Kippenrait Glen

Read the Kippenrait Newsletters and Press Releases from Scottish Natural Heritage

Newsletter Summer 2015

Taking Learning Outdoors April 2015

Newsletter December 2014

Newsletter Spring 2014

Newsletter Autumn 2013

Right on Dunblane’s doorstep, and easily accessed by either the Darn Walk or the Glen Road, is the fantastic ‘wildwood’ of Kippenrait Glen.  Much of this extensive woodland, which clothes the steep sided banks of the Wharry Burn, and the more level riverbanks of the Allan Water, is thought to have been continuously wooded since the last ice age.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been managed and used by people through the ages, as woodlands have always been highly valued – as a source of timber for building and as fuel; for hunting deer, rabbits and other game; for shelter and food for stock; for gathering berries, nuts and mushrooms for food; and for harvesting lichens and other woodland products for dyeing and tanning.  The continuity of woodland cover means that this woodland site is incredibly rich in biodiversity – from fungi, mosses, trees and shrubs to beetles and birds.  A huge variety of beautiful woodland plants can be found – many of them rare and special.  The woods look lovely at all times of the year, but in spring the bluebells and carpets of delicate white wood anemones and pungent wild garlic are certainly a highlight.  Because the woodland is so special and has such varied biodiversity, it has been designated as a site of European importance and our government has a duty to conserve it. Much more information can be found on the SNH website.

KIPPENRAIT GLEN & GLEN ROAD INTERPRETATION PROJECT

Kippenrait Glen Interpretation Board

This project emerged from the Glen Road Rescue project which highlighted that few people knew about the special conservation designations and heritage of the Glen area. We also wanted support to keep the route open as the new NCN 765 cycle link with plenty of volunteer helpers! The Interpretation Board sits by the dramatic bridge over the Wharry Burn, and links to this information via a QR code. The material comes from local experts and publications, and project funding came from Awards for All, Paths for All and Clackmannanshire and Stirling Environment Trust, via Dunblane Development Trust. We hope you enjoy all the stories and information below.

Quick links to extra information:
A Strategic Position in Scottish History
Old Roads with Darn Road & Darn Walk, Glen Road, Glen Road Rescue Project, Kippenross
Droving extra
Battle of Sheriffmuir
Geological Context
Conservation and George Don
Robert Louis Stevenson

A STRATEGIC POSITION IN SCOTTISH HISTORY

Attracting invaders and settlers through the ages

Dunblane is an ancient settlement lying astride the "Stirling Gap", on the main route from south to north of Scotland, and at the junction from the western highlands and islands. It is also at the frontier of the old Kingdom of Scotland to the east, and above the marshy Forth valley and Stirling, the seat of the Stuart kings. Before bridges were built Dunblane provided a key crossing point and the early road went along the east side of the Allanwater - the Darn Road - to Bridge of Allan. Early hunter gatherers found good salmon fishing, game, and foraged for wild fruit and vegetables. They sheltered in their sandstone cave houses with a ready supply of wood fuel – not that different from aspirational lifestyles today! Early farmers developed crops, domesticated animals and left monuments of: standing stones - Sheriffmuir gathering stone, Wallace Stone; forts on Dumyat and Gallowhill; axe heads and a fine bronze age necklace now kept in Dunblane museum.

From AD80 the first wave of 18,000 Roman soldiers marched north through the "Stirling Gap" from Camelon, and built their marching camps in Dunblane, Doune, the extensive Ardoch fort at Braco and the line of watchtowers along the Gask ridge route towards Perth.

Ecclesiastical City close to Scottish power battles

In the 7th century Celtic missionaries came from the west coast to create an extensive Culdee church centred in Dunblane at Holmehill; St Blane came from Kingarth monastery in Bute. This early church developed from the 11th century into an important medieval bishopric and centre of pilgrimage. The bishops took over local land and mills, and built the cathedral, town houses, the bridge in 1409 and roads including the new High Street. Key Scottish gentry had town houses in or close to Dunblane and paid their indulgences to the cathedral. Doune Castle was built by the Regent Duke of Albany c 1390 but when James I came to power he captured Murdoch Stewart the 2nd Duke, at "Murdoch’s Ford" just north of the High School, imprisoned him in Stirling castle and beheaded him in 1425. The forfeited castle became a popular hunting residence for the king who hired beds and horses from Dunblane for his guests. Doune castle is now famous for the annual gathering of fans of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"!

The Dunblane bishops applied for weekly markets from 1442. The town was also granted four fairs a year, so was able to exploit the passing droving trade. Dunblane became prized for oxen (243 sold at one fair), hunting horses for the Stuart Kings, saddlery and artisan leather goods such as gloves.

