THE DISTRICT OF STRATHENDRICK
The sources of the River Endrick are at the back of the Gargunnock Hills. The Endrick River is formed by the confluence of the Gourlay and Burnfoot burns which unite at a point about four and a half miles south of Kippen, and become then the Endrick. The river then flows in a westerly direction, bounding or traversing the parishes of Gargunnock, Fintry, Balfron, Killearn, Drymen, Buchanan, and Kilmaronock. The last six parishes may be taken as constituting Strath Endrick. The name Endrick is derived from the Gaelic, 'avon ruadh', red river, from the colour of the river when in flood.
PARISH OF FINTRY
The Parish of Fintry is about six miles long from east to west, and about five miles from north to south. It consists mostly of muirland and hill pasture. The highest hills in the parish are Stronend 1676 feet, Meikle Bin 1870 feet, and Holehead 1801 feet above sea level.
The Carron rises in Fintry Parish and for some distance runs parallel to the Endrick, the Carron flowing to the east and falling into the River Forth at Grangemouth, and the Endrick flowing west and falling into Loch Lomond. A short distance below the old ruins of Sir John de Graham‘s castle, which stands on the side of the road between Carron Bridge and Fintry is a fall called the Loup of Fintry, where the Endrick precipitates itself over a height of upwards of 90 feet from the muirland into the valley below.
The road before reaching Fintry crosses the Endrick by a bridge at Gonachan, and there is also a bridge over the Gonachan Burn. In a hill called the Dun, near Fintry, is a remarkable range of basaltic pillars, which rise to a height of 50 feet. Coal occurs in several small seams, and in the Dun Hill are beds of red ochre, and fire stone, jasper, and specimens of zeolite are to be found among the rocks. The village of Fintry is situated in the valley of the Endrick, surrounded by hills. Newtown of Fintry, is on the road about three-quarters of a mile to the west of the village. A cotton mill was erected near there by Spears of Culcreuch in 1796 and the hamlet of Newton was built to accommodate the people employed in the mill, who at one time amounted to 260 hands. The mill did not prove a success and is now in ruin.
PARISH OF BALFRON
The parish of Balfron lies below that of Fintry on the north side of the Endrick, by which it is separated from Killearn. It is about eight miles long from east to west and about two miles broad from north to south. There is a good deal of rough muirland in the higher parts. There are no hills of any great height, the highest points being Ballindalloch Muir, 627 feet, and Balgair Muir, 577 feet above sea level. The geological formation is old red sand-stone, and there is limestone in the parish. the road leads north from Newton of Fintry through Balfron parish to Kippen, crossing the Endrick by a bridge built in 1804. It passes over the Balgair Muir, where an annual cattle market was held. At Lernock, where there was formerly a toll, a road branches off to the northeast to Stirling, and to the west to Balfron, passing the Old Place of Balgair, uninhabited in the early 19th. cent. and in all probability is no longer in existence. The house was built in 1721 and was never finished, and indeed the proprietors of Balgair never lived much in it. The old structure was used by squatters, tinkers, and other wanderers. A stone with the date 1721 cut into it was removed and built into the front wall of the house of Mr. John Buchanan who at one time was resident of Easter Hill of Balgair. A little further on is the Hill of Balgair, which used to be a larger place than Balfron, with a number of cottars and weavers employed, and provided with a public-house and various shops. None of these now exist. Near a steep path on the hill face, immediately above the farm of Craigend on the borders of Fintry and Balfron parishes, is a cairn called the Highlander‘s Grave. In one of the raids of the McGregors, the farm of Burnfoot, at the back of the Gargunnock Hills above Fintry, was attacked by about thirty of the clan, and the cattle 'lifted'. The old farmer, in order to prevent his raising the alarm was tied below the belly of an old mare with his head towards the tail, and nearly choking was carried off with the spoil. When the eldest son of the farmer, who had been away with his brothers helping friends who had been attacked by another portion of the McGregor clan returned, he learned what had happened, and taking his father‘s claymore resolved to have revenge and made after the McGregors at full speed. He came upon them at a place called Skian Dhu, where they were obliged to travel in single file, and striking the hindmost man who had charge of the old mare he rescued his father. The unfortunate McGregor was buried and a few stones were thrown over the grave, as was the custom, and every time they or others passed, another stone was added to the cairn. A bridge crosses the Endrick at Honeyholm , and a short distance to the north of the road is Edinbellie. In the year 1750 Rob Roy‘s son carried off Jean Kay, then a widow and heiress of Edinbellie, and Rob Oig, the youngest, who had married her, was hanged in Edinburgh three years aferwards on account of her abduction.
