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Tour Perthshire on a relaxing small
group vacation of my homeland

" I look forward to showing you my historic
Scotland, as only a native Scot can. "

By any standards Perthshire is one of the truly great old counties of Scotland. In size it is the fourth largest of the old counties in Scotland, comprising 1,595,804 acres. But size is not everything; and despite having no extremely large city, it has a much larger population than the other Scots counties which top it in size, Inverness, Argyll and Ross and Cromarty. Yet it has no industrial area, apart from the town of Perth itself. It has its great mountain tracts, of course, including some of the most famous scenery in the United Kingdom; but there is an enormous amount of fertile, populous countryside--far more, probably, than is generally realised--its great green straits, or wide open valleys, its especial pride. Contrary, therefore, to frequent pronouncements, the true glory of Perthshire is not its hills and lochs, however fine--for in these it can be excelled by Argyll and Inverness-shire, Ross or Sutherland; it is in its magnificent, age-old settled lowlands, its characterful small towns and its unnumbered villages. Especially the latter. Here are, probably, more ancient and interesting small communities than anywhere else in Scotland. And these communities are unfortunately generally bypassed by the typical traveler.

Basically, Perthshire is the basin and catchment area of the great River Tay; although the south-west section, or Menteith (more properly Monteith) as its name suggests, is the mounth of the Teith, principal tributary of the Forth. But in the main, Perthshire's innumerable and often splendid rivers reach the sea via the silver Tay. The county has another basic feature--the great Highland Fault, which runs across Scotland from the Gareloch to the Tay, most of it in Perthshire. This, because in general it marks the division between Highlands and Lowlands, is important. The old county, therefore, has a split personality.

Owing to its great size and ancient lineage, Perthshire has always been split up into large sub-provinces, with very pronounced characteristics and identities of their own, mainly themselves ancient earldoms--Menteith, Strathearn, Gowrie, Atholl, Breadalbane, each with its own subdivisions. These, all themselves mighty areas, are the very stuff of Scotland's story, an integral and vital part of Scotland's exciting past. Perthshire is, in fact, a historically exciting county. Here, indeed, the past can be studied at its earliest, as far as Scotland is concerned, better than most; for it so happened that into Perthshire, Strathearn in especial, came the early Christian missionaries of the Irish Celtic Church, via Iona, the Brethren of Columba, to set up their cells and churches in these lovely valleys. The greatest concentration of early Celtic Church sites are here; also a large number of those quite extraordinary Pictish sculptured stones, with their symbols, things of splendid beauty and workmanship, full of as yet unsolved mystery, which so give the lie to the folly that the Picts were a race of savages, painting their bodies and going about half naked. Quite clearly these Pictish ancestors of ours, whom the Celtic Church missionaries Christianised, were a highly developed and artistic people, with unique culture. Perthshire is where they can best be studied, probably.

Each town, village and parish of the county is dealt with hereafter in some detail. But perhaps some reference here to the ancient basic divisions would be appropriate and revealing. Menteith is the most southerly, a large area stretching from the Allan Water to Loch Lomond, including the Doune, Callander and Trossachs districts; and of course the parish of Port of Menteith itself and the Lake thereof--no significance about that appellation of lake, despite the nonsense talked by some about it being the only lake in Scotland. It was called Loch of Menteith until well into the last century. The early Celtic Earls of Menteith were a great force in Scotland, for their territory straddled the waist of the country, and, moreover, held the line between Highlands and Lowlands. Their principal castle was on the island of Inch Talla, in the Loch of Menteith, where they kept up princely state, with the Priory of Inchmahome on the next islet; but when Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany, James I's cousin, married the heiress in the early I5th century, he found the island-fortress inconvenient, and built a great new castle at Doune, which thereafter became the capital of Menteith. On his execution, for treason, James split up the earldom, as being too powerful for any one subject, giving Doune and the eastern part to another branch of the Stewarts--who still hold it--and the rest, with the earldom itself, to the Grahams. Certain descendants of the Grahams, also, are still landholders here, though the earldom itself was eventually suppressed by Charles I in shameful fashion. Menteith is half Highland, half Lowland, fertile, scenic, non-industrial, typical indeed of the county as a whole. Being within easy reach of Edinburgh and Glasgow, it is very and deservedly popular with the visitor who has not time to 'do all the Highlands properly'.

For the Independent Traveler to Scotland we also offer help with Airfares, Hotel Packages, and Rail Travel.

Leave The Herd Behind With A Small Group Tour of Scotland

All my small group tours of Scotland, which often include my native Fife, are paced for discovery and understanding, not just notching sites. Each small group is limited to an absolute maximum of 18 people, with a typical small group being just 6 or 8 people. I prefer to guide these small groups through Scotland in a relaxing manner, staying at two or three base locations from which we can visit places of interest - and not have to move luggage every day.

Tour Scotland guests tend to be travelers rather than tourists, enjoying seeing behind the tourist facade, while visiting with " locals " and seeing sites not normally seen by the regular tourist. Many group members visit Scotland to trace their Scottish ancestry; others to golf or fish; most come to simply enjoy the beautiful scenery, historic buildings and gardens, and most of all, to meet and enjoy the people of Scotland. My Tours of Scotland can be best described as being " couthy. " It's a Scottish word meaning " gentle."

What goes into an unforgettable Tour of Scotland ? Lots of great scenery, for sure. Perhaps also a smidgen of something you can't quite put your finger on, but nevertheless creates a lasting impression. Maybe a piper playing in the pub; perhaps a conversation with a local; a shepherd working his dogs; fishermen landing their catch. All my previous group members have their own lists of defining moments. I wonder what yours will be ?

Any time from April through October is a really good time to Tour Scotland. Spring and early summer are my particular favorites. Forests, fields and glens offer a wonderful array of colors during that time of year, while the long Northern days of sunshine let you get out and enjoy it. There is also no shortage of things to do as all the best attractions are already open, and are far more relaxed away from the mid-summer crowds, whilst in the cities the Arts season is in full swing. But whenever you visit, you're always guaranteed a warm welcome in my Scotland. June through August is the best time to attend Highland Games on a Tour Scotland tour.

Here's a built by a couple of Tour Scotland members from last year. I think you will find the site interesting and informative. A Journey Through Scotland. For my latest Tours of Scotland photos click: May 2003 or Loch Ness.

Tour Scotland group members will have the opportunity to shop, play golf, visit local pubs and simply go for walks and enjoy local sights and sounds. Let me know your reasons for wishing to Tour Scotland, and see if I can best fit your needs. If you would like to visit independently, or as part of a small group tour, or on another Tour of Scotland, please e-mail me:

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Sandy Stevenson All rights reserved 2000

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