Dunblane remained close to the action in the Wars of Independence; William Wallace is commemorated by a stone on Sheriffmuir and the dramatic Wallace monument for the battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297; Robert the Bruce battled at nearby Bannockburn in 1314; Mary Queen of Scots held a parliament in Dunblane in 1558 trying to get consent for the Dauphin to be crowned King of Scotland; the Jacobite rebels and government forces clashed at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715, and Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed a night in Dunblane in 1745 on his way to defeat at Culloden.

Decline of Cathedral City into poor weaving town

The Dunblane bishops were still in control of the town at its peak of importance by 1500 when James VI granted city status. However, following the reformation in 1560 when land was redistributed to local gentry, and the union with England when James VI moved south to rule as James I, Dunblane faded into a poor weaving community, with a roofless cathedral for 300 years. Out of a population of 1900 there were 700 cotton and wool handlooms in 1818, and Dunblane became noted for making silk shawls. There were still 274 handlooms by 1834 before water powered mills eventually took over. The model industrial mill village of Ashfield was built upstream from 1865 by Pullars of Perth, and still produces some electric power today. Milsey Bank House near to Bridge of Allan acted as the bank for all the local mills. Once the ban on tartan was lifted in 1782, Dunblane provided the tartan cloth for the Highland regiments and slaves in the West Indies, where local landowners had business that funded their expanding estates.

In the 17th and 18th century "dirty Dunblain" was also notorious for its large number of hostelries; 29 in town and 12 rural in 1793, including some on Sheriffmuir where soldiers liked to ride out from Stirling castle. Robert Burns was appointed to the job of excise man in 1796 but died before taking up his post.

Area for soldiers

The area continued to garrison many soldiers into the 20th century, including allied forces at Kippenross. The Scots fighting and field skills became especially valued in the British special forces, with the SAS set up from here. Sheriffmuir was regularly used for army manouvres including practice for the D-day landings.

Queen Victoria visited Dunblane in 1842 on her first trip to Scotland to stay at nearby Drummond Castle, where the fine renaissance gardens were modernised for her visit. The Queen Victoria school opened in 1908 for 275 sons of Scottish soldiers and sailors, as a memorial for those fallen in the Boer war.

Spa Tourists and Railway

Although mineral waters were discovered in 1813 by the Laighills, Dunblane was slow to promote them and accommodate tourists – unlike Bridge of Allan which developed rapidly from a hamlet into the "Queen of the Spas" in Scotland, after Lord Abercrombie exploited the mineral waters flooding his copper mines. The Dunblane Hydro was only completed in 1878. Tourism in Scotland, especially The Trossachs, became fashionable after Walter Scott published Lady of the Lake in 1810 when wars in Europe prevented the "Grand Tour". Travel by steam ship and stagecoach was overtaken by popular railway holidays from 1848. Bridge of Allan and Dunblane were on the direct railway line from England, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the junction at Dunblane to the Trossachs and Western Highlands opened in 1858. The growing industrial towns of the central belt encouraged early Victorian commuters to build their mansions in Bridge of Allan and Dunblane.

As the turnpike road became improved into the A9, and the M9 provided easy access to airports, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan continue to attract commuters wanting to settle in this lovely heritage area.

Main reference books for further reading:
A B Barty History of Dunblane 1944
Archie McKerrarcher The Street and Place Names of Dunblane and District 1992
Bill Inglis Dunblane from the Stone Age to Mary Queen of Scots 2011
Bill Inglis The Battle of Sherrifmuir based on Eye Witness Accounts 2005
A R B Haldane The Drove Roads of Scotland 2008 edition
J Malcolm Allan Bridge of Allan In Old Photographs 1989
Forth Naturalist Historian back journals and special leaflets; on mines, Queen of Spas, Robert Louis Stevenson

OLD ROADS

The maps below are from research by Ron Page published in Forth Naturalist Historian Volume 31.

Stirling, Gateway to the North: I Roman Roads and Early Routes Page 41 Old Roads
Old roads, shown as dashed tracks, on either side of the River Forth in relation to the modern road system.

Old Roads

DARN ROAD AND DARN WALK

There were several routes passing through the "Stirling Gap". Before bridges were built (1409 Dunblane, 1510 Bridge of Allan) the main route between Stirling and Dunblane was on the East side of the Allan Water avoiding the two fords. The oldest route is the Darn Road also known as the Darring Road or Water Road. However, much of the current Darn Walk now follows a significantly different line to the original road.

