Fortingall Art is Highland Perthshire’s most prestigious annual art exhibition, held every summer since 2004 in the village of Fortingall. Set up and still run by local artists the exhibition features painting, jewellery, photography, sculpture, ceramics, glass and bespoke furniture in a stunning rural setting.
Now an established highlight in Perthshire’s cultural calendar Fortingall Art draws over 2000 visitors from all over the UK every year. Held in the unique ‘arts and crafts’ Molteno Hall, the exhibition’s venue is as distinctive as the quality of the art that it features.
The village of Fortingall is famed for it’s ancient 5,000 year old yew tree, thought to be the oldest living tree in Europe, and for its unique architecture, designed by James McLaren. Fortingall is also the perfect jumping off point to explore the wilder areas of Highland Perthshire with Glen Lyon and Loch Tay nearby.
Fortingall Art is a not for profit artists Co-operative that is run by artists and volunteers, aimed to support the artists it features.
Archaeological evidence shows that Fortingall was a special place in Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages. When Christian missionaries arrived from Iona in the 7th Century AD they established a monastery centred on the ancient yew tree that was then over 2000 years old. Recent excavations have demonstrated that a large area was surrounded with an impressive embankment and ditch, probably giving rise to the name ‘Fortingall’, now thought to mean ‘stronghold church’. Fragments of finely carved Pictish crosses survive in the present church.
Throughout the middle ages the church was the centre of one of the largest parishes in Scotland, and one of the last vicars before the Reformation was James Macgregor, Dean of Lismore, famous as the first collector of Gaelic poetry. Later in the 17th and 18th centuries the area was dominated by local lairds such as the Campbells of Glenlyon and the Stewarts of Garth, as well as some notable ministers and schoolmasters.
In late Victorian times the Fortingall estates were bought by wealthy shipowner Sir Donald Currie, the local MP, and he employed an up and coming architect, James M MacLaren, to turn the run down collection of longhouses into a model village. Starting with Balnald Farm and Glenlyon Farmhouse and Steading, MacLaren blended the Arts and Crafts style with the Scottish vernacular tradition, culminating in his iconic Kirkton Cottages. He had made preliminary designs for renewing Fortingall Hotel and Glenlyon House when he died aged 37 in 1890. His colleagues Dunn and Watson (along with the young Robert Lorimer), finished his work for Currie and in 1901-2 rebuilt the old church in a contemporary style. MacLaren’s innovations influenced other young architects, including, importantly, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. In 1936 the last of MacLaren successors, William Curtis Green, designed the Molteno Memorial Hall for the village, with its striking scissor beam roof.