Kirkmichael, Perth and Kinross
Kirkmichael is a village located in Strathardle, Perth and Kinross, Scotland. It is 13 miles NNW of Blairgowrie and 12 miles ENE of Pitlochry on the A924 from Bridge of Cally to Pitlochry road and is linked to the A93 Perth to Aberdeen road by the B950. The village is centred around the bridge over the River Ardle.
The name Kirkmichael means "The Church of St Michael"; the Gaelic name is Cill Mhìcheil. The village dates back over a thousand years and was at one time an important market in the cattle trade between the Highlands and Lowlands with various drove roads converging on the village. The area became popular as a holiday resort following Queen Victoria's building of Balmoral Castle in nearby Deeside and many of the local shooting lodges or "big houses" as they are known were built at that time. Traditionally they were occupied for "the season" of August and September which included the all important Glorious Twelfth when grouse shooting started. The location of the village in the geographical centre of Scotland at the gateway to the Cairngorm National Park and the convenience of roads leading north, south, east and west has again made it a popular holiday destination.
The village is split into two by the River Ardle. On the north side is the A924 Main Street with the church, Session House community centre, Kirkmichael Hotel, shop, garage and traditional properties dating from the late 19th century. On the south side are the Primary School, Bannerfield, the fire station, the original part of the village known as Williamston, the village hall, the disused Free Kirk, more recent properties in Sillerburn Road and Whitefield View, the cemetery, Balnald and Balnakilly. The village has suffered from depopulation in recent years for instance in the main street there are thirteen holiday letting properties, six empty or weekend homes and only twelve permanently occupied properties and apart from Milford Vintage Engineering and the village shop there is no industry or employment. Permanent population is approx 150. However Kirkmichael is still a vibrant and lively community with various youth groups, Scottish Woman's Institute, knitting group, village bloom group, annual flower festival, highland games, agricultural show, pub quiz nights, pool team, darts team, vintage vehicle club and more.
The original village known as Williamston sits above the school on the original highway from Blairgowrie to Blair Atholl which entered the village past the Hall and Old Kirk and exited by the road to Balnakilly. This now forms part of the Cateran Trail long distance trail, a circular route taking in Blairgowrie, Bridge of Cally, Kirkmichael, Enochdhu, Spittal of Glenshee, Kirkton of Glenisla and Alyth which takes around five days to walk.
Kirkmichael primary school sits on the south side of the bridge. The school's catchment area incorporates Strathardle, Kirkmichael, Glenshee, Blacklunans and Bridge of Cally. Pupils continue their secondary school education at Blairgowrie High School. Over its lifetime, the school has been extended from a single storey to a two storey building and in 2007 a new nursery building was added. The grounds contain an all weather sports court which is available for public use out with school hours.
The Kirks & Session House
The Church of Scotland Kirk dates back to the 18th century and is built on a site used for worship for over one thousand years. It is surrounded by the original graveyard which contains graves dating back many centuries. The east end of the graveyard which does not have headstones or individual graves is the site of a mass burial plot for the victims of the Black Death plague of 1348 which has never been reopened. The cemetery on Balnald Road was opened in the 1950s. Kirkmichael parish was first linked with Straloch, then with Glenshee/Bridge of Cally and finally with Rattray with the minister now using Rattray manse. The original manse opposite the church was sold in the 1970s and was replaced first by a bungalow in Glenshee then in the 1980s by another bungalow on the Balnald road which is now rented out.
The disused Free Kirk, known as the Duff Memorial Church, was built in the late 19th century by the break away Free Church of Scotland. In 1928 the Free Kirk amalgamated back into the Church of Scotland with the two churches being used on alternate Sundays until the Duff Memorial finally closed in the 1950s. It was then used as an agricultural building and in the late 1990s the Village Hall committee drew up plans to acquire the building, restore it to its former glory and provide the village with a 21st-century Community Hall. However it was sold to a property developer who then found his plan for conversion to a house was impossible and unfortunately the old kirk still sits empty and disused. The Free Kirk manse became a SYHA youth hostel and for 30 years was very popular with cyclists and hikers especially from Dundee. It is now a private house. Opposite the Old Manse is a cottage which was originally the parish poorhouse.
The Session House community building is a well used meeting place for various community groups and is home to the well subscribed local email Newsgroup information service. Its existence and success owe much to the foresight and tenacity of the parish minister in the 1990s, the Rev Dr Hugh Ormiston. Originally the parish school it was latterly used as a vestry and Sunday School and was in poor condition before its restoration into the well equipped building of today.
The Village Shop
The village shop is run by a community interest company with local unpaid directors and incorporates a lively and popular coffee shop. The shop is normally a hive of activity and very much the centre of village life. The adjacent workshop is home to Milford Vintage Engineering who specialise in the service, maintenance, repair and restoration of vintage and veteran vehicles. The building was erected in 1958 on the site of the disused blacksmith's smithy and garden ground as a sales and repair garage and the shop occupies the former showroom area. At one time Kirkmichael had four shops, one in the house at the school end of Williamston which closed in the early 20th century and three in Main Street. One was in the white building now known as MacDonald Cottage. It closed in 1983. The two others were side by side in the three storey building opposite the present shop. The Post Office/newsagents closed in 1990 and was taken over by the General Store which closed in 2000. The present shop then opened within the former car showroom.
The Village Hall was opened in 1934 after a period of intense fundraising and is managed by a committee of volunteers. It is used by various local groups including brownies, cubs, martial arts and keep fit, the primary school for Physical Education classes and is home to local functions. It was comprehensively modernised and refurbished in 2018 and is an important asset for the community.
