Kinlochard [Gaelic: “At the Head of the High Loch”] by Louis Stott.
This is one of several articles written by Louis Stott who generously offered local aspects of his scholarship to the archive of Loch Ard Local History Group–our thanks to Louis and his family for this material. This article also appears in the Kinlochard Village website and was written in the early 2000s.
- Loch Ard is three miles long and 1/2 a mile wide at its broadest point.
- Loch Ard Forest covers an area of 10000 hectares and is the largest forest block in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.
- First Forestry Commission planting in Lochard Forest was in 1929.
- In an average year 200000 trees are planted in Loch Ard Forest and the forest produces 50000 tonnes of timber.
- An island off the south shore of Loch Ard, called Dunochil, the inhospitable island, has the remains of a castle, probably a hunting lodge, which may have been built by Duke Murdoch. Murdoch Stewart (1362 – 1425) was regent of Scotland whilst James I was held captive by the English in France and England. When the King was released, he accused Duke Murdoch of bad government, executed him and deprived his heirs of his estates.
- The ‘Teapot’ on the road from Loch Ard to Loch Chon was the euphemistic name for an illicit Highland whisky still.
Kinlochard is a hamlet at the head of Loch Ard, 4 miles (7 km) west of Aberfoyle. The district has been occupied for a very long time, there being two [iron age] crannogs in Loch Ard. A cup-marked stone was found at Ledard. The district appears to have served as a hunting forest with some primitive arable farming and animal husbandry, generally of black cattle, being carried on. The district was granted to Malise Graham in 1427 to form the reconstructed Earldom of Menteith. Notably, there was also some production of iron; ore was smelted in bloomeries using charcoal, remains of which can still be seen at Stronmacnair. Traces of the iron industry can sometimes be found in place names – Tinker’s Loch or Blacksmith’s Loch, above Kinlochard may have been derived in this way. Iron production was so successful that in the fifteenth century there was an iron market in Aberfoyle. An island off the south shore of Loch Ard, called Dundochil, the inhospitable island, has the remains of Duke Murdoch’s castle, probably a hunting lodge. Murdoch Stewart (1362 – 1425) was regent of Scotland whilst James 1st was held captive by the English. When the King was released, he accused Duke Murdoch of bad government, executed him and deemed his estates forfeit. The last Graham Earl of Menteith died in 1694 and the land passed into the hands of the Marquis of Montrose. It remained part of the Montrose Estates until 1927.
Economic activity gradually evolved. In the eighteenth-century cattle were replaced by sheep as, on the one hand, villagers sought employment in cotton mills in places like Balfron and, on the other, landlords cleared the land for grazing purposes. Forests became more specifically managed with a system of coppicing employed to increase the production of timber. Near Kinlochard there are significant remains of farm townships dating from the eighteenth century, the oldest of which is probably Gartnerichnich . There are others at Dow of Chon, Blairuskinmore, Blairuskinbeg and, most notably, in Gleann Dubh. In the village Mill of Chon probably dates from this time. It was a corn mill, there was another at Ledard and two at Bruach Caoruinn. Mill of Chon is a good example of an old building, which has been altered yet preserved, but in most cases local houses date from the nineteenth century. An old barn at Ledard, which has reared sheep and cattle since the latter part of the sixteenth century, probably dates from the eighteenth century.
The present character of the district owes a great deal both to the Forestry Commission and to the Corporation of Glasgow whose principal water supply was secured from Loch Katrine in 1859. The Glasgow scheme was begun with a ceremony on the ridge between Loch Katrine and Loch Chon in May, 1856, and, remarkably enough, finished in 1859. It was declared open by the Queen and the Prince Consort, who came via Callander, in October of that year. The weather was appalling. Details were given in the local papers of the various routes by which dignitaries could reach the remote spot chosen, and some of the mileposts erected for the purpose can be seen between Callander and Loch Katrine. The mileposts on the road from Aberfoyle to Stronachlachar may have been erected to mark Queen Victoria’s later visit in 1869. It was not until then, when she stayed at Invertrossachs, that Queen Victoria saw Kinlochard proper under favourable conditions.
