Drizzly Dunkeld

This week’s weather has been uninviting fog and rain, but nevertheless I have been out with the camera trying to catch the mood of places such as the Hermitage, a beauty spot near Dunkeld. Here the River Braan cascades over the Black Linn waterfall then squeezes dark and deep under a mossy old stone footbridge.

A vaulted building with a balcony overlooks the waterfall. This is Ossian’s Hall, a folly named after the legendary Celtic warrior poet. A little further up river is another folly, the Hermit’s Cave, an igloo-shaped stone structure. The woodland walks and follies in this area were developed by the Dukes of Atholl as a pleasure ground. They took many of their visitors, such as Queen Victoria and Robert Burns, to see these sights. Apparently a local man was retained to play the part of the hermit.

The Dukes of Atholl were based at Blair Castle at Blair Atholl, but their estate extended down to Dunkeld, where they had a second house, often used in the summer or as the residence of the eldest son of the Duke and his wife. The last house they commissioned in Dunkeld (they replaced the house several times) is now the Hilton Dunkeld House hotel.

They were famed as the “Planting Dukes” and their legacy can be seen today in the fine stands of Douglas fir at the Hermitage, in the various record-breaking conifers at Cathedral Grove and elsewhere around the extensive hotel grounds, and on the hill above – Craig a’ Barns – where millions of larch were planted. The latter is still a part of Atholl Estates.

The Dukes’ legacy is now being taken forward by the iCONic project, a partnership between the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Perthshire Big Tree Country that is providing a future for internationally threatened conifer species. The Hermitage is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland and is signed off the A9, just north of the Dunkeld junction.

Under the trees the light levels were low, but the colours of the wet foliage were intense. The air was still and misty with all the moisture it held. An umbrella helped to keep the steady rain off my camera, but couldn’t stop the spray from the waterfall spotting my lens, which needed frequent wiping. I packed up and went home as the daylight faded and my shutter speed crept up to 30 seconds.

The first shot in the gallery below is taken through an arch of the Telford bridge over the River Tay in Dunkeld, the remainder at the Hermitage. Click on any image to open a Lightbox.

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