From Bridge of Allan the old Darn Road went north past the Mill of Airthrey, more or less along Blairforkie Drive, along Glen Road until it reached the Cock's Burn where it swung west past Drumdruills to cross the Wharry Burn near the current footbridge. A meal mill or Mill o' Ads and the millers cottage, also known as Black Pete's, were here beside the Burn; the remains of the cottage can still be seen over the wall. The Darn Road used to go by this mill, following the bank and passed in front of 'new' Kippenross House on the way to Dunblane. The old tower house was on a bluff beside the river ¼ mile away. The Darn Road continued south of the current Darn Walk above, probably closer to the line of the present driveway. The Darn Road then branched 3 ways approaching the town; down to the river crossing, behind Beech Road shops to join Smithy Loan and towards Fourways junction through the current golf carpark. Locals used to walk their cows along Darn Road behind the Beech Road shops to graze them in the cowpark at the last two golf holes. Livestock for the fairs by the cathedral was held at Holmehill cowpark which was where the old Sheriffmuir Road ended via Newton Loan.

The Darn Road was still in use by horse and carts between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan until 1854, and would have included traffic from the mills along the river. However with the turnpike road on the west side of the Allan Water and the new Glen Road to the east, traffic dwindled away from the Darn Road. In 1858 it was considered a mere footpath and was diverted by landowner John Stirling. However closing the road caused great local resentment. A wall was built across the road, but the work done by day was knocked down each night, allegedly by the same workmen (Barty 1944, 269). A compromise was agreed following a court case in the Edinburgh Court of Sessions which included a diversion to the east side of new Kippenross house, the Darn Walk of today.

Locals also wished to retain public access along the old droving route from Doune which went along Baxters Loan, Hillside towards Kippenross along the South driveway and river crossing, to join the Darn Road to Bridge of Allan. Although the driveway just provides access to the house today, you can still walk on paths to the south to cross the railway and river to join Darn Road, or another old route via GallowHill to Bridge of Allan. (See Dunblane Area Green Travel Map for the current core path routes.)

South of the Wharry Burn towards Bridge of Allan, landowner Lord Abercrombie (the silver/coppermine magnate and spa entrepreneur) wanted to develop pleasure gardens for the growing Bridge of Allan Spa. His plans were partially realised in the paths we use today; the riverside Darn Walk passes "Stevenson'’s Cave" (an old mine adit) and crosses the Cock's Burn to Bridge of Allan, or the sunken path leads along the side of the Cock's Burn gorge up to Glen road. The "Lover's Walk" above Blairforkie Drive was probably adapted from the old road which stays high above Henderson Street/old marsh area towards Pathfoot/Airthrey, where it linked with the old Hillfoots back road, or dropped down to cross the Causeway to Stirling.

GLEN ROAD - construction and rescue

This was built in two stages by the local landowner John Stirling of Kippendavie (1811 – 1882) who became the key developer in Dunblane. The first section of Glen Road was constructed in 1835 from Fourways roundabout to Kippenrait to replace the old Sheriffmuir Road which ran up along Newton Loan past Dykedale Farm across to Lynn's ford (between Stonehill farm and the Lynns) and then on to Bridge of Allan. The next stage of Glen Road was built in the 1840's when John Stirling bought land from Lord Abercrombie, south of the Wharry Burn, to extend the Glen Road through Kippenrait Glen to Bridge of Allan. The original stone culverts, walls and stone paving beneath the tarmac can still be appreciated. The dramatic stone bridge is now 'C' listed and was built by local stone mason Steven McVicar. Incidentally his daughter Mary married the young railway engineer Mr Phillips who honed his skills building the tricky section along the river north of Dunblane, before emigrating to build railways across North America.

 

The influx of Spa tourists walking in the Glen and the railway probably provided the impetus and skills for the significant task of building a road along the steep sided gorge. Although initially a private road, public pressure led to Glen Road being adopted as a public road until 1987 when it was closed to traffic by Stirling Council due to landslips. It quickly became very popular with cyclists, walkers and runners not only for leisure, but also for commuting to the University and Stirling to avoid the busy A9. However the lack of maintenance to vegetation overgrowth and blocked drains threatened the survival of the route.

 

GLEN ROAD RESCUE PROJECT

In 2011 Stirling Council agreed to co-ordinate a rescue project supported by Sustrans with long term maintenance by local volunteers from Dunblane and Bridge of Allan. A key aim was to promote NCN 765 through the Glen until an off road route by the A9 could be provided. A bio-engineering survey from volunteer engineer Ian MacLachlan and a low quote from a contractor, helped to kick start the project planning process. Since the Glen was subject to strict management conditions as a Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest, a plant survey and permissions from Scottish Natural Heritage were required. Although the road was a core path three landowners also needed to give permission. Due to lack of funds from Stirling Council the volunteers applied for match funding through Dunblane Development Trust in partnership with Bridge of Allan Community Council and Sustrans Rangers. Grants of £3750 were granted from Clackmannan and Stirling Environment Trust, Community Pride, CSGN, Ashden Trust and a Bike train donation, and Sustrans provided £4000.

