Welcome to Killin
Nestled in between the white waters of the Falls of Dochart and the westernmost reaches of the placid Loch Tay is the attractive village of Killin. The village lies at the eastern extremity of Stirlingshire, although it may be wise not to mention this to the locals who feel that their village is actually in Perthshire. With sailing, scuba diving, trout and salmon fishing, horse riding and clay pigeon shooting all available locally, Killin provides a variety of ways in which to enjoy its spectacular surroundings. While the most famous of Killin's nearby mountains is Ben Lawers, which at 3983 ft. is the highest mountain in the central highlands, the surrounding countryside also consists of forests and woods, lochs and rivers; it is a remarkably beautiful landscape and the setting for a rich history.
Our first clues to early settlement in the area come from archaeology. Luckily, the area has given up a great many artefacts which help us better understand early settlers: a prehistoric axe factory on the side of Ben Lawers, standing stones at Dunchroisk and, perhaps most significantly, the remains of 18 crannogs on Loch Tay. A crannog is an ancient form of loch dwelling which started to appear in Scotland and Ireland from around 3000 BC. From evidence uncovered at these sites the Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology has been able to reconstruct an early Iron Age crannog, which now welcomes visitors on Loch Tay. This unique reconstruction provides a fascinating insight into early Iron Age Scotland.
Further clues into the early goings on an Killin come from folklore. Killin is said to be the burial place of the mythical Celtic giant and warrior, Fingal. This is the same Fingal who gave his name to Fingal's Cave on the Island of Staffa and the giant of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. According to legend Fingal died at Eilean Lubhair, an island on Loch Dochart, east of Killin. Fingal had gone there from his home in Glencoe in order to confront his rival, Taileachd, over the hand of a woman. Fingal challenged Taileachd to backwards leaps from the island to the shore but after one such attempt Fingal fell into the water. Seizing the opportunity to rid himself of his rival, Taileachd chopped off Fingal's head. Fingal's followers, the Feinn, found his body downstream at the Falls of Dochart and buried him, marking the grave with a stone. The stone still marks the spot in the field behind Killin School. Taileachd vanished into the north carrying the severed head. One possible origin of the name of the village is Cill Fhinn, meaning 'burial place of Fingal' in Gaelic.
We are on more solid ground when we talk of the second figure of note in Killin's long history. St Fillian, who had studied under the famous St Columba on the island of Iona, came to the Killin area at the end of the 7th century. He set up his base at Kirkton from where he set about evangelising the area. Another possible origin of Killin's name may be related to this time: cill fionn is Gaelic for 'white church'. St Fillian is said to have founded the mill at Killin. Today Killin Old Mill doubles as the Tourist Information Office and the Folklore Centre; among its displays are the St Fillian's Healing Stones, which he is believed to have used to cure his flock's ills.
River Dochart, Killin
It is said that it was the relics of St Fillian which were paraded before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, possibly in recognition of the Abbot of Saint Fillian's Priory, in Glen Dochart. The Abbot blessed the future King Robert the Bruce on his way to being anointed in 1306, despite the fact that he had just murdered a contender for the throne, John Comyn, in Dumfries. The bell and crozier of St Fillian are now on display in the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.
Like many Scottish villages Killin has made a smooth transition from a largely agricultural economy to one based more and more on tourism. In this transition Killin has benefited greatly from its spectacular scenery, remarkable variety of leisure activities and rich history.During the middle ages many families settled in and around Killin. Such clans as the MacGregors and MacNabs were prominent in the area in the early middle ages while the McNaughtons, MacDairmids and Menzies were a force to be reckoned with much later.
By the 17th century the Campbells were the most powerful of the area's clans. Fanlairg Castle, one mile north of Killin, originally the seat of a branch of the Menzies family, was rebuilt in 1629 by Black Duncan Campbell. Sadly, today its two square towers stand in ruins; it is hard to believe that once nobles were executed in the beheading pit, that it was visited by the famous Rob Roy MacGregor in 1713, or that the Scottish Parliament was summoned here in 1651, although only three MPs actually turned up.