Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Between the Ochils and the Forth
Chapter I - From Logie Church to Alva and Tillicoultry

The Ochil Hills—Road along their base from Bridge of Allan —Logie chureh and Blair Logie—Ascent of Dunmyat— Menstrie and its glen—Alva and its silver-mines—Ascent of Ben Clench—Tillicoultry and its glen,

THE Ochils are a range of hills wholly unconnected with any other, which extend from the extremity of Stirlingshire, near the Bridge of Allan, in a direction almost due east, and parallel with the Firth of Forth. They form the northern boundary of Clackmannan and Kinross shires, which they separate from Strathearn, or the southern division of Perth, and then entering Fife, and trending east-north-east, almost approach the German Ocean at the mouth of the Tay. They commence in this order with a gentle ridge, which at Blair Logie rises suddenly into the twin peaks of Dunmyat, the higher and easter of which has an elevation of 1375 feet; next comes a succession of hills, all increasing in height as we proceed from west to east, and culminating in Ben Cleuch—the loftiest of the Ochils—which closes the upper extremity of the glen of Tillicoultry, and rises to the height of 2341 feet. Proceeding towards Dollar, we meet with a series of summits not greatly inferior to Ben Cleuch—such as the Law, the King Seat, and the White Wisp. From this last point they gradually decrease in height, though in a small portion of Perthshire, which here projects like a wedge to the south of the range, Sea Mab, in the parish of Muckhart, attains an elevation of 1441 feet. The diminution, however, becomes very manifest as they skirt the northern edge of Kinross-shire, and by the time they reach Glen Farg, the average elevation is little over 800. It is something lower even than that when we follow the range into Fife, as it proceeds in an east-north-east direction, forming the southern border of the estuary of the Tay. With this latter portion of the Ochils I have, in the present work, nothing to do, as I am only concerned with the range from the Bridge of Allan to Glen Farg, where the Great North Road enters Strathearn.

The formation of the Oehils may be described as porphyi'tic trap, which, at their southern base in the valley of the Devon, meets the great coal-field of the middle Lowlands of Scotland, which extends on both sides of the Forth from Alloa down to Aberlady, and takes in the Carse of Stirling, the greater part of the counties of Clackmannan, Fife, and the three Lothians. The Ochils are its barrier on the north, and nowhere almost in Scotland, with the exception of a small district in Sutherland, does any coal exist to the north of the range. They abound in minerals of various kinds, and silver, copper, lead, and cobalt have at different times been wrought in them with various degrees of success.

In an aesthetic point of view there is no more beautiful range of hills. They have been familiar to me from my childhood as a distant barrier that rose from earth to sky, shutting out the world beyond like the ridge that enclosed Rasselas and his companions in the Happy Valley. Certainly the world contains far loftier peaks and sublimer adjuncts of scenery, but nowhere can it show mountains with a more beautiful contour of outline, or such a charming succession of those wavy and rounded curves—those lines of beauty and grace—which delight the eye of an artist. The sides of the hills are covered with the richest and most luxuriant herbage, which afford admirable pasture to numerous flocks of sheep, and the tints on the Ochils are ever of the loveliest kind, whether it be at early morn, mid-day, or dewy eve—in misty weather when the rainbow spreads its hues over some particular spot, or in winter when they are white with snow. This beauty of light and shade on the Ochils has been attributed to the peculiar slope of the hills, which lie nearly at an angle of 450, so that every cloud passing over the sun has its shadow reflected on their surface. There is no long, unbroken ridge, but a succession of rounded, detached hills, the sides of which are sometimes clothed with wood, and the intervening glens, gorges, and ravines are of the kind that Salvator Rosa loved to paint.

