(Achtow, Auchtubh)

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.

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Balquhidder (Gael. baile-chul-tir, ` town of the backlying country '), a Highland parish of W Perthshire, whose eastern portion is traversed by 11½ miles of the Callander and Oban railway, with Strathyre and Lochearnhead stations thereupon, the latter being 3 miles NNE of the former, 12 NNW of Callander, and 28 NW of Stirling. It contains four villages-Kirkton of Balquhidder, at the foot of Loch Voil, 3 miles W by S of Lochearnhead station, with a post office under Stirling; Achtow, 1¼ mile to the E, near King's House Inn; Lochearnhead, 2 miles NNE of its station, with a post office, having money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments; and Strathyre, with another post office under Stirling, and with two inns, at one of which Wordsworth and his sister lodged 13 Sept. 1803 In shape resembling a triangle with vertex to the W, the parish is bounded NW by Dumbartonshire (for ¼ mile) and Killin, E by Comrie, SE and S by Callander; and has an extreme length from E to W of 15½ miles, an extreme width from N to S of 10 miles, and an area of 56,149¼ acres, of which 14742/3 are water- The drainage belongs in part to the basin of the Tay, but chiefly to that of the Forth. To the Tay, since the NE corner of the parish includes the head of Loch Earn, which from Balquhidder receives the Ogle (flowing 4 miles SSE), the Gleann Ceann Droma (4½ miles SE and NE), and the Ample, with a fine waterfall (5 miles N). To the Forth, since the central Lochs Doine and Voil are fed and connected with one another and Loch Lubnaig by the river Balvag, a head-stream of the Teith. Rising close to the border of Dumbartonshire, this head-stream has a course (ENE and SSE) through the parish of 21 miles or so-8½ miles to Loch Doine, 7½ furlongs through that lake (itself 2 furlongs wide), 1½ furlong to Loch Voil (1 to 3 furlongs wide, and 3½ miles long), 6 miles from Loch Voil to Loch Lubnaig, and 2 miles through the upper waters of that lake, which fall within the SE angle of Balquhidder. Loch Voil has an altitude above sea-level of some 414, Loch Earn of 30 6, and Loch Lubnaig of 405 feet; and from the shores of these three lakes the surface rises everywhere into steep craggy mountains. That portion of the parish to the N of the Balvag and the W of the railway is occupied by the Braes of Balquhidder, celebrated by Tannahill; and here the chief elevations from W to E are *Beinn a Chroin (3101 feet), *Stob Glas (2673), Beinn Tulachan (3099), *Stob Garbh (3148), *Am Binnein (3827), *Stob Coire an Lochan (3497), Meall Monachyle (2123), *Stob Creagach (2966), Stob Luib (1579), *Stob Meall na Frean (2457), *Meall na Locliain (2010), and Meall an t'Seallaidh (2792), where the asterisks mark those summits that culminate on the boundary. In the southern division rise *Meall Mor (2451), *Stob a Choin (2839), *Taobh na Coille (2250), *Lag a Phuill (1649), Beinn an t'Shithein (1871), and *Benvane (2685); and to the E of the railway, from N to S, are Ben Our (2250), Meall nan Oighreag (1899), *Stuc a Chroin (3189), and *Beinn Each (2660). The scenery from Loch Katrine to Loch Voil and thence to Loch Lubnaig is thus described by Dorothy Wordsworth, whose brother's ` Highland Lass ' was here suggested: -` We waded the river and crossed the vale, perhaps half a mile or more. The mountains all round are very high; the vale pastoral and unenclosed, not many dwellings, and but very few trees; the mountains in general smooth near the bottom. They are in large unbroken masses, combining with the vale to give an impression of bold simplicity. . . . At the foot of Loch Voil the vale is wide and populous- large pastures with many cattle, large tracts of corn. Walked down Strathyre, and saw in clear air and sunshine what had been concealed from us when we travelled before in the mist and rain. We found it less woody and rich than it had appeared to be, but, with all deductions, a very sweet valley. ' The prevailing rocks are mica and clay slate, quartz, greenstone, and porphyry; and veins of galena traverse some parts of the mica slate, but have not been worked for their ore. Heath, till about the beginning of this century, dotted most of the uplands, but almost everywhere has given place to grass of soft and silky texture, while natural woods and plantations cover a