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History of Glen Finglas

The landscape was carved by glaciers during the last Ice Age and these have left behind large boulders, such as the one known as Samson’s Stone at Bochastle.

The glens were once covered with native alder, birch, oak, hazel, rowan and willow, and were grazed for centuries by elk, wild boar, deer and auroch, a now extinct type of wild cattle. Burnt mounds found on the site may have been used by Bronze Age hunters for cooking.

There is evidence of human settlement dating from medieval times and archaeological surveys have revealed remnants of ridge and furrow ploughing characteristic of this period. The glens were also grazed by domestic livestock. In 1364 Glen Finglas was taken into royal ownership and for over 300 years was a popular hunting forest for Scottish kings and nobility. A mound called Tom Buidhe (the yellow knoll) by the Glen Finglas Reservoir is thought to be the site of the Hunt Hall, built for James II of Scotland in the 1400s. Important documents of state may have been signed here. The estate lost favour after the unification of Scotland and England in 1707, and livestock grazing by tenants began to increase.

Farming

In the upper glens, there are remains of 18th century ‘shieling’ huts, which would have provided shelter for women and children herding livestock in summer. Crofting was abandoned in the early 19th century and since then the land has mainly been used for sheep grazing.

The wood pasture has been gradually reduced to a scattering of veteran alder, hazel, birch, and ash, some estimated to be 400 years old. These show evidence of historic pollarding (cutting of top branches) and coppicing (cutting back to ground level) to promote growth.

Clans and outlaws

The famous outlaw, Rob Roy McGregor, immortalised by Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel, Rob Roy, lived in the area during the late 17th and early 18th centuries and is buried in the churchyard at the village of Balquhidder. Glen Finglas was the site of conflicts between the MacGregor and Colquhoun clans around this time.

Literature and art

Glen Finglas inspired poets such as Wordsworth, Coleridge and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem, The Lady of the Lake (1810), is set around the nearby Loch Katrine, and the landscape also inspired an earlier work, the poem Glenfinlas. Victorian writer and art critic John Ruskin was a regular visitor in the mid 19th century and the dramatic scenery upstream from Brig o’ Turk provided the backdrop to the famous painting of him by Sir John Everett Millais. You can also learn more about the artists and writers that have been inspired by the local landscape by following The Great Trossachs Forest's Art & Literature Trail.

Recent history

The Glen Finglas Dam was completed in 1965 and the glen was flooded to form the reservoir. The dam was an ambitious civil engineering project and is now a listed building,

In 1996 the Woodland Trust Scotland acquired Glen Finglas with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. This was followed by acquisitions of the Lendrick plantation, land at Bochastle, and a Milton Glen lease, which includes Milton Burn and the summit of Ben Ledi. The Trust is working as part of The Great Trossachs Forest Project to restore the landscape to a more natural mix of moorland, wetland and native woodland habitats.

Over a million native trees have been planted at Glen Finglas, creating 1,500ha of new woodland. There was a huge setback in 2003 when half a million trees at Lendrick Hill were devastated by fire. But since then the area has been replanted. The vision is for between 50% and 70% of the land below the upper tree line to be under tree canopy by 2050.

Folklore

The route from Balquhidder to Gleann nam Meann is believed to have been used by whisky smugglers and cattle thieves. And a stand of conifers near to Balquhidder village is said to be haunted by a ghostly huntsman.

Tradition suggests that Ben Ledi was a gathering place where local people celebrated the Beltane (Gaelic May Day) by lighting fires.

According to folklore, the large boulder known as Samson’s Putting Stone was placed there by a local strongman. St Kessoch’s stone, a large stone between Glen Meann and Glen Finglas, is believed to mark the burial ground used by the followers of St Kessog, who brought Christianity to the area around 500AD.