Posts tagged Alasdair Alpin MacGregor

Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 13. Loch Chon



Ben Lomond

Kinlochard is the best place to begin to tackle Ben Lomond from Strathard. The way is by Gleann Dubh, whence a track to Rowardennan crosses the Duchary and climbs the  shoulder of the Ben.  Ben Lomond towers above Loch Ard and has dominated the view thus far. It is a remarkable mountain in that it presents two further, quite different but equally attractive, faces to Loch Lomond. Very few Scottish hills have this quality. The witty Scottish poet, Thomas Campbell (1777-1844), came from Glasgow, and his ballad, Lord Ullin’s Daughter is printed in many anthologies. He was remembered for a long time for several patriotic verses, now forgotten. This poem to Ben Lomond is almost a hymn:


Hadst thou a genius on thy peak,
What tales white-headed Ben
Coulds’t thou of ancient ages speak,
That mock th’ historian’s pen.

Thy long duration makes our lives
Seem but so many hours;
And likens to the bee’s frail hives
Our most stupendous towers.

Temples and towers thou’st seen begun,
New creeds, new conquerors sway;
And like their shadows in the sun,
Hast seen them swept away.

Thy steadfast summit, heaven-allied
(Unlike life’s little span),
Looks down, a Mentor, on the pride
Of perishable man.

The Scenic Annual 1837

Chauncy Hare Townshend (1798-1868), was encouraged as writer by the ‘Lake Poet’, Robert Southey. He was a traveller, minister, mesmerist, writer and dilettante who visited Ben Lomond, and left the following account of it in his Descriptive Tour in Scotland published in Brussels in 1840. Townshend set off from Loch Lomond to Aberfoyle following the track over the shoulder of Ben Lomond from Rowardennan:

Ben Lomond from Glen Dubh

Ben Lomond from Glen Dubh

I have generally remarked that the country people here have a great deal of quaint simplicity about them. They seem quite innocent if I may use the expression, and have melancholy voices with a sort of sing-song utterance. They are an ugly race, but the expression of their countenances is usually good. I have not found them grasping, but, on the contrary, contented with whatever one chooses to give them. But, to continue, never was I more glad to get out of a place than out of this wearisome morass. Had theground been all of one kind of badness, one might have endured it; but it was never the same for two minutes together: and, had we been but gifted with wings, we should doubtless have varied our mode of progress as frequently as Milton’s Satan when he scrambled through chaos. You remember the passage?

“The Fiend
O’er bog, or steep, through straight, rough, dense, or rare,
With head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way,
And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies.

At length, after a weary journey, we came in sight of Loch Ard, and here we parted with our guide, of whose services we no longer had any need, as the road was now plain before us to Aberfoyle. It leads along the banks of the two Loch Ards, Upper and Lower, two as lovely lakes as ever I beheld. They have the noble form of Ben Lomond, which here assumes its happiest character, for a background, rising with a double-pointed summit above the meaner mountains. There is something of Italian softness and richness about these lakes; Lower Loch Ard especially, the heights about which are beautifully wooded. It is divided in two by a singular isthmus of land, which gives it a pleasing peculiarity. In the shallow waters of the clear basin nearest to us, a group of variously coloured cattle were cooling themselves. Claude would have rejoiced in such a landscape.

Chauncey Hare Townshend Descriptive Tour in Scotland 1840

Thomas Frognall Dibdin

Thomas Frognall Dibdin

One literary visitor who did give an effective account of Ben Lomond, doing justice, for once, to its neglected precipices, was the prodigious bibliographer Thomas Frognall Dibdin (1776-1847) in his Bibliographical, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour in the Northern Counties of England and Scotland of 1838. Dibdin’s book, as his title suggests, is really one of the first literary topographies. He is interested in places, not particularly for themselves, but for the books and writers associated with them. His first excursion into this genre was to France and Germany. His Scottish tour was, for its date, conventional, but bold, a crossing of Ben Lomond exemplifying his willingness to explore byways. At the summit Dibdin gazed over this precipice, remarking on the way in which even sheep which had been frightened seemed to halt on the edge of it:

We spent the greater part of an hour in the indulgence of an unbounded gaze; and having looked until our eyes began to ache, and our appetites to be strirred by the keenness of the mountain air, we thought we might as well betake ourselves to something like a sheltered recess, and “hold familiar discourse” with our basket of goodly viands. The guide-boatman said “it would do us a world of good – and might help us to lay the cloth upon a little jutting piece of rock or spar?” He had told us not to provide ourselves with water, as whiskey never mixed so well as with the water found upon the mountain. Accordingly he soon returned from filling a small jug to the brim; and I must say, made himself as agreeable and efficient a waiter as could be found at the Clarendon or the Albion. All things being prepared, we fell to our substantials: the guide seeming to enjoy the alacrity with which we “maintained the combat”. Cold chicken and Fyne herring are only to be eaten to advantage on the summit of Ben Lomond.

Thomas Dibdin 1838

Dibdin goes on to describe a series of toasts in which they then indulged, including, unsurprisingly in view of Dibdin’s dedication to books, the rather unlikely name of William Caxton.

Another nineteenth century literary visitor who actually succeeded in climbing to the top of Ben Lomond was Charles Nodier (seeAberfoyle). William Hazlitt (1778-1830), the journalist and critic, has left a somewhat unsatisfactory account, suggesting that he climbed Ben Lomond, in Liber Amoris. In it he related, to James Sheridan Knowles, his passion for Sarah Walker, his landlord’s daughter. This passion tortured him on a visit to Scotland in 1822, after visiting Loch Katrine from Loch Lomond he must have crossed to Strathard and then gone to Inversnaid. His graphic description of the route suggests the terrors of the Alps, rather than the ordinary road which he is actually describing:

The road preceded by the side of some inferior lochs and terraced woods, very stony and rough until you arrive at the mountain 3262 feet in height; and in crossing the most dreary, pathless part of it, a heavy storm came on. There was not the least shelter, and the heat of climbing such an ascent, together with the fear of losing myself in such a lonely place, almost overcame me; but I guided myself by the direction of the loch as well as I could, and at last, to my great joy, regained the track; but the road was stony and difficult, over a wide and dreary moor, full of bogs, till you arrive at Inversnaid Garrison, as it is still called, but it is in fact merely some ruins of what once was such, in the midst of the moor, the habitable part of which is occupied by a few poor people; and it was by the mere chance of going to beg a drink of water, that I found that this bore the name of Garrison, upon enquiring how far it was to it.

 William Hazlitt Liber Amoris 1822

Sir Archibald Geikie (1835-1924), the Director of the Geological Survey and Professor of Geology at the University of Edinburgh, who travelled all over Scotland uses a story about Ben Lomond related by R. Jamieson in his edition of Burt’s Letters to discuss the impact of Sir Walter Scott on the Highlands:

Scott and the Highlands

No more remarkable contrast between the present tourist traffic in this lake region and that of the early part of last century could be supplied than that which is revealed by an incident recorded as having occurred about the year 1814, four years after the publication of Scott’s Lady of the Lake. An old highlander, who was met on the top of Ben Lomond, said he had been a guide from the north side of the mountain for upwards of forty years; ‘but that damned Walter Scott, that everyone makes such a work about!’ exclaimed he with vehemence – ‘I wish I had him to ferry over Loch Lomond: I should be after sinking the boat, if I drowned myself into the bargain; for ever since he wrote his Lady of the Lake, as they call it, everybody goes to see that filthy hole Loch Katrine, then comes round by Luss, and I have only had two gentlemen to guide all this blessed season, which is now at an end. I shall never see the top of Ben Lomond again! The devil confound his ladies and his lakes, say I!’

