IF it has been a genial summer, there is not a richer sight in Scotland than the carse of Gowrie in early autumn. The mellow corn-fields stretch away without fence or enclosure for miles together, as flat as the silver frith which forms their southern boundary, and climb far up among the glens and copses of the Northern hills. It looks as if Amalthea had poured her golden horn into the green lap of earth, till every fold was filled, and the full lap overflowed. Yet rich as is the level carse, it would look tame and monotonous without the Braes of Carse. From the craggy basalts which frown over Kinnoul and Kinfauns, and afford scanty footing to the pines that scramble up their steeps, the Braes gradually round their angles, till, from a stately ridge, they dwindle into knolls, and subside into the prevailing level. At the point where Ballendean is planted, the Braes still claim the dignity of hills, though the plough in its encroachments has passed from side to side, and threatens the planted tufts upon their summits.
In one respect the situation of Ballendean differs from that of most other mansions which skirt the carse. These either form the gateway to romantic glens, or are hung, like a forest eyry, from the side of some wooded steep. Ballendean lies on a platform at the base of the rising ground, and slightly elevated above the general plain.
It would be difficult to desire, and more difficult to desire, and more difficult to find, a situation richer or lovelier than this. High enough to command each striking object between itself and the Norman Law, but not so high as to lose the shelter of its own northern and eastern bulwark of hills – imbosomed among noble trees, with its swelling pastures sweeping down on either side, and falling free and full before, it has a look of tranquillity without dulness, and seclusion without solitude. From its sheltered positio0n and sunny aspect, there are traces of verdure around it all winter, except in seasons of unwonted severity; and the summer foliage is fresh and massy to a degree beyond what is usual in this latitude. Perhaps, in consequence of this luxuriance, it ripens more richly and rapidly in autumn, and falls sooner, – at least we were struck last October by seeing how suddenly the leaves mellowed here. One week they had a hue scarcely altered from that of midsummer, except that the green was not so soft, and the leaves themselves not so tender, – stiffer, and more glossy. Another week (the next we believe), the chestnuts were orange, and the beeches brown; the cherries were clad in scarlet, and the limes looked like golden cones; and the ash-trees, without waiting for the wind, were showering their disjoint4ed leaflets; whilst the trees of the uplands seemed unaware of winter’s approach. In mentioning its trees, it would be wrong not to particularize a venerable larch, which claims to be the cotemporary of the patriarch-larches at Dunkeld. Its form is different from its Athole brethren, – for in shape it is very nearly a broad-based pyramid, being much more remarkable for the spread of its branches than the height of its trunk. Whatever may be its age, it has evidently long outlived all who can bear witness against its alleged antiquity.
The beauty of the landscape has long been famous in Scottish song. It originated the national air, – ‘The Braes of Ballendean.’
The house was rebuilt in 1832, by William Trotter, Esq., late Lord-provost of Edinburgh, and forms one of many memorials of his accurate taste and correct judgment. The garden, from its extent and the advantages of its situation and the excellency of its productions, especially its wall and hot-house fruits, has attained much celebrity. The most interesting natural production on the property is a bed of pebbles. The height on which they are found is known as the Pebble-knowe. They are found imbedded in sand under hard whinstone rock, and are of a quality so superior as to be highly prized. The late Princess Charlotte of Wales had a necklace made of them: they are large, and free from flaws and fissures; – they are chiefly of that variety known among mineralogists as fortification-agate, – a multitude of concentric layers of every hue enclosing the central nucleus of quartz. The prevailing colour is white, shading from opaque to translucent, and thence to a limpid blue. But colours of all sorts occur. The supply of pebbles is chiefly limited by the labour of reaching them. The quarry has not been wrought for some time; and, like the inaccessible gems which Gray describes in ‘The unfathomed caves of Ocean,’ the likelihood is, that the mountains of Perthshire will keep most if their treasure safe till their rocks ring no longer with the mineralogist’s hammer, and the wheel of the lapidary has ceased to revolve.