The engineer of the scheme, J.F.Bateman (1810-1889) who stayed at Tigh na Traigh, near Kinlochard gave, at a banquet in his honour, an eloquent account of the works. They were, at the time, the most considerable of their kind in the world. It is still well worth walking the first part of the ‘Pipe Track Road’ towards Drymen to see the achievements of these Victorian engineers who built fine stone aqueducts in the heart of an inhospitable countryside. Just above Couligartan there is a fine two-span aqueduct 124 yards (about 114 metres) in length. One intriguing legacy of this period is an arcane place name: Sevastopol, the site of an encampment at Loch Chon occupied by the navvies engaged in the works. There is no doubt, either, that during this era the Teapot, a supposed inn which sold illicitly distilled whisky, enjoyed a period of prosperity. Until quite recently this cottage stood beside a hump-backed bridge between Kinlochard and the Loch Dhu on the statute labour road to Inversnaid. The site was then known as Bulburn. The profitable occupation of distilling and smuggling whisky was well established by the beginning of the C17, ingenious devices being adopted to evade the “gaugers” (Excise Officers). The waterworks scheme was expanded between 1885 and 1914 by raising the level of Loch Katrine, by providing a second pipeline, and by utilising Loch Arklet. Former Water Board houses include Loch Dhu, where the principal supervisor stayed, and Faery Knoll.
The Forestry Commission purchased the Renagour and Gartloaning estates at first, and planting in the Loch Ard Forest began in 1929. The Blairhullichan, Frenich and Duchray estates were acquired after 1945. Loch Ard Forest covers an area of about 10,000 hectares (36.8 square miles) and is the largest forest block in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. In an average year 200000 trees are planted there and the forest produces 50000 tonnes of timber. Forestry was perceived as a significant way of halting the decline of rural population and, in the Parish of Aberfoyle, several groups of forest houses were built, at Braeval, Balleich, Renagour, and Kinlochard, which was the largest. There was a fifth group at Corrie. The Forestry Commission met the cost of forest houses, and the rents were set at a moderate level. Allowing for repairs, the rents were sufficient to meet the depreciation of capital. However, the value of the scheme was, of course, measured in terms of adequate and expert forest labour. It was obviously inherent that men actually employed in the forests occupied these houses. However, as the forests matured, contract labour (often from elsewhere) came to be employed and many houses have now been sold.
The principal residences near Kinlochard – Glassert, Lochard Lodge, Ledard, Blairhullichan, and Couligartan – lie around the loch itself. The exception is Blairuskin Lodge built in the latter part of the nineteenth century by the Duke of Montrose. It impressively overlooks the loch from the Inversnaid road. The Glassert was for long the residence of the Joynsons, a distinguished local family, and, more recently, of the Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Forsyth.
James Sheridan Knowles (1784-1862), the nineteenth century actor-manager and playwright, frequently stayed at the residence of Robert Dick, Lochard Lodge, now called Altskeith. Robert Dick was a very enterprising Victorian pioneer of the tourist trade, leasing the fishing from the Duke of Montrose and putting Loch Ard on the map. In the summer vacation-reading parties from the universities came to Loch Ard as well as to other Highland resorts. Charles Lloyd (1824-1862) of Christ Church, Oxford spent several summers at Loch Ard with such parties, and was visited there by other literary lights, including John Campbell Shairp (1819-85) and Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-61). Other famous literary visitors to Kinlochard include Wordsworth, William Hazlitt, and the French Scott enthusiast, Charles Nodier.
Dalveagh is more recent than either the Glassert or Altskeith. It was sold in 1937 and became the Forest Hills Hotel. This now a Time Share complex with its swimming pool and leisure facilities, which are all open all year to non-residents. An Activity Centre on Loch Ard is situated at the entrance to the Hotel.
Ledard is a fine C19 farmhouse at the foot of Ben Venue, behind which is a charming waterfall, which Scott used both in Waverley and Rob Roy. He wrote to David Wilkie:
“There is some curious scenery near Aberfoyle, in Perthshire, particularly a waterfall at Ledard, at the top of Loch Ard, within an hour’s walk of the inn, which from its size and accompaniments, I should think particularly qualified to fill up a Highland landscape. I never saw any thing which I admired so much: the height is not remarkable, but the accompaniments are exquisitely beautiful.”
In Waverley, Flora MacIvor sits by the waterfall at Ledard, and sings the lovely song the first line of which is, ‘There’s a mist on the mountain’ In 1821 a Glasgow bookseller, Thomas Atkinson, published Three Nights in Perthshire, a witty account of a Hairst Kirn, a three-day harvest festivity at Ledard which is also an admirable spoof of every ‘journal’ that literary visitors to the Trossachs kept.
