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Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter XLIII. - Balquhidder


EXCEPTING the parts of Comrie parish on both sides of Lochearn which are ecclesiastically attached to it, the parish of Balquhidder is, as outlined by its hills and waters, not unlike the three-legged symbol of the Isle of Man. The head waters of the Teith gather in the braes of Balquhidder and flow from west to east through two lochs and connecting river links to Stronlsancy, and this first valley represents one leg of the symbol. At Stronlsancy the river Balvaig turns at a sharp angle through Strathyre to Loch Lubnaig, which folds itself about the foot of Ben Ledi, and Strathyre is the second leg. Beyond the low ridge below the Kingshouse and opposite Stronlsancy the burn which is the fountain head of the Earn flows eastward into Lochearn. This third leg is shorter and less strongly marked than the other two, and it belongs of course to a separate water system. Lochearnhead has two romantic side glens in Glenample and Glenogle. The former enjoys primitive solitude in the shadow of Ben Voirlich and the embraces of old Glenartney Forest. The latter, traversed by road from immemorial time, and now penetrated by railway, is well known to tourists, but only tourists who walk through on foot can understand what Larig-h-Ile, as this whole wonderful pass is called, meant to the men of the fighting days of old. Agricola, for instance, had good cause for not trying to penetrate Caledonia by the passes of Leny and Larig-h-Ile. Ben Voirlich towers like a pyramid over the whole three sections of Balquhidder, and shines from afar to distant places. Its favourable position, standing up free from competition by near rivals of almost equal height, gives it more prominence and individuality than belongs to it by right of elevation. On the other hand, Ben Ledi, at the Loch Lubnaig border, suffers from its position, and only asserts its superiority to those who approach the Highlands from Stirling. The peaks and mountains which are crowded in two lines fronting one another in the Braes of Balquhidder would be more imposing if spread out, and not placed out of the way of tourists. Several of these are fit to rival Ben Voirlich and Ben Ledi in height, and still more so in regard to the steepness with which they spring up from the bottom of that long and low valley; but as seen from the Kings- house, they look like a group of low hills. If distance robes them in their azure hue to the eyes of the beholder, it robs them of their Alpine magnificence. It is like looking through a long avenue of arching trees, or the wrong end of the telescope. Those who wish to see the high peaks and the huge hills of Rob Roy's farm must go on that one errand where the blaeberries grow midst the bonnie blooming heather. My friend the present farmer would like the heather to be more plentiful than it is, and could dispense with the blaeberries. This is the finest summer grazing land in the High- lands, but it has the drawbacks of too much wet land and of the want of heather, bushes, and shelter for the purpose of wintering sheep. The principal side-glen of the Balquhidder valley is Glenbuckie, which strikes off from the river Balvaig at Stronvar arid stretches back to march with Glenfinlas which, alas, is no longer occupied by the community of Stewarts who farmed it for long centuries.


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