The History of Glen Dochart and Portnellan

Once upon a time there lived a great warrior called Taileachd, who lived on the island on Loch Dochart.

He was a noble and successful soldier – but like most he had his enemies. One of these was another warrior, the great Fingal – Finn to his friends – of myth and legend. Typically enough they both fell in love with the same woman. And one day Fingal arrived to settle things with Taileachd.

They decided to have a competition to see who could jump backwards from the island to the shore. After an argument – that threatened to turn into another fight before the previous one had been settled – Taileachd went first. He threw himself into a great backflip and, neatly projected himself across the loch, to land on the gravelly beach with his feet dry.

Then came Fingal’s turn; but he was not so lucky. He misjudged his jump, slipping on the damp edge of the island, and his backflip wasn’t high enough. So he splash-landed a few feet from the shore, and sat in the shallows of the loch, winded and spluttering.

Taileachd saw his chance, rushed forward to his enemy, drew his sword and with a great heave cut off Fingal’s head. But as soon as he realised what he’d done, he became afraid. Fingal had been a popular man, and, after all, it wasn’t quite sporting to end the contest this way.

So Taileachd hid Fingal’s body in the reeds of the lochside, put the head in a sack and carried it away with him. He was never seen again.

The headless corpse, however, managed to float free from the reeds, and sailed all the way down to the Falls of Dochart, where his friends found him and buried him, marking his grave with a stone. The place became known as ‘Cill Finn’ – nowadays pronounced ‘Killin’.

No one knows what happened to the woman they were arguing about…

The History of Glen Dochart and Portnellan

Asides from the usual Highland feuds, wars, battles and legends, Glen Dochart managed to stay out of the history books for the next thousand years or so.

We next hear of the area when it was Campbell territory, owned by Black Duncan of the Cowl. This worthy was also known as Duncan of the Castles, because he built so many fortalices between Loch Awe and Loch Tay. One of these was constructed on the island of Loch Dochart (incidentally, it’s named ‘Eilann Iubhair’, pronounced ‘Ewar’).

The Campbells always hoped to be able to march from one side of Scotland to the other, all on their own territory – and in the days of the earldom of Breadalbane, their ambition was fulfilled. As part of Breadalbane, Glen Dochart and Portnellan remained in Campbell hands until one Charles Campbell sold it and emigrated to Canada. The new owner decided that commuting across the loch wasn’t for him, and the castle fell into ruin.

Portnellan House was built as a hunting lodge during the Victorian era. Scotland was a popular retreat for the gentry of the time, and given the status of the Marquis of Breadalbane, it’s not difficult to imagine some very important people roaming the hillsides you’re about to visit.

The house then became a famhouse, and finally, in the 1960s, was converted into a bed’n’breakfast establishment. The first holiday property was built at Portnellan in 1980. Portnellan House is now available as a 5 star self catering property sleeping up to 10 people.

If you’d like to know more about the history of Glen Dochart please feel free to ask.