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Situated almost in the mouth of Glen Lyon, Fortingall is considered to be one of the most interesting and picturesque villages in all of Scotland. And behind and above the single attractive street of thatched houses, on the crest of a wooded escarpment, perches the site of Dun Gael, a fort of unrecorded age. It is alleged, remarkably, that this was the birthplace of no less than Pontius Pilate. If this seems but another Scots Myth, here is the story. The father, a Roman Officer, was sent on a mission of peace to Pictish King Metellanus, whose seat was at this Dun Geal. Whether the envoy brought his wife with him, or whether the mother of the child was a member of Metallanus's household, we do not know. But here Pilate was allegedly born.
But Fortingall can do even better. It also claims to have the oldest piece of growing vegetation in Europe. In the churchyard is the famous yew tree, dated at 3000 years of age. The church is also of great interest. Behind the porch is Adamnan's font. He was the Abbot of Iona in 697, and died in this area in 704. Inside the building is a 7th century monk's bell, shaped like a large alpine cow-bell. There are also a number of fragments of Celtic stone carvings, on the chancel window-ledge. To the east, near the church, is a Stone Circle of nine uprights in groups of three; and there are new fewer than 14 circular forts in the area.
Sir James MacGregor, the famous Dean of Lismore, was also Vicar of Fortingall, and died here in 1551. He compiled the Book of the Dean of Lismore in which many of the Gaelic poems of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries are collected. West from the village of Fortingall, only a mile up the glen, is MacGregor's Leap, where in 1565, the Chief of the landless Greglach made an incredible leap across the river chasm when pursued by Campbell Bloodhounds. Two miles further up, there are a series of spectacular waterfalls, as the Allt Da-gohb rushes down to the floor of the glen. At the next hamlet, Innerwick, there is the 18th century Glen Lyon Parish Church. But the hub of the glen is a little farther on, at Bridge of Balgie. Here the road forks, one branch turning south-westwards to climb steeply over the shoulder of Ben Lawers to Loch Tay.
The other road continues up the glen, climbing to avoid the lands of Meggernie Castle, a fine late 16th century structure, whitewashed and set amidst ancient trees. It was built by Cailean Gorach, or Mad Colin Campbell in 1580, who amongst other exploits abducted the Countess of Erroll and held her there. Another lady is said to haunt Meggernie. She was the wife of a Menzies laird, who murdered her in a fit of jealously, and then cut up her body into halves for better disposal. Perhaps for the best, it her upper half which haunts the castle. Three miles on, the Glen Lyon road passes Loch Cashlie where, at the side of the road are a group of cairns and what appears to be an ancient earth-house. As the head of the glen is neared, or at least the road-end, the scenery becomes more bleak and treeless. Beyond rear the mountains of, Ben Achallader and Heasgarnich, and ranging to the south the fierce contours of the Tarmachan mountains.