Breadalbane has subtly different landscapes from the more obviously scenic Trossachs or the bonny banks. The early Romantic tourists are more or less silent on the ‘high ground of Scotland’ – the meaning of the word Breadalbane in its original Gaelic: Braghad-Albainn or brae-Alba. Instead of soft beauty, Breadalbane offers serious hill country – perhaps more appreciated by today’s breed of well-equipped walkers and nature-lovers, than by those timid Romantics!
Crianlarich railway station platform is just one viewpoint that gives a hint of the high ground. To the east, the tops of Ben More and Stobinian are distinctive – in fact, these twins have one of the most easily recognisable mountain profiles anywhere in Scotland. Southwards are the cluster of high hills around Crianlarich – certainly known to hill-walkers and ‘Munro-baggers’, including Cruach Ardrain with its conspicuous horse-shoe corrie facing Crianlarich.
To the west lie the hill group - all but out of sight from this point - of which Ben Lui is the best known. Finally, with its top just visible to the north is the less well-known Ben Chaluim and the other high tops beyond Glen Dochart – the very essence of Breadalbane – wild, with a sense of remoteness, over the horizon and away from roads – a territory only known to the hill shepherds and to hill-walkers. There are altogether at least 14 high summits within a ten mile (16km) radius of Crianlarich.
The geology is complex, the domed hills have hidden corries and crags with here and there outcrops of limestones ‘or ‘base-rich’ rocks. These support a variety of alpine plants, of which the purple saxifrage is perhaps the best known and emblematic of the area.
But Breadalbane is not just high country. Historically it is also a meeting place in the centre of Scotland. The Celtic missionary St Fillan gave his name to Strath Fillan, today carrying road and rail, and brought together Gaels and Picts. A thousand years later, Strath Fillan, Glen Dochart to the east and Glen Falloch southwards were carrying large numbers of south-bound cattle, playing their part as important drove roads. Next, after the last Jacobite uprising, new roads were built to link Highland military garrisons. The military road built 1750-2 by General Caulfield between Stirling and Fort William passed through the area.
The important railway junction at Crianlarich still provides a vital service today, and the community, along with Killin, to the east, and Tyndrum, to the west, are all attractive locations that provide plenty for visitors to Breadalbane today - thus the wide glens below the high hills of Breadalbane are still through-ways and meeting places.
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