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Issue 97 - Clackmannanshire & Kinross

Scotland Magazine Issue 97
February 2018

 

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Clackmannanshire & Kinross

Charles Douglas visits the ‘Wee Counties’ with big hearts

There is a chunk of Scotland that I regularly drive through, when traveling from Dunfermline, Stirling or Perth, and while there I never fail to be impressed by the quirkiness and serenity of the scenery. Caught between Stirlingshire and Perthshire to the west and north respectively, with Fife to the east, are the old counties of Clackmannanshire and Kinross. The latter is historically attached to Perthshire, but has been somewhat bypassed in recent years and in the minds of many seems to play second fiddle to its larger neighbour. Meanwhile, Clackmannanshire (at just 14 miles long and eight miles wide)is, amusingly, the smallest county in Scotland with the longest name. On account of this, it is affectionately referred to as the 'Wee County'.

Once celebrated for the mines, weaving mills, distilleries and breweries powered by the Hillfoot burns, today’s Clackmannanshire concentrates on service industries and tourism. Clackmannanshire’ s motto is ‘Look Aboot Ye’, but this was superseded in 2007 with the a new slogan of ‘More Than You Imagine’ - both are very appropriate.

With the Ochil Hills in the north and the lowland plain of Strathdevon south of the Hillfoot Villages of the Ochil Fault, there is so much more to this central area of Scotland than might be suspected and it is sadly very under-promoted. A particularly lovely tour can be had by following the course of the River Devon from Blairdenon Hill in the Ochils to the River Forth near Alloa.

Clackmannan takes its name from an ancient stone connected to the pre-Christian figure Manau or Mannan, and this object can be found beside the Tolbooth and Mercat Cross at the top of the town’s Main Street.

Throughout its history, the town was closely associated with the Bruce relatives of King Robert I who acquired the tower house on King’s Seat Hill, which sits above the town, from their relative David II.

A larger dwelling house was built alongside the tower in the 16th Century but this was demolished when the last of the direct line died in 1791. From then on, it is thought that some of the original masonry was employed in the expansion of the medieval Parish Church around 1812, but mining subsidence has unfortunately caused a section of the tower to collapse. Historic Environment Scotland has since repaired much of the damage but, at the time of writing, the tower can only be viewed from the exterior.

Although it is hard to imagine, Clackmannan once had a harbour. Its early existence derived from having a port on the River Black Devon, in close proximity to the expansive River Forth. Indeed, it was the silting up of the adjacent waterways that led to Clackmannan being displaced by Alloa as the county town in 1822.

The Clackmannan Tolbooth, next to the Mercat Cross, was built in 1592 as a court house, prison and administrative office, but only the belfry survives. The ancient whinstone phallic boulder known as the Stone of Mannan stands on a block of a stone brought here from Abbey Craig, the outcrop near Stirling that’s home to the Wallace Monument. It was recently restored at a cost of £160,000.

As for the town's name, one local legend says that when Robert the Bruce was in residence at Clackmannan Tower he dropped his glove (‘manag’) on the stone (‘clack’) and the glove was retrieved by his servant. From the seagoing tradition of the town, others find an association with Manannán Mac Lir, ‘Son of the Sea’, a deity in Celtic mythology who guarded the Underworld and was responsible for ferrying souls into the afterlife.

At Kennetpans there was once a salt panning community and, in the 18th Century, the local farming family of Stein created what was then the largest distillery in Scotland, with a second opening at Kilbagie in the 1770s.

Production rose to the extent that the duty paid by these two distilleries was greater than all the land tax collected annually in Scotland. This funded the first railway line in Scotland, which connected Kilbagie with the harbour at Kennetpans. In 1751, John Stein’s daughter Margaret married John Haig and the couple’s five Haig sons also entered the whisky industry. To this day, the Haig’s Cameronbridge Distillery (now owned by Diageo) over in Fife is the largest grain whisky distillery in Europe - it is also the oldest! Although it was Robert Stein who invented the Continuous Still in 1826, an innovation that revolutionised the mass production of whisky, both the Kennetpans and Kilbagie distilleries closed, in 1825 and 1845 respectively, due to financial collapse caused by a change in tax laws.