Volunteers pulled saplings from the road to replant later at slip areas. The Council cut back trees to improve access of 3.5 metre radius. The contractor dug out blocked drains and scraped surface matter to place in approved fill areas. Technical and conservation training prepared the volunteers who organised weekly work parties to keep ditches working, rod and protect drains, support road edges, remove fallen trees and keep the road open after new landslips. Although wood can be thrown into the glen, soils and organic matter have to be barrowed to three specific fill areas. Unusually wet winters of 2011 and 2012 and summer 2012 contributed to new landslips originating from above and below the road. A flash flood in August 2012 caused a landslide which had to be mechanically removed with the remaining funds. The road further down to Bridge of Allan suffered surface damage which is being partially repaired by the landowner and Stirling Council.

Almost 30 volunteers helped during 2012 for 700 hours, particularly a small core of regulars. Many people passing through the Glen express their appreciation and sometimes get hijacked! Since few people knew about the special conservation designations and heritage, and we wished to promote the NCN 765, an interpretation board and information on the new community website was created.

Glen Road Rescue Volunteers
A few of the volunteers with new clean tools!

KIPPENROSS

The Ros family owned the land east of the Allan Water from the 12th century and built a tower house in 1448 on a bluff overlooking the river. In financial difficulty they sold it in 1633 to James Pearson who was Dean of Dunblane Cathedral, and whose town house is now the museum. His great grandson Hugh laid out the Beech Walk in 1742 along the banks of the Allan Water, inspired by his "Grand Tour" in Italy. Some trees still survive today along the line of the walk from Beech Road and downstream of the "new" bridge. In 1770 the last Pearson laird built the current Kippenross House ¼ mile away from the old tower, on the other side of the old Darn Road, which was later diverted amid much controversy in 1858.

The lairds second son William Pearson apparently lost the freehold of Kippenross to John Stirling of Kippendavie "at dice or cards", so recalled Aunt Anne, "on the night of the worst storm in years, which was nothing compared with the one he encountered when he got home, and told Jane wot 'e dun." In 1778 due to financial difficulties the Pearsons sold the estate to John Stirling. From his brother's plantation in Jamaica, he brought back a slave who had saved his life in a slave's revolt, and gave him a croft (Blackman's Croft) near the Mill of Ads by the Darn Road footbridge over the Wharry Burn. This John Stirling also planted the fine beech hedge along Glen Road by Pisgah in 1785.

The later John Stirling of Kippendavie (1811 – 1882) inherited the estate at the age of five when his family owned significant property in town and to the east side of Dunblane, including farms on Sheriffmuir, Kippendavie and Kippenross. Like many of his generation he invested profits from colonial business to develop his estate, and supported improvements to Dunblane. He was a successful businessman and brought the railway (1848) through his land when other landowners rejected it, though on condition that it was hidden in a tunnel from his house. This was a busy decade when he built estate lodges, bridges and long driveways to enhance Kippenross estate. He built the north lodge at the golf course entrance, west lodge next to the Stirling Arms and south lodge where it remains today. He also built the Glen Road through to Bridge of Allan.

The "Big Tree of Kippenross" grew near Old Kippenross and Darn Road. It was supposed to be the biggest tree in Scotland, a sycamore dating from about 1400 to when it fell in a big snowy storm in 1868. In 1841 it measured 42ft 7in in girth, 114ft wide, 100ft high, even though it had previously been struck by lightning. Read more about the Tree Picture/article here.
Glen Road Rescue Volunteers

DROVING EXTRA

Main local droving routes (see Old Roads map above)

  • From Sheriffmuir via Pendreich, Sheriffmuir Road by Airthrey or Logie kirk, to Causewayhead, Stirling to Falkirk.
  • From Doune drovers came down Baxters Loan along the Kippenross south entrance to ford the Allan Water and join the Darn Road, past Drumdruills, Glen Road, Cornton, Stirling for Falkirk Tryst
  • Or from Baxters Loan via Gallow Hill, crossed the river at Bridge of Allan Fire station, to Cornton, Stirling etc.

