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Between the Ochils and the Forth
Cambuskenneth, the Abbey Craig, and the Bridge of Allan


CROSSING the Devon at Cambus, and proceeding along an open road through the level carse-ground, the traveller will arrive at the village of Craigmill, situated directly under the Abbey Craig, about four and a half miles from Alloa and two and a half from Stirling. It used to be noted in former days for the smugg-ing propensities of its inhabitants, but is now a very peaceful-looking, attractive little hamlet, after passing which, a road turning down to the left leads almost in a straight line through a tract of meadow-land to the site of the ancient Abbey of Cambuskenneth.

This venerable ruin, if ruin it can be called—seeing that with the exception of one massive tower, a pointed arch or doorway, and the walls of the columbarium or pigeon-house, there was till within the last twenty years nothing to be seen here but an expanse of rich greensward—exhibits, perhaps more than any other of the ancient Scottish abbeys, the most complete spectacle of grandeur effaced and buried. It stands on a level corner or projection of ground around which winds the Forth, a stream in this neighbourhood of so many turnings that a stranger feels thoroughly puzzled in endeavouring to unravel them, and is quite unable at a little distance to determine its line of course, or say whether the one solitary tower that presents itself to his view is situated on the left or right bank of the river. The position, though low and flat and suggestive of dampness, is nevertheless a very agreeable one; and the old predilections of the monks for sunny fertile places as admirably adapted for orchard and garden ground, are thoroughly conspicuous in the surroundings of Cambuskenneth Abbey. It adjoins a series of market-gardens and orchards which cover a loop of the Forth from east to west, and are still famous for their produce, more especially in the way of early summer fruit, such as gooseberries and strawberries. A straggling village is interspersed amid these, and the greater part of the territory forms part of the ancient Abbey enclosure, portions of the old walls of which are built into the cottages and garden dykes.

Cambuskenneth Abbey was founded by David I. in 1147, and was anciently called the Abbey of Stirling, from which it is only about half a mile to Cambuskenneth Ferry. This is the easiest way of reaching the place, as Causewayhead, at the south-west extremity of the Abbey Craig, is a mile due north from the ruins, and two miles from Stirling. The monks of Cambuskenneth were Augustine friars, who came from Artois in France. Several Scottish Parliaments were held within the walls of the Abbey, more especially one in 1326, not long before Robert Bruce's death, when the barons and clergy swore fealty to his son, Prince David, as heir-apparent to the throne. At the Reformation, the lands and buildings of the monastery came into the possession of Regent Mar, who, it is said, employed the stones of the latter in the erection of a structure on the Castle-hill of Stirling, known as "Mar's Work," but of which nothing more was ever executed than the east front, still existing as a stately architectural fragment. In the beginning of the last century, the Abbey lands were purchased by the trustees of Cowane's Hospital, Stirling, and still remain in their possession. In 1864 a series of excavations were made, with the most important results, as nearly the whole outline of the Abbey buildings, including the remains of James III. and his queen, in front of the high altar, were disclosed.

The existing remains of the Abbey, as now exposed, consist of the foundations of a cruciform church, with the high altar at the east end, in front of which stands a tomb of modern erection, enclosed by a railing, in which the bones of James III. and his queen have been rein-terred. The tomb was erected by the command and at the expense of Queen Victoria, who is herself lineally descended from James III., through the marriage of his son with the daughter of Henry VII. of England. A thorn which grew near this spot, but has long since disappeared, used to be said traditionally to mark the site of the royal burial-place.

The whole length of the space enclosed within the foundations of the church amounts to 178 with a breadth of 37 feet. The north transept is very clearly defined as a limb of the cross, and also the bases of the pillars of the choir, with the lines of the north and south walls; but it does not seem possible to make out a south aisle, though a north one can be traced. The screen between the nave and choir is also discernible, and a broad piece of masonry, which may have been part of the foundations of a central tower. The south transept of the choir terminates in what appears to have been the chapterhouse, with the customary pillar in the centre which supported the roof. The space occupied by the nave has for a long period been partly formed into a small bury-ing-ground, which contains a fine pointed arch, in good preservation, that has evidently been the west doorway of the church. At the north-west corner of the church, but quite detached from it, stands the campanile or bell-tower—a substantial massive structure in the Early English style, surmounted by a perpendicular battlement. It is entered on the south side by a doorway through a pointed arch, above which is a canopied niche, in which a figure of the Virgin, as patroness of the church, had probably rested. The tower is 70 feet in height, and has recently been repaired and restored, a process which included the filling in of the windows with glass, and the replacement of the roof of the second storey by a wooden floor. There are in all three storeys, and at the northeast corner there is a subsidiary tower, with a spiral staircase. The basement storey is vaulted, with a hole in the centre of the groined roof through which the bell-ropes passed. The chamber on the first floor is lighted on each of the four sides by a lancet or Early English window; and a similar arrangement characterises the chamber above, except that the lancet - windows are double. A splendid view of the Ochils and windings of the Forth is commanded from the battlements, around the outside of which are some curious masks and figures. The cloister-court and conventual buildings had chiefly been on the east and south sides of the church, traces of all which are visible, including more especially the foundations of the refectory on the south side of the cloister-court. In the adjoining orchard is a place which used to be known by the appellation of "The Stairs," though nothing of the kind was manifest. On trenching the ground, however, there was disclosed a flight of steps, which in all likelihood had led to the cellars beneath the refectory. Various other remains are to be noticed in the expanse of greensward between the Abbey buildings and the river, and two walls still remain tolerably entire of a lofty building, which had evidently been the columbarium or pigeon-house.