Alloa is on the northern shore of the Firth of Forth as it funnels into the River Forth, which then continues towards Stirling. The lands of Alloa were granted to Sir Robert Erskine by David II in 1368 and passed to his descendants, the earls of Mar. In the early 18th Century, the 6th Earl of Mar pioneered water supplies from the Gartmore Dam and expanded the harbour before becoming embroiled in the 1715 Jacobite Rising. As a result, he was forced into exile and his lands were forfeit. His brother, nevertheless, was allowed to buy back the estate and, in the century that followed, a glass-works, the Kilncraigs Mill (later to become Paton & Baldwins Ltd), the Carsebridge Distillery, and the Alloa Brewery Company were created.

Railway connections from the Sauchie mines to the harbour were also introduced.

During the 19th Century, rival shipping companies merged to form the Stirling, Alloa and Kincardine Steamboat Company, and the Alloa Swing Bridge across the River Forth, which connected the hamlet of Throsk to Alloa, was opened in 1885. This became part of the Alloa Railway until 1968, but was demolished in 1971. Reliant upon trade between Glasgow and the coastal towns of the Low Countries of mainland Europe, the port sadly closed in 1970.

Another landmark is the Alloa War Memorial, which was erected in 1925 and designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, with sculpture by Charles d’Orville Pilkington Jackson.

West of Alloa, the area around Tullibody was occupied in Mesolithic times and a midden containing shell remains from 4000BC was unearthed on the Braehead Golf course. The Tullibody War Memorial stone is alleged to have once formed part of a circle of standing stones. Tradition still has it that Kenneth MacAlpin, King of Scots, mustered his army on what is now the town's Baingle Brae before his great and decisive battle that installed him as King of the Picts in AD843.

Thereafter, the lands and fishing rights of the area were granted to the Augustinian monks of Cambuskenneth Abbey at Stirling by David I. Tullibody Auld Kirk was erected in 1149 on a site originally designated in the 6th Century by Saint Serf - who is colourfully said to have been the son of the King of Canaan and his wife, the daughter of a King of Arabia.

Notwithstanding the mythology, Saint Serf is believed to have arrived in Scotland via Rome in the 6th Century and to have founded a priory on an island in Loch Leven, before establishing a religious community at Culross in Fife.

In the late 16th Century, the church roof of Tullibody Auld Kirk was removed by the French supporters of Mary de Guise at the time of the Siege of Leith, but it was subsequently restored in both the 17th and 18th Centuries.

In 1904, St Serf’s Parish Church was added on to the northern end and the remainder of the building was abandoned. It is today a Category A Listed Building and Scheduled Ancient Monument.

To the northeast, Tillicoultry stands on the southern slope of the Ochil Hills. Called ‘Tilly’ by locals, it is listed as one of the Hillfoots villages, with the River Devon to the south.

The estate was held by the de Meser family in the 13th Century before passing through marriage to the Douglases, then to the Colvilles, and it was sold in 1634 to Sir William Alexander of Menstrie, 1st Earl of Stirling.

The remains of a Pictish fortress, the stones from which are thought to have been used in the building of Stirling Castle, can be found near the Craigfoot Quarry on Wood Hill.

There was a Druid Circle with a diameter of 60 feet nearby. The Harviestoun Estate, visited by the poet Robert Burns in 1787, is on the outskirts of the village. There is a commemorative cairn near the east lodge and, in the tradition where great creative works are twinned with location, it was here that the naitonal bard penned The Banks of the Devon and Fairest Maid on Devon Banks.

For over two centuries, the textile industry flourished in Tillicoultry, with water from the Ochils employed in the washing and dying of wool. Steam power arrived in the early 19th Century and by 1870 there were 12 mills employing over 2,000 people. With the arrival of a rail connection in 1851, coal and textiles remained the largest employers in the area until the 1950s. A paper mill was established in 1921 and in 1964 merged with Wiggins Teape to become the town’s largest employer.

However, with the decline of the textile and mining industries over the latter half of the 20th Century, Tillicoultry has now evolved as an attractive commuter town with much of the mill warehousing transformed into dwellings and residential flats. The large retail complex Sterling Furniture occupies the site of the former Devondale Paper Mill. There is an artificial ski slope at Firpark and the Devon Way Walkway provides an attractive excursion leading to Dollar.

