Wil­lie Shand enjoys an au­tumn day in Ken­more

Why do one walk when you can do three? Wil­lie Shand makes a day of it in the beau­ti­ful wood­lands of Perthshire.

The People's Friend - - Contents -

SIR DUN­CAN CAMP­BELL – or Black Dun­can of the Cowl, as he was known – may have been a ruth­less laird, but he did have one com­mend­able qual­ity: he had a great pas­sion for trees.

It’s prob­a­bly him we should thank for the birth of mod­ern forestry. Back in the early 1600s, he or­dered the plant­ing of Drum­mond Hill at the east­ern end of Loch Tay with oak, birch and Scots pine.

And, if any­one didn’t like his idea, they’d have been wise to leave well alone. Any­one found dam­ag­ing the laird’s trees would face a fine of £20 which, over 400 years ago, was a huge amount of money.

Drum­mond Hill is still forested to­day. Sadly, it’s not with the laird’s trees, as they were felled dur­ing World War I.

This hill was, how­ever, to be­come one of the ear­li­est sites planted by the fledg­ling Forestry Com­mis­sion.

The best view of any hill is sel­dom to be had from the hill it­self, but in­stead from a neigh­bour­ing one. I couldn’t have picked a bet­ter day to climb Ken­more Hill, di­rectly across the Tay from Drum­mond Hill.

Creag an Fhu­dair, to give it its proper name, is only This week’s cover fea­ture

1,683 feet high, but what a lovely wee hill it is.

Ac­tu­ally, it’s a bit of a gift for hill­walk­ers as, from the wood­land car park off the Amul­ree road, there’s only four or five hun­dred feet to climb.

Whether you ap­proach from Amul­ree or from Ken­more, the sin­gle-track hill road is a treat in it­self, with ei­ther end hav­ing a chal­leng­ing set of steep hair­pin bends to ne­go­ti­ate.

Mur­phy’s Law, of course, dic­tates that if you’re go­ing to meet an­other ve­hi­cle on this road, these bends will be where it hap­pens. Best prac­tise your hill starts and re­vers­ing skills be­fore­hand!

There wasn’t any traf­fic on the hill road when I crossed it ear­lier this morn­ing, ar­riv­ing down by the loch side in Ken­more for about 8 a.m. It was a right still morn­ing, with every sound be­ing car­ried for miles; beau­ti­ful re­flec­tions, too.

With a good day in store, dozens of lo­cal ducks had al­ready staked their claim on the beach. It was cold out of the sun, though, and wher­ever its rays hadn’t yet reached the grass was tinged white with frost – a per­fect day for a walk.

It was the prospect of find­ing good au­tumn colours that brought me to Ken­more, and even be­fore I’d parked the car I could see I wasn’t go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed.

There are quite a few good walks in and around Ken­more, and hav­ing brought the de­tails for three of them it was now de­ci­sion time.

Did I want to take the river­side walk by the Tay to Tay­mouth Cas­tle and around the golf course? Did I want to fol­low the trail up Drum­mond Hill to the Black Rock view­point, or should I aim for the heights of Ken­more Hill?

There’s a say­ing that when you’ve a hard de­ci­sion to make, toss a coin. Why? Be­cause, when that coin is in the air you sud­denly know what you’re hop­ing for. I didn’t need a coin – I’d de­cided to do all three.

Loch Tay is some 15 miles long, and al­though quite far from its source on Ben Lui, it’s only af­ter its wa­ters pass be­neath the five-arch bridge at Ken­more that they take on the pres­ti­gious ti­tle of the River Tay.

This bridge was only 13 years old when Robert Burns vis­ited Ken­more on Au­gust 29, 1787. He was so im­pressed with its arches “strid­ing o’er the new-born stream” that he took a pen­cil and scrib­bled a poem about it on the wall above the fire­place of the lo­cal inn.

The poem is still there to­day and the inn, es­tab­lished in 1572, claims to be the old­est in Scot­land.

It’ll have ac­com­mo­dated many a fish­er­man down the cen­turies, and as the carved wooden sal­mon in front of its en­trance might tell us, the Tay is one of the coun­try’s finest sal­mon and brown trout rivers.

The track to the old Camp­bell seat of Tay­mouth Cas­tle sets off from be­neath the bridge to pass be­hind the inn, and then for a while holds close to the tree-lined river­side.

I’m greeted by a few more ducks, but my at­ten­tion is now taken by the colour­ful beech trees. It doesn’t mat­ter how old you are, when no-one’s look­ing it’s al­ways fun to scuff your feet through a deep car­pet of fallen leaves.

Scot­land has no short­age of cas­tles, some quite an­cient, but the present Tay­mouth Cas­tle was only built at the start of the 1800s.

Its much older pre­de­ces­sor, Bal­loch Cas­tle, was home to the Mac­gre­gors – but the land-grab­bing Camp­bells

soon sorted that out in the late 1500s. Bal­loch Cas­tle was des­tined to be torn down to make way for the cas­tle we see to­day.

