of Scotland, Callander
in Stirlingshire, is not an especially ancient burgh, having reached
that status only in 1859. It is not a large community either.
But it is famous, competing with Crieff
as a gateway to the Highlands. The tradition is that Callander
owes its rise from a small village in part to the settlement here
of discharged soldiers from the Seven Years War, in 1763; and
thereafter to the publicity given the area by Sir Walter Scott
in The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, Rob Roy and so on. But,
in fact, it was always an important strategic community at the
junction of vital South Highland valleys in the land of Monteith,
became an earldom in the 17th century, and was the centre of a
large parish of 54,000 acres. The church was founded in 1238 and
was an appendage of the Priory of Inchmahome, belonging to the
Earls of Menteith. But even before all this, there was a Roman
camp here, at Kilmahog, at the junction of the Leny and Teith.
Today, of course, Callander is one of the busiest tourist towns
in Scotland, full of hotels, guest-houses, catering establishments
and shops to tempt the visitor. And of recent years it has gained
a new fame and attraction as the prototype of Tannochbrae in the
Dr. Finlay's Casebook BBC TV series, scene of most of the
non-studio shots, site of 'Arden House' and so on.
Most travellers from Edinburgh to the West Highlands pass through
Callander, and may tend to think of it as no more than a long
main street, wide but traffic-thronged. But the attractive parts
of the town are in its flanks, up the hillside under the lofty
wooded 1,000-foot Callander Craig, with its medicinal Red Well,
to the north; and down by the wide, tree-lined Teith to the south.
The best views of the place are from here, one notably well known
as the opening scene of many a Dr. Finlay episode.
The parish church of St. Kessog, one of the Golumban missionaries
(520--56) stands centrally in the attractive Ancaster Square,
dating from 1773 but re-built 1881, and is a fine spacious place
of worship, with handsome carved pulpit, and stained-glass by
Strachan. Its predecessor stood at the little hill of Tom-na-Chessaig,
nearer the river, with an old burial-ground. A market held here
annually in March used to be called the Feill na Chessaig. The
Manse is some distance from both, across the river on the south
bank, built on the site of the old castle of Callander--not apparently
a strong site, but no doubt once protected by marshland and moat.
This was the seat of the Livingstones, Earls of Callander, and
of Linlithgow. A stone from the castle is inserted above the manse
doorway, inscribed A.L. E.H. 1596, for Alexander Livingstone,
1st Earl of Linlithgow, and his wife Lady Elizabeth Hay, daughter
of the 9th Earl of Erroll. This first Earl was a friend of James
VI who indeed entrusted to his keeping his little daughter, the
Princess Elizabeth, when he went off to London in 1603; the child
to become the Winter Queen of Bohemia, was partly brought up at
Callander. A fragment of the ancient masonry survives in the manse
garden. Near by, on this southern approach to the town, on the
Glasgow road, is the large, modern building housing the well-known
McLaren High School; and near by, the well-designed new private
housing estate of Molland.
In the more central part of the town, amongst the very many hotels,
is that known as the Roman Camp, associated with J. M. Barrie
amongst others. The serpentine mound from which it takes its name,
near the river, is in fact a natural feature, not Roman as was
long thought; the true Roman camp lies nearly two miles to the
west, below Bochastle Hill, near Kilmahog. At the foot of South
Church Street, near the footbridge over the river, is a pedestal
sundial, dated 1753, presented by Viscount Esher.
Callander, of course, is the notable centre for touring the Trossachs
and other areas of the Southern Highlands. But there is much of
interest within walking distance of the town. On the hill-skirts
of the Craig, to the north, the 18-hole golf-course is renowned.
Above this, a track leads over open scrub-covered hillside to
the spectacular Brackland Falls on the Keltie Water. Here are
a series of cascades in a rocky, tree-lined chasm, immortalised
by Scott, whose character Roderick Dhu was "brave but wild as
Bracklinn's thundering wave". It is extraordinary how Scott has
managed to link his purely imaginary characters with local topography,
all over Scotland. Some of the falls here are over 50 feet high;
and there is a narrow footbridge above, which Scott once rode
over on a pony, for a wager, to alarm his companions. Also here,
in 1844, a foolhardy couple 'frolicking' fell to their deaths.
The Keltie Water's glen probes far back into the Glen Artney hills,
wherein it has been dammed to form a reservoir. A walking track
up it goes on, under Ben Each and Stuc a Chroin (3189 feet) and
then over the watershed below Ben Vorlich (3224 feet), to Loch
Earn at Ardvorlich, about 14 miles. There are many routes to climb
these mountains, however.
To the east of Callander, towards the Braes of Doune area, near
the farm of Dalvey, is the ruined former fortalice of Auchleshie,
a stronghold of the Buchanans. The district beyond is described
under Kilmadock and Doune. To the west, is the interesting area
of Leny, and Kilmahog. Leny is probably most famed for its Pass
and Falls, below Loch Lubnaig, a series of foaming rapids favoured
by visitors and photographers. But the large estate of Leny has
its own attractions, with a little glen and falls immediately
to the north. Its mansion has grown from the ancient nucleus of
an L-shaped fortalice of probably the late 16th century, its east
front surviving more or less as originally, with crowstepped gable,
steep roofs and vaulted basement. This was the seat of a line
of Buchanan lairds, close to the chiefs, until comparatively recently,
and some of their heraldry survives. Near the walled-garden is
an interesting obelisk-type sundial of probably the early 18th
century. At Little Leny, down near the haugh of the Teith, and
the Trossachs road-end, is an ancient burial-ground of the Buchanans,
and the site of a pre-Reformation church. There is a renewed archway
entrance, to hold the old bell, and a watch-house, with many old
gravestones. Here is interred Dugald Buchanan, the Gaelic poet
and scholar, from Strathyre.
Nearby, on the main road, is the pretty, milling hamlet of Kilmahog,
where the picturesque old mill-wheel is still maintained in working
order, its lade now a sort of wishing-well. Above all rears Ben
Ledi, The Mountain of God, a shapely peak 2873 feet high. Altogether,
here is a scenic and readily accessible area that sets itself
out to attract, and succeeds admirably.