Dollar sits on the A91 road from Stirling to St Andrews and owes its prominence to the nearby location of Dollar Glen and Castle Campbell (See: pp.14-17). Dollar is today also largely a residential dormitory town for Glasgow and Edinburgh, and it is twinned with La Ville-aux-Dames in France’s Loire Valley. The area is popular for hill walking and mountain biking, and there is a golf course with squash, bowling and tennis clubs nearby.

Dollar Academy, an independent fee-paying school with a significant academic reputation, was founded in 1818.

Alva developed as a textile manufacturing centre in the 19th Century and it is home to some impressive historic mills, such as the Strude Mill and Glentana Mill. To the east of Alva Glen is the beautiful Silver Glen, where silver was successfully mined in the 18th Century. Ore extracted here helped to fund the 1745 Jacobite Rising, while Cobalt from the same shafts was used by Scottish porcelain manufacturers.

Also on the A91 are the quaintly named villages Pool of Muckhart and the Yetts o’ Muckhart, with Rumbling Bridge and the Rumbling Bridge Gorge of the River Devon in Kinross-shire approximately 300 metres to the south of the Muckhart Golf Course.

The Crook of Devon, so named as it sits on a sudden angle in the river, is situated where Clackmannanshire meets Perthshire, and was notable in the 17th Century for the persecution of local witches, many of whom met their fate with burning or being strangled in the Lamblaires field.

From Carnbo, the A91 reaches Milnathort before entering Kinross. Milnathort’s Pictish heritage features several standing stones and half a mile to the east are the ruins of Burleigh Castle, which dates from 1446. A three-storey tower house, Burleigh was originally held by the Balfour family, ancestors of Lord Balfour of Burleigh and the British Prime Minister AJ Balfour. Following the 1715 Jacobite Rising, Balfour Castle was forfeit from the Balfours and passed to the Irwins, then later to the Grahams of Kinross.

The village of Cleish features in Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Abbot, and nearby is the 16th-Century Cleish Castle, which was built by the Colville family in 1537 and owned by them until 1775. It remains a private residence. Also nearby, but to the south, is Blair Adam House - the main part of which was built in 1736 by the architect William Adam.

Sir Walter Scott was a regular visitor here and the house has remained in the Adam family ever since. Their descendant Keith and his wife Elizabeth currently run the house as a B&B.

At one point in the 19th Century, three independent railway companies - the Fife & Kinross Railway, the Kinross-shire Railway and the Devon Valley Railway - had terminals in Kinross. However, the town’s considerable expansion came during the 20th Century and is the result of the arrival of the M90 Motorway that joins Edinburgh with Perth.

Situated overlooking the triangular fresh water Loch Leven, a walking and cycling pathway called the Loch Leven Heritage Trail provides easy access from the RSPB Vane Farm Nature Reserve and encircles the water in its entirety. It was in the Douglas stronghold of Loch Leven Castle, situated on an island in Loch Leven, that Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned during 1567 and it is here that she was forced to abdicate the Scottish throne in favour of her infant son James. From a window in the castle, Mary was helped to escape in a boat by the son of her captor. Since that time the water level of the loch has dropped considerably and the island is therefore considerably larger than it was in Mary’s time. The castle can be visited by a ferry operated by Historic Environment Scotland.

Kinross House, the 1686 masterpiece of the architect Sir William Bruce, is privately owned but available for exclusive-use events.

On a visit in 1706, the writer Daniel Defoe (See: Scotland Magazine #53) described it as ‘the most beautiful and regular piece of architecture in Scotland’. Owned for 200 years by the Montgomery family, Kinross House was sold to Donald Fothergill, an English businessman, in 2010. With the aspect of its garden avenue leading from the hallway to the lochside, the symmetry is next to perfection.

Highly recommended is the Kinross Coach House & Spa, which is the grounds.

