Tuesday, 10 June 2014

SCOTLAND 8 - Perthshire and Angus

Blair Castle at Blair Atholl in the extreme north of Perthshire is the ancestoral home of Clan Murray and the seat of The 12th Duke of Atholl. This category A listed building is situated in Glen Garry alongside the A9 road through the Central Highlands.





The Atholl Highlanders is a private infantry regiment in the employ of The Duke of Atholl based at Blair Castle. It is the only legal private army in Europe. It was formed in 1839 by the 6th Duke as a body guard and escorted Queen Victoria on her tour of Perthshire in 1844 when she stayed at the castle, following which the Queen granted the regiment with colours giving it official status. Although the regiment has never seen active service, many of its numbers served in the two World Wars.

The Atholl Highlanders are now purely ceremonial and its 100 men, including pipes and drums, wear the Clan Murray tartan. The regiment’s officers are usually lairds from the surrounding area whilst the other ranks are mainly employed on the Atholl Estate. They parade at the Atholl Gathering at the end of May when they are inspected by the present Duke; and also march to the Braemar Games in September. The Duke also permits the regiment to parade on certain other occasions such as Royal visits and overseas tours.

The little town of Pitlochry  with its population of only some 2500 people lies alongside the A9 road just 26 miles north of Perth. The village came into its own in the 1840's when Queen Victoria visited the area and is now the largest town  main tourist resort for the area.
It is said to be the exact centre of Scotland.

The town really came into its own with the arrival of the
main line railway in 1863 and finally became a Burgh in 1947.


The town lies in a wooded setting on the River Tummel just below the point where the River Garry joins the Tummel. In 1951 a dam and power station were completed on the Tummel at Pitlochry flooding a large area up stream and the new reservoir became Loch Faskally.

Loch Faskally



Pitlochry Festival Theatre across the river at Port-na-craig was founded in 1951. Originally in a tent which was semi-permanent, it lasted for 30 years until the new theatre opened in 1981

Downstream the Tummel continues its journey southwards to join the River Tay at Ballinluig.
This fish ladder alongside the  Power Station was constructed as a result of a 1943 Act of Parliament which laid a duty of care on the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board to preserved fish stocks in waterway power schemes. The first of its kind in Scotland, the ladder consists of 34 separate pools, each rising 1.6 feet higher than the last over 339 yards to enable fish, especially migrating salmon, to reach the upper part of the river beyond the dam. A fish counter records the number of fish making the journey and they can be observed at a special glass walled viewing area.


The B8019 road transverses the northern side of Loch Tummel
some 10 miles  through a lovely wooded area to Tummel Bridge.

A short drive along this winding road is a car park and visitor centre called Queen's View. This famous vantage point gives a wonderful panorama over the loch with views on a clear day to Schiehallion (3554ft). Unfortunately it wasn't a very clear day when I took this photograph and Shiehallion fades in to the mist.
Queen Victoria visited this view point in 1866 but is said that it was actually named after Queen Isobel, wife of Robert the Bruce.

At the western end, the loch rejoins the River Tummel at Tummel Bridge.

The old Tummel Bridge was built by General Wade in 1730 as part of his military road system.

The old bridge is unfit for modern traffic which now crosses the river
via a metal bridge alongside.

Heavy rain soon raises the river level.

This is part of 'The Road to the Isles' -  "by Tummel and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber I will go", and the road ahead continues alongside Loch Rannoch to a dead end at Rannoch Station. However, the road which crosses the river climbs steeply over to Loch Tay at the eastern end of  which starts the River Tay.

On the way to Aberfeldy we pass by the little village of Dull. Here the residents have made the most of this curiously named place by forming an alliance with Boring in Oregon, USA.

Photo courtesy Peter Mercator on Wikipedia.

A great curiosity of this are is at Fortingall in Tayside, where a yew tree in the churchyard is reputed to be some 2,000 years old – 0ne of the oldest living things in Europe. In 1769 it had a girth of 0ver 56ft. 
This little village is said to have been the birth place of Pontius Pilate, although there is scant evidence to support this claim.


No visit to Scotland would be complete without a visit to a whisky distillery.
Founded in 1775, Glenturret Distillery at Crieff is Scotland's oldest
and the home of Famous Grouse.

After a tour of the distillery you will be offered a 'wee dram' but not from the huge bottle of Famous Grouse on display

According to the Guinness Book of records, this is the largest bottle of whisky.
The bottle is 5'5" tall and contains 228 litres (50.15gals) of Famous Grouse whisky. some 8000 drams.
The bottle was made by Czech manufacturer's Bomma at Svetla near Prague.


A fine bronze of Towser. a long haired tortoise shell female cat, can be seen at the distillery. Towser was the distillery cat for 24 years between 1963 and 1987 and lived in the still house where its job was to catch mice. Each morning the stillman would find that Towser had laid out an average of three mice each day for his inspection.
The Guinness Book of Records entry gives the figure of 28,899 mice which it is estimated that Towser caught in those 24 years.

