At 300 years old, the Cross Keys is the oldest continuous licensed premises in Stirlingshire, with deeds dating back to 1707, the year Queen Anne succeeded to the throne and the Acts of Union were signed joining the parliaments and sovereignty of Scotland and England. With so much history, you might be surprised that, so far, no phantom drovers, grey ladies, headless horsemen (or legless barmen!) have been spotted – yet…
One of the earliest mentions of the village in the Scottish National Archives is in 1454, when a James Lawedre (Lauder) is recorded as Vicar, or parish priest at Kippen.

King of Kippen

John Buchanan became proprietor of Arnprior, and afterwards the noted “King of Kippen”, a phrase which originated in an episode between himself and James V, who was fond of travelling in disguise under the title of “The Guid Man o’ Ballengeich”, after the steep path leading down from the Castle of Stirling.

According to the story, the King, with his nobles, residing in Stirling Castle, sent a party for some deer to the hills in the neighbourhood of Gartmore. On their return to Stirling with the venison they passed through Arnprior, where they were attacked by the chief and relieved of their burden. Berated by the party for so ruthlessly taking from them what belonged to the King, Buchanan replied that if James was King in Scotland, he was King of Kippen. When the messengers reported the circumstance to the King, he resolved to wait on his neighbouring majesty of Kippen, and rode out one day with a small retinue from Stirling.

Demanding admittance at the palace of Arnprior, he was refused by a camp-looking warrior standing at the gate with a battle-axe sloped on his shoulder, who told him there was no admission, as his chief was at dinner with a large company and could not be disturbed at that time. “Tell your master,” said James, “the Guidman o’ Ballengeich humbly requests an audience of the ‘King of Kippen’.” Buchanan, guessing the quality of his guest, received His Majesty with the appropriate honours, and became so great a favourite that he had leave to draw upon the carrier as often as he pleased, and was invited, as “King of Kippen” to visit his brother sovereign at Stirling.

Rob Roy in Kippen

Born in 1671, Rob Roy lived most of his life within the Trossachs and Loch Lomond area. Cattle were very much the lifeblood of Highlanders in the 16th/17th centuries. There was nothing about the cattle business that Rob Roy did not know. Besides dealing, buying, selling and droving to market, “reiving” or stealing cattle was also commonplace.

When Rob Roy was only 20, he planned and carried out a raid on a valuable herd being driven from Menteith to Stirling. His strategy was to ambush the herd as it passed through Buchlyvie. The men of that village were not privy to this plan and presumed that they were the target of the raid so sent to their neighbours for assistance. On sight of the herd, Rob Roy and his men swept down from Kippen Muir to find themselves caught between the men of Buchlyvie and Kippen.

However, Rob Roy was victorious and the cattle captured, but the unnecessary bloodshed that had occurred so angered Rob Roy that he took the cattle from every byre in Kippen and sent this second herd after the first. Jean Key, a young widow from Balfron, was abducted by Rob Roy’s son Robin Oig. Her grave is in the old churchyard of Kippen.