Historical Balquhidder

Rob Roy's grave in the old church Balquhidder.

Historical Balquhidder has a stone circle and nearby there is a Neolithic chambered cairn. The Maclaurins (or Maclarens) acquired the district as early as the 9th century and occupied it for several hundred years. The clan's traditional meeting place is Creag an Tuirc, The Boar's Rock which commands excellent views of the glen and loch. The Maclaurins were ousted by the MacGregors after they lost their own ancestral lands to the Campbells. The MacGregors repeatedly raided the Maclaurins' lands and in 1558 slew the chief and many of his followers.

Robert the Bruce was on the run through these glens prior to the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. There is a Bruce Cave (one of many), above Loch Voil at Craigruie in Balquhidder glen where he reputedly hid.

Balquhidder was the scene of some of the exploits of Rob Roy, who is buried there. Rob Roy Mcgregor was born at Glengyle in 1671. He fought alongside his father in the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 on the then successful Jacobite side. Upon the death of his father, Rob Roy became clan chief at the age of thirty.

Late in 1711 Rob Roy borrowed money from the Duke of Montrose to purchase cattle for the following year's market. But in early 1712 Rob Roy's head drover, having purchased the cattle, then sold it on and disappeared with the funds. Rob Roy returned from an unsuccessful search for the drover to find he had been bankrupted and outlawed by the Duke of Montrose, his lands had been seized and his family evicted. Rob Roy sought revenge on the Duke of Montrose through a sustained campaign of cattle-rustling, theft and banditry. This included kidnapping Montrose's factor, complete with over £3,000 of rent money he was carrying at the time. Rob Roy was subsequently hunted as a common outlaw.

His family were evicted from their home and moved to Glen Dochart, whilst Rob Roy himself took shelter at Finlarig Castle in Killin. Rob Roy was captured in 1717 close to Balquhidder, but he managed to escape whilst crossing the River Forth and was subsequently recaptured in Dunkeld and sent to prison in Logierait.

However he again managed to escape from prison and in 1720 Rob Roy moved to Balquhidder Glen and a small shack at Inverlochlarig. Despite his dangerous lifestyle which included roles in the 1717 and 1719 Jacobite uprisings, Rob Roy died peacefully in his bed at home aged 63 at Inverlochlarig Beg on the 27th December 1734 and is buried in historical Balquhidder churchyard. His gravestone is inscribed with a line from MacGregor's Gathering by Sir Walter Scott, 'MacGregor Despite Them'.

The final Jacobite Rebellion at the Battle of Culloden in 1745 had disastrous consequences for the area. In Balquhidder glen, many clans including MacGregors, MacLarens and Stewarts had supported the forces of Prince Charles Edward, Bonnie Prince Charlie. Lands were forfeit and clansman and families burned out of their homes. The MacGregor estate Invercarnaig was laid waste and the remains of their burial ground are still visible at the top of Loch Doine.

The wearing of Highland dress was forbidden as was carrying arms. Even the bagpipe was outlawed, classed for the purpose of the Act, as weapon of war. In 1803, the MacLarens of Invernenty, at the west of Balquhidder glen , having held their lands since the Middle Ages emigrated to Nova Scotia.

Balqhuidder achieved some reknown through the Robert Louis Stevenson novels 'Kidnapped' and 'Catriona'. The classic film 'The Thirty Nine Steps', based on John Buchan's novel and starring Kenneth More, was filmed in Balquhidder in 1959.

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