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Throughout the last 150 years, the River Allan has had a chequered history.
During the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715 the Jacobites were driven back in fighting retreat as far as the River Allan East of Kinbuck, during which many were probably killed particularly at the crossing of the Allan.
During the industrial revolution, paper and woollen mills sprang up along its banks. At one time there were 10 mills along the Allan Water between Bridge of Allan and Dunblane including paper mills, meal mills and sawmills, diverting the waters for industrial use and often pumping them back with chemicals and other toxic waste.
There is one remaining dam and Mill at Ashfield now used as a business premises. This was once the site of a meal mill on a narrow part of the river where water power could be easily harnessed. Today the Mill is once again using water power, this time to power a turbine for electricity generation.
The river seems much cleaner today than it was when I first paddled it in the late 80's.
The Allan Water has its source as a tiny burn at the head of Strathallan, a valley which lies between the A9 Stirling/Perth road and Crieff. Its total length is 35km. The Allan Water occupies a broad flat valley with steep lateral tributaries. Geology: predominantly Old Red Sandstone. It only becomes a more sizeable stream after it is joined by the River Knaik, not far from Greenloaning.
An ancient burgh, situated in the valley of the Allan Water 6 miles (9½ km) north of Stirling, Dunblane is said to have been founded in 602 AD by the Celtic missionary St Blane who lived on the Dun, or hill fort, behind the town. After St Blane's death in 640 AD, Dunblane became a stronghold of the old Celtic church whose clergy began to build the cathedral tower that forms the lower storeys of the building erected much later in the 13th century.
The town developed at a crossing on the Allan Water, reaching a peak of prosperity in 1500 when King James IV gave it the status of a city. Allan Water is spanned by a 16thC single arch bridge as it flows through the town.
Bonnie Prince Charlie held a ball at Dunblane on the way south with his ill-fated Jacobite army in 1745.
After the Reformation landowners took back land that had been held by the church and starved of funds the cathedral became ruinous. At the same time, the town declined to the level of a weaving village. During the 19th century Dunblane's fortunes were revived when it became a noted tourist resort and between 1889 and 1893 the cathedral was renovated.
In Victorian times Dunblane became a popular Spa town like others in Perthshire - places away from the 19thC industrial cities to where those who were better off could escape via the new railways which arrived here in 1848.
During the 19thC there was a thriving textile industry locally with woollen and silk dyeing mills.
With the local government reorganisation of Scotland in 1975 the town did not remain with the majority of Perthshire, which was administered as Perth & Kinross, but was transfered to Stirling District, became Central Region and is now Stirling Council.
Bridge of Allan
largely residential town, Bridge of Allan is situated between the Allan Water and the wooded western end of the Ochil Hills. The earliest record of a bridge here is from 1520, the remains of a predecessor to the present bridge being still visible in the river with its former parapet running towards an old corn mill (1710) that was part of the clachan of Bridgend, a community that eventually grew into Bridge of Allan.
The village developed during the 19th Century as a spa resort, succeeding the clachan of Bridgend and the nearby settlement of Pathfoot which was the focal point of copper mining on the Airthrey Estate from the 16th century until 1815. The wooded hill above the town is called mine woods where copper was mined as early as the 16th century and at intervals thereafter right up to 1807. The main audit (entrance shaft) of the mine can still be seen today in mine woods. The copper was used in the mint at Stirling to produce the first coinage of bawbees for the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. In the 18th two more shafts were created to drain spring water from the mine. This mineralised water soon attracted large numbers of people who came to "take the waters" due to its alleged healing powers. In 1820 samples of the water were analysed and shown to be rich in dissolved minerals. This eventually led to the development of the Spa which was developed by Sir Robert Abercrombie who was aware of the growing number of people visiting the Trossachs which had been popularised by Sir Walter Scott. The settlement expanded from 1846 with the arrival of the railway, its prosperity being reflected in a growing number of fine Victorian villas and public buildings including the Fountain of Niniveh, Museum Hall and Holy Trinity Church (1860).
Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Dickens are among the many writers who visited Bridge of Allan during its heyday as a spa.