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 III. - Glen Devon, Crook of Devon and Rumbling Bridge

General account of the Devon and its vale—Glen Devon and Glen Eagles—Parish of Fossoway—The Crook of Devon and Titllicbale—The Devil's Mill, Rumbling Bridge, and Cauldron Linn,

The whole of the region which we have been traversing from Logie church eastwards belongs to the vale of the Devon, which has its source in the parish of Blackford, in the western range of the Ochils, behind Ben Cleuch. It flows first east and then south-east through Glen Devon, separates the parishes of Muckhart and Fossoway, and maintains a south-easterly course till it reaches the village of the Crook of Devon, where it makes a singular bend to the west. It flows in this direction till it reaches the extremity of Dollar valley in the neighbourhood of Menstrie and Tullibody, where it turns to the southwest and falls nto the sea at Cambus, about two miles to the west of Alloa. Here it is only six miles due south from its source, though including 'ts windiugs the whole of its course has a length of forty miles. At the Rumbling Bridge, about a nnle below the Crook of Devon, it forces hs way through a tremendous rift or chasm, and then emerging from this, it pursues a gentle and placid course till it reaches the Cauldron Linn, over which it precipitates itself <n a singular and terrific fashion, making a descent of 88 feet. Having thus arrived at a lower level, it resumes its former placidity of current, and preserves it to the end. Indeed the vale of the Devon below the Cauldron Linn is so little raised above the level of the sea, that projects used to be entertained of connecting Alloa and Dollar by means of a canal. In the latter part of ;ts course, the " clear winding Devon " becomes polluted by the discharges from the factories and villages at the foot of the Ochils ; and when it enters the sea at Cambus, it has become a very unsightly stream.

The upper vale of the Devon is known specially as " Glen Devon," which is also the name of the parish in which it is situated. The stream at first is simply a mountain - brook flowing through a lonely and remote valley, which gradually opening out, becomes cultivated, and joins at the hamlet of Glen Devon, at its entrance, the sunny slopes on the southern side of the Ochils. This region is a favourite place for making excursions to, not only from Dollar and the "hillfoots," but from places as remote as Alloa or Stirling, Dunfermline or Kinross. The hamlet :s very prettily situated, and at a short distance up the glen there is a very comfortable inn, at which any traveller proceeding northwards to Crieff will do well to refresh himself, seeing that for fully twelve miles between Glen Devon and the village of Muthil there is not merely an absence of inns and hotels, but absolutely not one place where even a biscuit can be procured. The road in this direction proceeds first up Glen Devon, then passes into Glen Eagles, and so into Strathearn. A most beautiful road it is, and equally suited to the requirements of the pedestrian, the bicyclist, or the guider of a four-in-hand team; indeed a four-in-hand coach, conducted by the Messrs Goodwin, used to run some years ago between Auchterarder and the Rumbling Bridge via Glen Eagles and Glen Devon. But it is one of the loneliest routes in the three kingdoms, and, though much softer as regards the character of the scenery, reminds one strongly in point of solitariness of the famous pass of Drumouchter, between Dalwhinnie and Dalnacardoch.

The distances from Glen Devon are—Rumbling Bridge five, and Crieff fourteen and a half miles. It has a very pretty little church, which, in its sequestered nook by the roadside, is sure to arrest the attention of the traveller. Glen Devon Castle, an old mansion still inhabited, appears on an eminence on the right-hand side of the road about half a mile beyond the church in going to Crieff. At the distance of another half-mile Glen Shcrup abuts on Glen Devon, and merits notice as the locality from which Dunfermline and a large portion of the western district of Fife, along with the burgh of Culross, derive their water-supply. Having made the ascent from Glen Devon into Glen Eagles, and passed the twelfth milestone from Crieff, the traveller will find on the left-hand side of the road, a little to the southwest of the old toll-house, a spring which bear? the name of St Mungo's Well. The whole district between the Ochils and the Firth of Forth seems to have been the special patrimony of St Mungo and his master St Serf.