Towser's ladder and entrance to the still house is still used by successors.

A very peaceful place - as the notice says -
'Quiet please, whisky sleeping.'


This lovely Turret Water flows through the grounds and provides the special kind of water required in the whisky distilling process.
A pre reformation church at Innerpeffray near Crieff dates back to 1365.
It has long been the burial place for the family of Lord Drummond of Innerpeffray Castle.

Back in the 18th century, James Faichney was a stonemason living at Innerpeffray. During his lifetime he carved a large elaborate stone depicting himself, his wife and each of his ten children and he built it into the churchyard boundary wall. Images, dates of birth, marriage etc., are included, making a complete record of his family. In 1994 the stone was removed from its original position and after restoration it was place inside this interesting


This pub, close to the River Tay at Logierait south of Pitlochry dates back to 1710 and is now a very fine pub and restaurant. Once upon a time part of the building was the village Court House and Gaol. In 1717 the infamous Rob Roy was detained in the gaol but managed to make his escape. It is also said that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s 600 prisoners from the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 were detained here. More salubrious visitors are said to be when Queen Victoria used the privy here whilst on one of her outings and William Wordsworth in 1803, who was waiting for his sister Dorothy to inspect the Court House. An old ash tree, said to have been planted in 1579 and which had grown to a height of 63ft, situated behind the pub, was used for hangings. The last man to be hung was Donald Dhu who claimed to be innocent of his alleged crime of cattle stealing. On the night he was hanged, the tree was struck by lightning.


Further south a fine stone bridge built by Thomas Telford in 1809 crosses the Tay to the ancient little Cathedral city of Dunkeld. 
One of the land arches of the bridge was formerly used as
the town prison lock-up.

 On the site of the traditional cross in the market place, a neo-Gothic Fountain was built in 1866 as a memorial to the 6th Duke of Atholl

The Scottish ‘ell’ was a measurement equivelent to 37 inches.   It was very important in the Scottish market place that this measurement was strictly adhered to and officials made every endeavour to ensure that it was. On the wall of the Ell House in Dunkeld market place is a metal ell measure which was used to check that any measure used in the market place was accurate.
The ancient cathedral dates 12th-15th centuries but was destroyed in 1560 and much of the building is roofless. However, the 14th century choir, now used as the Parish Church was restored in 1815 and 1908.
In the choir is the tomb of the Wolf of Badenoch  who destroyed Elgin Cathedral.
The adjoining Chapter House and sacristy was used as a burial aisle by the Earls, Marquises and Dukes of Atholl with elaborate monuments.
The 4th Duke of Atholl (1755-1830)
Poised above the River Tay north of Perth, the present Scone Palace was built between 1808 and 1812 in the late Georgian Gothic style for the Earls of Mansfield. It replaced a 16th century palace on the site of the former Scone Abbey. Scone was an ancient gathering place of the Picts and the place of coronation of Kings of Scots, including Macbeth and Robert the Bruce.


On the rear lawn is Moot Hill where the noblemen of medieval Scotland would gather to swear allegiance to a new king. The mound was created by the lairds carrying with them a small piece of earth from their own lands and  adding it to the hill where a replica of the Stone of Scone can be seen.   

The Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny or Coronation Stone, is an oblong block of red sandstone 26” x 16” x 10 1/2” with 2 iron rings on the top face for ease of transportation.  Historically it was kept at Scone Abbey and used for centuries as the coronation seat for Scottish Monarchs, certainly since the time of Kenneth McAlpin in 847.  Tradition has it that the stone was originally Jacob’s pillow stone and after being transported to Ireland, it was probably used as a travelling altar by St Columba before ending up at Scone.

In 1296, Edward 1 removed the stone to Westminster Abbey where it was fitted to St Edward’s coronation chair and used in coronations since that time.

In 1950, four Scottish students removed the stone and subsequently returned it to Scotland in a damaged condition.  It was repaired and in 1951 was traced the Arbroath Abbey in Scotland and returned to Westminster. 

In 1996, the British Government decided that the stone should be kept in Scotland when not required for coronations and it was transported to Edinburgh Castle where it is now on display with the rest of the Scottish regalia.


The River Tay at Scone

To the north east of Scone, the largest beech hedge in the World (since 1966) stands proudly at the roadside of the A984 near Meikleour.  It was planted in 1745 by Robert Murray Nairne to denote a boundary. He
was killed at the Battle of Culloden.  The hedge now stands 100 feet high (120ft – 80ft) and is some 580 yards in length.


 Dundee, situated on the Firth of Tay, is Scotland's fourth largest city.
The Tay bridge crosses the firth to Fife.

Close to the bridge is Discovery Point where Captain Scott's ship discovery is now berthed. Built in 1901 the ship, alongside an exhibition centre, 
is now open to the public.

