Day 87 Carn Thearlaich to Moy 12mls

Well the rain certainly did come down in the night so I definitely did the right thing in staying inside. There was a broom ,so I’d swept the place and tidied up before making myself at home. Like other huts I passed,this one had a large table and benches inside for use during grouse shooting lunches, but judging by the length of the grass blocking the gate,it hadn’t been visited since last year. Nothing scratched or scrabbled during the night which was certainly good, and I definitely left it looking better than it was when I arrived.

The track continued uphill. Having seen one hare yesterday,I lost count of how many bounced here and there today.They really are the original Easter bunnies because they sit up on their hind legs,ears up, looking around, just like the foil wrapped chocolate version.

Where the track ended,I headed out overland to get to the top of a nearby hill. The vegetation was very low growing here, but due to everything being very wet,my boots still managed to get soaked. There were some very attractive colour schemes going.

I met a double fence line leading to a gate by a cairn and a trig point. This was more like Escape from Alcatraz than the middle of the Scottish Highlands, because for some bizarre reason one of the fences was electrified.

I can only presume neighbouring estate owners must loath each other. There are no deer so perhaps their sheep are especially proficient at the high jump.

From here I could see right down into the next valley and the Findhorn river.

Another track started from the gate and took me right down to the road at the bottom. There was then a long slog out to the next road,but much to my relief, few cars. I was offered a lift by a gamekeeper,and when I explained why I couldn’t accept we had a long conversation about camping and footwear. I think he was glad to find someone to talk to.

On through Tomatin, where I found a community shop for a sandwich and a cup of tea,and then on past the distillery.

This funny waymarked path went for about a mile and a half, but it did at least mean I didn’t have to walk along the road. A little further on,I followed a track a short way up into moorland. I’d seen a building marked ‘bothy’ on the map and was curious. While the building was uninhabitable, there was a very good level camping spot just beyond with a stream just below.

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Day 86 Aviemore to Carn Thearlaich 10mls

Having spent a day resting, restocking and drying out,I was off to the north again.

The day started with a short walk westward along paths and old road sections parallel to my old friend the A9. I was looking for the start of a track going up into the hills, and I found it beautifully waymarked.

The evidence has been shown in case there is disbelief that the track is actually called the’Burma rd’. I would love to know how it got its name.

The next wonderful thing was to see a sign reading ‘ traybakes for sale’ at a house just a few yards up the track. Perfect, because the one thing I hadn’t bought for the next few days was anything sweet.

The Burma rd started off steep and carried on steep. I didn’t try to rush and plodded on, with the result that I made steady but slow progress. On the way I was overtaken by several puce in the face mountain bikers and a jogger. Rather them than me.

All of a sudden I was quite a long way up , and on looking back saw panoramic views of the Cairngorm mountains which I had passed through two days ago. The clouds were sitting over the mountain tops again.

There was more than a passing similarity to the Pennines as I reached the highest point of the track. As if on cue, the wind got up and the rain started. My hopping and wriggling into my waterproofs must have so startled a mountain hare, that it jumped out onto the track almost in front of me. I had a very good view of it before it literally bounced off to the left and away.

The vista to the north was as impressive as that to the south. The Burma rd wiggled its way off onto the far north and the hills spread out in all directions. No chance of losing that path.

Eventually I reached the bridge over the river Dulnain, where I turned left and followed the river for a short while. In the distance was the red roof of a building which I had a feeling was an estate bothy. It would be good to find somewhere dry for lunch.

Had I arrived later in the day I might have stayed as this place was cosy, clean and dry, but I wanted to get on a bit further.

Up another hill I found another hut and as it was open, and there was a stream nearby decided to stay. I could have camped but the weather was looking very unsettled, and anyway, why get wet when you don’t have to.

The view from the porch was rather good.

Day 85 Corrour to Aviemore 13.5mls

More rain in the night and I woke to midges and very low cloud that sat over all the hills like a big damp blanket. It was all pretty horrible,so this was an exercise in how to pack everything up inside the tent and then emerge fully dressed and ready to go. After putting on the ‘smidge’ that is. It works,as I can testify in my efforts to take down the tent and also pack that away. Anyway I was off rather early.

The little bothy had gained two more tents around it,and as I walked away I counted another two down by the river.

The path went steadily uphill and of course into the fog. I was going into a huge glaciated valley between the mountains known as the Lairig Ghru which is known for spectacular scenery. Not today, that’s for sure.

So much for the views. There was barely any breeze and what there was, came from behind me. As a result the midges kept up with me very happily, idling along in my slipstream. As soon as I stopped there they were, buzzing expectantly and ready for breakfast. Thank goodness for insect repellent.

