Welcome to the Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail, an extraordinary series of sculptures by Frank Bruce on Scottish culture, and our relationship with others. This is an unofficial website celebrating larger works by artist Frank Bruce. You may notice that the sculptures are in differing states of decay.
Allowing the sculptures to age is intentional, Frank Bruce intended them to return to the earth from where they came; not only made from the trees and stone around us, but part of our natural cycle of birth, life and decay.
Please contact FCS with any comments or suggestions.
This website is not part of FCS, but an independent resource:
The Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail is located 13km (8 miles) from both Kingussie and Aviemore, and is around 200m north-west of Feshie Bridge.
By car and bicycle:
From Aviemore, drive towards Cairngorm Mountain on the B970, turn right just before the Rothiemurchus Centre signposted B970 to Coylumbridge. After Feshie Bridge there is a turning on the right marked as a FCS car-park. Park there, and walk up a steep, short path to the sculptures. You can find more cheap car hire at http://www.carhirecomparison.ie/
By train & bus:
Scottish City Link and Megabus both serve Kingussie and Aviemore. The sculptures are accessible using the mainline Glasgow/Edinburgh to Inverness line. Get off at Kingussie (if you have a bicycle or want to walk) and turn right onto the B970, passing the historic Ruthven Barracks, through Insch, and before you get to Feshie Bridge there’s the turning into the FCS car-park on the left. Getting off at Aviemore, take the 31 bus towards Cairngorm Mountain, getting off at the Rothiemurchus Centre, and walk along the back road (no path) B970 signposted to Coylumbridge to the sculpture trail.
Accessibility & facilities:
FCS have made the path around the sculptures accessible, a good hardcore track with gentle gradients. There is parking reserved at the entrance to the sculptures for disabled people. Picnic bench in the walled garden. Nearest public toilets are in Aviemore and Kingussie. There is a small shop at Kincraig 2km from the Trail. Another option is Automatic Car Hire for those who find manual difficult to drive.
The Trail is managed by Forestry Commission Scotland.
Information and History
The sculptures are cared for by Forestry Commission Scotland and were moved from their original home near Banff to their new home in Inshriach Forest some years ago by the FCS. For some of them it was a homecoming; several of the sculptures are carved from ancient Caledonian Pines, at least one saved by Frank after having been felled to make way for a widened A9.
David Jardine from Forestry Commission Scotland explained why the FCS had helped re-site the sculptures and place them in the forest: “These strong and inspiring sculptures are carved from the ancient Caledonian pines of Inshriach Forest and it is fitting that after many years at Colleonard in Banff, they have come back to their spiritual home.
Frank’s art draws out from the wood some fascinating figures and their visual impact is quite stunning.”
The trail itself is an accessible one laid out across an area of mixed woodland. Winding through the trees, the works appear around corners and from behind walls, or reflected in a pool, leading you eventually to a purposefully overgrown and lightly-tended walled garden. You may notice Pharaoh the Falcon on guard against woodpeckers – the sculptures’ greatest enemy – set amid the fruit trees, fruits, and flowers that have survived from the garden’s first layout.
The original intention of Frank Bruce and the Trustees (the Trust is now wound up, but ex-trustees still run this website) was to allow the wooden sculptures to decay and return to the ground from whence they came, but with Frank’s untimely death in 2007 the Trust started remedial work to preserve these precious works for some further years.
Frank Bruce was not your average artist. He rejected the glitterati and the art spotlight, never selling or seeking to gain from his works, and simply asked for donations to help him continue his craft. He was unsure just how good they were, but in later years was gratified by the artistic world’s acceptance and praise for his works.
Richard Holloway, then Chair of the Scottish Arts Council, opened the trail in November 2007. He described Frank Bruce as the Dave Brubeck of sculpture; like the great jazz musician he was untrained and came by an unorthodox route to sculpture, having worked most of his life in hard, manual jobs such as welding.
He left school at 13, misunderstood as a dyslexic, but determined to educate and improve himself, and found expression through the labour of his hands. Born near Fraserburgh he moved back to Aviemore to be closer to his family, and the works moved with him.
Frank created both the very small and the very big; The Walker stands eight metres tall, and like all the works on the Trail can be touched, experienced, even walked under. Some are intensely personal; The Sailor is a small, seemingly inconsequential work, easily wandered past, a simple sailors face shouting or screaming from an un-hewn block. But this image meant something far deeper to Frank, it is a representation of his brother’s last moments during WWII, envisioned as he is trapped deep within a battleship, sinking fast, with no hope of escape.
Other works draw deeply on Scottish culture. The Man’s the Gowd ,inspired by Frank’s love of Robert Burns’ work, has a Lord and a working man staring across at each other, crowns of skulls above their heads, reminding them and us all that we all die, no matter how high or low we are.
Frank was also interested in our relationship with the developing world, and one work in particular Third World shows developed-world men blinded to the suffering and condition of the developing world. Another The Patriots shows how we as humans cause conflict and rely on patriots to create suffering and war.
The Scotsman’s obituary described some of Frank’s inspiration: “Rodin”s famous bronze, The Thinker, took a classical form reminiscent of the work of Michelangelo, whereby men were godlike in their perfection. Rodin”s Thinker represented Dante contemplating the gates of hell. Bruce”s Thinker depicts a more humble figure without limbs and locked statically into the wood. It has been cleverly sited at the edge of a small pond, so we are presented with the echoing influence of previous artists and the physical reflection of the actual sculpture in the water.”
Not what you were expecting in a forest in the Cairngorms National Park? That is part of their appeal; they challenge us culturally and highlight our selfish economic outlook. They cause us to stop and think. You may not like them – some don’t, perhaps expecting carvings more ‘suitable’ for a natural setting. But you will certainly have an opinion on the works, and as Frank hoped, come away questioning something, be it your cultural identity within Scotland or your relationship with the wider world around us.
Valerie Fairweather, a retired arts curator from Stirling University & ex-Secretary of the Frank Bruce Sculpture Trust explains her fascination for the sculptures: Frank has a global world conscience,’ she says. ‘There”s something quite fascinating about his work, and he”s driven. If he’d been a writer he would have written polemics but he was a visually creative man and turned to sculpture as his mode of expression’.
Frank sensed and released powerful forms from within the old dying Caledonian pines of the Inshriach area. “This series of works depicts icons of patriotism and the tragedies of world poverty. This may sound like an odd thing to encounter in a forest setting but there is something deeply affecting about these works.
The juxtaposition of the peace, serenity and hidden beauty of both medium and location against the violence and despair that characterise the themes addressed creates an artistic tension that imbues the works ‘“ and the trail experience ‘“ with real power. The trail is a fascinating example of how taking the arts out into communities and locations outwith cities and galleries can achieve a high impact and make a very positive impression with new audiences.”
Richard Holloway described the works eloquently at the opening ceremony. He said the works “appear to grow out of the form of the materials from which they are taken. Artists look at the World and remake it in their art, helping those of us who don’t see with the same depth and intensity to look harder and see more.
Look at Frank’s work and you see the beat and brutality of the natural World as well as its heart-breaking beauty….And that’s why it’s absolutely right that the setting for Frank’s work is a first. Here it is brought back to its own home and it brings us back to look at it with new eyes.”
The Frank Bruce Sculpture Trust was indebted to Forestry Commission Scotland for its support in paying for
moving the works from Banff to Feshiebridge, and for its continuing upkeep of the Trail.
Entrance to the Trail is free and there is disabled parking at the start of the trail. The trail itself is suitable for wheelchairs and buggies.