Menu
Menu

Culture & Heritage

The Breadalbane area has a long history of human occupation.  We can only hint at the richness of the area's history on this page, in which we outline Breadalbane's long prehistory, the early historic period, the castles of Breadalbane and the post-Medieval rural settlement of the area.  We finish with a few words about Breadalbane today.

Prehistoric Breadalbane

Cup & ring marks, Loch TayCup & ring marks, Loch TayMost evidence of Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age: 8,000 to 4,000 BC) occupation in Scotland is found around the coast.  A 9,000 year-old camp site by the Edramucky Burn in Coire Odhar 2,100 feet up on the slopes of the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve is one of the very few inland sites of this antiquity found so far.

The earliest Neolithic (New Stone Age: 4,000 to 2,200 BC) sites in Breadalbane date to about 4,000 BC and consist of chambered long cairns. These are some of the most easterly outliers of such "Clyde-type" burial cairns and have been found at Edinchip (0.5 miles N of Balquhidder Station), Kindrochet (1.5 miles E of St Fillans), Kiltyrie, on the north Loch Tay road, and in Glen Lochay near Kenknock.

Neolithic (New Stone Age) sites abound in the area.  This cup-and-ring carved stone from the slopes of Meall Greigh, north of Loch Tay probably dates between 3,000 and 1,500 BC.

Kinnell stone circle, KillinKinnell stone circle, KillinThroughout the area there are also hundreds if not thousands of examples of cup-marked rocks, standing stones and stone circles.  These probably date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (2,500 - 1,500 BC).  The best example of a stone circle (one of Scotland's finest) is Croft Moraig (2 miles NW of Kenmore).  Other Breadalbane circles are found at Fortingall, Lawers and the Kinnell circle at Killin, probably the most westerly circle in the region.

Craig na Caillich, above Killin, is also noted as one of the few known sites in Britain from which the rock for Neolithic stone axe production was obtained.  The rock is believed to have been quarried in the period 2,900 to 2,300 BC.

Loch Tay is also famous for its 18 Iron Age (750 BC to 43 AD) submerged and semi-submerged loch dwellings, known as "crannogs", and several are also known from Loch Earn.  The Scottish Crannog Centre on the south shore of Loch Tay, 1 mile west of Kenmore, is a 5-star tourist attraction built around a reconstructed crannog, where one can learn about and participate in many aspects of Iron Age life.  The Loch Tay crannogs were constructed over a period from 2,800 to 2,000 years ago, although there is also evidence of occupation / reoccupation in historic times.

Historic Breadalbane

Scattered throuth the Breadalbane area are a number of forts, often referred to as "ring forts" or "hill forts".  Although these were formerly regarded as Iron Age constructions, they are now generally called "homesteads" and thought to have an age range from Iron Age to Medieval.  One of the best homestead examples is An Dun Geal (The White Fort) which lies about 800m NW of Fortingall Church.

The Romans appear to have avoided the central and western areas of the Scottish highlands.  Instead they constructed the so-called "glenblocker" forts at the major entrance / exit routes of the upland areas such as the Pass of Leny near Callander, the Sma' Glen and Strathtay at Inchtuthil, near Dunkeld.  Built in the 70s AD, these form part of the Gask Ridge system, the first Roman land frontier known anywhere.  It is unclear whether these forts were built to control the Pictish inhabitants of the highlands or as a prelude to an expansion into the highlands that never took place.

In the Breadalbane area the fort known as Victoria at Dalginross, Comrie, acted as a glenblocker for Strathearn.

Dundurn hill fort, St FillansDundurn hill fort, St FillansLong after the Romans had withdrawn, the Pict inhabitants of the highlands also constructed a "glenblocker" of their own in Strathearn.  Dundurn fort, 1 mile SE of St Fillans, occupies a strategic hillock some 200 feet above the valley floor of Strathearn.  A possible Pictish royal fort, it appears to have been occupied at least between the sixth and ninth centuries AD.  The occupants may have varied over this time, however, as Strathearn, while originally in Pictish territory, lay close to land occupied by Britons to the south and Scots to the west.