It wasn’t until I reached the higher parts of the path that the cloud parted. Quite fortunate really because the path disappeared into a boulder field and the direction was not clear in thick fog. I was then aware of huge mountain walls reaching up either side . The silence was total. Not a sound of anything up here.

Soon after, I arrived at the rather mystical Pools of Dee. These are a couple of pools from which the burn emerged, but they were definitely Tolkeinish today. I half expected a hand clutching a sword to emerge.

The highest point of the pass at 830m was marked by a cairn. It was also the highest point of my end to end walk so deserved a selfie. Actually there was not much else to take a picture of, apart from a pile of stones surrounded by fog.

As soon as I started descending, the clouds cleared,and I could see the huge mountain sides more easily. I also lost my little flying friends, for the breeze was too strong for them.

Descending took some time, for I cannot rush especially where stony,bumpy paths are concerned. Far away in the distance I could see the town of Aviemore beyond the miles of pine forest.

The descent was interesting. First there was heather and bilberry, and then further down I started coming across small scattered fir trees and juniper bushes before entering the proper forest. This was no plantation, but the original Scots pine forest growing over an enormous area. It’s a very popular area for cycling and there are numerous routes, but today being midweek,they were very quiet. I followed a couple of these right into Aviemore.

As always the last few miles went on forever and I dared not sit down for fear of failing to get up again. I was meeting up with Martin at the SYHA in the town and having a rest day the following day. No sightseeing for me, just reading and doing nothing.

Day 84 Falls of Tarf to Corrour 12.5mls

No rain during the night, but it started up again the very second I was about to get up. Thankfully the shower was short lived but my tent was very wet. While I was packing I saw the Spanish cyclist again. He had decided he couldn’t get his bike any further along the path and so, after camping further along,was heading back the way he had come.

The Falls of Tarf were quite spectacular even without much water.

The rather elegant bridge was put in place after a young man drowned there in the nineteenth century.

The path continued to wiggle alongside the river, and then when it divided into two streams, followed one between much bigger hills.

Eventually the landscape opened up into a wide valley. I was very glad that the day was calm, for up here walking against a strong wind would have been unpleasant. For once I was also glad the sun wasn’t shining, for under cloudy skies the temperature was perfect for walking.

The water droplets looked like jewels on this type of grass.

Part way along I came across the ruins of Bynack Lodge surrounded by a few old pine trees. It was probably too far away from anywhere to maintain it,even for deer stalking.

Soon after,I had a series of river crossings, but for once luck was with me and I crossed with dry feet. Low water levels and walking poles made stepping from stone to stone quite easy.

An estate pick up was driving along the track on the other side of the widest river and stopped just before I crossed. While I’d like to think he was waiting to offer assistance,I am sure he was watching and waiting to see me fall in, because as soon as I set off past him,he drove by. What a shame I spoiled his entertainment.

At the next river there was a bridge and I turned onto a side path towards the distant mountain tops. A little further on I had a wonderful spot for lunch with a view of waterfalls.

This path climbed steadily until I could see big mountains ahead with mist swirling around their tops.

As they got closer they were even more impressive.To the right of the cairn is the mountain known as ‘Devils Point’.

At long last I could see my destination in the form of the Corrour bothy. The tiny white blob at the foot of the mountains.

While I had been thinking of staying in there,I decided against after being warned of a mouse problem by another camper. Instead I pitched my tent on an area of grass nearby and enjoyed the views until the breeze dropped and the midges made themselves known.

Day 83 Blair Atholl to Falls of Tarf 12mls

I was off into the Cairngorms today and so of course the forecast was for rain. Just serves me right for getting smug about the weather.

Having first called at the shop for last minute food items I set off up the little road to the Old Bridge of Tilt. The water level was much lower than normal after so long without rain.

From here there was a track leading right up Glen Tilt following the river. The river went into quite a steep gorge at first amongst trees so although I couldn’t see it I could hear the water rushing far below. This very rare flower is Small Cowwheat and apparently it is only found in a few places in Scotland and not in England at all.

Just in case my flower knowledge amazes anyone, the only reason I know is because there was a helpful sign next to the clump.

As I continued up the track, the trees ended and I was in open land with increasingly large hills to either side. The clouds were very low and rain was threatening.

A few estate lodges were passed after which the track gradually deteriorated to become a path meandering along with the river.

High up in the top of a hill I saw a small herd of deer grazing . The only person I met all day was a Spanish cyclist who was hoping to find a joining path and so do a big loop back. His bike was quite heavily laden so I thought it might be a struggle.

And the rain started. Why did it have to rain when I was having to camp out in the middle of nowhere after weeks of dry. Just before the Falls of Tarf, I found a nice level area above the river with a stream for water close by. It wasn’t much fun pitching the tent in the rain but at least at this point it wasn’t heavy. It was wonderfully quiet here with the only sound being the river below,so time to find my kindle and have an early night.