Masonic Lodge Strathardle was restarted in the late 1950s after many years in abeyance and was originally located in the east end of the property known as Meadowside. When Meadowside changed hands about ten years later the Lodge relocated to the annexe of the village hall.
The Fire Station
The Fire Station - the 3rd version built in the 1990s - is manned by a part-time crew with a modern appliance. The original 1960s station was a wooden hut adjacent to Riverview containing equipment and a trailer pump with Kirkmichael Garage providing a towing vehicle as required. The second station was on the present site in Bannerfield and was a basic tin Nissen Hut shed housing a Karrier Gamecock appliance but with no crew facilities. The current station is fitted and equipped to a high standard with office and training facilities.
Historical Monuments & Memorials
The War Memorial
The War Memorial which was erected after World War One sits above the road between the village and the Strathardle Inn. It is sadly neglected and overgrown and the panoramic views it once provided over Kirkmichael are now blocked by trees. The best views are from the B950 at Ballinloan and from the road to Glen Derby.
The Small Monument
Off the footpath from the village to Glenshee lies Whitefield Castle, a ruined hunting lodge built by King Malcolm Canmore in the 11th century. It is remarkably well preserved considering it has had no restoration and can be clearly seen from the road past the cemetery and the Glen Derby road.
The Minister's Well
The old roadside water well opposite the church is fed by an underground spring which never runs dry. The ice cold water has an excellent clean sharp taste and is completely drinkable.
Strathardle Highland Gathering & Agricultural Show is held annually in Kirkmichael on the fourth Saturday of August. The Gathering is currently held in Bannerfield with the Agricultural Show in the adjacent field. Known locally as "the Games", the highlights of the day include:
- Agricultural Show with various livestock classes.
- Home Industries Tent
- Vintage Vehicles
- Trade Stands
- Pipe Band
- Highland Dancing & Piping Competitions
- Track & Heavy Events
- Open Tug'o'War
- A Unique Musical Cars event - similar to musical chairs but involving cars driving round the ring.
The Gathering started in 1871 and has been held annually apart from the war years of 1914-18 and 1940-45, Locations included Croft of Dounie, Aldchlappie and Dalnagairn before settling on the current Bannerfield location in the late 1940s.
The founders of the original games were Alexander Petrie of Strathgarry, Killiecrankie (originally of Ballinloan, Kirkmichael), "Mr Michie" of Cluneskea, Enochdhu, "Mr James Stewart" and "Mr James Dow". It is recorded that Petrie et al approached James Small of Dirnanean with a proposal to hold an annual gathering, a proposal to which Small gave his "warm approval". Petrie himself subsequently competed in the games of his own founding, principally via "titling the ring" on horseback.
The Agricultural Show started in the late 1950s and now attracts a large entry of quality livestock. For over a century three generations of the Evans family from Glasgow attended the Gathering with their travelling funfair and sideshows and "Evans shows" as they were known were an integral part of the Games and of village life. In the 1950s and 1960s the fair stayed for two weeks and attracted large crowds with bingo, slot machines and shooting the main attractions. The Evans made their last visit in 2009.
Kirkmichael is the largest village in Strathardle. Known locally as "the glen", the Strath runs for 13 miles from Glen Brerachean on the Moulin Moors to the confluence of the River Ardle and the Blackwater just east of Bridge of Cally. Other settlements along the A924 are Straloch, Enochdhu, Ballintuim and Bridge of Cally. The Ardle starts opposite the road to Glenfernate where the Brerachean and the Fernate meet and is bridged at Enochdhu, Kirkmichael, Pitcarmick, Dalnabreck,Ballintuim, Blackcraig, Cally Lodge and Bridge of Cally. The bridge to Blackcraig is of architectural significance as it has a house built over it. The house on the bridge is one of the glen's best kept secrets. Strathardle is named after a Pictish warrior called Ardle who was killed at Enochdhu in a battle with the Danes in the 12th century. His burial mound in the grounds of Dirnanean Lodge is over twelve feet long but whether he was a giant as reputed or had another warrior buried at his feet is unknown!
Public transport connects Kirkmichael with Blairgowrie, Tarvie and Spittal of Glenshee. (See Stagecoach Buses for the seasonal timetable.) The nearest railway station is Pitlochry (12 miles) from where there is direct express service to London including the Caledonian overnight sleeper.
There are three hotels, the Kirkmichael Hotel, the Strathardle Inn and the Valhalla Lodge. The Kirkmichael Hotel was originally a large coaching inn but is now partly converted to holiday flats with the remaining part operating as a small hotel/restaurant/bar. The Strathardle Inn was originally called the Aldchlappie Hotel after the Allt Chlappie burn which runs nearby with the name being changed in the late 1990s. Many locals still call it Aldchlappie or "the Chlappie". The Valhalla Lodge opened in 1968 under the name of The Edelweiss and quickly became popular as a night-spot and ski-ing base. Concentrating on the ski-ing and holiday market in the 1980s the name was changed to The Log Cabin then in 2014 it became The Pinetrees Lodge. New owners in 2018 gave it the current name.
Kirkmichael offers a choice of self-catering properties ranging from cottages to apartments and log cabins. Kirkmichael Village Cottages offer modernised traditional cottages and Kirkmichael Apartments offer a choice of modern apartments.
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- "Atholl Farmer's Retiral". The People's Journal. 24 October 1936. p. 10.