Callander Craigs


The view south from Callander Craigs – Photo from Trossachs Trail Runner


Bill Shankly reckoned that 3 Scotsmen in a football team was the most you could have.  Get four or more and instead of being a disciplined unit that sticks together at the core of your team, you would end up with any of the well-known Scottish divides creating cliques. East vs West, Orange vs Green, Highlander vs Lowlander, rural vs urban.

The Highlander vs Lowlander divide is very old. Culloden was not England vs Scotland. Most of Edinburgh and Glasgow folk saw the Jacobites as a step backwards towards a more feudal society. I’m told that most of the redcoats were lowlanders. Think of the attitude you see at a football match with a local Derby and then give both sides guns and swords. It was pretty much a settling of a local feud as much as England vs. Scotland.

After Culloden the clearances were often driven by lowlanders and their sheep, their racist disdain for the uncivilised, “Irish” tongue and culture. When the Campbells were sent to punish the MacDonalds, the Scottish Secretary, The Earl of Stair was quite specific about ridding the country of this “Catholic Sept”.  McIain of McIain, (There’s a name eh? I’ll maybe become Dick of Dick?) the MacDonald leader was a Paris educated Catholic, and an arsey, disobedient highlander to boot. For Stair that was three good reasons to teach him a lesson. It was just an upmarket life or death version of the visceral hatreds you can see at that local derby.

That north south divide, Lowlander vs Highlander is a strong reflection of the physical countryside and in this race you run on the very geological divide. The geography really did drive the culture quite a bit. The Highlands were mountainous, isolated communities with few roads and  with very poor, infertile soil. It was subsistence farming and sustained the clan culture. Feels like the Tribal areas are in Pakistan today just no Kalashnikovs and no Toyota Hiluxes, but all the smuggling and other activities that would annoy the hell out of a central government. In the south, a new system could be sustained. Modern “Improved” agriculture and industry changed the lifestyle forever. The Lowlanders and Borderers either joined in or emigrated. They adopted the new “early-capitalist” model and ideas that drove the American constitution and changes across Europe.

Callander Craigs is the exact southern edge of the narrow belt, about a kilometre wide, where the geography changes. You are on a physical divide that drove the Glencoe massacre, the 1715, the 1745, the clearances and much of our current culture. Drive north and it’s glens, lochs and mountains. South and it’s rich agriculture, mining and industry.

As a hill race, this looks like a lovey wee outing and clearly it is aimed at fun and inclusivity. I might say the “pursuit of happiness” to quote the Declaration of Independence’s idea taken from the lowland Scot Francis Hutcheson.  After pursuing your happiness with a road finish take a hurl up the road past Braklinn Falls and turn and look. There is a lovely run from Callander to Comrie right along the divide if you can organise the transport. But at the high point of the road stop and look. To the south rich farmland that could sustain lords and dukes becoming mega landowners running agricultural businesses (Some still remain today) and allowing a thriving, more modern economy where what you did became relatively more important than who your parents were. To the North very, very different. Poor, scary, cold and wet, stick together in a clan or die. Economically it’s a divide that still shapes the economy and culture of today.

Shankly was right. We have a real talent to argue, driven by our rich history or indeed geology. And when you go for a warm-down you’ll see one of the real causes of one of those divides beneath your very feet.

Saturday 6th January 13:00 at Callander.

Race details here

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