Beyond the chapel lies Dundurn Hill. Like many place names in the Highlands, Dundurn derives from the gaelic tradition of simply 'saying what you see': Dundurn, or dun dórn, means 'Fort of the Fist".
Although it may require a bit of imagination to see it now, this fist-shaped hill was once the site of a very important castle.
During the 6th-8th centuries, in the time of St. Fillan, Scotland was a divided land, split between the kingdoms of Dal Riada and the Picts. Now, it just so happened that the ancient frontier between these two kingdoms almost cleaves the modern-day St. Fillans in two.
Dal Riada, the Scottish-Irish kingdom which stretched upwards through the Western Highlands and Western Isles, had its easternmost frontier at the end of Loch Earn. Beyond this lay the kingdom of the Picts, with their stronghold of Dundurn maintaining the western frontier.
Climbing to the top of the hill, one can appreciate the strategic importance of this site. With superb views all the way up Loch Earn, or Loch of the Eireann (or Irish) as it was understandably known to the Picts, and equally good views of the Strathearn valley drawing in around it, the fort was well placed for launching and anticipating cross-border raids.
Stories relating to the hill are few, but it is believed that the Pitcitsh King Giric breathed his last here in 889 A.D. Giric, or Gregory the Great as he became known, was an important figure in his time. Various accolades and achievements include successor to Kenneth MacAlpin, legendary first king of Scots; liberator of the Scottish church from Pictish oppression; and conqueror of Ireland and half of England. Embellished as some of these feats may be, it is nonetheless an enchanting experience to stand atop Dundurn Hill, looking out over the mountains and the loch, and reflect that this was the last sight ever to be seen by such a figure.
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