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Three miles south of Crieff the dead straight A822 makes a sharp zig-zag through a village built mostly from a reddish stone. Welcome to Muthill. Early settlement in the area owes much to the Romans' brief occupation, and this probably explains the straightness of the road from Crieff.
Muthill itself was founded by Culdee Monks who had established a community here by the 700s. The name comes from the Gaelic word "Maothail". This is said by some to translate as skin softening and to imply that Muthill was seen by the Culdees as a comfortable place to be based.
The oldest building in Muthill, by far, is the tower of the old church. This probably dates back to the 1000s and would originally have been a free standing tower designed as much for protection as for worship. The tower has many similarities with others from the same period at St Rules Church in St Andrews and St Serfs in Dunning. The tower at Dunblane Cathedral was probably also very similar to Muthill's before it was enlarged and incorporated into the Cathedral itself.
A church was added to the Culdee tower in the 15th Century, but this is now a ruin in the care of Historic Scotland. The graveyard that surrounds it is fascinating for the use of iron markers on several of the graves. The dates of these are unclear as the detail has corroded away, but it is easy to imagine a salesman in the 1700s promoting this modern material for a modern era. The traditional gravestones have been rather more enduring.
From the graveyard you can see the Gothic-styled parish church that was built in 1826 by the Presbyterian arm of the church after the site of the original 1400s church came under the control of the Episcopalians. The designer was Gillespie Graham, and it is easy to see in Muthill how he came by his nickname of "Pinnacle" Graham.
The Episcopalians wanted to build a new church on the site of the old, but faced objections from residents whose relatives were buried there. They chose instead to abandon the old church and build a new one, which explains why Muthill has a third church, almost between the other two. St James, built in 1836, is the oldest Episcopal Church in the area.
Muthill itself was largely destroyed in January 1716 by Jacobites retreating after the Battle of Sheriffmuir (see our Historical Timeline). Compensation was paid by the Government, but only in 1778. Much of what you see today dates back to the latter half of the 1700s, and this gives the village a sense of unity with many cottages made of the same stone lining the mains streets. Muthill was designated a Conservation Area in 1974, and over 90 of the buildings in the village are listed.
A little north of Muthill is Drummond Castle, ancestral home of the Earls of Perth whose estate included Muthill. However, it was from very much humbler origins, as the daughter of a blacksmith from near Muthill, that a local girl, Helen Gloag, became Empress of Morocco in the late 1700s.
Before you complete your walk round Muthill, take the time to visit the Muthill Village Museum, located in a white-rendered building backing on to the old churchyard. Here you can gain a wider understanding of the background and history of this Strathearn village.