THE FALLS OF BRUAR-----IT IS WORTH THE HIKE
A mile or so north of Pitlochry you will come to the House of Bruar where there is a huge souvenir shop, and other shops, most of which seem to be over priced. You cam park your car in the huge car park and then follow the signs (Falls of Bruar) that lead you under the railway line, then through the forest by the stream which has clear pools and steep sides to the small gorge. You will see ferns, birch, pine, rowan, aspen and willow as the trail wanders its way upstream until you reach the lower bridge, but do not cross it. Continue upstream until you reach the upper bridge which you can cross where you will reach a picnic area, but continue along the trail and it will lead back to the lower bridge. The distance is 1 1/2 miles so you should be able to cover it in an hour unless you are taking many photographs.
Interestingly that when Robert Burns visited the area back in 1787 there were no trees so he petitioned the Duke of Atholl for the area to be planted with trees, so thanks to him it is what it is today.
- Hiking and Walking
THE SALMON LADDER & THE DAM
I have been to Pitlochry on numerous occasions and always head to the salmon ladder which you will find at the side of Pitlochry Dam. The dam was constructed across the River Tummel between 1947 and 1951 as part of a network of dams that would produce electricity for the residents of the Highlands. As a result of the dam being built, the old highland games field was flooded and that is where Loch Faskally is today. The fish ladder has 34 chambers, each one a little higher than the previous one, which allows the Atlantic Salmon to pass by the dam to lay their eggs. The salmon pass from one chamber to the next through small circular openings which restrict the flow of water, and you can see some of the viewing chambers by the side of the ladder, and if you are very lucky you may even see a salmon! There is actually a fish counter which records the number of salmon that pass by. In the last 30 years the number of salmon going upstream has been between 3,000 and 5,000 annually, but for some reason the record number was 12,000 back in 1973. During my several visits i think i have ever only seen 2 salmon!
VISITOR'S CENTER is open from April until October, Monday to Friday, 10 am - 5.30 pm and admission is free.
The Atholl Country Life Museum
This museum gives a vivid reality to Highland country life in the Atholl area using facts, historical photos and stories set in imaginative displays. The Scottish Highlanders are the remnant of the Celtic race, which remained mainly untouched by Roman and Saxon invasion so this museum is about a unique people. Clanship and tartan go beyond the bounds of history. From the land came all the materials to clothe them. Animal skins for warmth and leather, flax to make linen, wool to knit and weave, dyes from the vegetation. Clothes lasted until worn-out.
The museum opened in 1981 in the old school, which closed in 1974. The displays tie in to stories of the use of display items in homes and workplaces. Road, rail and postal services, pastimes, farming, school, kirk, smiddy, wildlife and the vet are some of the topics covered. There is Scotland's only stuffed Highland cow, Trinafour Post Office rebuilt, a local roadman's home made contraption that he used to paint white lines on the road. There are stories of local personalities, such as Sgt. Major Donald MacBeath of the Atholl Highlanders, gamekeeper, hero of the Crimean war and admired by Queen Victoria.
Children can sit in the old school desk and "naebody need be feart o' getting the tawse". One of the key objectives of the Reformation was a school in every parish. Teaching was by people supportive of the Hanoverian monarchy to help prevent more rebellions. Lessons were in English and not Gaelic.
Among the displays are:
Gamekeepers Corner – here you can play spot the wildlife and read the recollections of Andrew McKay a local gamekeeper.
Old Kitchen With Box Bed - Kirsty is baking on the peat fire while her old father arises from his bed.
Extensive collection of polished Horse Harness made locally by John Seaton in his shoemakers shop. You can see his equipment and the story of his family.
Road & Rail Services - Dr Anderson's horse sleigh and photo of the Ben Y Gloe steam engine. A curious quirk of the town is since an unusual legal agreement made in 1911 for the benefit of steam trains, the railway company owning the line through Blair Atholl holds the responsibility for the water supply to Blair Atholl.
Trinafour post office & Shop – remade with well-stocked shelves and wooden telephone box.
The Caledonian Shield - for rifle shooting, a magnificent example of Scottish art and Britain’s largest trophy competed for yearly.
The Smiddy - Bob Wood & Bob Kennedy were two of the last blacksmiths. The bellows and tools of their trade are on show with reminiscences by Bob Kennedy of his work and of when the circus came to town.
The game of curling - it originated as a game played outdoors on frozen ponds. The formality of it took me by surprise as the players wore uniforms. Now team colours amounts to identical jumpers.
