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Published: February 8th 2020
I had a bit of a hiatus of ideas over the summer and was patiently waiting for something decent to pop up. Then it happened! A group of us were assembling for the hill race at Killin Highland games in early August. Don Reid, Westies Stalwart and midweek race regular asked me if Killin was “K” in an A to Z of Perthshire. The seed germinated and after a couple of hours on google and using the appropriate OS maps, I had a plan which on paper looked pretty reasonable. A good mixture of running in beautiful places in an area famous for its autumn colours.
A few days ago, I loaded Mogwai into the CD player and pointed the car north toward Aberfeldy
. A fine place to start as I could do a circular run, mostly off road and knock off the first four letters of the alphabet. I started in the town square which seemed to be a building site and had fallen on hard times since my last visit around a decade previously. The bank had gone, no surprise there, and the COOP had also relocated. Corporate decisions ambivalent to the impact on the communities they leave
behind. Still a nice wee village and no doubt I will be able to spend more time there later in this project. I could park these thoughts and instead, run through the Birks of Aberfeldy.
This is a spectacular glen and waterfalls immortalised in song by Rabbie Burns:
The braes ascend like lofty wa's,
The foaming stream deep-roaring fa's,
O'erhung wi' fragrant spreading shaws-
The birks of Aberfeldy
This excerpt sums it up better than I can manage. There is a statue of Burns in a picturesque clearing and a natural rock seat that the great man apparently sat in whilst writing. I prefer Burns’ writings on the land and in his short life his output was prolific with few, if any, modern day equivalents.The climb to the top of the Birks was steep and uneven in places. The viewpoints were spectacular and even as a short walk a visit would be most worthwhile. Instead, of course, it was part of a longer day. At its summit The Birks intersect with the Rob Roy Way and I was heading east in the direction of Kenmore. I had done sections of the
Rob Roy Way previously on one of the annual Trotter relays and it’s a path that you need to keep your wits about you from a navigational perspective. I found myself on a longer loop than I should have done so after a kilometre of “will I, wont I” retraced my steps and found the path that ran parallel with the road. This was a mixture of grass path and forest track leading to a junction that took me down to the farm and stone circle at Croft Moraig.
We had a couple of holidays in the house close to the stone circle when our kids were of primary school age and it was a great base for exploring the local area. Also, the kids loved playing amongst the stones. It’s a well preserved site which Julian Cope noted as fabulous in his book. Easy to access also as its within 30 metres of the road. This revisit brought back tons of memories of Easter holidays there and we were lucky to enjoy a great location. Lambing season brought its own excitements on these trips and the farmer encouraged us to visit the byre nearby to see the new
arrivals each day.
I was about to hit the road for the first time and had an uncomfortable few minutes running the 600 metres to the gates of the Taymouth estate. Despite being passed by only two cars, I had to endure a game of chicken with a Volvo. Thankfully the tranquillity of the Taymouth estate compensated. I had ran there before whilst on Croft Moraig holidays and was pleased to see the building and grounds in better fettle than my last visit. This should have been the half way mark of the run as I passed over the bridge behind the house.
Disaster! The bridge was in serious disrepair and too dangerous to cross. This added a further three miles to the day as I detoured through Kenmore. On the up side, the view along Loch Tay to the majesty of Ben Lawers was worth it ( picture at the top)and all the running was on a riverside track. Heading west again, there were a few miles of road. This was the course of the Aberfeldy marathon which was won a couple of times by Corstorphine club stalwart Mikey Anderson. The black top headed towards
the hamlet of Dull
. What is in a name? This is part of Appin of Dull northside of the Tay where the ground rises towards Schiehallion. Dull is twinned with the US town of Boring which is in Ohio. I have chosen not to investigate this any further. I had been to Dull before. There is a four wheel drive safari place, gold panning and a stone circle. More interesting than first impressions.
A couple of weeks previous I had a shock to the system moment as the distraction of the Edinburgh festival had a negative impact on my fitness. There had been a dreadful performance in a hill race at Broughton. The last couple of miles back to Aberfeldy to retrieve the car proved that Im back on the right track to gain a bit fitness again and I had really enjoyed the day. The navigational error and the bridge closure had made it four hours rather than three however I was in a better place and looking forward to more long days out over the coming weeks. I had parked at another “D” the Dewar World of Whisky however bypassed this as I planned to
visit one of my favourite distilleries next – as far away from the corporate globality of Dewars because small, of course, is beautiful.
I was delighted with this start to the Perthshire alphabet. This had been a super run which I have added to my list of single day specials. Also , it would be possible to take a bit more time as a full day walk which , if planned properly , would include a nice pub lunch in Kenmore. As befitting other ideas I have stumbled on something special.
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