Unwinding in Crieff

Glen Lednock and the Maam Road

On a day out in March, we stopped off in Crieff Hydro for tea and thought it would be a lovely place to stay. After a gruelling few months at work, this popped back into my head when looking for somewhere for a relaxing couple of nights to recover and I booked up. Perthshire is a beautiful county and we were hoping for good weather to get some walking done – we got a bit wet the first day, and both days involved sinking to our ankles in mud from time to time, but walk we did, accompanied by our guide of choice Perthshire: 40 Town & Country Walks. The authors, Paul and Helen Webster, also run the website Walk Highlands, another excellent source of ideas.

Day 1 – The Hosh and the Knock

This 10k figure of eight walk starts directly from the Hydro, so we didn’t need the car all day. The Hosh is an area of woods and riverside which takes you down to Glenturret and its famous distillery. Time for a tour and a dram! Unfortunately not. We arrived just before they were to be inundated with coach trips and there wasn’t another public tour for an hour and a half. Never mind, I had my photo taken with the Famous Grouse:

The Famous Grouse at Glenturret Distillery

We also admired the monument to Towser, the prodigious mouser, one of whose successors was asleep on the visitor centre floor (standards must be slipping):

Towser the Distillery Cat

The walk looped back to the Hydro, and then up the Knock of Crieff and back through rather soggy farmland. We did part of this walk on our previous visit, and I posted better photographs then. This time it rained, and was a bit dreich, but still beautiful:

The Knock of Crieff

Day 2 – Comrie and the Deil’s Cauldron

This is also a circular walk, starting in Comrie, just down the road from Crieff, and meandering about 7.5k around Glen Lednock. It takes in the Deil’s Cauldron (a waterfall) and, as an addition to the main circuit, a climb up Dun More to the Melville Monument. Viscount Melville was the last person to be impeached in the House of Lords – in 1806 he was accused of improper use of funds when in charge at the Admiralty. Plus ça change….etc, although in this case he was later acquitted.

At the Deil’s (Devil’s) Cauldron:

Deil’s Cauldron

The climb up Dun More to the monument rose steeply through trees:

Dun More and the Melville Monument

There are fine views from the top:

View from Dun More

The way down is via a delightful hill track, known as the Maam Road (see also top of post):

Glen Lednock from the Maam Road

The route returns on the other side of Glen Lednock, from where the monument is often visible and, sometimes, quite sinister looking:

Melville Monument

After our exertions, we treated ourselves to enormous slices of cake at the fabulous Tullybannocher Café.

The Hydro

Crieff Hydro was a very comfortable place to stay. We probably didn’t make the most of it because we walked both days rather than take advantage of its outdoor activities – though on the first walk, we barely left the estate and were very impressed with its extent. If the weather had been really bad, there would have been plenty to do indoors too, with a pool, a Spa and even a cinema. It’s not a big, soulless chain either – after 140 years, it’s still managed by descendents of the founder, Dr Meikle, who gives his name to the restaurant. John really enjoyed the food but, as is often the case in hotels, I found the vegetarian options a bit bland. What lets them down is the restaurant service – amusingly eccentric the first night, awful the second when we went from feeling we were being rushed through everything to being totally forgotten about by the end. Better supervision and coordination is required. Top marks though for having veggie sausages on the breakfast buffet – the first time I have seen that. I’ll give it 7/10 overall.

Innerpeffray Library & the Knock of Crieff

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I’ve wanted to visit Innerpeffray Library for years. Last weekend, when we stayed in Perth, I planned to visit on our way home but overlooked the fact that the library is not open on Mondays or Tuesdays. This weekend, we decided to go before the notion left us again. This was the plan: arrive in Crieff in time for a pub lunch, quickly visit the library when they opened for the afternoon at 2pm, then go for a long walk to work off lunch.

We had lunch in the Caledonian Bar in the centre of Crieff: one fish and chips, one mushroom stroganoff and two halves of Speckled Hen. All very good and served efficiently and with a smile and a chat. We then arrived at Innerpeffray just after 2pm, but the short visit lasted almost two hours! It was absolutely fascinating. Innerpeffray is the oldest free public lending library in Scotland. It was founded in 1680 in the church next door by David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie, but the dedicated library building “only” dates from 1762. This makes 2012 its 250th anniversary and so the books in the display cases date from around that time – a time when 75% of adults in Scotland could read and write, compared to only 53% in England. Why would that be? Because by 1750 almost every Scottish town of any size had a lending library. This obviously resonates today when so many public libraries are under threat.

The reason our visit took so long is that, unlike other historic libraries we have visited such as Pepys’ Library in Cambridge, you can actually handle the books, not just look at the displays. Lara, the Library Manager, and the two volunteers on duty were absolutely excellent and so friendly. They chatted to us to find out our interests and then quickly found books that they thought we would like, even though (anathema to my librarian’s soul!) they were not in classified order. We spent ages browsing and reading, sometimes with books nearly 400 years old. You can also view the borrowers’ register from 1747 until lending ceased in the 1960s, and lists of 18th century desiderata. I strongly recommend that you check the link above to find out more about the library and then visit it. It costs £5 per person – excellent value. The pictures below show internal and external views – the church can also be visited, but is not open till April.

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(Update 1: 29/04/12 – for a good post on Innerpeffray, see the Georgian Gentleman blog.)

(Update 2: 10/05/12 – another blog Echoes from the Vault about a visit by Rare Books Librarians.)

(Update 3: 26/08/13 – read about my second visit, when the chapel was open. Also, check out author Helen Grant’s blog – she often writes about Innerpeffray.)

After a quick refreshment in the splendid café at Crieff Hydro, we went off for a shorter walk than planned. I found it hard to believe I had never been there before, but certainly have the Hydro marked down as a suitable place for a future weekend away.

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From the Hydro, we walked up to the Knock, a view-point above the hotel. It was dusk when we returned and the sky was lovely.

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As we walked back down through the hotel grounds, we got stuck behind a group of 10-12 young women, all beautifully dressed for a night out. The only trouble was, their shoes were so high that they were hirpling along like a gaggle of old grannies (hope that’s not too ageist), holding onto each other and the railings. They were happy to joke though – I offered to lend one my walking boots to get down the hill, and when we finally strode past them, another asked for a lift. Two of the more footsure can just be seen in this picture.

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I hope they had a lovely evening. And that they’re not crippled by the time they are 40. (Suppresses memory of 18-year-old self attempting a country walk in four-inch platforms.)