Where to Visit

1. Clackmannan Tower

Clackmannan, FK10 4JG Owned by the Bruce family from 1359 to 1796. Free to visit all year round. Only the exterior can be viewed. +44 (0)131 668 8600 historicenvironment.scot

2. St Mungo’s Parish Church

Alloa, FK10 1LJ A fine James Gillespie Graham church built in 1819. +44 (0) 1259 723 004 St Mungo’s Parish Church

3. Clackmannan Tollbooth & Stone

Main Street, Clackmannan FK10 Built in the late 1500s, all that remains is the belfry tower. Beside it is the famous Stone of Mannan. +44 (0) 1259 450 000 claks.gov.uk

4. Moncrieff United Free Church

Alloa, FK10 1JA Proactive and attractive church opposite Sheriff Court. Named for its first minister, Rev William Moncrieff. +44 (0) 1259 214 435 MoncrieffChurch

5. Alloa Tower

Alloa, FK10 1PP The largest surviving keep in Scotland. It was home of 6th Earl of Mar during the 1715 Jacobite Rising. +44 (0) 1259 211 701 nts.org.uk

6. Dollar Museum

Dollar, FK14 7AY Set up in 1988, this is an independently run local museum featuring history and heritage of the village. Entry is free, but donations are welcome. +44 (0) 1259 742185 home.btconnect.com/ dollarmuseum

7. Castle Campbell

Dollar, FK14 7PP The historic lowland home of the Campbells of Argyll. Exploring the castle and glen makes for a superb (if exhausting) day out. +44 (0) 1259 742 408 historicenvironment.scot

8. Lochleven Castle

Kinross, KY13 8UF Situated in fresh water loch, this grim tower is where Mary, Queen of Scots was held prisoner. Open April to October and accessible by boat. +44 (0) 1577 862 670 historicenvironment.scot

9. Burleigh Castle

Milnathort, KY13 9GG Once owned by the Balfour family, who lost their land and castle here in 1716. For internal access (Apr-Oct only) always call ahead. +44 (0) 1241 848 756 historicenvironment.scot

10. Tullibody Heritage Centre

Alloa, FK10 2RS Created by the local History Group. Centre open Apr-Oct. Hosts a number of talks throughout the year. +44 (0) 1259 723 376 tullibodyhistorygroup.com

11. Gartmorn Dam and Country Park

Sauchie, FK10 3NZ A beautiful 370-acre nature reserve. The gates are open 8:30am-dusk and a coffee shop 10am- 4:30pm daily. +44 (0) 1259 450 000 clacks.gov.uk

12. Sauchie Tower

Fishcross, FK10 3DE This pink sandstone tower was built c.1440 by the Sir James Schaw on his marriage to Mary de Annand, the co-heiress of Sauchie. +44 (0)1259 450 000 clacks.gov.uk

Where to Stay

13. Inglewood House and Spa

Alloa, FK16 2HU A luxury boutique hotel set in 25 acres of grounds and housed within a sympathetically restored Jacobean revival mansion. +44 (0) 1259 216 156 inglewoodhouseandspa.co.uk

14. B&B Taigh Lusnambansith

Clackmannan, FK10 4DU Family-run bed and breakfast with modern, comfortable and fully equipped rooms. +44 (0) 1259 722063 taighlusnambansith.webeden.co.uk

15. Dunmar House

Alloa, FK10 2EN Nine bedrooms and a restaurant set in five acres of gardens. Very popular for wedding receptions. +44 (0) 1259 214 339 dunmarhouse.co.uk

16. Gean House

Alloa, FK10 2EL Expect elegant rooms, great food and friendly staff at this Grade A Listed country house hotel designed by architect William Kerr. +44 (0) 1259 226 400 geanhouse.co.uk

17. Broomhall Castle

Menstrie, FK11 7EA This family-owned Baronial mansion was built in 1874. Now beautifully restored, it operates as a hotel and wedding venue. +44 (0) 1259 763 360 broomhallcastle.co.uk

18. Thistle Hotel

Milnathort, KY13 9XT Traditional, cosy hotel with five comfortable en suite bedrooms. Good food served up in the restaurant by Chef Alex Quinn, with popular bar. +44 (0) 1577 863 392 thethistlehotelmilnathort.com

19. Tormaukin Hotel

Glendevon, FK14 7JY This 18th-Century Drover’s Inn offers rustic charm in comfortable, well-appointed rooms. Offers simple but tasty cooked dishes. +44 (0) 1259 781 252 tormaukinhotel.co.uk

