Discovering Arngask Parish in Scotland

Map of Arngask parish in Scotland.
Map of Arngask Parish in Scotland (Reproduced with permission by the National Library of Scotland)

Have you heard of Arngask Parish in Scotland?  Unless you live there, this little parish may not be on your radar.  It is nestled between the regions of Perthshire and Kinross-shire in the Ochil Hills.  Let me tell you about this interesting little parish.

My journey into the history of Arngask began while researching the genealogies of three distinct families, all of whom had roots in neighbouring farms during the 19th century.  Arngask Parish quickly became a focal point of my research, and I want to share my findings with you.

Where is Arngask?

Arngask’s historical administrative boundaries can pose a challenge for researchers.

Firstly, Arngask did not always belong to Perth & Kinross which can be confusing if you are trying to locate your ancestor on the ScotlandsPeople database.  It used to belong to 3 separate counties: Perthshire, Fife, and Kinross-shire. Before 1891, the Parish Church was in Fife, the Free Church in Kinross-shire, and the school in Perthshire.

Therefore, when you are looking up records on the ScotlandsPeople either choose ‘All Areas’ or the individual counties that Arngask belonged to.

Geographically, Arngask is roughly circular, spanning over three miles from north to south and just a little more from west to east.  It is bordered by six parishes:  Strathmiglo in Fife to the east, Abernethy and Dron in Perthshire to the north, Forgandenny and Forteviot (also in Perthshire) to the west, and Orwell in Kinross-shire to the south.

The Origins of Arngask Name

The exact origins of Arngask’s name is a mystery.  While some suggests it comes from the Gaelic ‘Ard-na-gaisk’ meaning ‘the hill or height of heroism’, others propose variations such as ‘Ard-an-Croisg’ (the height or hill of the pass) or ‘Errann Grosk’ (a crossing over land).  The parish minister in 1791 wrote that it derived from the Latin word ‘Arvum’ and ‘Gask’ to mean a ‘large field’.

Etymology of Arngask from the Statistical Accounts of Scotland.
Sir John Sinclair, The Statistical Account of Scotland, Arngask, Perth, Vol. 1, 1791, p. 414.

Interestingly, the word Gask occurs in placenames around Perthshire.  However, it does not appear to have any connection between Arngask and any of the other Gasks in the county, such as Trinity Gask, or Findo Gask.

The History of Arngask Parish in Scotland

Arngask’s historical significance has references dating back to the 13th century.  Records from the Chartulary of Cambuskenneth document grants of land and patronage to the church, highlighting the parish’s feudal past.  For example, in 1281, Gilbert Frislay (also known as Fraser), the laird of Fargey  donated the patronage of the church of Arngask to the monastery of Cambuskenneth, along with the adjacent land near the priest’s residence.

Despite its proximity to industrial towns like Perth and Dunfermline, Arngask Parish managed to retain its rural and agricultural charm.  The village of Glenfarg underwent a rebranding in 1890 during the construction of the Edinburgh-Perth railway line.  It was decided to change its name from Damhead to Glenfarg to make it more appealing to Victorian visitors. Sadly the railway no longer exists.

Newspapers were an uncommon feature in rural Scotland, yet the former villagers pooled their pennies together to take out a subscription to ‘The Edinburgh Chronicle’. In addition, the establishment of a local parish library in the 19th century reflects the community’s curiosity and engagement with current affairs.

Arngask Parish Church

The old parish church no longer stands, yet its cemetery remains accessible for visitors.  Located to the east of Glenfarg  the ruins of the church, now roofless, are overtaken by nature.  It is worth a visit because there are some amazing gravestones there.

Old Arngask parish church.
Old Arngask Parish Church (credit: St Andrews University)

So, in summary . . .

Whether you are tracing family roots or simply immersing yourself in Scotland’s history, try and visit this lovely Arngask Parish located in central Scotland.  Of course, the old cemetery is worth visiting and Arngask Farm regularly has markets and events selling their produce.  Alternatively, it is a great place to cycle and see the beautiful views of Perthshire and Kinross-shire.

Check out my other posts on Muckhart and Orwell parishes.  Let me know in the comments below if you want me to write about a particular Scottish parish. 

Good luck with your research.

Until my next post, haste ye back.


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