An additional interest attaches to the spring in question from the circumstance of its being the source of the Ruthven, which Hows through the romantic glen of the same name into the Earn. Kincardine Castle, the ancient residence of the Montrose family, and now a ruin, stands on an eminence overlooking Ruthven Glen. The Glen Eagles estate was the patrimony of Mr Haldane and his brother, the celebrated evangelist, in the beginning of the present century. It is now the property of the Earl of Camperdown. In bygone days Glen Eagles Castle enjoyed an equivocal reputation as the scene of the intrigue of its mistress with Squire Meldrum of Cleish, whose adventures have been recorded by Sir David Lindsay.

On emerging from Glen Eagles the traveller will find himself near a railway station, and also within a few miles of Muthil; but as my present journeying is limited by the Ochils, the north side of which we have now reached, as we did previously at the Kirk of Dron, I can proceed no farther in this direction, and must return to Glen Devon.

In going southwards from Glen Devon towards the Yetts of Muckhart and the Rumbling Bridge, the traveller may notice in the month of June, in a field on his left hand, sloping down to the Devon, a collection of beautiful yellow flowers, which possibly he may be ready to pass without further notice than that they seem to be a lot of very large buttercups. In reality they are globe-flowers—the "bonnie lucken gowan " of Hogg, which was formerly in great repute as a charm, and which has its habitat in mountainous shady places. It is rarely, however, that these flowers are found growing together in such quantity as in this meadow, at the entrance of Glen Devon.

Near this place will be observed an ancient narrow bridge over the Devon, which bears the name of St Serf.

An old road crossed here and led through the Ochils to the village of Dunning, in Strathearn, which is now reached by a more convenient highway across a bridge a little lower down the stream, and which branches off from the Glen Devon road immediately to the north of the Yetts of Muckhart. Near the same place the great road from Dollar and Stirling crosses the road to Glen Devon and Crieff, and continues in an easterly direction downhill. Crossing the Devon at Old Fossoway Bridge, it skirts the base of the Ochils through Carnbo to Milnathort, a distance of eight miles; whilst at a point three and a half miles to the west of the latter place it sends off a branch to Kinross, which is thus nine miles from the Yetts and thirteen from Dollar. It leads through the finest and most attractive part of Kinross-shire, the soil being good and the country well wooded, whilst the ridge that here forms the south front of the Ochils is cultivated almost to its very summit.

The parish of Fossoway, which is entered after crossing the Devon at Old Fossoway Bridge, is rather singularly placed, having its north and south districts in the county of Perth ; whilst an intervening portion, originally forming the old parish of Tulliebole, belongs to Kinross-shire, and is inserted like a wedge between the divisions belonging to Perth. To distinguish these two last, the northern is generally known by the appellation of Old Fossoway; and it also contains the old parish church, manse, and burying-ground, which are situated on the rising ground on the north side of the road, about half a mile to the east of Old Fossoway Bridge. The high hill that rises behind to the north is called Lendrick Hill, and has a height of 1496 feet.

The old manse of Fossoway has been refitted as a private residence, and is very pleasantly situated, being approached by an avenue from the Milnathort road.

The churchyard immediately adjoins it on the east, and is still occasionally used for interments; but as regards the church, little more than the foundations can now be discerned. An ancient tomb or through-stane will be observed in memory of the Rev. Laurence Mercer, minister of Fossoway in the seventeenth century, and a member of the family of Meikleour, who owned Aldie Castle in the southern division of Fossoway.

Fossoway is said to be a form of the Gaelic Fasach fheidh—the desert of deer—just as the adjoining parish of Muckhart is said to be Mtucard, or the height of the wild boar,—derivations which are not without some degree of probability. It seems to have been incorporated about 1614 with Tulliebole, where a "reader" used to officiate, and had a stipend assigned out of the third of the revenues of the Abbey of Culross. The ancient lords of the parish were the Murrays of Tullibardine, ancestors of the Dukes of Athole, who are or were till recently the feudal superiors of the greater portion of the lands in Fossoway and Tulliebole, though they no longer hold any actual property.

