The planting of the Falls of Bruar, the laying out of paths, and the building of bridges and viewhouses are said to be the result of Petition of Bruar Water to the Noble Duke of Athole, written by Robert Burns in 1787 after a brief Highland tour. Burns was impressed by the scenery at Bruar but felt that the planting of trees would improve and enhance it:
'My Lord, I know, your noble ear
Woe ne'er assails in vain; Embolden'd thus, I beg you'll hear
Your humble slave complain
How saucy Phebus' scorching beams,
In flaming summer-pride,
Dry-withering, waste my foamy streams,
And drink my crystal tide.'
John, 3rd Duke of Atholl, promoted the planting of larch for forestry purposes, and did so assiduously on his extensive lands. The 4th duke, John, known as 'Planter John', continued his father's work, replacing many Scots pine with larch. Between 1796 and 1799 he planted up the area around the Bruar with Scots pine, larch, and spruce. Thomas Hunter in his Woods, Forests and Estates of Perthshire, 1883, notes that 'most of the trees originally planted at Bruar have been blown down by gales between 1879 and 1883, and the ground is now being replanted'. Tree plantations were also felled during World War II, and their replanting gives the area the tree cover that it has today. The Blair estate has considerably extended the plantations to the east which lie outwith the designed landscape.
The Falls of Bruar were an important site in the itinerary of those making tours of the Highlands in the 18th and 19th centuries and are well recorded in journals of the time. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the site in 1844, with the Queen being carried up the steep paths in her garden chair. The artist J.M.W. Turner and the poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy were also amongst the most famous visitors. One of the first recorded visits was in 1798 by the physician Thomas Garnett, accompanied by an artist, W H Watts. Garnett noted:
'We went up the left bank of the river, whose channel is the most rugged that can be conceived. A footpath has lately been made by the Duke of Atholl, which conducts the stranger in safety along the side of the chasm, where he has the opportunity of seeing, in a very short time, several very fine cascades; one over which a bridge is thrown forms a very picturesque object.
Proceeding up the same side of the river, along the footpath, we came in sight of another rustic bridge, and a noble cascade ... Crossing the bridge over this tremendous cataract, with trembling steps, we walked down the other bank of the river to a point from whence we enjoyed the view of this fine fall to great advantage ... a scene truly sublime. The nakedness of the hills indeed takes away from its picturesque beauty; The poet Burns, when he visited these falls, wrote a beautiful poetical petition from Bruar Water to the Duke of Atholl, praying him to ornament its bank with wood and shade; the noble proprietor has been pleased to grant the prayer of the petitioner, and has lately planted the banks of the river: the plantation is yet very young, but in a few years will have a very good effect.'
The 4th Duke of Atholl had two viewing houses built which, in addition to affording shelter to visitors, were strategically sited to give the best views of the Falls. Little survives today of these buildings, but an early 19th-century drawing shows a rustic shelter with conical thatched roof and pole supports. This building was sited between the Lower and Middle Falls. A stone archway to the south survives which conceals the middle falls from the visitor. The site of the second viewhouse lies on the east bank of the river between the Middle and Upper Falls. A bench marks the site today where views of the Upper Falls can still be obtained.