By James Irvine RobertsonT
his little backwater on the main road south was where coaches changed their horses. A carriage accident here in 1854 killed Count Rohenstart, the last documented descendant of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who is buried in the cathedral. Inver was home to Niel Gow. After the Rising he was appointed fiddler to the duke of Atholl and became the towering giant of his art, lionised by the nation. Along with his brother and sons he formed an ensemble which played balls in great houses throughout Britain and his music and his style are at the heart of Scottish dance music. Raeburn painted him four times. Great men, including Robert Burns, would make his cottage in the square a stop on their Highland progress. It was a rare sprig of any great Scots family that did not have a jig, reel, or strathspey named after him by Gow. His son Nathaniel played for George IV in 1822. The king proposed a banally flattering toast which quite overcame the player. He was heard to utter the words 'I'm perfectly content to die now!'
Charles McIntosh was another great exponent of the fiddle, but his life changed after he lost his fiddling fingers in a saw mill accident. He became a postman and for thirty years he walked the strath between Dunkeld and Ballinluig delivering and collecting mail. He became expert on the rich flora and fauna, discovered new kinds of fern, moss, and lichen, listed all the birds he saw, and contributed to scientific journals.
North from Dunkeld the next great strath branching off the route of the A9 is impossible to miss. The first broad sweep of haughland that opens out after crossing the Tay leads straight towards a wooded hillside. Here the Tummel joins the Tay which itself heads west towards its source in Loch Tay. Ballinluig is a hamlet that grew to cater for the railway junction. From here a little branch line used to wind down the strath to Aberfeldy. For a hundred years it carried livestock, seed potatoes, children to school and, from a quarry above Aberfeldy, loads of roadstone which used to swing two miles down the hillside to the station on buckets suspended from an aerial ropeway.