Culture & Heritage
The area round Killin has a long history of human occupation.
The ruins of Loch Dochart Castle lie on a wooded island in Loch Dochart, 1.5 miles east of Crianlarich. The 16th century three-storey tower house with round tower was built by (Black) Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy between 1583 and 1631 and burnt down in 1646.
Finlarig Castle (ruin) in Killin was also built by (Black) Duncan of Glenorchy, around 1609. It was probably originally Z-plan as traces (spiral staircase) of a demolished NE tower remain. He also built a chapel where the ruins of the mausoleum stand to the east of the castle on the mound. The mausoleum was built by the Campbells (of Breadalbane) in the early 1800s. Two gravestones by the mausoleum mark the resting place of the Marquis and Marchioness of Breadalbane - the last of the Campbell line and descendants of Black Duncan. An alleged beheading pit or, alternatively, Victorian garden cistern lies to the north of the castle.
Post-Medieval Rural Settlement
The highland rural population increased significantly in the late 1700s and early 1800s and settlements increased in size and number accordingly. The traditional rural settlements were townships or baile and the Gaelic word persists in dozens of place names, such as Balquhidder. A survey conducted in 1769 identified some 120 settlements on the north shore of Loch Tay. The inhabitants were largely tenant farmers and cottars. Cattle grazed the low ground in winter and were moved into the hills in summer while the low pastures were used as arable land. During the summer herdsmen, along with the women and children from the farms or fermtouns, lived in small turf or stone huts, called shielings, where butter and cheese were produced. The remains of over 700 shielings have been identified within the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve alone. But all this was about to change.
Market forces encouraged the consolidation of small cattle tenancies into larger farms but the ultimate crisis arose from the introduction of large-scale sheep farming. Not only did sheep compete with the tenant farmers' summer cattle grazing grounds but breeds such as Cheviots could not survive the winter on the hillsides and over winter had to be moved to the low level pasture and arable land hitherto used by the tenant farmers. The inevitable consequence of agricultural improvement was depopulation on a grand scale, initially to the coasts but ultimately to the cities and the colonies. The population on the shores of Loch Tay, which had peaked in the 1811 census, had declined to barely one-third of that size by 1871.
The result is evident throughout the Breadalbane region in the form of abandoned buildings and deserted townships. Some excellent examples have been described, and can be seen, from Loch Tay (Lawers; Croftvellick; Tomour), Glen Lochay (Tirai) and Glen Dochart (Ardnagaul). Many ruined settlements contain remains of lime kilns and mills and, in the case of Lawers deserted village, a laird's house and ruined church dated to 1669.
Many of the dwellings took the form of what is known as a longhouse or byre-dwelling, in which animals were stabled in the same elongated building as the human inhabitants. A relatively modern example, the 19th century Moirlanich Longhouse near Killin, has been restored by the National Trust for Scotland and can be visited on Wednesdays and Sundays from May to September.
Within the village of Killin itself, the Killin Heritage Trail provides insights into the lore and history of the village and highlights details of its historic buildings, such as the 1840s mill, said to be built near the site of an 8th century meal-grinding mill built by St Fillan and the Scottish Episcopal Church, also known as the Tin Tabernacle.
With its highland setting but proximity to the Central Belt of lowland Scotland and major cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, the major industry in Killin is tourism. Other than services, most other activities are related to the land. Hill farming and forestry occur throughout the region and in 2013 development is scheduled to commence on a small underground gold mine at Cononish, near Tyndrum.
In the 1950s, however, things were very different. The area was alive with construction activity.
The Breadalbane Hydro-Electric Scheme
The Breadalbane Hydro-Electric Scheme was constructed between 1951 and 1961 by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board (now Scottish Hydro Electric, a subsidiary of SSE). It is centred on the mountainous region around Loch Lyon, Loch Earn and Loch Tay in highland Perthshire and utilises water stored behind 6 dams. Its 7 power stations have a total installed capacity of 118 MW, enough to power about 65,500 homes.
The Lawers section of the system gathers water through a system of tunnels and aqueducts and diverts it into Lochan-na-Lairige where it is stored behind the massive Lawers Dam, 344 metres long and 42 metres high. The water is then fed by tunnel and pipeline to Finlarig Power Station on the shores of Loch Tay. The gross head of 415 metres between the dam and the power station was the greatest of any of Scottish Hydro Electric's power stations at the time of construction.
The Killin section is the most complex. A drop of rain that falls in Glen Dochart can be diverted through Glen Lochay to Glen Lyon before ending up back in Glen Lochay after being used to generate electricity!
Water from above Glen Dochart and from Glen Lochay is transferred by pipeline and tunnel to Loch Lyon in Glen Lyon. An aqueduct also takes water from the headwaters of the River Orchy system, which would normally flow into the Atlantic, and delivers it to the head of Loch Lyon. The first power generation on the Killin system takes place at Lubreoch Power Station at Loch Lyon dam. The released water then flows down the River Lyon to the Stronuich reservoir which is also fed by water from the adjacent Cashlie Power Station. Cashlie is powered by water tunnelled from Lochan Daimh in a side glen off Glen Lyon. The Stronuich reservoir water is then returned to Glen Lochay by tunnel where it powers the Lochay Power Station, the largest in the Breadalbane scheme.
So if you do happen to spend a rainy day in Killin, just think how that rain is helping to power Scotland, thanks to the ingenuity and skill of these engineers and tunnellers over 60 years ago!