History of Strathtay Village
The village of Strathtay is situated in the heart of Highland Perthshire on the north bank of the river Tay, an area of outstanding natural beauty. The village nestles in the foothills by the river, sitting below Pitcastle Estate. The village stretches from the Tulliepowrie burn in the east over a number of sinks and burns to the Findynate sink in the west. At these points the northern backdrop of the estate hills fall to meet the river. The Tay runs wildly and dangerously under the bridge which forms the crossing into neighbouring Grandtully.
The “old” Strathtay covered a wider area of the hills with a number of scattered hill settlements. By the eighteenth century people were moving down into the strath and the village as it is known today was gradually formed. The original settlement was at the east of the village at Tullypourie burn where evidence of the earlier history can still be seen. One can see the remains of an old meal mill located near the burn. The witches of Strathtay and Grandtully had their great meeting place at Tullypourie and the witches stones can still be seen here. The Church of the Holy Cross also remains. This was a former Episcopal Church which was donated to the Roman Catholic Church by The Steuarts of Ballechin and opened for worship in 1876. The church has been recently restored under private ownership.The Steuarts dominate the graveyard dating back to before the seventeenth century. By 1800 the eastern end of Strathtay had become the centre, dominated by the monastery and convent. The Gushat, previously a foundry, became the village shop. The area of the village around the Gushat was originally called Inver and the area from Lyon Cottage to the Battlebridge, which crosses the Ault Blair Burn, was known as New Inver. There was a ferry crossing over to Grandtully Mill from the little beach area below Dundarave. The ferryman's cottage is shown right.
The village expanded following the arrival of the railway in Highland Perthshire in 1865, the opening of the bridge to Grandtully in 1868 and general road improvements which made Strathtay easily accessible from the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. Many travellers now had the opportunity to visit this beautiful area of Highland Perthshire. Many Dundee merchants and wealthy Victorians built superb baronial style granite homes which are tucked away around the village and overlooking north banks of the fast flowing Tay. Under the old Feudal Superior system, land was feud from the local estate with stringent conditions requiring substantial villas built of stone, single houses on large plots and houses and grounds to be upheld and maintained in good repair. The result is that the village is now widely regarded as a Victorian rarity.
The Strathtay golf course opened in 1909. It was designed by a local landowner, Captain Steuart of Ballechin Estate, which then owned the land. In 1984 the Club acquired ownership of the land with the benefit of a grant from the Sports Council. The adjacent picture was taken at the opening in 1909. It is a testing 9 hole golf course which has been upgraded to allow to be played as 18 holes in time for the Centenary celebrations in 2009.
The bridge provided access for Strathtay to the newly opened railway line and station in neighbouring Grandtully. The bridge was built at a cost of £1200 and had an 8 ton limit. Now after much signs of wear and tear a 3 ton limit exists. The adjacent news story refers to a severe thunderstorm in 1910 which caused much damage to the village. The bridge was rendered impassable after only 30 minutes of the deluge and it was thought Kindrochet Cottage might be washed away. Many buildings and gardens became submerged in one to two feet of water.
Next to the bridge on the north bank of The Tay used to lie the old lint and meal mill. It no longer exists and in 1920 John N. Kyd, a Dundee Jute baron and owner of Pitcastle Estate built a power station close to the site which supplied energy to the estate up until the mid 1960’s. The building still stands but is in disrepair. However the old mill stone can still be seen on the site. Nearby are two old river terraces formed during the lesser Ice Age.
Also, close to the bridge is the war memorial which reminds us of all those in Strathtay and Grandtully who gave their lives during the war - 21 Strathtay men in the 1st World War and a further 9 in the 2nd World war. There is also a plaque in commemoration of Charles Brockbank from Birmingham drowned in 1873 possibly one of the first canoeing tourists to the area and still the only one to drown on the rapids!
Of the four churches that existed in Strathtay, two are still in use. Strathtay Parish Kirk was originally established in 1900 by The Church of Scotland as a mission church to serve the spiritual needs of the growing population. The minister is accommodated at Strathtay Manse, originally the Free Church Manse, in the centre of the village.
St Andrews Episcopal Church dates from 1888 (prior to this it was built of corrugated iron and attached to the rectory). The church ran into hardship in 1930 and the rectory was sold and is now a private house named Aros meaning river outlet.
The United Free Church was situated in the east of the village, built in 1843 at the cost of £80 and was demolished in 1954. A private art studio now stands on the site.
One of the oldest buildings in the village is the Gushat which was the general store and also a butcher and baker shop. The shop closed in 1972 but the old ovens were only removed in 2000! In the 1871 census Lyon Cottage, opposite the golf course, was called Camp Cottage, presumably because the soldiers camped on that ground while doing battle at Battle Bridge. The Cottage was built around 1865 for a Mr Conacher ( great grandfather of the lady who still lives in The Gushat). Mr Conacher was the shoemaker/cobbler. He eventually had so many children that he had to move to Kindrochet which explains the roadside end of Kindrochet having been a shop. Kindrochet was the "Conachers Shoe Shop" until around 1942, the Post Office until 1968 and for a brief time was a tearoom and craft shop.. Next door to Lyon Cottage and believed to be of a similar age is Ardynach, formely a shoemaker's shop and sometime sweetie shop in the 1870's. It was originally built for the Molecatcher, Charles Robertson, who under his alias of Carlo Roberto indulged in his other talents as violinist and composer. During the 1920's and 1930's a certain Captain Buchanan, a well known Sahara explorer, used to holiday at Dundarave along with his camel and servant. Of the shops that have traded in Strathtay only Strathtay Stores and Post Office remains. It continues to be the hub of the village and a vital part of the community.
In the west of the village the oldest buildings are the Tighnastir cottages which belonged to the Pitcastle estate. In the mid 1880s the houses between the Tighnastir cottages and Pitcastle Gate were built. Many of the cottages within the village served the estate.
Some of the larger villas were built by Dundee jute barons and, in the case of Bendarroch, by a whisky distiller and many were used as weekend and holiday homes. J.M. Barrie is known to have spent summer holidays at Beechwood. Ardnagaul was built for the mistress of Mr Johnny Jute Miller. Hope Cottage (formerly known as Jock's Lodge) is at 90 degrees to the road allegedly because while Johnny Jute Miller was away all week, his butler living in Hope Cottage could keep an eye on what was going on!
By 1900 Strathtay was a recreational village with a number of imposing architect designed villas surrounded by large landscaped gardens boasting fashionable exotics. The village was a thriving place with many more people resident in and around Strathtay than is the case today. The majority were employed on the surrounding estates and farms as well as by the larger properties. There are still residents in the village today whose Strathtay heritage goes back many, many generations.
Strathtay remains a time capsuled, unique example of fine Victorian architecture and landscaping. Shaped by the legacy of the Feudal Superior law which dominated the village until its abolition in 2000, it has virtually not changed in 100 years and is historically an architectural gem. Its reputation for its stone houses is matched by its large mature gardens with many oak, beach and exotic monkey puzzle trees. Strathtay in spring is renowned for its bluebell covered woods and display of daffodils, rhododendrons and azaleas. Summer brings the colour of rosebeds and manicured gardens. In autumn there is a riot of varied foliage, while winter gives a mix of ever-present greens. Wildlife, notably the red squirrel, continues to flourish in and around these gardens.