The Birks of Aberfeldy (and other walks)

Breadalbane Stag

The Birks of Aberfeldy

Between Christmas and New Year we spent three nights in Aberfeldy in Highland Perthshire. The Birks (birch trees) of Aberfeldy is a famous walk, and also the subject of a Robert Burns song, a few words of which you can just about make out on the Breadalbane Stag above (Breadalbane being the name of the wider area).

The walk itself is a steep climb up one side of the Moness Burn and down the other. It’s the third time we’ve done it, the first being at a similar time of year in 2009, but with much more snow. Check out the two photos of Burns’ statue to see the difference! This year Rabbie, like the stag, has been decorated for Christmas.

I actually preferred walking on the deeper snow – it was more stable. In 2017, a thin covering of snow, followed by rain which froze over night, meant we slithered up and down to the Falls of Moness. Again, compare and contrast – in 2009 the Falls are frozen.

Black Spout

Another circular walk starts in Pitlochry, taking you past Black Spout waterfall and the Edradour Distillery (sadly, closed to visitors in the winter – a warming dram would have been nice).

Falls of Acharn

Yet another waterfall, this time above Loch Tay. Again, we slithered up one side of a gorge and down the other. The Falls are seen by walking through a so-called “Hermit’s Cave”, in reality an artificial structure built in the 1760s by the 3rd Earl of Breadalbane in order to conceal the view until the last minute. Some of these pictures look almost black and white but they are definitely in colour!

River Tay at Kenmore

Kenmore Hotel

No waterfalls in this walk! Kenmore is a model village built by the Lairds of Breadalbane. After lunch in the Kenmore Hotel, which dates from 1572, we walked downhill past Taymouth Castle gates.

Crossing the bridge over the Tay, we could see the back of the hotel, with its modern extension, on the other bank.

We walked along the river as far as a Gothic folly named Maxwell’s Temple, built by Lord Breadalbane in 1831 as a tribute to his wife Mary.

Returning through the village, we passed the church, white timbered cottages built by the 3rd Earl in 1760, and the Post Office which still advertises itself as a Telegraph Office (zoom in above door).

Aberfeldy

Should you ever need to visit Aberfeldy, we can recommend the Townhouse Hotel: comfortable rooms, a great breakfast and pleasant staff.

We ate in the hotel the first night and set out to explore on the other two – not that we got far: The Three Lemons was just across the road. We had a lovely dinner on night 2, but liked the look of the pizzas on the next table so much that we went back on night 3 to try them. Delicious!

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks, which this week comes from Lisbon and is a much sunnier prospect than Aberfeldy.

A stroll in the grounds of Scone Palace

Scone Palace
Scone Palace

We had a couple of weekends in Perth in 2016. Both times we visited Scone Palace (and however you pronounce the thing that you eat, this Scone is definitely Scoon). The first visit was in so-called flaming June when it poured. We toured the house (no photography) and had a quick look at the Chapel on Moot Hill, crowning place of the Kings of Scots and home to the Stone of Scone aka the Stone of Destiny, before taking refuge back in the car.

As we knew there was far more than this to the grounds, we were determined to go back for a proper stroll. Fortunately, our visit in December, although very cold, was dry and we enjoyed a couple of hours there.

We started again at the palace, where we were intrigued by the white peacock which I thought might have been an albino. However, according to Wikipedia, although albino peafowl do exist, they are quite rare and almost all white peafowl have a different condition called leucism. An albino peacock will have red or pink eyes whereas one with leucism will have normal eye-colour – which I think you can clearly see here (if you click to enlarge the photo).

We followed the path round Moot Hill to the site of an old tomb and then the David Douglas Pavilion at the edge of the Pinetum. David Douglas was born in Scone in 1799 and worked as a gardener at the palace for seven years. He went on to become an explorer and a great plant hunter.

The highlight of the grounds for me was the Murray Star Maze with its copper beech hedges and water nymph in the centre. The pattern is designed to resemble the owner’s family tartan, Ancient Murray of Tullibardine, and is in the shape of a five-pointed star which is part of the family’s emblem. The shortest way to its centre is only about 30 metres although there are over 800 metres of paths altogether. We walked something in between those distances!

The village of Scone once stood within the grounds of the Palace. However, when the medieval house was rebuilt in 1803 and the new Palace grounds were landscaped in 1805 the entire village was relocated two miles away and became known as ‘New Scone’. Aren’t aristocrats lovely?

There are still many reminders of old Scone around the grounds. The Ancient Burial Ground of Scone, above, is one. The Mercat Cross and 16th century archway which was the grand entrance to the ‘City of Scone’, below, are others. Some of the stonework has been nicely restored here.

Finally we paid our respects to the Highland Cattle, one of which had rather an alarming glint in its eye. Fortunately, they were safely behind a robust fence.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your stroll round Scone Place’s grounds. I’m linking it to Jo’s Monday Walks which this week has gorgeous blue Portuguese skies to cheer you up.

Edzell Castle

Edzell Castle and Garden
Edzell Castle and Garden

Edzell Castle was built by the Lindsay family in the 16th century, with its beautiful walled garden added around 1604 (then restored in the 1930s). It’s had some famous guests – Mary Queen of Scots in 1562 (though can there be a Scottish castle she didn’t visit?) and her son, James VI, in 1580 and 1589. Unfortunately, mounting debts forced the Lindsays to sell up in 1715. Today, Edzell is run by Historic Scotland and has to put up with less famous visitors such as ourselves. They still send out a welcome party though – an unusually co-operative peacock who almost posed for his picture (though kept his tail unfanned).

