Helen Rose Outdoors Diary: Dunblane

Dunblane Cathedral

Dunblane, September, 2020

We are still in lockdown due to Covid 19 virus but the walking club continues to programme  walks with limited numbers.  We can travel on public transport provided we wear a face covering and the number of people on the bus is limited to allow social distancing. This means I could now travel further afield from Glasgow environs so I spent a day walking in Dunblane.

Dunblane is in Stirlingshire, a few miles north of Stirling and about an hour by bus from Glasgow. It is a very pretty and well maintained. The architecture is very East Coast Scottish style.

The town is believed to have been founded in 602 by the Celtic missionary, St Blane at a ford in the Allan Water. The town developed into a major stronghold of the pre-Reformation Church whose power was symbolised in the magnificent 13th century Gothic cathedral.

The Dunblane massacre took place at Dunblane Primary School in March 1996, when Thomas Hamilton shot 16 children and one teacher dead and injured 15 others, before killing himself. It remains the deadliest mass shooting in British history. Andy Murray, the former tennis world champion was a pupil at the school at the time of the shootings. Andy now has a post-box painted gold in the town to commemorate him as world number one in tennis. The town itself is lovely with very pretty houses and the River Allan running through.

River Allan

We left Dunblane and walked along the River Allan which rises in the Ochil Hills and runs through Strathallan to Bridge of Allan before joining the River Forth which runs out to the North Sea. There is a weir on the river near Dunblane as the river powered many mills but it is now a salmon river. This was a good spot to stop for a tea break and watch the resident heron near the bank. Unfortunately it refused to pose for the camera and turned its back on us! Herons have very long legs and bodies and look odd perching on tree branches as they are so much taller than other birds.

We followed the river in to the woods and saw a tepee shaped structure built out of twigs. It was very imaginative and looked quite sturdy. A great place for children to play in but it would probably not be waterproof without a traditional covering of animal skins.


On leaving the woods, we were in open countryside with views over to the Ochil Hills in the distance and the Wallace Monument at Stirling. William Wallace was a hero of Scotland and a true patriot. He had a burning desire for peace and freedom which united the country’s clans, he gained the loyalty of its people and struck fear into his enemies.

Darn Walk

The path from Dunblane to Bridge of Allan is known as the Darn Walk. It is a historic byway dating back centuries. The Glen lies within the area known as the Stirling Gap between the Highlands, the marshy Forth valley, Sheriffmuir above and the old Pictish kingdom to the east. The Picts were a group of Celtic-speaking peoples who lived in what is today eastern and northern Scotland during the Late British Iron Age and Early Medieval periods.

Before bridges were built, early travellers used the Darn Road side of the Allan Water, crossing at Dunblane, a prime spot for an ecclesiastical City. Invading Romans built their impressive Ardoch fort at Braco. William Wallace battled with the English on Sheriffmuir, where later Jacobite rebels fiercely challenged government forces. Hardy drovers from the north and western isles converged on Sheriffmuir and the Allan River to cross the Forth for the Falkirk Tryst cattle market. The area is steeped in history.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson was born on 13 November 1850 and lived until 3 December 1894. He was a Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer, most noted for Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and A Childs Garden of Verses. A celebrity in his lifetime, Stevenson’s critical reputation has fluctuated since his death. Today his works are held in general acclaim. He is currently ranked as the 26th most translated author in the world.

He wrote Treasure Island was published under the pseudonym Captain George North and this became his first widely popular book. He wrote it during the time he was in France, staying there due to ill health.  For a complete change of climate he and his family headed for Colorado in the US but after landing in New York, they decided to spend the winter in the Adirondacks at a cure cottage now known as Stevenson Cottage at Saranac Lake, New York. Cure Cottages were mainly for patients suffering from Tuberculosis. The Adirondack Recliner was, also known as a Cure chair, based on a sanatorium chair from Germany.  This special chair had wheels so the patient could be easily moved from their bed to their porch area, a reclining back so they could sit up without exerting themselves, and wide arms to rest essentials on. The photo I have of the chair is without the wheels but in the style.

As we walked along the Allan River path we came to a cave which had been one of Stevenson’s favourite spots as he had spent childhood holidays at Bridge of Allan and the cave is said to be his inspiration for Ben Gunn’s cave in Treasure Island. There was also a wooden seat carved with palm trees to remind us of the exotic island.

Bridge of Allan

We walked on and turned at Bridge of Allan, a former spa town at the foot of the Ochil Hills taking a shorter route back through woods and on the other side of the river to Dunblane and the starting point of the walk to catch the bus back to Glasgow. A lovely and interesting day out.

Thanks to Claire Bradley for the photos.

Bob Law's Blog: Rouken Glen – A Park For All Seasons
Helen Rose Outdoors: Victoria Park August 2020

This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary, Walks

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