The country at the foot of these hills has been termed the Arcadia or Tempe of Scotland. It is certainly a beautiful strath, sheltered by the hills behind from the north, and watered by the "clear winding Devon," on the opposite side of which rises a long ridge or eminence which forms the other side of the valley. The fine pasturage on the mountain-sides naturally rendered wool plentiful in this neighbourhood; and this circumstance, along with the abundant water-supply furnished by the streams from the glens and gorges of the hills, gave rise to numerous mills and factories, around which several large villages, or rather small towns, have gradually grow n up. The whole valley has long been an important seat of the worsted and woollen manufacture, the chief places where it is carried on being Menstrie, Alva, and Tillicoultry. Here, too, it strikes a visitor as being divested of the prosaic and monotonous surroundings which are often the characteristics of factory life in our great towns ; and certainly the picturesque and romantic nature of the surroundings- -where rocky glens and cascades abut on the factories, and beautiful mountain scenery is within five minutes' walk of the whir of the spindles and clack of the power-looms—must tend, one would think, to alleviate in some degree the sombre monotony of daily toil. And yet, after all, work is work wherever carried on, and brings this blessing with it, that it makes, for those who are actively employed, all places alike.

In taking a survey of the Ochils and the "hillfoots" or towns at their base, I shall proceed from west to east, starting from the Bridge of Allan, to which and its neighbourhood reference has already been made. The point which naturally commends itself, in the first instance, is the hill of Dunmyat, to which Hector Macneill thus refers in his "Will and Jean " :—

"Saft her smile like sweet May morning Glintin' o'er Dunmyat's brow, Sweet wi' openin' charms adorning Strevlin's lovely plains below,"

In proceeding thither from the Bridge of Allan, the traveller may take tw o or three different routes. If he turns off at the south-west extremity by the road which leads by the home farm of Airthrey Castle to Logic church, he will shortly come to the old road leading uphill through a finely wooded defile to the Sheriffmuir. From this he will easily make his way to the summit of the ridge of low-wooded hills which extend between Logie church and Blair Logie. Its ridge, again, gradually rises into that of Dunmyat, whose summit he will thus be able to reach without great trouble or fatigue in about two hours. Instead of following the Sheriffmuir road, the path may be taken up the hill at the back of the old church of Logie. To reach the latter, the traveller must continue the beautifully wooded road at the back of the Airthrey home farm, which will bring him out at the old church of Logie, situated in one of the most picturesque nooks in the world. The Ochils, in a recess of which it stands, are here, though of no great height, beautifully clothed with wood, and the little old church standing in its ancient burying-ground is covered with ivy. One of its early Protestant ministers was Alexander Hume, who has achieved some reputation as a religious poet, and deserves to be better known in the present day. He was a great friend of the celebrated Lady Culross, to whom he dedicates his poems. He died in 1609. The house of Lord Abercromby's factor immediately adjoins the old church in a charming situation.

I have mentioned the two foregoing routes as the easiest for the ascent of Dunmyat, but it may also be climbed from Blair Logie glen, to which we shall now proceed. Leaving old Logie church and going downhill for a quarter of a mile, we come to the new parish church of Logie, a neat though plain building, surmounted by a spire; and here we join, near Airthrey East Lodge, the public road which leads from the Bridge of Allan and Causewayhead, between the Abbey Craig and Lord Abercromby's grounds, to Blair Logie and Menstrie. It is, in fact, part of the great road leading from Stirling by the hillfoots to Dollar and Kinross.

Our distances are here — Stirling 2, Dollar 9, Kinross 22 miles. On our right, a long straight road calld the Pows Loan, a mile in length, but finely shaded with trees, leads down to the main highway running from Alloa to Stirling by the south side of the Abbey Craig. Passing this, the traveller will keep due east, and following a pleasantly shaded though very uniform road for about three-quarters of a mile, will arrive at the village of Blair Logie, which nestles under the west shoulder of Dunmyat at the outlet of its own glen or gorge.

Blair Logie is what in gushing language would be described as a "sweetly pretty" place, consisting of a small hamlet of houses, a U.P. church, and (behind the village) the old Castle or Place of Logie, the property of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who owns a good deal of the land in this neighbourhood. It used to be famous as a "goats-whey quarter," in the days when the drinking of this beverage was prescribed by physicians as a sovereign remedy in consumption and kindred disorders. Many people used to resort thither for this purpose; and in the time of our grandfathers it enjoyed a great reputation as a specially beautiful and salubrious spot. In these days people were less exacting than they are now in the matter of accommodation, when they seem to expect not merely "to carry the comforts of the Sautmarket with them," but to find luxuries and conveniences to which n their Sautmarket homes they are strangers. As far as can be judged from outward appearance, the prestige of Blair Logie is gone, and the tide of fashion has set in to other quarters. But it is still an attractive place, though it does not even own a hotel.

