Scotland's Great Trails




HISTORY ALONG THE WAY

This setion of the website provides a general outline of the history surrounding this part of Scotland. In particular it details some of the key times and events surrounding Rob Roy MacGregor, perhaps the most notorious inhabitant of this region.
A fuller listing of the Monarchs of Scotland may help in placing the following history in context.


Rob Roy MacGregor 1671 - 1734

  • 1570 Gregor Roy, chief of the MacGregors executed by the Campbells at Taymouth, then know as Balloch Castle.
  • 1603 Alasdair MacGregor fought against the Colquohouns and this led to his ultimate hanging in 1604 and the proscribing of the MacGregor clan name.
  • 1671 Birth of Rob Roy MacGregor.
  • 1689 Battle of Killicrankie.
  • 1693 Rob Roy married to Mary MacGregor of Comer (cousin).
  • 1707 Union of Scottish and English Parliaments.
  • 1712 Rob Roy declared bankrupt by Duke of Montrose.


Rob Roy MacGregor - Photograph courtesy of the Stirling & Trossachs Tourist Board

Rob Roy MacGregor

  • 1713 Rob Roy moves to Auchinsallen in Glen Dochart till it was destroyed following the 1715-16 uprising.
  • 1713 Rob Roy sheltered in Finlarig Castle by Campbell, Earl of Breadelbane.
  • 1715 Rob Roy captured 22 government guns in Callander.
  • 1715 Jacobite uprising. Battle of Sheriffmuir and raid on Falkland Palace by Rob Roy.
  • 1717 Rob Roy captured at Balquhidder but escapes on way to Stirling, while crossing the Forth, recaptured in Dunkeld and imprisoned in Logierait, then again escaped.
  • 1720 Rob Roy moved to Balquhidder.
  • 1725 Rob Roy submits to George I via General Wade.
  • 1730 Conversion to Catholicism at Drummond Castle.
  • 1734 Rob Roy died in Balquhidder.

Rob Roy was the third Son of Donald Glas MacGregor of Glengyle (A direct descendent of the Glenorchy branch) and Margaret Campbell. Donald Glas was a chief of the Clan.
The family was involved on the land and as cattle dealers, but in addition Donald Glas was a Jacobite, a supporter of JamesVII and the Stewart line.
The MacGregors were also subject to their name being proscribed on several occasions, this effectively banning MacGregors from using their surname or entering into any legal contracts. This proscription was first established following the killing of the Colquohouns by the MacGregors in Glen Fruin in 1603. King James VI then proclaimed the MacGregor name "altogidder" (abolished). The second time the name was proscribed was in 1689 by William of Orange as a result of the MacGregors part in the Jacobite uprisings.
Against this background it was difficult for Rob Roy in the earlier years to establish a stable land base from which to conduct his cattle droving and trading.

Rob Roy fought with his father at the Battle of Killicrankie however following this period Donald Glas was captured and imprisoned for several years in Edinburgh. Rob Roy and his oldest brother Iain developed the Lennox Watch, a body of men that would offer protection to cattle owners in return for "blackmail". This protection was effective but where monies were not paid or where there were enemy clans there was regular cattle reiving. By 1701 Iain had died, then Donald Glas died in 1702 and Rob Roy became the effective Chief of the MacGregor Clan.

In the following years to 1712 Rob Roy's reputation was growing with the other clan chiefs and cattle traders and he was working in droving and cattle dealing with the Campbells of Breadelbane and then the Marquis of Montrose. So much was he doing that the Marquis lent him 1000 to expand his activities, this being stolen by one of Rob Roy's trusted men, Duncan MacDonald. As he could not repay the loan, Rob Roy was declared bankrupt, failed to respond to a summons and declared an outlaw in 1713.
Rob Roy got shelter from the Campbell's of Breadelbane at Finlarig, then fought in the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715, and subsequently accused of treason. All the time Rob Roy was a fugitive on the run and lost most of his earlier properties.

The Duke of Montrose and the Duke of Atholl were them both active in trying to capture Rob Roy. First the Duke of Montrose captured him in Balquhidder but he made his famous River Forth escape as he was taken to Stirling castle in 1717. He was then recaptured by the Duke of Atholl in Dunkeld as a result of a trick, imprisoned in Logierait but again escaped.

