A Taste of Trossachs History in Callander

A History of Callander The Trossachs, Scotland

The Origins and the Story of Callander

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Drumdhu or Auchenlaich Moraine, is a glacial feature consisting of boulders, clay and other glacial debris which was 'bulldozed there by the last glaciers in Scotland before they retreated and finally melted. The moraine is at the east end of Callander where it is cut by the A84 trunk road from Stirling to Callander.

It looks nothing much - a very large, U-shaped bump that stretches from the river Teith to the south across Auchenlaich Farm to the north.This 'pile of rubble' is part of a family of landforms in and around Callander that mark the southern boundary of the last ice sheet to cover Scotland.

There are several archaeological sites in the Callander area. In the summer of 2001 an early Neolithic site was excavated on the Claish farm. This was evidence of the first farming communities around 4000 BC!

At Auchenlaich Farm to the east of Callander, Scotlands largest chambered cairn (320M) was officially recorded. Several Iron Age forts are to be seen at Dunmore (or Taranduin) west of Callander, and at Auchenlaich and Torrie farms to the east.

 The Romans:

To the west of Callander are the earthwork remains of a first century Roman camp built during the campaigns of Agricola. The straight line square earthworks can be clearly seen on Bochastle Farm between the river Leny and the old railway embankment.

Christian Missionaries:

little leny burial groundSt Kessog, a disciple of Columba of Iona, preached and taught in this area in the sixth century AD. The mound beside the river Teith, and adjacent to the old Parish Graveyard is known in Gaelic as ‘Tom na Chessaig’, meaning ‘the Hill of Kessog’, and by tradition open air services have taken place on this spot from time to time. Later, a Celtic church was established at Kilmahog (= Cell of St Chug or Luag), a mile or so to the west of Callander.
On a small mound near the ‘Meetings’ (of rivers Leny and Venachar) an Augustinian mission station from Inchmahome on the Lake of Menteith, was established in the 13th c. and nearby is a high walled enclosure, the ancient burial ground of the Buchanans of Leny.
In time, these early foundations merged with the pre-reformation church in Callander sited in what is now the old Parish graveyard, next to Tom na Chessaig.

Roman CAmp Hotel

The Livingstones and Drummonds:

In the 16th c. the land around Callander belonged to the Livingstones of Callendar Park near Falkirk. They had a tower house or keep on the south bank of the river Teith beside the former Parish Church manse. Later in the 17th century the lands around Callander became part of the Drummond Estates, administered from Drummond Castle, near Crieff. Their hunting lodge, built in 1625 still remains as the ‘Roman Camp Hotel’, just across the river from the Livingstone’s Tower House.

The Jacobite Rising of 1745 and after:

Callander, as part of the Duke of Perth’s estate, supported Prince Charles Edward Stuart, and after the defeat at Culloden in 1746, the estate was forfeited and run by government commissioners.

The original village was where Bridgend is now, but then a plan by the Duke of Perth, dated 1739, was used as a basis for the layout of the ‘new town’ of Callander in the 1770s – this was the first planned rural town in Scotland, with its spacious Square and broad Main Street. The Parish church was moved at this time from its site near Tom na Chessaig to its present position in the north square, now named ‘Ancaster Square’ after the successor the the Duke of Perth, the Earl of Ancaster.

Growth and Settlement:old callander

At the end of the seven years war in 1763 a Soldiers’ Settlement was established in Callander in an area which is now part of the Golf Course.. Also, families from the nearby Highland Glens settled in the town and its environs and the variety of trades and occupations increased, including: spinning and weaving, merchandising, shoemaking and tailoring, farm labouring and others to satisfy the needs of the growing town.


Beginnings of Tourism:old callander

The early tourist industry started with the visits of Dorothy and William Wordsworth and other literary and artistic figures – here to enjoy and describe the unique Trossachs scenery.

They were soon followed by Sir Walter Scott, and his publication of ‘The Lady of the Lake’ in 1810 led to a stream of horse drawn coaches from the south. Roads and means of transport improved, until with the arrival of the railway in 1858, Callander began to enjoy a flood of prosperity.

The old station at Callander New Hotels were built and trades increased to cater for the new demand. New housing was established at the ‘West End’, The Feus, to cater for family holidays from the cities and the railway provided the commuting link to the central industrial belt. As the railway progressed up-country to Oban and Fort William, Callander was well placed as a tourist centre, and especially for the circular tour from Glasgow via Stirling, Callander, Lochs Katrine and Lomond using road, rail and steamer transport.


The Bed and Breakfast Era:

main streetThis began in the 1930 with the coach tours and increasing number of private cars. It continued after the second world war into the 50s and 60s, and was probably at its peak in the 1970s. Visitors stayed longer then, but gradually long stay visits decreased and self-catering and activity holidays became more popular. Today, car parks take up large amounts of space and visitors are in the majority.


The Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park:

Callander became the main entrance and headquarters of the Trossachs Sector, and the main Gateway from the East. The impact on the town and surrounding area is considerable.
It is to be hoped that the beauty and interest of the surrounding countryside, which has been so influential in the growth of Callander, will continue to enhance the local landscape and will be conserved for the enjoyment of all in the future.

Callander as an Education Centre:

Education goes back to the early church foundations, and it was an important ingredient of the 16th c. Reformation in Scotland.. An especially influential personage in the late 18th , early 19th c. was the Rev Dr. James Robertson, Minister of the Parish Church. He encouraged ‘Agricultural Improvement’ and education throughout Perthshire and wrote a first class account of the state of Callander Parish in the 1791 First Statistical Account of Scotland.

Leisure centreThe foundation of modern education in Callander Parish was mainly the product of the Free Church School established in 1849. Donald McLaren, a merchant banker of the town, was the main benefactor, and it was his trust fund that set up the McLaren High School in 1892. This secondary school was open to all children in the West Perthshire Area whatever their means. The first school building was in the Bridgend (now the Primary School), until 1965; it was then moved to a larger modern building along the Mollands Road. The school is rightly renowned for its academic and social standards and with a staff of over 50 plays a very important part in the life of Callander and District – and is the largest employer in the area. Very recently, in the late 1990s, a new building, the McLaren Leisure Centre, has been built in the school ground and provides modern sports facilities, including a Games Hall, Swimming Pool, Indoor Bowls, a Multi Gym, all weather tennis courts, etc, available for the school, the general public and visitors to the area.

Callander and District owes a debt of gratitude to these early pioneers in education whose generosity and foresight has led to the very fine educational and recreational provisions in the local area today.

Local Government Changes:

Callander had a Town Council with its own Provost and officials from 1866 ‘till 1975 under Perth County. Gone are the days of Callander Town Council and its local accountability and civic pride; but a strong Community Council with local backing can be an antidote to over-centralised bureaucracy in Stirling.

©  Ken  Dunn  
8th February, 2003



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The Trossachs - the place to be! Callander - the place to be in The Trossachs.
Callander in the Trossachs - the place to be in the Loch Lomond National Park

Visit Callander and The Trossachs
Climb Ben Ledi, Ben A'an and Callander Crags
then walk to Bracklinn Falls and the New Bridge