Blairgowrie

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Blairgowrie
Gaelic: Blàr Ghobharaidh
Perthshire
Location
Grid reference: NO178452
Location: 56°35’31"N, 3°20’24"W
Data
Population: 7,965  (2001)
Post town: Blairgowrie
Postcode: PH10
Dialling code: 01250
Local Government
Council: Perth and Kinross
Parliamentary
constituency:
Perth and North Perthshire

Blairgowrie is a town in the mountains of Perthshire. With neighbouring Rattray it forms a joint community. Blairgowrie is the larger of the two towns and lies on the west side of the River Ericht opposite Rattray on the east side. The Brig o' Blair crosses the river.

The town stands at the foot of the Grampian Mountains on the north side of Strathmore. Its western flank is formed by the Knockie, a round grassy hill which is popular walk from the town. Blairgowrie developed over the centuries at the crossroads of several important historic routes which link the town to Perth, Coupar Angus, Alyth and Braemar. The roads to Coupar Angus and Braemar form part of General Wade's military road from Perth to Fort George.

The town's main feature and centrepiece is the Wellmeadow, a grassy triangle in the middle of town which hosts regular markets and outdoor entertainment. Other parks include Rattray's Davie Park, Blairgowrie's J J Coupar Sports Ground and Lochy Park.

A short distance upstream from the bridge on the riverside path is Cargill's Leap, a historic site where Donald Cargill, a minister and covenanter, escaped Government troops by jumping over the rocky gorge of the River Ericht.

Castles

  • Craighall Castle just outside Rattray is the ancestral home of the chieftain of the Clan Rattray. The castle occupies a dominating position on the edge of the gorge above the river but is no longer occupied by a Rattray, having been sold in 2010.
  • Newton Castle is home to the current chieftain of the Clan McPherson.
  • Ardblair Castle is home to the Blair Oliphant family. Both Newton and Adblair have Jacobite history and local legend claims they are connected by a secret tunnel.
River Ericht near Blairgowrie

History

Blairgowrie expanded greatly in the 19th century around the many textile mills which were built along the River Ericht, all now closed. Some of the disused mill buildings can be seen from the riverside walk which forms the start of the Cateran Trail long distance walk. Keithbank Mill has been converted to apartments.

Soft fruit growing, mainly raspberries and strawberries developed in the 20th century and became a very important part of the town's economy with Smedleys opening a cannery in Haugh Road, Adamsons a jam factory in Croft Lane and huge quantities of table berries and pulp being despatched to markets and jam factories throughout Britain. Berry pickers were brought in by bus from Perth and Dundee and large encampments were set up on farms for pickers from further afield, mainly from the Glasgow area, who made this their annual holiday. They were joined by the travelling community who congregated here for the berry season. One of the best examples was the Tin City at Essendy, which housed workers in a complex of tin huts with its own chapel, post office, shop, kitchens and so forth.

The coming of the railway revolutionised the textile and soft fruit trade but the last train ran in the 1960s and the extensive railway yards are now the site of a Tesco supermarket and the Welton Road industrial estate.

Blairgowrie had a busy livestock market at the bottom of the Boat Brae but this closed in the 1960s and is now the site of the Ashgrove Court sheltered housing complex.

Economy

Town Centre, Blairgowrie - geograph.org.uk - 37673.jpg

Much of the expanding population works in the nearby cities, Dundee or Perth. The surrounding area is still the soft fruit centre of Scotland and the local population increases greatly in summer when Eastern European students flock in to harvest the fruit. Like the Scottish pickers of old they are housed in camps on the farms but these now tend to be residential caravans or cabins rather than huts and tents.

Tourism is probably now the biggest industry and there are three hotels, the Angus, the Royal and the Altamount. There are another 9 inns and pubs.

The local weekly newspaper is the Blairgowrie Advertiser, known universally as "the Blairie". Although no longer printed in Blairgowrie and now owned by Scottish Universal Newspapers there is still a "Blairie" office in Leslie Street.

Regular Saturday outdoor markets take place in the Wellmeadow, with stalls offering local produce. An annual Continental Market brings traders from all over Europe.

Brig o' Blair

Sport

Blairgowrie and round about are home to a number of sporting teams; in football are Blairgowrie FC and amateur teams. Golf is well catered for too.

Blairgowrie Golf Club was founded in 1889 and has been expanded over the years with much of the design by James Braid. There are now two 18 hole courses, Rosemount and Lansdowne, and a 9-hole course. The substantial clubhouse is on Golf Course Road.

The Glenshee Ski Centre in Glenshee (which translates from Gaelic as "Glen of the Fairies"), is some 18 miles to the north at the Cairnwell Pass on the Braemar road, the highest public road in the United Kingdom. Ski-ing started in the area in the 1930s. In 1957 the Dundee Ski Club built the first T-bar tow. In the 1960s the Glenshee Chairlift Company was formed to make the most of the new leisure facility at Cairnwell. During the 1970s and 80s the car and coach parks would be full to capacity and lift queues would run into hours. The Glenshee Chairlift Co Ltd was forced into receivership in May 2004 by lack of snow over many winters but a management buyout by Glenshee Ltd ensured that skiing and snowboarding continue at Scotland's biggest ski area which now has 21 lifts spread over 4 mountains and 3 valleys.

Blairgowrie Highland Games are held annually on the first Sunday of September in Bogles Field on Essendy Road. The evening before is known as Braemar Night with entertainment in the Wellmeadow and fireworks along the river. This tradition started in the 1960s to encourage travellers returning from Braemar Highland Games (held on the Saturday) to stop in the town and quickly grew into a huge programme of entertainments, pipe bands, fireworks, funfairs etc. which drew tens of thousands not only returning south from Braemar but on special excursions from Perth and Dundee. The current event is somewhat scaled down but extremely popular with locals.

References

Outside links