08 February 2013

The Stewarts of Atholl are not a clan, but have held land in Highland Perthshire since the fourteenth century and obtained the earldom of Atholl in 1457, the title passing in 1627 to Murray of Tullibardine, who married the last Stewart heiress.

Alexander Stewart, in 'A Highland Parish' (1928), described the first Stewart earl thus:'His revenue and estates were not very great, but he had a great many allies, and pretty numerous company of gentlemen of his own surname to surround his motehill and fight under his own banner.  Some of these Stewarts were cadets of his own house; many were collaterals that had been called in from Lorne.  A few were descended from the Walter of Atholl line, and more than a few from the Wolf of Badenoch.  To these were added Stewarts who boasted ancient or illegitimate descent from kings and princes who, when hunting the deer, wooed Highland maids in sequestered glens'.

The Wolf of Badenoch, son of Robert II, was the first of his name to hold land in Atholl.  He is said to have built the grim fortalice of Garth Castle, and his descendants first established themselves as lairds round Fortingall.  Their progeny spread throughout Atholl and, by 1822, it was established by General Stewart of Garth that more than 4000 people in the district were descendants of the Wolf.

Down the centuries the Stewarts intermarried with the Robertsons of Clan Donnachaidh.  Living in the same area, their interests were in common and they fought together as Athollmen, usually under the earls and dukes of Atholl, but their loyalty was sometimes torn between their duty to their superior at Blair Castle and to the Royal House.  They fought with the Royalists under the great Marquess of Montrose, and were out at all three Jacobite Risings.  There are now no Robertson or Menzies lairds left in Atholl, but the Stewarts have managed to hold on to at least four of their old estates, albeit through the female line.

*BLAIR CASTLE. Now the seat of the Murray Dukes of Atholl who married the last Stewart heiress to the earldom, the castle was always been the key to the domination of Highland Perthshire during the struggles of the Stuart kings for the throne.

In 1644, it was taken by William Macpherson of Invereshie for Montrose. In 1689 by Patrick Stewart of Ballechin for Viscount Dundee. The government held it in 1715 and, in 1746, it was the focus of the last seige in Britain. In March of that year, Lord George Murray marched with his Atholl Brigade, which incorporated the Menzies and Robertson regiments as well as the Stewarts and tenants of the duke, from Inverness where the Jacobite army was headquartered towards Highland Perthshire. As he passed through Badenoch was joined by the Macphersons under their chief, Cluny.

The main body of the force invested Blair Castle but small parties  were detached to carry out attacks before daylight on about 30 posts occupied on behalf of the government by the Argyll Militia. Each outpost was taken without a casualty to the attackers and three hundred prisoners were taken.

The siege of Blair Castle lasted from the 16th March to the 2nd April 1746 when Prince Charles ordered Lord George north. Two weeks later came Culloden where about half the Stewarts and Robertsons of the Atholl Brigade were casualties.

LUDE HOUSE:The seat of the leading cadet family of Clan Donnachaidh.  In 1745, Lady Lude gave a ball at which the guest of honour was Prince Charles Edward, who stayed next door at Blair Castle on his way south to Perth.  Lady Lude was infatuated by the Prince and was described as behaving like a "light giglet" in his company.

*LOCH BHAC:A pleasant, sign-posted walk from either Tressait on Tummelside or Invervack (itself an old Robertson estate) near Struan.  Here (still identifiable) lies the sheltering rock, on the edge of the burn running into the loch, where Robert of Atholl captured the regicide Robert Graham in 1451.  As a reward, the king granted Robert the Barony of Struan.  It was from him that the people of Clan Donnachaidh took the name of Robertson.

*BRUAR:The Clan Donnachaidh centre and museum where the history and memorabilia of the clan are on display (open April to October).

*STRUAN:The kirk of Clan Donnachaidh. Down the years the chiefs had their seats in various parts of Atholl.  One of the earliest was on the mound (still visible) by the river Garry, a few yards from the church.

GLEN ERROCHTY:This was the heartland of the Clan Donnachaidh. Cadet houses of the chief - Auchleeks, Kindrochit, Trinafour and Blairfettie - were all situated here.

BLAIRFETTIE:During the Atholl raid, Lady Blairfettie was in bed and knew nothing of the raid until a servant informed her that her husband, Patrick Robertson - like the Stewart laird of Kynachan a mjor in the Atholl Brigade - wished to see her immediately.  On coming downstairs she found the garrison disarmed and a dozen of her husband's tenants and servants standing over them with drawn swords.

FEA CORRIE:High in the hills to the west of the road between Tummel Bridge and Trinafour was the gathering ground of the clan when they were mustered for warfare.

RANNOCH:The last stronghold of the chiefs of Clan Donnachaidh lay on the south shore of the loch.  Amongst the seats of the chiefs were Carie, Dall - now Rannoch School - and Rannoch Barracks at the west end of the loch. The Menzies owned the north side of the loch, Struan much of the south, while Bunrannoch to the east held the estates of half a dozen Stewart lairds.