Fingal's Stone, KillinFingal's Stone, KillinIn the 7th and 8th centuries, two Scottish saints of Irish origin are said to have been present in Breadalbane.  While many of the tales about St Fillan, such as his miraculous cures and luminous right arm are undoubtedly the stuff of legends, at least one St Fillan who lived in the Glen Dochart and Strathfillan areas in the 8th century appears to have been a historical character.  The head of his staff (crosier) and healing bronze bell can be seen in the Museum of Scotland, while St Fillan's healing stones now rest in the Parish Church of killin and Ardeonaig, in Killin.

As in the case of St Fillan, there also appear to have been two Scottish-Irish heroes named Fingal, but both are probably mythical in this instance.  Fingal's Stone in Killin is said to mark the burial place of Fingal after his death in battle nearby.

We know little of what happened in the Dark Ages apart from what is reported in monastic records.  Apart from scant remains of agricultural buildings and houses, the earliest remains of Medieval buildings in the area are probably those of religious orders, such as Strathfillan Priory at Kirkton, between Crianlarich and Tyndrum, founded in 1317/18 by Robert the Bruce in honour of St Fillan.

St Fillan's Chapel, St FillansSt Fillan's Chapel, St FillansSt Fillan's Chapel is a pre-Reformation church at Dundurn, east of St Fillans.  It is on the site of an earlier chapel said to have been erected by St Fillan in the 7th century (perhaps a different St Fillan to that of Glen Dochart and Strathfillan) and of which nothing remains except a round stone basin.  Since 1586 the present chapel, which is roofless has been the burial place of the Stewarts of Ardvorlich.  A holy water font, of the pre-Reformation period, which stood in a niche in the wall of the chapel is still in use in Dundurn Parish Church.

Although "clans" had existed since pre-Christian times, the Late Medieval period saw the development of the clan system. Many important clans occupied the lands of Breadalbane, such as McDiarmid, MacGregor, McLaren, MacNab, McNaughton, Menzies, Robertsons and Stewarts.

Inter-clan feuds were rife, with many of them seeming to involve the MacGregors.  The most famous (or notorious) MacGregor, Rob Roy, still lived to die in his bed at the age of 63, in 1734, and is buried in Balquhidder Churchyard.

Ultimately, however, many of the clans were displaced by the arrival of the Campbells of Glenorchy (later the Earls of Breadalbane).  The Campbell dominance is reflected in the history of the Breadalbane castles.

Castles

Of the nine identifiable castles or fortified towers in the vicinity of Breadalbane, five are ruins, three are privately owned and occupied, and one, Castle Menzies, is open to the public.

Glen Lyon Castles
Meggernie Castle, west of Bridge of Balgie, is still occupied and not open to the public. Originally a 5-storey square tower house (now the west wing) with a modern extension added in the 20th century, it was built by John Campbell of Glenlyon about 1585 and passed into the hands of the Menzies family in the 17th century.

Carnbane Castle, 7 miles to the east at Invervar, is a ruined hall-house with horizontal gunloops still visible. Remains of a vaulted storage cellar and unvaulted kitchen can also be seen. It was built in 1564 by Red Duncan Campbell "the hospitable" but later destroyed by fire.

Garth Castle, one mile to the north of Keltneyburn, is the oldest in the region. A square tower, it was built in the 14th century by Alexander Stewart - the Wolf of Badenoch, who died there in 1396. It has been restored recently and is privately occupied.

Comrie Castle, one mile SE of Keltneyburn, is an L-plan tower house rebuilt about 1600 on the site of the original seat of the Clan Menzies, which was partially destroyed by fire in 1487, at which time the Menzies family moved to Weem Castle, where Castle Menzies now stands. No trace of the original 15th century castle remains. The 1600 restoration is thought to have been in intermittent use as a Menzies home until 1745.

Castle Menzies, Weem, AberfeldyCastle Menzies, Weem, AberfeldyCastle Menzies, lies 4 miles east of Keltneyburn. The Menzies family left Comrie Castle after its partial destruction by burning in 1487 and built their next castle, known as Castle Weem or the Place of Weem at Weem. It was destroyed by Neil Stewart of Garth around 1502. The Z-plan Castle Menzies, which has a date of 1571 on a panel above the door, was their next home. It was extended by a new (west) wing, in the 19th century. It became derelict during the mid-20th century but was bought by the Menzies Clan Society in 1957 and restored.

