Cameron Mc­Neish pulls on his boots and steps into a re­claimed for­est, climb­ing through trees of golden larch, tow­er­ing Scots pine and mag­nif­i­cent moun­tain ash in search of a roar­ing Cairn­gorms cas­cade

Countryfile Magazine - - Great Days Out - Cameron Mc­Neish is a Scot­tish wilder­ness hiker, back­packer and moun­tain walker.

The nat­u­ral mir­a­cle of hy­dro­dy­nam­ics is best ob­served in wet weather con­di­tions. Moors and moun­tains har­ness the fallen rain, soak it up like a gar­gan­tuan sponge, then, by un­seen en­er­gies, force it up though the sur­face of the ground in the form of bub­bling streams. The Bruar Wa­ter, just north of Blair Atholl, oozes from the soggy plateaux and moors of the great Atholl Deer For­est and flows gen­tly down the empty miles of Glen Bruar be­fore chang­ing char­ac­ter com­pletely. As the ground falls away, the wa­ters be­come in­creas­ingly ag­i­tated and tur­bu­lent, be­fore crash­ing and thun­der­ing down a deep gorge. At the foot of the gorge the wa­ter roars over a se­ries of falls and cas­cades, be­fore surg­ing through a nat­u­ral arch in the rock and into the pools be­low.


The river is at its finest dur­ing and im­me­di­ately after pe­ri­ods of heavy rain, and you could do worse at this time than put on your wa­ter­proofs and visit the aquatic power of the Falls of Bruar. What makes the scene so spec­tac­u­lar is the sim­ple com­bi­na­tion of rock, wa­ter and, most im­por­tantly, trees, the ba­sic el­e­ments that of­fer grandeur on a mag­nif­i­cent scale.

How­ever, in the late 18th cen­tury this nar­row glen was vir­tu­ally de­void of trees. One vis­i­tor to the falls, Wil­liam Gilpin com­mented, “One of them in­deed is a grand fall, but it is so naked in its ac­com­pa­ni­ments that it is

of lit­tle value.” Robert Burns, Scot­land’s Na­tional Bard, agreed with Wil­liam Gilpin. Fol­low­ing a visit in 1787 he wrote The Hum­ble Pe­ti­tion of Bruar Wa­ter to the Noble Duke

of Atholl. This 11-verse poem con­tains the lines, “Would then my noble mas­ter please, To grant my high­est wishes? He’ll shade my banks wi’ tow’ring trees, And bon­nie spread­ing bushes.” Much to his credit, the Fourth Duke of Atholl ac­qui­esced and the first trees were planted in 1797.

Sadly, the Bard died be­fore the plan­ta­tions grew, but oth­ers have left their im­pres­sions in words and pic­tures – Wil­liam Wordsworth, Queen Vic­to­ria, Wil­liam Turner and thou­sands of other ap­pre­cia­tive vis­i­tors from home and abroad.

The Fourth Duke of Atholl Lord John Mur­ray’s am­bi­tious plant­ing scheme would even­tu­ally in­clude 120,000 larch and Scots pine. In time, Planter John, as he be­came known, was to plant over 15 mil­lion trees through­out his es­tates, many of which, to­day, cre­ate an un­bri­dled dis­play of golden glory dur­ing the months of Septem­ber, Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber.

Many of Planter John’s orig­i­nal trees were cut down dur­ing World War II, but once hos­til­i­ties were over, the trees were re­planted. Scots pines are the most dom­i­nant, mixed with moun­tain ash, wil­low, aspen and birch.


You only have to walk for a few min­utes from the car park near the busy A9 be­fore you hear the wa­ter roar. 2 WA­TER-WORN Gaze down on the peat-brown river as it gushes un­der

Lower Bridge – the power and vi­tal­ity of the wa­ter is al­most fright­en­ing. As the thun­der­ing cataract gouges its way through the tight, nar­row gorge, surg­ing, rum­bling and roar­ing over the wa­ter-worn rocks of the riverbed, you can al­most feel the old stone bridge vi­brate. Be­yond the stone arch, the foot­path climbs steadily up­hill.


Up­per Bridge forms a man­made arch across the top of the gorge. Look down on the river from this high van­tage point, no less spec­tac­u­lar than Lower Bridge, and it is easy to un­der­stand how, over the aeons, the river has been able to carve its deep re­cess into the very bedrock of the land.


From Up­per Bridge the path climbs away from the wa­ter – the primeval roar of rut­ting red deer above in Glen Ban­vie fill­ing the air – be­fore sweep­ing round to be­gin its long de­scent back to Lower Bridge.


“The black­bird strong, the lin­twhite clear, The mavis mild and mel­low; The robin pen­sive Au­tumn cheer, In all her locks of yel­low.” The Hum­ble Pe­ti­tion of Bruar Wa­ter by Robert Burns (Lower Bridge pic­tured)

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