Life of Karen

Day 7: Bridge of Orchy

11.86 miles (the Nike Sportswatch is back in action!)

We left Ewich House this morning at 9am, looking forward to an easy day of walking. Our walk today started along a stream/river.

imageThe WHW led us to Strathmore farm where Fillan the Missionary traveled, spreading the teachings of Christianity to the Scots and the Picts. The remains of a priory, the Priory at Kirkton, built in the 8th century, after Fillan’s death, to honor him. This was also one of the things that lead him to be proclaimed a saint.image To the other side of the path was the priory cemetary, also dating back to the 8th century (over 1300 years ago – imagine).

A little bit further on (1-2 miles), as we followed the River Fillan, we came to the Holy Pool. The sign read:

imageAt this point, the River Fillan deepens and broadens into what is known as the Holy Pool. The pool is divided unequally into two by a rock formation that extends back into the field above. The deeper upstream section is known as “Pul nan Bain” (the pool of the women) and the lower pool as “Pul nan Fear” (the pool of the men). This peculiar devision of pool and its designation as “Holy” derived from its connection with an ancient healing ritual that was performed in the pool for many centuries. Tradition has it that St. Fillans first chapel was built on the north bank of the Holy Pool (though no trace is found today), and so the waters became imbued with his miraculous powers. These powers were though to be particularly useful in the treatment of mental disorders, though other ailments were treated here.

The healing ritual: Each month, toward the end of the first quarter of the moon, the sick gathered on the north bank of the Pool and were immersed in the waters appropriate to their sex, while their relatives prayed. Before they left the water, they had to bring nine stones with them. Once returned to the bank, they had to walk clockwise three times round each of three cairns set up on a mound behind the rock. Along with the stones, they would drop a piece of clothing most closely associated with the stricken part. The patient was then transferred a mile down the stream to the ruins of the Priory of Kirkton. In the center of the floor was a flat stone under which the saint was said to be buried. In front of this was a wooden rack-like structure known as St Fillan’s “Bed” to which the poor unfortunate was lashed. Their head was placed in the font, and the arrangement was completed by placing the Bernane Bell over their head. The patient was then covered with hay and left overnight. The next morning, their relatives returned, to check the ropes. If they were loosened, the patient would recover. If the ropes were still tied, they would just have to try again.

Although the pool was beautiful, reflecting the mountains in the distance, I am glad I didn’t have to be dunked…. the streams here are icy, chilly!

imageOur walk continued along the stream. There was one area where I was able to climb on the rocks to the middle of the river to get a picture. I have to admit (although I didn’t at the time) that the rocks were a bit slippery and I almost fell in!

In this area, the path led us by a large field that was the place of the Battle of Dochigh in 1306. According to Wikipedia, The Battle of Dalrigh, also known as the Battle of Dail Righ, Battle of Dalry or Battle of Strathfillan, was fought in the summer of 1306 between the army of King Robert I of Scotland against the Clan MacDougall of Argyll who were allies of Clan Comyn and the English. It took place at the hamlet of Dalrigh (the “King’s Field” in the Scottish Gaelic language) near Tyndrum in Argyll, Scotland (not to be confused with Dalry, Ayrshire). Bruce’s army, reeling westwards after defeat by the English at the Battle of Methven, was intercepted and all but destroyed, with Bruce himself narrowly escaping capture. The battle took place sometime between late July and early August, but the exact date is unknown.

imageFurther on, we passed the Loch of the Legend of the Lost Sword. A small lochan located in Strathfillan, near Tyndrum, Scotland along the West Highland Way.
The story goes that in 1306 when the Scottish outlaw Robert the Bruce was being pursued by the English he ordered his troops to lighten themselves by throwing their heavy weaponry into a small lochan on their route. Amongst these weapons was Robert the Bruce’s legendary sword. According to the legend the weapon was of huge size, reports going from between 5 and 9 feet in length. Shortly afterwards and only a mile from the loch Bruce was over hauled but despite being lightly armed they fought off the English and lived to fight another day.

We continued on through Tyndrum’s Community Forest and passed an area where a lead smelting plant used to stand. Although the plant had been gone for many years, the ground continues to be unable to support life and the area was bare and grey. We made it into the town of Tyndrum where we stopped for “elevenses” – our 11am snack time. As there was a store, along with a couple of geocaches, I popped in to get a “lollie” – or popsicle for you Americans. From here, the path followed the old military road – making the path quite wide and a little bit easier walking. It was still rocky, so you still had to watch where you stepped. As we left Tyndrum behind, we passed some Scots knee-deep in the stream where they were panning for gold. We wished them well and hoped they found the “mother-lode”! Our path was meadering through the valleys, with the mountains on both sides of us. In one area, we followed a stream bed down a hill and under a set of railroad tracks before picking up the military road again.

imageOne thing you will see – alot – are waterfalls. Little ones, and big ones. They seem to be every where. You can look up to the tops of the mountains and see where they seem to start. Just beautiful.

A couple of miles from our destination, we stopped by a stone walled bridge to have lunch, and find another geocache! L3 took a little break to sit on the stone wall as well. Once we hiked into Bridge of Orchy (found another cache) and found our hotel (not very difficult as it is about the only building in Bridge of Orchy, besides a church and a couple of houses), we found that we were too early to check into our rooms. No worries – the pub is right next door!

The days are settling into a pleasant rhythm: breakfast usually by 7-730, then off on our walk. We stop for a break around 11, then again at 1 for lunch. If it is a longer day, we will have another break in the afternoon, if not, we push on to our accomodaions. Once settled in and showered, there is time for drinks in the pub and if we have internet, we catch up on emails and blogging. Dinner is usually at 7 in a local pub, then off to bed to get ready for the next day.

See you all tomorrow!

One thought on “Day 7: Bridge of Orchy

  1. Sondra Weitzel

    So much interesting information! And the pictures are wonderful! Couldn’t help but smile when you said “they would drop a piece of clothing most closely associated with the stricken part”…wonder if somebody had hemorrhoids??? :)

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