Blairgowrie: the walks

Footbridge over the River Ericht

The Knockie and Cargill’s Leap

During our week in Blairgowrie in August, several of our walks began, or ended, by crossing the footbridge just behind The Old Furnace where we were staying. On Day 1, we followed a 3 mile / 5 km circular route, turning right at the end of the bridge to follow the River Ericht upstream and climbing Knockie Hill. At one time there were 11 mills along this river: Oakland, above, is now derelict, but we also passed Brooklinn Mill which has been converted to a private house. The area is very fertile, as some of the images show, and fruit farming is a speciality, hence the polytunnels.

Can you spot two cats in the second picture below? The real one looks a lot less alert than the fake one …

After descending the Knockie, we made our way through residential streets to the riverside. It was lunchtime, so we popped into Cargill’s Bistro, or at least onto its outdoor courtyard. How could we not, when it looked so welcoming? Lunch was delicious, as was the beer.

Our walk back took us along the riverside path, with its attractive sculptures, past Cargill’s Leap.

At Cargill’s Leap there is a viewing platform into the river below. This is where Donald Cargill, a local minster and covenanter, escaped pursuing troops by leaping the falls below. The covenanters were Presbyterians who signed a National Covenant in 1638 to retain their way of worship; this led to their persecution by Charles II. Cargill was eventually captured and executed.

I like the little figure on the information board!

From here, it wasn’t long until the chimney of our temporary home came into view and we re-crossed the bridge from which we had started.

Ardblair Trail and Bluebell Wood

On Day 2, we combined two short trails to make a 5 mile / 8 km figure-of-eight (plus about half an hour’s walk at each end to get to and from the Old Furnace). We made a lot of use of that riverside path! It was a good day for spotting quirky sculpture and painted stones, as well as more natural features such as assorted fungi and two pretty lochs.

As luck would have it, the figure-of-eight popped us out onto the road at lunchtime, right opposite the Dalmore Inn. Again, our powers of resistance were low. This time, we ate indoors, only the second time we have done so since the pandemic began. Their hygiene practices were excellent, and we felt as safe as its possible to be under the circumstances.

Drimmie Wood

Day 3 – another day, another wood! Drimmie is about two miles from Blairgowrie: we could have walked, but as you can see, the weather was not very pleasant so we chose to drive to the start of this 4 mile / 7 km trail. We were home by lunchtime, and went out again in the afternoon to explore Blairgowrie itself (pictures in last post).

River Ericht Path

On Day 4, the weather had improved somewhat. We chose to walk up one side of the River Ericht and back down the other, crossing at Kitty Swanson’s Bridge. (Kitty Swanson operated a ferry crossing here for many years in the late 1800s, and lived in a cottage nearby). The fertility of the area was again apparent, and we got a close up of those polytunnels (and a chance to sample some strawberries). This trail is about 8 miles / 13 km.

Loch of the Lowes

On Day 5, we drove a bit further, towards Dunkeld. In another circular walk (5 miles / 8 km), we left the car in the Cally carpark, and walked through woods, and a golf course, to the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve at Loch of the Lowes. It was their first day open after months of closure and we’d had to book a time slot online beforehand. They were understandably nervous about their procedures but, again, we were happy with hygiene and distancing standards. The only problem was the main attraction, the ospreys, hadn’t got the memo. While smaller birds cooperated by putting on a show outside the visitor centre, the only thing we saw from the hide at the lochside (with lots of zooming) was a large, empty osprey nest. Not even any swans! Our local pond can do better than that …

We walked back to the car through Dunkeld, and at least we saw some handsome sheep to compensate. Some quirky signage too.

Stormont and Meikleour

Day 6, our last day, was wet most of the time, but we soldiered on. In the morning, we parked the car in the village of Carsie and made up a circular tour including Stormont Loch which just happened to take us past the Dalmore Inn again at lunchtime – what a coincidence! We only once got a glimpse of Stormont because it was surrounded by trees. Much prettier was the smaller Hare Myre, and an unexpected bonus was a honey farm.

After lunch, we drove on to the village of Meikleour where North Wood hides the Cleaven Dyke dating back to the Neolithic period. It just looks like a long mound!

The village itself is pretty and features the Meikleour Beech Hedge (snapped from the car) which is in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest hedge in the world!

Conclusion

We had a lovely, relaxing week in Blairgowrie with comfortable, self-contained accommodation and gentle walks easing us into the idea of travelling again. All the trails we did, apart from Loch of the Lowes, are from the Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust Blairgowrie leaflet which you can download here. We found it really helpful.

On our way home to Glasgow we stopped in another pretty village with its own story to tell – but that can wait for next time.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk.

Blairgowrie and The Old Furnace

Keathbank Mill, Blairgowrie

Way back in January we booked a week in a cottage over Easter. Well, you can guess what happened to that – zilch. However, rather than cancel, we pushed it back to mid-August, hoping, successfully, that travel would be possible by then. Blairgowrie in Perthshire is under two hours’ drive away, but so far this trip remains the furthest we have travelled all year.

Blairgowrie was built around the River Ericht which powered its textile industry: in 1860 it had eleven water-powered mills employing 1600 people. Today, many have been converted to apartments, as with Keathbank where we stayed, and some remain derelict, including the one on the opposite bank of the river to us.

Our cottage was The Old Furnace, seen on the right of the picture above. Our front door was in the chimney and above the entrance area was an octagonal shower! It was these quirky features which sold it to me when I saw it online. Below are some more views of the cottage inside and out. Sadly, there was only one day when it was warm enough to take our post-walk cuppa on the patio.

Blairgowrie itself is a very attractive little town in a slightly old-fashioned sort of way. We liked the buildings and the interesting shopfronts. Many houses had beautiful, well-tended gardens, and some had unusual names. I’m not entirely sure I’d like to live at Wits End though!

We spotted some ghost signs, though strictly speaking the one to Cargill’s Leap is just an old sign, not a ghost, as Cargill’s Leap still exists.

Finally, this old church now functions as Little’s Restaurant where we booked dinner for our last evening. It was lovely, but dining indoors still makes me nervous.

We spent the week following local paths and trails, mostly straight from our front door. More next time!

Blairgowrie: Cargill’s Leap and the Knockie

Today, it was sunny and bright again – perfect for walking. We decided to head for Blairgowrie because we liked the sound of Cargill’s Leap and the Knockie, a circular walk along the River Ericht, through rolling farmland and over the Knockie, a local viewpoint. In the 19th century, the mils here employed 1600 people – now some are derelict and others have been converted into apartments like the ones below. We also saw kayaks, Highland cattle and lots of trees.

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We started and finished at Cargill’s Bistro, first for morning coffee then, two hours later, for lunch. The soup and sandwich deal was so big that we had to go for another walk in the afternoon to work off some of the calories. Well, maybe we shouldn’t have chosen chips over salad! It was all very enjoyable anyway.

We knew nothing about the Ardblair Trail other than what we read on an information board in town. It took us on a circle through woods round the outskirts of Blairgowrie and was ok, but nothing like as interesting as the morning walk. It tired us out though – with that, and the big lunch, we are wondering if we can drag ourselves out for dinner tonight. This is definitely not a normal Marsh position!