The old Place of Logie is an interesting specimen of an old Scottish mansion-house in the end of the sixteenth century, though it is now only the residence of a hill-fanner. Let us ascend the glen> or rather gorge, which rises above it, and takes up to the hillside below the western peak of Dunmyat. This, though not the higher of the two, is noteworthy as the site of an ancient Pictish fort and castle, part of which may still be traced, though both natural causes and human agencies have made the greater part of it disappear. A description of the locality has been contributed by Miss C. Mac-lagan to the 'Proceedings of the Scottish Antiquarian Society.'

Keeping up the glen, we enjoy, as we turn round from time to time, beautiful views of the windings of the Forth and the rich country extending up between it and the foot of the hills. After rather a stiff climb, we turn to the right, descend into the valley between the two summits, and then ascending again, soon find ourselves on the ridge which leads to the higher eminence, on which the cairn of the Ordnance Survey stands. It is soon reached, and the ascent of Dunmyat has been accomplished, as I can testify personally, in an hour and a quarter from Blair Logie. The view well recompenses any trouble or fatigue that may have been incurred. It is certainly not so extensive as that from Ben Cleuch, of which more anon; but it presents a most magnificent prospect of alpine and champaign country combined, taking in all the country between Stirling Castle and Ben Lomond in the upper basin of the Forth, and all the windings of the liver with its shores and estuary from Stirling to the Bass. The panorama of mountains to the north and west is also singularly magnificent, including even, it is said, Ben Nevis. The whole of the Sheriffmuir, with its battle-field, lies at our feet on one side; and on the other we can look on the Abbey Craig and the Wallace Monument to the plain of Stirling, while a little farther off, away to the south, is the field of Bannockburn.

There is a very easy descent from the top of Dunmyat through the beautiful glen of Menstrie, to the thriving manufacturing village of that name, and the distance may be accomplished in little over half an hour. The upper part of the glen is very broad and spacious, and a cart-track passes through it, by which Strathallan and the opposite side of the Ochils may be reached. Several glens open into Menstrie Glen, and the dwelling-house belonging to a large sheep-farm forms a prominent object. As in every part of the Ochils, the turf -s delightfully elastic and ((velvety" to the tread, and the only care that we have to take is in the first descent from the summit, which requires to be made with some caution. As we approach the village the glen narrows to a most romantic and picturesque gorge, the precipitous sides of which arc bordered by a profusion of natural wood, including the mountain-ash or rowan, the alder, hazel, elm, &c., whilst the clear stream at the bottom foams over its rocky bed. At every turn, as we descend the mountain-path, some new feature in the scenery presents itself. Having reached the village of Menstrie, which is about a mile from Blair Logie, we may turn back for a little along the road in order to look up to Dunmyat, from which we have just descended. The two peaks have here a singularly imposing aspect, more especially the western or lower one, which shoots up like a mighty cone. They almost project over the public road, and look as if they were ready to topple over and overwhelm the passer-by.

Part of the slope or descent of Dunmyat, to the west of Menstrie, is traversed by a country road leading to a hill-farm, and is seen to considerable advantage from the Stirling and Dunfermline railway between Cambus and Causewayhead stations. It is probably this which is referred to in the popular local song :—

"Oh! Alva's woods are bonnie,
Tillicoultry's hills are fair;
But when I think o' the bonnie braes o' Menstrie,
It makes my heart aye sair."

The legend regarding the above is that the miller of Menstrie had a beautiful wife, whose charms captivated the king of the fairies, and induced him to carry her off, greatly to the sorrow of her bereaved husband. She did not appear, however, to be contented with her fate, and was frequently heard by her former partner warbling the verse just quoted, though he could not see the singer. At last one day, whilst he was winnowing some corn at his mill-door, he accidentally made a magical gesture which broke the spell, and the Eurydice of Menstrie dropped from the air at the feet of her Orpheus.

Another local rhyme is :—

"There's Dollar, and Alva, and Tillicoultry,
But the bonnie braes o' Menstrie they bear the gree."

