memorial of Lyranny, or misery, or oppression, or if there be the scene of a murder, or of a battle, or of any vile event that ought to be forgotten, it is always that which is best remembered, and remembered for ever. Nobody knows or cares w here the ford of the castle was married or born, where he danced, or where he feasted his vassals; but every ne remembers where he was murdered himself, or where he murdered his neighbour where his carcase lies and where he hanged his followers or his enemies. Thus pain is recalled when pleasure is forgotten thus history is but the record of crimes and follies. years of sunshine and prosperity make no passing mark, when the tempest and the huricane and the earthquake become calendared in story and. of Hereulaneum and Pompeii:, we only know that they were destroyed.

In returning hence according to the usual route, the walk leads through an avenue of limes, which appears to have been intended as a principal feature in the original grounds, but the effect of which has been nearly obliterated by the growth of the surrounding wood, and by the far greater extent of the more recent improvements. It conducts the eye that choses to be so conducted, to one of those ancient architectural fictions, which our forefathers doubtless thought proofs of wisdom, even when they christened them whims and follies. For the term folly, Cornwall has substituted the apter one, mak-wise; as if to ape wisdom was the leading mark of follv. Whatever the moral of the matter may be, the wise man will not trouble himself to look a-head, for the space of a mile, through Gregor's avenue, for the mere purpose of seeing a silly or a disagreeable object. Life, in all its places and shapes, afford-more than enough of such things to those who delight in the seamy side of the world. The avenue itself affords ground for an observation which, if it be somewhat stale, is worth making, because it is attended, like Ophelia's rue, with a difference. The form into which the branches unite above, is precisely that of the last and the least agreeable of the Gothic arches; that one which seems as if it had applied a point to the long side of an ellipse. It is even more remarkable here, that, in their length and simplicity, the stems emulate some of the least tasteful columns of this architecture, and that they are all regularly provided with swelling bases, of remarkable uniformity, produced by a circle of young shoots springing up, about each, near the root.

The avenues of Blair have escaped the axe of the spoiler, or the reformer, as he is called; because the improvement of Blair m general has been wisely trusted to the slow and sure hand of Time, and to those casual and happy arrangements which the progress of planting, in a country of this form, must certainly produce But the genus at large, as far as it has escaped the abominations of reformation, seems now safe. Public taste has at length come to its senses on the subject of avenues; and we need not no* despair of seeing that created, which it was, not long ago, a fashion, and a point of supposed taste, to eradicate.

The visitor, who now begins to see that there is more- m the grounds of Blair than he at first suspected, will not be content to terminate his walk by the side in this manner. By proceeding down the course of the stream till it joins the Garry, be will discover a rude, yet highly amusing walk, displaying much unexpected scenery, and many subjects admirably adapted for painting. A row of ash, skirting the beautiful banks of this latter river at the ferry, which lends its aid to form foregrounds for some highly beautiful views, principally looking down the course of the water, which, wandering through this wooded valley, terminates in that elegant form which »o often constitutes the last outline in all these pictures, Ben Vrackie. As this mountain was the most conspicuous object from Dunkeld, so it has continued to form a principal one at Blair; easily recognised, but still more graceful when thus seen reversed. This patch of rude land, called the haugh of Blair, affords other scenes and of another character, which cannot fail to call forth the efforts of an artist; and chiefly of those who have formed their taste on the Flemish sty le of landscape; a taste, however, which cannot be much commended, unless kept within due bounds, and which has become far too general among our artists of the present day. These scenes will be found about two mills ; which, with their wheels and their woodwork, their nettles, and docks, and stones, and water-loads, afford several pleasing pictures ic this line of art, much enhanced by the ash trees which accompany them, and acquiring a dignity, not usual in scenery of this nature, from the fine back ground of mountains which towers high and blue beyond them.

Returning hence to the' grounds of Blair, by the side of the Garry, 'and landscapes. of a different order occur still interesting and grand, if less so than those which are obtained from the more elevated positions. The river side itself, at more points than one, affords pleasing and detailed views of the house and the surrounding objects; nor can the artist want foregrounds, as they are furnished in abundance by broken banks, and trees, and bridges; while the scenery itself presents one very essential and characteristic difference, when compared to the former views J arising from the back ground of mountains which incloses Glen Tilt, being substituted for those which had formerly constituted the distances.

