Glen Lyon

Glen Lyon is little known, and less visited, and it is only when you seek it out on a map that you begin to realise just how significant a presence it is in the central Highlands. The glen extends for some 25 miles. It opens from the Appin of Dull, from the pretty village of Fortingall in the east to the head of Loch Lyon at Cashlie in the west.

Glen Lyon is one of Scotland's most beautiful glens. At its base the River Lyon has cut a deep gorge known as MacGregor's leap. It gets its name from an outlaw member of the MacGregor clan, who is said to have escaped justice by leaping the falls. The Glen is packed with history. It is infamous for having been the home of John Campbell of Glen Lyon - responsible for the Glen Coe massacre.

If you are visiting the area by car, then Glen Lyon is an absolute must. Be warned though, the road is not suitable for caravans or coaches! The trip from Kenmore to Killin takes a good couple of hours. While you are on your journey, be sure to drop in at the Bridge of Balgie. Here you will find a delightful Post Office come village shop which serves cream teas by the banks of the River Lyon, and next door is the most excellent Glen Lyon Art Gallery.

At the west end of the village of Fortingall is Glen Lyon House, parts of which date back to 1694. A little to its west, the River Lyon emerges from the steep sided rocky jaws of the Glen itself. The road through the glen is single track throughout, though the first two miles through the glen are the most demanding as the road follows the twists and turns of the fast flowing and tightly confined river. Thereafter the glen opens out and sight lines on the road improve, and the further west you go the more open it becomes. You also tend to find that the further west you go the less traffic you encounter.

As the glen begins to open out, keep a lookout for the arch of a packhorse bridge crossing a tributary below a waterfall on the south bank of the River Lyon. This is locally known as the Roman Bridge, though actually seems to date back to the 1600s or 1700s. A little further on, and equally elusive if you are not observant, are the ruins of Carnbane Castle.

At the next hamlet, Innerwick, there is the 18th century Glen Lyon Parish Church. Further up the glen is the Bridge of Balgie Post Office come village shop which serves cream teas by the banks of the River Lyon, and next door is the most excellent Art Gallery. This is a good stop off point before heading up over the pass to Ben Lawers. The other road continues up the glen, climbing to avoid the lands of Meggernie Castle, a fine late 16th century structure, whitewashed and set amidst ancient trees. It was built by Cailean Gorach, or Mad Colin Campbell in 1580, who amongst other exploits abducted the Countess of Erroll and held her there. Another lady is said to haunt Meggernie. She was the wife of a Menzies laird, who murdered her in a fit of jealously, and then cut up her body into halves for better disposal. Perhaps for the best, it is her upper half which haunts the castle.

Three miles on, the Glen Lyon road passes Loch Cashlie where, at the side of the road are a group of cairns and what appears to be an ancient earth-house. As the head of the glen is neared, or at least the road-end, the scenery becomes more bleak and treeless. Beyond are the mountains of Ben Achallader and Heasgarnich, and ranging to the south the fierce contours of the Tarmachan mountains.

Further up the glen at what should be a dead end at the dam, there is a small road, not marked on most maps, which actually takes you over to Killin via Glen Lochay, but be careful as there are quite a few potholes in the road to keep you alert. Glen Lyon is a must for photographers of all levels and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful you will find in Scotland.

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