May 192012

Young men and women in white helmets and blue jumpsuits were throwing themselves over the Falls of Bruar like salmon in reverse.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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I stood on the brink of the flood-sculpted gorge and watched them leap from a ledge under the none-too-tender persuasion of their gung-ho instructor, plummeting down to smack into a pool 30 feet below.

What would the 4th Duke of Atholl, one of the grandest of 18th-century Highland Lairds, have made of such forward behaviour on his estate? He suffered a bit of teasing from Robert Burns after the poet visited the Bruar Water in 1787. Burns was dismayed at the bareness of the moorland that enclosed the famous falls, and composed The Humble Petition of Bruar Water to give His Grace a respectful push in the silvicultural direction:

‘Would then my noble master please
To grant my highest wishes,
He’ll shade my banks wi’ tow’ring trees,
And bonie spreading bushes.
Delighted doubly then, my lord,
You’ll wander on my banks,
And listen mony a grateful bird
Return you tuneful thanks.’

These days, forests of larch, silver birch and Scots pine shade the Falls of Bruar, and a good stretch of mountainside beyond. I crossed the upper of two ornate bridges over the roaring falls, and found a woodland path that climbed steadily up towards the open moor. Roe deer fled away between the pines, and a red squirrel lingered at the end of his branch to watch me out of his territory.

The track left the trees, running for miles on the fringe of the wide moorlands around Glen Banvie. Ahead the rugged blue profiles of Carn Liath and Beinn a’ Ghlo stood tall and seductive on the eastern skyline. Then it was back into the forest, down to Old Blair and the ancient ruined kirk of St Bride. John Graham of Claverhouse, ‘Bonnie Dundee’, was buried here in July 1689 after dying of the wounds he received while leading his Highlanders to victory over Government troops at the Battle of Killiecrankie a few miles away.

A stretch across the beautiful parkland of Blair Castle, a final mile through the forest, and I was crossing the Falls of Bruar once more – the only river in creation to address its owner in prideful verse:

‘Here, foaming down the skelvy rocks,
In twisting strength I rin;
There, high my boiling torrent smokes,
Wild-roaring o’er a linn:
Enjoying each large spring and well
As Nature gave them me,
I am, altho’ I say’t mysel’,
Worth gaun a mile to see.’

Start & finish: Falls of Bruar car park, Bruar, near Blair Atholl, Perthshire PH18 5TW (OS ref NN 820660)

Getting there:
At junction of A9 and B8079, at Bruar, 3 miles west of Blair Atholl

Walk: (11½ miles, moderate, OS Explorers 386, 394): Follow Falls of Bruar Walk (signed behind House of Bruar) to cross Upper Bridge (820669). Path returns down opposite bank. In 350 yards, at seat in clearing, 2 paths fork left (820666). Follow left-hand path to T-junction (826666); left up forest road. In ⅓ mile, fork left on grassy track (824670; post with red arrow). Follow it for 3¾ miles north through Glen Banvie Wood, then south-east down Glen Banvie to enter Whim Plantation (853677); descend to tarmac road (868667). Right past Old Blair; walled road to T-junction on avenue (864665). Left; follow road for 1¼ miles to enter woodland. In 200 yards, at 5-way junction, hairpin back right (843660). In ¼ mile follow track round left bend (846663). Continue for 1¼ miles through forest to pass through gateposts (827666); in 100 yards, left (‘Falls of Bruar’); cross Lower Bridge (819664); return to car park.
NB Steep unguarded drops beside falls!
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Lunch: Picnic.

Accommodation: Moulin Hotel, Moulin, Pitlochry (01796-472196;

More info:;

Ballater Walking Festival, 19-25 May – 01339-755467;
Breast Cancer Care’s Pink Ribbon Walks: 0870-145-0101; Next walks: Petworth House, West Sussex, 26 May; Cholmondeley Castle, Cheshire, 9 June
Subscriber Walks: Enjoy a country walk with our experts. Next walk: Tibbie Shiels Inn, Selkirkshire, Scotland, 10 June. Email to book. Tickets £10.

 Posted by at 01:27

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