After a wonderful train ride down from Thurso I spent a few days in the lovely little town of Pitlochry to chill out for a bit and visit Blair Castle, my ancestral family home. Pitlochry is a gorgeous little town. Every corner you turn ends in an exclamation of ‘oh, isn’t that lovely!’. It’s small enough to be extremely quaint but with a nice bustle about the place. It’s also very walker friendly. There are a lot of quaint country trails that start from the town. The signposts for them can be confusing though, so it’s worth getting a £1 map from the visitor’s center.
I decide to spend my first day taking a trip to Blair Castle. There is a bus that runs from town, but I’m keen to stretch my legs a bit, so instead I take the Killiecrankie Walk most of the way. The Killiecrankie Walk is a 20 km loop between Killiecrankie and Pitlochry that runs up both sides of the River Garry. I start with the eastern half which goes up through some lovely old pine forest. I’ve gotten so used to Orkney that it seems like a wonderful novelty to be surrounded by trees. The first hour or so is well above Pitlochry itself, so the forest is wonderfully peaceful. Another thing I’d missed on Orkney, there’s lots of song birds here. I don’t see them often but their cheerful little songs make wonderful theme music as I trek along.
Just before Killiecrankie itself, the track hits the Killiecrankie Visitors’ Center. I stop for a bit to read up on the Battle of Killiecrankie, a great Jacobite victory from the first uprising which although spectacular, didn’t help the Jacobites to win the war. The Highlanders won but lost a lot of men including their leader Viscount Dundee. A lot of government soldiers were killed trying to escape the battlefield. I take a quick detour down to the Soldier’s Leap, where a government soldier made a spectacular escape by leaping across the River Garry. It’s a big gap, I’m impressed.
After Killiecrankie, I take the road to Blair Castle. The countryside is lovely and I spot a red deer by the railroad tracks. The walk isn’t the best though. It’s along a fairly narrow road most of the way so I end up diving into the bushes every time a car comes along which gets quite tiresome. Blair Atholl is a cute little town, but it doesn’t have the nice bustle of Pitlochry. I think I made the right choice on where to stay. Blair Castle is lovely though, so it’s worth the walk up and I spend several hours exploring the castle and grounds.
After my castle adventures, my feet are getting very tired indeed, so I decide doing the whole Killiecrankie circuit AND walking around Blair Castle in a day is a bit ambitious. I catch the bus back to Pitlochry instead. No regrets. I can do some of the other side tomorrow.
The next morning I take a trip up to Edradour, which has the smallest whisky distillery in Scotland. The walk up there isn’t very long but it goes up through some nice forested areas instead of along the roads. The signposts can get a bit confusing though as there are a lot of different loops through the same bits of forest. My map saved me from walking around in circles more than once.
The little distillery is lovely. The smallest still they have is so tiny that it would be illegal if it was any smaller (the rational being that any smaller and you could hide it in the hills from the taxman). I really like the tours they do here. It feels very personal compared to the bigger Highland Park one that I did in Kirkwall. Both tours were very interesting as the distilleries are quite traditional in the methods they use, but Edradour feels a bit more intimate. They also do the whisky tasting BEFORE the rest of the tour, which I think is a better way of doing it. I did prefer the Highland Park whisky however, but that’s just a matter of taste, and Edradour does do a delicious cream liqueur. I also learned how to say cheers in Gaelic. Slàinte mhath! Which means, ‘to good health!’ A useful phrase indeed!
Positively glowing from my drams, I wander off to try some of the western side of the Killiecrankie Walk. I joined the walk up with parts of the Bealach Walk to make a slightly shorter loop as I didn’t think my feet would be quite up to a 20 km hike after already walking to Edradour and back. Luckily there a fair few places where you can choose to loop back around by linking these two walks. There’s a section that goes along a road that is quite long and not terribly interesting, but the rest is a lovely stroll along the River Garry. It doesn’t quite have the grandeur of the eastern side, but is a lovely day out on the river. There’s no particularly notable sights, it’s just generally a pleasant amble.
I wander back into Pitlochry just in time for dinner. Since it’s my last night I treat myself to the famous fish and chips from the chippy down the road and relax in a sunny window for the evening with my book. I’m a bit sad to be leaving Pitlochry, it’s a lovely little town to chill out in.
Listening to: Ground On Down – Ben Harper