The lochs, river, and glens around Balquhidder are steeped in history and closely association with the MacGregors, especially the famous outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor. The village attracts many visitors from around the world who come to see the final resting place of Rob Roy, in Balquhidder Kirkyard alongside his wife and two sons.
Balquhidder is also a popular place for walking with many scenic routes, such as the Rob Roy walking trail, Kirkton Pass, and Balquhidder Glen. There are also a number of paths that lead out into the surrounding mountains including Stob Binnein 3,822 ft (1165 m) and Ben More 3,851 ft (1174 m). In the village there are the remains of a number of pre-historic sites including a stone circle, the Puidreag Stone, and a Neolithic burial chamber cairn to the east.
The following trail around the sites of Balquhidder has been produced and designed by local people and should take around 1 to 2 ½ hours to complete.
Starting in the Village Hall car park turn left and walk along the main Glen road for half a mile towards the Puidreag Stone. You may notice many houses having rowan trees in the garden as these were regarded as offering protection from evil spirits. You may also see thistles which is Scotland’s national flower and is said to have magical properties that provides strength, protection and healing.
Just before the house go through a wooden gate and along a path down to the Puidreag stone. This was once thought to be the outer marker for an ancient stone circle but more recent studies do not agree with this theory.
It has a niche on its southern face, which aligns with Ben Vorlich, and it may be that it would have been set up to align the sun and the mountain at the time of the equinox.
Make your way back up to the main road and walk back towards the Kirkyard. You may be lucky and see Buzzards and Golden Eagles above you at this point. The hill people of past times believed the eagle to be the king of all birds in the world and could take on human forms and act like avenging angels.
Climbing the slope to the kirkyard you will see the remains of the old kirk which dates back from 1631. The Reverend Robert Kirke would have preached here and as he believed in fairies he wrote a famous book on fairy lore called ‘The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Faeries’ shortly before his mysterious death in which he is said to have been abducted to Fairyland where it is said he is captive to this day! A plaque gives you more information as to other graves of interest in the Kirkyard. Railings surround the grave of Rob Roy McGregor but many dispute that he is actually interred there.
On leaving the kirkyard make your way up the track towards the forest and after about 50 yards cut back into the kirkyard and make your way up to the knoll with the single gravestone. It was here in years gone by that fires would be lit at the two main festivals of Beltane (May 1st) and Samhain (November 1st). All other fires in the village would be put out and each household would come and receive new fire for the season ahead. According to folklore, these two festivals also marked the beginning of the reigns of Bride, the Goddess of Summer, and Cailleach, the Goddess of Winter.
You now have two choices in continuing the trail, either make you way beyond the grave stone and turn right up into the forest to follow the higher level walk to Creag An Tuirc or turn left down towards the path leading to the Kirkton Burn Waterfall.
Choosing the Creag An Tuirc (meaning Rock of the Boar) route, follow the signs until you reach this spot which offers breathtaking views over Balquhidder Glen. Here you will find a cairn, which marks the summit as the ancient gathering ground of the Clan MacLaren. After enjoying the views follow the route back down to Tom Nan Aingeal. You may see some stags and deer at this point, which are plentiful in these parts.
The Kirkton Burn comes down the steep ravine from the Glen above and its waterfall can be an imposing sight especially after heavy rain or melting snow. After taking in the sight and sound of the waterfall walk back along the path towards the Kirk.
The newer kirk was built in 1855 and on entering the kirk you will see on the facing wall the Angus Stone which is said to be the gravestone of St Angus, an early Christian Missionary who came to the Glen in the 7th or 8th century. At the back of the kirk there is an interesting exhibit, which give more information on the social and religious history of the Glen.
On leaving the Kirk make your way down the path to rejoin the main Glen road. And head for the River Balvaig and the bridge. At this point you will have lovely views to the west looking up Loch Voil and the slopes of the Braes o’ Balquhidder made famous by the song ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ or ‘Will Ye Go Lassie Go’
On reaching the bridge you may see salmon or trout in the river or other wildlife residents of the area including herons, kingfishers and otters.
Return to the Village Hall car park and your Balquhidder Trail has reached its end - we hope you have enjoyed the scenes and stories of Balquhidder!
Cooper Cottages has self-catering holiday cottages in the area, in fact even in the Balquhidder Glen itself, so why not consider a holiday in this beautiful part of central Scotland.