A Pilgrimage in the National Park

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Loch Lomond Pilgrimage Centre, LussPlaces with religious associations are sometimes rather overlooked. Of course, ancestor hunters make for kirkyards, but these trips are rather specific, and not really related to a sense of place. A variety of themes link these sites of which architecture may be the most obvious, but above all, whether you are religious or not, they are a significant local asset.

Some Celtic Saints of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park

St Angus associated with Balquhidder and Lochearnhead 

St Berach associated with Aberfoyle

St Blane associated with Lochearnhead

St Chug associated with Kilmahog

St Colmoc associated with Inchmahome 

St. Drostan, associated with Craigrostan, 

St Fillan, associated with Glen Dochart and Killin

St Kessog  associated with Callander and with Luss 

St Mo-Laise associated with Aberfoyle 

St Bride’s Chapel, Loch Lubnaig is dedicated to St Brigid of Kildare.

Place names that begin with Kil- (church or burial ground) usually indicate early missionary activities by Celtic saints. Sometimes, as is the case with both Kilmahog and Killin it is not always clear which saint. Annat usually means the site of an abandoned church.

Many churches in the National Park have been built on the sites of medieval churches. Of medieval sites, Walter Comyn, 4th Earl of Menteith, founded the Augustinian Priory, dedicated to St. Macolmoc, on an island in the Lake of Menteith, in 1238.  The buildings are probably by the same masons who built the cathedral in Dunblane. Inchmahome, which is reached by ferry from Port of Menteith makes a suitable starting point for a pilgrimage in the eastern part of the National Park. 

A few minutes walk from the ferry is Port of Menteith Parish Church [NN 583 011], built in 1878 to designs by John Honeyman. There is a significant Graham mausoleum by the lake.

From the Port proceed to Aberfoyle. Even walkers should go by bus since there is no satisfactory path, but otherwise they can make the whole pilgrimage to Killin on foot. 

St Mary's Episcopal Church, AberfoyleJames Miller, who, among other things, designed West Highland Railway stations, designed St Mary’s Episcopal Church [NN 524 010]. Workers from the slate quarry erected the pretty ‘Arts and Crafts’ church in 1892-3. 

John Honeyman built Aberfoyle Parish Church [NN 518 005], set at the foot of Craigmore, in 1870 in early-Gothic style. It replaced the old kirk of Aberfoil, reached by crossing the bridge in the village. In the graveyard are two notable graves: Robert Kirk (1644-1692) and Rev Patrick Graham (1750-1835)

From Aberfoyle motorists can cross the Duke’s Pass to the Trossachs Church or Achray Chapel, arguably the best situated in Scotland, The long-serving minister William Wilson was the author of an impressive book The Trossachs in Literature and Tradition (1908) is buried there.. Walkers and cyclists should proceed directly to Callander, walkers by the Roman Road, cyclists by RN 7

There are several treats in Callander; a spectacular former Parish Church, now a visitor centre, the equally interesting Parish Church, and St Andrews Episcopal Church [NN 624 080], sheltered by a magnificent cedar of Lebanon. There are also three notable graveyards; Tom na Chessaig, at the bridge; Little Leny, where Dugald Buchanan is buried, and St Chug’s Chapel at Kilamahog. Beyond Kilmahog walkers and cyclists follow the west bank of Loch Lubnaig at the foot of which is the curious Esher Chapel, built beside Stank Falls. Motorists follow the west bank. St Bride’s Chapel, at an awkward corner on the A84, features in Lady of the Lake and is where some of the American president McKinlay’s forebears are buried.

Three Distinguished Ministers…

Rev Robert Kirk (1644-92), Minister of both Balqhuidder and Aberfoyle published a Gaelic version of the psalms of David. He then went on to transliterate Irish Gaelic versions of the Old and New Testaments (i.e. Kirk’s Bible was not a new translation, but something Highlanders could read.)

Rev James Stewart (1701-89), Minister of Killin, first translated the New Testament into Scots Gaelic published in 1767. Prior to this Gaelic was, in effect, suppressed, but Dr Samuel Johnson was one Stewart’s well-wishers and offered to help him in any way he could. 

Rev John Stuart, (1743–1821) was a notable Gaelic scholar and botanist, who was born in Killin, the son of the above James Stewart. Immediately before he was translated to Luss he accompanied Pennant on his second Highland tour.The elegant Balquhidder Parish Church [NN 536 209] in dressed stone, was built in 1853 by David Bryce. There is a Bell donated by Rev Robert Kirk, a notable boulder font and a supposed grave of St Angus. The ruins of the old parish church are in the graveyard where there are many intriguing carved stones, and graves, including that of Rob Roy MacGregor  From Balquidder pilgrims make for Lochearnhead, then Glen Ogle by either RN7 (on the old Oban railway line), or the A84

The ruins of St. Blane’s Chapel, Lochearnhead [NN 5974 2304] are near Edinample Castle. It is said to be the burial-place of the saint, who, before his death predicted the possessors of the land where he was buried would neither be rich nor lasting, which, in the case of Edinample, appears to have been so

St Angus's Church, by LochearnheadSt Angus, Lochearnhead [NN 588 232] is another simple country church in the Arts and Crafts style. One of two “Grouse Chapels” in the district, it was erected by the Estate, partly, at least, to serve visiting shooting parties. From the head of Glen Ogle walkers and cyclists make directly for Killin. The second “Grouse Chapel” is St Fillan’s, Killin [NN 572 338], a handsome ‘tin’ chapel, originally erected by the Earl of Breadalbane in 1876. Killin and Ardeonaig Parish Church [NN 571 330] is a distinctive white-hurled octagonal classical church built in 1744 by the mason, Thomas Clark.

Inside it has been altered from a 'wide' church to a 'long' church. In front of the church is a monument to Rev James Stewart (1701-89), minister of Killin, who first translated the New Testament into Scots Gaelic (published 1767). The church is at the eastern end of the village.

Article by Louis Stott, the Local Representative of the Churches Open Scheme for Stirling