The Bruar Water plays an important role in draining a significant area of the Cairngorms to the north. It then progresses down the steep northern slopes of Glen Garry before discharging into the River Garry at Bruar, three miles west of the village of Blair Atholl. The steepness of its descent has caused the Bruar Water to form a series of waterfalls as it drops into Glen Garry.
Today the lower reaches of the Bruar Water sweep past the House of Bruar.
This large and hugely successful shopping emporium has grown steadily over recent decades and now lays claim to being an essential stopping off point for anyone heading north (or south) on the A9 though highland Perthshire, whether they are looking for a cup of coffee, an excellent meal, or a full-on shopping experience offering everything from fresh Scottish produce to gifts, a wide range of clothing and an art gallery.
One thing the growth and success of the House of Bruar has done, however, is slightly eclipse the Falls of Bruar. Today you reach the path up to the falls by cutting around the uphill end of the main House of Bruar development, or by following the line of the river up the east side of the site. The falls are signposted, but they are the sort of signposts you need to look out for: and it seems likely that most visitors to the House of Bruar leave never knowing that a spectacular natural attraction is so close at hand.
The Falls of Bruar have served as a tourist attraction since the 1700s. A notable visitor in 1787 was the poet Robert Burns. He commented that the falls were "exceedingly picturesque and beautiful", but that their effect "is much impaired by the want of trees and shrubs". Following his visit he made his point in a poem entitled The Humble Petition of Bruar Water to the Noble Duke of Atholl. This contained the lines:
Would then my noble master please
To grant my highest wishes,
He'll shade my banks wi' tow'ring trees,
And bonnie spreading bushes.
The poem was addressed to the landowner, John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl. Following Burns' death in 1796 the Duke began an extensive program of tree planting which turned the area around the falls into something which would have pleased Burns greatly. The 4th Duke also built two bridges over the falls and established a network of paths by which they could more easily be reached. The bridges and paths remain, but a series of huts and shelters he also built have since been removed.
Today the walk from the House of Bruar to the Falls of Bruar is a superb excursion. The Lower Bridge is fairly easily reached, while the steepness then increases on the two paths up to the Upper Bridge. The whole walk is about 1.5 miles long, and involves a total climb of about 400ft up to the Upper Bridge.