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BLiSS full Monday…

The frequently posted images on Facebook of ‘Still’ led me to read more of this photogenic fella.  While trying to find any connection of his residence in St Fillans to the St Fillans cave in Pittenweem, I fell short of gaining any linking evidence as I was prematurely side tracked by stumbling upon the BLiSS Trail…

The BLiSS trail was the brainchild of LETi (Loch Earn Tourism Information group) and takes you a scenic journey through heart of ‘Rob Roy Country’ to celebrate the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016. The name BLiSS comes from the four villages linked by the trail: Balquidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans, with the “i” standing for both tourist information and innovation. The villages are currently home to 13 ‘official’ sculptures and creative projects and I was on a mission to meet each and every one.

The plan was to follow the numbered map implicitly… until I took a wrong turn but still, we joyfully ticked off every sculpture enjoying banter and helpful advice from the locals at every turn.

Our first stop was at ‘Sloc nan Sitheanach’ (Faerie Hollow) to see the work of Ruairidh Moir. A tranquil rest and sheltered spot to admire the view of Loch Lubnaig. It was set just to the right at the beautifully maintained north carpark. There are lots of picnic tables and metal stands to fire up your portable bbq and snack ‘shed’ for coffees etc.

Continuing up the A84, on the left you’ll see The Broch Café in Strathyre where the second installation (designed by Jeremy Cunningham) is easily spotted: ‘Ride Out Seats’.

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After a stroke of the smooth, perfectly proportioned steel and oak, a glance ahead uncovered the third piece which we made our way over too. At this stage, I began calling it a treasure hunt as the directions were a bit vague. To be fair, they are probably very helpful if you knew the area. But we didn’t…

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Stirling Council had commissioned installation number 3 to chainsaw carver Iain Chalmers who created ‘A Soaring Eagle’ standing about 7 foot tall in amongst the trees. Handsome brute…

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Moving swiftly onwards (we were doing well by this point) to Airlie House Bed & Breakfast (Strathyre) where we saw ‘Hunting Owl’ and ‘Feeding Time’ (Heather Gray) in the gardens of this beautiful property. One of the neighbours had told us it was ok to go into the garden. So we did… Several minutes later the owner came from the building and I predicted shouts of “gerrofmyland” which never came. Instead we were given a warm welcome and a short tour of the 3 sculptures he had including the very cute elephant.

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This is where ‘we’ (me) took a wrong turn and went from project 4 up to number 9: ‘Bill the Bull’ by Kev Paxton. By short term skipping Balquhidder, we headed east and met this moo-tilful creation (couldn’t resist…) at The Lochearnhead Hotel. He sits tall and handsome in the gardens and his colour entices you to stop and have a ‘pet’. My partner, also a blacksmith, had met the more monochrome bull at the galvanisers some time ago. I wish he’d photographed it then. I think it would look even more stunning in his metally glory with authentic rusty curls but then the children who painted him wouldn’t have had their fun nor would the money raised from the painting have been put towards Kevs favourite charity Ripple Retreat. (That’s a lot of information one sentence!) *Googles Ripple retreat*

Further along the road is number 11: ‘Fraser Briar’, again by Kev Paxton, one of my favourites of this trail. Set in such a stunning and somehow surreal location across from Briar Cottages he stands tall and proud admiring Loch Earn, his body made from components such as roses, leaves, a thistle and there’s a wee mouse with cheese in there too! The garden doubles as a mini golf course and home for ducks, we spent a while there taking everything in.

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Now, here’s the man I wanted to meet and he didn’t disappoint. ‘Still’ by Rob Mulholland. Guarding the water, he stands tall at the jetty of the Four Seasons Hotel in St Fillans.

Watching.. Defending … Hypnotising…

After a pot of hot chocolate at the Four Seasons Hotel, we continued a short walk to Lynne Schroders ‘Fish Out of Water’ at Achray House Hotel. A lovely end to the journey. Although we had missed a bit…

Driving back down the A85, swinging left at Lochearnhead, just as we left the signs we saw ‘Dragon Bike’ by June McEwan made from willow wicker at Mansefield House. This was number 8. It was quite sad to see he had been chained down but due to the first ‘Still’ being stolen and the damage done to ‘Lookout’, I suppose it’s necessary.

Kev Paxton was back on the scene again with his 3rd sculpture on the trail. ‘Sunflowers’ are sprouting out of the car park at The Golden Larches Restaurant in Balquidder Station for installation 7. See, I like this unfinished, galvanised monochrome finish. He could have painted them garish yellow, been even more eye catching but on this grey overcast day, they fitted into nature perfectly. (image below untouched)

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Sunflowers – Kev Paxton on the BLiSS Trail

Continuing the journey down towards Loch Voil, Balquhidder Village Hall holds project 5, ‘Grooming Stag’ by June McEwan. He stands peacefully grooming himself in the serene surrounding sin Rob Roy Country.

The last one to find, 6, was ‘The Lookout’ by Angus Ritchie and Daniel Taylor. This one wasn’t as easy to find although the helpful staff at the stunning Monachyle MHOR Hotel happily pointed us on our way through a field. Midgie hats unfolded, we walked through the field between Loch Voil and Doine. A couple of snaps later, we raced back to Harvey avoiding beastie bites and cow pats!

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Darn those midgies!

A trip of ‘Roy Rob Country’ isn’t complete without a trip to the resting place of the man himself, wife and kids. There’s a vacancy for a new minister if anyone’s interested…

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Read more (or apply for the vacancy) here Balquhidder Church

You may have noticed that I missed out the 10th project (let’s face it, you didn’t notice…) This is still in the construction stages at Lochearnhead. Students from Perth College are creating a ‘Contemporary Art Project’ which I’ll look forward to going back to see.

If this sounds like a trip you’d like to take, I suggest you go soon as the pieces are being taken down to be shown at exhibitions or sold on so I don’t know how long they’ll be there for.


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