One of the Buchanans of Cremanan was shot near an old oak tree which stood by the side of the road passing through Clachan of Balfron, by Rob Roy‘s men. They had intended to shoot Cunningham of Ballindalloch, as it was he who had issued the warrant for the apprehension of Rob Roy‘s son after the abduction of Jean Kay, and they had mistaken their friend Buchanan for Cunningham. Cremanan was a small place above Balfron and is now no longer in existence. Further on the road passes through the lower part of the village of Balfron and joins the road to Glasgow which crosses the Endrick by the Ballindalloch Bridge.
PARISH OF KILLEARN
Killearn stands below Fintry on the south side of the river. It is bounded by the Endrick, which seperates it from Balfron on the north and from Drymen on the west.The parish is six and a half miles long from east to west, and seven miles long from north to south, although because of its irregular shape it is only three and a half miles broad at its widest part and one mile at its narrowest point. The Blane flows through a portion of the western part of the parish and falls into the Endrick. There is rich alluvial soil along the banks of the rivers, above that the land is dry field, and above the line of cultivation it is rough hill pasture and heather.The rocks of the valley are old red sandstone which were at one time quarried, and there is a stratum of millstone grit between Balglass and Ballikinrain, from which in previous times millstones were cut. The area is no longer used for that purpose. The highest of the Campsie Hills, Earl‘s Seat, stands 1894 feet above sea level, and is situated at the point where the parishes of Strathblane, Campsie, Killearn, and Fintry meet. the next most prominent hills in the parish are Clachertyfarlie Knowes, 1781 feet, and Auchinden Hill, 1158 feet.
A short distance from the boundary of Fintry and Killearn parishes are the remains of the old castle of Balglass, which was formerly well fortified, and once offered protection to Sir William Wallace. Other properties which were of some note in the area are Ballikinrain, once owned by the Napiers; Boquhan, for many years the home of a family of Buchanan; Parkhall, formerly the property of Sir Michael Connal. Near Parkhall the road branches off to Balfron, passing the property of Boquhan and crosses the Endrick by a stone bridge. The pipes that lead the water from Loch Katrine to Glasgow cross the road near this, and a road goes north at this point leading to Aberfoyle.
The village of Killearn stands nearly 300 feet above sea level and from there one can view the magnificent spread of the lower part of Strathendrick and Loch Lomond. George Buchanan, historian, poet, statesman, and tutor to James VI., was born at Moss, on the river Blane in this parish, about two miles south of the village, and there is a monument to his memory in the village. His father Thomas was of the family of Drummakill, and his mother Agnes Heriot, of Heriot of Trabourn, was gt. aunt to James Heriot, jeweller, who left funds for the establishment of the now well known Heriot School in Edinburgh.
Adjoining the village is the estate of Carbeth, and on the farm of Blairessan which lies within the estate of Carbeth tradition has it that a battle was fought between the Romans and the Caledonians near the Spout of Blairessan.
