Scottish Field

Stories from Scotland’s heart

From historical feuds and bloody battles, to mythical sagas and fairy mountains, centuries of fascinatin­g stories are ingrained in Perthshire’s landscape, says

- Richard Bath www.scottishfi­

Perthshire is a huge county which stretches from the Pass of Drumochter in the north, to Strathmore in the west, to the Angus glens in the east, and Aberfoyle in the south. It abuts nine of the traditiona­l counties of Scotland and has a dizzying array of landscapes, from the barren Rannoch Moor to Schiehalli­on and its surroundin­g peaks; from the douce city of Perth to the verdant arable countrysid­e around Blairgowri­e.

If Perthshire is a county which has something for everyone, that is also the case for its stock of myths and legends. In fact, on my bookshelf is Lindsey Gibb’s Perthshire Folk Tales, a well-thumbed book that I bought in the treasure trove that is the Watermill Bookshop in Aberfeldy and to which I’ve often returned. It lays out in wonderful detail over 200 deeply enjoyable pages the many stories which

The Big County has thrown up over the centuries.

Yet there are many more stories too, and

I suspect that if you were to include them all Gibb could write another couple of volumes. For that reason, I’m going to home in on some of my favourite Perthshire stories and concentrat­e on ones which might enliven an autumn weekend away. One of my favourite yarns is a story which has a very real physical manifestat­ion: The Soldier’s Leap. The context for this story is the Battle of Killiekran­kie on 27 July 1689 when Dundee’s kilted Jacobites rounded a 4,000 strong army of Government infantry, with the Lowlanders scattered by a Highland charge in the narrow Pass of Killiekran­kie.

As the ranks of Lowlanders broke, one Redcoat called Donald MacBean was pursued by an armed Highlander and franticall­y looked for an escape route. Unfortunat­ely the only way out was across

Perthshire is a county that has something for everyone

a gap of over 18 feet high above the River Garry. According to MacBean, somehow desperatio­n saw him over, but every time I go to that beautiful spot just off the A9 I look at that yawning chasm and ask myself whether it’s really possible.

Not far from Killiekran­kie is an unremarkab­le small hamlet called Fortingall which is claimed be the birthplace of a very remarkable man – Pontius Pilate. The story goes that Fortingall, which is also home to a yew that is older than Christiani­ty, was the stronghold of

Metallanus, a powerful

Caledonian chief whose base was in Glen Lyon.

At one stage Emperor

Caesar Augustus sent an envoy to the northern tribes, with that Roman later fathering a son who was then taken back to Rome. According to

Perthshire folklore, that son would go on to become the

Roman governor who ordered

Jesus’s crucifixio­n.

Whether Pilate had ever heard about Perthshire remains a subject of conjecture, but one even more famous man who has – and who contribute­d to the county’s already burgeoning fund of stories – is William Shakespear­e. In his play Macbeth, the Bard famously

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Tales by Lindsey Gibb & C. A. Hope. Right: A wooden statue of Jesus Christ before Pontius Pilate.
Left: Perthshire Folk Tales by Lindsey Gibb & C. A. Hope. Right: A wooden statue of Jesus Christ before Pontius Pilate.

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