Clackmannanshire has many old and truly beautiful graveyards – one reason for the Ochil Landscape Partnership (OLP) to repair, preserve, interpret, and present a group of historic cemeteries within walking distance, grouped together as the Kirkyard Trail.
There are seven graveyards amongst the Hillfoots that oficially belong to the trail, one is private, six are kirkyards, Muckhart being one of them. This is the graveyard of two settlements, the hamlet Yetts o’ Muckhart and Pool of Muckart where the Parish Church stands. The Georgian building incorporates various stones of earlier buildings. The first church in Muckhart dates back as far as the 13th century.
Buried here is the body of a very remarkable woman – Isabella Christie of Cowden, called Ella. She was born in 1861 and died in 1949, she was buried with here family here in Muckhart.
She certainly was her own woman, never married, and travelled widely to the most unusual places of the world: Uzbekistan, Russia, America, India, Tibet, Borneo and the Far East. Her family was wealthy, she could afford it and seems to have been a very independent spirit. She met the Dalai Lama, banqueted with the Maharaja and created an impressive Japanese garden a short distance away from the graveyard, inspired by what she had seen during her extensive travelling and her trip to Japan in 1907.
Ella Christie’s first and main gardener was Shinzaburo Matsuo. He had come to Cowden after having lost his family in an earthquake and died in far from home in 1937. He contributed greatly to the truthfulness and authenticity of the Japanese garden.
Muckhart is an ideal start to the Kirkyard Trail. Don’t miss Upper and Lower Tillicoultry, Dollar, Muckhart, Logie and Alva, as well as at the private burial ground of Harviestoun Castle, Tait’s Tomb.
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Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years.
Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel.This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.
The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.
sources and further reading