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Ochil Hills

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

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Ochil Hills, a range of high hills extending from the conjunction of- the counties of Stirling, Perth, and Clackmannan, in the vicinity of the town of Stirling, 2 miles from the left bank of the Forth, in an northeasterly direction, to Parton Craigs, on the right bank of the Tay, below the city of Perth. The range runs parallel to the Grampians or mountain-rampart of the Highlands; it forms the screen on the Lowland side of Strathallan and Lower Strathearn-component parts in the large sense of Strathmore; and it lies across the head of the whole peninsula of Fife, defending it and the low ground of Clackmannan, Culross, and Kinross from the scourge of the storms which come down the glens and gorges of the Grampians. Its length is about 24 miles, its average breadth 12. Its SE side, especially toward the Forth, is steep, and in places almost perpendicular; and its NW side rises with a greater abruptness than belongs to most of the Scottish ranges. Its summits are highest at its SW end, and might, especially there, as well as in other parts of the range, be termed mountainous, but for the vicinity of the Highland alps. Three of the summits overlooking the Forth are Bencleuch (2363 feet), in the parish of Tillicoultry, the loftiest of the range; Dunmyat (1375), in the parish of Logie, advancing a little from the contiguous range, breaking almost sheer down in stupendous rocky cliffs into the plain, and commanding a prospect over the basin of the Forth and its tributaries, which, for united gorgeousness and extent, is probably unsurpassed by any other in Britain; and King's Seat (2111), 2 miles NW of Dollar. The prospect from King's Seat, while very extensive and brilliant in itself, fully reveals the relative position of the Ochils. an intelligent observer has thus described it:-' I had now under my eye a circular space of 100 miles in diameter, comprising nearly one-third- of the surface of Scotland, and probably two-thirds of its wealth. On the N were the rugged Grampians, rising ridge behind ridge. In the outer line- which is low and uniform-the Pass of Killiecrankie is distinctly seen as a great natural chasm. Below is the well-wooded plain of Perthshire, a part of which is concealed by the spurs or branches of the hills on which you stand. On the W the higher parts of the chain of the Ochils confine the view; but you easily distinguish the summits of Benmore, Ben Ledi, Ben Lomond, and various hills towards the Atlantic. On the S the eye roams over a vast and fertile region, extending from the Campsie Hills to the Lammermuirs, with Edinburgh, Arthur's Seat, the Bass, the Pentlands, and part of Stirlingshire. The Devon is seen immediately below, winding through the valley like a silver thread. Beyond it is the Firth of Forth, clear, luminous, and tranquil like a mirror, and enshrined in the heart of a richly cultivated country. The windings of -its- upper part, with the islets, capes, and peninsulas which they form, are seen to more advantage here than from Stirling Castle. The small hills between the Ochils and Kincardine do not present the slightest inequality of surface, but seem sunk and confounded with the valley of the Devon; while the fields, that cover the whole space, with their hedgerows and strips of planting look like the diminutive plots of a nursery. On the SE is seen Kinross, with Loch Leven and its two islets, and beyond these the black mural front of the Lomonds, variegated with streaks of red. On the other side of the Firth are the undulating and well-wooded district of West Lothian and the fertile Carse of Falkirk, in the middle of which an opaque cloud marks the site of Carron. The lower part of the firth is specked with little vessels, and perhaps right before you is a steamboat, which, when seen on a pretty large surface of water, with its long train of smoke, forms, in my humble opinion, a picturesque object in the landscape, in spite of all that poets have said in its disparagement.'

The Ochils everywhere, within their own limits, present rich groupings of scenery and pleasing pictures of rural Life-swelling hills, verdant to the top, and thickly dotted with sheep and cattle; rivulets rushing along the gorges and the vales, or falling in hoarse murmurs down from precipitous cliffs; and villages, hamlets, and farm-houses, skirted or enclosed with wood. The individual hills are generally long, round-backed, and either covered with verdure or under cultivation up to their summits; and, with some remarkable exceptions, their chief acclivities are rapid, and face the N. Defiles, glens, and valleys everywhere dissever the range into small masses and single hills, and are generally of so rich a character in soil and culture as to blend brilliantly with the landscape of the acclivities. Offshoots of the range, but so low that they rarely exceed 500 feet above sea-level, run down the whole peninsula of Fife, and, along with the beautiful Lomond Hills, and some less considerable isolated heights, impart to it that undulated contour which so pleasingly characterises its appearance. These offshoots and the main range may be viewed as enclosing the outer edge or north-eastern extremity of the great coal-field of Scotland, which extends, though not without marked interruptions, from the river Girvan in Ayrshire to the banks of the Eden in Fife. The rocks are eruptive; and the main range is singularly rich in minerals; and, besides yielding up round its base large supplies of coal and- of stratification superincumbent on the coal-measures, has furnished from its interior large quantities of various valuable metals. See Alva.—Ord. Sur., shs. 39, 40, 48, 1867-69.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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