Glen Dochart Castles
The ruins of Loch Dochart Castle lie on a wooded island in Loch Dochart, 1.5 miles east of Crianlarich. The 16th century three-storey tower house with round tower was built by (Black) Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy between 1583 and 1631 and burnt down in 1646.

Finlarig Castle, KillinFinlarig Castle, KillinFinlarig Castle (ruin) in Killin was also built by (Black) Duncan of Glenorchy, around 1609. It was probably originally Z-plan as traces (spiral staircase) of a demolished NE tower remain. He also built a chapel where the ruins of the mausoleum stand to the east of the castle on the mound. The mausoleum was built by the Campbells (of Breadalbane) in the early 1800s. Two gravestones by the mausoleum mark the resting place of the Marquis and Marchioness of Breadalbane - the last of the Campbell line and descendants of Black Duncan. An alleged beheading pit or, alternatively, Victorian garden cistern lies to the north of the castle.

Loch Earn Castles
Edinample Castle, LochearnheadEdinample Castle, LochearnheadEdinample Castle, one mile from Lochearnhead on the south Loch Earn road, was built in the late 16th century. It is privately owned and is not open to the public. The initial tower was probably built by Colin Campbell, 6th Laird of Glenorchy but was extended into the Z-plan castle by (Black) Duncan, 7th Laird of Glenorchy.  It was subsequently extended and has been resored recently.

Dalveich Castle (ruin), one mile east of Lochearnhead on the north Loch Earn road, is known from the late 16th century and may be much older.  An elongated Z-plan tower house with round towers possibly at either end, it may have been occupied by the McLarens before being inhabited by the Stewarts.

Post-Medieval Rural Settlement

The highland rural population increased significantly in the late 1700s and early 1800s and settlements increased in size and number accordingly.  The traditional rural settlements were townships or baile and the Gaelic word persists in dozens of place names, such as Balquhidder. A survey conducted in 1769 identified some 120 settlements on the north shore of Loch Tay. The inhabitants were largely tenant farmers and cottars.  Cattle grazed the low ground in winter and were moved into the hills in summer while the low pastures were used as arable land. During the summer herdsmen, along with the women and children from the farms or fermtouns, lived in small turf or stone huts, called shielings, where butter and cheese were produced.  The remains of over 700 shielings have been identified within the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve alone. But all this was about to change.

Market forces encouraged the consolidation of small cattle tenancies into larger farms but the ultimate crisis arose from the introduction of large-scale sheep farming.  Not only did sheep compete with the tenant farmers' summer cattle grazing grounds but breeds such as Cheviots could not survive the winter on the hillsides and over winter had to be moved to the low level pasture and arable land hitherto used by the tenant farmers.  The inevitable consequence of agricultural improvement was depopulation on a grand scale, initially to the coasts but ultimately to the cities and the colonies.  The population on the shores of Loch Tay, which had peaked in the 1811 census, had declined to barely one-third of that size by 1871.

The result is evident throughout the Breadalbane region in the form of abandoned buildings and deserted townships.  Some excellent examples have been described, and can be seen, from Loch Tay (Lawers; Croftvellick; Tomour), Glen Lochay (Tirai) and Glen Dochart (Ardnagaul).  Many ruined settlements contain remains of lime kilns and mills and, in the case of Lawers deserted village, a laird's house and ruined church dated to 1669.

Moirlanich Longhouse, KillinMoirlanich Longhouse, KillinMany of the dwellings took the form of what is known as a longhouse or byre-dwelling, in which animals were stabled in the same elongated building as the human inhabitants.  A relatively modern example, the 19th century Moirlanich Longhouse near Killin, has been restored by the National Trust for Scotland and can be visited on Wednesdays and Sundays from May to September.

The Old Mill, Falls of Dochart, KillinThe Old Mill, Falls of Dochart, KillinWithin the village of Killin itself, the Killin Heritage Trail provides insights into the lore and history of the village and highlights details of its historic buildings, such as the 1840s mill, said to be built near the site of an 8th century meal-grinding mill built by St Fillan.

Modern Breadalbane

With its highland setting but proximity to the Central Belt of lowland Scotland and major cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, the major industry in Breadalbane is tourism.  Other than services, most other activities are related to the land.  Hill farming and forestry occur throughout the region and in 2013 development is scheduled to commence on a small underground gold mine at Cononish, near Tyndrum.

In the 1950s, however, things were very different.  The area was alive with construction activity.

