RIVER ALMOND - BESSIE BELL AND MARY GRAY FROM THE ALBUM "SAND, SILT, FLINT" BY FIONA SOE PAING https://FionaSoePaing.bandcamp.com
The sad tale of Bessy Bell and Mary Gray has been sung by many since their tragic death from the plague in 1666 including British folk rock band Steeleye Span. Bessy and Mary were "twa bonnie lassies" and the daughters of two Perthshire gentlemen. According to tradition, Bessy’s father was the Laird of Kinvaid and Mary’s the Laird of Lynedoch. Bessy and Mary were the best of friends and said to live together at Lynedoch House to the west of Perth. However, as plague spread they decided to leave the house and instead live in total seclusion to avoid getting infected. They moved into a bower in an isolated spot called Burn Brae close to the north bank of the River Almond. A local lad, said to be in love with both Bessy and Mary, kept them supplied with food, however this lifeline tragically led to their deaths as the lad became infected with plague and in turn passed it onto Bessy and Mary. All three died and because it was the ‘pestilence’ that killed the girls they weren’t allowed to be buried in the traditional burial grounds of their respective families. Instead, Bessy and Mary were laid to rest near where they died in a secluded grave at Dronach Haugh by the edge of the river.
The grave of Bessy Bell and Mary Gray is tucked away in a very off the beaten track spot and not easy to find. The walk culminates in a steep scramble down to the river bank which should only be attempted in good weather. The walk starts on a track that leads though forest off the B8063 at Murrayfield north west of Perth. Follow the gravel path south as it leads through woods of ash, sycamore, beech and birch trees before it emerges into flat farmland and then again through woods of sitka spruce. Look out for red squirrel and listen hard for the cries of jays and crows. Turn right at a T junction and follow the track as it curves downhill and becomes increasingly grassier as it leads through birch and then spruce forest dotted with bright blue containers filled with feed for the many pheasants reared in these woods. The track ends at a gate which opens into a large field. Don’t go through the gate, instead turn towards the river and keep walking straight until you come to a steep scramble down a woodland path to the banks of the River Almond which flows wide at this melancholy spot, whose peace is disturbed only by the sound of fast flowing water. The grave lies against the steep bank and within tall iron railings beneath the branches of a large yew tree. Breath in deep the smell of damp earth and look out for old graffiti carved into the moss covered stone that marks the spot where Bessy and Mary lie eternally together.
Getting There The B8063 is a small road that leads west off the main A9 a few miles north of Perth. Follow the road as it winds west through flat Perthshire farmland and a series of tiny hamlets. Although the walk starts at Murrayfield, a better place to park is by the gates of utility station further west along the road. The B8063 is not served by public transport.
Toilets & Refreshments The nearest public toilets and refreshments are either in Perth or at one of the chain coffee shops off the A9 at either the junction with the A912 to the north (Starbucks) or the intersection with the M90 to the south (Costa Coffee).
Accessibility This walk is not accessible to wheelchair users. An alternative place to listen to this track is Huntingtower Castle located off the A85 near Perth and owned by Historic Environment Scotland.
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