Welcome to Drymen
Situated on the A811 just 20 miles north of Glasgow yet in the heart of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Drymen is a popular town. Holding such a prominent position in one of Scotland's most attractive regions, it draws not just road traffic, but walkers by the thousands. Drymen is one of the resting points on the West Highland Way from Milngavie (in the outskirts of Glasgow) to Fort William. It is also the start of the Rob Roy Way, an unofficial path which leads to Pitlochry in the Perthshire Highlands, a route which takes in some of the most important sites associated with the famed highland rogue, Rob Roy Macgregor. Drymen's history is a long and interesting one.
While the unearthing of two axe hammers nearby suggest ancient human habitation of the area, we know little about the development of a settlement in Drymen itself until the middle ages. Whenever the settlers first came, the choice of the site was undoubtedly influenced by its position at the lowest point where the Endrick Water could be forded. The remains of a fortification still overlook this important crossing point, although now crossed by a bridge carrying the A811 east towards Stirling. It is possible, if not likely, an early settlement grew up around this crossroads to supply the fortification.
According to legend it was here that Edgar the Aetheling, the deposed king of England, came fleeing William the Conqueror in 1067. Edgar later moved on to Flanders but a Hungarian admiral who was part of his entourage decided to settle in Drymen. In the 13th century one of the admiral's descendants, Malcolm Beg otherwise known as Malcolm of Drymen, became the chamberlain of the Lennox family who at their most powerful ruled Dumbartonshire, Stirlingshire, Perthshire and large swathes of Renfrewshire. The family later married into the Royal House of Stewart. Malcolm Beg's son fought in the Wars of Independence, and was captured twice by the English.
Another important family took over the lands of Drymen in the 17th century. In the 1640s the Grahams of Montrose not only bought the nearby Buchanan Castle but invested in the development of the town itself. Buchanan Castle was destroyed by fire in 1852 after which it was rebuilt as it is today. During WWII Buchanan Castle was used as a hospital during which time its most famous patient was Rodolf Hess, purportedly the third most powerful man in command in Nazi Germany. Hess came to Scotland in 1941 supposedly to broker a peace deal between Britain and Germany but sustained injuries while parachuting onto Eaglesham Moor, south of Glasgow, after which he was captured and taken to Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow. Hess was later taken to Buchanan Castle after complaining to the authorities that he was unsafe in Glasgow during the blitz.
The Graham Family of Drymen came into conflict with the notorious MacGregor clan in the 17th and 18th centuries. Drymen was harried by the clan who came down from the north to steal the local cattle. In the long term the MacGregors developed a protection racket at the expense of the local cattle owners; cowherds were made to drive the beasts into the main square in Drymen where they were offered to the MacGregors who in return promised not to steal a yet greater number. The famous Rob Roy MacGregor (see article, The Trossachs) made many such business deals in Drymen.
The government went to great lengths to tame the Highlands in the later part of the of the 18th century in the aftermath of the failed Jacobite rebellions (see article, Culloden). As part of this policy an ambitious road building project was undertaken which would allow for easier access to the region by government soldiers. One such military road was constructed between Stirling and Dumbarton which passed through Drymen. One side affect of the road was increased traffic in the area and more visitors in the town. Drymen was given a boost and the town went through another significant period of growth.
In 1771, the same year Drymen Parish Church was built, Walter Scott was born, a man who would revolutionise the popular view of the Trossachs and lead to its development as one of Britain's premier destinations for travellers. His novels, such as Rob Roy, romanticised the Highlands and the history of the area, and led many Victorians to venture north into this remarkable natural environment.
Drymen benefited enormously from being ideally located on the road from Glasgow to Aberfoyle. The development of the town resulting from the growth in Trossachs tourism has brought many amenities to Drymen: a number of local golf courses, the closest of which is the 9 hole Strathendrick Golf Course; the Rowan Gallery which displays fine pieces of contemporary Scottish art; Lomond Activities which specialises in bike hire and Drymen Pottery gift and coffee shop are amongst the town's attractions. Of course the real pull is the natural splendour of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park which surrounds one of the area's most charming towns.