The village of the Crook of Devon lies about a mile to the south of Old Fossoway church, and belongs to Kinross-shire and the old parish of Tulliebole. It may be reached from Old Fossoway by a by-way which runs south from the Milnathort road and abuts on its eastern extremity. The great artery of communication to and from it is the highway from Kinross, which, issuing from the middle of the town, keeps first north east towards the railway station at Kinross Junction, and then proceeds nearly due east, crossing the South Queich at Balado Bridge, and skirting on the north side the grounds of Tulliebole Castle. The distance of the Crook of Devon from Kinross is about six miles, and the road, though somewhat tame and monotonous, is an excellent one, and admirably kept, like all the others in the county. A stranger cannot fail to remark the multiplicity of roads, all good, which intersect in every direction this portion of Kinross-shire.

Tulliebole lies about a mile to the east of the Crook of Devon, with the hamlet of Drum between the places. Among the documents relating to Scotland preserved in the Record Office in London, there are, of 20th April 1304, "letters patent" from "Tulliebotheville," declaring that the King (Edward I.) has granted to Gilbert Malherbe all the goods and chattels of William Oliphant, knight, and others, and of the garrison of Stirling Castle, then in arms against him, wherever they may be found in Scotland. The identity of this term with the modern Tulliebole is rendered more than probable from a memorandum of a writ to be sent in King Edward's name in the year last mentioned to John, Earl of Athole, who was lord of the domain of Fossoway, and Edward's warden between Forth and Orkney. He and the chamberlain of Scotland, John, are ordered to buy or procure in exchange a castle in a good place beyond Forth, inasmuch as his Majesty had decided to build one at "Tulliebotheville," but could find no proper site.

The castle communicates by a north avenue with the road from the Crook of Devon to Kinross, and by a south one with that to Cleish. The Tulliebole estate belongs to Lord Moncreiff, and the castle is a fine specimen of an old Scottish baronial mansion. It bears the date of 1608, is in good repair, and is let to an Edinburgh gentleman for summer quarters. Lord Moncreiff's grandfather, Sir Henry Wellwood Moncreiff, the well-known leader in the Church, and minister of St Cuthbert's, Edinburgh, used to retire here regularly in the summer months, and dispense for a time the dignified hospitality of an old Scottish baron.

The castle is surrounded by some fine old timber, and at the north-east extremity of the policy, on the outside, are the old churchyard and church of Tulliebole. As in the case of Old Fossoway, however, there is nothing to be seen of the latter beyond the foundations. A small obelisk is erected to the memory of the late Lord Moncreiff, and forms a conspicuous object on the road from Crook of Devon to Kinross. At about two miles from the former place, and a little beyond where the Moncreiff monument comes into view, the highway is crossed by a rivulet known as the "Trooper's Dub," and connected with which there is a tale. It is said that a King of Scotland in former days, whilst passing in this direction between Stirling and Falkland, was hospitably entertained at Tulliebole Castle, whilst his retinue were feasted in a meadow by a burnside at a little distance. A drinking-match ensued between one of the royal guards and a retainer of the Laird of Tulliebole named Keltie. The latter came off victorious, but the unfortunate trooper succumbed to the evil effects of the protracted potation, and died on the scene of the debauch. He was buried there, and to this day the rivulet or pool bears the name of the " Trooper's Dub," and the field that of the "Trooper's Park." The ghost of the unfortunate trooper was believed to haunt the spot, and up to a recent period few country-people cared to pass the "Trooper's Dub" at night. Another strange story, not suitable to be related here, has long been current in Fossoway regarding the vengeance taken by an infuriated blacksmith on a priest who had seduced his wife. The smith's anvil, which figures prominently in the legend, is or used to be preserved in the parish under the epithet of " the Reformation Clog."

The Crook of Devon is a straggling village, and contains one little inn at which refreshments may be obtained and horses put up. It used to be famous for its cattle fairs, and certain inhabitants of the village connected with these, who were in the habit of occasionally visiting the burgh of Culross, are dealt with severely by the kirk-session of that parish as "outlandish drunkards" and disturbers of the quiet of the town on the Sabbath-day. This was in 1634; and about the same period it is recorded that a murder took place at one of these markets, in consequence of a vassel of the Laird of Tulliebole having stabbed another in a quarrel. The guilty party took to flight, but was pursued, captured, and brought before his superior as lord of regality. He was condemned, and executed the same evening on a rising ground at the east end of the village, where the road to Old Fossoway branches off, and the place still bears the name of the "Gallows Knowe."