Though small this museum is well worth a visit.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Pass of Killiecrankie
The Pass of Killiecrankie offers a splendid walk beside the River Garry through spectacular oak and mixed deciduous woodland, much admired by Queen Victoria in 1844. The woodland is famous for its autumn colour, with the view along the pass from the Garry Bridge being one of the most photographed in Perthshire. It offers plentiful wildlife.
The Pass lies three miles north of Pitlochry. For a mile it threads through the deep, steep, thickly wooded gorge of the Garry, between a spur of Ben Vrackie (2757 feet) and Tenandry Hill, with the village of Killiecrankie at the north end. Through this narrow winding pass, above the rushing river, run the A9 highway and the railway line to Inverness.
About a mile beyond the Pass, to the north, on 27 July 1689, the Pass of Killiecrankie echoed with the sound of battle-cries and gunfire when a Jacobite army led by ’Bonne Dundee’, supporting the exiled James II ,swept down the hillside in an unstoppable Highland Charge on the government forces of William of Orange under General Hugh Mackay.
One soldier, Donald McBane, evaded capture by making a spectacular jump 18 feet across the raging River Garry at a spot now known as Soldier's Leap. Many say it was impossible but feed them as much adrenaline as the scared witless McBane had and they might manage it too. Many others failed in the attempt and were carried away by the rushing torrent.
It is strange how popular a hero Viscount Dundee has become in Scottish minds for his murderous part in the putting down of the Covenanters for their religious faith, in earlier times made him known as "Bloody Clavers". However, his looks, his dash and daring, and the well-known song 'Bonnie Dundee' metamorphosed him.
Dundee fell because a musket ball entered his body below his body armour, which had ridden up. He gasped with his dying breath, "How goes the day" to a man Johnson, who helped him from his saddle. "Well for King James," the other answered. "But I am sorry for your lordship." The dying Dundee said, "If it is well for him, it matters the less for me". A stone marks the spot where he fell.
Two thousand government troops (mostly lowland Scots) suffered death or capture, for a loss of 900 Highlanders. The enemy lay in heaps almost in the order that they were posted but so disfigured with wounds the victors could not look upon the proofs of their own agility and strength without surprise and horror.
Dundee was carried to Old Blair and buried in St Bride’s Chapel. Jacobite ranks swelled to 5000 but without Dundee’s leadership they were defeated soon afterwards and the Jacobite campaign soon ended.
A visitor centre provides information on the battle and on Killiecrankie's natural history. Visitors can watch birds nesting, by a remote camera in the woodlands. It is tranquil now whatever ghosts may roam the pass.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Loch Tay Crannog
Loch Tay Crannog is an experiment in bringing the past to life. It is a five star visitor attraction and educational centre with a Gold award for best practice in environmental management. Its location Loch Tay is a freshwater loch around 14 miles long, and around 1.5 miles wide in the Highland Perthshire in Scotland.
Many Scottish lochs contain small, tree-filled islands appearing just above the water’s surface. These are often artificial islands (crannogs) originally containing thatched, timber roundhouses supported on huge, wooden piles driven deep into the bed of the loch. Crannogs date from as early as the Neolithic Age (5000 years ago) to as late as the 17th Century. Throughout their long history crannogs served as farmers' homesteads, status symbols, refuges in times of trouble, hunting and fishing stations, and even holiday homes.
Here in Highland Perthshire, the prehistoric crannogs were originally timber-built roundhouses supported on piles driven into the loch bed. These existed throughout Scotland and Ireland. Archaeologists investigating one of the Loch Tay Crannogs found preserved in the cold, peaty waters, timbers, food, utensils and 2600-year old clothing. They even discovered a butter dish with butter clinging to the inside.
In 1994 archaeologists began rebuilding the crannog using the same materials as the original. Now finished and open to the public it consists of a thatched roundhouse on a timber platform 15m across supported on 168 timber piles and connected to the shore by a 20 metre long timber causeway. In high winds there is distinct movement on the building.
The archaeologists used Iron Age technology in the reconstruction. This included rafts and boats and the building of wooden scaffolding out in the loch. The first stage was to create a timber platform supported on alder piles 8-10 metres long. Buoyant on water, these proved easy to manoeuvre on the water's surface but difficult to pull vertical.
One of the most challenging tasks the archaeologists faced was driving the piles two metres into the loch bed. A crosspole lashed to the upright pile and twisted back and forth drilled it the required depth into the loch bed. Once the piles were secure, the platform and then the roundhouse took shape. Round timber poles formed the flooring and the frame of the roundhouse. Finally reeds from the loch provided thatching material for the roof. Hundreds of flexible hazel stems woven together provided walling material.
