Balquhidder To Crieff By Killin
ROUTE LENGTH: 40 MILES
Return from Balquhidder to the A84, turn left (north) and pass through Lochearnhead. Turn right onto A827 onto Killin. Return south along A85. Follow the A85 turning left, along the north bank of Loch Earn. Carry along the A85 to Comrie, and then Crieff.
Return to A84 junction, but take the left turn before it turn left onto the Natioanl Cycle Route Path (7). Follow this all the way to Killin. From there, ride back along the route to the junction adjoining the A85. Turn onto this, passing Comrie and eventually coming to Crieff.
By Public Transport
Return to the A84. You can either ride the C60 from the stop opposite the hotel to Killin, or proceed straight to Crieff. To reach Crieff from Killin or the hotel, take the C60 south to Callander. There get off and take the 59 to Falkirk, getting off at the Cowane Centre at Perth. There, get the 47 to Crieff.
To check times go to Traveline Scotland and click on Plan your Journey on left side of page.
Continuing by Lochearnhead to Killin you find the Falls of Dochart tumbling into Loch Tay. Pushing a few miles further up the hill into Glen Dochart, you reach the West Highland Way which crosses the main road by the former St Fillan’s Church. From here you can walk down to St Fillan’s Priory, a medieval ruin on the site of the saint’s own monastic cell. Walking further down the river you reach St Fillan’s pool where the mentally ill came to bathe, before lying for a night in the chapel.
This is the territory of the Dewars of St Fillan’s heritage, which has spawned one of the richest seams of Scottish legend. On his death Fillan reputedly left five sacred relics that symbolised the continuity of his work. They were his pastoral staff or crook, his bell, his armbone from which a sacred light shone when he wrote, his portable altar and the last manuscript which he was scribing. In addition the healing stones on which sufferers lay overnight were also preserved. The Dewars were stewards or guardians, perhaps originally ‘the pilgrims’, who took the relics to different places, so continuing Fillan’s ministry.
Each of the relics carried an element of spiritual power or illumination. The armbone for example was carried by the Scottish army at Bannockburn, even though its Dewar had only brought its casing, prudently leaving the relic at home! In consequence Robert the Bruce endowed the priory of St Fillan, and each of the Dewars was given a hereditary grant of land to support their role. The survival of these relics however is not wholly a matter of legend as both the staff and the bell can be seen at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The elaborately wrought casing of the crook is an intricate wonder. The healing stones are at the old mill in Killin which has been converted into a visitor information centre containing an excellent display about Fillan and the area’s rich cultural history.
Coming back to Lochearnhead, you proceed along the south side of Loch Earn to St Fillan’s. Confusingly the old Church of St Fillan, a mile to the south east of the village near the foot of Dundurn Hill, is ascribed to another Fillan- yet surely a missionary in the tradition of his namesake. Further east at Comrie, the original church is dedicated to St Kessog. Our destination is Crieff, capital of the ancient Earldom of Strathearn and a busy market town which hosted the famous Crieff Tryst to which cattle were driven from all over the Highlands. An ancient Celtic cross can be seen in the High Street.
Many places blessed by Fillan
were ascribed powers of healing
such as a spring rising
through an old hollow birch tree,
‘All anyone had to do was drink from it,
and whatever was the matter with them,
it was said that it would cure it,
and they believed that it had this power.
If you believe the tales of the old folk it did this.’