If this indignant mountaineer could revisit his early haunts, his grandchildren would have a very different story to tell him of the poet’s influence. For one visitor to his beloved mountain in his day there must now be at least a hundred, almost all of whom have had their first longing to see that region kindled by the poems and tales of Scott. No man ever did so much to make his country known and attractive as the author of Waverley has done for Scotland. His fictitious characters have become historical personages in the eyes of thousands of pilgrims who every year visit the scenes he has described. In threading the pass of the Trossachs, they try to see where Fitz James must have lost his ‘gallant grey.’ In passing Ellen’s Isle, they scrutinise it, if haply any relics of her home have survived. At Coilantogle Ford they want to know the exact spot where the duel was fought between the King and Roderick Dhu. At Aberfoyle they look out for the Clachan, or some building that must stand on its site, and their hearts are comforted by finding suspended to a tree on the village green the veritable coulter with which Bailie Nichol Jarvie burnt the big Highlander’s plaid. So delighted indeed have the tourists been with this relic of the past that they have sureptitiously carried it off more than once, and have thus compelled the village smith each time to manufacture a new antique.

Sir Archibald Geikie Scottish Reminiscences 1904

Loch Chon
From Kinlochard the B829 climbs briskly, dropping down at The Teapot, and then climbing again beside pleasing water breaks to reach Loch Dubh, the black loch. It then passes Rob Roy’s Well and arrives at Loch Chon where there are a variety of picnic places. Loch Chon is sometimes perceived as a dark, unfriendly place because the Forestry Commission have clothed the steep hillsides on its western shore with conifers. However, on a fine day there are few more attractive lochs in the southern highlands; the natural woodland which occur on its eastern bank provide a wonderful setting for a picnic and the Commission have made ample provision for car parking. In spite of this the sense of remoteness which can be obtained there is considerable because there are few houses.

A notable modern collector of Folk Tales was R. MacDonald Robertson, the author of a number of distinguished books about fishing in the Highlands between and just after the wars. In Selected Highland Folk Tales he relates the following story about Loch Chon, which he calls Loch-a-Choin:

There is a chain of three beautiful lochans in West Perthshire – Loch Ard, Loch-a-Choin and Loch Arklet – situated by the main road between Aberfoyle and Inversnaid It is with Loch-a-Choin (The Dog Loch) that this story deals. Tradition attributes to this loch a water-monster in the shape of a huge dog.

Not so very long ago, one oppressively hot summer’s day, a weary tourist sat down by the banks of Loch-a-Choin to have lunch. Soon he heard the sound of the rattle of pots and pans mingled with footfalls on the road behind him; and on looking round observed on the highway a tinker laden with various metal cooking utensils, trudging along the road in company with a young lad. To his astonishment, he saw the tinker suddenly seize the boy, and walking down to the edge of a ledge of rock, fling him into the water. Immediately after the splash of the body, there was a great swirl, and the savage head of a huge and grotesque dog-like monster broke the surface and swallowed the body of the child whole. The tinker thereafter mysteriously vanished from sight. Terrified beyond all measure the traveller fled to Aberfoyle as fast as possible. On entering the inn he met some local people and told them of his weird experience by the shores pof Loch-a-Choin.

He was told that what he had just seen was the recurrence of a tragically true event which had taken place on the banks of the loch many years ago, at the same place where he had rested for lunch, and that the tinker had been found out and hanged for his evil deed. The hiker had seen the murder re-enacted on the exact date and at the exact hour when the crime was originally perpetrated. To this day, many of the older inhabitants of the district believe that the dog-monster still lurks within Loch-a-Choin, waiting for victims.

Patrick Graham drew attention to the mountain hollow beyond the head of Loch Chon:

About a mile beyond the source of the Forth, above Loch Chon, there is a place called Coir-shi’an, or the Cove of the Men of Peace, which is still supposed to be a place of their residence. In the neighbourhood are to be seen many round conical eminences; particularly one, near the head of the lake; by the skirts of which many are still afraid to pass after sunset. It is believed that if on Hallow Eve any person alone goes round one of thse hills nine times, towards the left hand (sinistrorsum), a door shall open by which he shall be admitted into their subterraneous abodes.

Patrick Graham Sketches of Perthshire 1806

Enchantment in the Trossachs

 Fairies from Aberfoyle and Elsewhere

You will not understand the literary history of the Trossachs half so well if you chose not to consider the enormous influence which the supernatural exercises on the place. If Loch Ness has something of a monopoly of water monsters, and the Cairngorms have something of a corner in mountain apparitions, the Trossachs in general, and Aberfoyle in particular, enjoy – in Scotland at least – an unrivalled reputation for fairies. Superstition is unfashionable. The language has abused words which, once upon a time, were to be taken seriously, or at least conjured up widely respected images. Folklore. primitive beliefs, pagan rituals, religion, the dead, changelings, household spirits and fairies used to be intermingled in people’s minds. Nowadays legends are respectable providing they are not too fantastic, religion is generally well-thought-of, but the occult, by and large, is not; fairies are no longer taken seriously. At the edge of the Highlands such distinctions were very much more blurred until not more than a hundred years ago’

The maestro, Sir Walter Scott, used folk history and the history of the district in The Lady of the Lake. His admirers  included Charles Nodier, the French romantic, writer of short stories a fairy tales. Hans Christian Anderson (1805-75), one of the World’s greatest storytellers, and Jules Verne (1828-1905), founder of Science Fiction and exponent of the fantastic, all visited, and were enchanted by the Trossachs.

Robert Kirk, the Minister of Aberfoyle, was as we have seen a serious student of folk beliefs and author of the first notable work on the subject. Patrick Graham, his successor, explainer of Kirk and inspirer of Scott, was, in his own right, a distinguished writer about both the topography and the fairy lore of the district. In addition to Grham’s mentions of it Scott edited n edition of The Secret Commonwealth in 1815, Andrew Lang (see Aberfoyle) edited the next edition in 1893, and R.B.Cunninghame Graham edited a third in 1933.

The following alphabetical guide has been compiled with reference to E. C. Brewer Dictionary of  Phrase and Fable 1978 and Katharine Briggs A Dictionary of Fairies 1976:

Apparition  A ghost; anything shocking or startling which appears

Banshee irish (or Highland Scottish) domestic spirit; in Gaelic Bean-sith, a woman fairie; connected with the death of women in childbirth.

Bocan Hobgoblin or spirit. In Menteith uruisks at one time resided at Goblin Knowe; Creag a’Bochain is an outlier of Ben Lomond.

Boggart Local hobgoblin (Scottish); a particularly bad-tempered, or ill-natured Brownie.

Bogle A bugbear (Scottish); a bogie.

Brownie An English and Scottish fairy, its habits vary from place to place; in Scotland it is most notably associated with the Borders.

