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Published: February 8th 2020
I really must buy some new maps. Not that there was a geographical issue with the 1984 version of OS sheet 43 Braemar to Blair Atholl. It is always the memories that floor me. Using maps from a by gone age take me back to my days as a race snake in the mid eighties where distance and height was no object for a day out. Sheet 43 has a number of good days on it. These included a trot over my favourite munros Ben a Ghlo and Cairn Laith. Also there was a great long day leaving Aviemore around 09:30 and making Blair Atholl for a leisurely pint before boarding the 17:40 train – causing much amusement in the Greenmantle pub after Tuesday intervals when I explained my absence later that evening.
35 years later, the nostalgia and bravado led to some more over optimistic planning for the next section of the A to Z of Perthshire. I had a plan to knock off “F” to “I” featuring a run between Pitlochry and House of Bruar and back. I did not calculate the total distance beyond a sketchy “that doesn’t look too bad” comment as I folded the aforementioned
elderly map and packed it into a decade old rucksac.
It was the finest of autumn days, the sort the Tourist Board feature in their brochures when I set out from The Festival Theatre to run to Faskally House
to resume my journey. Parking there was to make the post run exit easier than the last leg’s seven mile recover the car shambles. The first few miles were through Faskally Woods and the other visitors I met were having equally good starts to their days given the excellent weather conditions. Faskally House which is now a Christian Holiday centre was busy with folk. Not something we did with ours, however our window cleaner said it was very good fun. The canoeing did look good fun – I would have to give then that.
The first few miles of the run proper hugged the banks of the River Garry which would be enough to clock up the letter “G” however I used the Garry Bridge
which takes the road west to Loch Rannoch as the precise location. Some ordinary running was compensated by some excellent opportunities for photographs.
At some points there was more stop than go and
I shared the path with folk who had proper equipment and were spending more time on each shot. I had miles to run and turned my attention to progress after passing through Killiecrankie village and joining the road north. Fortunately, the building of the new A9 in the 80s has meant this is a quiet stretch of country road rather than the car park or race track it had been during those days. Still, roadrunning requires a higher level of concentration than trails and brings a certain amount of anxiety.
I had ran a couple of miles on the road – passing a solitary standing stone on the way- when I saw a road sign that gauged my progress: BRUAR 5
Given this was an out and back run, I did a quick calculation:
A1.5 hours X 2 + B 5 miles X 2 = oops
Where A was the distance I had ran so far and B was the distance until the House of Bruar. Conclusion: Time for a replan.
I continued to Blair Atholl and thought of a contingency where I could run to the
House of Bruar and then return to Blair Atholl and then get a train back to pick up the car. Benefit
– the days exertions wouldn’t kill me. Disadvantage
– The whole plan for the next few stages is thrown up in the air.
I then crossed my fingers and H
oped that an “H”
found on the H
oof in Blair Atholl would bring me H
appiness. A quick scout around the gates of Blair Castle bought me a bit of a chance of recovery. Within the grounds there was an area called The Hercules Garden – that would do nicely! Even if it was costing £8 entry it would be well worth it. I jogged in better fettle through the splendid avenue of trees towards the paypoint and just as I was about to put my hand in my pocket, I noticed a building to bring salvation to my frugalness.
It was a shed – painted to blend into the surroundings but clearly marked HYDROSTATION BLAIR CASTLE.
Apparently, the estate had their own water powered electrical supply installed in the 1950s. After lying dormant for a number of years around the turn of the century this
had been restored in 2014. The cynic may say that this is an example of the super rich taking advantage of public money rather than a sincere environmental objective however at that moment I was all for applauding them. Since the passing of the old Duke – who had a private army and was thought by some to be a bit of a buffoon – the estate has become a bit more outward focussed and welcoming. Decent camp site also.
Before retracing my steps South, I found a café and invested the £8 saved earlier in a sit down lunch. This restored me both physically and mentally and I really enjoyed retracing my steps. Even the road bit back to Killiecrankie felt fine. I then crossed the River Garry on to a very minor road to vary the route back. This added a couple of hundred feet of extra climb but gave excellent views and a visit to Tenandry Kirk which was well worth it. I also found an “L” than I did not know about which reduces the next run by 8 miles. A day of great weather and even greater fortune – hence the broad
smile – ended at Iron Bridge
with a café 25 yards away and the car around 80 yards.
It had been a superb day of magical autumn colours and another long run beyond my present level of fitness. The next bit covers all the good bits of this leg again – without the slog on the road and finishes at one of my favourite pubs. Enthusiasm is at it’s zenith…
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