Sunday, 18 April 2021

The View from a Hidden Glen: Part 1 - Turn across the A9 at a set of wheelie bins

Glen Bruar Lodge, near Blair Atholl in Perthshire is the home of dear friends Mike and Kate Colling. Mike returned there recently and shared this view. It is illustrated with drawings made when Sian and I were lucky enough to share this special place in 2017.

From the real world the view is dull as ditch water. 

Heading north towards Inverness on the A9, some eight miles north of Pitlochry one turns across the carriage way at a set of wheelie bins parked at lay-by 43. But turn here and one is immediately down the rabbit hole. Or rather, up the rabbit hole. Straight up, literally straight up at a 25% gradient on very rough and ready road. But this is just an initiation test. A first bark with little bite behind it. 

Crest the first brow and moor opens up ahead, dull russet after winters snows and winds have taken their toll. An honour guard of young stags greet us this late March afternoon, as the sun dips and shadows lengthen. Some still hold last years antlers, others have cast them early, and wander bare headed in search of nourishment to enable this year’s growth to replace the fallen set.

A realm of magic

Press on three miles, gently climbing by the wide moor, and then, at the crest drop into our hidden glen. Another view, this time a realm of magic, clever contours unfolding views around each curve and dip. Snow holds still on our high peaks, and in the corries and gullies sheltered from the morning sun. Past the new hydro turbine house, and six miles of healing scars upon the moor. Six miles of buried pipe, politically correctly hidden from our ecosystems view. Hidden solely from them and us. A few hinds, a collection of coveys of grouse and the two luckiest people on God’s earth. And that is it for nine miles of unfolding glen. A thing of multi coloured and many-hued beauty.

One last corner on the track, that by this time clings to edge of sheer drop down to river 60 feet below, and home comes into view. The lodge, in perfect contrast to the glen, is slightly ugly. Not a carbuncle, but more an unfavoured child. It is, or rather was, white. Centuries of liming and whitewashing have laid layer upon layer of outer skin. 

Lunch on the Hills

The last was applied in 1991 and so rather like Williams cuffs and collars the white has frayed at the edges and collected dirt. It is a military building, a little like a small child's fort. Two square turrets adorn either end, with a one-story central link between. When seen from above one realises just how higgledy piggeldy it is. It is a building that like the best stories has grown with the telling. Each passing generation it seems has added its own particular contribution. Inside it is scruffy and unloved, but very lovable. A central corridor that kinks as it descends the house. Each turret holds a child’s room, with hospital beds taken as mementoes from the war when Bruar and its castles played their role as hospital for the wounded returning from the front.

A view from a child's fort

A place that like the best stories has grown with the telling

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Thank you very much for your comments - Tim