About a mile north of Killearn standing above the river Endrick is the house of Carbeth. It belonged to a branch of the Clan Buchanan and was sold in 1873 to a Mr. Forrester, and afterwards to a Mr. Wilson. Killearn House stands on the left of the bank of the Blane about a mile and a half west of Killearn. It was formerly the seat of a cadet of Montrose. In 1750 it was sold to a Mr. Scott of Glasgow, whose only daughter married Sir James Montgomery at one time Lord Chief Baron of Scotland.The Carnock Burn joins the Blane a short distance to the north of the house. It forms a quite remarkable glen - Ashdow Glen, from the Gaelic usage dubh, black water. The burn runs perpendicularly through the red sandstone to a depth of about 70 feet, and in some places the chasm is not more than 15 to 20 feet in width from top to bottom. The Blane falls into the Endrick half a mile below this point, and about three quarters of a mile above where the Blane joins the Endrick is the Pot of Gartness, where the Endrick falls over a rock face that stretches across the river. The fall is not high and salmon and trout are seen forcing their way up river.The road here leads to Gartness Station on the Forth and Clyde Railway, and crosses the river by a bridge a short distance higher up, where at one time stood a woollen mill, and a small hamlet, on the Drymen side of the river. Opposite the fall on the Drymen side stood an old corn mill, and close adjoining it is the house of Gartness, where John Napier of Merchiston resided during a considerable part of the time when he worked out his system of Logarithms. Robert Buchanan of Drummakill who died in 1525 married Catherine Napier, daughter of Archibald Napier of Merchiston. Catherine was gt. aunt to John Napier of Merchiston.
THE PARISH OF DRYMEN
The parish of Drymen adjoins Killearn and Balfron lower down the Endrick. The name is derived from the Gaelic druimean, a ridge, and from it the family of Drummond take their name, their ancestors in the time of Malcolm Canmore having obtained from him a grant of the lands of Drymen.
The Endrick flows through part of the parish, and seperates it from Killearn for a short distance at the west, and from Kilmarnock at the east end of the parish. It greatest length from north to south is eleven miles, and its breadth from east to west varies from under a mile to about ten miles. The other rivers which bound the parish on the north are Duchray, and the Forth.
Over 250 years ago the agriculture in the parish was very primitive. a great part was overgrown with broom, and only the dry parts were cultivated, oats, barley, and flax being the main crops. There were no roads in the parish at this time and the only means of communication was on horseback. the farms were small, being little more than large crofts. About the beginning of the century agriculture began to improve, and the three most important things which greatly helped this were that roads were made and improved, tile drainage was introduced, and the railway was bought into the area.The highest hills in the parish are Benvraick, 1750 feet above sea level, Meikle Caldon, 602 feet, Cameron Muir, 530 feet, Gualann 1514 feet, on the borders of Buchanan parish, Maol an Tarairne, 720 feet, Elrig,683 feet, Maol Ruadh, 624 feet, and Drum of Clasmore, 577 feet. The road from Stirling to Glasgow enters the parish at Cashlie Bridge, and a mile further on passes into Balfron parish which it traverses for three-quarters of a mile before returning the Drymen, and then passes over the Bog of Ballat, famous for its meadow hay. At the Bog of Ballat the road to Glasgow trends to the south,the road to Drymen continues to the west, and another branches off to the north toward Aberfoyle.
The road to Drymen passes Balfunyng, which was once owned by a family of Buchanan, cadets of Drummakill, and then crosses the Altquhar Burn. A short distance up the burn is Craigievairn, and a short distance from the existing house the ruins of an old castle can be traced. The castle would have had a commanding view up Strathendrick and Strathblane. The field in the front has always been known as Castle Park. Immediately in front of the Castle lies Spittal, a farm which once belonged to the Buchanans of Drummakill. A mile and a half after crossing the Altquhar Burn the road enters the top of Drymen village.
