Tour Scotland
Home Page

Rent a cottage in Scotland

Castle Menzies

Aberfeldy Distillery

aberfeldy bridge

aberfeldy vista

aberfeldy golf club


aberfeldy birks

Croft Moraig

Tour Aberfeldy

It was in 1787 that Robert Burns penned his famous invitation to " Come let us spend the lichtsome days in the Birks of Aberfeldie." Accept the offer of Scotland's National Poet and you too will experience the unspoiled beauty of this spectacular part of Perthshire.

Every visitor to Aberfeldy should walk across its famous bridge, which provided the vital crossing of the River Tay for General Wade's network of military roads. The bridge was constructed in 1733 to the design of architect William Adam, father of the more famous Robert Adam. The work was completed in 9 months using clorite schist from a local quarry. onstruction of the bridge was supervised by General Wade and carried out by soldiers employed as labourers. Wade considered his bridge at Aberfeldy to be his greatest accomplishment. Prior to the construction of the bridge, the river was crossed by a ferry. Thus, the motto of the seal of the Burgh - " Swift and often goes the boat of Aberfeldy. "

Nearby you will also find the Black Watch memorial commemorating the raising of the world famous regiment. In the wake of the 1715 Scottish rebellion, companies of trustworthy Highlanders were raised from loyal clans. They became known as the Black Watch for the watch they kept on the Highlands and from their dark government tartan. In 1739 King George II authorised the companies be formed into a regiment of foot, "the men to be natives of that country, and none other to be taken". That same year they held their first regimental parade on the banks of the River Tay at Aberfeldy, on what is now part of the Golf course. The monument takes the form of a massive cairn surmounted by the statue of Private Farquhar Shaw dressed in the original uniform of the regiment.

The original golf course was created on the site of two of the town's grazing areas. It was opened on July 5th, 1895, by Lady Currie of Garth and redesigned in the 1920'2 by James Braid. The golf course is now extended on the north bank of the river, to the scene of the first muster of the Black Watch. Access to the north bank is by the world's first fibreglass bridge, erected in 1992. The course, which is just a few minutes walk from the town centre, has eighteen holes and splendid views of the River Tay and surrounding hills. Angling is also renowned around Aberfeldy. And wonderful walks are plentiful.

The Birks of Aberfeldy, a wooded den surrounding the Falls of Moness, has been maintained as a scenic walk for almost 200 years, first by the Moness Estate, and now by the District Council. It was visited by Robert Burns on August 30th, 1787, inspring him to write the " The Birks of Aberfeldy " describing the beauty of the area.

The present Aberfeldy Water mill, situated on Mill Brae, was built in 1825 in the form of a two-storey, stone rubble structure of L-shaped plan, with brick and wooden additions. The kiln has a pyramidal roof and an unusual shaped ventilator. The mill is driven by an eight-spoked overshot wood and iron wheel. The Forbes family of Camserney were the original owners, followed by McKerchar and McNaughton of Aberfeldy. The Water Mill was completely restored in 1987 by Tom Rogers, a miller from Cupar in Fife, and is now open to the public.

There is a long tradition of illicit distilling in the Aberfeldy area, but the present legal distillery was established on its present site in 1898, and lies just to the east of Aberfeldy overlooking the River Tay.

Aberfeldy Gallery established in 1981 as a showcase for the work of local artists and craftsmen. Since that time the Gallery has become well known for the high quality of artwork on display and artists from all over the country are now regular exhibitors. Increasing demands for the paintings, sculptures and pottery ensures a steady turnover of work and a constantly changing exhibition.

The Gallery concentrates on original artwork and shows paintings of both a traditional and contemporary nature. The space is divided into 3 galleries with Gallery 1 showing traditional watercolours, some superb "Raku" figures, pottery, furniture and decorative wood pieces hand turned from native trees. Gallery 2 shows contemporary paintings in watercolour and acrylic together with sculpture carved from Scottish marble, both abstract and realist in nature. Gallery 3 has just opened and contains a fine show of oil paintings, photography and new items of pottery. There is therefore something for everyone.

Weem village, just north of Aberfeldy, existed as long ago as 1235, pre-dating Aberfeldy by about 500 years. The ancient village was previously known as Bail-a-Chlalchain nan Uamh ( Kirktoun or Churchtown of Weem. ) The village was a centre of religious and economic importance. The Weem Hotel, a historic Inn, is said to date back to 1527. This was more than likely the base for General Wade during the 1733 construction of the bridge at Aberfeldy. The old church dates from around 1510 and was a place of worship until 1839 when it became the mauseleum of the Menzies family.

West of Weem lies the historic Castle Menzies waiting to welcome you. From the fourteenth century the lands around Weem were part of the extensive possessions of the Chiefs of Clan Menzies and it was here in 1488 that following the destruction by the fire of the Menzies stronghold, Comrie Castle (The ruins of a later replacement of which are 4 miles west of Weem It became the seat of the cadet branch), Sir Robert Menzies built a new mansion, the "Place of Weem".