The barony of Menstrie belonged formerly to the Alexander family, the last representative of which has transmitted a reputation to posterity both as a poet of considerable merit, and as the author of the ' Parsenesis,' or Exhortation on Government, dedicated to Prince Henry, the short-lived son of James VI. He received from Charles I. a grant of territory in North America, which, under the name of Nova Scotia, might be disposed of in lots, not exceeding 150 in number, each of which should confer on the holder the rank of baronet. Many of our baronets derive their title from this source, and hence are sometimes spoken of as "Nova Scotia baronets." Subsequently to this Sir William Alexander received a higher mark of royal favour, in being made Earl of Stirling—a peerage which was only enjoyed by him for a few years, and became extinct at his death, which took place in 1640. No one has ever established a right to it since, though the surname of Alexander is very common in Scotland. About forty years ago a pretender to the title and honours came forward, but the grounds of his {aims proved to be only fraud and imposture.

Menstrie is miles from the Bridge of Allan, 5 miles from Stirling, and 2 from Alva. Though occupying a beautiful position, it is not in itself a particularly attractive place, but it carries on a thriving industry in the manufacture of tartans and woollen goods. It is said to be the birthplace of Sir Ralph Abercromby, whose baptism in 1734 is certainly recorded in the register of Logie parish, to which Menstrie belongs; but another account states that he was born at the house of Tullibody on the Forth, a little above Alloa. A junction railway connects Alva and Menstrie with the Stirling and Dunfermline line at Cambus.

The road from Menstrie to Alva lies close to the base of the h;lls, and while very level and straight, is almost unsheltered. Taking the elevations in succession as we proceed eastwards from Dunmyat, the names and altitudes are Myreton Hill (1240), a farm on the slope of which was long occupied by Mrs Thomson, sister of Mungo Park; West Hill of Alva (1682), the precipitous crag on the front of which s known as Craigleith; the Middle Hill of Alva (1437); and the Wood Hill of Alva (1723), so called from its being clothed with timber almost to the summit. The town of Alva lies at the foot of the West and the Middle Hills, and the glen between them is called Alva Glen. The whole of the parish belongs to J. Johnston, Esq. of Alva, whose mansion is beautifully situated among trees on a projection in front of the Wood Hill, about midway between Alva and Tillicoultry.

Alva {Hotel: The Johnstone Arms) is a manufacturing town of some size, and much more pleasantly situated than such places generally are. Immediately behind it, between the West and the Middle Hill, is Alva Glen, traversed by the Alva burn, which supplies many of the woollen factories with water, and is in itself a fine mountain-gorge, gradually widening out as the explorer makes his way through its romantic recesses. The precipice of Craigleith, which rises on the west side of it, and presents its rocky front to the Devon valley, used to be famous for its breed of falcons, one pair only of which are said to build their nest in the most inaccessible part of the crag. They long retained a great reputation for purity of breed amongst hawking connoisseurs, and in the last century an English gentleman in Yorkshire sent a special messenger to Alva to procure him a specimen. The request was readily acceded to; but the envoy, in order to obtain the bird, had to be let down to the nest in the face of the rock by a rope fastened round his waist, and held by a company of people on the edge of the precipice.

The parish of Alva belongs to Stirlingshire, but is completely detached from that county, being bounded on the north by Perth, and on the other three sides by Clackmannan.

The ancient history of Alva is connected with St Serf, who seems, as one of the early Christian missionaries, to have evangelised the greater part of the country lying between the Oehils and the sea, from Culross to Loch Leven. The church of Alva was dedicated to him, and there is still a well in the slope below the present church which bears the name of St Serfs Well. The parish was in the diocese of Dunkeld, and in 1260 the church of Alva, with its revenues, was made over as a "mensal church" to the Abbey of Cambuskenneth. Down to 1632 it seems to have been united with that of Tillicoultry, the minister of Alva officiating in both places. The disjunction is said to have been effected by Alexander Bruce, second son of the celebrated Sir George Bruce of Culross, who had become proprietor of the Alva estate. The latter subsequently passed into the hands of the Erskmes, cadets of the Mar family, and after being held by them for nearly a hundred and fifty years, ;t was soid to the ancestor of the present proprietor, a son of Sir James Johnstone of Westerhall in Dumfriesshire. The baronetcy vested in their family has merged in that of the Rosslyn peerage, which descended, in terms of the original patent, to Sir James Erskine of Alva, whose mother was a sister of Lord Chancellor Wedderburn, first Earl of Rosslyn.

