|Council:||Perth and Kinross|
|Ochil and South Perthshire|
Crieff is a market town in western Perthshire, found along the A85 road between Perth and Crianlarich. It also stands on the A822 between Greenloaning and Aberfeldy. The A822 joins the A823 which leads to Dunfermline.
The town's name is from the Gaelic language Craoibh, meaning "tree".
In recent years Crieff has developed into a hub for tourism, trading mainly on its whisky and cattle droving history. Tourist attractions include the Caithness Glass Visitor Centre and Glenturret Distillery. Innerpeffray Library (established c. 1680), Scotland's oldest lending library, is also nearby. St Mary's Chapel, adjacent to the library, dates from 1508. Both the library and chapel are open to the public: the library is run by a charitable trust. The chapel is in the care of Historic Scotland.
For a number of centuries Highlanders came south to Crieff to sell their black cattle whose meat and hides were avidly sought by the growing urban populations in the south. The town acted as a gathering point, or tryst, for the Michaelmas cattle sale held each year and the surrounding fields and hillsides were black with the tens of thousands of cattle - some from as far away as Caithness and the Outer Hebrides (for comparison, in 1790 the population of Crieff was about 1,200 which led to a ratio of tens cows a person, similar to the ratio in New Zealand or Australia today).
During the October Tryst (as the cattle gathering was known), Crieff was the prototype 'wild west' town. Milling with the cattle were horse thieves, bandits and drunken drovers. The inevitable killings were punished on the Kind Gallows, for which Crieff became known throughout Europe.
By the eighteenth century the original hanging tree used by the Earls of Strathearn had been replaced by a formal wooden structure in an area called Gallowhaugh - now Gallowhill, at the bottom of Burrell Street. What is now Ford Road was Gallowford Road which led down past the gallows to the crossing point over the River Earn. In such a prominent position, Highlanders passing along the principal route would see the remains of so punished dangling overhead. The Highlanders used to touch their bonnets as they passed the place, with the words: "God bless you, and the Devil damn you." In Lord Macaulay's history he talks of a score of plaids hanging in a row, but the remains of the Gallows - held in Perth Museum - suggest the maximum capacity was only six.
The townspeople were mainly Presbyterian and anti-Jacobite. The Lairds were mostly Episcopalian and Jacobite. Crieff was well known for its pro-government sympathies - it was reported that of the total population only two people supported the Old Pretender.
Rob Roy MacGregor visited Crieff on many occasions, often to sell cattle. 'Rob Roy's outlaw son' was pursued through the streets of Crieff by soldiers and killed. In the second week of October 1714 the Highlanders gathered in Crieff for the October Tryst. By day Crieff was full of soldiers and government spies. Just after midnight, Rob Roy and his men marched to Crieff Town Square and rang the town bell. In front of the gathering crowd they sang Jacobite songs and drank a good many loyal toasts to their uncrowned king, the Pretender James Stuart.
In 1716, 350 Highlanders returning from the Battle of Sheriffmuir burned most of Crieff to the ground. In 1731, James Drummond, 3rd Duke of Perth, laid out the town's central James Square and established a textile industry with a flax factory. In the 1745 rising the Highlanders were itching to fire the town again and were reported as saying "she should be a bra toun gin she had anither sing". But it was saved by the Duke of Perth - a friend and supporter of Prince Charles. In February 1746 the Jacobite army was quartered in and around the town with Prince Charles Edward Stuart holding his final war council in the old Drummond Arms Inn in James Square - located behind the present hotel in Hill Street. He also had his horse shod in the blacksmith's in King Street. Later in the month he reviewed his troops in front of Ferntower House, on what is today the Crieff Golf Course.
In the nineteenth century Crieff became a fashionable destination for tourists visiting the Highlands and as a country retreat for wealthy businessmen from Edinburgh, Glasgow and beyond. Many such visitors attended the hydropathic establishment, Crieff Hypopathic Establishment there, now Crieff Hydro which opened in 1868, and remains in operation. Crieff still functions as a tourist centre, and the large villas stand as testaments to its use by wealthy city-dwellers.
Crieff was once served by Crieff railway station. The station was opened in 1856 by the Crieff Junction Railway, but was closed in 1964 by British Railways as part of the Beeching Axe.
Appearance in verse
William McGonagall wrote a "poem" called Crieff:
Ye lovers of the picturesque, if ye wish to drown your grief,
Take my advice, and visit the ancient town of Crieff.
This is one of McGonagall's better efforts.
Every year the town hosts the Crieff Highland Games, which include music and dancing competitions and feats of strength.
- Guide to Crieff
- National Library of Scotland: SCOTTISH SCREEN ARCHIVE (selection of archive films about Crieff)
- Bradley, James; Dupree, Mageurite; Durie, Alastair (1997), "Taking the Water Cure: The Hydropathic Movement in Scotland, 1840-1940", Business and Economic History 26 (2): 426–437, http://www.h-net.org/~business/bhcweb/publications/BEHprint/v026n2/p0426-p0437.pdf, retrieved 2009-11-17