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Designed Landscape

Far from being a natural woodland, the Hermitage is in fact part of an extensive designed landscape.

Owned by the Dukes of Atholl, the Hermitage was treated as an ‘extended garden’ to their main house in Dunkeld. Intensive tree planting during the second half of the 18th century transformed the once open glen. Indigenous species such as Scots pine, oak and rowan were mixed with larch, sycamore and the Douglas firs from North America.

The whole site focuses on the River Braan, which glides through the woodland. Originally, the paths clung to the riverbank, but gradually drifted away, leaving visitors only with its rushing sounds in their ears, growing ever quieter. It was only when they entered Ossian’s Hall that they came face-to-face with the roaring torrent of the Black Linn Falls from the balcony.

The stone bridge spanning the narrow gorge just below the Black Linn Falls was built by the 3rd Duke of Atholl in 1774, partly to give access to a viewing station across the river and partly as a pleasing addition to the scene.

Ossian’s Cave may also be one of his creations – as a more ‘suitable’ alternative for a hermit to reside. Its rustic design comprises large boulders and a cobbled roof, which starkly contrasts with the grandeur of Ossian’s Hall.

The totem pole is the most recent addition to the site and was installed in 2001 through a partnership with the Squamish First Nations group from Canada. We donated one of our Douglas fir trees for a totem pole for the local primary school in Dunkeld. As a surprise gift, a ‘sister’ totem pole was also made for the Hermitage.

Since being in our care, we’ve made extensive efforts to protect the character of this designed landscape as well as allowing space for natural regeneration of native trees. The Hermitage is also part of a wider path network, with walks for all abilities. Most of our paths are wheelchair accessible and we’re working to extend this. Sometimes this may mean that parts of the site may be closed for maintenance such as tree work or footpath repair. Please respect any signs and take care if you see forest workers or rangers in action.