As with all the "hillfoots," the staple manufactures of Alva are woollen, and these have been carried on here for nearly two hundred and fifty years. Originally they consisted, as at Tillicoultry, chiefly of serges, but plaiclings and blankets were in process of time added, and more recently tartans.

In the beginning of the last century an industry was started in the neighbourhood of Alva, which promised at first to lead to .important results, but after a short while entirely collapsed. This was the working of silver-mines in the glen between the Middle and Wood Hills, and which to this day is known by the appellation of the Silver Glen. Here exist the disused mines which were opened by Sir John Erskine of Alva in the early years of the last century, and with such success that they are said at one time to have furnished a yield of ^4000 a-week. This is probably an exaggeration; but certain it is that the attention of Government was attracted to those valuable veins of ore, two of which were especially rich, and produced in a few weeks 134 ounces of the richest silver, as assayed and tested by no less a personage than Sir Isaac Newton, then Master of the Mint. Sir John Erskine, shortly after he had commenced the working of these mines, engaged in the Jacobite insurrection of 1715, leaving to his wife, Lady Erskine, the oversight in his absence of the operations, which were carried on to some purpose, as no less than forty tons of silver ore were dug out of the mountain-side and buried in the ground near the gate of Alva House. With the view apparently of procuring a remission of the sentence of outlawry incurred by him in consequence of his participation in the Rebellion, it would seem that Sir John communicated to the Government some information regarding these mines, and succeeded in his purpose. A German expert connected with the Mint, named Dr Justus Brandshagen, was sent down to Scotland to investigate and report—a behest which he accomplished in the winter of 1716-17. A copy of the report furnished by him is preserved in the Earl of Portsmouth's papers as recently examined by the Royal Historical Commission. It states, inter alia, as follows: "I found it (the ore) of an extraordinary nature, such as to my knowledge few or none like have ever been seen in Europe. It consists of sulphur, arsenic, copper, iron, some lead, and good silver. Of all these the silver is only to be regarded, for the other minerals and metals contained in the ore are of little value, and not worth the charges to separate and keep them." The report has a plan attached to it of the mining works, a "Description of the Mine," and an "Account of Ore assayed at Alva." There are several documents among these papers in the handwriting of Sir Isaac Newton regarding these mines of Sir John Erskine. It had been proposed at first to send the great philosopher himself down to Alva to examine the workings, but he pleaded to be excused on the ground that it was not a matter in which he had much skill, and that it would be better to send some one of experience from King George's silver-mines in the Harz. Dr Brandshagen, and an assistant named James Hamilton, were accordingly sent hi his stead, but Sir Isaac both assayed some of the ore and furnished a lengthy report on it in a letter addressed to Lord Townshend. One of the passages in it is as follows: "By two assays which I caused to be made of clean pieces cut off from the silver, it proved xvii. dwt. better than standard. Now, fifteen pennyweight of such fine silver is worth four shillings and twopence. And, therefore, the ore is exceedingly rich, a pound weight avoirdupois holding 4s. 2d. in silver. This silver holds no gold."

Notwithstanding all this splendid treasure-trove, which is said to have produced to Sir John Erskine from 40,000 to 50,000, his fortunes do not appear to have been materially benefited; and ere long, the precious ore becoming " small by degrees and beautifully less," the yield did not compensate for the outlay, and the workings came to an end. They were resumed about forty years afterwards by Charles Erskine, Lord Tinwald, who had purchased the estate of Alva from his nephew, Sir Henry Erskine, a successor of Sir John; but though prosecuted with considerable industry, they produced no adequate return beyond occasionally some small strings of silver ore, and they had finally to be abandoned. There was found, however, and wrought, a considerable quantity of cobalt, which was used largely in a china manufactory erected about this time at Prestonpans, in East Lothian. A pair of communion cups made from some remains in his possession of the silver ore obtained from Sir John Pikine's mines, was presented by James Erskine, Lord Alva, son of Lord Tinwald, to the church of Alva in the year 1767. The whole history of this extraordinary discovery of silver in the Ochils is as curious a chapter in the chronicles of metallurgy as that of the gold-workings in the Lead Hills in the reign of James V.

