Places to Visit in Scotland
- Muthill Parish Church, Perthshire
The village of Muthill (pronounced "Mew-thill") is on the A822 road from Auchterarder (and the A9 trunk road to Perth) to Crieff. I stumbled across it on the way to Drummond Castle Gardens and was entranced by the pretty village and by its ruined parish church (which dates to from the 12th century) and the old graveyard which surrounds it.
Muthill was an ecclesiastical site of some antiquity even before the church tower was built. A community of Caldee monks were established here and the foundations of the church tower are thought to be even earlier than the one we see today. The impressive, 70 feet high Romanesque towers at Muthill and Dunning may have been built by the same masons in the third quarter of the 12th century. The square-cut shape is also reminiscent of St Rule's Tower in St Andrews.
The church (and the income from the estates) was originally granted to Lindores Abbey in Fife, but after a legal battle it was passed to the bishops of Dunblane in the early 13th century. The original tower (which would also be used a safe haven in the event of attack - the windows are a later addition) was extended, at least twice, into a fine parish church, as can be seen from the large, arches and the old drawing above. The church continued in use after the Reformation although the village was burnt by retreating Highlanders after the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. The Earl of Perth, based in Drummond Castle nearby, paid for its restoration. Eventually, however, the expanding population of the area meant that a larger church was required. The old church was abandoned and a new one was built nearby in the village in 1826-28.
The churchyard itself contains many 18th century gravestones, a number of which are decorated with what were regarded as appropriate "Memento mori" - the horns of a ram, a skull, bones (which are sometimes crossed, as here, sometimes just as separate items), an hour-glass and mason's tools such as an axe, hammer, set-square and measuring compass. The headstones also have inscriptions such as "Tempus fugit" (time flies) and "Memento Mori" (Reminder of death).
The ancient village of Muthill itself is a charming place which has done a lot to ensure that passing travellers are tempted to stop for a while. The floral baskets in summer make an attractive splash of colour and the local village inn, which offers "food and ales" has decked out an old horse-cart with flowers too.
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