Rod and Andrea served us a very nice Scottish breakfast at Glenardran House, and we set off on our climb out of Crianlarich. There was a light rain coming down for most of the day, but it didn’t have any effect on our hike.
The day started with a climb of about 250 ft to get back to the WHW, where we would start our 6-mile hike to Tyndrum. From there, it was a pretty steep 300 ft climb to about 1,100 feet, our highest elevation for the day.
Priory of Saint Fillan
After descending about 500 feet, passing under a rail line, and crossing the River Fillan, we came to the ruins of the Priory of Saint Fillan. Saint Fillan was an Irish evangelist who had come to Scotland in the 7th century to convert the Picts and the Scots to Christianity. Many miracles have been attributed to Saint Fillan, and Robert the Bruce is said to have taken a holy relic of the saint with him at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Bruce set up this priory in 1318.
Strathfillan Trading Post
We stopped for a snack along the trail at the Strathfillan Trading Post, which advertises ‘fresh caught haggis!’. A strath is a large valley, typically a river valley, that is wide and shallow (as opposed to a glen, which is typically narrower and deep). Strathfillan stretches from Crianlarich, northwest to Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy. The trading post was a great place for a quick break and a snack.
Battle of Dalrigh
It was the summer of 1306, and Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) had just been crowned King of Scots at Scone Palace. Unfortunately, along the way he had made many enemies. Years earlier, England’s King Edward I had tasked Bruce and John III ‘Red’ Comyn (Bruce’s main competition for the throne) to serve as the joint guardians of Scotland, operating under King Edward’s watchful eye. But after generations of competitions for the crown, the Bruce and Comyn families hated each other. And so, on February 10, 1306, Bruce lured Red Comyn to the Greyfriars Church in Dumfries for a meeting. There, he stabbed him to death at the high altar. By this act, Bruce, by summer, would not only taste English wrath, but soon after, that of his countrymen as well.
Edward I was furious at the murder of his Scottish subject, and so he sent his army north to do battle with Bruce under the leadership of Aymer de Valence, the brother-in-law of the slain Comyn. By the summer of 1306, Valence’s army had made camp in Perthshire, and had linked up with Comyn’s supporters north of the border. Bruce arrived with his forces to do battle, but instead of engaging, he retired with his forces to camp for the night, secure that he would not do battle until daylight, as nighttime attacks were against the feudal rules of military engagement. But Valence broke with convention, and avenged his brother-in-law by routing Bruce and his forces in the nighttime attack which would later be called the Battle of Perth.
This defeat was not the end of the Bruce’s troubles. As Bruce and the remnants of his forces were being pursued by Valence, he was met by about a thousand of his countrymen from the powerful Clan MacDougall at the field shown in the photo below. Although Clan MacDougall and Robert Bruce had been allies during the Wars of Independence in 1296, it turns out that Red Comyn was also the nephew of the Clan Chief, and so after his murder, Clan MacDougall allied themselves with Edward I of England.
Caught by surprise, the battle was a short, frantic engagement. At one point, on horseback, but cut off from his troops, Bruce was fighting alone when a MacDougall grabbed his cloak to pull Bruce from his horse. Bruce killed him, but he lost his cloak in so doing. The dead MacDougall was later found still grasping Bruce’s cloak with his brooch still attached. This brooch is still in the possession of the clan to this day. During the battle, the last of Bruce’s horsemen were killed, and several of his key allies were injured. But Bruce and a handful of men escaped with their lives. Afterwards, it is said that Bruce credited his deliverance to an intercession by Saint Fillan, for whom he later built the priory described above.
The English translation of the Gaelic Dal Righ is ‘place of the King’.
Loch of the Lost Sword
As Bruce and his remaining men were escaping Dalrigh, it is said that they jettisoned their heavy armaments into a small lochan. It is said the sword of Robert the Bruce still lies beneath the surface.
After his escape, Robert Bruce went into hiding. But within two years, he went on to defeat the MacDougalls at the Battle of the Pass of Brander.
On approach to Tyndrum, we passed through an area that, at various times between 1741 and 1862, was used to process lead, zinc, and silver that had been discovered by Sir Robert Clifton in the hills above the town. Not extensive, but now the area is a wasteland covered with the tailings of crushed ore in which nothing will grow.
Reaching the Tyndrum Inn right at 3:00 pm, this turned out to be one of the easiest days walking during our trip. After getting settled, we had a drink and a snack at the bar, sharing our adventures with a group of former Scottish military who were hiking the trail as well. Then we went for dinner at The Real Food Cafe, which was recommended to us by Rod, back at Glenardran House, as an excellent place for fish & chips. Boy, was he right! They served fresh salads and soups, and fantastic fish & chips, with big fillets of fresh haddock. This was a great way to end the day.