Straddling the Highlands and Lowlands, Perthshire is at the very heart of Scotland and is one of the most popular regions for lovers of the great outdoors. Home to the wide and graceful River Tay, as well as magnificent forests, great rolling mountains and heather-clad moors, this area contains some unforgettable walking terrain.
This volume features 40 walks around the traditional hubs of Pitlochry, Dunkeld and Kilin (with its historical connections to the county), as well as countryside around Blairgowrie, Crieff and Aberfeldy, finishing up at the Fair City of Perth and nearby Kinross.
96 pages / 105mm x 148mm / step into the guide
Perthshire is at the very heart of Scotland, within easy reach of the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh yet a world apart – offering a huge variety of scenery encompassing both Highland and Lowland landscapes. As well as the historic Fair City itself, Perthshire includes a number of attractive small towns – Pitlochry, Dunkeld, Crieff and Aberfeldy among them. The mighty River Tay enjoys almost legendary status amongst salmon fishermen and it is just one of several fine rivers that carve their way through glens so richly wooded that the area has been branded ‘Big Tree Country’. Remarkable trees include the Fortingall Yew – thought to be the oldest living organism in Europe – as well as the world's highest hedge, a contender for Britain’s tallest tree and a surviving oak from Shakespeare’s Birnam Wood. Above the trees are heather-clad hills and mountains – including lofty Ben Lawers and the graceful cone of Schiehallion, the Fairy Mountain.
A classic Perthshire image is that of the Highland castle, whether it be the dazzling white fairytale of Blair Castle, the dour fortress of Castle Menzies where Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed en route to Culloden or Scone Palace, where for many centuries the kings of Scotland were crowned on the Stone of Destiny. Other attractions include whisky distilleries (both Scotland’s oldest and smallest are found here), historic gardens and golf courses, as well as events ranging from traditional Highland Games to Scotland’s biggest music festival, T in the Park, and the Enchanted Forest, an extravaganza of music and lights.
This guide features 40 moderate walks in all parts of Perthshire and Kinross, including Killin near the head of Loch Tay, historically part of the region.
Safety and what to take
While some of the routes are waymarked, many others are not and the sketch maps accompanying them are intended as an aid to planning rather than navigation. It is recommended that you take – and know how to use – the relevant OS or Harvey map and compass. Weather can be extreme on higher ground. The Ben Vrackie route, in particular, crosses high and exposed ground and, even at lower altitudes, the weather can change rapidly. It is always advisable to carry wind- and waterproof clothing and adequate warm layers to allow the walks to be completed safely if the weather does deteriorate. Most of the routes are suitable for families with children in good conditions and could be completed in stout walking shoes, but boots are recommended for the more exposed or rougher ground.
Perth is served by railway lines from both Glasgow and Edinburgh, while a third line extends northwards through Perthshire en route to Inverness. Additionally, there are good bus services to most towns and villages throughout the region. Where a walk can be reached by public transport, it is indicated in the text. Timetables can be found in local tourist information centres and from Traveline Scotland.The introduction of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act in 2003 gave walkers rights of access over most of Scotland away from residential buildings, but these rights entail responsibilities. Remember that much of the area is a working landscape, and always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. In particular, keep dogs on tight leads during the spring and early summer and well away from sheep and lambs at all times. Deer stalking takes place on the hills from 1 July to 20 October, but this would not usually conflict with routes on lower ground as described here.
Perthshire has a very long and rich history. Although the Romans invaded this region under the leadership of Agricola, defeating the local Caledonian tribes at the Battle of Mons Graupius in 83AD, and later built a fort at Inchtuthil near Dunkeld, they were unable to subdue the tribesfolk for long and, after being subjected to a guerrilla campaign, retreated south. The best-known remains from this period are the crannogs, defensive loch dwellings, some of which date back to 5000BC. More than 20 such dwellings have been identified in Loch Tay alone, and there is an excellent reconstruction of one at the Crannog Centre near Kenmore. Scone was the capital of the Kingdom of the Picts for many years while, further west, the Kingdom of the Gaels was centred on Dunadd in Argyll. Kenneth MacAlpin is traditionally claimed as the first King of Scotland and, according to legend, he brought the coronation stone, the Stone of Destiny, to Scone. Most modern historians believe it was his grandson Constantine, however, who truly united the two kingdoms when he overthrew a coup which had been carried out by a Gael, Giric. Constantine is thought to have defeated Giric at the hillfort of Dundurn above St Fillans. Whichever version of history is to be believed, Scone was the coronation place of the Scottish kings, and for several years it was also the seat of its parliament.
When Edward I invaded Scotland he took the Stone of Destiny to Westminster, where, despite the Scots’ eventual victory in the Wars of Independence, it remained in England until recent times. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 saw the protestant William of Orange depose his uncle, the Catholic James II of England and VII of Scotland, to take the British throne. Many in northern Scotland were sympathetic to the exiled King and a series of uprisings in support of both James and his heirs wreaked havoc in the Highlands. The first rising was led by John Graham who defeated the government forces at the Battle of Killiecrankie, just north of Pitlochry, in 1689, and was soon repressed. The next uprising was in 1715, led by the Earl of Mar in support of James Edward Stuart, the son of the deposed King. Within a fortnight of raising the standard near Braemar, Aberdeen, Montrose and Inverness had all fallen to the rebellion. The Earl of Mar himself occupied Perth with 5000 men. Mar was no military expert, though, and with his advance southwards blocked by fewer than 3000 government troops under the command of the Duke of Argyll from Blair Atholl, momentum was lost. Argyll received reinforcements before the eventual battle at Sheriffmuir, where both sides claimed victory but the Jacobites retreated to Perth. James Stuart briefly set up court at Scone, but eventually fled the country and his followers returned north. In the aftermath of the rebellion, the government began an attempt to subdue the Highlands. Under General Wade, construction began on a series of forts and by 1830 he and his men had built a road from Dunkeld to Inverness, extending the existing route north from Perth. This was followed by a road connecting Crieff and the Dunkeld road via the Sma’ Glen, creating a link with Stirling.
The Tay was spanned by Wade’s Bridge at Aberfeldy, the most expensive single structure on his entire road-building programme. Wade’s efforts did not, however, prevent the second major uprising, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. The Jacobites were eventually crushed at Culloden in 1746 and the Highlands repressed ruthlessly. The clan system began to collapse as the remaining chiefs abandoned their role as guardian of their people and began instead to look for profits. The Industrial Revolution in the south was creating a massive demand for wool and the chiefs began to evict their tenants to make way for sheep. Perthshire did not escape the Highland Clearances entirely – with areas such as Glen Tilt and Glen Lednock largely emptied of people. When the demand for wool declined, many estates turned to forestry. While the first commercial plantations were on Drummond Hill above Loch Tay, planted by Sir Duncan Campbell in the early 17th century, it was the Dukes of Atholl who began planting on a huge scale – around 27 million conifers in the 90 years to 1830. Now, too, tourism began to take off, with deer-stalking, grouse-shooting and salmon-fishing the fashionable pastimes of Britain’s elite and writers such as Robert Burns, William Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott attracted to the area. Estate owners catered for such visitors by constructing follies, bridges and grottoes in places like the Hermitage near Dunkeld and the Falls of Acharn above Loch Tay. Rising incomes and improved transport slowly brought the region within the reach of the general public, and its popularity has continued to this day.