PARISH OF BUCHANAN
The parish of Buchanan lies at the mouth of the River Endrick, and is bounded by the river on the south, by Loch Lomond on the west, by the parish of Arrochar on the north, by Loch Katrine and the parishes of Aberfoyle and Drymen on the east. Its length is about eighteen and a half miles and its breadth from east to west varies from about two and a quarter to six miles. The parish was originally called Inchcailloch, from the island of the name in Loch Lomond. In 1621 the present parish was formed by a union of that of Inchcailloch with a detached portion of the parish of Luss, containing the lands of the old family of Buchanan. There was a Chapel of Ease belonging to Luss near Buchanan House, where service was performed after the church of Inchcailloch fell into disrepair, and it eventually gave the name to the whole parish The greater part of Buchanan parish is very mountainous. The highest mountain being Ben Lomond 3192 feet above sea level, with other mountains, Ptarmigan, 2398 feet, Stob nan Eighrach, 2011 feet, Beinn a Chon, 2524 feet, Stob an Fhainne, 2144 feet, Maol Mor, 2249 feet, and Cruin a Bheinn, 2077 feet. Besides those mentioned above there are two small lochs, Loch Arklet, in the north, which discharges water by the Arklet into Loch Lomond at Inversnaid, and Dubh Lochan, a small loch near Loch Lomond, about two miles south of Rowardennan.The Duchray Water rises on the north side of Ben Lomond, and after being joined in the parish of Aberfoyle by Avondhu, a small stream which flows out of Loch Ard, the two together form the River Forth.
There is a large extent of wood in the parish, both natural and planted, the Duke of Montrose having planted a considerable area in the latter part of the eighteen century. Goats abound in the area of Ben Lomond and in the upper parts of Buchanan. On the cultivation of woods an attempt was made to exterminate the animals in an attempt to save the local flora from their depredation, but today despite several attempts to remove the goats, we still have large numbers of the animals ravaging the area and causing much destruction.
Buchanan Castle, so named because of the district in which it lies, and having no connection with the Buchanan Clan, was once the seat of the Duke of Montrose, and now a ruin, lies about a mile west of the village of Drymen. It was used as a hospital during the second world war, and to avoid property tax after the war the roof was removed. The old mansion house of Buchanan was burned down in 1850. The foundation stone of Buchanan Castle was laid on 22nd August 1854, and the building was completed in 1857. The road leads from the upper end of the village of Drymen to the westward, skirting the boundary of Buchanan Castle, and crosses the Burn of Mar about two and a half miles from the village, above which the parish church and school are situated.
Proceeding up the Burn of Mar the farms of Gartfairn, High Mains, Millrowan Wood, Milton of Buchanan, Creitihall, Gartincaber, and Auchmar are passed. A little further on beyond Balmaha the road continues up Loch Lomond a short distance from the shore, going through the Pass of Balmaha, which is generally considered to be the seperation between the Highlands and the Lowlands.
Opposite Balmaha, and this part of the coast of Loch Lomond, there are several islands belonging to the parish of Buchanan. They are Clairinch, Inchcailloch, Eilandarroch, Inchfad, Inchruin, Bucinch, and Ceardach. Clairinch, in old times the gathering place for war of the Clan Buchanan, is now a nature reserve, and is owned by the Buchanan Society in Glasgow, having been gifted to them in the 1930‘s by a wealthy clan member William George Buchanan, a cadet of Drummakill. The road continues parallel to the shore of Loch Lomond, passing the farms of Cashel, Easter and Wester Sallachy, Blairvockie, ( Blairvockie now forms part of the National Trust for Scotland and was purchased at the time the trust acquired Ben Lomond ) and the small loch of the Dubh Lochan. Between seven and eight miles from Balmaha it reaches Rowardennan, where there stands a very comfortable hotel, and a steamboat pier. The ferry runs still, between Rowardennan and Inverbeg. From here there is a path leading to the top of Ben Lomond. The ascent is easy, and makes good walking. The road continues a short distance further to the shooting lodges of Rowardennan, and Ptarmigan, and from there a path leads to Inversnaid, where there is a large hotel and a steamboat pier. There is a ferry service run by the hotel between Inversnaid and Inverglas point. The distance from Rowardennan to Inversnaid is about six miles. At Inversnaid the Arklet Burn, which flows out of Loch Arklet, falls into Loch Lomond over a waterfall of thirty feet which is spanned by a foot bridge. There is a road from here up Glen Arklet to Stonachlachar on Loch Katrine, where at one time steamers stopped to land and take on board passengers who in the tourist season were conveyed by coach between the Trossachs, and Loch Katrine, and Loch Lomond. There is a considerable ascent between the two lochs, Loch Lomond being only 23 feet above sea level, and Loch Katrine 369 feet.The road continues, and about a mile up Glen Arklet are the remains of the Fort and Garrison of Inversnaid, which was built in 1713 to check the depredations of the McGregors.