With the support of the Duke of Argyll Rob Roy remained free and in 1724 with the help of the Duke, the death of the Duke of Atholl and a reconciliation with Montrose Rob Roy's days as an outlaw came to an end. He submitted a letter of submission to King George I through General Wade in 1725 this effectively resolving all the issues and allowing Rob Roy to live in relative peace till his death in 1734


Rob Roy's Grave

Rob Roy's Grave at Balquhidder Kirk - alongside the graves of his wife and two of his sons


There is an opportunity to learn more about Rob Roy and the whole Clan Gregor by accessing the Clan's website


Pass of Killiecrankie - Battle of Killiecrankie

River Garry

River Garry just south of the site of the Battle of Killiecrankie


The Pass of Killiecrankie is a tree lined gorge on the River Garry where the battle was fought on 27 July 1689. The Jacobites were lead by Viscount Dundee - John Graham of Claverhouse with the support of Donald Glas, Rob Roy's father and Rob Roy, then a young supporter of the Jacobite cause. General Hugh MacKay who was moving north from Stirling to recapture Blair Castle led the government troops.

The Government forces had 4000 men, horses and some small cannon, the Jacobites 2500 men. There were extensive losses on both sides but the Jacobites defeated MacKay who retreated and then later reformed with 400 men in Weem.


The Macnab Clan

During the 15th & 16th Century the Macnabs were powerful in the Killin area with an island command on the small island at the west end of Loch Tay at the point where the Rivers Dochart and Lochay enter. The clan further south was the Neishes from Loch Earn. The Neishes were cattle thieves and regularly stool from the Macnabs resulting in a clan war in 1522 in the hills between Loch Tay and Loch Earn (general area covered on Strathyre to Killin section) of the Way. The clans threw off their plaids and fought naked until the Neishes were almost total destroyed. Legend has it that the lichen covered stones in the Little Port Farm area is still red in colour as a result of the blood spilt by the Clan Neish.

1612 "Tonight is the night - if the lads were the lads!"

Picture

Route back from Loch Earn taken by the MacNab brother


The Neishes ambushed the Christmas provisions for the Macnabs as they were being transported by ponies from Crieff to Loch Tay. Word of this arrived with the Macnabs and four of the sons set off immediately from Castle of Eilean Ran to the island on Loch Earn where the Neishes lived. This involved using a rowing boat from the Castle on the island at the mouth of the River Lochay and Dochart up to Ardeonaig, then a walk with the boat lifted over the heads up to Lochan Breaclaich before descending down Glen Tarken to Loch Earn.

The boat was them launched into the Loch and rowed to the Neishes' island where the Neish clan was beheaded. The Macnab brothers returned using the boat with the skulls of the Neishes carried in a sack using the same route up Glen Tarken. The boat was now too heavy and was abandoned. The brothers this time made for the shores of Loch Tay and arrived back the next day to present their spoils. The Clan Chief was anxious about the outcome but Iain Min Macnab cried out "Dread nought" as he arrived, this now forming the slogan on the Clan crest along with a Neish head and the Boat.

The route up from Ardeonaig is on the route of the walk but in the opposite direction, and the return route by the Macnab brothers is likely to have followed the line of the Rob Roy Way from the forest above Killin along the side of Loch Breaclaich to the high point at Ceann Creagach, again in the reverse direction.


Picture

Island home of Neishes and behind and right Glen Tarken the route taken by the MacNabs


Francis Macnab - 16th Chief of the Clan 1734 - 1816

Francis was a colourful clan chief who liked to retain the Clan approach although by now most of the Chiefs had moved to a tenant relationship with the local community. He also had a lack of money to support his drinking reputation and it was through gambling and charm that he survived so long. He did not leave any direct heirs but a lot of debt, resulting in the sale of almost all the Clans land and assets in 1828.