 Defined by Scott as a familiar spirit ‘belived in ancient times to supply the deficiencies of  an ordinary labourer.’ A moron in comparison with spightlier beings like the fairies; the brownieis good natured in nocturnal chores; ill-natured in the occasional treatment of women

Drow or Trow
A small troll-like fairie, notably associated with the Orkneys and Shetlands

Drows or Trows  are according to Scott ‘somewhat allied to the faires, residing like them in the interior of green hills and caverns’.  More frequently hostile than friendly to man, these subterranean people as they are called in the Faeroes, are particularly dangerous at midnight. They are also skilled metal workers.

Coleman Parsons Witchcraft and Demonology in Scott’s Fiction 1964

Duergar Gotho-German dwarfs, dwelling in rocks and hills

The English fairy (or Gothic elf) whose prototype is to be sought chiefly in the bergelfen or duergar of the Scandinavians may in turn go back to the diminutive Lapps, Finns, and Letts. ‘Being excellent metallurgists and
meteorologists, these dwarfish refugees worked underground hideouts and,gaining a supernatural reputation, were associated, or confounded, with, German kobolds, English goblins, and Scottish bogles, as also with the
vivacious fairy kind.

Coleman Parsons Witchcraft and Demonology in Scott’s Fiction 1964

Dwarf A diminutive being, natural or supernatural

Elf In Scandinavia fairies of diminutive size; fond of practical jokes. Anglo- saxon word for spirits of any sort. Scott had the following comment:

Sprites of the coarser sort, more laborious vocation and more malignant temper
and, in all respects, less propitious to humanity than the Fairies

Sir Walter Scott Letters on Witchcraft and Demonology 1828

Fairy, or Faërie A supernatural being, fond of pranks, but generally friendly; in Gaelic Duine-sith (also Daoine Sidhe); a fairy person, or fairy folk, people of peace.

Scott supplied the following note to Lady of the Lake:

Fairies, if not positively malevolent, are capricious, and easily offended. They
are, like other proprietors of the forest, peculiarly jealous of their rights of
vert and venison. This jealousy was also an attribute of the northern Duergar, or
dwarfs; to many of whose distinctions the fairies seem to have succeeded, if,
indeed, they are not the same class of beings.

Fay Same as fairy; Fée in French and German

Faun Rural god with the horns and legs of a goat (Classical); thus comparable with uruisks.

Fuath Collective term for independent spirits, or solitary fairies (as opposed to Trooping Fairies), generally malignant, properly associated with water; includes uruisks; spectre.

Glaistig A woman fairy; half-woman, half-goat; combines most fairy characteristics being rather like a Brownie, fond of children, old people and the feeble-minded, but also misleads travellers.

Gnome The guardian of mines and quarries (Germanic)

Goblin, or Hobgoblin A phantom spirit (Gobelin in French; Kobold in German)

The deep-voiced, square-built, long armed Rob Roy seems to Frank Osbaldistone
ferocious, cunning and unearthly like ‘the old Picts who ravaged Northumberland,
a sort of half-goblin, half-human beings’ in Scott’s novel.

Good Folk,the Brownies, or house spirits

Gruagach A damsel; a bridesmaid; a supposed household godess; a brownie.

Habitrot The spinning-wheel fairy

Hag A female fury

Hobgoblin see Goblin; ‘Hob’ is ‘Robin’, thought to soften the word ‘goblin’.

Household Spirits

England: Robin Goodfellow
France: Esprit Follet
Germany: Kobold
Scotland: Brownie or Uruisg
Wales: The Bwbachod or Bwca or Bwbach is a Welsh household spirit.

Ignis Fatuus A will-o’-the-wisp

Imp Puny demon, or spirit of mischief

Jack-a-Lantern A bog, or marsh spirit which delights to mislead.

Kelpie Imaginary spirit of the waters generally in the form of a horse; malignant towards human beings, luring them into the water where they drowned. Loch Chon and Loch Venachar, in the Trossachs, have kelpies; the kelpie, associated with running water, are sometimes distinguished from the Each Uisge, the water-horse, associated with lochs and sea-lochs.

Kobold A German household goblin; also frequents mines.

Luspardan Kind of fairy, referred to by Kirk; dwarf or sprite.

Naiad (Naiades) Water-nymphs(Classical); Akenside and Turner saw Scottish watefalls as
likely haunts for them.

Pegths, or Pechs Traditional lowland name for fairies; identified as a folk-memory of the Picts

Satyr Rural god, half-goat and half-man (Classical)

Sith, Sithean Fairy, fairies; Sidheag Biorach, the pointed fairy knoll, is situated above Loch Chon, Ben an-t-sithein, the fairy ben, is above Loch Lubnaig

Stic Gaelic equivalent of Puck

Stock Changeling substituted by the fairies when they stole a baby; a substitute; explains how Kirk, who was supposed to be imprisoned by the fairies, could be buried in the churchyard.

Subterraneans Kirk’s word for the fairies who lived underground, possibly the spirits of the departed.

Succubus A demon in female form, supposed to have carnal intercourse with men in their sleep[OED]. In ‘Glenfinglas’ Scott describes how the dale got its reputation as the ‘Glen of the Green Women’. Kirk describes the sex-life of fairies suggesting that succubi were common.

Tacharan Sprite; ghost

Troll A hill-spirit (Norwegian); dislikes noise (see Drows or Trows)

Trooping Fairies Fairies who moved from place to place, and lived together, distinguishes them from Solitary Fairies like uruisks, etc.

Uruisk, or Uruisg Highland (domestic) spirit; see Brownie; very lucky to have about the house; sometimes thought to be half-human half-goat; solitary in nature, frequently haunting waterfalls, but uruisks were supposed to meet together at times; easily insulted and quick to take offence.

Coire nan Uruisgean

Ben Venue is rendered venerable in the superstition of the natives, by the
celebrated Coire nan Uruisgean, the cove or recess of goblins,
situated on the northerm side of the mountain, overhanging the lake in gloomy
grandeur. The Uruisks were a sort of lubberly supernaturals, who, like the
Brownies of England, could be gained over by kind attentions, to perform the
drudgery of the farm; and it was believed that many families in the Highlands had
one of their order attached to it. They were supposed to be dispersed over the
Highlands, each own his own wild recess; but the solemn stated meetings of the
order were regularly held in this cave of Ben Venue. The current superstition, no
doubt, alludes to some circumstance in the ancient history of this country:
perhaps it may have taken its rise, like the superstition of the Daone Shie, or
Men of Peace, from the abolition and proscription of the Druidical order, under
the Fingallian dynasty.

Patrick Graham Sketches of Perthshire 1806

Will o’ th’ Wisp Spirit of the bogs; misleads benighted travellers

Wraith Ghost of a person about to die or just dead; it was Kirk’s wraith which was said to have appeared at the christening of his son.


The ridge between Loch Katrine and Loch Chon was chosen by J.F.Bateman for the line of the Loch Katrine aqueduct:

The Loch is surrounded by precipitous hills of considerable elevation, and the first piece of work on the line of the aqueduct was to pierce by a tunnel the ridge separating it from the Loch Chon valley. The tunnel is 2325 yards long, and upwardss of 500 feet under the top of the ridge. To facilitate the driving of the tunnel twelve vertical shafts were sunk of an aggregate length of 1173 yards, or about one half the length of the tunnel. Five of the shafts are each about 450 feet deep.

