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Culture & Heritage

The area round Killin has a long history of human occupation.

Prehistory

Most 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 the area 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), Kiltyrie, on the north Loch Tay road, and in Glen Lochay near Kenknock.  Neolithic (New Stone Age) sites abound in the area.
 
Throughout 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).  In the Killin area, stone circles can be seen at Lawers and at Kinnell, 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.  At the Killin end of the loch, crannogs have been identified at Eilean Puttychan, Morenish, Morenish Boathouse, Milton Morenish and Firbush.
 
 

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.  The closest to Killin is Casteal Baraora which sits on a knoll 600 feet above Loch Tay to the south east of Firbush Point.
 
In 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.
 
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

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 (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.

 
 
Edinample 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 restored recently.
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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.

Many 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.

Within 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 and the Scottish Episcopal Church, also known as the Tin Tabernacle.

 

Modern Killin

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 Killin 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.

The 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 was the greatest of any of Scottish Hydro Electric's power stations at the time of construction.

 

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.

So if you do happen to spend a rainy day in Killin, 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!


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