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Duchray Castle

Tour Aberfoyle

This is the most readily accessible truly Highland community, from the south, with Glasgow only 30 miles by road, and Stirling 16 miles by road. It is consequently highly popular for visitors, and deservedly so, indeed it is today becoming so for 'commuters' also. Itself an attractive area, it is also the gateway to further delights.

Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel and Resort, Kinlochard by Aberfoyle, The Trossachs, Aberfoyle, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park FK8 3TL, Scotland. Near Aberfoyle in the Trossachs. Forest Hills is a totally refurbished country house located in the scenic Trossachs. Find the best deal, compare prices and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.

Loch Achray Hotel, 9 miles east of Callander on A821, Aberfoyle, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Scotland Find the best deal, compare prices and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.

Inchrie Castle, The Covenanters Inn, The Trossachs, Aberfoyle, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park FK8 3XD, Scotland Find the best deal, compare prices and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.

There are four distinct sections of Aberfoyle, two of them 2 miles apart, from the Rob Roy Roadhouse area to the east, to the Milton on the west, almost at the narrow foot of Loch Ard. The former is most visitors' first sight of Aberfoyle, and here there has always been a mill and cottages also, the mill-wheel still in position. Here too is the golf-course. The other two sections are called the Clachan and the Kirkton, these all being typical old Scots divisions of any community. Nowadays the whole village tends to get called the Clachan of Aberfoyle; but this in fact used only to refer to the group of cottages round the famous inn, which lay almost a mile west of the present modern village, an inn haunted by Rob Roy and generations of other MacGregors, corning down from Glen Gyle, Inversnaid and so on. The present Bailie Nicol Jarvie Hotel is the 'descendant' of this inn, though on a more easterly site, and still retains the famed poker, really a plough coulter, with which the doughty bailie laid about him, as in the scene immortalised by Scott in his Rob Roy. This modern part of the village is not particularly attractive, despite its fine setting, indeed it grew up round the now-defunct railway station, and rather looks the part. The station has gone, and its yard is now used as a large, necessary but hardly handsome car-park, with facilities. Here are good shops, tea-rooms, craft centres and the like.

The Milton, to the west, still retains its old-time atmosphere, despite some modern housing development. The school and modern church are pleasantly placed on the rising ground between.

For antiquities one has to take the road which turns south, at the Bailie Nicol Jarvie. Here is the ancient, hump-backed and famous bridge over the infant Forth, leading to the Kirkton, site of a notable affray in 1671, when, at a christening of all things, the Grahams of nearby Duchray came to blows with followers of their far-out kinsman, the Earl of Airth, in typical Highland feuding fashion. The old parish church, where the christening took place, is a little farther on, and though now a ruin, still retains its belfry. How old it was is uncertain, for it was rebuilt in 1744 and repaired in 1839. It was an appendage of Inchmahome Priory. At the door still are two heavy mort-safes, in the shape of iron coffins, to foil body-snatchers of the Burke and Hare type; and there are many old gravestones, including one, dated 1692, for the Reverend Robert Kirk, who translated the Psalms into Gaelic verse, as well as distinguishing himself in more esoteric ways. In this connection it is interesting to note that, as late as the 1842 Gazetteer, it is declared that "everybody (in the district) understands English, though the Gaelic is chiefly in use . One wonders how many Gaelic-speakers there are in Aberfoyle today?

The road past the kirk is a cul-de-sac, ending in a number of woodland tracks through the great planted Loch Ard Forest which clothes all the foothills to the south, for this area is greatly invaded by the Forestry Commission. Half a mile along, near the fork, on rising ground now used for Forestry housing, is the site of a good stone circle, which had ten stones, with a larger one in the middle. To the east of the Kirkton rises the large modern Covenanters' Inn, a well-known hotel whose name refers to the 20th, not 17th century Covenanters, who met here and drew up the wording of their Scottish Covenant on self-government which attracted over two million signatures, in 1949. Now, this is a great place for pony-trekking, indeed everywhere you go in Aberfoyle area, Highland garrons are in evidence.

The road in the other direction, rising steeply behind the village northwards, to the Trossachs, is a 'must' for all visitors. A short way up, crowning an isolated knoll, is the magnificently-sited Tea House, a notable piece of modern architecture, circular and pillared all round, providing the most splendid views. Indeed all this road, known as the Duke's Road, and threading the Duke's Pass, gives vistas in all directions, the slate quarries on the left being not too great an eyesore. The Duke, incidentally, was a Graham one, of Montrose, descendant of the Great Marquis. The large Achray Forest, which covers much of the area, diversifies the vistas. Just beyond the highest point, about 80 feet (Aberfoyle is at 65 feet) is seen the oddly named but attractive Loch Drunkie, famous for red-fleshed trout. It is a strange geographical fact that its north-eastern tip is within a quarter-mile of the shore of Loch Vennacher, though with high ground between, and 200 feet higher. The descent, on the north, to the head of Loch Achray in the Trossachs, is fine, the foot of Loch Katrine being only a mile to the west, and the head of Loch Vennacher 2 miles to the east.

Another very attractive road, though a private one, leads from the Kirkton westwards through the Loch Ard Forest to Duchray and beyond, passing by the picturesque wood-girt Lochan Spling. Duchray Castle, actually in Stirlingshire, is a small but interesting tower-house of the late 16th century, with older nucleus, oblong, with a circular stair-tower and angle-turret. Unfortunately someone has 'gothicised' the windows, to ill effect; but the little fortalice is still delightful and kept in good order. In 1528 the laird was Buchanan of that Ilk; but in 1569 it was sold to the Grahams, and remained with that powerful family until modern times. The castle gave shelter to Rob Roy, despite his anti-Graham bias, on an occasion when the two Graham sisters managed to smuggle him out of the back door while entertaining dragoon officers at the front. Earlier, in 1653, Duchray was involved in the Earl of Glencairn's unsuccessful battle against Monk's Cromwellian troops in the Pass of Aberfoyle. After the Forty-five Rising, it was burned; which accounts for the altered roof-line.

The main B.829 road, west of Aberfoyle village, although a dead-end, continues for 15 glorious miles through the mountains, to terminate at Inversnaid on the east shore of Loch Lomond, passing Lochs Ard, Chon, Katrine and Arklet, one of the finest scenic runs in the Southern Highlands.

If you would like to Tour Aberfoyle on a highly personalized small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me: Sandy Stevenson

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