Further on the road skirts the shores of Lock Arklet, and reaches Stronachlachar on Loch Katrine, five miles from Inversnaid. From Stronachlachar the eastern boundary of the parish goes for two miles and a half up to the top of Loch Katrine, and then for about three miles up Glengyle to the summit of Beinn Ducteach, then for two miles in an irregular line in a southerly direction to the summit of Beinn Choin, and continues in a westerly direction to a point on Loch Lomond two and a half miles up to the head of the loch to Glen Falloch.
PARISH OF KILMARONOCK
Kilmaronock is the only parish in Strathendrick which is in Dunbartonshire, which lies at the mouth of the River Endrick. It is bounded on the north by the parishes of Buchanan and Drymen, from which it is separated by the river, on the east by Drymen, on the west by Loch Lomond, and on the south by the parishes of Dunbarton and Bonhill. Its length is about five and a half miles from east to west, and its breadth about five and a quarter miles from north to south. There are no hills in the parish, the highest point being on the boundary of Dunbarton parish where the ground rises to 800 feet above sea level. Mount Misery, or Knoclour Hill, rises to 576 feet not far from Boturich Castle, and Duncryne, in the centre of the parish is 462 feet high. The only stream of any size is the Gallangad Burn, which rises in Dunbarton Muir, and flows for some distance through the parish; it then becomes the Catter Burn, which forms the boundary with Drymen, and falls into the Endrick near Drymen Station.The soil on the banks of the Endrick is a deep, rich loam; on the higher ground, it is good, dryfield land, and in the southern part, where it merges into Dunbarton Muir, the soil is peaty muirland.
The road from Drymen to Glasgow enters the parish at Drymen Bridge, and a little more than a mile from there crosses the Forth and Clyde Railway at Drymen Station, and passes again into Drymen parish over Catter Burn, which is the boundary of the parish and the county. The Forth and Clyde railway goes through the parish for about five miles along the banks of the Catter and Carrochan Burns, and there is a station at Caldarvan, about three miles from that of Drymen. The farm of Gallangad lies about a half a mile to the east of Caldarvan station, and south of it, over the muir, is 'Lang Cairn.' In 1772 Robert Buchanan of Drummakill raised an action for himself and others against the Burgh of Dunbarton, for the purpose of ascertaining the northern boundary of the Muir of Dunbarton, and for vindicating his property from sundry encroachments made upon it by the tenants in the burgh. The case turned very much upon what or where was the Lang Cairn. After pleading for nearly eight years, the case was decided in favour of the Burgh of Dunbarton, much to the chagrin of the Stirlingshire lairds; and certainly the boundary which was eventually settled, is evidently an unnatural one when compared to that proposed by the Stirlingshire lairds, which better suits the natural lie of the land and the description of the old King James VI charter which described the lie of the land thus; 'And therefrae to the Barn Cruiks benorth the Auld House of Auchingree; and therefrae down the samyne burne northward to the Greene Burne; and therefrae to the Common Fuirds; and therefrae to the Lang Cairn; and therefrae westward to the red brae upon the hieds and marches of Forkins and Merkins; and therefrae to the north west part of the hill where the auld marches callit Stannand Stanes are fixt; and therefrae westward to the auld monument of stane callit the Common Kist.'
