The Blog

Walks from Tallavey: Ambling Along the Cateran Trail

22nd May 2020

We are really lucky at Tallavey to have of Scotland’s Great Trails – the Cateran Trail – running right past us. The Cateran Trail is a fully waymarked, 64-mile / 103 km route through Perthshire and the Angus glens in the heart of Scotland and is looked after by the Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust.

The Trail is a circular route with no official beginning or end. It follows old drove roads and ancient tracks across a varied terrain of farmland, forests and moors. Some of these routes follow the same ones used by the Caterans – fearsome cattle thieves who raided Strathardle, Glenshee and Glen Isla from the Middle Ages to the 17th century and for whom the Trail is named.

The bits of the Trail that are closest to Tallavey are probably amongst the most contrasting along the trail. Going right, a short and relatively flat part of the route takes you from Enochdhu to Kirkmichael. This is the bit of the trail that our guests have most walked and enjoyed and it has the added advantage of coming out right by the local pub and shop!

This is a beautiful route in autumn in particular. After a short climb through fields with lovely views back towards Ben Vuirich and Beinn a’ Chruachain in the Cairngorms National Park, the trail passes through the edge of Kindrogan Wood. At any time of year this is a fairy like place with beautiful trees covered in mosses and lichens making strange shapes as the light and shadows play through the canopy.

This is especially true in autumn when the leaves start to turn and a multitude of different types of fungi appear in amongst the leaf mulch and mosses. You can easily imagine being transported to a fairy kingdom as the silence of the wood surrounds you!

Once through the wood, the trail loops past a lochan with a lovely old boathouse, wending its way through lovely yellow broom. A bench has been placed overlooking the lochan in memory of a member of Perth Running Club and it’s a truly lovely spot to stop for a moment and drink in the views.

After the lochan, the trail joins up with the Kirkmichael Paths Network for an easy but very pretty walk along to Kirkmichael Village following the route of the river Ardle. The village dates back over a thousand years and was at one time an important market in the cattle trade between the Highlands and Lowlands with various drove roads converging on the village. The area became popular as a holiday resort following Queen Victoria's building of Balmoral Castle and many of the local shooting lodges, or "big houses", were built at that time.

In the centre of the village is the Bannerfield. Marching south from Braemar, the Earl of Mar raised the standard (or banner) here during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion to gather support for the exiled Stuart King James, known as the Old Pretender. After gathering more men at Kirkmichael, Mar marched into Perth (which had been captured two weeks previously) with an army of 5000 and support of many powerful landowners. In more recent times, the Bannerfield has become the venue for the annual Strathardle Highland Gathering, sadly cancelled this year due to covid-19, the first time the games have been cancelled since the Second World War.

The recently renovated parish kirk dates back to the 18th century and is built on a site used for worship for over one thousand years. It is surrounded by the original graveyard which contains graves dating back many centuries, including some Commonwealth War Graves. The east end of the graveyard, which does not have headstones or individual graves, is the site of a mass burial plot for the victims of the Black Death plague of 1348 and has never been reopened.

Strathardle – the beautiful glen in which Tallavey is located - is named after a Pictish warrior called Ardle who was killed at Enochdhu in a battle with the Danes in the 12th century. His burial mound is in the grounds of Dirnanean Lodge, which can be visited along the Cateran Trail from Enochdhu over to Glenshee, if you turn left along the trail from Tallavey.

This is a much more strenuous route than the gentler path along to Kirkmichael but is well worth the effort. The trail heads up past through the Dirnanean estate, passing the Lodge and gardens and heading up past the farm buildings before coming out into more open ground along the edge of the forest.

A number of carved waymarkers can be seen in the forest as the landscape changes from forest to moorland you’re likely to see red deer, black grouse, mountain hares and maybe an otter or two. The views in both directions are absolutely stunning – whether looking across Strathardle towards Dunkeld or across towards Glenshee and the southern Cairngorms.

Conveniently placed towards the highest part of the trail is the Upper Lunch Hut, built in about 1950 near Lairig Gate where in 1865 Queen Victoria stopped to take tea on her way back from Dunkeld to Balmoral. The Upper Lunch Hut was renovated in 2019 thanks to a grant from the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund and the work of the Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust. The photos here predate the renovation work and were taken on a lovely winter walk in 2018.

We are biased but we think that the views from this part of the Cateran Trail are the loveliest of the whole trail and the contrasts in the landscape between the forest, moorland and mountains combined with the wonderful wildlife makes it one of our favourite trails straight from Tallavey.

#lockdownwalks #walkhighlands #perfectperthshire #caterantrail