The ascent of Ben Cleuch, the highest of the Ochil range, though the distance is somewhat less from Tillicoultry, may yet be very satisfactorily accomplished from Alva in three and a half hours by following the horsepath which leads through the hills to Blackford. The traveller who wishes to follow this route will take the track along the lower slope of the Middle Hill of Alva, which he will reach by going up to the church 1 and following the road to the left, which conducts to the hillside. The track is very easy to follow, but I have tried another, and what I deem fully "a more excellent way." This is to descend from the slope of the Middle Hill into the Silver Glen, which lies between the Middle and the Wood Hill, and then ascend the latter through the woodland, from which it derives its name, to the summit. Arrived at this point (1723 feet of elevation), the traveller has gained a lofty ridge, which forms the crest of the western side of the glen of Tillicoultry. From where he now stands he will see the top of Ben Cleuch on the opposite side of the glen, to the north-east of him, and to the south of this, and more nearly in a direct line opposite his present station, the peak called " The Law."

The ascent of the Wood Hill, though it is made among trees, is a very stiff one, and a feeling of considerable satisfaction is experienced when the climber has got fairly' clear of them, and finds himself in a more open and bracing atmosphere on the hillside above. In a hollow here, just above Alva House, is the spreading-ground of the well-known Lady Alva's Web, or Lady Alva's Veil, which is regarded with a good deal of interest by those who view the Ochils from a distance. From the sheltered position of the locality, screened from the rays of the sun on all sides by a projecting rock, snow frequently remains here far on in the summer, when it has melted on every other part of the range, and it then assumes the appearance of a fine linen web or lace veil—hence its appellation. I remember noticing it on two special occasions—one on 1st June from the the highroad above Culross, and the other on 29th May from the road between Kincardine and Kilbagie. On the first of these it appeared in the distance no larger than a pocket-handkerchief; on the other it assumed the size of a tolerably large tablecloth.

However steep may be the climb up the Wood Hill, the view which is enjoyed from the summit of the rich country spreading out between the Ochils and the sea, and extending to the mouth of the Forth, is such as would be an ample recompense for any amount of fatigue. The remainder of the route to the summit of Ben Cleuch is now comparatively easy, and there the traveller will be greeted by a still more magnificent prospect. All that he has to do now is to turn his face northwards and follow the great west ridge of Tillicoultiy Glen by the wire-fence which separates the Alva and Tillicoultry estates. Let him follow this till he comes to the head of the valley, where the same boundary fence makes first a descent to the east, and then runs up the hill to the ridge on the opposite side of the glen. He will leave the rounded eminence of Craighorn (1904 feet) on his left, and then taking the wire-fence as his guide, follow its course, which will bring him to the top of the slope. Here he is now on the ridge which crests Tillicoultry Glen on the east side, and within a very short distance indeed of the summit of Ben Cleuch, the goal of his exertions. Turning southwards and ascending an easy incline of a few hundred yards, he arrives at his destination and the Ordnance Survey cairn.

Ben Cleuch has a height-of 2341 feet above the level of the sea, and though the highest point of the Ochils, makes no great appearance from a distance, there being several other eminences in the neighbourhood of little inferior elevation. The view which it commands is, on a clear day, something extraordinary—a panorama which, like Justice Shallow's pippins, leaves one something to talk about afterwards for the rest of one's life. The mere height is, of course, of no account, but the position, situated as it is midway between the basins of the Tay and Forth, and in sight of the rich champaign countries which each of these comprises, gives this hill an advantage over many others of much greater altitude. In the case of many mountain-ranges it frequently happens that the prospect from the higher summits consists for the most part of a vast ocean of hills, very grand and striking no doubt, but withal somewhat monotonous. From Ben Cleuch and Dunmyat, on the other hand, there is the most attractive variety and contrast, from the grand and majestic to the soft and beautiful. The story has often been repeated of a Scottish laird travelling in Italy, and being informed by a fellow-wanderer that to all the fine prospects which he had witnessed on the Continent, he preferred the view which he had obtained from the top of Ben Cleuch, in the Scottish Ochils. His interlocutor experienced not only surprise, but a slight shook, as he himself was the proprietor of Den Cleuch, and had never in his life made its ascent. Sometimes Dunmyat is the hill assigned in the story, which generally concludes with the circumstance that the "Scot abroad" resolved at once to return to his own country and climb the hill on his own estate, which he had hitherto neglected for prospects in foreign lands.

