The Duke’s hermitage

There are a lot of walks to be had through Highland glens, but not many that lead you straight into an eighteenth-century Picturesque landscapeThe Hermitage was constructed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by the Dukes of Atholl,  following the growing fashion for using wild and romantic scenery as something to be embraced in a landscape, along with suitable structures. You needed mythological figures to populate your structures, and in Scotland at the time, the front-runner was Ossian, the legendary Celtic bard (whose ‘rediscovered’ poetry was later to become one of the better literary scandals).

[ Useless but interesting fact: In another scandal the winner of the 2010 Wildlife Photographer of the year was stripped of his title for using a tame wolf, whose name was….. you guessed it]

The Hermitage, as you see above, was built precariously above the falls of the River Braan, with a moss-covered bridge thrown across the narrow gorge beneath. A little further on, you find Ossian’s cave, where the bard can be supposed to have composed his epics (a little damp and dark for the modern taste, perhaps, but no doubt entirely suitable for the Scottish Homer)But the Dukes of Atholl didn’t just play about with creating a landscape. They were tree fanatics (with commercial timber plantations in mind) and planted the newly-introduced Douglas fir all over the place and more or less established the European larch as a staple of Scottish timber plantings. Many of the earliest Douglas firs were felled during the first World War, but those which replaced them in the 1920s now grow tall beside the Hermitage’s pathsDown in the steep valley of the Braan,  there’s obviously a micro-climate which suits conifers down to the ground. I wish I could say the same of my patch.Autumn is a lovely time to visit. The Hermitage is right on the Perth-Inverness road, so is very popular with people giving their dogs a break during the journey. Apparently, dogs have no colour vision, so won’t enjoy the beech trees in their vivid October coloursBut no doubt there are many enticing scents to compensate….

16 thoughts on “The Duke’s hermitage

  1. Oh now that’s breathtaking, always at this time of year. We are (hopefully) fingers crossed holding a very special event there next year (!) which includes wellies and frocks. 🙂 it’s my very favourite russety autumn walk in the universe and gorgeous in spring/summer and winter.

    Wonderful post thank you, we always stop there on the way up or down the road.


  2. Lovely shots of an autumn woodland – I could do with a hermitage myself at the moment – somewhere to get away from everything and everybody would suit me down to the ground. As you can tell I am a little out of sorts I think it is the dark mornings that do it.

  3. Ah, I may may an honest loon of my better half in that very special place next autumn, or cambo with snowdrops if we go for feb (hermitage is first choice). Wellies and frocks will indeed be worn. 🙂

    • Well that’s something to look forward to, Fay. Many congratulations for daring to take the plunge. If it’s to be Cambo in February, you will need to add long-johns to the wellies and frocks!

  4. What’s this, an opportunity to write outrageous remarks on Kininvie’s blog?

    (1) I am pleased to see my fir trees appreciated fully.
    (2) I like the cave very much.
    (2.5) You too may need to build just such a cave Kininvie, as a closed venue for the social events of your fauns and nymphs. You know…so the neighbors don’t call the police.

    • Dear Linnie,

      1) I am delighted to see that you are claiming proprietorial ownership of all Douglas firs. It seems a worthy aim to me, but do you not think it may be misinterpreted? People may start worrying that you will demand all their rhododendrons next, and possibly their hanging baskets…
      2) I think, if you had seen the cave’s interior, you might be less thrilled.
      2.5) Since I have, as yet, acquired neither fauns nor nymphs (although I am keeping an eye on e-bay just in case) I cannot speak for their habits. What I have read does suggest that satyrs and maenads are more apt to offend the neighbours, and I am not intending to purchase any, you will be glad to hear. Nymphs, I gather, are on the whole extremely chaste and are apt to transform themselves into trees when pursued, as Master Bernini taught us: – so I anticipate no trouble there.

  5. Surely if you can credit me with hurricanes and squirrels and sorority rings, then I can also be associated with the glorious fir trees without causing too much stir. Regarding the cave, I can only assume it was dark inside when you looked and perhaps some of the more appealing detail was obscured. Now for your faun and nymph needs, Ebay is surely the place. But I doubt you will be bidding very high for chaste nymphs who will just turn into trees in bad garden locations.

    • Dear Linnie,

      Re: the cave. It was not the dark. It was the smell.

      Re: the Douglas Fir. I recall you did not originally demand ‘association’ but full personal ownership (‘my…trees’). This does show worrying streaks of megalomania, hence my concern for my hanging baskets. P.S. You do not mention baby showers, which I believe are yours, too.

      Re: the Nymphs. I prefer my mythological creatures to be chaste. I have enough trouble with rabbits in the real world, without having to worry about what the nymphs are up to.

  6. Ok I give you the bad cave.
    How is ‘my trees’ different than ‘your hurricane?’ And I never once mentioned any hanging baskets. (What did the baskets DO anyway, to deserve hanging?) Baby showers have their place. You try to raise a baby without tiny clothes, it isn’t easy. And I fear you have playboy bunnies confused with rabbits, or something…

  7. The Hermitage is one of my favourite places. it looks as if you’re setting up a page for Visit Scotland. They need all the help they can get!
    Have you been to the Plant Explorer’s garden at Pitlochry? Nice piece about David Douglas of the fir fame and other plant explorers. I still have a half written post from our last visit.
    Fascinating ding dong comments with linniew.!

    • Hello Janet. It was a toss-up between Pitlochry and the Hermitage on my way south, but the usual Drumochter rain clouds were over Pitlochry too, so I pressed on. Don’t get me started on the relationship between the NTS and Visit Scotland….they need their heads banged together. Still, NTS looks after the Hermitage well, so I won’t complain. Linnie & I decided we were getting a bit self-indulgent……but glad to know it amused someone! Please finish your post on the Plant Explorers, I’d love to see it.

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