Take A Hike

Nick Drainey sounds a cau­tious note on the Clu­nie Path

The Scots Magazine - - Contents -

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

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