Day 82 Pitlochry to Blair Atholl 10mls

After another and more disturbed night at this campsite I’d decided to move on and camp at Blair Atholl. Why do some people have to play music loudly late at night,let their kids kick footballs at tents until all hours and generally be extremely loud. Martin could sleep through this but not me.

Anyhow back to the adventure. Pitlochry is one of those tourist trap towns. Quite pretty, but jammed with traffic while every other shop is an ever more expensive cafe or restaurant. Today I was following the river path upstream,so looking out for signs for the’ Killiecrankie Route’. I must admit that I was feeling rather killiecrankie this morning, after being kept awake until 1am.

From the town the route was actually very pleasant along Loch Faskally. This is an artificial loch made from damming the river in order to supply water to the two hydroelectric plants nearby.

There was more cloud cover today, but had the sun been out the woodland surrounding the water would have provided lovely shade.

Beyond Faskally House, the rivers divided and the path continued into the gorge of the river Garry. As water levels were very low, the gorge was probably not at its most spectacular, but things were still very scenic. I was very pleased to see a very fluffy tailed red squirrel on the path and then watch it climb up a nearby tree.

I thought this was a pedestrian speed bump until I read the notice at the side. Apparently it is believed to be a grave of an army commander from the Jacobite period.

I left the path at the village of Killiecrankie, went over a bridge and joined a very long small lane. There was a firm notice stating that this road was dead end leading to a working quarry, so for a while I was unsure whether I could get through. There were however a number of houses and farms along it,so decided to take a chance and risk a cross country escapade at the end.

In actual fact I had no problems. A couple of large lorries passed me, but beyond the quarry, the lane passed under the main A9 and became a beautiful track leading as I’d hoped, right to the bridge for Blair Atholl.

This little place looks every way the estate village with all the houses built in the same style. My campsite is right in the grounds of Blair Castle, which unfortunately I wasn’t going to have time to visit. There were lots of coaches coming out,so a place that is definitely on the tourist trail.

Day 81 Dunkeld to Pitlochry 15 mls

When he heard where I had got to yesterday, Martin came over to collect me, so I have actually been camping with him at Pitlochry last night. Bit of a noisy campsite being peak season and with the scottish schools having broken up,so time to dig out the old earplugs.

I walked into and through the pretty village of Dunkeld which had some quite old buildings in the centre and a charming little garden.

I was trying to find a track up into the hills but initially got on to the wrong road and had to backtrack, which was annoying.

The part of the Tay Forest Park that I was heading into was criss crossed by a network of cycle paths,so I was passed by many laden cars on the way to the parking area. Once up there I barely met one cyclist, so heaven knows where they all went.

Once going the right direction the walking was enjoyable with clearings of heather and shrubbery in between old trees. So nice in fact, that I changed my route to go a bit further through this area instead of on a road

There were two small lochs part way along with waterlilies and many bright coloured dragon flies darting everywhere.

Eventually I passed an isolated estate cottage and began to descend. At this point there were views northward over the Tay Valley.

Someone had kindly provided a very comfortable bench that blended into the landscape rather well.

At the bottom of the valley I crossed the river at Ballinluig and started along the hills on the other side. The paths over here were completely empty of any cyclists even though I followed a well marked off road cycle way.

There was more shade this side of the valley which was a relief, for yet again the temperature had shot up. Not the normally wet and windy Scotland that I’ve experienced before.

The approach to Pitlochry gave a lovely view of a turreted castle which I believe is a rather smart hotel.

Just before the town and my much needed pot of tea,I crossed this quite beautiful suspension bridge. It was the sort that bounced if too many people crossed at any one time.

Day 80 Perth to Dunkeld 17mls

I’m sure Perth is a lovely town, but having only seen the traffic and the dusty streets, I couldn’t wait to be gone. I had memorized a quicker route out through residential streets, which at 7am on a Sunday were very quiet indeed. In no time at all I was passing through yet another industrial estate and then I was on the bank of the river Tay.

Things were much pleasanter here and the trees gave welcome shade from the hot sun.

The path stopped at the village of Luncarty, so here I crossed the thankfully not very busy A9 and joined a series of tracks across countryside. How much nicer it was to be away from cars even though there was little shade. The water effect on the photo is actually butterfly netting over a field of young kale plants.

The next series of lanes took me to Bankfoot. On the way I caught this farmer cutting his garden hedge in a rather unusual way. I promised him that if I took a picture,I wouldn’t tell Health and Safety. I will add however that the engine was still running.

I was tempted,so very sorely tempted to follow these instructions.

