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The main road from Kinloch Rannoch to Rannoch Station passes along the north side of Loch Rannoch. A much less used road runs along the south shore of the loch. Not far from the junction between the two at the west end of the loch is the tiny hamlet of Bridge of Gaur, and nearby, set a little back from the road, is the Braes of Rannoch Church.
Far from being amongst the most spectacular churches in Scotland, or even the most attractive, Braes of Rannoch Church turns out to be far more interesting than it at first appears.
The first church in Bridge of Gaur, or Georgetown as it was known at the time, was built a few hundred yards west of the current church in 1776. This was replaced by a church on the present site in 1855, until it in turn was replaced by the current church in 1907. No one knows why the two earlier churches were replaced, and the only reminder of the original church is the bellcote, which was moved to each of its replacements in turn.
It is also not clear whether the current church is a total replacement or a partial rebuild of its predecessor. The last service in the old church was in late June 1907, and the new church was dedicated on 27 October 1907, just four months later. The total cost of the work was £691.13.0, which like the short timescale for the work also suggests something less that a complete rebuild.
Internally the church has a lovely warm feel which belies its remote location. The focus of the church is its apse, which photographs prove was certainly not part of the predecessor church. At the west end of the church is the organ. Though dating back to 1935, this has only resided at Braes of Rannoch since 1990. It had until then been at the Old Church of Urquhart, near Elgin: but was made redundant on conversion of the church to a B&B.
For many, though, Braes of Rannoch Church is best known because of the identity of its first minister. In February 1907 the parish inducted one Archibald Eneas Robertson as its minister, and it was he who conducted the last service at the predecessor church and the first in the new church. Though from Helensburgh, Robertson had embarked on an intensive course of Gaelic lessons in order to be able to serve in what at the time was a largely Gaelic-speaking parish.
Better known simply as the Rev. A.E. Robertson, he was the first man to climb all the 283 Scottish peaks over 3000 feet which have since become known as Munros (and since changed in number several times). For those who envy the idea of a country clergyman with time on his hands to pursue his hobby, it is a surprise to find that he "compleated" his round of Munros in 1901 and did little or no climbing during the 13 years he spent at Braes of Rannoch prior to his retirement at the early age of 50 in 1920. Perhaps most remarkably, Robertson remained the only "compleater" for 22 years until joined on the list by the Rev. A.R.G. Burn in 1923.
It was only after Robertson's retirement that he resumed his climbing, though he had become the Vice President of the Scottish Mountaineering Club in 1917. This was a post he retained until 1929 when he became the Club's President for three years. The Rev. A.E. Robertson climbed his last Munro in 1940 at the age of 70 and he died in 1958.