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The little burgh of Doune in Stirlingshire is a proud place, and worthy of its pride. It is the capital of Menteith, more properly Monteith, the mouth of the River Teith, which was once one of the great earldoms and divisions of ancient Scotland. Near by stands one of the finest castles in this, or any other, land. Doune had, inevitably, a stirring history. And it is an attractive place, attractively sited, old fashioned and authentic.



The town stands where the Ardoch Burn comes down from the northern heights to join the Teith, four miles west of Dunblane and 8 miles south-east of Callander, where the A.84 and A.820 roads also join; and behind it, the Bracs of Doune, not to be confused with the "banks and braes of bonnie Doon", in Ayrshire, rise in great folds to the high heather hills of the Ben Vorlich and Forest of Glenartney range. The Teith, rushing down from its double sources in the Trossachs and Lubnaig areas, has formed here a great and wooded valley through the foothills, so that Doune is a comparatively hilly place. The main street is picturesque at both ends, with in the center, the great, gaunt parish church of 1822, with its 1150 sittings, tall tower and graveyard.  At the west end, is the little triangular market place, with its typical old Mercat Cross in the center, relic of the days when cattle and sheep fairs, authorized by special Act of Parliament in 1665, made Doune a busy place. To the south from here, the main road crosses the Teith by a fine two-arched bridge, later widened, but first built in 1535 by Robert Spittal, the Stirling tailor of James IV's widow, Margaret Tudor, the same who founded Spittal's Hospital, Stirling, and built also the bridge at Bannockburn. He was a great public benefactor, but the story of this bridge shows a less noble side of the man; for it is said that he erected it to spite the ferry-man here, who had refused the wealthy tailor passage because he had no money about his person at the time. It was built, therefore, to do the other out of a living, though no doubt to the great advantage of the good folk of Doune.

The town used to be greatly famed for the manufacture of Highland pistols by its craftsmen, and indeed the burgh sign still shows two pairs of crossed pistols on either side of the Mercat Cross. Nowadays Doune pistols are almost worth their weight in gold. Sporrans also were made here. But when, after the Forty-Five, the Proscription Acts from London banned the wearing of Highland dress, and pacification was the order of the day, a different kind of manufacture came to replace these, cotton-milling and distilling.

At one time there were no fewer than five churches in the little town, the Parish, the Free, the United Presbyterian, the Roman Catholic and the Episcopalian, something of a plethora, surely, for a population which could not even fill the first.


Doune Castle is not readily glimpsed from the town itself, strangely enough lying in a low but strong position at the junction of Ardoch and Teith. It is a large and magnificent courtyard-type castle of the  14th and early 15th centuries, and its splendors and exciting history may only be hinted at here. It consists of two great and tall keeps,, linked by a lower range of building containing a notable Great Hall with center-of-the-floor fireplace, to form the north side of a quadrangular court, the other three sides being enclosed by a tremendous 40 feet-high curtain-wall, 8 feet thick and topped by a parapet and wall-walk. Of the two keeps, the older and higher is to the north-east, with the doorway pend driving through. Although undoubtedly there was an older nucleus, most of the present castle was built by Robert, Duke of Albany, brother of Robert III, who had married the heiress Countess of Menteith, and by his son, Murdoch, 2nd Duke, both Regents of Scotland during young James I's enforced exile in England, for which exile, in due course, the said James had off Duke Murdoch's head. The original principal messuage-place of this ancient Celtic earldom was the castle on the island of Inch Talla, in the Lake of Menteith; but this proving an inconvenient place when times grew a little more settled, it was moved to Doune, which really should be called the Doune, or Dun of Monteith. After the execution of Murdoch Stewart and his sons, the castle and earldom was merged with the Crown, until James IV settled it on his English queen, Margaret Tudor, who, in 1525 passed it to her third husband, Henry Stewart, Lord Methven, actually a descendant of Albany. James V granted it to another of the same Stewart line, who became Lord Doune and whose grandson married the Regent Moray's daughter, to become himself the famed Bonnie Earl of Moray of the ballad. Their descendant is still the owner; and though the castle fell into partial ruin, the then Earl of Moray restored it in 1883. It is, naturally, a magnet for visitors, and is open from 9 to 6 daily, or dusk if earlier. Here stayed Mary Queen of Scots, and many another royal figure. Rob Roy's nephew, Gregor MacGregor of Glengyle, garrisoned it for Prince Charles Edward in 1745, during which siege one of the prisoners was the young Reverend John Home, of Athelstaneford, captured while fighting for the government at the Battle of Falkirk. He managed to lower himself from a window by a blanket-rope and made his escape. An exciting episode for a clergyman, a poet and the author of the Douglas tragedy, for which last flirtation with the theatrical he aroused the wrath of the Presbytery of Edinburgh and had to vacate his pulpit.

When Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed on location in Scotland, different sides of Doune Castle were used to depict the different castles in the film, relying on rather tight framing of shots to maintain the illusion.

Not far to the east of Doune Castle, on higher ground, is the most attractive late 6th century lesser laird's house of Newton Doune, a small L-planned fortalice, harled and pink-washed, unusual in that its wing has a rounded not a square gable. It was the residence of a branch of the Edmonstone of Duntreath family, who became hereditary captains of the great castle close by, for the Earls of Moray. Like their masters, they remained loyal to the royal house of Stewart, and in 1708 the Edmonstone Laird of Newton was one of the five Perthshire lairds arrested in an abortive Jacobite attempt. It is interesting to note that, in September 1745, Prince Charlie 'pree'd the mou', kissed the mouth, of Miss Robina Edmonstone, at Doune Lodge, near by, although this house was then called Cambuswallace. It is a handsome white mansion, standing pleasingly on a green terrace above parkland, just over a mile west of the town, and is now the seat of the Earl of Moray's heir, Lord Doune.



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