After our lovely stay in Fortingall (did I mention I had a very hot bath, after a very long day of walking and sightseeing? And the cheese plate at dinner? I love cheese. Wallace and Gromit ain’t in it.) we headed up over a pass to the base of Schiehallon, the Fairy Mountain, one of the larger mountains in Perthshire. We did not see any fairies, but once we got up above treeline the weather was appropriately misty and spooky.
Once over the pass we dropped into a high valley where we found a large bothy (not sure the literal translation…a sort of unoccupied warming hut/hunting lodge). It was open, so we stopped there and had lunch. There was graffiti in the entrance, the oldest (a very polite thankyou) from 1927, written in beautiful script.
From here we hiked down this high valley, crossed a small river and then hiked up a burn that flowed in from the north below Schiehallon, to another bothy. This one was much smaller, but had plenty of character. I am under the impression that Scotland experiences high wind on occasion….this hut was built into the side of the hill, and it’s flat roof was thoroughly wired to its foundation. This was our first experience of moor and heath, it is lovely in its own way. Hard to imagine this landscape supporting anything but sheep (of which there were several), but apparently it was common practice to bring all the livestock up to the highlands in summer to keep them out of the crops in the valleys. We saw lots of ruined schielings, which were the low stonewalled summer houses of the families tending the animals.
From the bothy we headed over the shoulder of Schiehallon and down into Kinloch Rannoch. Funnily enough, as soon as we turned our backs on the Fairy mountain, the sun came out and the mist lifted.
Day 3 we hiked along Loch Rannoch and through one of the few remaining patches of Caledonian forest…a forest of old growth Scotch Pine. It was lovely, and we saw some magnificent old trees, including Gunnar’s tree, named in honor of one of the people responsible for saving this patch of forest.
We were now hiking in the lands of the MacDonalds, Robertsons, MacDougals and Stewarts. The MacDougals had a wee castle built out on the loch, on of course, a former Crannog site. Supposedly there was a stone causeway out to the wee tower, but it was a few feet under water and a crooked path, so only those who knew the route could get to the tower without taking a swim.
That night we spent in a very nice guesthouse in the town of Bridge of Gaur. We hiked past Robert Louis Stevenson’s childhood home along the way, although we didn’t find that out until later…. (At the end of the trip I bought a copy of Kidnapped, which is all set in the highlands and the Hebrides, and a very swashbuckling read). Looming ahead of us from Bridge of Gaur was our big mileage day, 18 miles across Rannoch Moor to Kingshouse, which was one of our favorite stops on the trip. More to come soon….