In the exhibition on view before entering the crannog are some of the underwater discoveries. On leaving you can test your skills at ancient crafts and technology. I tried woodturning using a pole lathe. I found it much harder than the modern version that I normally employ.
Creating fire proved simple as showed by an expert. Put this fact together with the structure of the buildings, the use of boats and the notion that crannogs were used for defence makes no sense at all. It would be simple to burn them down.
- Historical Travel
Blair Castle, the ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl, has been awarded five stars as a visitor attraction by the Scottish tourist agency- its highest award. Its history extends over 740 years and was it was last castle in the British Isles to be besieged - in 1746 during the last Jacobite Rebellion.
Records begin in 1269 when the Earl of the day returned from the crusades to find that he had acquired a squatter. Neighbour, John Cumming of Badenoch, had moved on to his land in his absence and started building a tower. Today over 700 years later his tower still stands and is the oldest and tallest part of the Castle. The majority of the Castle is from the 16th century. The many alterations in the fabric that have occurred are concealed by the white roughcast on the walls.
Today we can enjoy the wild beauty of the surrounding landscape. The castle enjoys one of Scotland’s finest settings in the heart of Highland Perthshire. In the grounds, Diana’s Grove originally laid out in 1737 contains some of the tallest trees in Great Britain. Beyond the Grove on raised ground stand the historic ruins of St Bride’s Kirk. Here John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee ( 'Bonnie Dundee') was buried in the aisle attached to the now roofless church after the Battle of Killiecrankie- 27 July 1689. The modern railed burial enclosure of the family of the Dukes of Athol adjoins the ancient unenclosed churchyard.
Both gardens are adorned with lead reproductions of Classical statues. The Hercules Garden is a rare survival of a walled 18th century formal garden with an artificial lake and islands, surrounded by plantations of fruit trees, follies and bridges.
Blair Castle is a most attractive building, inside and out. One of the first private homes to open to the public in Scotland, Blair welcomes more visitors than any other. It has a new visitor centre with excellent catering facilities. An audiovisual display provides a general overview of the castle and is particularly helpful for those who are unable to undertake a full tour of the castle for themselves.
Inside the castle a spectacular display of arms and armour greets the visitor in the main entrance hall. The extensive collections also include pictures, furniture, porcelain, embroidery, Masonic regalia and family memorabilia.
Blair is home to the Atholl Highlanders, Europe’s only private army -purely ceremonial – a room commemorates their activities. Each May the Atholl Highlanders assemble for a full parade under the inspection of their Colonel in Chief, the Duke of Atholl.
The castle’s collections of furniture, paintings, historical relics, weapons, embroidery, china, Highland artefacts and hunting trophies are among the finest in Scotland, as is the plasterwork and other décor of the principal rooms. Thirty-two rooms are open to the public, more than in any comparable stately home. I was struck by the quiet good taste of the décor throughout and the beauty of the setting.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
Yes, maybe it should be in the “places to stay” or “restaurant” sections, but as I haven’t stayed or eaten there...
Unless you count a packet of dry roasted peanuts, of course.
What I have done is sit at one of the outside tables to enjoy a pint of their Braveheart beer, and recover from a 3 hour jaunt up (& down) nearby Ben y Vrackie.
It has it’s own brewery! So, the beer truly is “theirs”. And very good it was too. Only complaint was it didn’t last long enough (and with an hour’s drive home, 1 pint was my limit). The brewery is behind the hotel.
The menu looked interesting enough to make me think about eating there if the opportunity comes up again. The inside of the bar looked like a really warm atmospheric place to eat & drink in cooler times.
It is located just 5 minutes walk from the car park at the start of the Ben y Vrackie trail, so ideal for R&R afterwards.
- Hiking and Walking
- Mountain Climbing
- Beer Tasting
Dam and power station
This dam was built across the River Tummel to create Loch Faskally as a permanent water reservoir. Construction was completed in 1951. You can walk upon it and have a look at its technical construction. What attracts more people here, though, is the salmon ladder that can be seen between April and October. The ladder was constructed to help the salmons swim upstream to their spawning grounds, it was completed in 1952, just one year after the construction of the dam. There is a visitors centre with an underwater viewing where you can watch the fish climbing the ladder.
As I came here in February, I missed it, and the small visitor centre located here was closed, but I walked across the dam anyway and had a look at the structure. You also have nice views on the river from the dam. Although it was low season, I met quite a lot walkers and hikers here.