The walk called the Ben, is the last of the objects within the home grounds at Blair which I can afford room to notice. The Banavie, descending from the moors in a deep channel, forms a bold ravine, before reaching the lawn and lower ground through which it holds its quieter course to join the Garry. Advantage has been taken of this feature to form the walk in question, no less romantic that: it is characteristic of an alpine country. The extensive and luxuriant woods which cover the faces of Craig B'rrard, descending towards the house, deepen its shadows as they add variety to its intricacies.

A mixture of shrubbery and flower garden and grove and green glade, conducts to the entrance of the lowest walk, and beneath an arch which, high above it, is thrown across to give passage to the road; producing, at the same time, a very picturesque scene. The river here runs close to the foot-path, forcing its way among mossy stones and over pebbles; now breaking m curling foam against some obstruction, then gliding away in tippiing lines of green light, or resting, brown and silent, beneath the impending darkness of some overhanging rock. The banks, high and precipitous, sometimes rocky and bold, at others clothed with dense and \angled shrubs, give footing to trees of endless variety, which, mixing in all their luxuriance over head, unite with the depth and narrowness of the ravine to exclude the day. The sunshine never penetrates to these deep recesses, which ara dimly illuminated by the green sober lights reflected from the foliage of the trees, and from the water gliding and foaming below. Above, a bright ray is sometimes seen forcing its way across, flickering among the leaves, or occasionally arrested by some grey branch which it tinges with a faint and pale hue. Not even a bird disturbs the silence of this shadowy solitude; which is rendered even more impressive, by the interrupted murmur of the water, or by the passage of an occasional breeze among the branches, giving notice of its presence by the fall of a leaf or a twig, and again subsiding as it arose.

Proceeding onwards, the path ascends, gradually quitting the water. On one hand, a deep and hollow bank, overhanging with all its fringe of ferns and wood-flowers, and covered with long, pale, drooping grasses, drips in ceaseless showers on the carpet of rich and luxuriant mosses which occupies the surface of every stone and projection, the dark hollow which it covers scarcely betraying the presence of some stray root which, penetrating from above, retires into its obscure recesses to shun even the faint glimmering twilight that reigns in this secluded spot. Here, the narrow and almost perilous way hangs over the water, which, issuing from the deep shade of closing rocks and entangled woods that, meeting across, conceal its origin, is seen far below, murmuring, yet unheard, among the dark brown stones and green mossy fragments that divide and impede its intricate course. Far over head and around, the fir and birch are intermixed in. luxuriant confusion  while the oak and the ash, rooted in the crevices of the- deep cliffs, or in the edges of the steep overhanging banks, feather down to the water; mingled with the hazel, the alder, the wild rose, and the honeysuckle. and wit! the varied and rich ornament of fem, and wood-rush, and bright green moss, and long waving grasses. Some scathed trunk fallen across the chasm, or withered branches, grey with lichen and decay, spreading their twisted and knotted arms across, or a tree which, brought down by the w inter torrents, ha- been arrested by a rock in the stream, add occasional variety to a scene w here art has judiciously rested at that happy point which, in giving access, comfort, and security to the spectator, triumphs over that nature whose rudeness it enhances as it embellishes. It has been one of the great mistakes, in these cases, to exclude art altogether. Each adds to each a double charm and while we turn with indifference or with satiety, even with pain, from Nature in all her purity of rudeness and neglect, we experience double pleasure from what we can contemplate and study at our ease, from that which, though not withdrawn from nature, has become as it were a denizen of art.

As the path, gradually ascending, and winding along the face of a chasm which becomes deeper and narrower as we proceed, reaches the summit, it unites to a ride which has been conducted through the fir woods above. Then, passing a bridge rudely appropriate to the scene, beneath which the torrent forces its way through a deep and rocky chasm in a succession of cascades and dark pools, it returns through an open grove along the descending stream: offering, in the case with which it is now pursued, a happy contrast to the labour which had attended its ascent.

A dexterous artist will easily extract from this spot, some scenes for his pencil; bv omitting something where there is too much, or bv transposing parts of that which the wantonness or luxuriance of nature has misplaced. These are admissible licences. Even with such liberties, fidelity may be preserved if it is desired: but he will draw little profit from Nature who does not find in her something more than mere portraits; and who does not, by altering or recomposing, or by a due use of valuable hints and detached parts, contrive to store his portfolio with something more than the mere materials of future studies. To the botanist, the upper parts of tile walk will furnish the Pvrola rotundifolia. as well as the more common Minor, together with abundance of the rare Secunda. In autumn, he may riot among the infinitude of Fungi which are produced, not only here, but among the woods and dells of Blair throughout; the genus Agaricus, in particular, presenting nearly three-fourths of the species which it includes, and with endless variety as to colour and aspect.

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