The view from Dunmyat, as already mentioned, is very fine, but that from Ben Cleuch is much more extensive. It takes in at the same time the estuary of the Tay as far as Dundee, the fertile district of Strath-earn, with the town of Crieff projected on a sunny slope to the north; Loch Leven, with the Lomond Hills ; and the plain of Kinross, only slightly elevated above the valley of the Devon, which makes its chief descent at the Cauldron Linn, and flows in its turn through a region very little elevated above the level of the Forth. The whole basin of the last-named stream, it is needless to add, is spread out at the feet of the spectator, and its whole course may be followed from Ben Lomond by Stirling, Alloa, Kincardine, and Queensferry, down to Leith, North Berwick Law, and St Abb's. The mountain ranges and peaks that can be seen are also very numerous and well .defined. Away to the north-east may be observed the Grampians in the north of Forfar, and adjoining corners of Aberdeen and Inverness shires. Those chieftains among Scottish mountains— Ben Macdhu*, Cairngorm, and Loch-nagar--can all be seen, with their sides, even at midsummer, flecked with snow; whilst nearer at hand every famous peak in Perthshire is visible, including, in a line from cast to west, Schiehallion, Ben Lawers, and Ben Voirlich. The distant Ben Alder, which rises above Loch Ericht, on the confines of Inverness-shire, and even the mighty monarch Ben Nevis, beside Fort William, come in within the ken of the gazer from Ben Cleuch—so do Ben Cruachan in Argyleshire, Ben Ledi and Ben Lomond in Stirlingshire, and Goatfell in Arran, across the lower elevations of the Campsie and Kiisyth hills, in the district between the Forth and Clyde. Altogether, from our present "coign of vantage" no less than seventeen counties can be seen.

It will scarcely be credited that a few years ago a project was started of carrying a railway from Tillicoultry to the summit of Ben Cleuch! The ground, however, was actually surveyed for this purpose, and possibly, in consideration of the circumstance that such a feat has been accomplished on mountains of much greater elevation, such as the Righi in Switzerland, the scheme is not so chimerical as might at first sight be supposed. But no such influx of visitors as yearly throng to the Lake of Lucerne could ever be expected to betake itself to the Ochils, whatever attractions they may possess. The idea could never be realised in the only form which could recommend itself to our practical age as an excuse for such undertakings—that of proving a commercial success. Meanwhile no admirer of Nature, simple and unadorned, will regret that the hoof of the iron horse has hitherto been only allowed to tread the base of the Ochils.

Having done full justice to this glorious panorama, the traveller may wend his way southwards along the ridge, which will conduct him first to the top of the Law (2093 feet), and then downwards into Tillicoultry Glen by a projecting incline or wedge, at the extremity of which, two streams—the Daiglen from the north-northwest, and the Gannel from the north-north-east—unite to form Tillicoultry burn. There is a beautiful waterfall here on the former; and all down the valley after the junction of the streams the scenery is exceedingly picturesque, both in point of cascades and the precipitous wooded sides of the gorge which overhang the water. A narrow and somewhat " risky " sheep-path leads from the "meeting of the waters" along the hillside to a broader and well-trodden track, which ultimately lands us 011 the summit of the so-called Castle Craig, right above the town of Tillicoultry, to which there is a descent by a "Jacob's ladder" or succession of wooden steps. The locality n which we now find ourselves is said to have been at one time a well-defined and strongly constructed Pictish fort, which was roofed over with stone, and used to serve the children in Tillicoultry as a grand playground for hide-and-seek. The foundations of a circular structure were certainly visible here in the end of the last century; and tradition averred that -t had been a mighty fortress of the Picts, and that the stones had been carried away to build the castle of Stirling. It bore the name of "Johme Mool's" house; but whatever it may have been n past times, there is no artificial erection that can be traced on the crag now— the remaining stones having been all, it is said, iutilised in the erection of sheepfolds. On the opposite side of the glen to the Castle Craig are the Western and Eastern Kirk Craigs.