Loch Faskally is a loch very close to the town centre. You will pass close to it when you walk to or from the dam, and I walked over the lawn to get there and have a closer look. There is also a walk leading around the loch, but I did not have time for that and only did the beginning.
Loch Faskally was my very first loch in Scotland, so yes, I was appropriately moved by the occasion! However, it is not a natural loch but a man-made reservoir that was created by damming the River Tummel. It still is pretty, though, and certainly worth a look if you are in Pitlochry!
You can only see one part of the loch from this point close to Pitlochry - the loch is much bigger than you can see from here!
- Hiking and Walking
Atholl Road is Pitlochry's main street. There is not much more to the town centre than this street.
It is lined with Victorian buildings made of a grayish material (I read it is granite, but I am not sure), like one long, grey parade. It looks quite pretty, but I must also say that it is very commercial. There are many, many hiking shops, as well as souvenir shops of the "Edinburgh Woolen Mill" kind. I did not really find anything interesting and had quickly walked from one end of the town centre to the other.
Some of the buildings are quite interesting, though, and I think it is quite special that the whole street seems to be so uniform because they all have a similar colour and design.
Queen's View is a view point close to Pitlochry. It overlooks Loch Tummel and provides wonderful views of the Loch and the mountain Schiehallion. It really is spectacular, like the Scotland of the postcards, table books and novels - to good to be true.
The viewpoint was originally named after Queen Isabella, wife of Robert the Bruce, who used it as a resting stop. It was later reinforced because Queen Victoria visited here in 1866 - she declared it to be the best view in Great Britain!
Hm, I actually think that this is debatable - it is a beautiful view indeed, but I imagine that views like this are around every corner here. The whole area is simply stunning, and every five seconds I wanted to yell "stop" in order to take pictures (which was of course not possible). The landscape is so dramatic and scenic, Queen's View is just one part of it!
The Auld Smiddy Inn
The Auld Smiddy Inn is one of the oldest buildings in Pitlochry. It was previously a blacksmith's shop, and today houses a pub. The building looks really historical and the exterior has hardly changed since it was constructed in the 19th century.
I did not eat here because I had brought a sandwich for lunch, but otherwise I would have gone here for some chips or so. But even if you don't eat there, it is worth a quick look because of its quaintness.
- Historical Travel
Edradour is the smallest distillery in Scotland, producing only12 casks per week. Edradour started up in 1825, and they still use a more old fashioned process than most distilleries. They used waterpower until they got electricity in 1948, so they located by a stream. Peat smoke is still used to dry the malted barley.
Hours: Mon-Sat – 10 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m., depending on season. Sundays, noon to 4 or 5 p.m. (closed Sundays, Jan-Feb)
Admission charge for tour - £5 (includes a sample)
- Arts and Culture
Atholl Palace Hotel
I’m really not sure if this should be in the “things to do” category, “restaurants” or “places to stay”.
It’s a hotel, but I haven’t stayed there. I ate lunch there, but that was as part of the meeting I attended. Is it fair to judge an eating place on how it deals with a group of 60?
As it happens, the buffet lunch was excellent judged by the standards of mass catering in Scotland. We were in lovely part of the restaurant, with picture window views over the river, the valley and the hills to the south.
The bar was expensive - almost £15 for 2 pints and a glass of wine. It’s a nice cosy bar, however.
The hotel is set in magnificent grounds - see photos.
It’s not “my kind of place” as far as hotels go. I suspect it attracts a genteel elderly crowd who appreciate the sedate atmosphere. It will get rowdy wedding receptions at the weekends. (In the interests of transparency, I'll be 60 later this year - but I'm neither genteel, elderly nor sedate.)
So I’d recommend it if you’re in town and want a gentle stroll somewhere quiet and pleasant, with maybe afternoon tea or a G&T when you get there.
- Spa and Resort
- Luxury Travel
Pass of Killiecrankie
Yesterday (Sunday, 19-5-12) after my meeting I took a short, gentle walk through the Pass of Killiecrankie.
It was a wonderful sunny, spring afternoon. Great to be wandering through the trees by the river.
It’s a National Trust for Scotland property, having some significance resulting from the battle of Killiecrankie in 1689. This was during the first Jacobite Rebellion against English rule - Bonny Prince Charlie led the second one. Us Jacobites won that day.
There’s a visitor centre for those so inclined, and a wee cafe with outdoor seating. Great for coffee and cake in the sun.
Some parts of the track are steep and rough, so it’s not an ideal spot for anyone with restricted mobility. Otherwise, a lovely place to spend a couple of hours.
- Family Travel
- Mountain Climbing
- Hiking and Walking
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