Extra droving information

The great droving economy of Scotland developed from local transhumance, when animals were grazed on high summer pastures on land then seen of limited value. Lack of winter feed meant the animals had to be driven to market. The English union in 1603 and Parliament in 1707 stimulated the breeding of large numbers of cattle and sheep for droving to England (22000pa from the Outer Hebrides, up to 8000 cattle swam from Skye over Kyle Rhea). Developed from 13th century reiving to its licensed heyday of 18th and 19th centuries, the small tough highland cattle and hardy drovers travelled about 12 miles a day from the western isles to the great Trysts. They initially gathered at Crieff Tryst, then from 1750 to Falkirk, which was more convenient for English dealers. Most cattle continued south to fattening areas such as Norfolk for Smithfield market, London, to supply the navy with salted beef for its French wars and new colonies, or to feed the developing industrial towns. Droving created the modern banking system (which featured animal logos such as Lloyd's horse today), and credit notes, though it was a risky business; Rob Roy started as a reputable drover. Life was hard with drovers sleeping out on the hills living on oatmeal, onion, with occasional cattle blood drawn for a black pudding, the odd rabbit and dram. Their border collie dogs worked very hard to keep stock from wandering and often were sent back home alone being fed at the same inns, as often the drovers stayed on to help with the English harvests.

As well as cattle and sheep, geese, turkeys, pigs and donkeys were also driven to and from the fairs and markets. One way to keep them fit was to keep them shod. The cattle were fitted with curved iron shoes like small horseshoes cut in half, with sections either side of the cloven hoof, and a blacksmith would often travel with the drovers. The pigs in the procession had little woollen boots with leather soles fitted to each trotter. Even the geese had protection for their feet. This was done by driving them through a mixture of soft tar and sand, which would form a very hard-wearing coating when it set.

The demise of droving was caused by land enclosures for crops, sheep and game, which reduced rights of way, overnight stances and grazing. Also toll bridges and turnpike roads added cost, restricted grazing and wore down hooves and so were avoided where possible. From the 19th century less risky sea steamers and railway transport made long distance droving unnecessary. Cultivation of the turnip provided winter food, and enabled fattening bigger and more specialised breeds, which were unsuitable for droving, to mature closer to market. However, some droving continued into the early 1900s and persisted at local level within living memory.

Sir Walter Scott, in "The Two Drovers" (Macmillan, 1901) gives a vivid description of a drove from the Highlands of Scotland coming via Callander to Doune Fair (important at end 18th century as a late season fair selling up to 10,000 cattle):

"It was the day after Doune Fair when my story commences. It had been a brisk market, several dealers had attended from the northern and midland counties in England, and English money had flown so merrily about as to gladden the hearts of the Highland farmers. Many large droves were about to set off for England, under the protection of their owners, or of the topsmen whom they employed in the tedious, laborious, and responsible office of driving the cattle for many hundred miles, from the market where they had been purchased, to the fields or farm-yards where they were to be fattened for the shambles. The Highlanders in particular are masters of this difficult trade of driving, which seems to suit them as well as the trade of war. It affords exercise for all their habits of patient endurance and active exertion. They are required to know perfectly the drove-roads, which lie over the wildest tracts of the country, and to avoid as much as possible the highways, which distress the feet of the bullocks, and the turnpikes, which annoy the spirit of the drover; whereas on the broad green or grey track, which leads across the pathless moor, the herd not only move at ease and without taxation, but, if they mind their business, may pick up a mouthful of food by the way. At night, the drovers usually sleep along with their cattle, let the weather be what it will; and many of these hardy men do not once rest under a roof during a journey on foot from Lochaber to Lincolnshire. They are paid very highly, for the trust reposed is of the last importance, as it depends on their prudence, vigilance and honesty, whether the cattle reach the final market in good order, and afford a profit to the grazier. But as they maintain themselves at their own expense, they are especially economical in that particular. At the period we speak of, a Highland drover was victualled for his long and toilsome journey with a few handfuls of oatmeal and two or three onions, renewed from time to time, and a ram's horn filled with whisky, which he used regularly, but sparingly, every night and morning. His dirk, or 'skene-dhu', (i.e., black-knife,) so worn as to be concealed beneath the arm, or by the folds of the plaid, was his only weapon, excepting the cudgel with which he directed the movements of the cattle."

Further information:
A R B Haldane The Drove Roads of Scotland David and Charles 1973.
This classic study of drove roads and the droving trade was written by a resident of Auchterarder who lived by a drove road on Sheriffmuir. Also see:
Scottish History Online - The Highland Drovers
The Border Collie Museum - The Drovers Dogs

BATTLE OF SHERIFFMUIR

A battle plan and review of eyewitness accounts
Sheriffmuir battle plan
Drawing the battle lines/areas

The above plan comes from Stirling Council's An Introduction To Battlefields and Planning in Stirling.