These notable works are further discussed at Loch Katrine, and remain well worth inspection. Another passage in the the same address gives some idea of the working conditions:

The rock, especially the mica slate, proved extremely hard and difficult to work. At several points along the side of Loch Chon the progress did not exceed three lineal yards in a month at each face, although work was carried on day and night. The average progress through the mica slate was about five yards in a month, In drilling holes for blasting, a fresh drill was required for every inch in depth on the average; and about sixty drills were constantly in use at each face. the contractors for the first seven and a half miles were, at an early date obliged to relinquish their contract, and it was carried on and completed by the Commissioners. The cost of gunpowder alone consumed in the contract was £10,540, and there was about 175 miles of fuse burned in firing it.


Beyond Loch Chon the road climbs unrelentingly to Loch Arklet. By turning right at the road junction Stronachlachar is reached.




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Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 15. Loch Katrine I


Inversnaid to the Trossachs

From Inversnaid retrace your steps to Stronachlachar. Pedestrians can follow the old military road. The next part of the journey can be made either by the ‘Sir Walter Scott’, or by cycle by the head of Loch Katrine to Trossachs Pier. Cars must return to Aberfoyle, and cross the Duke’s Pass to reach The Trossachs. Scottish Water  maintains the ‘Sir Walter Scott’ on Loch Katrine. In the mornings nowadays it plies between the Trossachs Pier and Stronachlachar, where it may be boarded for the return journey. Round trips from Stronachlachar involve an overnight stay! In the afternoons the vessel makes a round trip without calling at Stonachlachar. This remarkable steamship was built in 1900. It is coal fired; oil being regarded as pernicious by the Water Board. It is the oldest vessel of its kind afloat. The excursion is the best way for the motorist or the pedestrian to see the loch.

From Stronachlachar it is a short walk to Wordsworth’s Point. It follows the private road to Glen Gyle. Beyond the houses it circumvents a charming bay and reaches a promontary from which most of the upper part of the Loch can be seen. Across the loch there is a view of ‘Rob Roy’s Grave’ where Wordsworth, mistakenly, thought the outlaw was buried, and Glen Gyle, his birthplace. A longer walk leads by the head of the loch past the house to the graveyard and back. There are fine views of Glen Gyle dominated by Ben Ducteath; attractive waterfalls, if it has been wet; and of the upper part of Loch Katrine which is much more attractive than generally allowed. There is also fine circular walk from Stronachlachar following the old  road by the head of Loch Arklet with its dramatic views of the Arrochar Alps, to the head of Loch Chon. Thence a track, climbing into the corrie which Patrick Graham suggested was haunted by fairies, follows the aqueduct to Royal Cottage on Loch Katrine. A Water Board road leads back to Stronachlachar.



There has been a well-established landing point at Stronachlachar, stonemason’s point, on Loch Katrine, or thereabouts, for more than two hundred and fifty years. Many distinguished visitors have passed that way, and, as already referred to, cursed it for one reason and another. Like all places which enjoy something of a monopoly the incomer’s sense of exploitation is strong. The Hotel is now closed, used by the Regional Council and the Glasgow Corporation before them. A reading of the bye-laws is not recommended: it appears that one is allowed to be there, but one is prohibited from doing anything. Dumps of human excrement, for example, are expressly forbidden. The raising of the level of the loch means that the water is very deep, and the little island offshore, Rob Roy’s Prison (or the Factor’s Island or Eilean Dearg [Red Island]) which is seen close at hand, has a fortified look to prevent it from being washed away.

At Stronachlachar the hills on the opposite side of the loch are unimpressive, although a fine peak, Stob a Choin, the dog’s fang, is hidden behind them. The head of the loch is hidden too, but it is not a long walk to a headland from which Glen Gyle can be seen. Across the loch are Glengyle House, Rob Roy’s birthplace, and Portnellan, the first house which he occupied when he was married, and just below which is the graveyard which (erroneously) inspired Wordsworth’s poem,’Rob Roy’s Grave’. The site of the Ferryman’s Hut where the Wordsworth’s stayed is Coilachra, opposite Stronachlachar.

The head of Loch Katrine is Rob Roy MacGregor’s native place, and many writers give some account of him. The best biography is by W.H.Murray (1913-96) , the Scottish writer and mountaineer, who describes his life with historical authenticity, whereas most descriptions including, of course, Sir Walter Scott’s novel, owe much to the imagination. Murray’s description of the ‘Rob Roy Country’ is as follows:

The Trossachs for all its nearness to Glasgow remained for Lowlanders a mountainous backdrop, a foreign land where no English was spoken, to be approached by the venturesome only for business reasons – men like the factors from the fringing estates of Menteith, Atholl or Breadalbane, itinerant pedlars, tailors and cobblers, stocking makers, gypsies, iron smelters and their foresters officers on reconnaissance or soldiers on duty. And these knew only the main glens.

Glen Gyle, where Rob was born and bred was one of the least accessible valleys in all that country. The flanking hills rose to 2500 feet, but the Parlan Pass, just a thousand feet above his house gave a route of only five miles to Glen Falloch, where at Inverarnan was the night stance, or resting place, for cattle herds driven from Argull to the autumn tryst at Crieff. Smaller herds bound for the markets at Doune, Stirling, or Edinburgh and so by Loch Katrine’s head to Aberfoyle. Seasonal traffic thus passed through the glens which, although now deserted, were intensively cultivated.

W.H.Murray Rob Roy MacGregor 1982

Murray goes on to describe how the houses belonging to the two MacGregor families in the glen got their names – the black house (Tigh Dubh [The Dow or Dhu]), on the dark southern side of the loch with unmortared walls, and the white house (Tigh Geal [or Gyle]), where Rob Roy was born.

A notable description of the country, and of the activities of the MacGregors, in particular of Rob Roy’s nephew ‘Black Knee’ Macgregor of Glengyle who was the chief of the Sept, is given in the document already quoted from by Nichol Graham of Gartmore, An Inquiry into the Causes which facilitate the Rise and Progress of Rebellions and Insurrections in the Highlands of Scotland 1747:

The lands at the head of the Parish of Buchanan lying betwixt Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine, are, of all these in that country, the best adapted for concealments, and the most conveniently situated for bad purposes, and they had formerly been possessed by those of that clan. Thefts and depradations were pushed successfully in these places, with an intention, either to turn these lands waste, or oblige that lord the proprietor of them then, by a purchase from the family of Buchanan, to grant leases to those ancient possessors. The scheme purported answered: the sons of Rob Roy got one half of those lands in lease, and Glengyle, the nephew, the other. When these people got possession of these places so well fitted for their designs, they found they were able to carry matters still one point further; in order to which it was necessary that the thefts and depredations should be carried on incessantly through their whole neighbourhood. Things being thus prepared that this MacGregor of Glengyle should keep a Highland watch for protecting that country from these mischiefs, for supporting which he demanded £4 Scots out of each £100 Scots of valued rent. As they had now got possession of these high grounds in a legal way, from whence they could vex the whole neighbourhood, the thing was agreed and a formal blackmail contract entered into between MacGregor and a great many heritors, whose lands lay chiefly exposed to these depredations, and which enabled him, when the troubles of 1745 began, to raise about forty men for that service, with which this same man put the country upon the Water of Endrick, Dundas, Strathblane, and other places, undercontributions, and opened the first scene in that fatal tragedy, by surprising the Barracks of Inversaid, and part of General Campbell’s regiment, which was working at the Inverary roads.

