The Aberfeldy, Loch Tay and Glen Lyon area can take you on a journey that spans thousands of years of human habitation. Usually, we'd start at the beginning, but just to be different, let's start in the 19th century, and work our way backwards! We can't pretend to cover everything, but hope this will give you a flavour of the history of this area, and spur you to investigate and discover more.
There's more information on our History and Heritage pages as well.
Aberfeldy Distillery built by the Dewar family
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the area was rife with legal and illegal distilleries. The Pitilie Distillery, just off the steeply rising road to Crieff was one such, as was the Grandtully Distillery. However, in 1896 the Dewar family built the Aberfeldy Distillery, which is the last remaining scotch whisky distillery in our area. Today it houses a superb heritage exhibition and offers a fine distillery tour.
Cotton and Grain Mills
At the end of the 18th century and into the early part of the 19th, Aberfeldy saw the building of cotton mills, with a grain mill being built in 1825. The mills took advantage of the water flowing down the Moness Burn, and today that grain mill is preserved in the guise of the Aberfeldy Watermill, now an award winning bookshop, gallery and coffee shop.
For those wishing to find out more about the history of the area, the Watermill has published a fascinating history of the area.
Although built on the site of the much older Balloch Castle, the current Taymouth Castle is essentially a creation of the early 19th century, the building of which was ordered by the 4th Earl of Breadalbane. Works took over 30 years in all, but were complete by 1842, in time for the first visit to Scotland of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, when they stayed at Taymouth for three days.
Today the castle is in a somewhat "in between" state, having been the subject of a stalled project to turn in into a luxury hotel. However, the grounds are lovely to walk in, and the castle itself mightily impressive!
In 1787, Robert Burns visited the area as part of his famous Highland Tour. Full details are available on this page.
General Wade, The Black Watch and Bonnie Prince CharlieFollowing the Jacobite uprising of 1715, General George Wade was appointed to carry out his own recommendations for securing the Highlands of Scotland. An important aspect of these was the construction of a series of military roads, one of which passes through Aberfeldy, and which occasioned the building of Wade's Bridge across the River Tay, complete in 1733. Many sections of Wade's roads are still visible, and this book is invaluable if you would like further information.
Wade was also responsible for the raising of companies of soldiers which would eventually become the famous Black Watch regiment in 1740, when their first muster took place close by the bridge. Today, there is a monument to that historic gathering.
As for Bonnie Prince Charlie - well, just a few years after it was built, he crossed General Wade's bridge as he fled north towards ultimate defeat at Culloden near Inverness.
|Back to the middle ages...
There is a fascinating resource now available at the National Libraries of Scotland - Timothy Pont's manuscript maps of Scotland, made in the 1580s and 1590s. Amazingly, there are maps for both Aberfeldy and Loch Tay, and these show very well the castles and other main buildings around at that time - just click on the images to see large versions of these amazing maps, or go to the website here or here.
The maps show Grandtully Castle, which is still today a private residence, and originates from around 1400, with most of the current structure from the late 1500.
Garth Castle is also a private residence, and dates to the 14th century, when it reputed to have been built by the fearsome Wolf of Badenoch.
Balloch Castle, as we know, later became Taymouth Castle.
All these castles bear witness to the various families and clans who held sway - or at least vied for it - in the Aberfeldy, Loch Tay and Glen Lyon area.
The Castle was the seat of the Chiefs of Clan Menzies for over 400 years. Situated in a strategic location, it was involved in much of the turbulent history of the Highlands. During the second Jacobite rising the Castle hosted both Bonnie Prince Charlie, who rested on his way to Culloden in 1746 and, just four days later, the Duke of Cumberland, son of the British Monarch and commander of the Government forces.
Rescued as a ruin in 1957 by the then recently re-formed Menzies Clan Society, the Castle has been lovingly restored and is open to all.
St Mary's church, Grandtully
This is a quite remarkable tiny parish church dating from the 16th century, famous above all for its finely painted wooden ceiling illustrating heraldic and symbolic subjects, added in the 1630s.
This is a hugely atmospheric place to visit, and a real highlight for anyone wanting to find the hidden gems of Highland Perthshire.
| ...and on further back
As we delve further back in time, written records become scarce, but that doesn't mean the area was a backwater. The inappropriately named hamlet of Dull, for instance, was, in the 8th century, a major centre of monastic learning.
Life in the Iron Age
A vivid illustration is given of what life was like for those living around Loch Tay around 2,500 years ago at the Scottish Crannog Centre, near Kenmore.
A crannog is a type of ancient loch-dwelling found throughout Scotland and Ireland dating from 2,500 years ago. An important part of our heritage, many crannogs were built out in the water as defensive homesteads and represented symbols of power and wealth. The Scottish Crannog Centre features a unique reconstruction of an early Iron Age loch-dwelling.
A visit to the Centre includes a self-guided exhibition, a guided crannog tour, and 'hands-on' ancient crafts and technology demonstrations. There is also a themed giftshop in which to browse offering an excellent selection of books, crafts, and related items. Weather permitting, you can also hire one of their replica dugout canoes!
Ancient Stone Circles and Rock Art
Going even further back into the past, the Aberfeldy, Loch Tay and Glen Lyon area is blessed with hundreds of stone circles and examples of ancient rock art. The most striking example is on the road between Aberfeldy and Loch Tay, at Croft Moraig.
But perhaps one of the most satisfying quests for anyone interested in the distant past of this beautiful part of the world is the hunt for those mysterious carved stones which almost litter our hillsides.
With no definitive explanation ever likely to be found for their creation, you're free to let your imagination run wild - while at the same time, your search will almost certainly have brought you to a stunning view, as this image from the slopes of Ben Lawers illustrates.
For more information, this book form Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust is an excellent start.
We hope you've enjoyed this quick overview of the history of the area, and how you can experience some of the places mentioned. If you think we've missed anywhere, just drop us a line and let us know! In the meantime, we hope you just: