Sheila Stewart

The story of any place is also the story of its people, and equally, the story of a people is also in part the story of their place.

This part of Scotland is no exception and it is no surprise that those behind A Story of the Cateran Trail in 100 Objects have chosen to include the area’s people as one of its three main themes.

The project is inviting anyone who lives, works or visits the Cateran Trail to suggest individuals or characters that they believe tell an important part of the story of this part of Scotland.

These people can be anyone from across history to the present day who is connected to the area around the Trail.

The Cateran Trail itself is a relatively new concept that is steeped in history. Founded around fifteen years ago by a group of walking and outdoor enthusiasts, it follows old drove roads and ancient tracks across a variety of farmland, forests and moors from the Spittal of Glenshee in the north, Enochdhu in the west, Glenisla and Alyth in the east to the vibrant town of Blairgowrie in the south.

As Christopher Dingwall says in his introduction to the theme of landscape, it has a profound influence on patterns of settlement, cultivation and transport.

And that is no more true than here, where the people of the area are just as varied as the terrain.

From Finn mac Cumhail and the settlers in the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age Pitcarmick houses near Glenshee to the fearsome Cateran cattle thieves after whom the trail is named, from Donald Cargill the covenanter to cultural icons Hamish Henderson and Belle and Sheila Stewart – their names and stories are as evocative as the landscape and places they lived, loved and laughed in.

But as well as the more weel-kent names and faces there are the other less well-known folk whose stories are just as intertwined with the landscape and the place as any of their more well-known neighbours – the Camerons of Blacklunans for example, or the Gammells of Glenisla, both families that have farmed the land for generations.

The Ramsays of Bamff near Alyth have been custodians of their estate since 1232 when the land was gifted to the family by King Alexander II of Scotland as a reward for saving his life. The current owners, Paul and Louise, run the estate with a keen emphasis on environmental management and as well as an organic farm have introduced a wetland restoration project with beavers – the first of its kind in the UK.

Further round the trail you will find berry producers Thomas Thomson from Rattray, who, together with a local master weaver Ashleigh Slater from Blairgowrie, recently designed and produced a new Blairgowrie Berries and Cherries tartan that has proved to be a big hit with visitors and locals alike.

Other modern-day pioneers could include Simon and Fiona Calvin who run EcoCamp Glenshee, another environmentally-friendly enterprise, which, among other things, offers accommodation in wooden pods, shepherds’ huts an yurts – as well as llama trekking on the Cateran Trail.

From the ghillies and gamies and the fishermen, farmers and firefighters (some of whom are all three) to the singers, musicians and artists, and the creatives and the caregivers who live around the trail, they all have a story to tell and they have all played their part in contributing to the Cateran’s common wealth.

These are the sort of people who, although defined by the landscape to some extent, have equally defined the cultural landscape they inhabit, tenacious, hardy characters making a living from the hills and raising families to be a part of the community.

Many have been here for generations, while others have felt the pull of the land to settle around the trail which inspires their work.

It is up to you to suggest those individuals or families that you think tell a part of the story of this area.

You can make your suggestion here – just tell us a little bit about their story and why you think they should be included and perhaps even include a photograph of the person or group as well if you would like.

Clare Damodaran, Journalist and Photographer

Photo by Doc Rowe: www.docrowe.org.uk