The ancient heart of Strathardle Glen.
Located in Strathardle, 13 miles north-west of Blairgowrie, Kirkmichael village dates back over 1,000 years and was once 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 after Balmoral Castle was built for Queen Victoria in nearby Deeside, and many of the local shooting lodges, known as “big houses”, were built at that time.
Although the village is picturesque and peaceful place now, in the days of the Covenanters, who opposed the Stuart kings interfering in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, rival armies caused much destruction in the area.
Despite its small permanent population of around 150, Kirkmichael is a vibrant and lively community with Scottish Women’s Institute meetings, a knitting group, a book club, a village bloom group, an annual flower festival, a Highland games, pub quiz nights, a pool team, a darts team, various youth groups, and more.
Kirkmichael is the largest community in Strathardle Glen which has been inhabited since the Iron Age and possibly even earlier.
Remains of iron age huts and several large standing stones can be seen in the area.
The Glen, as it is known locally, is liberally scattered with myth and legend, as well as the sites of ancient battles.
The area owes its name to Prince Ardle, a nobleman who died in 903 AD at Enochdhu while fighting off a Danish invasion. He was laid to rest where he fell with two of his henchmen who were also killed. The burial mound is 18 feet long and 3 feet wide with a standing stone at one end and a small boulder at the other and many now refer to it as the 'Giant’s Grave', although other historians propose that the Prince and his henchmen were buried feet to feet.
After King Malcom III and his Queen Margaret founded the Abbey in Dunfermline, Roman churches were built all over Scotland. Coupar Angus Abbey, founded in 1161/2, was given much of the lands of Strathardle and Glenshee by Royal Charter and the first church in Kirkmichael was built on the site of the current Kirk in 1184. Today’s Kirk, built in the 18thc, is surrounded by the original graveyard and at one end there is a mass burial plot for the victims of the Black Death of 1348.
During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries much of the land in the area formed part of the hunting grounds of the Kings of Scotland. To this day the area continues to offer outstanding sporting opportunities.
Strathardle has always been well located for travellers and traders and a well known cattle market was established in Kirkmichael, positioned as it was at the meeting place of two droving routes over the hills – the route over the Cairnwell Pass from Braemar and that through Glen Fernate. By the middle of the 18thc this market or ‘Tryst’ (derived probably from the old word ‘triste’ or ‘trust’) as they were called, became one of the biggest in Scotland lasting for several days and sometimes a week.
Deals were not always conducted in ‘trystful’ fashion though as the local people were often involved in feuds and skirmishes with Caterans, who raided the area to steal cattle.
The 6th Earl of Mar, standard bearer for the Jacobite uprising of 1715, raised his banner at what is now Bannerfield, in Kirkmichael, and departed with his men to the somewhat inconclusive Battle of Sheriffmuir. Exactly 150 years later Queen Victoria travelled through the glen and established the area as a place for holidays and relaxation.
Strathardle remains an area of outstanding natural beauty with wooded glens, extensive wildlife, and good walking. Agriculture, tourism and small businesses now exist side by side the length of the Ardle.