A key river crossing to Highland Scotland.
The Brig o’ Blair offers a fine view of the River Ericht. Its rapid and often turbulent water course descends 80 metres (262.4ft) from its headwaters at Bridge of Cally providing the energy to power the many textile mills that grew up along its banks during the 18th and 19th centuries.
This power was harnessed by building weirs on the river to divert the water into lades which channelled the water to water wheels which then turned, creating the power needed to run the steam powered machinery.
The River Ericht itself is formed from the confluence of the rivers Blackwater and Ardle which join together north of Blairgowrie & Rattray at Bridge of Cally.
It runs south from there for around 16km (10 miles) before falling into the river Isla which runs into the river Tay. The river cuts through the impressive Craighall Gorge before it reaches Blairgowrie & Rattray. The scenery on its banks in many parts, particularly at Craighall and in the neighbourhood of Blairgowrie, has often been described as ‘very romantic’.
The River Ericht separated the villages of Blairgowrie and Rattray and in fact represented the border of the two parishes. However, three events which took place in the latter half of the eighteenth century were particularly advantageous to Blairgowrie: 1) the Military Road was completed in 1754, 2) a change in Feudal Superior when Colonel Allan Macpherson bought the Estate in 1788 and 3) industrial development when “the first mill erected in Blairgowrie was the Meikle Mill in 1798”.
Before 1777 there was no bridge over the Ericht at Blairgowrie. All vehicular traffic had to cross by a ford where the croy, or weir, now is. Foot passengers were taken across the river in a small coble, or boat, with this part of the river named the “Coble Pule (Pool)” with the steep ascent on the Rattray side called the “Boat Brae”, the name retained to this day.
In the great flood of October 1847, the water was up to within a few feet of the middle arch of the bridge and the arch on the Blairgowrie side collapsed due to falling trees and the force of the water, but it was speedily repaired.
It was first widened in 1871/72, paid for by public subscription and then widened again in 1954/55 by the County Council, with the new, present one built inside the old one.
The river was famed for its salmon fishing as far back as 1326 when Robert the Bruce signed a charter in favour of the monks of Coupar Angus Abbey which gave them “permission…of fishing for and taking salmon…whenever they wish, in their fisheries on the Waters for the Tay, the Isla, the Ericht .. to their own proper uses and for the soup of the aforesaid convent”.
Whilst it was the Ericht’s fast flowing water that enabled the significant textile industry in the town to develop, as the number of mills increased, fish stocks degenerated with the fouling of the water, although you can still fish for salmon, sea trout, brown trout and grayling under licence on certain stretches today.