A little further down the lane were a bunch of hot,hairy Highland coos. The first I’d seen in Scotland.

I thought these inspirational words on a shelter at the village school were extremely appropriate given my situation.

The plan today was to get as far as the next range of hills and then camp up there.However, having had a good meal at the visitor centre at Bankfoot,my energy was restored.In no time at all I had reached the end of the lane, passed the last farm and was surrounded by bracken.

It was definitely hot so was rather glad I had no steep climb, and instead had a gentle ascent into the Obney hills through Glenn Garr.

At the top the heather was beginning to flower and there were tiny but very sweet tasting billberries. The burns were mostly dry however due to the lack of rain, and there were a great number of horse flies buzzing around.Although I had brought enough water to drink, walking was hot and sticky and the call of a shower was getting stronger.

I decided to keep going and reach Dunkeld where I knew there was a campsite. On the descent I was back into woodlands but this time of Scots pine trees. There was no more arable farmland on this side of the hills for I was now into big hills, forestry and wide river valleys.

Day 79 Bridge of Earn to Perth 8mls

It’s a very short distance to Perth as the M90 goes , but a much wigglier route for the foot traveller due to motorways and rivers getting in the way. Martin was moving towards Pitlochery today, so before being deposited at exactly yesterdays pickup spot we had taken the big tent down and packed up.

I had a nice straight little road to go along first thing before climbing up Moncrieffe Hill. No traffic I thought, but how wrong was I. No sooner had I started along this lane when the first of a number of HGVs passed me, starting up clouds of dust and going at some speed. Obviously a short cut to somewhere.

The good path up the wooded and thankfully cool hillside was much nicer. There was a lovely smell of hot pine and little brown butterflies were flitting everywhere.

At the top was the remains of a 1,500 year old Pictish fort which had the most incredible views over the surrounding area.

Over Perth and the north

Towards the sea to the east

The walk down was steep and slippery due to a great deal of loose stones so I took my time. My original plan had been to follow the main road into the town but as the hill path came out near a tiny road going towards the river Tay,I thought I’d try that instead. I passed a few houses at Grange of Elcho and then met another track going towards Perth.

I was then reassured that I could get through by a couple coming the other way. The risk of trying these tiny tracks marked on maps as white roads (or sometimes dashed lines in Scotland) is that if you can’t get through, then it’s a long usually uphill slog back again. Not good in rain or hot weather.

This little road was hemmed in by a forest of Giant Hogweed so I made sure to stay right in the middle.

Then of course I ended up going through an enormous industrial estate. Firstly I could smell the mobile toilet hire company before I saw it, then I went past HM prison and then the endless vehicle breakage yards. Welcome to Perth folks.

Eventually I reached the centre, and having time to kill before I could check in at the YHA, visited the Ferguson art gallery. Nice to be in out of the sun and to see something different.

Unfortunately the hostel was another 2 miles away along more hot traffic laden roads, so no hope of my going back that way after my day off. A lovely place to stay though, for in term time it is the halls of residence for the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Day 78 Kinross to Bridge of Earn 12mls

I’ve caught up with Martin who has been camping at Kinross,so today no large bag to carry. Yesterday I had been sitting drinking a well earned lemonade outside the Co-op trying to motivate myself to walk the extra off route mile to the campsite, when I heard my name called. Yes,my knight in shining armour complete with car.

Today involved a walk along the remarkably quiet main road through Kinross to the next village of Milnathort.

Then uphill to try and find more unreliable tracks. I am quite impressed with Fife Council for their efforts regarding signs. Why is this road walker friendly though? There were still cars belting past, although fewer of them.

But my track was there and going the right direction.

At the top I had a reception committee waiting in the form of a herd of inquisitive cattle. Once I’d got through their field,all was plain sailing on the road to Glenfarg.

From here I followed the ‘Wallace Road’ 5 miles over the hills almost to Bridge of Earn. The signposting was excellent as were the views . I could see the sea to the east and the start of the Cairngorms to the north.

At the wind turbines the track stopped so I ended up going across country. There were plenty of features to work out where I was including the remains of this very tumbledown farm. All that was left were piles of stones and an ancient broken grate.

Near the end of the walk,I met a very friendly cat who followed me along the little road. He was certainly very entertaining. It looks as if he can’t bear hearing what I’m saying.

This little town was not one of the most enthralling places I’ve been to.

The actual bridge was pretty enough, but trying to get a pot of tea while I waited for Martin was not easy. In the end I went to the Last Cast hotel. More like the ‘last gasp’ judging from the interior. I’m guessing modernised around 1970, and the sign on the outside promises ‘colour TV in all rooms’. One step up from advertising hot and cold running water in each room I suppose.