Graham explains blackmail in the following amusing way, although, of course, it was not amusing at the time:

A person who had the greatest correspondence with the thieves was agreed upon to preserve the lands contracted for from thefts, for certain sums to be paid yearly out of these lands. Upon this fund he employed one half of the thieves to recover stolen cattle, and the other half of them to steal, in order to make this agreement and blackmail contract necessary.

Blackmail, a term which originated in this way, was so-called because of the black sheep involved. The ‘Black Watch’ gave the name to the famous regiment. When the Wordsworths stayed at Glen Gyle they were regaled with tales of the famous freebooter:

We mentioned Rob Roy, and the eyes of all glistened; even the lady of the house, who was very diffident, and no great talker, exclaimed, “He was a good man Rob Roy!” He had been dead only about eighty years, had lived in the next farm, which belonged to him, and there his bones were laid. He was a famous swordsman. Having an arm much longer than other men, he had a greater command with his sword. As proof of his length of arm they told us that he could garter his tartan stockings below his knee without stooping, and added about a dozen diffferent stories of single combats, which he had fought, all in perfect good humour, merely to prove his prowess. I daresay they had stories of this kind which would hardly have been exhausted in the long evenings of a whole December week, Rob Roy being as famous here as ever Robin Hood was in the Forest of Sherwood; he also robbed from the rich, giving to the poor and defending them from oppression. They tell of his confining the factor of the Duke of Montrose in one of the islands of Loch Kathrine, after having taken his money from him – the Duke’s rents – in open day while they were sitting at table. He was a formidable enemy of the Duke, but being a small laird against the greater, was overcome at last, and forced to resign all his lands on the braes of Loch Lomond, including the caves which we visited, on account of the money he had taken from the Duke and could not repay.

Dorothy Wordsworth Journal  

Murray points out that the Wordsworths, and countless others since, were, in the tale about the way Rob tied his garters, victims of the Highland habit of gentle exaggeration of this kind as a figure of speech. It is amusing to contrast Coleridge’s account of their trip with Dorothy Wordsworth’s. He was out of sorts, and complains a good deal, but he was quite impressed with the head of Loch Katrine whereas Dorothy Wordsworth most decidedly was not:

A fine body of water in an elbow bend, but the mountains were all too dreary and not very impressive in their forms and combinations. There was wood on them but a total want of cultivated land and happy cottages. This first reach of the lake, perhaps two miles in length has four islands, sweet bays and island-like promontories, one shaped like a dolphin and another like a sea-lion.

S.T.Coleridge Notebooks

James Hogg had passed that way earlier in the same year (May 1803). He recalled another journey that he had made in 1791:

I had twelve years ago been sent on an errand to the house of Glengyle, to ask permission of MacGregor, the laird, to go through his land with a drove of sheep. he was then an old man, and seemed to me to be a very queer man; but his lady granted nmy request without hesitation, and seemed to me an active social woman. theefore I expected from the idea that I had formed of her character, to be very welcome there, and never knew, until I went to the house, that the laird was dead, and the lady and her family removed to the neighbourhood of Callander; while the farm and mansion-house were posessed by two farmers. When I called one of them came to the door. I asked the favour of a night’s lodging: but the important McFarlane made use of that decicive moment to ask me half a score of questions before he desired me to walk in. McAlpin, the other farmer, I found to be a very considerable man, both in abilities and influence, but the most warm and violent man in dispute.

Hogg goes on to relate how McAlpin had once refused to accommodate five Glasgow gentlemen.

There is nothing about Glengyle that admits of particular description. it is situated at the head of Loch Katrine and surrounded by black rocks. It was one of Rob Roy’s principal haunts, to whom Glengyle was related. McAlpin showed me the island in Loch Katrine where he confined the Duke of Montrose’s steward, ofter robbing him of his master’s rents and where he nearly famished him. The MacGregors have a burial place at Glengyle, surrounded by a high wall. On one of their monuments their coat of arms and motto are engraved.

James Hogg Highland Tours      

The Ettrick Shepherd set a ballad about the Macgregors in Glen Gyle. It begins as follows:

MacGregor, MacGregor, remember our foemen:
The moon rises high on the brow of Ben Lomond:
The clans are impatient, and chide thy delay:
Arise! let us bound to Glen Lyon away

James Hogg The Fate of MacGregor

The Wordsworths and Coleridge encountered the same cautious civility at Glengyle as had Hogg. What is surprising here is the way that both the Border Poet and the three ‘Lake Poets’, all four of them sassenachs, seemed to expect the Highlanders to throw open their houses to them without question. Wordsworth went up to the door:

He addressed himself to one who appeared like the master, and all drew near him, staring at William as nobody could have but out of sheer rudeness, except in such a lonely place. He told his tale, and inquired about boats; there were no boats and no lodging nearer than Callander, ten miles beyond the foot of the lake. A laugh was on every face when William said we were come to see the Trossachs; no doubt they thought we had better stayed in our own homes. William endeavoured to make it appear not so foolish, by informing them that it was a place much celebrated in England, though perhaps little thought of by them, and that we only differed from many of our countrymen in having come the wrong way in consequence of an erroneous direction.

Dorothy Wordsworth Journal

In fact they were hospitably received by the McAlpins and the MacFarlanes and the Journal gives a substantial account of the condition of a house occupied by gentlemen-farmers in those days. They were misinformed about Rob Roy’s Grave here, as well as by the ferryman at Coilachra, Gregor MacGregor, to whom they were directed the following morning.
There is a substantial account of Glengyle in Alasdair Alpin MacGregor Wild Drumalbain, or the Road to Meggernie and Glencoe (1927). His kinsfolk lived there. The contemporary author John Barrington lived in Glen Gyle. He ws a mountain shepherd, and gives this account of Coilachra:

My duties begin at the east end of the Barn Park, just above the so-called Hanging Tree, a tall solitary Scots Pine which stands tall amongst the birch, hazel and alder. A prince among beggars. Next to the tree are the ruins of a small house where Dorothy and William Wordsworth, in company with their friend Sam Coleridge, embarked to cross Katrine’s clear water. The party spent the previous evening, in that summer of 1803, at Glengyle House and had been, of course, hospitably entertained. The three travellers were deeply impressed by their experiences and it was here that William found both his ‘Sweet Highland Girl’ and ‘Solitary Reaper’

John Barrington Red Sky at Night            

These two poems, which are often confused with one another, by others, because their subject matter seems as if it might be the same, are connected, respectively, with Inversnaid and Loch Voil.

Another, rather remote, literary connection with Rob Roy is provided by John Buchan (1875-1940) who makes Dickson McCunn, the hero of Huntingtower a descendant of a daughter of Bailie Nichol Jarvie and ‘like the Bailie he can count kin, should he wish with Rob Roy himself.’ In Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) takes Alan Breck Stewart and David Balfour to Balquhidder where they encounter Robin Oig, ‘one of the sons of the notorious Rob Roy’

He was sought upon all sides on a charge of carrying a young woman from Balfron and marrying her (as was alleged) by force; yet he stepped about Balquidder like a gentleman in his own walled policy. It was he who had shot James Maclaren at the plough stilts, a quarrel never satisfied; yet he walked into the house of his blood enemies as a rider (commercial traveller) might into a public inn.

