The Cateran Commonwealth is more than a trail, this is a unique part of Scotland. A special place where the Highland collided with the Lowlands, a landscape which with only a little imagination enables you to glimpse 730 million years of evolution as geological action and the weather created what we now know as Scotland.
The Cateran Commonwealth has a rich history and archaeology stretching back long before the emergence of the tartan and the kilt in the Victorian Age, what the historian Hugh Trevor Roper called The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland. [Chapt 2 in Hobsbawm E, 1983, The Invention of Tradition CUP, there is more detail in Roper’s posthumously published The Invention of Scotland in 2009]
The Hanoverian Victorians created a view of Scottish history that met their needs. In the Cateran Commonwealth, there is a longer, more complex and richer offering – one to be explored and savoured, a land of myths and legends too, you will encounter in the landscape Big Donald, the famous Irish Giant Fionn mac Cumhaill, Diarmuid, Pictish Warriors and poets of the Victorian Age William Pyott and James Geddes and Hamish Henderson viewed by many as the founding father of Scotland’s 20th century folk renaissance.
Perhaps inevitably Queen Victoria travelled on horseback along part of the Cateran on several occasions when travelling from Deeside to Dunkeld There is a plaque recording a visit to Kindrogan where she stopped for tea on the banks of the River Ardle in 1866. Dalnagar Castle was commissioned by Lord Clyde, Queen Victoria’s banker and designed by the Aberdeen architect William Smith who designed Balmoral. The legacy of Queen Victoria in the Cateran Commonwealth is surprisingly slight given the proximity of Balmoral ~ 25 miles.
Sitting astride the Highland Boundary Fault that divides the Scottish Lowlands from the Highlands, where the foothills of the hard rock of the Grampians and the Cairngorms collided, millions of years ago, with the softer rocks of the fertile Vale of Strathmore to create Scotland. The Highland Boundary Fault is a natural boundary and a cultural one, influencing patterns of settlement and land use and dividing the English speaking lowlands from the Gaelic-speaking Highlands. Reekie Linn Waterfall on the River Isla at Bridge of Craigisla is the most spectacular place to view the fault. Dalradian Schist found in the upland areas of the Cateran Commonwealth comes from an eroding mountain chain of the supercontinent of Rodinia 730 million years ago.
This distinctive area of Scotland is relatively undeveloped for tourism but with a rich history and pre-history. There are classic U shaped valleys left by last Ice Age 20,000 years ago, the Garry Drums dry valleys remnants of glacial meltwater channels, many standing stones, Bronze Age Pitcarmick Round Houses (2000BCE) Barry Hill Pictish fort one of Scotland’s best preserved Iron Age forts, the Buzzart Dykes remnants of a medieval hunting park, The Drystane dykes of the C19th, drove roads,
The term Cateran (from the Gaelic ceathairne, meaning “peasantry”) historically referred to a band of fighting men of a Scotland Highland clan; hence Cateran being applied to the Highland, and later to any, marauders or cattle-lifters. Caterans feature in Scottish novels and short stories, notably Hamish MacTavish Mhor in Walter Scott’s ‘The Highland Widow’ and in the ‘School of the Moon’ by Stuart McHardy
“The Cateran Society offers the training with Highland Broadsword and other related Scottish weapons in our Broadsword Academy Program. You can join one of our many official locations in the USA, Canada, Russia, Germany, Finland and elsewhere worldwide.” And on Facebook
Harold Goodwin 9th December 2018. I visited on 16th November – if you have read this far you will have realised that I was fascinated and captivated by the Cateran Commonwealth – so much more than a trail.