Assuming that the inhabitants of Kinlochard were neither without sin, nor so ungodly as not to care, they appear to have been obliged to go to the kirk in Aberfoyle, if they wished to attend a ‘proper’ church. However, the school in Kinlochard was maintained by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, and no doubt services would be held there. It had accommodation for 66 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 26. The present school was built in 1870 by Robert Hampson and, rather regrettably, closed in 1998. At the centre of the village there is a Post Office in the ‘Wee Blether’ Tea Room. There is a sailing club on Loch Ard affiliated to the RYA. Shirley Robertson, the Olympic double gold medallist, first learned to sail there. Loch Ard is a particularly noted for angling. The Stirling Fishing Club regularly used it for competitions in the nineteenth century. It can also be noted that The Loch Ard Local History Group is based in Kinlochard.
By the Second World War Kinlochard itself consisted of four small cottages near the junction where the oak tree stands. During the early part of the war an armed launch patrolled Loch Ard to deter sea-planes. The War Office designated the district as a huge ammunition dump. Shells were stored in open ended Nissan huts, 25 yards apart, along the road as far as the head of Loch Chon.
The area is associated with Rob Roy MacGregor (1671 (or earlier) -1734). He was a Jacobite who took part in the Battle of Killiecrankie (1689). The MacGregor name was proscribed in 1694 so he took his mother’s name, Campbell. This meant that he had reason to be sympathetic to the Government at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in which he did not take part. He was a notable cattle dealer and held land in Balquhidder, Craigroyston and Inversnaid. He was evicted because of a debt owed to the Duke of Montrose, so he subsequently rented land from the [Campbell] Earl of Breadalbane, an enemy of Montrose. He lived as an outlaw until he surrendered to General Wade in 1725. and received a pardon from George I. He lived peacefully until his death near Balquhidder in 1734. His fame was guaranteed by Daniel Defoe’s book ‘Highland Rogue’ published in 1723 and by Sir Walter Scott’s novel ‘Rob Roy’ published in 1818.
Scott’s novel is fiction as are many of the tales associated with Rob Roy, but one such story is particularly associated with Kinlochard:
“In the days of Rob Roy, there was an old widow living at Kinlochard. Although she was poor, she was kind and generous and nobody went past her house without getting a drink of milk from her.
Together with everyone else Rob Roy often had food from the kind woman. One day Rob went to her house but he could see that she was quite upset, and it seemed as though she was greatly troubled.
He said to her, “What is bothering you woman?”
“Och, the Bailiff’s coming today for rent and it pains me to say it, but I haven’t got enough money to pay him.”
“Is that all?” said Rob, “Here’s enough money for your rent; but see that you get a receipt.” The poor woman thanked Rob Roy and he left her very happy.
In the early evening of the same day the bailiff was traveling homewards. He had good horses and he was hoping he would be safe at the Aberfoyle Inn before nightfall. He was afraid of the dark; he had a sporran full of money and he had heard many times about Rob Roy. At a place that they call Druim Leathann [Drumlean Farm] where the road is quite lonely, who came upon him but Rob himself? Rob took every coin that the bailiff had. And thus did Rob get back the money and make a tidy profit for himself.”
Quoted in Michael Newton From the Clyde to Callander (1999)
The most recent film about Rob Roy was shot elsewhere in Scotland but at least two films have been made in Strathard. In 1922 Producer Will Kellino requisitioned a special train to convey artists and props to the Trossachs for the filming of Gaumont’s Rob Roy. The Scottish Kinema Record covered the progress of shooting which embraced the skills of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to infuse realism into the fight scenes. Much of the 1953 film, starring Richard Todd was shot in and around Kinlochard with memorable scenes at the Black Linn of Blairvaich and Loch Ard. Many locals played small roles in the film. Geordie (1955), starring Bill Travers, begins in Kinlochard before he goes to the Olympics. The Kenneth More version of Buchan’s 39 Steps (1959) used Altskeith.
Kinlochard is still evolving. At first a tiny hamlet, followed by the addition of several big houses, Kinlochard became a significant Forestry village with a school and a shop, both now closed Kinlochard is now developing as a major holiday location. The gem of the place remains Loch Ard, peaceful, beautiful and ever changing in its appearance. The village at the head of the loch is rich in history, but looks forward with confidence.