Welcome to Callander
Situated at the confluence of the Rivers Teith and Leny, in the heart of the Trossachs, is the attractive town of Callander. On the edge of the Highlands with three lochs (Vennacher, Achray and Lubnaig) within a couple of miles radius, this is an area of outstanding natural beauty, the value of which was confirmed by the creation of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, in which Callander is one of the most prominent settlements. Callander also lies on one of the Highlands' major roads. Travelling from Stirling, some 14 miles to the south east, one must pass through Callander as one travels deeper into the Highlands, along the A84 in the direction of Oban, or Fort William.
Loch Lubnaig near Callander
This landscape has been the setting for the struggles and aspirations of man for millennia. At nearby Claish Farm, evidence the area has been farmed since around 4000 BC was unearthed in 2001. At Auchenlaich Farm lie the remains of the largest stone age chambered cairn ever found in Scotland, while the ruins of a couple of forts give insights into an increasingly violent society in the last millennium BC. The first evidence of construction in Callander itself comes from the time the Romans were making forays into Scotland in the first century AD. During the campaigns of Agricola a marching camp was built at the western end of the town as a refuge for the empire's most northerly serving troops. Today the remains can be seen on Bochastle Farm close to the River Leny.
The next stage of development in Callander occurred with the arrival of Christianity in the 6th century. St Kessog (died c.530), an early Christian missionary and disciple of St Columba, established his church on the island of Inchtavannach, on Loch Lomond opposite Luss, which he used as a base for evangelising in the area. On one mission he preached to his ecstatic followers from a mound on Callander Meadows. The mound is known as Tom-Na-Kessaig, or The Hill of Kessog; the nearby graveyard marks the spot of Callander's first church.
Little is known about the early development of Callander. Its position on one of the major routes west into the Highlands would have provided the local inhabitants with a welcome source of income in addition to that which traditionally was to be gained from the land. A fairly substantial hamlet may well have emerged by 16th century, when the Livingston family was the dominant force in the area. Life in Callander would have been effected little by the political developments of the 17th century, which saw the family loose these lands to the Drummonds, whose influence in the area had been enhanced by the warm relationship they had carefully cultivated with King James VI. After this time, Callander was administered from Drummond Castle, near Crief.
The people of Callander were drawn into the Jacobite wars of the 17th and 18th centuries when the Duke of Perth, a Drummond whose family owed its position to James VI, declared for the deposed House of Stuart. Continued rebellions, in Callander and elsewhere, prompted the government to invest in creating a network of military roads through the Highlands, in order to increase the mobility of their troops in dealing with the Jacobite threat. Callander's position made it the obvious choice for a road. It is an ironic fact, that it was completed just in time for the 1745 rebellion, during which the roads were of most use to the rebels.
The ultimate defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden in 1746 changed the face of Scotland. A defenceless Highlands was not in a position to defend its population from the dire consequences of land clearance and agricultural change, which led to a population collapse from which the Highlands would never recover. In the 1770s the construction of a new town was instigated to accommodate part of the displaced population, the bulk of whom found themselves driven into the growing industrial cities like Glasgow or to the New World. At this time the focus of the town changed from Tom-Na-Kessaig to Ancaster Square, where a new parish church was constructed. Reverend Dr James Robertson, minister here in the 1790s, in his belief in 'Agricultural Improvement' was representative of those who sought to make the most of this disorientating new era. He is credited with writing one of the most detailed accounts in the First Statistical Account of Scotland of 1791 in which he described the state of Callander and its surrounds. Such accounts formed the basis for the economic revolution which, in the century to follow, would bring unprecedented agricultural innovation and industrial growth as well as untold human suffering. Callander's architectural elegance owes a great deal to the dynamic, but controversial period.
Reverend Robertson was also at the forefront of another development which would greatly influence the development of Callander over the following 200 years. He wrote what was to be one of Scotland's first tourist guides: A Pamphlet Descriptive of the Neighbourhood of Callander. The first few 'pioneers' , who were making their way into Scotland's remotest places for whom Robertson wrote, would come in ever greater numbers after the widely read and highly respected author Sir Walter Scott (1771- 1832) popularised the Trossachs in a number of his books and poems. The attractive town of Callander remains ideally situated for those who come to experience the natural beauty which inspired the myth and magic of Scott's work.