20. Loch Leven Lodges

Findatie, KY13 9LY These well-appointed lodges on the shores of Loch Leven make a great base for family retreats to the country. +44 (0) 1592 841 144 lochlevenlodges.co.uk

21. The Green Hotel & Golf Courses

Kinross, KY13 8AS This 18th-Century coaching inn offers characterful accommodation and a fine restaurant. +44 (0)1577 863 467 green-hotel.com

22. Kelson Lodge

Cavelston, KY13 9JT Four-star B&B that’s housed in a recently renovated 1960s cottage. Great location and views over Loch Leven to the castle. +44(0)1577863245 kinrossbandb.co.uk

23. Baldiesburn B&B

Muckhart, FK14 7JJ Cosy B&B run by Marion and Stuart Robertson that’s set in a traditional country house built in 1750. Breakfast menu changes regularly. +44 (0) 7921 092 856 muckhartbandb.com

24 The Kirklands Hotel & Restaurant

Kinross, KY13 8AN This traditional coaching inn was remodelled in 2016, which gave it a contemporary feel. Popular with the locals. +44 (0) 1577 863 313 thekirklandshotel.com

Where to Eat

25. Butterfly Restaurant

76, Moss Road, Tillicoultry FK13 6NS Situated opposite the popular Sterling Furniture store, this fully licensed restaurant is perfect for a sit-down meal or afternoon tea. +44 (0) 1259 755 050 sterlingfurniture.co.uk

26. The Mill Cafe and Butterfly Restaurant

76, Moss Road, Tillicoultry FK13 6NS This canteen-style cafe is attached to the popular furniture store. Menu changes daily. +44 (0) 1259 755 143 sterlingfurniture.co.uk

27. The Tea Room at Cambus

Cambus, FK10 2NX Expect reasonably priced, quality food at this family-run tearoom in the heart of the town. +44 (0) 1259 211 313 thetearoomcambus.co.uk

28. The Inn at Muckhart

Muckhart, FK14 7JN Owned by Gibson family, this cosy inn boasts good food, a fine selection of ales and a welcoming open fire. +44 (0) 1259 781 324 theinnatmuckhart.com

29. Juniper Bar & Restaurant

Tillicoultry, FK13 6HR Independently owned restaurant that champions locally sourced and sustainable food and drink. +44 (0) 1259 753 777 juniperbarandrestaurant.co.uk

30. Bridge St Kitchen

Dollar, FK14 7JY Bustling, friendly atmosphere with good food prepared with quality ingredients and a simple approach. Open Wed-Sunday. +44 (0) 1259 928 020 bridgestreetkitchen.co.uk

31. The King’s Seat Bar & Restaurant

Dollar, FK14 7DE Fully refurbished for 2018, this pub and eatery is popular with the locals and often hosts live music. +44 (0) 1259 742 515 kingsseat.com

32. The Court House

Kinross, KY13 8AW As the name suggests, this coffee house and restaurant is housed within a stunning former courthouse building in the heart of Kinross. +44 (0) 1577 351 020 courthousekinross.com

33. The Boathouse

Kinross, KY13 8UF Right on the shore of Loch Leven. Quirky and cosy with fine food from seasonal menus prepared by passionate Head Chef Fausto. +44 (0) 1577 864 380 theboathouselochleven.co.uk

34. Balgedi Toll Tavern

Wester Balgedie, Kinross, KY13 9HE This old coaching inn has been in operation since 1534 and was built on an old Toll Road. Serves up good pub grub. +44 (0) 1592 840 212 TheToll

35. Muircot Farm Shop Coffeeshop

Tillicoultry, FK13 6LS Enjoy light lunches and delicious home baking here. Breakfast served daily until 11:30am. Last orders 4:30pm. +44 (0) 1259 750 866 www.muircot-farmshop.co.uk

36. Grouse & Claret

Run by Vicki and David Fu Tong, this charming restaurant is an oasis in the heart of Kinross-shire and serves up great Scottish cuisine. +44 (0) 1577 864 212 www.grouseandclaret.com

 

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