The Hermitage at Dunkeld
Is there a better way to start the year than with people you love, in the outdoors and making memories? This was a fitting way to start my 52 adventures this year. We headed to Big Tree Country – Perthshire and The Hermitage. We meet in the carpark, our friends and their kids travelled in their car with Ian and I in ours. We organise the treat bag and head off. This part of the Perthshire was originally designed as a rural idyll for the Dukes of Atholl in the 18th century but is now cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.
You begin with a meander along the River Braan, a canopy of Douglas Firs above you, as you fleetingly pass before them. Some of the trees here, within the Craigvinean Forest, have survived more than 200 years, they are tall, strong and beautiful. I often like to imagine everything a tree has seen. Can you imagine life through their eyes? Watching the Queen, Wandsworth and others pass before them. It really helps put life into perspective.
Even with 2 excited children chattering away with us, you soon start to hear the thunder of the Black Linn Falls. You first notice the bridge, standing here the falls have a power. But take a moment to look up and you will spot Ossian’s Hall. This old hall, builtin 1757, is not only the best place to take in the ferocity of the falls, but also contains the Hall of Mirrors. This really is a stunning room, designed to reflect the power of the falls. The hall was partially blown up in 1869, however, the NTS have since restored it. A stunning hall and room which really is magical within this setting.
Just along from the hall, you will find several wishing trees. These are trunks with coins hammered into them. A few years ago, there was only the 1 wishing tree, but now the site now seems littered with money trees. This old tradition is undertaken in the hope of making a wish, often for fortune. Whilst making offerings to deities goes back hundreds of years, it was undertaken with a certain degree of respect. Seeing the many, many money trees and stumps I feel this act has lost some of the magic it once had. It seems haphazard, unthoughtful, almost disrespectful due to the large quantity of wishing trees. There has been reports from NTS that this harms living trees, with trees succumbing to copper poisoning. As has been discussed, some of the trees here are over 200 years old. We do not want to kill them, though I fear NTS have a tough battle controlling this now.
The youngsters I was with did enjoy hammering their coins into an old felled tree, which already had hundred of coins in it. They saw the magic in this act. Of selecting their special spot and making their wish. They chose their tree carefully, ensuring one with coins already in it. One that had been felled a long time ago. One that would do the least harm. It is a spot they can now take their children when they are old. It is a spot they won’t forget. And we do need to instil this love of nature in children if we wish to preserve the environment and herein lies the complexity of this act.
From here, we journey onwards to Ossian’s Cave. This was built around 1760 and despite advertising for a hermit, none came forward. I wonder if the same would happen now or if there might be someone tempted to live in the old cave, with the sounds of nature close by and a café just along the road. It certainly wouldn’t be the hardship it once was.
From here, we explored into the woods, allowing the children to wonder and roam whilst we spent time together, relaxed and happy. It is winter, and we had set off late. Light was fading. We headed back towards the bridge and the children took great joy in making the adults a hot chocolate treat. It maybe wasn’t the warmest, but it was made with lots of love. To stand, in a beautiful setting and enjoy a warm drink really was special. It is the simple things in life!
Eventually though, with darkness descending, we packed up and headed back to the car. The first day of the year was on its way out but it had been filled with beauty and love. I might be turning into an old hippy here but there really isn’t much more I could wish for!
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