To most people, "Meikleour" is a name associated with the Meikleour Hedge, which since 1966 has officially been recognised as the tallest and longest hedge on Earth. The Hedge lies alongside the main Perth to Blairgowrie road and most who marvel at its imposing presence simply pass on along that road. Relatively few are likely to notice the sign at the junction with a minor road at the northern end of the hedge, pointing the way to Meikleour.
Those who take the turn find themselves in a strikingly attractive village. At one end is the Meikleour Village Hall and Institute, built in 1930, while at the other is the excellent Meikleour Arms Hotel and Restaurant. The Meikleour Arms was built in 1820 as a coaching and posting house, where the Inverness to Edinburgh coaches would stop to change their horses and refresh their passengers. It was later converted into a lodge used by fishing and shooting guests of the Meikleour estate, before later becoming a hotel, restaurant and bar. Between the hotel and the institute are a collection of houses and cottages that appear mainly 1800s in origin, with a few sympathetic modern additions.
Although it is not immediately obvious, the village actually stands astride the A984, which follows the line of an old military road from Coupar Angus to Dunkeld. Even less obvious from the village itself is that it stands less than half a mile from the River Tay. (Continues below image...)
Settlement in the area goes back a very long way. Just over half a mile to the north-east of the village is the Cleaven Dyke, a massive linear earthwork running for over a mile from north-west to south-east and comprising a pair of parallel ditches some 50m apart, either side of a central mound, which is some 9m wide by 1-2m high. It is of a type of ancient feature known as cursus monuments which date back to between 2500BC and 2000BC. Their intended purpose remains unclear, but may have been ceremonial. What is obvious is that its construction would have taken a great deal of labour, suggesting there was a significant population in the immediate area at the time.
From medieval times a ferry crossed the River Tay from Meikleour to Kinclaven on the opposite bank. Meikleour itself was sufficiently established as a settlement to be chartered as a burgh in 1665. This event was marked by the erection of a mercat cross, though most sources say the one you see today was not erected in the village until 1698. The mercat cross continues to form the centrepiece of the village and is deceptively complex in design and execution. Meikleour became home to a number of annual fairs for buying and selling goods and produce, and hiring farm workers.
Evidence of the village's mercantile past can be seen in the shape of the Tron, in a nearby field. This would have provided a fulcrum which allowed goods to be weighed using a standardised set of weights. It was also home to a set of "jougs" which can still be seen: a short chain attached to a collar which could be fixed around a criminal's neck as a type of stocks.
Half a mile south of the village, on the shore of the River Tay, is Meikleour House. This was built in 1734 by Robert Murray Nairne and his wife Jean Mercer of Meikleour, heiress of the estates of Aldie and Meikleour. They are best known for planting the Meikleour Hedge in 1745, only shortly before Nairn was killed at the Battle of Culloden and Jean Mercer left Meikleour to seek refuge and anonymity in Edinburgh. The house was remodelled in the form of a French château in 1870 by the architect David Bryce.