The large west wing was added in 1842 on the oc­ca­sion of Queen Vic­to­ria’s visit to Scot­land. Tay­mouth was to be­come a spe­cial place to the old Queen, as it was here that she hon­ey­mooned.

Since the 1920s, when the Camp­bells left the prop­erty, the cas­tle, which in its hey­day was one of the rich­est fur­nished prop­er­ties in the land, has had a some­what che­quered history.

Its ex­ten­sive park­land is now home to Tay­mouth Cas­tle Golf Club – the

course laid out by the famed de­signer, James Braid. This track cir­cles the course, keep­ing us out of harm’s way from way­ward golf balls, and re­turns to Ken­more through the cas­tle’s west­ern ap­proach arch­way.

The vil­lage of Ken­more as we know it ac­tu­ally owes its ex­is­tence to the cas­tle and the Camp­bells. The model vil­lage was laid out to an English de­sign, and the cot­tages given rent-free to res­i­dents on con­di­tion that they hold a trade and keep their houses clean.

A range of trades­men on tap right on his doorstep – the laird wasn’t daft.

The way to the Black Rock View­point on Drum­mond Hill takes us across Ken­more Bridge and to a Forestry Com­mis­sion car park off the A827 less than a mile from the vil­lage.

Clear way-marked tracks be­gin through colour­ful mixed wood­land, then on into more dense larch, spruce and Dou­glas fir.

With much of this cir­cu­lar closed in by ma­ture for­est, it’s all the more of a pleas­ant sur­prise when we reach the Black Rock clear­ing and sud­denly find our­selves look­ing out on the most won­der­ful bird­s­eye view of Ken­more and Loch Tay. It is in­deed a spot for “ad­mir­ing Na­ture in her wildest grace”.

Close to the loch’s south shore you’ll see the tall, con­i­cal, thatched roof of the Crannog – a re­con­struc­tion of an Iron Age stilted lake dwelling, typ­i­cal of sev­eral that once took pro­tec­tion from Loch Tay.

Closer by is the tiny Pri­ory Is­land. Upon it is said to be buried Alexan­der I’s Queen Sy­billa. In her mem­ory, Alexan­der I es­tab­lished a pri­ory on the is­land as long ago as 1122.

Its last in­hab­i­tants ap­pear to have been three nuns. They no doubt led good holy lives on the is­land, but each year would come ashore for one of Ken­more’s fairs.

Ap­par­ently, on that day, their char­ac­ters to­tally changed, and they in­deed went to town. They left such an im­pres­sion that the fair even be­came named af­ter them – Feill nam ban

naomha – the mar­ket of the holy women.

Drum­mond Hill is a long ridge-like hill ly­ing be­tween Strath­tay and the River Lyon. There’s no bet­ter place to ap­pre­ci­ate this than from the slopes of Ken­more Hill op­po­site.

Mur­phy’s Law was true to form. Climb­ing back up the hair­pins, I met a camper van. By the look on the poor driver’s face, I reck­oned he might be go­ing home a dif­fer­ent route!

Ken­more Hill is part of the Bol­fracks Es­tate and, like Sir Dun­can, the present own­ers have a love for our na­tive trees.

The old Cale­do­nian Pine forests that once cov­ered most of Scot­land have largely, through man’s ac­tiv­i­ties and live­stock mis­man­age­ment, de­clined to a tiny frac­tion of land cover.

A few old pine trees still grow on this hill­side, but, with an eye to the fu­ture, around 450 acres have been planted with a mix of pine, birch, rowan, oak, alder, cherry, hazel and other na­tive species.

Al­though this is a wood­land walk, sel­dom are we de­prived of spec­tac­u­lar, far-reach­ing views. There are three colour-coded trails to fol­low, but I would rec­om­mend the red (the long­est) trail. It’s a cracker.

A large stone cairn stands just be­low the true sum­mit, and it’s as if the hill has de­cided to only re­ward those who reach it, be­cause it’s not un­til we’re about ten feet away that we see the finest panorama, look­ing out over Ken­more, Tay­mouth and away be­yond Drum­mond Hill to Schiehal­lion.

Off to the west, along the “out­stretch­ing lake”, the eye ef­fort­lessly climbs Law­ers and skips across to the high tops of Glen Lyon and the Carn Mairg group.

Sit­ting down by the cairn to soak up the view – and to scoff a rather bedrag­gled cheese piece I’d for­got­ten I’d been car­ry­ing all day – it was great to just pick out all the places I had been since morn­ing. No won­der my wee legs felt wab­bit! ■

Tay­mouth Cas­tle.

Robert Burns fa­mously called Loch Tay “th’ out­stretch­ing lake”.

Colour­ful wood­land.

View from the Ken­more hills.

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