Francis Macnab     Macnab


Macnab Burial Ground of Inchbuie

This is passed on the route that comes directly into Killin.
As you cross the bridge at the Falls of Dochart there is an entrance to Inchbuie, a small island in the middle of the river. This is the burial land for the Macnab Clan and it can be accessed in the holiday season by collecting the gate key from the Tourist Information Centre.


Macnab burial ground

MacNab burial ground at the Falls of Dochart


The Birks of Aberfeldy

Burn's Seat

Burn's Seat on the side of the Falls of Moness


In 1787 the Scottish Bard, Robert Burn was reputed to be in Aberfeldy. He was fond of the Birks and about half way up on the eastern side there is a stone ledge know as Burn's Seat. It is thought that while here he was inspired to pen the song "The Birks of Aberfeldy".

In addition to the Burn's connection the area is full of nature beauty and interest.
Use the Birks of Aberfeldy link to see a map of the Birks and to read Burn's verse.


16th & 17th Century Right of Way

In Ardtalnaig at the T junction there is a sign directing walkers to the Sma' Glen and Crieff. This is the route that forms a major part of the section between Ardtalnaig and Amulree (92 mile option). The route is an old drove road and track used many centuries earlier for movement up from Crieff to Loch Tay and northwards. Just to the north of this point on the shore there was a recognised ferry point across to the village of Lawers
This was the route taken by the Macnabs to transport Chistmas provision to their Castle of Eilean Ran, this journey being ambushed by the Neishes in 1612. This will also be a route that Rob Roy is likely to have used regularly moving cattle to and from the English markets.


Direction sign

Direction post to Crieff from Ardtalnaig


Original Balquhidder Church

Ruins of Balquhidder Church


The Minister of Fairyland

This relates to the Rev Robert Kirk (1644 - 1692) who was Minister at Aberfoyle and Balquhidder.
  • Balquhidder Church 1664 - 1685
  • Aberfoyle 1685 - 1692
In the second charge the manse was located just infront of the Doon Hill. Robert Kirk was known to go out in the evenings and to spend time with his ear to the ground on Doon Hill listening to the Fairies.


In 1685 it is reputed that he disappeared into the mound and was pronounced dead. His coffin was buried "without a body" and over a period of time his image was reported as returning and being seen in Aberfoyle.
During his time he wrote "The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies" the original copy now being in the Edinburgh University Library".


Kirk's Gravestone

Robert Kirk's Gravestone with Doon Hill in the background


Mortsafe

One of Two Mortsafe Coffins at the door of Kirkton Church


Mortsafes

Made of Cast Iron, these coffins were not intended for anyone to move or to enter. This was the answer to Burke and Hare and the problems of body snatching. What is unusual is the fact that these precautions had to be taken so far from the main teaching hospitals.
These coffins are to be seen within direct view from the Rob Roy Way at Kirkton Church as one enters Aberfoyle.


The Black Watch Regiment and Memorial


The Monument to the Black Watch was unveiled in November 1887 by Gavin - Marquis of Breadelbane. The original muster in 1740 was on the opposite side of the River Tay but due to the possibilities of flooding the monument was sited on the "nearest practicable site".

The incription reads as follows:
The "Highland Watch" (or simply "the Watch") was established following the issue of commissions from King Charles II in 1667 for certain clan chiefs to raise Independent Companies to be a constant guard for securing the peace of the Highlands and 'to watch upon the braes'.


Black Watch

The Blach Watch Memorial in Aberfeldy

The dark tartans worn by the men of these companies to distinguish them from the "Red Soldiers" led to them becoming known as "Freicaadan Dubh" or "The Black Watch".
These companies were disbanded in 1717 and started up again in 1725 . Starting out as the 43rd Regiment of the Line, it became the 42nd Highland Regiment in 1749.
In 1970 the Regiment was given the freedon of the Burgh of Aberfeldy.


Campbells of Breadelbane


The Campbells history starts in 1432 with Sir Duncan Campbell giving his younger son Colin the lands of Glenorchy. This was the start of a 500 year rise in the influence of the Campbells as they acquired the largest land holding in Britain, covering land from Argyll to Aberfeldy and north to Glen Lyon and south to Amulree.