This new building however was soon to suffer a similar fate to the previous residence for in 1502 it was pillaged and burned by Neil Stewart of Garth. Subsequently a new castle, the older part of the present structure was erected, whether it was built on the remains, or site, of the earlier castle as has been suggested is till uncertain as also is the exact date of construction.

In 1577 the upper storey and roof were altered and the series of dormers with their elaborate pediments which are a distinctive feature of the building then added. The date is carved on one of the dormers and it is recorded in the "Chronicle of Fortingall" - 1577; "Item - Thar symmyr the Castle of Weym was byggth and ended". The castle, thus completed is considered and excellent example of an early mature Z-plan building representing the transition between the older type of fortified tower-house and the later mansion designed for domestic rather than military purposes. There is little doubt, however that the castle was the first constructed chiefly with aneye to defence, as might be expected after the fate of its predecessor and also from its strategic situation on the level lands below the rick of Weem commanding the east-west highway of Strath Tay and the road to Rannoch. Today it is still an imposing and dominating structure on the landscape; before 1577 it must have appeared more threatening, for the alterations, made no doubt with the expectancy of more peaceful times ahead, involved the removal of upper works which probably of a more obvious military nature.

Any earlier hopes of more peaceful times were not to be realised, however, and, at the same time, the strategic importance of the castle was made more evident in later troubled history of the Central Highlands. In 1644 the castle was probably involved when the Chief, Sir Alexander Menzies of Menzies, having declined to support the Royalist cause, had temerity to harass the forces of Montrose as they passed though Weem on their way to the Lowlands and in 1646 the castle was occupied by General Monk's forces. In the 1715 Rebellion, jacobite troops took and occupied the castle and in 1746, the family were ejected and the castle manned by the Duke of Cumberland's forces. the latter occupation began four days after the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, had rested for two nights at Castle Menzies on his march north with a detachment of his army from Stirling to Inverness.

In the early eighteenth century, the angle of the north tower and the main block was enclosed by a new set of apartments with a stairwell communicating with the new rooms and those of the main block and the north tower of the old building by openings in the north wall and north tower west wall. At the same time, a new entrance (that now in use) was made in the center of the south wall of the main block and the vaulted chamber within modified to form a hall leading through to the new stair in the north wing. Extensive redecoration of the old castle occurred at this time. In 1840, a west wing followed closely the style of the original was constructed (architect William Burn) which communicated with (modified) eighteenth century additions.

Castle Menzies remained the seat of the Menzies of Weem until the death of the last of the main line of that family in 1918. It subsequently passed through various hands and was last used during the 1939-45 War as a Polish Army medical stores depot. It was acquired in a greatly dilapidated condition by the Menzies Clan Society in 1957. Surveys carried out in 1971-72 indicated an extensive infection of active dry-rot and the necessity for urgent action if the building were to be saved for the future. Accordingly plans for a thorough restoration of the sixteenth century castle were prepared and an appeal for funds initiated. Aided by a grant from the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland, work on the first phase started in September 1972 and completed the following year. as a result the building is now open to the public.

A Brief History of The Menzies Name
(as contributed by Ron Mennie)

The name Menzies is of Norman origin, coming from Mesnieres in Normandy to England where it was transformed into Manners, the surname of the Dukes of Rutland, although other early spellings in Scotland include Meyers, Mingies and Mengues. As Normanisation progressed into Scotland under the descendants of Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret, a family apparently settled in Lothian and from there moved into the Highlands. The name occurs in charters of the 12th and 13th centuries and in 1 249 Sir Robert de Meyeris became Lord Chamberlain of Scotland to Alexander II. His son Alexander held Weem, Aberfeldy and Fortingall in Atholl. He supported Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn and was rewarded further territories, in Glendochart and Durisdeer in Nithsdale, thus by the King's death the Menzies possessions extended west from Aberfeldy almost as far as Loch Lomond. David Menzies was appointed Governor of Orkney and Shetland under the King of Norway in 1423. Sir Robert Menzies, another descendant of the first Robert, the chamberlain, had his properties erected into a barony of Menzies by King James IV. In 1688 when the Stuarts were driven from the throne the chief of the clan favoured the new government, but in 1715 the Menzies were "out" for James Edward and although during the '45 Clan Menzies took no part in the rebellion, some of them were raised by Menzies of Shian.

