Falls of Bruar
The Falls of Bruar

The Falls of Bruar is a set of picturesque waterfalls on Bruar Water, near Blair Atholl, in the Perthshire Highlands. The falls are set in a beautiful 18th-century plantation, designed as a scenic landscape by the Duke of Atholl, who was inspired by the poet Robert Burns to create an idyllic woodland delight of trees, paths, and bridges to augment the natural beauty of the waterfalls.

Robert Burns at Bruar

There is an information panel and map of the site near the beginning of the walk and another information panel as you enter the woodlands, detailing the visit to Bruar of poet Robert Burns. When Burns visited in 1787 the Falls of Bruar was already a popular visitor attraction.

Burns was moved by the beauty of the site, but he felt that the natural attraction of the rushing water could be improved by planting trees and shrubs to create a more picturesque landscape. He wrote 'The Humble Petition of Bruar Water', acting as the voice of the falls to implore the landowner, the Duke of Atholl, to plant trees on both banks of Bruar Water.

The picturesque Lower Bridge
The picturesque Lower Bridge

In Burns' words:

Would, then, my noble master please
To grant my highest wishes?
He'll shade my banks wi'tow'ring trees,
And bonie spreading bushes.
Delighted doubly then, my Lord,
You'll wander on my banks,
And listen mony a grateful bird
Return you tuneful thanks.

The poet's words did not have an immediate impact, but when Burns died, the Duke was moved to plant thousands of trees, primarily larch and Scots pine, creating the forest we see today.

Not only did he plant trees, but he also landscaped the area around Bruar Water with winding paths and added the picturesque bridges that add so much to the scenic beauty of the site. He also erected timber summer houses, but unlike the bridges, they did not stand the test of time and have long since been pulled down.

The Duke of Atholl spent so much time developing the picturesque landscape around the Falls and planted so many trees and shrubs that he became popularly known as 'Planter John'.

The Duke of Atholl''s woodlands
The Duke of Atholl''s woodlands

Visiting

The Falls of Bruar are incredibly easy to reach; at least, the lower falls are, but if you want to reach the upper falls you have a bit of a (very enjoyable) walk ahead of you.

The easiest way to reach the waterfalls is to park at the House of Bruar shopping complex at the junction of the A9 and B847/B8079 just west of Blair Atholl. The House of Bruar is extremely well signposted on the A9 and is just about impossible to miss.

There are several very large parking areas at the entrance to the complex. The closest to the waterfalls is the parking area immediately to the right as you enter the complex.

If you miss the turn to the first parking area (as we did), don't worry. You can easily park at any of the other very large parking areas and easily walk back to the entrance. The beginning of the path to the Falls is located behind the easternmost set of shops, roughly opposite the Clan Donnachaidh Museum.

And if you find these instructions confusing, just head for the sound of running water at the eastern edge of the House of Bruar shops, and you will come to Bruar Water!

Just follow the fairly level path as it follows the course of the river along its west bank. You go under a small viaduct and continue through very pleasant woodlands until you reach the Lower Bridge.

A quiet pool above the lower falls
A quiet pool above the lower falls

Immediately before the lower bridge a set of steps lead up to a small observation platform where you can see the waterfall tumbling under one of the bridges erected by the Duke of Atholl.

Just before you reach the western end of the Lower Bridge you'll see a stone arch to your left. Pass through the arch and you emerge at another very small viewing platform overlooking a lovely pool, with waterfalls at the far side.

From the Lower Bridge you have two choices. You can stay on the west bank of Bruar Water and follow a rough track as it climbs steadily through woodland to the Upper Bridge. Or you can cross over the Lower Bridge to the east bank and follow the extremely good path to the Upper Bridge. This is what most visitors will do, and what we recommend.

The path does get steep in places, but there are strategically placed benches to take a rest and enjoy the woodland. We passed one couple of elderly visitors carrying their small lapdog along the trail, pausing at every bench. We don't recommend carrying your dog, but a reasonably fit person can easily make the climb to the Upper Bridge in 20-30 minutes from the Lower Bridge.

The woodland on this section of the trail is simply stunning, especially in autumn when the colours are starting to turn. Here is where you really start to appreciate 'Planter John's' creation.

A distant view of the upper falls
A distant view of the upper falls

You can spot the upper waterfalls from quite a distance away, but you never get a very good view of them beyond distant glimpses through the trees. Even when you arrive at the Upper Bridge you can't really see the falls, though you can certainly hear them clearly enough.

From the Upper Bridge, you can simply retrace your steps along the eastern bank trail, or cross the bridge and return by the rough track on the west bank.

From its starting point near the House of Bruar to the upper falls the trail is roughly 1.5 miles (2km) long (plus the same length to get back to the start again). If you don't feel like walking the entire route you can easily reach the lower falls in 10 minutes.

Please take extreme care near the waterfalls. The viewing platforms are fenced, but other sections of the paths are not, and if you venture too close to the edge you will have a very nasty fall. There have been several tragic instances of visitors being drowned or killed in a fall, including occasions where visitors went 'wild swimming', with fatal consequences. This is in no way meant to put you off; just exercise common sense and stay away from the river's edge and you will be fine.

I absolutely loved visiting the Falls of Bruar. As a passionate landscape photographer, I was in heaven, with so many opportunities to photograph the wonderful woodlands, scenic bridges, and flowing water. Add to that the historical links to Robert Burns and you have a very special place to visit.

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About Falls of Bruar
Address: House of Bruar, B847, Blair Atholl, Perthshire, Scotland, PH18 5TW
Attraction Type: Countryside - Waterfall
Location: At the junction of the A9 with the B847/B8079 just west of Blair Atholl. Park at the House of Bruar.
Website: Falls of Bruar
Location map
OS: NN821659
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express

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HERITAGE

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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS

Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

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