Main Street, Aberfoyle
Aberfoyle is a village and parish in south-western Perthshire, lying on the River Forth at the base of Craigmore, which rises to 1,378 feet above the village. The parish's western and southern boundaries also form the county border with Stirlingshire.
Since 1885, when the Duke of Montrose built a road over the eastern shoulder of Craigmore to join the older road at the entrance of the Trossachs pass, Aberfoyle has become the alternative route to the Trossachs and Loch Katrine; this road, known as the Duke's Road or Duke's Pass, was opened to the public in 1931 when the Forestry Commission acquired the land.
In the past Aberfoyle was spelt alternatively as "Aberfoil".
Around and about the village
Loch Ard, about two miles west of Aberfoyle, lies 131 feet above the sea. It is three miles long (including the narrows at the east end) and one mile broad. Towards the west end is Eilean Gorm (the green isle), and near the north-western shore are the falls of Ledard. Two miles north-west is Loch Chon, at 295 feet above sea level, a mile and a quarter long, and about half a mile broad. It drains by the Avon Dhu to Loch Ard, which is drained in turn by the Forth.
The slate quarries on Craigmore which operated from the 1820s to the 1950s are now defunct; at its peak this was a major industry. Other industries included an ironworks, established in the 1720s, as well as wool spinning and a lint mill.
From 1882 the village was served by Aberfoyle railway station, the terminus of the Strathendrick and Aberfoyle Railway which connected to Glasgow via Dumbarton or Kirkintilloch. The station closed to passenger traffic in 1951, and the remaining freight services ceased in 1959.
The quarries, the iron works and the mills have long since closed. Aberfoyle today is supported mainly by the forestry, industry and tourism.
Visitors were first attracted to Aberfoyle and the surrounding area after the publication of The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott in 1810. The poem described the beauty of Loch Katrine.
Aberfoyle describes itself as The Gateway to the Trossachs, and is well situated for visitors to access attractions such as Loch Lomond and Inchmahome Priory at the Lake of Menteith. A tourist information office run by VisitScotland sits in the centre of town, offering free information, selling souvenirs and acting as a booking office for many of the local B&B's and hotels. Aberfoyle Golf Club was built in 1860 and is located just south of town near the Rob Roy restaurant. Aberfoyle is also part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
Aberfoyle is also home to the largest Go Ape adventure course in the UK, featuring the longest death slide, or 'zip-line', in the United Kingdom.
Mary, Queen of Scots, visited nearby Inchmahome Priory often as a child, and during her short reign. She also used the priory during her short reign, particularly in 1547, where she felt safe from the armies marauding across her realm.
Aberfoyle has connections to many historical figures such as Rob Roy and Mary, Queen of Scots. Robert Roy MacGregor was born at the head of nearby Loch Katrine, and his well known cattle stealing exploits took him all around the area surrounding Aberfoyle. It is recorded, for example, that in 1691, the MacGregors raided every barn in the village of Kippen and stole all the villagers' livestock. There currently stands a tree in the village that MacGregor was reputed to have climbed and hid in to escape the clutches of the law.
Elves, fauns and faeries
The Reverend Robert Kirk, born in 1644. It was the Rev. Kirk who provided the first translation into Scottish Gaelic of the Book of Psalms. Despite this noble and holy work, he is better remembered for an unholy publication; his book The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies, published in 1691. Kirk had long been researching fairies, and the book collected several personal accounts and stories of folk who claimed to have encountered them. On his death many fairy tales (quite literally) were spun about the circumstances.
Kirk had long believed that the local Doon Hill was the gateway to the Land of the Fairies, and he took daily walks there from his manse. The story goes that the Fairies of Doon Hill were angry with the Rev. Kirk for going into the domain of the Unseelie court, where he had been warned not to go, and decided to imprison him in Doon Hill — for one night in May 1692, the Rev. Kirk went out for a walk to the hill, in his nightshirt. Some accounts claim that he simply vanished, however he suddenly collapsed. He was found and brought home, but died soon afterwards. He was buried in his own kirkyard, although local legends claim that the fairies took his body away, and the coffin contains only stones. The huge pine tree that still stands at the top of Doon Hill is said to contain Kirk's imprisoned spirit.
Kirk's cousin, Graham of Duchray, was then to claim that the spectre of Kirk had visited him in the night, and told him that he had been carried off by the Fairies. Having left his widow expecting a child, the spectre of Kirk told Graham that he would appear at the baptism, whereupon Graham was to throw an iron knife at the apparition, thus freeing Kirk from the Fairies' clutches. However, when Kirk's spectre appeared, Graham was apparently too shocked by the vision to throw the knife, and Kirk's ghost faded away forever.
Visitors to Doon Hill to this day have been seen to write their wishes on pieces of white silk, or other white cloth, and tie them to the branches of the trees for the Fairies to grant. Unfortunately some people tie plastic confectionery wrappers instead, which slightly spoils the magic of the location and may harm the ecology of the forest. It is also said that if one runs around the great 'Minister's Pine' tree at the summit seven times, then the Fairies will appear. Some people have tried this and afterwards claim to have seen apparitions. Others merely get a bit dizzy and fall over.
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material
- Aberfoyle Feature Page on Undiscovered Scotland
- About Aberfoyle
- Hood, John (2000). Old Aberfoyle, Thornhill and the Forth Villages. Catrine, Ayrshire: Stenlake Publishing. p. 3. ISBN 9781840331103. http://www.stenlake.co.uk/books/view_book.php?ref=129.
- "Parish of Aberfoyle". Gazetteer for Scotland. http://www.scottish-places.info/parishes/parhistory617.html. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
- Kirk, Robert (30 November 2006). The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies (hardcover ed.). New York Review of Books Classics. ISBN 1-59017-177-2. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1590171772. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
- Hare, John Bruno (27 February 2004). "The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies". http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/sce/. Retrieved 14 August 2009. Full text of 1893 book