Take A Hike
Nick Drainey sounds a cautious note on the Clunie Path
Standing stones and super views high above Pitlochry
VIEWS are probably the main reason people go on walks and they attract millions of visitors to the fantastic Scottish outdoors. For good reason, too, as we have some of the best in the world, so why would you even think of ruining them?
The countryside is there to be enjoyed by all but it is also a place where people live, and they need to work, so exceptions to preserving landscape are made – most controversially in the case of windfarms or forestry – and a balance is found. That, surely, is the key to a thriving rural economy of which tourism plays an important part.
Above Pitlochry, the Clunie Path has for many years allowed walkers to stride out above forestry and enjoy views over Strathtay to distant mountains, as well as closer summits such as Ben Vrackie and the Beinn a’ Ghlo range.
But now, according to signs at the edge of the forestry, 150,000 more trees are to be planted. Many will be native but many others will be non-native commercial conifers and all will surely hinder views. Surely the balance is not being met here and it could be seen as an example of parts of the country where common ground between competing interests needs to be found. Although the Scottish Government does support rural as well as urban sides of this country it does not seem to have a dedicated rural strategy covering all sectors at the same time.
One solution could be the creation of more National Parks but the current Holyrood administration shows no signs of backing any new ones. As this magazine has championed, National Parks are a way of bringing people together and forming a strategy for a whole region, not just a particular locality where force of argument can win.
When it comes to the Clunie Path I would say that while forestry is important it’s not as valuable as tourism and by planting more trees we are saying, “Come and walk in our uplands and enjoy the views – oh, but we’ve just planted a load of trees that might block the panorama.”
The folk living round here 3500 years ago understood the importance of the landscape and built a stone circle, but the natural sunrise and sunset can’t be seen from the stone circle any more as it is surrounded by forestry. But you can make a detour to visit it on this walk – when you reach grid reference NN927558, instead of turning right, go ahead for 183m (600ft) to see it on the right of the track.
The ancient population understood the importance of woodland and used it for house building and hunting. They got the balance right. So can we with forward thinking.
Something a bit more strenuous: Go above Pitlochry to the village of Moulin, with a wonderful pub. Continue up to the Corbett of Ben Vrackie. A pointy summit with great views which makes it justifiably popular.
Very strenuous: Head north up the A9 and turn off at Blair Atholl to start the ascent of the three Munros of the Beinn a’ Ghlo range. This is a tough day on the hill but worth it for the exhilaration of a high level walk. Grid references: Start/finish: NN941578 Point 2: NN927558 Point 3: NN914570 Point 4: NN920575 Point 5: NN935565
Next month’s walk goes up a classic Scottish mountain with a long hike over vast tracts of sub-arctic terrain. Ben Macdui will live long in the memory, and there is also the chance of spotting reindeer.
Ben Vrackie above Pitlochry
Length: 11km (7 miles) Height gained: 427m (1400ft) Time: 3½ to 4 hours OS Landranger 52 Parking: There is plenty of parking in Pitlochry. A good (free) place is by Pitlochry’s recreation ground at the bottom of Ferry Road.
The walk starts at the Port-nacraig bridge
The stone circle is worth the detour