Further reference sources:

  • Inventory of Historic Battlefields – Battlefields Trust's document
  • Battlefields Trust's Website
  • The Battle of Sheriffmuir, based on eye witness accounts - Bill Inglis – reviewed below
  • RuckSack Readers Rob Roy and the Jacobites. Apparently Rob Roy came with men to fight but watched from Kinbuck, hesitating over split loyalties/consequences.
  • Robert Burns song The Battle of Sherramuir
  • Dunblane Museum patron – Dr Tony Pollard, battlefield expert, will shortly publish information from a recent review of the battlesite
  • Sheriffmuir battle image
    Battle of Sheriffmuir, an 18th century painting by an unknown Dutch artist
  • BOOK REVIEW - Forth Naturalist and Historian, volume 28 Page 102-104 Ron Page
  • The Battle of Sheriffmuir: based on Eye Witness Accounts - Bill Inglis 2005, Stirling Council Libraries, Stirling FK7 7TN. ISBN 1 870542 50 9

    'Some say that we wan and some say that they wan
    And some say that nane won at a', man.
    But one thing I'm sure that at Sheriffmuir
    A battle was there which I saw man.
    And we ran and they ran, and they ran and we ran
    And we ran and they ran awa' man.'

    This poem, as Bill Inglis says, is nearly always quoted in any account of the battle. It neatly and mockingly sums up the conflicting opinions that have been expressed.

    Inglis' excellent little booklet begins by summarising the background of this first Jacobite rebellion. The Union of 1707 was resented in Scotland for a number of reasons, some economic, some political, and some religious. There can be no doubt that James, the Old Pretender, as the legitimate son of James VII of Scotland, had a better claim to the throne than George of Hanover. German George couldn't even speak English. But George was Protestant, James was Catholic, and that decided the matter. No wonder that deeply held religious opinions drew their adherents to the Jacobite cause, and Inglis cites many local examples.

    The Earl of Mar had been the Secretary of State for Scotland, but when he learned that George I would not maintain him in office he escaped (disguised as a workman) to Scotland to lead the rebellion there. On September 6th 1715 the Standard was raised at Braemar, and on the 28th Mar arrived at Perth, which had been daringly captured two weeks before by the eighteen year old John Hay of Cromlix.

    Mar was a politician and an administrator, not an experienced general, whereas the Duke of Argyle, leading the Government forces, had had a distinguished career as a professional soldier. Mar's forces appeared much larger, (perhaps 8000 infantry and 1000 cavalry), than Argyle's, (about 2250 infantry and 950 cavalry), but there were great differences in training, experience and temperament between them. Inglis describes these differences in detail, quoting contemporary descriptions by participants in the battle. His verdict on the prospects for the fight are '… but the Jacobites with their greater numbers and the élan of the Highlanders had possibly the winning advantage.'

    In Perth the Earl of Mar's Council of War decided to force a crossing of the Forth at Drip, rather than to take Stirling, and on November 12th the army advanced towards Dunblane. The present A9, which follows the line of one of Wade's military roads, built after the '45, was not then available. Mar's army marched along a much earlier medieval road running closer to the River Allan, recently recognised as following the line of the Roman road from Ardoch. This took them directly to Kinbuck Muir, near Naggyfauld and Glassingall. This detail is not brought out by Inglis, though it was recognised by Barty in his account of the battle in his History of Dunblane. That account, also first class, does not differ in any important respect from that given by Inglis, but it lacks the liveliness of the eye witness reports given us by Inglis. The Jacobites settled for the night at Kinbuck Muir. Meantime Argyle had occupied Dunblane, and his army was near Dykedale Farm.

    From Dykedale Farm a track led, as it still does, up to Sheriffmuir, and early on the 13th of November, the day of the battle, Argyle sent a party of horsemen up to the high ground from which Mar's army down by the river could be watched. These observers were seen by the Jacobites, and Mar decided to advance up the hill on to the Sheriffmuir. Argyle responded by sending his troops up the track from the farm. This track now ends at the MacRae Monument, but probably at that time continued on the line of the present road to near the Sheriffmuir Inn. The Government columns marching up the track had merely to face left to form their line of battle against the columns of Jacobites approaching up the hill, more or less towards the Gathering Stone.

    Among these columns there was some confusion, graphically described by Inglis. On the other hand the rear of the column of Government troops, due to form the left of their battle line, were not prepared for the furious attack upon them by the Highlanders. Within a few minutes this part of the Government troops under General Whitlam was in flight, some back to Dunblane, some down the drove road to Stirling, via Pendreich and Pathfoot. Some even reached Cornton, and by mid afternoon Whitlam arrived at Stirling Bridge to report his opinion that all was lost. Meanwhile the Government right, although numerically weaker in infantry, were able to use their superiority in cavalry. Inglis makes very effective use of the contemporary accounts to give a thrilling description of the actions leading to the rout of the Jacobite left and the pursuit back towards the River Allan. It would be difficult to get a better detailed and vivid picture of the battle.

