In the morning I visited the William Wallace National Monument and Cambuskenneth, an ancient Abbey where ancient ancestors of mine are buried. My next stop for the day was out in the countryside, west of Stirling.
I was in on an ‘ancestral treasure hunt,’ trying my best to locate the “Fords of Frew.” I had spent considerable time researching and hence, pouring over the maps of the area. I practically had that map memorized in my brain. I headed west on the A811 toward a town by the name of Gargunnock. According to the map the second road on the right after the turn off for Gargunnock should lead me to a farm at the end of the road.
I found the road, drove to the end, but alas, no one was home at the farm and I didn’t feel I should start walking out in their fields toward the river without their consent. So I drove back to A811 and continued west until I came to a roundabout, indicating that the village of Kippen was the first exit to the left.
My tummy was grumbling and so I decided to head up the hill to the village to see if I could find a place to get some lunch.
Kippen was very pretty and there seemed to be a few possibilities for some food. Before leaving the village I decided to turn around and head back to the center of the village. Luck would have it that where I turned around offered a stunning panoramic view of the countryside below – the farm lands.
“Somewhere out there are Fords of Frew, the Frew farms, and by golly, I’m gonna find them!” I told myself.
That’s when I also noticed a church spire. “Hmmm, I should take a few minutes and check out that church while I’m here.” I thought.
I’m so glad I did. This little Kippen Parish Church was quite small, but boy-oh-boy was it ever packed with a treasure trove of beautiful items!
And look, the door was open, beckoning me to enter and explore!
Just inside the door a spiral staircase wound upward to the bell tower and gorgeous stained glass windows welcomed me.
Once inside the sanctuary I was delighted with various hand-stitched embroideries which were obviously quite old and very much revered.
This one tapestry alone was longer than a single pew. I had to take several pictures of it just to capture its beauty and to appreciate the story that it unveiled! It made me wonder how long it must have taken the artist to create it!
Everywhere I turned there were beautifully crafted windows relating stories in themselves.
Yet another very old hand-stitched picture….
Look at the date on the cross-stitch above; 1691! This church has been around for quite awhile indeed!
Then in a little chapel tucked back behind the bell tower was this stunning statue. Amazing!
As I left, this open door, which had invited me in, and the wonderful inspiring items I found within, reminded me of a poem by Nancy Byrd Turner.
If you come cheerily, here shall be jest for you;
If you come wearily, here shall be rest for you.
If you come borrowing, gladly we’ll loan to you;
If you come sorrowing, Love shall be shown to you.
Under our thatch friend, place shall abide for you;
Touch but the latch friend, the door shall swing wide for you.
By now my tummy wasn’t just grumbling; it was running on empty. I was famished! Just around the corner on the main street I headed into an interesting little pub for some grub. This place has also been around quite awhile – almost as long as the church!
Inside I found a nice table, cozied up by the fireplace with a wonderful latte and found a new friend, Jessie, a very friendly chocolate lab.
For starters I ordered this delightful concoction: Tartar of dill cured smoked salmon, lemon creme fraiche and freshly baked oat cake. Yum!
This place was obviously a favorite with the locals…and had some quirky eclectic furnishings and items to ponder!
After my delicious starter I enjoyed my fav – haddock and chips – with mushy peas and perfectly made Tarter Sauce made with capers, lemon, red onion, and a touch of gherkins. Jessie helped me finish up the chips!
The Chef was superb (and also was my waiter). What a wonderful place! He and his wife also have rooms to rent in this wonderful B&B! Very reasonably priced; its a superb place to stay with absolutely divine dishes to choose from. I highly recommend it! I want to stay here the next time I’m in the area. It is a perfect place for exploring Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Check it out – The Cross Keys.
The group of people sitting at the corner table (a grandma and grandpa having lunch with their daughter and grand daughter) had finished before I had. When I went outside to continue on my search, they were still outside, visiting on the sidewalk.
I approached them, introduced myself and asked if they were ‘local’ to the area. They replied that they were!
I explained that I was looking for the “Bridge of Frew” and “Fords of Frew” and inquired if they might know which direction I should go. The young mother exclaimed, “Why my best friends’ maiden name is Frew! Just head back down the hill and go straight through the roundabout toward Thornhill – you’ll find it – you can’t miss it!” I thanked them profusely and told her to tell her friend that she had just met a Frew from Oregon!
Armed with this new information, and feeling quite confident and with a full belly of yummy food, I headed back down the hill. Sure enough, just about 1/2 mile from the roundabout I found the Bridge of Frew! Wowsers – that was easy!
A little further where the road turned sharp and split in a “Y” I also found the old Frew Tolbooth house! Sweet! (and they are all marked so well in wrought iron! That’s handy!)
I turned right and started to follow a one track road through the farm fields and found each of the Frew farms! Again, very well marked!
I kept following the road through the fields along the winding Forth River, and the road finally dead-ended at the Easter Frew farm!
As I drove into the yard, the whole family with the dogs came out to greet me as if they were expecting me. Grandma and Grandpa, John Lindsay and his wife and one of their twin sons – Ian. What a friendly bunch they were!
I introduced myself and apologised for any inconvenience, and told them how I had come from Oregon, just to find the “Fords of Frew.” Ian was flabbergasted and asked me,
“You’re from Oregon? Where the “Ax men” show on television is filmed? Wow!” He thought that was pretty cool!
John, the father, finally asked me,
“Well, do you want to see where the fords are then?”
“Sure!” I replied and he took me over by the barn and pointed out over to the river bank nearby.
He asked me, “You see that line of trees running from the farm to the river?”
(The same farm I had driven to but no one was home!)
“That line of trees mark the line where the old road used to be. Just there by that big bush is on the bank is where the fords are located in the river! The road then continued up the bank on this side of the river and headed on over those other fields to the Goodie river over there.”
“Would it be okay with you if I walked in your pasture and took a picture or two of the Fords?” I asked.
“The water is pretty high so you can’t actually see the rocks and gravel bar underneath, although they’re there alright.”
“He looked down at my tennis shoes and asked, “Did you bring your wellies with you?”
“No, I’m afraid I didn’t pack any ‘wellies’ on this trip.”
“Well, what size do you wear? You think you could fit in a man’s boot?” and he pulled out a pair from the back of his truck and handed them to me to change into.
Before I knew it I was climbing over the fence and walking along the fence line between the cows and the sheep making a beeline for the river nearby.
And by golly, there was the spot! He was right, I couldn’t see the gravel bar and rocks on the bottom, but there sure was evidence of a lot of rock on the river bank across from me. “This is so cool,” I thought, “I actually found the Fords of Frew!”
(Frew Name Meaning – This is a Scottish locational name from the Fords of Frew (also known as “The Frews”), a fortified site on the River Forth. The name derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century “frwd” meaning: a “current” or “stream.”
Frequently, settlements grew up at the lowest crossing point of a river as happened in this case. This place was the lowest crossing point on the river Forth, and so an important strategic location in the Middle Ages. These fords in the river might very likely be the origin of my surname!)
After such a successful adventure, I decided to take another route back to the Stirling Hostel rather than taking the same route I had taken earlier. I returned to Kippen and headed over the hill and down into some very rural country on mostly one track roads thought Klintry, along the Carron Loch and then made the final descent back down from the mountains to the south side of Stirling.
Here are just a few of the rural sites I spied along the way…
When I got back to the hostel, I ran into Mary, another solo traveler from British Columbia who was also staying at the hostel. Such a delightful woman I had the pleasure of meeting; one who travels all over the world, often solo, just like me!
It was such a treat to connect with a fellow solo traveling woman like her! We spent the rest of the evening swapping stories and the delights of being independent women! Unfortunately however, I was leaving first thing in the morning to return to Aberdeen, but I sincerely hope to connect with her once I do return to Oregon one of these days….