The Langs Cairn is placed on the ridge of what appears to be an old moraine, and is formed of the stones of it, many of a great size. It lies nearly east and west, and forms the boundary as settled by the law plea, at the point between the Dunbarton Muir and Gallangad. It is about 63 yards in length. The cairn has been much destroyed over the years by people searching for rabbits, and shepherds making shelter for newly lambed ewes. The destruction over the years have revealed what appears to be a very large stone kist or coffin, formed by placing high stones on edge. It lies east and west and nearly in the middle of the cairn, another smaller kist is visible, lying north and south. The whole is in a very wrecked condition, and no other such kists can with certainty, been seen. The cairn is with out doubt a burying place, possibly that of the Celtic tribe from which the old Earls of Lennox sprung.
On the Gallangad Burn, to the northwest of the Lang Cairn, is a waterfall called Ishneich. Southwest of this are the 'Stannand Stones,' mentioned in the old charter. Their position is on the border of the Dunbarton Muir and Blairquhomrie, and along the lands of Blairquhomrie and the Forkins and Merkins. A magnificent view can be gained from these stones, and near this is 'the auld monument of Stane callit the Common Kist'.
Near Drymen Bridge a road branches off to the west, going to Dunbarton, passing on the right, Catter House, Mains House, and the ruins of Kilmaronock Castle. Near here is an approach to Buchanan Castle. After passing the small village of Gartocharne a road to the left leads to Caldarvan House, and beyond this passes Burnbrae where there is a school and a great many fine trees. The site of the Old Place of Ardoch is on the right of the road and from here can be gained a magnificent view of Loch Lomond and the higher hills. Near Gartocharne is the home of Barbara Lady Leith-Buchanan, widow of Sir Hector Leith-Buchanan. The small holding on which Lady Leith-Buchanan now lives has been named Drummakill in memory of the original property owned by this branch of the Buchanan Clan.
Below Ardoch, in a northerly direction, is Ross Priory, on the shores of Loch Lomond. It was once the property of Sir Hector George Leith-Buchanan and is now owned by the Strathclyde University. East of Ross Priory is a family burial ground and at one end of it a large marble tablet is placed showing the births and deaths of the family of Jean Buchanan and Hector McDonald who were the ancestors of the Leith-Buchanan family. The Leith-Buchanan family are representers of Drummakill, and on the death of Sir Hector the baronice passed to an American cousin. Further east along the shore of the loch is the old pier of Aber and the Ring of Aber. This was a common pasture ground of the Aber lairds, and a little further west was their arable ground. It was here that the common herder of the Aber lands stood, and sounded his horn to summon those who had the right to pasture for the day. The old ring horn was once in the possession of Mr. Gardener of Townhead of Aber.
Further south along the loch is Boturich Castle, built by John Buchanan of the old family of Buchanan of Ardoch, which passed into the hands of the Finlay family, and has in recent years been sold. The islands in Loch Lomond belonging to the parish of Kilmaronock are Inchmurrin, Creinch, Torrinch, and Aberinch. The largest of these is Inchmurrin, and in the southwest corner are the ruins of an ancient castle of the Earls of Lennox.
About 1740 Loch Lomond was frozen over, and it was in that year that Mr. Buchanan of Drummakill, and Mr. Govan of Park, two neighbouring lairds, ventured upon the ice in pursuit of wild swans. and in crossing the Loch at the broadest part, where there was a spring and an open space where the swans were congregating, rashly ventured too near the spring. Mr. Govan was drowned, and Mr. Buchanan was found dead supporting himself with his arms extended above the ice.The parish was formerly much more extensive, and about 250 years ago a portion comprising several farms was detached and added to the parish of Bonhill.