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….