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