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Bradshaw’s Guide


This place is most charmingly situated on the margin of the Tay, and forms a part of the pass into the Highlands. The town itself has no very peculiar characteristic beyond its being nestled at the bottom of a deep valley, the sides of which are clothed with verdure of the most luxuriant character. It has been aptly designated the “Eden of the North.” It was the abode of the Caldecs in 570, and the capital of ancient Caledonia; the Primacy of Scotland in 848. Its Cathedral was begun in 1318, finished in 1400, and destroyed at the time of the Reformation. The country around abounds with walks of the most lovely description. About three miles along the southern banks of the stream is another route to Murthly, its castle and grounds which the stranger should by no means overlook. The entrance to this walk is through an iron gateway at the side of the Birnam Hotel.

The tourist should not fail to climb the celebrated Birnam Bill, on the south side of the town, 1,580 feet high, the sight of which, in motion, filled Macbeth with despair.

What wood is this before us?
The wood of Birruirn.
Let every soldier hew him down a bough
And bear’t before him; thereby shall we shadow
The number of our host, and make discovery
Err in report of us.

Macbeth. Act 5, Scene IV.

It was part of a royal forest. There is a noble view over the valley of the Tay; one of the opposite hills, to the south-east, is Dunsinane, about 1,100 feet high, with some remains of the usurper’s castle.

Scene V. Dunsinane.
Within the Castle. — Enter Messenger.

Gracious, my lord !
I shall report that which I say I saw,
But know not how to do it.
Well, say, sir.
As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I looked towards Birnam, and anon, niethought
The wood began to move.
If thou speakest false.
Upon the next tree shalt thou hang alive,
Till famine cling thee ; if thy speech be sooth
I care not if thou do for me as much,
I pall in resolution, and begin
To doubt the equivocation of the fiend
That lies like truth: Fear not, till Birnam Wood
Do come to Dunsinane. And now a wood
Comes toward Dunsinane. Arm, arm, and out!

According to some accounts, Macbeth escaped from the field of battle and fled up the vale of Strath more, and was killed at Lumphanan, near Kincardine O’Neil. The view from the top of Biraam Hill is truly magnificent if the day be clear.

A little outside of the town, to the west, is the entrance to the extensive domain of the Duke of Athol, which everybody ought to see. In addition to a vast variety of trees, the grounds contain about 27 millions of larch. The first two larch trees, brought over from Italy in 1737, may be seen here, close to the cathedral; they are said to be the finest specimens in existence. Admission to the grounds is by a fee of half-a-crown for a single person, or a shilling each for a party, however numerous, and the distance traversed by the guides each time will be about five miles, every foot of the road being full of interest, not only to the inquisitive botanist but even to the most phlegmatic of Nature’s Students. The gem of the place, however, is generally supposed to be the Hermitage, an angular building, situated on the Braan, and so placed as to command the best view possible to the Falls. In 1842, on the occasion of Her Majesty’s visit, this little cottage had undergone great alterations, and had been decorated to the highest pitch that art could suggest, every angle and niche in the room being occupied by a plate glass mirror, even to its apex. One angle of the room, however, is filled with a painting of Ossian playing upon his harp and singing the songs of other days. Whilst the guide is expatiating upon the various qualifications of this work of art, he manages dexterously to draw the screen aside, thereby revealing a sceue (and particularly if the Adsitor be in ignorance of the plot) calculated to startle the beholder, and fill him with awe—he is within a few feet of the raging Cataract or Falls of the Braan, roaring with a tremendous noise along its rocky bed. If the stream be swollen by frequent rains the effect is most imposing. As if this were not sufficient, on turning away we almost fancy the rushing torrents are meeting us to intercept our egress, the mirrors reflecting the dashing stream in every possible direction, as if we should soon be overwhelmed with the flood. Leaving this, keeping the stream to our left, we come suddenly upon a mound on the hill side covered with vegetation. Underneath this is a cave, to which there is a low entrance. Tradition designates this as Ossian’s Cave, in which he wrote his celebrated poems. If the visitor should be curious enough to trespass upon what he might suppose to be the sacred solitude of its interior, as the writer did, he may be prepared to meet with a not very cordial reception from the numerous bats which seem to take up their abode here. Proceeding onward along the beaten tract, turning a little to the right, about three quarters of a mile, we. come to Rumbling Bridge, well worth a visit on account of its extensive Falls.

Instead of returning by the same route, the tourist may take the road leading to the village of Amulree, of course keeping to the left down the hill side,passing the cottage of Niel Goav, the well known Scottish melodist, now in ruins, at the bottom of the hill to the left. A very short distance further brings the tourist back by the foot of Birnam Hill, to Dunkeld, after a very pleasant ramble.

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