The Menzies were also involved in various feuds; even with the Campbells, with whom they had various bonds and marriage alliances. Sir Alexander Menzies of Castle Menzies was created Baronet of Nova Scotia in 1665 from whom descended Sir Neil who died in 1910 without issue. His sister became chieftainess till her death. Other distinguished branches include the Menzies of Pitfoddels and the Menzies of Culdares. One of the Menzies of Pitfoddels carried the Royal Standard at the Battle of Invercarron in 1650 and the last chief founded the Roman Catholic College of Blairs near Aberdeen. The Menzies of Culdares are said to have introduced the larch to Scotland from the Tyrol in 1738. This Menzies house is now regarded by the Lyon Court as the nearest to the chiefship and in 1958 Ronald Menzies of that Ilk was reinvested as Chief. The present-day chief now lives in Australia. Castle Menzies near Aberfeldy was re-acquired and is now the head-quarters of Clan Menzies.

Near Aberfeldy there are two gardens open to the public; one nearby in Bolfracks, noted for its flowering bulbs and stream garden, and another at Cluny House which is a beautiful woodland garden. The Bolfracks estate used to belong to the Stewarts of Atholl, then passed to the Menzies family and subsequently became Breadalbane property in 1808. It is now a private residence but the gardens are open to the public from may to September. Behind the house is an old burial ground of the Menzies family.

The district around Aberfeldy is rich in natural heritage and folklore, typified by the thatched cottages of Fortingall. Look out for the 3000 year old yew tree in the churchyard. The pre-reformation church was pulled down in 1901 and totally rebuilt. Inside the church is a rare Celtic bell, characterised by its lack of a clapper. This bell would have been rung by being struck from the outside. The famous Yew Tree still stands in the churchyard and is known to be 3,000 years old - the oldest piece of growing vegatation in Europe. In 1886, Sir Donald Currie commissioned the architect James Maclaren to rebuild the village. Maclaren and his partnership designed the the thatched cottages, the hotel, the two farmhouses, several estate buildings and the enlarged Glen Lyon House. Fortingall is a village of great beauty and architectural interest. At Fortingall you will also be at the mouth of Glen Lyon, the longest enclosed glen in Scotland. Some of Perthshire's finest scenery can be captured here. So don't forget your camera !

Simply called "The Glen " by locals, Glen Lyon ( Glen of Polished Water ) is often proudly proclaimed as the most beautiful glen in the whole of Scotland. It was known in ancient times as Gleann Fasach - The Deserted Glen, and by the first Scots as Glelann Cam Clachan - The Crooked Glen of Stones. Later it became known as Gleann Abhainn Dubh - Glen of the Black River. Up the glen, at Bridge of Balgie stands the mighty Ben Lawers, Perthshire's highest and most fascinating mountain, home to a world-beating selection of alpine flowers.  The magnificent mountain overlooks Scotland's largest loch, Loch Tay, on whose eastern shores lies the picturesque village of Kenmore.

It is at Kenmore where you can enjoy unrivalled views of Loch Tay. The location of Kenmore, the point at which the river leaves the loch, has always been of importance as a ferry crossing. The ferry was known as the Cobil Croft (Boat Croft), operated by a boatman who also cultivated a small plot of land to make ends meet. Kenmore Church was built in 1759 and the village as it appears today was laid out in the 18th century by the 3rd Earl of Breadalbane.

One of the main entrances to Taymouth Castle estate, the West Gateway, was built in 1857 and leads directly off the Kenmore village square. The Estate dates back thousands of years, while the castle was originally built in the 1500's and demlolished in 1806 to make way for the present structure. The grounds were landscaped throughout the ages. The Taymouth Castle Golf Course was designed by the famous James Braid and laid out throughout the parkland. The second course in the area, Kenmore Golf Course, was opened in 1992 on converted farmland by the banks of the silvery Tay. The mildly undulating fields, the natural mounds with mature Scots Pine and the ditch and dyke boundaries allow the layout to follow and utilise the natural features.

The Scottish Crannog Centre is situated at Croft-na-Caber just south of Kenmore. Crannogs are artificially created or modified islands, the earliest of which dates back some 5,000 years. Crannogs provided safe havens from wild animals and human enemies, whilst also acting as refuges for friendly travellers as well as providing for the ability to control waterways and trade routes. The Scottish Crannog Centre features an authentic replica of an early Iron Age crannog based on the underwater excavations of the 2,500 year old "Oakbank Crannog" located off the village of Fearnan.

There is a very fine stone circle at Croftmoraig, on the Aberfeldy road 3 miles to the east of the town. It is one of the most complete groups of standing-stones in Perthshire.

Robert Burns, 1787
Now simmer blinks on flowery braes,
And o'er the crystal streamlet plays;
Come, let us spend the lightsome days,
In the birks of Aberfeldie!

Bonnie lassie, will ye go,
Will ye go, will ye go,
Bonnie lassie, will ye go
To the birks of Aberfeldie!

If you would like to visit this area as part of a highly personalized small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me:

Return to Places To Visit From Dunkeld

Return to Kinloch Rannoch

Return to Perthshire

Tour Scotland
Tour Edinburgh
Tour Island Of Skye

Rent A Self Catering Hoilday Cottage In Scotland

Share This Tour Scotland Web Page

Top Destinations
Tour Europe