THE Bruar is a small stream in the Athole district of Perthshire, a tributary of the Garry, celebrated for the romantic beauty of its cascades which occur in the lower part of its course, about three and a-half miles from the village of Blair-Athole, on the Dalnacardoch road, and within half-a-mile of its junction with the Garry. Dr. Garnett, who visited the Falls in 1798, thus describes them:- “We went up the left bank of the Bruar, whose channel is the most rugged that can be conceived; the rocks which form it have been worn into the most grotesque shapes by the fury of the water. A foot path had lately been made by the Duke of Athole, which conducts the stranger in safety along the side of the chasm, where he has an opportunity of seeing, in a very short time, several very fine cascades. One, over which a bridge is thrown, forms a very picturesque object. This is called the Lower Fall of Bruar. The water here rushes under the bridge, falls in a full broad sheet over the rocky steep, and descends impetuously through a natural arch, into a dark black pool, as if to take breath before it resumes its course and rushes down to the Garry.” A neat grotto has been constructed here with a window overlooking the Fall. “Proceeding up the same side of the river, along the footpath,” – Dr. Garnett resumes, – “we came in sight of another rustic bridge, and a noble cascade, consisting of three falls or breaks, one immediately above another; but the lowest is equal in height to both the others taken together. Each of the upper breaks is about fifty feet, the lowest one hundred: so that the whole cascade is not less than two hundred feet. This is called the Upper Fall of Bruar.” These admeasurements are somewhat erroneous. But the height of the Alpine bridge which spans the narrow ravine at about thirty feet above the top of the Upper Fall, from the bottom of the chasm in which the stream settles in a dark sunless pool, is at least two hundred feet. “Crossing the bridge over this tremendous cataract,” – continues Dr. Garnett – “we walked down the other bank of the river, to a point from whence we enjoyed the view of this fine Fall to great advantage. The shelving rocks on each side of the bridge, with the water precipitating itself from rock to rock, and at last shooting headlong, filling with its spray the deep chasm, form a scene truly sublime; the nakedness of the hills indeed takes away somewhat from its picturesque beauty. The poet Burns, when he visited these Falls, wrote a beautiful poetical petition from Bruar-water to the Duke of Athole, praying him to ornament its banks with wood and shade; the noble proprietor has been pleased to grant the prayer of the petitioner, and has lately planted the banks of this river: the plantation is yet very young, but in a few years will have a very good effect.” This effect has since been fully realized.
Miss Spence, who visited these Falls in 1816, says, “The vegetable soil on the brink of this turbulent stream affords room for a variety of trees and shrubs most judiciously adapted to the scenery, and which seem to partake of its wild and unequal character. Nothing can be more sudden and luxuriant than the growth of the plants scattered along the abrupt banks of the Bruar.”
In the month of September, 1844, while Blair-Athole castle was honoured to be the residence of royalty, Her Majesty, and Prince Albert, visited the Bruar, shortly after rain had swollen its mountain-torrent considerably, when its Falls were consequently seen to the greatest advantage. Her Majesty, leaving her phaeton at the bridge of Bruar, walked up the glen to the Lower Fall, and after resting some time there, was drawn in a garden-chair to the grotto or moss-house commanding the finest view of the Upper Fall.
The subjoined sketch of Blair-Athole castle was executed by Mr. D. Mackenzie in 1841. It is taken from the south-west; and presents the fine conical form of Benygloe towering in the distance.