A highly passable latterday imitation of Stevenson is provided by Nigel Tranter (1909-2000) whose contemporary historical novels, set in Scotland, have a considerable following. Tranter’s major achievement is his updating of The Queen’s Scotland in which, single-handed, he gave us a thumb-nail sketch of our heritage, derivative of course, but deserving to rank alongside the Statistical Accounts as documents of their time. His MacGregor Trilogy (1957) is partly set in the Trossachs and features Rob Roy, his nephew Ghlun Dhu Macgregor and other local characters. There is much evocative scene-setting in the novels, as might be expected from an author whose familiarity with ground is matched by his ability to describe it. He describes a crossing on foot by Ghlun Dhu from Inversnaid to Glen Gyle:

Here was a very different valley from that of Inversnaid, a true glen, deep and narrow, between soaring rugged peaks, through which raced a sizeable river in rushes and falls and linked gleaming pools. It was a place of scattered open birch-woods and hazel- fringed water-meadows, of great outcropping rocks as big as house, and long sweeping grassy aprons scored by burnlets innumerable. Five miles it stretched, all seen clearly from up here, from the head of fair Loch Katrine at its foot, to where the thrusting shoulder of a mountain divided it neatly into two,upper corries that rose fully five hundred feet above its floor, where the twin headwaters were born. and the whole was dotted with croft-houses with their patches of tilth and their peat-stacks, and cattles grazed high on the hills. Down near the loch shore Gregor’s own house of Glengyle stood amidst amidst its sheltering trees, surrounded by its orchard, its herb garden, its steading and offices, its smiddy and its tannery and its duck-pond, like a hen amongst her brood.

Tranter goes on to describe Glen Gyle House:

Glen Gyle House was a much superior place to Rob Roy’s fairly recently built establishment at Inversnaid, three stories high, narrow, whitewashed, with a steep crow-step gabled roof, stone-slated not reed thatched, however much moss-grown. Moreover it has stair-tower attached, wherein was the handsome moulded doorway surmounted by a weather-worn heraldic stone panel, showing, even though dimly, the crossed tree and sword of his race – bearing suitably the crown on top of the sword – and the motto S’rioghal mo Dhream, ‘My Race is Royal.’

Nigel Tranter MacGregor’s Gathering 1957

Glen Gyle inspired a poem, Rob Roy’s Grave, which is well enough known, and has some memorable lines, but which illustrates what a hit and miss affair poetry is. On the first occasion that they visit Glengyle the Wordsworths and Coleridge are tired, and doubtful about whether they are going to get a night’s lodging. It was on a later occasion, that of their memorable walk from Glen Falloch to Glen Gyle, that Dorothy quotes Rob Roy’s Grave, although Wordsworth composed all his Scottish poems at a later date:

We passed the same farm-house we had such good reason to remember, and went up to the burying ground that stood so sweetly at the waterside. The ferryman had told us that Rob Roy’s grave was there, so we could not pass on without going to the spot. there were several tombstones, but the inscriptions were either worn out or unintelligible to us, and the place was choked up with nettles and brambles. You will remember the description I have given of the spot. I have nothing here to add, except the following poem which it suggested to William:


A famous man is Robin Hood,
The English ballad-singer’s joy,
And Scotland boasts of one as good,
She has her own Rob Roy!

Then clear the weeds from off his grave,
And let us chaunt a passing stave
In honour of that outlaw brave.

Heaven gave Rob Roy a daring heart
And wondrous length and strength of arm,
Nor craved he more to quell his foes,
Or keep his friends from harm.

Yet Robin was as wise as brave,
As wise in thought as bold in deed,
For in the principles of things
He sought his moral creed.

Said generous Rob, “What need of books?
Burn all the statues and their shelves:
they stir us up against our kind,
And worse against ourselves.

“We have a passion; make a law,
Too false to guide us or control:
And for the law itself we fight
In bitterness of soul.

“And puzzled, blinded thus, we lose
Distinctions that are plain and few:
These find I graven on my heart
That tells me what to do.

“The creatures see of flood and field,
And those that travel on the wind!
With them no strife can last; they live
In peace, and peace of mind.

“For why? Because the good old rule
Suffices them, the simple plan
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can.”

Then clear the weeds from off his grave,
And let us chaunt a passing stave
In honour of that outlaw brave.

quoted in Dorothy Wordsworth Journal 1803

The Journal quotes the whole poem which goes on in the same vein for a further twenty stanzas. It reminds one, especially here in Glen Gyle, of J.K.Stephen’s somewhat pointed apostrophe to Wordsworth:

Two voices are there; one is of the deep
The other is of an old half-witted sheep

The space which it might have taken up by the whole of Wordsworth’s poem can be devoted to a finer poem by a lesser poet which appeared in a Book of Highland Verse in 1912:


The setting sun will rise tomorrow
The earth will spring from Winter’s sorrow
The waining moon renewed is ever
But man from death returneth never

No more, no more, no more, no never
Returns unto us the brave MacGregor
Nor sword, nor gold, death’s bed can sever
MacGregor is gone: he’s gone forever

The breeze on the Ben is mourning and moaning,
The trees in the glen are grieving and groaning:
Oh sad runs the stream and rueful the river –
MacGregor is gone; for ever, for ever

No more, no more, no more, no never
Returns unto us the brave MacGregor
Nor sword, nor gold, death’s bed can sever
MacGregor is gone: he’s gone forever

Never more, by the shore, on the strath, or the mountain,
Will his call sweetly fall on the ears of Clan Alpine
Nor again in the glen will his eagle-plumes quiver –
The MacGregor is gone – to return, ah! never

No more, no more, no more, no never
Returns unto us the brave MacGregor
Nor sword, nor gold, death’s bed can sever
MacGregor is gone: he’s gone forever

Thro’ the heart of Ben Lomond the cumha is winging,
Thro’ Glen Gyle the weird wail of the banshee is ringing;
In the clouds with his fathers he’s dwelling forever –
The MacGregor is gone – to return never, never.

No more, no more, no more, no never
Returns unto us the brave MacGregor
Nor sword, nor gold, death’s bed can sever
MacGregor is gone: he’s gone forever

A.S.MacBride (1843-1923)


Sites Connected With Rob Roy in the National Park and Elsewhere

Inversnaid is the heart of the Rob Roy Country. Many writers allude to him, but it is often not clear whether it is the fictional character created by
Sir Walter Scott or the real person, or, sometimes, a legendary figure . Sites associated with Rob Roy in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park are asterisked .