DUNALASTAIR:Here, by the *burial ground of the chiefs, lay the seat of the Poet Chief of Clan Donnachaidh.  He was burned out after the '45 by the Redcoats and fled to Carie.  He was burned out there as well and hid in the *Black Wood of Rannoch.  He died aged 80 in 1749 and 2,000 men walked fourteen miles behind his coffin from Rannoch to Struan, where his grave may be seen at the kirk.

CROSSMOUNT, LASSINTULLOCH, TEMPAR, INNERHADDEN, BOHALLY and KYNACHAN. These Stewart lairds were all officers in the Atholl Brigade in the '45 Rising and most were killed. At KYNACHAN, during the Atholl raid in March 1746, the house was attacked by a force of Cluny's men under Macpherson of Strathmashie - pickets, stables and outhouses being seized in succession.  Those in the house saw the courtyard in front full of men and capitulated without a person being hurt on either side - except for one unlucky girl who, mistaken for a lookout, was shot when she appeared at one of the windows. The laird, David Stewart, was in Badenoch occupying Castle Grant.

GARTH:For centuries the Stewart castle of Garth lay in ruins but was restored in the 1960s as a private house.

*KELTNEYBURN:The statue is of David Stewart of Garth, a distinguished soldier and Highland historian, who worked with Sir Walter Scott to organise George IV's visit to Edinburgh in 1822

COMRIE CASTLE:The first confirmed residence of Clan Menzies. When Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch, burnt him out, probably not for the first time, Sir Roberet Menzies moved a little further along Strathtay and built the Place of Weem on the site of what is now -

*CASTLE MENZIES:Open to the public from Easter to mid-October, this, the headquarters of Clan Menzies, is a superb example of a 16th century Z-plan castle which has been restored by the clan society. For viewing arrangements of the Fergusson Room within the castle, telephone the Warden:01887-820982.

*WEEM:The old kirk (the key can be had from Rose Cottage to the rear) of Clan Menzies holds the magnificent tombs of the chiefs.

*ABERFELDY:By Tay bridge stands the monument to the raising of the Black Watch, the local regiment, incorporated into the British army in 1738 whose members were recruited amongst the clans of Atholl. The statue traditionally depicts Farquhar Shaw who, along with Samuel and Malcolm Macpherson (all from Badenoch), was shot at the Tower of London before 104 fellow deserters after the Black Watch mutiny in 1743.  The men had been marched to London. Having joined in the belief they would only serve in Scotland, the Highlanders decided to march return home. They surrendered peacefully to the army sent after them. The Menzies first held land here and may have had his seat where the Town Hall now stands.

STRATHTAY:Along the north side of the Tay, all the beautiful estates with their Georgian or Victorian houses were, at one time or another, in the possession of Stewarts, Stuarts or Steuarts. The south bank of the river was dominated by the Steuarts of Grantully who held land over into Strathbran. The CASTLE has only recently been sold by the family. *ST MARY'S CHURCH, where the family worshipped is open to the public. It has a remarkable 17th Century painted roof.

BALLECHIN:The Steuarts of Ballechin were one of the most powerful families in Atholl and the most fanatic of Jacobites. They provided Chamberlains and Bailies for the duke, and, in 1689, Patrick of the Battles, warlord of Atholl, took Blair castle for the King James in defiance of his master's orders.

LOGIERAIT: Here lay the execution mound where the dukes of Atholl dispensed justice up until 1748.  The Earls of Atholl feuded with the Clan Donnachaidh until 1515, when the earls acquired much of the old clan lands.  During the period of this feud, at least one of Struan's family lost his head here.

In the *church is a beautiful stained glass window, given by Neil Robertson in memory of his wife, Helen Fergusson Robertson

DUNFALLANDY, Now an hotel, this was the clan seat of Clan Mhic Fergus in Atholl.  Dunfallandy means "Hill or fort by the place of blood" - traditionally said to be associated with the slaying of a Pictish prince and it may well be the site of an ancient Pictish fort. 

Standing upon this site with its strangely evocative charm, and indeed from Dunfallandy House, you will look out over the countryside which was at one time dominated by the Fergusson cadet branches of the Clan on the other side of the River Tummel.  For example, Baledmund, Ballyoukan and Middlehaugh.  But also the possession of the name stretched west to the lands of Derculich between the Tummel and the Tay and east to Strathardle (Balmachruchie and Woodhill were Fergusson lands), Glenshee and the upper part of Glenisla.

*DUNFALLANDY STONE. This famous and beautifully carved stone is a marvellous example of Pictish art.  Here too the visitor will find the graves of some of the Chiefs of Clan Mhic Fergus in Atholl and their family - dominated by the huge mausoleum in memory of Lieutenant General Archibald Fergusson, chief of the clan from 1776 to 1834.

*ROBERTSON OAK:Here, opposite Bell's Blair Athol distillery in Pitlochry, stands the oak tree in which George Robertson of Faskally hid in 1746 while the government soldiers seeking him marched beneath its branches.

* Places where you may stop to view sites


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