Scottish Tour Guide's Blog

CatsWhiskersTours provide unique tour experiences tailored to suit you. Call +44 (0) 141 638 5500
Ossian's Hall (top left) at Falls of Braan, Dunkeld, Scotland.

Ossian’s Hall (top left) at Falls of Braan, Dunkeld, Scotland.

Earlier today I visited the Falls of Braan at Ossian’s Hall near Dunkeld in central Scotland.

Ossian's Hall

Ossian’s Hall

Ossian’s Hall comprised part of a ‘finger’ of landscaped, natural garden which in turn was part of the nearby Atholl Estates. This was intended for high status entertainment during the 18th century.

Natural bird sculpture near Ossian's Hall, Dunkeld.

Natural bird sculpture near Ossian’s Hall, Dunkeld.

The approach to the Hall is via a trail through a large grove of Douglas Firs which was planted in 1920. The trees originate in North America and will probably last another 300-400 years.

The river hurtles through the dark and deep chasm then under the highly picturesque bridge (c.1770) which crosses the river then runs black and silent into a pool on the edges of which grows one of the tallest trees in Britain, a Douglas Fir with a height of about 200ft. Salmon are found in the pool but they have difficulty moving upstream through the falls.

Ossian’s Hall sits forty feet above the bottom of the waterfall and was constructed (1758) in such a manner, that the visitor, approaching the cascade, is entirely ignorant of the waterfall, it being concealed by the walls of the Hall. In its original design, the visitor would undergo a series of “experiences”, firstly a painting of Ossian, the last of his race, blind from age, lamenting to Malvina the death of his son Oscar:-

“Darkness comes on my soul, O fair daughter of Toscar!
I behold not the form of my son at Carun,
Nor the figure of Oscar on Crona
The rustling winds have carried him far away
And the heart of his father is sad.
But lead me, O Malvina! to the sound of my Woods,
To the roar of my mountain streams.
Let the chase be heard on Crono;
Let me think on the days of other years.
And bring me the harp, O maid,
That I may touch it when the light of my soul shall rise.
Be thou near to learn the song:
Future times will hear of me!
The sons of the feeble hereafter will lift the voice on Cona
And, looking up to the rocks, say, ‘here Ossian dwelt!”

Then the visitor was presented by a loud noise, and the whole foaming cataract before him/her was reflected in several (20?) mirrors, and roaring with the noise of the thunder:-

“A gay saloon, with waters dancing
Upon the sight wherever glancing;
One loud cascade in front, and lo!
A thousand like it, white as snow,
Stream on the walls, and torrents foam
As active round the hollow dome.
Illusive cataracts! of their terrors
Not stripped nor voiceless in the mirrors;
That catch the pageant from the flood,
Thundering a-down a rocky wood,
Strange scene! fantastic and uneasy
As ever made a maniac dizzy.
When disenchanted from the mood
That loves on sullen thoughts to broad.”

The Hall interior was decorated with finely executed Arabesques which captured visitors attention. It was originally decorated by a Mr.Stewart of London, a native of the Strath (region) in which the Hall is placed.

Video clip of Falls and Hall interior.

In 1860 the Hall was blown up by local rioters. The mirrors were shattered but not replaced and remained in situ until the 1920s. The Hall was in danger of collapse in 1944 when heritage organisation, The National Trust for Scotland acquired the property. It was then rebuilt using a design by Basil Spence (architect). Another rebuild was undertaken in 2006 with aim of retaining the original series of experiences. Doors reinstated and also the mirrors; the latter using polished stainless steel. Reinstated Hall interior can be seen in video clip featuring in this post (above).

River Braan downstream of Ossian's Hall

River Braan downstream of Ossian’s Hall

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

This evening, I am reporting a popular tourist route in Northern Ireland.

The potential visitor sites listed here is predicated on a departure from Belfast then north and following the coastline round in a broadly east to west direction.

Firstly, Carrickfergus Castle, which was founded in the 12th century and ranks as one of the best preserved castles in Ireland.

Carrickfergus Castle, Northern Ireland

Carrickfergus Castle, Northern Ireland.

Next, Glenariff Waterfalls inside the Glenariff Nature Reserve. This is an impressive location with walkways to provide close access.