    To appreciate this a visitor to the site, booklet in hand, should follow the advance of Argyle's troops up the track from Dykedale Farm to the MacRae Monument, bearing in mind that the modern road past Stonehill Farm did not then exist. From the Monument a path leads to the Gathering Stone towards which the Jacobites advanced from Kinbuck Muir. Much of their approach route was through the area now covered by conifers and cannot be seen from the Gathering Stone. Perhaps the best way to understand it is to view from the far side of the River Allan beyond Ashfield, looking north-east from the high ground near Crofts of Cromlix on the minor road from Dunblane to Kinbuck.

    The centre of the battle lines at first was somewhere between the Gathering Stone and the MacRae Monument, although the action soon became widely dispersed. The crossed swords indicating the site of the battle on the Ordnance Survey maps is almost two kilometres too far to the north-east. The original battle lines would have extended little more than one kilometre, and would not have reached as far as the Sheriffmuir Inn. Bill Inglis is decisive about the verdict on the fight. 'There is no doubt that the Jacobites failed in their aim and that Argyle succeeded, so it is clear that the Duke won the battle.' Whether one wants an exciting armchair account of a vital battle, or a good guide for a site visit, one cannot do better than acquire this outstanding little book.

    Barty, A. B. 'The Battle of Sheriffmuir', Chap. XXIV in The History of Dunblane.2nd edn. Stirling District Libraries. 1994.

GEOLOGICAL CONTEXT

The rocks underlying Kippenrait Glen were formed more than 400 million years ago (Early Devonian period). At that time Stirling was about 20o south of the Equator on the eastern flank of what is now North America, and it was part of a volcanic province. The high relief and semi-arid climate also led to the formation of the local red sandstones. Subsequent events (in the lower Carboniferous period) led to the accumulation of pale, buff sandstones, and limestones topped by basalt lava flows on the Gargunnock Hills south of Stirling. Strong faulting along the scarp of the Ochils led to the broken relief of the Stirling gap and produced the sheets of quartz dolerite that now support Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument.

The multiple ice ages that dominated the last two million years led to the moulding of the relief and deposition of glacial debris or 'till', most of which is poorly-drained, boulder clay. Melting of the ice sheets was rapid from 15,000 years ago leading to the erosion of deep valleys such as Kippenrait Glen, at a time when the sea levels were much lower than today. Glacial clays were left perched on the upper flanks of the gorge (the climate deteriorated again after 12,000 but the ice failed to advance far beyond Callander). The clays became unstable under warmer and wetter climates, especially during the last 7,000 years, when sea levels rose to flood the Forth Valley (a whale’s skeleton was found at Airthrey in 1819). The slopes of Kippenrait Glen have continued to experience instability and the north-facing slope, which carries the Glen road, is particularly wet and prone to slides and flows.

Research papers on Landslides of Kippenrait Glen Michael F. Thomas Pg 65-78 Vol 32 Forth Naturalist Historian.

Glen Road landslide image
Small landslide on Glen Road
Glen Interpretation Board
Victorian stone culvert under road – still working
Glen Road bridge
Glen Road Bridge over Wharry Burn
Wolf's Hole Board
Geology at a Quarry on Glen Road in Bridge of Allan

Local quarries (e.g. Kippenross, Kippenrait, Wolf’s Hole*, Gallow Hill) provided sandstone to build the attractive local bridges, the magnificent Dunblane Cathedral and imposing Victorian villas in Dunblane and Bridge of Allan. Further geological information in this Wolf’s Hole Quarry and Mine Woods leaflet.

CONSERVATION AND GEORGE DON

The Glen is covered by a number of conservation designations including:

  • Draft Inventory of Battlefields V2 (excluding the road and above the northern bridge)
  • The ‘C’ listed bridge over the Wharryburn
  • Area of Great Landscape Value
  • Ancient & Semi Natural Woodland
  • Special Areas of Conservation (excluding the road)
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest (excluding the road)

Kippenrait Glen - Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) covers the wooded banks of the Allan Water between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, including its tributaries, the Wharry Burn and the Cock's Burn. The relatively undisturbed steep slopes support ancient mixed woodland and a large diversity of woodland plant species. The woodland canopy contains ash, birch, oak and elm with an understorey of hazel and frequent bird cherry on moist soils. The ground flora includes abundant dog's mercury, bluebells, greater woodrush and wood anemone, sanicle, enchanter's nightshade and ramsons. Rarer plants are bird’s nest orchid, goldilocks buttercup, moschatel and wood vetch. The woodland also supports a significant variety of insects including rare beetles and craneflies. The natural woodland cycle supports their larvae which live in bark, or decaying wood in damp areas or sandy banks by the side of streams. However, invasive species such as beech, sycamore, rhododendron, conifers, snowberry, Japanese knotweed and Hogweed are impacting on the woodland ecology. More information can be found at Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) website.