The present church of Fossoway is situated at the west end of the Crook of Devon, on the left-hand side of the main highway proceeding from that village to the west. The Devon here takes its curious turn in the same direction, and in about a mile reaches the chasm at the Rumbling Bridge. Before arriving there it passes through a rugged and precipitous defile, and about 450 yards above the bridge occurs the singular phenomenon known as the "Devil's Mill." This is a peculiar movement resembling in sound the clack of a mill, which, being heard both Sunday and Saturday, has given rise to the epithet. It is only heard to perfection in certain conditions of the water, and is caused by the latter striking and rebounding from a particular point in the rock. This sound is often very clear and distinct, and the surroundings are sufficiently picturesque, partaking, indeed, somewhat of the terrific. The Devil's Mill is situated within the grounds of the Rumbling Bridge Hotel, the proprietor of which is the lessee also of the path leading down from the bridge to the Cauldron Linn. Strangers desirous of visiting these places obtain at the hotel passes which admit them to the grounds.

The highway from Kinross, after passing through the Crook of Devon, continues in a south-west direction for nearly a mile, till it meets the north road from Dunfermline to Glen Devon and Crieff, close to the Rumbling Bridge station on the Alloa and Kinross railway. A very fine view is obtained here of the lower Devon valley, which stretches away in the distance to the west; whilst nearer to the spectator the stream is bordered on the north by a finely wooded steep bank on the estate of Blairhill (James R. Haig, Esq.), whose grounds extend from the Rumbling Bridge down to the Cauldron linn. Here the traveller may either turn to the right and visit the Rumbling Bridge, or he may proceed south for about a mile to the village of Powmill, from which a road leads almost due west through Blairingone to Alloa.

The shorter road from the Crook of Devon to the Rumbling Bridge is by turning to the right, near the west end of the village, and crossing the bridge which here spans the Devon. Proceeding onwards for about half a mhe in a north-west direction, with the mansion and grounds of Naemoors (John Mowbray, Esq.) on the right, the north road is reached within 200 yards of the Rumbling Bridge Hotel. This establishment long enjoyed deservedly a great reputation under the management of the late Mr M'Ara, and its prestige is still maintained by lus son. The locality has from time immemorial been an object of attraction, as recited in the following couplet:—

"The Rumblin' Brigg and the Cauldron Linn,
And the Links o' Devon water."

The Devil's Mill, a few hundred yards higher up, has already been described. As regards the bridge and the tremendous rift which it spans, it is one of those wondrous and appalling places of which the traveller receives no warning from any appearances in the adjoining scenery. Every adjunct is of the calm and peaceful order, whether he approach the bridge from the Yetts of Muckhart or from the south. It is not till he is actually crossing the structure and has looked over the parapet that he becomes sensible of the terrific as well as romantically picturesque character of the place. Down he gazes into the stupendous defile with its precipitous walls of rock, at the bottom of which the tortured and imprisoned stream struggles to force its way, but at last emerges between a range of lofty and beautifully wooded banks. The height of the parapet of the bridge above the bottom of the chasm is about 120 feet.

The present bridge is a modern structure erected about seventy years ago. Beneath it, and completely overshadowed by the modern erection, but quite visible from the banks above or below, is an older bridge, 86 feet above the stream, having only a breadth of 12 feet, and wholly unprovided with any parapet. It superseded an old wooden bridge, and was erected in 1713 by a mason named William Gray, a native of the parish of Saline, though Burns in his account of his visit to this place speaks of the popular belief of the architect being no other than the Devil, whose name is connected with so many of the grander features in natural scenery. How a bridge could have been erected at such a spot without any protecting ledge, and have been allowed to continue so long in that condition, seems strange at the present day; but so it was, and there is no record of any accident whatever having ever taken place whilst it formed the medium of transit. It had doubtless been constructed at first with the view only of accommodating passengers on foot and on horseback; but vehicles certainly crossed it also, though in such a case it was customary for travellers to descend, and the driver to go to his horse's head and lead him over. Till within the last few years the old Rumbling Bridge was accessible from the bank at the south-west corner, but a fatal accident which took place here on one occasion led to the approach being rendered quite impracticable.