The Breadalbane Hydro-Electric Scheme

The Breadalbane Hydro-Electric Scheme was constructed between 1951 and 1961 by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board (now Scottish Hydro Electric, a subsidiary of SSE). It is centred on the mountainous region around Loch Lyon, Loch Earn and Loch Tay in highland Perthshire and utilises water stored behind 6 dams. Its 7 power stations have a total installed capacity of 118 MW, enough to power about 65,500 homes.

Lawers DamLawers DamThe Lawers section of the system gathers water through a system of tunnels and aqueducts and diverts it into Lochan-na-Lairige where it is stored behind the massive Lawers Dam, 344 metres long and 42 metres high. The water is then fed by tunnel and pipeline to Finlarig Power Station on the shores of Loch Tay. The gross head of 415 metres between the dam and the power station is the greatest of any of Scottish Hydro Electric's power stations.

The Killin section is the most complex. A drop of rain that falls in Glen Dochart can be diverted through Glen Lochay to Glen Lyon before ending up back in Glen Lochay after being used to generate electricity!  Water from above Glen Dochart and from Glen Lochay is transferred by pipeline and tunnel to Loch Lyon in Glen Lyon. An aqueduct also takes water from the headwaters of the River Orchy system, which would normally flow into the Atlantic, and delivers it to the head of Loch Lyon. The first power generation on the Killin system takes place at Lubreoch Power Station at Loch Lyon dam. The released water then flows down the River Lyon to the Stronuich reservoir which is also fed by water from the adjacent Cashlie Power Station.  Cashlie is powered by water tunnelled from Lochan Daimh in a side glen off Glen Lyon.  The Stronuich reservoir water is then returned to Glen Lochay by tunnel where it powers the Lochay Power Station, the largest in the Breadalbane scheme.

In the St Fillans section, water from Lochan Breachlaich, which would normally flow into Loch Tay, is diverted by tunnel to Loch Lednock Power Station on the shore of Loch Lednock reservoir. Lednock Dam is a diamond-headed buttress dam (one of only two of this type in Scotland) designed specifically to cope with earthquake hazards from the nearby Highland Boundary Fault. The water from Loch Lednock is then transferred by tunnel to the underground St Fillans Power Station on the shores of Loch Earn. Loch Earn water is diverted into a tunnel to feed Dalchonzie Power Station.

So if you do happen to spend a rainy day in Breadalbane, just think how that rain is helping to power Scotland, thanks to the ingenuity and skill of these engineers and tunnellers over 60 years ago!

Sign up for news, competitions and offers!

 

Latest News

Winning couple enjoy luxury weekend in Breadalbane

Winning couple enjoy luxury weekend in Breadalbane

Little did Andrew Marjoribanks think when he entered a competition on the Breadalbane website that he and his wife would be enjoying a luxury break in the Aberfeldy area this autumn. But he beat over 500 entrants to the prize of a weekend in one of Scotland’s most beguiling...

Read more
Ring of Breadalbane Explorer Bus Reaches the End of the Road

Ring of Breadalbane Explorer Bus Reaches the End of the Road

The Ring of Breadalbane Explorer was a pioneering hop-on hop-off mini bus service launched in 2012 by the Breadalbane Tourism Co-operative Ltd. to help visitors and residents explore the Breadalbane area, one of Scotland's best kept tourism secrets!  

Read more
12 adventures to enjoy on the magical Ring of Breadalbane Explorer

12 adventures to enjoy on the magical Ring of Breadalbane Explorer

The “hop-on hop-off” Explorer service runs through spectacular scenery, passing alongside Loch Tay and Loch Earn. The route goes places not covered by other public bus services and links Highland Perthshire and Stirling. Its circular route connects Crieff, Comrie, St Fillans, Lochearnhead, Killin, Kenmore, Acharn and Aberfeldy and provides...

Read more
Food & Drink Expo 2015 showcases the best of Breadalbane

Food & Drink Expo 2015 showcases the best of Breadalbane

Visitors to the third Breadalbane Expo were treated to a delicious range of products in celebration of Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink. Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre in Comrie hosted the event, which drew exhibitors from Crieff to Killin, Aberfeldy to Auchterarder and beyond to showcase their wares.