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government body responsible for working with Scotland's people to care for the natural heritage. It seeks to promote the care and management of the natural heritage, including designated sites, as well as its responsible enjoyment, greater understanding and appreciation and sustainable use. Current management objectives for the SSSI are to:

  • control and manage invasive non-native species
  • retain fallen and standing deadwood
  • maintain water quality and damp undisturbed woodland
  • maintain access and provide interpretation as appropriate

 

George Don senior (1764 – 1814) was initially apprenticed to a clockmaker in Dunblane. He spent time recording plants found in the Glen, and became renowned for discovering bryophytes, lichens and vascular plants. He used a 15 foot pole with an iron straddle to hook plants from steep gorges and would examine them with lenses used by local cottage weavers. Volumes of Herbarium Brittanicum detailing his career findings are in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. A rare woodland plant Adoxa, or "Town Hall clock" since the flower looks like a clock, is found in the Glen. His son also George Don, was a plant hunter and clearly passed the genes down to Monty Don of Gardeners World! More information.

 

Glen Road adoxa image
Adoxa "the town hall clock"
Glen Road wild garlic image
Carpets of Ramsons or wild garlic

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894) was born in Edinburgh and, being ill as a child, spent many holidays in Bridge of Allan Spa town. He greatly admired Walter Scott's writing about the Trossachs, and was intrigued by Rob Roy not least because he thought that Stevenson was one of the names adopted following the proscription of MacGregor. 'His cave' (an old mine adit) is along the popular Darn walk by the Allanwater, and is thought to have inspired Ben Gunn's cave in Treasure Island. His visits to Old Glassingall and T S Smith, who founded the Smith Institute in Stirling, provided the background story to the House of Shaws and David Balfour in Kidnapped. Initially he was encouraged by his lighthouse engineer father to study Engineering then Law, but he always wanted to be a writer, and spent time with other artists in Europe where he met his American wife. He sailed with his family on a three year voyage and settled in the Samoan islands taking the name Tusitala, meaning "Teller of Tales". His grandfather Robert Stevenson (1772-1850) designed the new bridge at Stirling and in 1826 reported on the springs which brought such prosperity to Bridge of Allan spa town.

RLS cave image
'Stevenson's Cave' by Darn Walk
RLS cave image

William Henley - inspiration for Long John Silver
According to RLS's letters, the idea for the character of Long John Silver was inspired by his real-life friend Henley who suffered from tuberculosis of the bone, which resulted in the amputation of his left leg below the knee. Stevenson's stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, described Henley as "..a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch; jovial, astoundingly clever, and with a laugh that rolled like music; he had an unimaginable fire and vitality; he swept one off one's feet". In a letter to Henley after the publication of Treasure Island Stevenson wrote "I will now make a confession. It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver...the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you".

Thomas Stuart Smith (1815-1869) - inspiration for David Balfour
Thomas Stuart Smith was a man of fluctuating fortune with a colourful history who became an artist of considerable accomplishment, widely admired by his fellow artists. The family story was that Thomas’s father and uncle were in love with the same woman, had a disagreement over her and parted. Thomas was illegitimate and his mother died when he was young. His father, a merchant working in Canada and the West Indies, sent the young Thomas to school in France. When the school fees failed to arrive in 1831, Thomas deduced that his father was dead. Thomas and his uncle Alexander Smith who held the estate of Glassingall, Dunblane were shocked to hear of each other’s existence. Although AS never met his newly discovered nephew, he provided some financial support to study art in Italy, but died leaving no direct family and no will. Although he had been Thomas Stuart Smith’s main financial support, there was difficulty in proving their relationship, and eighteen people pursued claims on the Glassingall estate. It took Smith from 1849 to January 1857 to secure the inheritance of Glassingall.

The estate was much diminished through the demands of legal fees, and Smith missed the warmth and light of the continent. In 1863 he sold the estate, rented a studio in London and began to build up his own art and general collection. He liked the idea of building an Institute to house it for 'the welfare of the town and district of Stirling in Scotland'. He provided £5000 and had a very specific idea of the accommodation, Italian style and high quality construction – three rooms to be a Museum, a Picture Gallery and a Library and Reading Room, to benefit the artisan and working classes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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