At the foothills of the Grampian Mountains between the towns of Kirriemuir and Blairgowrie you’ll find the wonderfully ancient town of Alyth.
This quaint little village is situated on the rolling southern slopes which are gently blanketed with the enchanting forest of Alyth. To the north of these slopes closer to the village, the remains of ancient Alyth can be found. It is these ruins that have helped to verify the fact that the settlement has been in existence since the 11th century.
It is interesting to note that many have claimed that the village is even older. They argue that Alyth in Scotland was the location where Queen Guinevere was imprisoned by the Pictish King Mordred. However there is insufficient evidence to prove this and, until more evidence is exhumed, the exact founding date of the village will always be the subject of controversy.
What is known is that the first church came into existence sometime during the 1200s. When one stands in this picturesque churchyard as they gaze out over the town, they will find themselves surrounded by a series of arches. It is said that Robert the Bruce came to perform acts of worship in the church in 1326.
Sometime during the 1500s trade saw an increase after the construction of the packhorse bridge. This bridge enabled residents to cross the Alyth burn and make their way to the market town of Alyth.
Trade flourished and by 1760, Alyth was already regarded as being a rather large village. It was so big, in fact, that it once staged nine fairs in just one year – something which was practically unheard of for a simple market town in those days. The sturdy stone packhorse bridge can still be crossed by pedestrians and it leads to the older part of the town of Alyth.
Another attraction worth considering is the Alyth Parish Church. The church bears both Gothic and Romanesque influence and it was designed by the talented Edinburgh architect Thomas Hamilton and established in 1839. The church is unusual because the high spires on the building’s exterior gives a sense of vertical height, yet the interiors have a strong sense of horizontal space. Also worth seeing is the old Forfar Carpets Works which has not been used to produce carpets since the 90s. Instead it is now owned by a company that restores vintage cars and a journey through their workshops is a great treat.
The steady growth of Alyth continued in the 1800s when the town became involved in the textile industry. The peak of this part of its history came in 1861 when the railway was established through the town.
By 1870, the two mills in the town were responsible for the jobs of 350 people. Unfortunately time has taken its toll on these mills and today all that is left are the crumbling remains of these once lively buildings.
So give Alyth a try and discover this wonderfully charming town for yourself.
A Marvellous Stay in Blairgowrie
High above the narrow and deep valley of Strathmore, spills the mighty River Ericht. Its immense strength has long been a source of life for the twin towns Blairgowrie and Rattray that came to rest on the embankments of this river many hundreds of years ago.
Unlike so many other villages and towns of old, Blairgowrie had already begun to establish itself as an expanding town with the founding of a school for the local children by the 1600’s. In 1634 it became a burgh and by the early 1700’s Blairgowrie became the official starting point for the military road that runs north to Braemar and which was completed in 1725. Around the same time the twin towns were officially joined when a bridge was constructed across the River Ericht. Unfortunately just more than a hundred years later the inhabitants of this town gaped in horror as all evidence of the original bridge having even existed was completely destroyed when the famed mighty river engulfed it. However the people of the towns were quick to react and soon a second bridge was built. Today this bridge supports virtually all traffic between the two towns.
Much of the original growth of the town of Blairgowrie was a direct result of the fact that the town was strategically located along the River Ericht. This enabled the linen weaving industry that gained ground in the late 1700’s to enjoy massive success. This growth in local industry saw the construction of 12 water-powered mills and an increase from 100 weavers to 1600 weavers by the year 1860. The growth spawned a need for increased living quarters and soon the town was growing at an alarming rate. By 1870 eight of the towns mills were used to turn flax into linen while the remaining four were used to process jute. The most famous of these was the Keathbank Jute Mill that later became famous for having the largest water wheel in all of Scotland. Today this mill can still be visited on the banks of the River Ericht in the town of Rattray, which is just over a mile from the Braemar road on the A93.
In the 1900’s Blairgowrie industry made a huge shift away from the textile industry. Once again residents and businessmen took advantage of its surroundings and location, which was now situated on the road to the Glenshee Ski Resort. The resulting expansion of the town saw many of Blairgowrie's homes and shops converted into thriving Hotels and tailor made ski shops for visiting skiers making their way to the ski resort. The Rosemount Golf Course also draws people to the town. The golf course is situated nearby and is regarded as being one of the greatest inland golf courses in Scotland. It also has a reputation for being designed by some of the legendary names of Scottish golf. Another well respected course is that of the Blairgowrie Golf Club that is situated south of Blairgowrie town. This club offers its members two championship 18-hole courses plus a 9-hole for those who wish to see the many other attractions within and around Blairgowie.
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