Kippen, Fintry and Balfron all have something to offer and merit a visit or a longer stay.
The area has a gentler nature than the landscape we find further north as we are now south of the highland boundary fault which separates the highlands from lowlands. The Fintry hills and the Campsie hills create an interesting landscape through which a maze of minor roads wind - for clarity these are not shown on the map.
To the north of Kippen is the valley of the river Forth as it winds its way through what was once a huge expanse of mossland (Flanders Moss) from Stirling to its source near Balfron. This was the place where the legendary outlaw Rob Roy MAcGregor hid the cattle he removed from the wealthier land owners whilst he found a buyer for them. Of course Flanders moss is no longer the barrier it once was due to its being drained by the landowners to provide valuable agricultural land. Some small parts of Flanders Moss have been preserved.
The famous trout fishery of Lake of Menteith with its island priory is in the same valley.
To the south east beside the road from Fintry to Denny (B818) is the Carron Valley Reservoir which offers secluded picnic spots and woodland walks along the waterside. The road runs for 4 miles along the reservoir, water supply for Falkirk and Grangemouth, and is a popular fishing spot.
The small hamlet of Carron Bridge lies at the east end of Carron Valley reservoir.
Kippen is a small village between the Gargunnock and Fintry hills and overlooking the valley of the River Forth between Killorn Moss and Stirling. The village commands enviable views over the low lying drained mossland to the hills and mountains of the highland boundary fault. Kippen and the nearby Kippen Muir are steeped in history and legend.
Located next to the Cross, the old Kippen Smiddy is a National Trust for Scotland property which was restored and opened in 1982 and which shows the tools and skills of the traditional blacksmiths and how they worked within the local communities.
Near to the memorial shown in the photograph is the ancient village burial ground of Kippen which contains some interesting headstones.
Several interesting footpaths from Kippen make for interesting rambing.
From Kippen the B822 road winds its way up the hill past Cauldhame and on into the hills passing a couple of small lochs before dropping down the south side of the hills to find the village of Fintry. Fintry lies at the head of Strathendrick, the valley in which the Endrick Water flows down from the Fintry Hills in the Campsie Fells. On entering Fintry, Culcreuch castle is passed on the left.
Culcreuch Castle is one of the main buildings in Fintry. It was built as a three story tower house in the 1400s. The castle and lands became the property of Alexander Spiers who built a water powered cotton mill to employ a thousand people to the east of Fintry on the Endrick Water
The castle has been renovated and is still in commercial use. It has an unusual claim to fame in having the largest colony of bats in the UK which compete with three ghosts: the Phantom Harper, the 'Grey man' and a ghostly animal head.
The earlier settlement on this site, Culcreuch, with its own mill and church was here by the early 1600s . The village expanded to accommodate the mill workers, and a larger church was built around to old one in the early 1800s. Interestingly the old church continued to be used during construction and was then demolished to leave the building which is now Fintry church and which still uses the ancient bell of the original church.
The mill closed but Fintry with its beautiful setting around the bridge and its convenient location makes it a popular destination. Fintry has twice been declared 'Scotland's best kept village' and continues to be an attractive village to this day. The village also has its own well used village hall and two pubs.
Some of the walks around the Fintry and Campsie hills should prove interesting with good views to the north and south - I have not yet tried them but will elaborate once I have the opportunity!
Balfron's story begins with a legend. While the men-folk were at the place of sacrifice above the village - they heard screams from the settlement below and rushed back to find that the children of the village had been taken by wolves. This gave the village its name "bail'-a-bhroin", Balfron, the town of mourning.
Similarly to Fintry it was the building of Ballindalloch Cotton Works which led to the expansion of the village. Tourism grew here with the transport network associated with the mill although the motor car has made Balfron a pleasantly quiet base for a holiday.
The church of Balfron belonged to the Abbey of Inchaffray. It was held with Killearn in 1567. The church was rebuilt in 1832.
Balfron Golf Club was dissolved and the land given up for agricultural use during the 2nd World War but in 1994. Robin Hiseman, the Scottish golf architect, recreated the course from its original nine-hole layout and the result is a great country course that's playable by all.
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