From the Rumbling Bridge is a pleasant walk of nearly two miles along the left bank of the Devon to the Cauldron Linn. The river, after emerging from the rocky defile, flows in a very mild and peaceful fashion, its clear rippling waters sometimes settling into limpid pools of no great depth. The pathway lies close to the stream, the bank of which on this side is very low. At last a low growl is heard, increasing speedily into a loud roar. The river-bank rises suddenly in front of the traveller, and, advancing a few steps, he finds himself on the side of a terrific abyss, into which the hitherto placid stream precipitates itself through a succession of cauldrons or excavations in the rock, and then, after passing through these, takes a final and single leap over a precipice into a pool below. The whole height of the fall is 88 feet, which is divided into two nearly equal descents of 44 feet each, the upper one comprising the passage of the stream from the summer of the cascade to its issue from the last of the cauldrons, and the lower one consisting of a sheer and unbroken descent.

The whole aspect of this celebrated cascade leaves a derided impression of the horrible as well as the sublime; and I can testify from my own experience that I never approached the scene without a shudder. This may partly be due to a terrific story, which, however, is perfectly authentic, in connection with the Cauldron Linn.

About seventy years ago, or a little more, Mr Harrowcr of Inzievar, in the parish of Torryburn, happened with some friends to make an excursion to this place. It ought to be mentioned, in passing, that at the very brink of the cascade it is possible for an adventurous person to make a spring across from one side to the other of the Devon, the breadth at this point barely amounting to 12 feet, whilst an intervening rock may be used as a stepping-stone. Mr Harrower made the attempt, but having spurs attached to his boots, one of these caught the rock. He stumbled, fell, and was swept at once over the fall into one of the cauldrons. Fortunately there was no great depth of water in it, and instead of being carried through it with the stream, he was retained within its narrow enclosure, and managed to gain an upright position and support himself on a bed of sand. How to get out of the fearful abyss, however, was the question, as the sides were quite precipitous, and it was utterly impossible to do so unaided. A friend rushed off to the nearest farm—a distance of at least half a mile—procured a rope, and hurried with it to the spot, when, dreadful to relate, it proved too short to reach the unfortunate man, who in the meantime was slowly and gradually sinking into the sand on which he was standing. Another race had to be made, and a longer rope procured. It was adjusted into a noose, thrown over his head and round his waist, and the process of pulling up commenced. A new danger here presented itself. The rope twisted itself round his neck, and he was in imminent danger of being strangled. He had fortunately, however, the presence of mind to interpose his hand between the cord and his neck, and thus escaped such a catastrophe. At last, after having been nearly half an hour in the cauldron, he was extricated, and safely landed on terra firma. A relative of mine met him at the same spot a year or two afterwards, and received an account of the adventure from his own lips.

Another story of a fall into the Cauldron Linn is recorded of a fox. On the occasion of several runs in this neighbourhood, Reynard had always managed here to elude his pursuers, and even cause the destruction of several dogs, whose blind ardour made them tumble headlong into the abyss. How he managed himself to escape such a fate remained a mystery, till it was discovered that he contrived to lay hold of a projecting twig above the linn, and there lie safe till danger of pursuit was over. The huntsman, however, one evening cut off the branch. Poor Reynard made his customary leap next day to his place of refuge, and of course went headlong into the whirlpool below.

The garden at Blahhill comes close to the edge of the Cauldron Linn on its right bank, and from an arbour in an elevated corner the whole course of the cascade is overlooked. The view of it is equally good from either side of the stream, but it is generally witnessed from the south or Fossoway side. It is worth while to descend the hill to the pool at the bottom of the fall and witness the effect from below. In winter or in time of floods this is very striking.

When visiting at Harvieston, Robert Burns took part in an excursion to the Rumbling Bridge and Cauldron Linn, and, it would appear, rather disappointed his host and friends by remaining silent and unimpressed by the grandeur of the scenery. Various accounts and explanations have been given of the matter, but the simple truth is, probably, that the bard, like other men, had from some cause or other been out of humour, and indisposed to make himself agreeable or act the part of a lion.

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