Read more
How to have a divine time in beguiling Breadalbane

How to have a divine time in beguiling Breadalbane

Do you love tasty food and drink, enthralling history and culture, and inspirational scenery? If so, come to Breadalbane and let its charms beguile you. Feel everyday cares melt away as you enjoy a delectable meal then sip a relaxing dram while meditating on a mountain view. Be entranced...

Read more
10 ideas for an active break in Invigorating Breadalbane

10 ideas for an active break in Invigorating Breadalbane

Being active in glorious, natural surroundings is a great way to relax and recharge your batteries. Breadalbane is very accessible, only an hour from the Central Belt of Scotland, and has magnificent Highland scenery – a visit here will refresh your senses. You will find many providers offering a...

Read more
Why Breadalbane is Scotland’s most intriguing destination

Why Breadalbane is Scotland’s most intriguing destination

Breadalbane is full of paradoxes, blending ancient and modern, rugged and gentle, exciting and relaxed to make a wonderful venue for short breaks at any time of year. Each visit is an opportunity to unearth ancient mysteries and surprising new places.

Read more
An autumn weekend of adventure in Breadalbane

An autumn weekend of adventure in Breadalbane

As the sun sets ever sooner on these last few evenings of summer, the prospect of the Scottish autumn ushers in its own attendant joys. Cycling and walking become less sweaty. Uniform verdure gives way to a thousand burning hues. Brambles bloom, horse chestnuts broaden and crack. Underfoot, a...

Read more
Breadalbane share their success with community tourism project team

Breadalbane share their success with community tourism project team

A community Tourism Project from Ayrshire and Arran Tourism have visited the high ground of Scotland to sample the Rings of Breadalbane as well as meet and learn from the people behind the successful project. The project team travelled up from central Scotland last weekend to find out more...

Read more
Scottish Communities Inspired By Award Winning Breadalbane

Scottish Communities Inspired By Award Winning Breadalbane

Breadalbane is to welcome a Community Tourism Project who are touring the high ground of Scotland to learn about the group’s award winning tourism model. Having been inspired by the work of the Breadalbane project, Ayrshire and Arran Tourism requested a visit to meet the people behind the project...

Read more
A delicious day’s jaunt on the Ring of Breadalbane Explorer Bus

A delicious day’s jaunt on the Ring of Breadalbane Explorer Bus

Non-drivers, lament not: the beauty of Breadalbane, the high ground of Scotland, has been made more accessible for everyone thanks to the Explorer bus service. Running in summer months, between early June and mid-October, the service allows visitors to the area to hop on and off as it pleases...

Read more
Doing battle with the mighty Clan Ring Walk

Doing battle with the mighty Clan Ring Walk

A challenging six day tramp for the tenacious wanderer, the Breadalbane Clan Ring walk won’t so much blow away the cobwebs, as completely refresh mind and spirit. This wild land boasts a rich and violent history to explore on the way, rewarding visitors with more natural beauty than you...

Read more
Discovering beautiful Breadalbane by bike

Discovering beautiful Breadalbane by bike

Let’s face it; everyone is looking for an excuse to cycle more frequently, and most bikes are egregiously underused. Whether you have an innocuous hybrid sulking in the garage or a mud-spattered, 27 speed beast raring to grind up a new summit, it’s time to dig out the spare...

Read more
Breadalbane Tourism Cooperative launches new brand

Breadalbane Tourism Cooperative launches new brand

The Breadalbane Tourism Co-operative has this week unveiled a new look for the region, claiming the moniker “The High Ground of Scotland”, a translation from the Gaelic name for the area ‘Braghad Albain’, in a bid to capitalise on increased tourism visitors to the region ahead of this year’s...

Read more
The Breadalbane Walking Rings

The Breadalbane Walking Rings

The Walking Rings of Breadalbane are an amazing way to discover our ancient landscapes. Young, old, fit, hoping to get fitter, experienced or newcomer, there's something for everyone in this magical land when it comes to walking.

Read more

Locals Recommend... Suggestions for day trips on the Ring of Breadalbane Explorer

The following trip recommendations by locals residents and businesses will help you experience the very best of Breadalbane. Click on a trip to view or print.  

Read more

Where to stay

where-to-stay

Discover Breadalbane

discover

Things to See & Do

things-to-do

Food & Drink

eat-drink

Maps & Directions

map

Special Offers

special-offers