Part of Kinross is well known to many visitors to Scotland. Since the building of the M90 in the early 1970s, Kinross Services has been a regular stop on the long journey north: a break between the Forth Road Bridge and the end of the motorway at Perth. Some will also remember camping here, though it is now many years since the service area offered a camp site.
But the service area and the highly distinctive "golf ball" telecommunications installation a little further to the east are recent additions to the historical town that lies the other side of the motorway and predates them by a good fifteen hundred years.
Today's visitor finds a charming and bustling town of narrow streets and old buildings.
The name Kinross means The Head of the Point and relates to the original location of its church overlooking Loch Leven. Today this remains the site of a graveyard and is accessed from the long park that runs from Kinross along the north western edge of Loch Leven.
And it was the loch and its islands that caused the original growth of a settlement here. Lochleven Castle, on Castle Island, has achieved fame through the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots, and her escape on 2 May 1568 (see our Historical Timeline). However, King Dongart of the Picts had a fortress on the island as early as AD490, so the ruins on view today are just the last of a long line of defensive structures built here.
If Castle Island's various castles provided a reason for the establishment of Kinross, another turning point came with the building of Kinross House, complete with extensive gardens and parkland, by Sir William Bruce of Balcaskie in the years around 1690.
This involved the relocation of parts of the town still on the headland, and resulted in significant development immediately outside the gates on the west side of the estate. Kinross House is now accessed from a side street in Kinross and through its gates the visitor can catch a distant glimpse of the first major house in Scotland not originally built as a castle.
Kinross grew as a staging post on the man road north to Perth and beyond, and as the county town of Kinross-shire. The town's more recent history has been primarily an industrial one. In the early 1700s there were 320 weavers, 35 cutlers, 22 shoemakers and 10 iron workers in a population of around 600 people.
By 1860 over 600 people were employed in local wool weaving companies. This tradition has continued and by the early 1990s Kinross was a world leader in spinning cashmere, turning the hair from 10 million Mongolian goats into enough yarn to make 3 million garments per year.
Kinross is also well served with leisure facilities. Loch Leven is a renowned centre for brown trout fishing, and the town and local area has many hotels, including the Green Hotel on the northern side of Kinross, and there are two golf courses. The town also has an ice rink, allowing the continuation of a tradition that started with the formation of a curling club on Loch Leven in 1667.
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