Also nearby, the Tay Railway Bridge some two miles in length and built in 1883-1888 is the successor to the ill-fated original bridge carrying the main line between Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The original bridge was blown down in a gale in 1879 whilst a train with six carriages was crossing and with heavy loss of life.
The original bridge had been complete in 1878 to the design of Thomas Bouch who was responsible for the construction and maintenance of the bridge and he was knighted for his work shortly after Queen Victoria had used the bridge, At that time it was the longest bridge in the world.
When the bridge collapsed it was thought that some 75 people were on the train and there were no survivors.
A Court of Inquiry found that the fall of the bridge was occasioned by the insufficiency of the cross bracing and its fastenings to sustain the force of the gale. Bouch died within a year of the disaster his reputation in tatters.
The disaster is one of the greatest bridge failures and is still one of the worst structural engineering failures in the UK.
St Mary’s church was built in 1190 but it was destroyed in 1303. In 1462 the church was rebuilt by the Town Council with contribution by the Abbey of Lindores. A unique feature of the church was the length of the north and south transepts, which together with the nave and choir, made it the longest ecclesiastical building in Europe. A huge square tower was completed in the 1480’s and The Old Steeple, as it is known today,  is the only part of the 15th century church which remains because the church was destroyed in 1547 and only the tower and the choir were saved. The Town Council subsequently rebuilt the open west end of the choir and established the St Mary’s church or East Kirk. Later the Town rebuilt the south transept to accommodate a second church, the South Kirk. In 1759 this curious building evolved further when the north transept was rebuilt and a third church, the North or Cross Church was established. Finally in 1789, the nave was rebuilt and St Clements or  Steeple Kirk, was introduced.
So the town had four separate churches under one roof with their own ministers and Kirk Session, sharing the one tower.
Sadly in 1841, a fire broke out in the East Kirk which engulfed the East, North and South churches with only the nave and tower being saved.  The North church was subsequently re-established elsewhere, but the East and South churches were rebuilt in 1844 with the three congregations continuing until the 1980’s when the Steeple Church and the South Church amalgamated with the South Church becoming a community centre.
St Mary’s Tower is better known as The Old Steeple. A fine example of the late 15th century Gothic style, it is the oldest surviving building in Dundee. The tower, with eight bells, is 160 feet high and there are 232 steps to the top. It has been used as watch-tower and prison and is now in the care of the Town Council.

 Desperate Dan first appeared in the Dandy in 1937 and can be seen strutting his
stuff in the High Street at Dundee alongside Minnie the Minx.

Robbie Burns' statue sits outside the McManus Galleries in Albert Square.
William Henry Erskine, 18th Laird of Dun, thought a lot about his horse.   Captain Erskine served with the 17th Lancers and was a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade.   His horse, Timekeeper, is buried in the grounds of the Erskine ancestral home, Dun House, near Montrose in Scotland, where a stone marks the grave.   One of the horse’s hooves is preserved and can be seen in the library at Dun House – now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.

North of Dundee is Glamis Castle the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The castle has been the home of the Bowes Lyon family, The Earl's of Strathmore, since 1372.  Princess Margaret was born at the castle.

The great sundial with its 84 dials stands on the lawn in front of the house whilst the round tower marks the extent of the former kitchen garden.
Princess Margaret's Memorial
Charles 1
The grounds also contain the showground for the Strathmore Highland Games.
A superb walled garden was laid out in 1604 at Edzell Castle near Brechin in North Angus by Sir David Lindsay.     Although enclosed pleasances were becoming more common by this time, the architectural elaboration of Edzell is unique in Scotland.
Sir David and his wife, Dame Isobel Forbes, devout Christians, believed that the number 7 was a holy number and that number plays a significant part in this delightful garden.   The unique heraldic and symbolic carved plaques on the walls depict 7 coats of arms; 7 pronged stars; 7 liberal arts and 7 virtues.   The walls are also indented with three rows of 7 large square holes, filled in summer with white and blue flowers.
This wonderful garden and the historic ruined Castle are now in the care of
Historic Scotland.
The south west entrance to the small village of Fettercairn is adorned by a very fine archway. This elaborate Gothic arch was erected by the villagers at a cost of £250 in 1864, to commemorate a private visit to the village by Queen Victoria
and Prince Albert in September 1861. The Royal Party had travelled from
Balmoral on pony back and on foot across Mount Keen to Invermark in Glen Esk. After lunch they continued by carriage to Fettercairn to stay the night at The Ramsey Arms there. Although the innkeeper and his wife were aware of the identity of their guests, the Queen hoped that her visit would remain a secret. However, when she went for an evening stroll through the village she feared that she had been recognised when she heard a band playing, but was assured that it was a regular occurrence. 
  The next morning of course, a small crowd had
gathered to cheer the Royal Party as they departed on their return journey to Balmoral.
The Ramsey Arms and the Royal Arch

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