The Abbey Craig, from which we diverged to visit Cambuskenneth, is a picturesque rock, forming a spur of the Ochils running from north to south through the grounds of Airthrey, and terminating in a rounded projection. Its sides are clothed with wood, mixed with rocky debris, and the southern extremity is almost precipitous, the hill here having an elevation of about 560 feet. Here, too, had been in former times an ancient vitrified fort, which has in great measure been obliterated in the course of the erection of the "Wallace Monument, the lofty baronial tower, 220 feet in height, which has been built here in commemoration of the great national hero of Scotland. The foundation was laid in 1861, and the tower itself was designed by Mr  Rocheid of Glasgow. It comprises three storeys or floors, surmounted by a crown like that of St Giles's Church in Edinburgh; and connected with the basement storey is a range of buildings, including the custodian's house, &c. It both forms a prominent object in the landscape, and commands a fine and far-extended prospect. Nearer at hand to the west it overlooks the plain of Stirling, where Wallace gained his important victory over the English under Surrey and Cressingham in 1297. The centre of battle was at Cornton, in the middle of the plain, a place which is traversed by the Scottish Central railway midway between Stirling and the Bridge of Allan. The wooden bridge over the Forth, which the English army attempted to cross, and sustained thereby such disaster, was situated at Kildean, about a mile above old Stirling Bridge, where some traces of the foundations are still visible.

Causewayhead, at the foot of the Abbey Craig, is two miles from Stirling, and the same distance from the Bridge of Allan, with both of which places there is a communication by tramcar. It derives its name from its being situated at the eastern extremity of the causeway which led to this point across the level ground from Stirling Bridge. It has increased greatly of late years since the opening of the Stirling and Dunfermline railway, and it contains an inn, besides a number of lodging-houses and some handsome villas. The highway from Stirling by the "hillfoots" to Kinross proceeds here over the rising ground to the right, in going from Causewayhead to the Bridge of Allan, and leads by the back of the Wallace Monument in a north-east direction towards Logie Kirk, where it turns due east, and continues almost in a straight line to Dollar. The grounds of Airthrey Castle (Lord Abercromby) adjoin it on the north, and extend in that direction between the Abbey Craig and the Ochils. They are very diversified and picturesque, and are open to the public every Thursday. The estate formerly belonged to Mr Haldane of Glen Eagles, who disposed of it early in the present century to the Abercromby family.

The road from Causewayhead to the Bridge of Allan is well sheltered from the north and east by the Ochils and the projection of the Abbey Craig, whilst it commands a fine view of the plain of Stirling and upper valley of the Forth, with the town and castle of Stirling on the slope or rising ground to the south-west. To the north-west appears the Bridge of Allan, now an imposing-looking town of considerable size, but which sixty years ago comprised little more than a few houses near the bridge over the Allan water, from which it receives its name. In 1796 the population of the Bridge of Allan included only twenty-eight families. It is three miles from Stirling, and has two good hotels (Philp's Royal and the Queen's), besides a large hydropathic establishment, which is extensively patronised.

From its sheltered position, the Bridge of Allan enjoys an extremely mild climate in winter and spring, and is therefore much frequented at these periods of the year. In the summer the climate is, as may be expected, apt to be close and enervating. The great foundation of its reputation was the discover)' more than seventy years ago of a mineral spring in an old copper-mine, or rather of its properties, as it had been long known in the locality. The water is saline, anti-scorbutic, and aperient, and is raised from the original reservoir to the "Well-house" on Airthrey Hill, which is thronged, more especially in the morning, with crowds of visitors. Attached to the Well-house is a bowling-green, and also baths and billiard-rooms.

The Bridge of Allan abounds in beautiful walks in all directions in the immediate neighbourhood of the town, and there are also interesting excursions to be made to Dunmyat, to Sheriffmuir, and to Dunblane. The Allan, which comes down from the parish of Blackford, and forming the western boundary of the parish of Logie, joins the Forth near Stirling, discloses in this neighbourhood some charming rural scenes, which in the beginning of this century captivated the heart of Mat Lewis, the romance-writer, and called forth from his pen the well-known song of the "Banks of Allan Water." There is a very pleasant stroll of three miles through the Allan valley to Dunblane, which is well worthy of a visit, both on account of its venerable parish church, the ancient cathedral of the diocese, and also the quaint and primitive appearance of its streets. From Dunblane to the famous Roman camp at Artloch is a distance of eight miles.


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