considerable extent. The Maclaurins are said to have acquired from Kenneth Macalpin (844-60) the districts of Balquhidder and Strathearn; and they were once so numerous that none durst enter Balquhidder Church till they had taken their seats-a right that gave rise to many brawls, in one of which the vicar, Sir John Maclaurin, was slain (1532). In 1869 a handsome granite monument was erected in the churchyard to the memory of 'the Clan Laurin, the chief of whom, in the decrepitude of old age, together with his aged and infirm adherents, their wives and children, the widows of their departed kindred-all were destroyed in the silent midnight hour by fire and sword, by the hands of a banditti of incendiarists from Glendochart, A.D.1558. ' The said banditti of incendiarists were the Macgregors of Rob Roy's tribe; and Rob himself died in his house at Balquhidder, 28 Dec. 1734. Near the old kirk he had fought his last fight with Stewart of Invernahyle, the Maclaurins' champion; and in its graveyard his tombstone is pointed out, lying flat on the ground to the E of the chancel gable, along with two others assigned by tradition to Helen his wife and to one of their sons. Tradition may be right enough, but all three stones are shown by their carvings, of sword and knot and suchlike emblems of Celtic art, to be centuries older than the outlaw's day, to belong, in fact, to the so-called ` sculptured stones; ' a fourth ` represents an ecclesiastic with a chalice in his hands, and formerly stood within the church, in front of the Altar, but was removed in order to destroy a superstitions desire that existed among the parishioners to stand or kneel on it during a marriage or baptism. The stone is still called Clach Arenas (the stone of Angus), who, according to tradition, was a disciple of Columba, and the first Christian missionary in the district ' (Sculptured Stones of Scotland, 1867). On 6 Sept. 1869 Queen Victoria visited Rob Roy's grave, which Wordsworth has sung in a well-known poem, though he never stood beside the grave itself, wrongly supposing it to be near the head of Loch Katrine. As to the ivy-mantled ruined church, with its primitive font, it is said in the New Statistical to have been built in 1631, but Muir's Church Architecture (1861) ascribes it to the First Pointed period, i.e., to the 12th or 13th century; anyhow, Robin Oig, Rob's fifth and youngest son, here wedded the widow whom he had ravished from Balfron, and hither three years later his corpse, after execution, was brought by a large company of sorrowing kinsfolk. Robin it was that in 1736 on Invernenty farm shot one of those Maclaurins, the writ for whose ejectment was served by a young attorney-the future Sir Walter Scott. This was in 1790, and, eight years after, the estate of Edenchip, between Lochearnhead village and the station, was purchased from the Commissioners of Forfeited Estates by Sir John Murray of Lanrick, Bart. (cre. 1795), chief of the Gregor clan, whose descendant, Sir Malcolm Macgregor, fifth Bart. (b. 1873; suc. 1879), is owner of 4050 acres in the shire, of an annual value of £1131,5s. Another proprietor, David Carnegie, Esq. of Stronvar, near the SE corner of Loch Voil, holds 22,205 acres of £3558,10s. value; and 3 more hold £500 and upwards, 2 between £100 and £500, mansions being Craigrule on the N shore of Loch Voil and Edinample Castle near Lochearnhead. A native was Dugald Buchanan (1716-68), the eminent Gaelic poet. Balquhidder is in the presbytery of Dunblane and synod of Perth and Stirling; the living is worth £305. The present church (1855; 460 sittings) is a handsome Gothic edifice, and there is also a Free church; while, besides 2 schools at Lochearnhead, Balquhidder public school and Strathyre Society's school, with respective accommodation for 88 and 50 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 26 and 18, and grants of £36,3s. and £29. Valuation (1881) £8832, 1s. 5d. Pop., mostly Gaelic-speaking, of civil parish, (1801) 1377, (1831) 1049, (1851) 874, (1871) 743, (1881) 759. Pop. of quoad sacra parish, which includes part of Comrie, (1881) 904. See pp. 217,235-240, of Dorothy Wordsworth's Tour in Scotland (ed. by Princ. Shairp, 1874), and vol. ii., pp. 243-250,279-280, of Jn. S. Keltie's Scottish Highlands (1875). —Ord. Sur., shs. 38, 46,1871-72.

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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