Tillicoultry (Hotel: The Crown) stands at the foot of the hills at the entrance of its glen or gorge, with its burn running through the middle of the town. We descend thither from the Castle Craig by the factory of Mr William Gibson, who has contributed a good deal in his History of Dollar and Tillicoultry' to invest his native district with interest. The stream whose course we follow comes down occasionally, like its congeners in the Ochils, with terrific force, and though strongly embanked, has at times committed great havoc. The last time that such an event took place was in 1877, when both Tillicoultry and Dollar suffered severely. In 1785 there was a tremendous cataclysm, when the Devon rose in four or five hours 13 feet above its usual level at Tillicoultry Bridge. It carried away an immense quantity of grain, and a narrow escape is recorded of a woman who was assisting a farmer on the south side of the stream to save his crop, and was carried off by the flood, but was borne up by her clothes, and landed in safety on the opposite bank.

The name of Tillicoultry seems to be derived from the Gaelic tulach-cul-traigh—the knoll or hillock at the back of or behind the slope—a designation which seems applicable to the slope of the Kirk-hill and its continuation, the so-called Cuninghar, which extend from the old church of Tillicoultry downwards to the highroad. As with other places, an absurd story has been invented to explain the etymology. According to this veracious legend, a Highlander was driving a herd of cattle along the foot of the Oehils, and fully expected that when they were passing through the Tillicoultry burn the animals would stop and slake their thirst. To his surprise, not one of them did so—an omission that made the astonished Celt exclaim with his peculiar enunciation, " There's teil a coo try !" 1 Such an etymon will rank with the alleged origin of the name of Alloa, which is only a few miles distant. It is alleged that shortly after a beginning had been made of the building of the town, a meeting was held to determine the name. A long discussion arose, and nothing satisfactory having been proposed or agreed on, one of the company rose in high dudgeon, exclaiming, "A'll awa' then"—i.e., Alloa. To such derivations the hackneyed saying, 1 There's deil a cow dry—i.e., "There's Tillicoultry." se non } vera, I ben trovato, can certainly not be applied, as they are the veriest drivel; but it is noteworthy how much blundering is current regarding the names of places from attempts to explain the terms of Celtic nomenclature by fancied resemblances to words in either the Teutonic or Latin languages. Such jiuga may sometimes be amusing enough when they are given forth as mere jcux d:esprit by professed wits like Dean Swift and Thomas Hood, but they become unendurable when such miserable inventions as those just referred to are gravely recorded as historical facts.

Tillicoultry was raised to the dignity of a burgh, with commissioners and a chief magistrate, in 1871. It was anciently famous for its manufacture of a coarse woollen cloth—a species of shalloon—which used to be known as early as the sixteenth century by the name of " Tillicoultry serge." It has in more recent times carried on an extensive industry n the production of blankets, shawls, and tartans. The territory round the town seems to have originally belonged to the Earls of Mar, but the church, like that of Alva, belonged to the Abbey of Cambuskenneth. At the Reformation, the church and glebe of Tillicoultry became vested in the Mar family; but as the abbot and convent of Cambuskenneth had meantime granted a tack or lease of the teinds to the Colvilles of Ochiltree, who were now proprietors of the Tillicoultry estate, this conveyance was in 1628 ratified by John, Earl of Mar, and infeftment granted them in the Church lands. These Colvilles acquired the Tillicoultry estate in 1483, and retained it till 1634, when they sold it to William Alexander of Menstrie, afterwards the first and only Earl of Stirling.

After the death of the Earl of Stirling in 1640, the Tiliicoultry estate passed into the hands of Sir Alexander Rollo of Duncrub, and subsequently it has belonged to many different proprietors. Since 1814 it has been the property of the Wardlaw Ramsays, a branch but not the leading representatives of the ancient family of the Wardlaws of Pitreavie, Torrie, and other properties in the western district of Fife. The head of the family, however, Sir Henry Wardlaw, Bart., has long been connected with Tillicoultry, where he carries on business as sole partner in the old-established firm of James Wardlaw & Sons, millwrights and machine-makers. He succeeded to the baronetcy in 1877 on the death of Sir Archibald, cousin to his (Sir Henry Wardlaw's) father. There is also a branch of the family in Dollar.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus