South of Crianlarich
Pulpit Rock, beside the main road about 2 miles south of Ardlui. This dramatic 10ft high rock-cut room was built by local shepherds as a vestry for Rev. Peter Proudfoot and was in use from 1825 until a mission church was built at neighbouring Ardlui in 1895. The vestry was fitted with a door, and it was fronted by a wooden preaching platform.
The Islands of Loch Lomond: there are more than twenty significant islands on the loch, which is 23 miles long and up to 4 miles wide, with a maximum depth of 630ft. Mesolithic remains have been identified on Inchlonaig (“Yew Island”), Inchconnachan (“Colquhoun’s Island) is said to support feral wallabies, introduced in the 1920s by Lady Colquhoun, and Inchmurrin (“St. Mirren’s Isle”) is favoured with both a licensed restaurant and a modest nudist colony. Loch Lomond also contains one of only two surviving colonies of Scotland’s rare and protected Powan, a freshwater fish related to salmon.Boat tours are available from Tarbet.
Dumbarton Castle: sited dramatically upon a volcanic plug, this was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde from the 5th century until it lost its independence in 1018. Although little trace of the earliest inhabitants survive, the 17th and 18th century structures are highly impressive and the 557 steps to the White Tower Crag are rewarded by magnificent views. Historic Scotland property, open March to September.
Inveraray Castle and Town: The ancestral seat of Clan Campbell and the Dukes of Argyll, the magnificent castle and model town of Inveraray are of outstanding interest. The existing castle is an amazing blend of architectural styles yet exists as an harmonious and impressive entity. Work begin in 1720 to a design of Sir John Vanbrugh, was continued by Roger Morris and William Adam, then brought to completion in 1789 by brothers John and Robert Adam. The town itself was laid out along very elegant lines and has survived both in form and detail. From Crianlarich, the route via Dalmally involves the least traffic but one can easily make it a circular route, returning via Arrochar and Tarbet.
West of Crianlarich
St. Fillan’s Church: The interesting 14th c. remains are close to the site of a 7th. c. religious foundation midway along the important ancient trackway between Loch Awe and Loch Tay, almost exactly upon the national watershed. St. Fillan is commemorated throughout this lengthy glen, now known as Strathfillan, running from modern Tyndrum all the way to Killin and there are many interesting stories about him, including that of his bell (“The Bernane”), his crosier (“The Quigrich”) and even a corporeal relic (“The Mayne” or armbone). Some of his healing stones are preserved at Killin. The main road is very busy so, for safety, the best approach to the site is as you drive back towards Crianlarich from the west, when it will be on your near-side.
The Holy Pool: this tranquil spot is associated with healing traditions, particularly of mental disorder. Afflicted persons were doused in the pool, then trussed-up and left overnight at the neighbouring chapel with a view to being “cured” by morning. Apparently the practice was continued as late as the 19th. c. The main road is very busy so, for safety, the best approach to the site is as you drive back towards Crianlarich from the west, when it will be on your near-side.
Dalrigh Battlesite: In 1306, Robert the Bruce’s army suffered a heavy defeat from the English at the Battle of Methven and he retreated westwards with about 500 survivors. They were intercepted at this place by about 1000 men of Clan MacDougall, who had turned against the Bruce following the death of John Comyn. In the resultant desperate skirmish, the Bruce became dangerously exposed and one of the MacDougalls grasped hold of his cloak before he was struck down. The Bruce and his companions gained the victory, but the cloak-pin was held by the MacDougalls and became a very famous trophy, known as the Brooch of Lorn. Access is by walking eastwards about 1 km. along the route of the West Highland Way, from Tyndrum Lower.
Loch Awe and its islands: Loch Awe is the third largest freshwater loch in Scotland, and at the heart of the Campbell homelands; it is renowned for its trout fishing and it was, in ancient times, an important thoroughfare. It has numerous islands, the most famous of which is perhaps Inishail with its ancient chapel and burial site, still used by the Dukes of Argyll. Antiquarians will be particularly interested to note the substantial number of crannogs (artificial islands), which have been shown to be associated with neighbouring agricultural sites. Arrange boat trips or boat hire with Loch Aw e Boats, Ardbrecknish, by Dalmally Tel: 01866 833256
Kilchurn Castle: this magnificent structure was built about 1450 by Sir Colin Campbell, 1st Lord of Glenorchy, being extended and adapted for changing conditions and remaining in use until the mid 18th c. It was probably redundant following the events of the ’45 and is said to have been finally abandoned after it suffered material damage from a violent storm in 1760. The castle can be visited by boat – land access is via a difficult spur directly from neighbouring the main road (A85).
St. Conan’s Kirk: an extraordinary flight of fancy, attributable to the doubtless eccentric vision of one Walter Campbell, who started work in 1881; after his death, the work was continued by his family and, latterly, their trustees until it was opened for worship from 1830. The concept includes a myriad of ideas and details and is amazingly successful – there is a cloister garth, a well-ordered knave, chancel and apse and much fine detailing, not least in respect of the rain goods. This building is really too good to miss. St. Conan’s Kirk lies beside the A85 at the western end of Lochawe village, access is convenient and there is safe parking.
Ben Cruachan Hydro-electric Scheme - “The Hollow Mountain”: this was the world’s first high head reversible pumped storage system. In essence, excess generating capacity within the electricity grid system is used to pump water to a reservoir on top of the mountain; when additional power is required, the water is released to energise the giant turbines. The engineering work involved is truly impressive and may be readily examined by courtesy of the excellent Visitor Centre. Tel 01866 822618 to check details.
Bonawe Iron Furnace: this was founded in 1753 to exploit the readily-accessible woodland resources of the area and is the most complete charcoal-fuelled ironworks site to survive in Britain. The site is in the care of Historic Scotland and is wonderfully understated – yet everything is very clearly arranged and all necessary information is provided. The furnace itself is of particular interest. Access is convenient from the A85, where it passes through the village of Taynuilt. Open daily April through September, 9.30am – 5.30pm
Dunstaffnage Castle and Chapel: the castle, which was built before 1275, stands dramatically upon a huge rock, not far from the impressive Falls of Lora. It was a MacDougall stronghold, but was captured by Robert the Bruce in 1309 and remained a royal stronghold until it was eventually transferred to clan Campbell. Its curtain wall is amongst the finest in Scotland and within the interior there is an attractive Georgian house, which would have been in existence when Flora MacDonald was briefly imprisoned here following the ’45. The neighbouring 13th c. chapel is an architectural gem. Easy access from the A85 at Dunbeg; open April to September daily, 9.30am – 5.30pm and or most days in winter.
East of Crianlarich
Glen Dochart: soon after leaving the village, one will notice the picturesque ruins of a castle on an island in Loch Dochart; this dates to the very early 17th c. when it was built by Sir Duncan Campbell, seventh Laird of Glenorchy but it was burned down by the M’Nabs in 1646. About 1 mile from Crianlarich one passes Benmore Farm on the right, with a small signpost indicating the most direct – and challenging – route to the summit of Ben More (1174m); to the south of Ben More, there is no higher peak in the whole of the UK. Continuing along the glen, shortly beyond the Luib Hotel one passes a small, isolated graveyard which is associated with Clan MacNab, to whom this glen belonged.
Lix Toll: famed for its important and highly respected Land-Rover dealership, one can easily overlook the early 19th c. two-storied toll-house itself, which lies to the north of the junction for Killin; it has an attractive central bow. “Lix” is said to refer to the steep hill, but many people like to imagine that it commemorates the 51st Legion of the Roman army.
Killin: As it approaches the village, the River Dochart runs at great speed across a rocky bed scattered with numerous islets before plunging through the five unequal arches of a most picturesque bridge. Below the bridge is a small island, Inchbuie, the ancient burial ground of the chieftains of Clan MacNab. Overlooking the bridge there is an impressive mill; although no longer functioning as a mill, the building houses the famous “healing stones” of St. Fillan. At the lower end of the village, the Parish Church (1744) forms part of an attractive architectural composition.
Loch Tay: this is the largest loch in Perthshire, being some 14 miles in length and over a mile in width; it is up to 500 ft. in depth. It is of course famed as the immediate headwater for the River Tay, arguably Scotland’s finest salmon river, and also for the well-loved “Loch Tay Boat-song”. Amongst other features, Loch Tay boasts more than 20 crannogs (artificial islands created as secure lake-dwellings, often of great antiquity). One has been reconstructed and may be visited at the Scottish Crannog Centre (open 10.30 – 5.00 daily in season; check website for detail). The Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve includes seven Munros, and is famed for its important arctic-alpine flora; a nature trail may be followed from the car-park.
Rob Roy’s Grave, Balquidder Kirk: the road to Balquidder passes along Glen Ogle, where the former Callander to Oban railway has become part of an attractive circular route for walkers and cyclists. The A25 continues through Lochearnhead, an important centre for sailing and other water-sports; a diversion to the village of St. Fillans makes an excuse to follow the road right around Loch Earn itself. At Balquidder, Rob Roy’s grave will easily be found, and the quiet by-road can then be followed the length of Loch Voil, through the famed Braes of Balquidder. There is a footpath from Balquidder itself which runs back across the hill to Ledcharrie in Glen Dochart (see Ordnance Survey map).