Friday, 22 August 2014

A Battle of Kings Fought On Our Doorstep

Perched high above Loch Turret are some of the most picturesque peaks in Strathearn. For many years visitors and locals alike have walked from the foot of the Turrett Dam past Creag Chaissean towards Choinneachain, the Blue Crags and the source of the Barvick Burn. 

Picture of the Cairn taken by Crieff author and ley line expert David Cowan

Not the highest of local hills at little over two and half thousand feet but undoubtedly one of the most interesting. In 2005 the stone cairn from which the hill gets its name celebrated a unique anniversary. The ordnance survey map proclaims both in English and our native Gaelic that it is King Kenneth’s Cairn. 

Who was Kenneth and why does this lonely peak have a cairn in his memory?  One thousand years ago (the actual date is subject to debate) a great battle was fought between Kenneth lV, King of Scots, and his cousin Malcolm. Kenneth was known as Kenneth the Grim or Kenneth the Brown from his dark, swarthy complexion. Malcolm who was in possession of what is now Cumbria had fallen out with his relation over his claim to the throne. He alleged that his father had settled the dynasty in his favour and that Kenneth was a usurper. A civil war ensued and Malcolm invaded Strathearn at the head of a substantial army. Battle was engaged in the area of ground below where Ochtertyre House now stands and the ruins of Castle Cluggy on the north bank of Loch Monzievaird . 

Castle Cluggy adjacent to the Battle of Monzievaird

The Church at the time tried to intervene and attempted to negotiate a compromise, proposing that Kenneth reign for his lifetime and on his death be succeeded by Malcolm or his heirs. Alas both parties ignored this peace saving move and on the 25th of March 1005 battle raged.   Kenneth and his son Giric were slain.  Malcolm became King as Malcolm ll. He reigned for some thirty years and in this time the differences between the Picts and the Scots was consolidated thus laying the foundations of a stable kingdom. Up until this time succession to the throne was by a system known as tanistry. The dying king named the person to succeed him from one of the two family lines (maternal or paternal). Malcolm's solution to this was quite simple. On Kenneth’s death, he murdered all his surviving male heirs! The somewhat incestuous nature of succession was not however entirely eradicated. Kenneth’s granddaughter had a son Luloch prior to her marrying Macbeth (and becoming Lady Macbeth). . When Macbeth died Luloch, great grandson of Kenneth became King of Scotland.
Loch Monzievaird 

The ancient cairn on the hill is a sad reminder of Strathearn’s violent past. The slain King’s body does not, as some sources suggest, lie beneath it but was removed and buried on the Island of Iona, the traditional resting place of Scotland’s monarchs. 


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Some Important Buildings of Strathearn

Strathearn's Hidden Architectural Beauty 

And A Few Stories !

Braco Castle ( above ) : A tall and very extensive building covering four periods. The original fortalice has been a square tower or keep, with a projecting stair-tower, of probably 16th century construction, though possibly earlier. To it was added, towards the middle of the 17th century, an extension to the south, engulfing the stair-tower. Then a large L-shaped extension, of the same height and general style was added to the east, during the reign of George III, to form three sides of a square. Finally, in 
the Victorian era, the square was filled in with a slightly lower 'castellated' central portion and sham turrets. 

Williamston House : Near Madderty , Williamston dates back to the 16th century and  belonged to the Oliphant family of Gask . Alterations  were carried out by Laurence Oliphant who had purchased the house from Sir William Blair of Kinfauns. Historical rumour says  that Bonnie Prince Charlie rested over on his way to a fateful Culloden in 1746 . The Oliphants  were of course a well known Jacobite supporting family whose famous poetess Carolina Oliphant – Lady Nairne wrote countless well remembered songs and poems including “Will Ye No Come Back Again ?” . Called Carolina   after the Bonnie Prince , she penned numerous odes about  Gask and the Strath including one called  
“ To The Banks of the Earn “ .

Flow on sweet Earn , row on sweet Earn
Joy to a’ thy bonny braes !
Spring’s sweet  buds aye first do blow
Where the winding waters flow
Through thy banks which wild flowers border
Freely wind and proudly flow
Where Wallace  wight fought for the right
And gallant Grahams are lying low

Aberuchil Castle : In 1596 the lands of Aberuchill were granted to Colin Campbell (died 1618), son of Sir John Campbell of Lawers. The earliest part of the tower house is dated 1602. In 1642 Aberuchill was acquired by Sir James Drummond,and was retained by his descendants until 1858. The gothic east wing was added to the tower house by the Drummonds, and the interiors remodelled, in the early 19th century.

The house was purchased by Sir David Dundas of Dunira in 1858, who sold it on to Sir George Dewhurst in 1864. Between 1869 and 1874 the west wing and further additions were made, possibly to the designs of David Bryce. The estate was sold by the Dewhursts in the 1980s, and remains in private ownership. In 2005 it was reported that Russian steel tycoon Vladimir Lisin had purchased the castle and its 3,000-acre (1,200 ha) estate for £6.8 million.

Lawers House : Located east of Comrie, Lawers was built in 1724 -1726 to the design of William Adam for General Sir James Campbell, 3rd son of the Earl of Loudon and linked  to the Breadalbane Campbells of Taymouth Castle . Campbell died at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745 in the War of the Austrian Succession . The house as we  see it not the medium sized  country house of Adam  but is somewhat overwhelmed  by the 19th century alterations and subsequent enlargements . Magnificent interiors and plasterwork with a splendid ballroom which was originally the saloon.  Attractive walled garden and rustic bridge .The  house was an agricultural school after WW2  before  returning o private ownership .

Strathallan Castle : Currently in the news as it is the proposed  location  of “ T in the Park “- Scotland’s  largest music festival in 2015 . The Castle is really  much younger than most  people assume . Built in 1817/1818 to the design of Robert Smirke remodelling the earlier  work of Robert Adam and the home of Viscount Strathallan who was originally Ja mes Drummond MP . Symmetrical with battlements and turrets and a variety of towers .

Abercairney Abbey ( House ) : On 12th September 1842 Queen Victoria got down from her carriage 'for a moment' to visit Abercairny (sometimes Abercairney), an enormous Gothic-style mansion house in the process of being built. Not one given to passing compliments one is unsure whether the young Queen uttered the classic phrase “ We are impressed “ ! It was perhaps symptomatic of the attitude at the time of Scotland’s landed classes that position and status were dictated to by the size and grandeur of their real estate !

Situated in parkland which was landscaped in the late 18th century, to the south of the A85 and 4 miles (6 km) east of Crieff in the parish of Fowlis Wester in Perth and Kinross, Abercairny stood on an estate which had been held by the Moray family since the end of the 13th Century. However the mansion was demolished in 1960 and replaced with a rather more modest Neo-Gothic house. The fine parkland and the Tudor-Gothic stable-court (of 1841) remain.