By 1676 John Campbell was granted the title of the Earl of Breadelbane by King Charles II. He was described by a contemporary 'as cunning as an fox, as wise as a serpent but as slippery as an eel'. Following the 1715 Jacobite uprising the clan system started to change and the 2nd and 3rd Earls started to look at improving the systems of farming and introduced flax growing and spinning of lint to the Loch Tay area. This was a time when Loch Tay had a population of over 5000 persons.

Picture

Taymouth Castle built by 4th Earl of Breadelbane, now empty and surrounded by Taymouth Golf Club.


The 4th Earl was made the 1st Marquis and at this time the Castle at Balloch was demolished and replaced by Taymouth Castle.

The difficulties for the Campbells started in the 1920 with increased taxation and the lack of direct descendants. They started to sell off land and property from them until in 1948 when the last land was sold. The 10th Earl is still alive but with no family, living in retirement from a job as laboratory cleaner in London. The population on Loch Tay is now around 100


Grandtully Castle & Pitcairn

Grandtully Castle on the south side of the Tay close to Pitcairn Church was built in the 16th and 17th Centuries, although its predecessor was thought to be built around 1414. The present castle was the seat of the Stewarts of Grandtully. The square keep incorporates a guard room and prison pit below, perhaps much in use in the time of the Jacobite uprisings and the Clan warfare.


Grandtully

Print of Grandtully Castle - c1880

The castles other interest is the fact that it was thought to be the model for Tullyvolan in the Sir Walter Scott novel Waverley. This castle is now in private ownership.

Pitcairn on the south bank of the Tay has the small white washed church of St Mary. This building has a vaulted timber ceiling with extensive 17th century Renaissance style paintings depicting scriptural scenes and armorial panels. Close by at Lundin is the site of a 2nd century BC burial ground which was excavated in 1963.


Logierait

Logierait is at the meeting point of the Tay and Tummel Rivers. This was the site for the Royal Hunting seat of King Robert II of Scotland (1371 -1390), it was the Regality Court of the Lords of Atholl and also contained the adjoining prison, some of the stone still being visible on the grounds of the Logierait Hotel. The Courtroom was said to be 70 feet long, and the prison must have been substantial having accommodated 600 prisoners following the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745. The Prison is perhaps more famous for an earlier prisoner, Rob Roy, who managed to escape after only one night in captivity in 1717.


Lady of Lawers

She lived in the mid 17th Century in Lawers on the north bank of Loch Tay opposite Ardtalnaig. She married into the cadet branch of the Campbell's and they were relatively poor having to lease there dwelling. She was however seen as a seer or predictor of the future and when her first prediction came true she became much respected. The following are a few of the predictions that affect the area around the Rob Roy Way.

Loch Tay Croft

A typical ruined croft on the Banks of Loch Tay
These ruined crofts are to be seen at frequent intervals, reflecting two of the predictions:-
"There will be a mill on every stream, and a plough in every field, and the two sides of Loch Tay will become a kail garden."
and later on
"The homesteads on Loch Tay will be so far apart that a cock will not hear its neighbour crow."


  • "The ridging stones will never be placed on the roof. (this being of the new church at Lawers 1669) If they are, then all my words as false." - The First Prediction
  • "The tree will grow, and when it reaches the gable the church will be split asunder, and this will also happen when the red cairn on Ben Lawers falls."
  • "When the ash tree reaches the ridge of the church the House of Balloch will be without an heir."
  • "There will be a mill on every stream, and a plough in every field, and the two sides of Loch Tay will become a kail garden."

  • "The lands will first be sifted then riddled of its people"
  • "The jaws of the sheep will drive the plough from the ground"
  • "The homesteads on Loch Tay will be so far apart that a cock will not hear its neighbour crow."
  • "In time the estates of Balloch will yield only one rent, and then not at all."
  • "The lands of Macnab will be joined to those of Breadelbane when two trees join together on Inchbuie and grow as one"
  • "The last laird will pass over Glenogle with a grey pony leaving nothing behind."
The only one prediction still to be fulfilled is:
  • "The time will come when Ben Lawers will become so cold that it will chill and waste the land around for seven miles."


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