Towards the north side of the loch are a pile of stones, occasionally visible when the water level is low, which is the remains of a crannog. This is a manmade island which may have been constructed from a mixture of timber posts, driven into the loch bed, and piles of stones. Crannogs have been found across Scotland, with archaeological evidence going back to neolithic times, and the oldest are known to be around 5,000 years old. These were built and used for thousands of years, possibly as dwelling places as well as defensive forts.
Pictish stronghold and Royal palace
Between Clunie Church and the loch there is a natural mound with trees and plants. This is the site where there used to be a castle and a motte. The motte would be an earth mound with ditches and banking around it, and possibly a wooden castle on top of it. Evidence suggests there may have been a fort there around 849 AD.
Evidence has been found showing Picts in the area from 700 AD to 900 AD. In 843 AD Kenneth I, also called Kenneth MacAlpin, the King of Scots, became King of the Picts and the Scots of Dalriada which meant he also became the King of Alba. The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, also called the Old Scottish Chronicle, contains the first known written record of Clunie in 903 AD. He is said to have built a palace at Clunie, either on the castle hill or on a crannog.
Above the loch is the Royal Forest of Clunie where kings went hunting by horseback, herding animals into a holding pen called Buzzart Dykes. A royal castle or hunting lodge was likely to have been built in 1200 AD to 1300 AD as Edward 1st occupied it in 1296 AD. Robert the Bruce went hunting there in 1326 AD. At this time there would have been beavers, wolves and wild boar. There is evidence of a later stone-built castle on the hill as well as a chapel on another hill dated to medieval times.
Medieval Bishop’s Tower House
The third scheduled monument is visible as a ruined townhouse on the loch island, surrounded by trees. This is potentially built on another crannog site. A tower house was built in the 1500s by the Bishops of Dunkeld and consisted of 3 storeys with a spiral staircase. It had a large kitchen fireplace and a granary oven. There was also a chapel to St. Catherine.
The old tower was remodelled into a country house in the 16th and 18th centuries. It is reputed by locals that each type of tree in Scotland was represented on the island. Locals would row out to the island for Sunday school picnics. Loch of Clunie Curling Club was founded in 1825, and on 8th December 1922 they held a dinner in the ‘Clunie Castle’ with food from the Royal Hotel, Blairgowrie.