Reverend Robert Kirk was born in 1644 and is known for his book “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies” in 1691. In his book Kirk tells stories about folk who had contact to fairies including himself. Kirk also believed that the local Doon Hill was the gateway to the world of the fairies, also described as “The Secret Commonwealth“. The book can has been published and can still be purchased in some bookstores or online (ISBN-10: 0486466116).
As the seventh son of Reverend James Kirk he served as Episcopal minister in Balquhidder and later as minister of Aberfoyle Parish. Even though his parents were very poor, Kirk was able to finish school and as the result of a bursary from the Presbytery of Dunblane he went on to study theology at St Andrews University and later obtained his Masters Degree in Edinburgh. With his wife Isobel, they had a son called Colin. After his wife died he married Margaret, a daughter of Campbell of Fordy, who bore him a second son called Robert.
Reverend Kirk was a former resident of the Old Manse which is situated nearby the Fairy Knowe. The same house is known for the place where Sir Walter Scott wrote his famous poem “The Lady of the Lake“. The old church in Aberfoyle is situated in an area called Kirkton and therefore known as Kirkton Church. The church has 2 mort safes (cast iron coffin) which were used to prevent grave robbing. Body snatchers stole corpses and sold them to doctors and medical students for teaching.
Reverend Kirk died in 1691 of unknown circumstances when he went to Doon Hill during the night and collapsed. Some people found him there and brought him home where he died. It is most likely that he suffered a heart attack. It is said that Reverend Kirk actually didn’t die on the hill but was carried away by the fairies. Thereafter Reverend Kirk appeared as a vision in front of his cousin Graham. He told him that he was not dead and that he would appear at the christening of Graham’s child. For Reverend Kirk it would be the only way to come back to life. When he appeared at the christening, Graham was to throw an iron dagger over Kirk. This would release him from captivity. Graham was too scared though and couldn’t do it. Now it is believed that Reverend Kirk’s soul is still inside the lone Scots Pine tree on Doon Hill.
Besides writing the book about fairies, Kirk is also known as the first person to translated the bible into Gaelic. His walks to Doon hill started usually from the church or The Manse. Doon hill is also known as “Fairy Knowe” or “Dun Sithean”. Locally the fairies have the name “Sithe”. The fairy walk leads to the conical hill which is situated in a relatively flat landscape by Aberfoyle.
To start the walk up the Doon Hill start from the car park in Aberfoyle and cross the bridge over the River Forth. Follow the road to the cemetery on the left where you will find Reverend Kirk’s gravestone next to the old parish church ruin. A sign-posted path leads from the Kirkton Church to Doon Hill. Some people hang ribbons and messages around the trees on the top of the hill to be protected from illness and misfortune, or to commemorate a loved or lost one. The complete sign-posted round trip takes not more than 2 hours. For information about walking in Aberfoyle have a look at the Aberfoyle Walking Brochure which is also available from the Tourist Information Centre in the Main Street.