Waterfall at Glenariff, Northern Ireland

Waterfall at Glenariff, Northern Ireland.

Next, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This was originally constructed by and for local fisherman in context of their netting of Atlantic Salmon.

The Bridge is now owned by heritage organisation, the National Trust and is extremely popular with visitors. When numbers are high a queuing system is operated to ensure safe passage across the Bridge. Access entails a coastal walk along a rough trail taking about ten minute from the car park.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland.


Next, Giant’s Causeway. Here visitors can connect with thousands of polygonal columns which were formed about sixty million years ago as successive layers of lava cooled under pressure. The columns vary between 15-20 inches (38-51 cm) in diameter and up to 82 feet ( 25m) in height. The columns in the cliffs measure up to 330 feet (100m) in height. There is an extensive visitor centre with transport to the site for those not wishing to undertake the approx. fifteen minute walk.

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Next, Old Bushmills Distillery. Here is produced triple distilled, Irish Whiskey on a site with a history dating back to 1784.Production is about 4.5 million litres p.a. Informative tours of the distillery are available, together with tastings.

Old Bushmills Distillery, Northern Ireland

Old Bushmills Distillery, Northern Ireland.

Next, Dunluce Castle, an impressive ruin on the coast. The earliest standing remains date from around 1500 but the castle reached its zenith in the early 17th century under Randal MacDonnell and his son, also Randal MacDonnell both  of whom achieved status of Earls of Antrim under King James I.

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland.

Coastline at Dunluce Castle, Ireland

Coastline at Dunluce Castle, Ireland

Allow about three hours driving time from Belfast to Dunluce Castle.

Elie Beach Fife, Scotland

Elie Beach Fife, Scotland

This evening, I am reporting on the popular Fife Coast tourist route in the east of Scotland.

Starting at Edinburgh and heading North East, a tour could include the following:

Forth Bridges: Two road bridges and a rail bridge with the latter, a cantilever design, of global prominence.

Forth Rail Bridge, South Queensferry, Scotland

Forth Rail Bridge, South Queensferry, Scotland

Dunfermline Abbey & Palace: Remains of a great Benedictine Abbey with Romanesque style nave plus ruins of adjacent Royal Palace. The burial place of  King Robert the Bruce can be viewed in the church.

Burial Place of King Robert the Bruce, Dunfermline

Burial Place of King Robert the Bruce, Dunfermline

Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum: Information on the weaver’s son who was born in 1835 and rose to become a self-made 19th century industrialist and philanthropist in the U.S.A.

Lower Largo: Birthplace of Alexander Selkirk, the role model for Robinson Crusoe plus sandy beaches..

Andrew Selkirk Statue, Lower Largo, Fife

Andrew Selkirk Statue, Lower Largo, Fife

Elie: Sandy beaches plus a wide range of water sports including windsurfing, sailing, canoeing and related activities.

St. Monans: A quaint coastal village with historic church close to the sea.

St Monans Harbour, Fife, Scotland

St Monans Harbour, Fife, Scotland

Pittenweem: Fishing village with busy harbour and houses with mixed architecture. Popular with artists and crafts people..

Anstruther: Once one of the busiest fishing (herring) ports in Scotland. Places of interest include:

    • The Scottish Fisheries Museum
    • The award-winning Anstruther Fish Bar (fish and chips).
    • Kellie Castle & Gardens (2 miles N.W. of Anstruther).
Anstruther, Fife, Scotland

Anstruther, Fife, Scotland

The Secret Bunker: Former regional ‘command and control’ centre dating from the Cold War.

Isle of May: A nature reserve with emphasis on wide range of bird life. Also remains of historic buildings dating from the medieval period.

Puffins on Isle of May, Scotland

Puffins on Isle of May, Scotland

Crail: Picturesque harbour  with Low Countries influenced architecture and pantile roofs Also of interest is an art gallery, pottery, antique shop and tea room. Fresh lobsters can be purchased at the harbour.

St. Andrews:  A historic and famous town with a wide range of visitor attractions including the famous Old Course  (golf), Golf Museum, Botanic Garden, Cathedral, Castle and West Sands (beach).

Golfers at Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland

Golfers at Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland

Trip from Edinburgh to St Andrews taking in above sites can take a full day.