My favourite part was the garden walls which included little niches for flowers….

…. and heraldic sculptures and carved panels representing the Liberal Arts.

The garden itself looked best from above:

Garden from the castle
Garden from the castle

Edzell is in Perthshire, just north of Brechin and Montrose. We stopped off on our way to Aberdeen to catch a ferry – there’ll be much more on our destination to follow…..

3 Day Quote #1: Nature

Inscribed bench
Inscribed bench by River Earn

The tumbling bridge and fallow field; Once deeply scarred by soot and steel; Now nature has crept back to heal

These lovely words run along the back of this unusual bench which sits alongside the River Earn near Crieff. (The path goes through a beautiful avenue of trees, parallel to an old railway embankment.) I’ve chosen them as my first entry in the 3 Day Quote Challenge. What is that, I hear you cry? Quite simple!

  1. Post a quote for three consecutive days (one down, two to go).
  2. Thank the person who nominated you. With pleasure! Thanks to La Sabrosona of  my spanglish familia – laugh and cry, as I do, with her tales of a Mexican / Canadian family bilingual in Spanish and English.
  3. Pass the challenge on to three more people. Hmm, as has been my recent practice, I’ll skip this bit and just say you are all nominated if you have quotes you want to share.

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of the walk, the River Earn and Laggan Hill circuit. It starts and finishes at Glenturret Distillery, with its statue to the famous mouser, Towser. (As a bonus, the café here has recently been upgraded and serves an excellent lunch.)

We found more benches by the river (this one has an inscription about salmon leaping), and a sort of fairy house in a tree trunk!

Finally, the views from Laggan Hill are lovely:

I do believe I can enter this post in two more challenges! Jo’s Monday Walks and Jude’s Bench Series, which in July is looking for benches with unusual details. Bingo! Click on both links to see what other bloggers have been up to this week.

Scottish Snapshots: Scone

Scottish Snapshots is a series of short posts about places I visited in 2013 but didn’t write about at the time

In October our friends from Yorkshire, Valerie and Kenn, rented a cottage in Scone for a short break and we went up to visit them overnight. The next day we did the lovely Scone Circular walk before driving back to Glasgow. It was a bright, sunny autumn day, which we don’t get very often – though mind you, shortly after the picture at the Obelisk we had to hang on to each other to avoid being blown away. An added bonus was a short detour to Bonhard Nursery for lunch in their café. (If following the walk instructions, turn left instead of right at the beginning of Stage 6. You’ll need to retrace your steps, but it’s worth it.)

Scottish Snapshots: Branklyn Garden

Scottish Snapshots is a series of short posts about places I visited in 2013 but didn’t write about at the time

Branklyn Garden is a National Trust for Scotland site in Perth. It’s a small (2 acres) but magnificent garden with an impressive collection of unusual plants, including the rare Himalayan blue poppy. My Mum and Dad love gardens so I took them there one afternoon last summer. We had a lovely time as you can see below.

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.

Aberfeldy

Aberfeldy is a lovely little Perthshire town. If you visit there, it is compulsory to go to the Watermill, a combined bookshop, art gallery and cafe. All are equally good. The current exhibition is late prints by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, in the centenary year of her birth, and is well worth seeing. I also learned that her father was a founder of the Carbeth huts community just outside Glasgow which is still going strong today. Every time we have visited the Watermill they have had a significant exhibition – it’s amazing for a place of its size. And yes, the food is good too. We had morning coffee then went for a walk before returning for lunch. The Watermill is an ideal mix of services from my point of view, and I hope it continues to be successful.

The Watermill, back and front:

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Our walk was the Birks of Aberfeldy, a circular path up and down a narrow gorge with waterfalls. The last time we visited here was in the harsh winter of 2009/10 and everything had frozen. Today was chilly and damp, but it was nice to see the falls in action.

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With that, our weekend away ended and it was back down the A9 to Glasgow and work tomorrow.

Glen Lyon

I’ve wanted to visit Glen Lyon for ages because I had heard it was really beautiful. Fortingall, where we stayed the weekend, is just at the mouth of Glen Lyon which didn’t disappoint when we explored it on Sunday. We drove from one end to the other and then climbed Meall Buidhe, the first time I’ve done a Munro in ages, and boy, did my legs feel it! However, the views almost made up for the discomfort.

The glen is dammed in several places, and the walk started by rising above one of the dams, at Loch an Daimh:

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The ascent is very boggy, but the summit ridge is easier (if you don’t count getting snowed on!)

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You could see Loch Rannoch and Schiehallion, which was probably the last Munro I climbed, come to think of it:

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After all that effort, we felt we were due a reward and stopped at the tearoom further down the glen for a cuppa and a cream scone. It was full so we had to sit outside where we were amused by the antics of the local chaffinch population, especially when our neighbours failed to finish their scones (weirdos, huh?)

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I think this one has been in the habit of over-indulging on many occasions. That’s one fat bird!

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Fortingall

What is the oldest living thing in Europe? Apparently, this yew tree which is estimated to be about 5000 years old:

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You can find it in the Perthshire village of Fortingall where we’ve just spent a couple of nights in this lovely hotel:

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The whole village has an air of Arts and Crafts with, very unusually for Scotland, several thatched cottages:

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Another claim to fame is that the village is supposedly the birthplace of Pontius Pilate, following a visit by his father to the Caledonians as an emissary from Emperor Augustus, but that seems to be no more than a myth. Still, it makes a good story!