Aberuchill Castle – was never a McGregor-owned building, but for many years there was an oak tree by the main entrance known locally as “Rob Roy’s tree.” The story went that Rob Roy was on one occasion “detained” by Campbell of Aberuchill in a main room on the first floor. Rob noticed, however, that a sufficiently thick branch of the tree came close enough to the window for him to jump across and make good his escape. Legendary

Arnprior – Village; site of incident involving RR and Cunningham of Boquhan towhom RR yielded as the better swordsman. Historical [NS 6194]

*Auchinchisallen see Coirechaorach

*Bailie’s Rock – Cliff above the Loch Ard road (B829), also known as Echo Rock, where Scott set the incident in which Bailie Nichol Jarvie was suspended by his
braces during the skirmish between Helen MacGregor’s band, and Captain Thornton’s troops in ‘Rob Roy’ Fictional [NN 481 016]

*Bailie Nichol Jarvie Hotel – Hotel, built about 1850, in Aberfoyle near the Brig o’ Forth (i.e. some distance from the place where Scott placed Jean MacAlpine’s Inn) Fictional [NN 520 010]

*Bailie Nichol Jarvie’s Poker – Iron bar, supposed to be a coulter, attached to the old tree opposite the Hotel. Fictional

*Pass of Balmaha – Loch Lomond; one of several low passes leading into the Highlands, in this instance to Craig Royston Historical  [NS 418 910]

*Balquidder Kirk – The old kirk, in the grounds of the modern church, is the site of Rob Roy’s Grave Historical [NN 536 208]

*Bealach nam Bo – Pass, on Ben Venue above Loch Katrine; route by which RR might have taken stolen cattle Historical  [NN 480 075]

*Cambusmore – Country house, near Callander; Scott stayed there with J.M.Buchanan,while he was writing about the Trossachs; Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed there. Literary [NN 642 062]

Carbeth Inn – Inn; a ‘halfway house’ between Glasgow and Aberfoyle on the Stockiemuir Road; part of present building dates from 1816, but Scott describes it in ‘Rob Roy’ as a ‘most miserable alehouse’; however, he praised the bar lunch which they had, ‘some broiled moor-game, a dish which gallantly eked out the ewe’s milk cheese, dried salmon, and oaten bread…’ Fictional [NS 525 780]

Chapelarroch – Site of ale house, on Kelty Burn, Gartmore; scene of kidnap of Graham of Killearn, the Duke of Montrose’s factor. [NS 517 958]

*Coirechaorach – Site of house (Auchinchisallen) in Glen Dochart occupied by RR after his eviction from Craig Royston by Montrose; he was under the protection of the Earl of Breadalbane there; referred to as ‘Rob Roy’s Castle’ on old
maps. Historical   [NN 4527]

*Corriearklet – Township, between Glen Gyle and Inversnaid, ancestral home of Helen MacGregor’s family; a gun belonging to RR used to be displayed there. Historical [NN 376 096]

*Comer – Farm, under Ben Lomond; birthplace of RR’s wife, Mary (called Helen by Scott) Historical [NN 387 040]

*Craig Royston – Estate, centred on Cailness, Loch Lomond; officially owned by RR Historical [NN 3406]

Doune – Village; scene of incident in which James Edmonstone threatened to break RR’s neck, and RR withdrew Historical [NN 7201]

*Echo Rock – an alternative name for the Bailie’s Rock (qv) Fictional

*Factor’s Island – Eilean Dearg [Red Island] in Loch Katrine, off Stronachlachar, where RR held Graham of Killearn, the Duke of Montrose’s factor (steward) captive in 1697 [?] Historical [NN 4010]

*Falls of Falloch – Waterfalls in Glen Falloch; the plunge pool is called ‘Rob Roy’s Bathtub’ and a small cleft above it ‘Rob Roy’s Soapdish’ Legendary [NN 338 207]

Fords of Frew – Fords, at Brig o’Frew; crossed the Forth near Kippen, forming the only realistic alternative to Stirling Bridge; used by drovers; used by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745; scene of escape by RR fictionalised by Scott. Historical [NS 667 961]

Garden – House at Arnprior; sometimes called Garden Castle; site of incident in 1710 when RR took possession while Stirling of Garden was away; he held their baby out of the window before they complied with his request for blackmail Historical
[NS 597 945]

*Glen Gyle – Farm, at Loch Katrine; RR’s birthplace. Historical [NN 386 135]

*Helen’s Rock – Cliff, above Loch Ard where Helen MacGregor forced the spy, Dougal, into the loch to drown. Fictional [NN 484 014]

*Inchcailleach – Island in Loch Lomond; graveyard of the Clan MacGregor; RR’sancestors are buried there. Historical [NS 4090]

*Inallian Ford – Ford, hard under Doon Hill, Aberfoyle; where Scott set RR’s escape, based on a historical incident which took place at the Fords of Frew. Fictional [NN 537 004]

This scene is situated but a short distance from Aberfoyle, and is admirably suited for such an adventurous escape as Rob Roy is described to have achieved in the passage of the river. Both above and below the shallower passage which is used as a ford, the river winds in deep eddies under steep banks of clay, which the water has scooped into many obscure hollows, oveshaded by a thick tangling of uderwood, so as to be quite safe from the approach of cavalry.
James Skene (1775-1864)

*Inverlochlarig – Farm; site of RR’s last house where he died in 1734. Historical [NN 438 181]

*Inversnaid – Township, above Falls at Loch Lomond; part of Craig Royston Estate(qv); owned by RR, then the site of the Garrison built to contain the Macgregors after the 1715; stormed by RR’s clansmen in 1745 Historical [NN 348 096]

*Jean MacApine’s Inn – Former ale-house, now in ruins, at Milton-of-Aberfoyle, where Scott set the “Fray at the Clachan” a skirmish between a party of sassenachs and some highlanders in ‘Rob Roy’. Fictional [NN 502 014]

Kippen – Village; scene of ‘The Hership (Raid) of Kippen in 1691. Historical [NS 6594]

*Falls of Ledard – Waterfalls at Lochard; where Helen MacGregor made her alfresco farewell to Bailie Nichol Jarvie and Frank Osbaldistone in ‘Rob Roy’. Fictional [NN 460 026]

*MacGregor’s Leap – Name, used between the wars, for a waterfall at Aberfoyle; now called the Waterfall of the Little Fawn Legendary [NN 521 020]

*Monachyle Tuarach – Farm; occupied by RR as a young man, later possessed by RR’s nephew; where he took refuge after escaping from Duke of Atholl Historical [NN 476 190]

*Portnellan – Farm, at head of Loch Katrine, near Glen Gyle; the farm RR occupied after he was married. Historical [NN 402 123]

Queens View, Auchineden – Viewpoint; so-named from Queen Alexandra; almost certainly the viewpoint Scott had in mind for Frank Osbaldistone’s first view of the Highlands in ‘Rob Roy’ Fictional [NS 510 808]

The only exercise which my imagination received was, when some particular turn of the road gave us a partial view, to the left, of a large assemblage of dark-blue mountains stretching to the north and north west, which promised to include within their recesses, a country as wild perhaps, but certainly differing greatly in point of interest, from that which we now travelled.

*”Rob Roy” – Former steamer on Loch Katrine; the MacGregor’s motto ‘S’rioghail mo dhream’ [royal is my clan] was carved round the wheel. Succeeded in 1900 by the “Sir Walter Scott”, the present vessel.

