A COMPANION AND USEFUL GUIDE TO THE BEAUTIES OF SCOTLAND
Sarah Murray, 1799.
Sarah Murray, a somewhat intrepid traveler wrote this account about Western Strathearn in a published book entitled “A Companion, and Useful Guide to the Beauties of Scotland.”
“Loch Earn is beautifully surrounded by hills and crags, and at the foot of the lake the eye is charmed with a small island of a beautiful shape, covered with wood; and on the south side, with the high towering crags, the tops of Benvorlich, Mealfourwich, and Morben, where eagles breed. About two miles from the foot of the lake, by a road beautifully variegated with wood, mountains, and the winding Earn river, I came to the most singular spot, I believe, in the world; singular to a degree, by nature, and made beautiful by a little assistance from art. The old name was Movey, (which I am told, signifies the mouth of Hell); now it is called Duneira, and is in the possession of the minister, Mr Dundas (now Viscount Melville), in whose hands it has been only about fourteen years. The house he built; it is modern, and extremely comfortable; it is whitened over, and erected on a very small plain, in the shape of a large round table, encircled by mountains and masses of rocks, jumbled together in a very picturesque manner; they are of all forms and dimensions, and mostly covered with wood. The round space on which the house stands is perfectly level, and is a grass-plat of rye and clover, neatly kept. The road to and from this insulated habitation, sweeps round the lawn to the right and left, and is quickly lost to sight, entering into labyrinths of rocks leading to the high road. A shallow burn bounds the lawn to the west, issuing from a very steep, thick wooded, narrow glen; and this burn, at about above the house, rushes through branches of trees, over broken rocks of considerable height, forming a very picturesque fall. The rustic bridge and the walks to and fro from this fall are judiciously executed. With some fatigue I continued the walk, from the fall of the burn to the top of the mountain, whence I had a view of the lake, and the majestic mountains surrounding it. It was like coming out of one world, to peep down into another on the contrary side of the mountain. The way back to the green round table is winding, steep and rocky; most of the rocks, when I was there, were covered with heath in full bloom, beautiful and fragrant: others shaded by vast plantations that have flourished amazingly, forming delightful shade; and through the branches of the trees are heard, unseen the murmur of the falling rills. To see the beauties of Duneira requires far more time than I had to spare; I did, however, see sufficient to make a long and lasting impression on my mind, particularly of its singular situation. Indeed the whole of that part of Strath Earn, from Drummond Castle to Loch Earn Head, for rich and sublime scenery, is equal to any other in Scotland. On leaving Duneira, I crossed the Earn to the south side of the river, where the Strath rather widens, and came to Dalchonzie, pronounced Dalwhonie, and Aberuchill, both beautifully situated amidst a low ring of craggy mountains. At Comrie I crossed the Earn again, where I joined a scene of mirth and gaiety, it being a fair. The young lasses were decked out for the show, but their head-dresses struck me as very unbecoming. Their hair was snooded up; that is, bound with a snood, or band of three-penny breadth ribbon, tied plain round the forepart of the head, leaving the long hair loose and flowing behind; which, in most parts of the Highlands, where it is snooded up is very pretty for young girls; but at Comrie, they added a great bunch of a cushion, in the shape of a potato, put low on the forehead, and the front hair turned plain over it, which gave the appearance of a smooth, shining solid lump of hair, stuck on close over the eyebrows. The small town of Comrie is finely situated, and beautifully romantic: for some years past it has been visited with very frequent shocks of earthquakes which at first greatly frightened the people of Comrie, and the surrounding inhabitants, but when I was there, they were so accustomed to the shocks, and had so far lost all dread of them, that they were actually going to build a town on the convulsed spot, which will probably, one day or other, open and form a fresh lake; as the noise underground is like the gushing of water, making a fresh passage through the rocks. The shock at times has been sufficiently strong to displace shovel, tongs and poker from a fireplace in a room, at Ochtertyre, five miles from Comrie.
Through the whole of the district the houses of the lower class of the people are remarkably neat; and I was pleased to see potato stems in bloom on every bit of waste bank. To do justice to the beauties of Ochtertyre, (two miles from Crieff) require a far abler pen than mine; - but thus far I can say, the approach to it is lovely; and by the variety of ground, woods, lake and western boundary of the sublime and picturesque hills around Loch Earn, it is rendered one of the most enchanting spots in Britain.
Sarah Murray was born in 1744 and died in 1811 and was one of the first tourists in Scotland.