*Rob Roy’s Bath Tub see Falls of Falloch

*’Rob Roy’s Burying Place’ – Graveyard on the shores of Loch Katrine mistakenly supposed by Wordsworth to be RR’s grave. Legendary [NN 4012]

*Rob Roy’s Castle see Coirechaorach

*Rob Roy’s Cave (1) – Rocks (sheltering beds) on Loch Lomond above Inversnaid on the West Highland Way; supposed hiding place of RR. Legendary [NN 332 100]

*Rob Roy’s Cave (2) – Rocks (sheltering beds) on Loch Ard, opposite Echo rock(qv); supposed hiding place of RR. Legendary [NN 480 014]
*Rob Roy’s Cave (3) – Cave on the Tulloch Burn behind a waterfall which commands a fine view of Loch Voil supposedly used as a hiding place by RR. Legendary [NN 516 213]

Rob Roy’s Grave see Balquhidder Kirk

Rob Roy’s Hole – Deep pothole on the Machar Burn in Campsie Hills Legendary [NS 5484]

Rob Roy’s House(1) see Portnellan

Rob Roy’s House(2) see Coirechaorach

Rob Roy’s House(3) – Site in Glen Shira where RR built a house under the protection of the Duke of Argyle Historical [NN 150 169]

Rob Roy’s House(4) see Inverlochlarig

*Rob Roy’s House (5) – house in Glendhu associated with Rob Roy (exact location uncertain) [NN 403 035]

*Rob Roy’s Leap – Spot on the Kelty, near Keltie Bridge [NS 534 963], where RR is said to have leapt 22′ (6.7 metres) Legendary

*Rob Roy Motel – Aberfoyle; first such in Scotland; a kitch monument to the folk hero [NN 531 002]

*Rob Roy’s Prison (1) see Factor’s Island

*Rob Roy’s Prison (2) – Cliff near Rowcoish, Loch Lomond where RR held the Sheriff Substitute of Dumbarton, Graham of Killearn, and other prisoners for
ransom; seen from A82 Historical [NS 3402]

Rob Roy’s Putting Stone (1) – Erratic boulder between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy Legendary [NN 3332]

*Rob Roy’s Putting Stone (2) – Erratic boulder at the head of the Kirkton Glen,
Balquhidder. Legendary [NN 5124]

Rob Roy’s Soapdish see Falls of Falloch

*Rob Roy’s Spring – Spring in the Duke’s Pass, under Craig Vadh; Cunningham Graham asserted that the true spring was nearer the Quarries. Legendary [NN 516 034]

Rob Roy’s Statue – Statue by Benno Schotz, Queen’s Sculptor in Ordinary; erected in 1975 in Stirling under the Castle crag. [NS 794 933]

*Rob Roy’s Stepping Stones – Crossing place on the Duchary at Duchary Castle, accessible from Loch Ard Forest Legendary [NS 478 999]

Rob Roy’s Tree – Tree, situated at Strathblane, otherwise called the Muckle Oak, or the ‘Meikle Tree’ was at the side of the
road at Blairquhosh near the distillery. It is now a stump.  Sometimes known as Rob Roy’s tree Legendary [NS 5282]

*Rob Roy Tryst – Exhibition centre and shop at Kingshouse, Balquhidder [NN 565 203]

*Rob Roy Visitor Centre – Tourist Board interpretive centre, in Callander, opened in 1990. [NN 628 079]

*Rob Roy’s Well – Spring, near Loch Chon Legendary [NN 431 043]

*Ross Priory – Country House at the foot of Loch Lomond; here Scott completed ‘Rob Roy’ in 1817 Literary [NS 412 876]

Sheriffmuir – Battlefield; site, above Dunblane, of an indecisive battle in the
1715 Jacobite Rising, in which RR took part. Historical [NN 8303]

Before leaving Stronachlachar a visit should be paid to Royal Cottage, Culligart which was deemed to be the most suitable place for drawing the water from Loch Katrine into the aqueduct which takes it to Glasgow. The construction involved in the Glasgow Corporation Waterworks Scheme was the occasion for a good deal of ceremony. The scheme was begun with a ceremony on the ridge between Loch Katrine and Loch Chon in May, 1856, and, remarkably enough, finished in 1859.

Royal Cottage, Loch Katrine

Royal Cottage, Loch Katrine


The scheme was declared open by the Queen and the Prince Consort, who arrived via Callander, in October of that year. Details were given in the local papers of the various routes by which dignatories would arrive at the remote spot chosen for the opening. One of these routes was, of course, from Stirling via Aberfoyle and Loch Ard. ‘Royal Cottage’ was refurbished for the occasion, and to look at it, one might suppose that the party were to stay for at least a week. In fact they had lunch there. The weather was appalling with thick mist and heavy rain. There was a predictably pompous address from the bailies of Glasgow, and the Queen responded in a simpler fashion, saying, in effect, that she was pleased to be associated with any scheme to reduce the number of her subjects who were unwashed. The proceedings concluded with, as the Stirling Journal put it, ‘a long prayer’ from the local minister. It was not until 1869 that Queen Victoria saw Loch Katrine under favourable conditions.

The engineer, J.F.Bateman (1810-1889), gave, at a banquet given in his honour, an eloquent account of the works which, at the time, were the most considerable of their kind in the world. It is still well worth walking the first part of the ‘Pipe Track Road’ in order to see the achievements of these Victorian engineers who built fine stone aqueducts in the heart of an inhospitable countryside:

It is impossible to convey to those who have not personnally inspected it, an impression of the intricacy of the wild and beautiful district through which the aqueduct passes for the first ten or eleven miles after leaving Loch Katrine. After finding the narrowest point at which the ridge between Loch Katrine and Loch Chon could be pierced, the country consists of successive ridges of the most obdurate rock, separated by deep wild valleys, in which it was very difficult, in the first instsance to find a way. There were no roads, no houses, no building materials – nothing which would ordinarily be considered essential to the successful completion of sa great engineering work for the conveyance of water; but it was consideration of the geological character of the material which gave all the romantic wildness to the district at once determined me to adopt that mode of construction which has been so successfully carried out. For the first ten miles the rock consists of mica schist and clay slate – close, retentive material into which no water percolates, and in which, in consequence, few springs are to be found. This rock when quarried was unfit for building purposes: there was no stone of a suitable description to be had at any reasonable cost or distance, no lime for mortar, no clay for puddle, and no roads to convey the material. Ordinary surface water construction was therefore out of the question; but I saw that if tunnelling were boldly resorted to, there would be no difficulty, beyond the cost and time required in blasting the rocks, in making a perfectly watertight and all-enduring aqueduct; there would be no water to hamper and delay us in the shafts and tunnels, and little would require transporting to the country but gunpowder and drill iron. This course was therefore determined upon, and my expectations have been realised to the very letter. The aqueduct may be considered as one continuous tunnel. as long as the work continued in the primary geological measures, we had no water; and even after it entered old red sandstone, and where it subsequently passed through trap rock, there was much less than I expected; so that our progress at no part of the work was very materially interfered with by those incidents which usually render mining operations costly and uncertain.

The scheme was expanded by raising the level of Loch Katrine, by providing a second pipeline, and by including Loch Arklet in the scheme between 1885 and 1914, and after the Second World War, by including Glen Finglas. What is remarkable is that, in spite of the changes, which involved the submerging of ‘the Silver Strand’, for example, the landscape which attracted the Wordsworths and Scott has been preserved rather than spoiled, and continues to attract people from all over the world. The ‘all-enduring’ nature of the project can be confirmed; the impressive aqueducts in the Loch Ard forest appear to be as sound today as they must have seemed to the self-confident Victorian engineers.


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