5 Walks in Highlands Perthshire You Must Do
Posted on Jun 15, 2016 by Gill McMillan
So what’s special about Highland Perthshire? There is an amazing array of walks in the area from gentle woodland walks to summiting nearby hills. Find out which walks in Highland Perthshire you must do.
About the area
It’s a small gem of an area that really has so much to offer. It includes a section of the Highland Boundary Fault-line, the geological line where Highland meets Lowland. Because of this, there’s a combination of gentle farmland contrasting with much more wild and rugged terrain. The area is home to many Munros (Scottish mountains over 3000 ft) where Golden Eagles and Ptarmigan live on the higher slopes. There’s abundant plant life as well.
So where is it?
You’d have to look hard to find it on a map; since county boundary changes it’s been re-named and absorbed by neighbouring counties. However, ask any hillwalker and they know exactly where you mean. I’d best describe it as being in the middle of the Southern Highlands. This puts it north of the Central Belt – that invisible line between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
With such a rich diversity of landscapes, there are walks for all abilities. The ones I’ve chosen start with those that are shorter, then move on to more challenging adventures.
King’s Seat, Birnam Hill
- This is a short, steady hike that leaves you on top of the outcrop called King’s Seat. There are fantastic views of both mountains and gentle farmland. Down below are the villages of Birnam and Dunkeld.
- Starting from Birnam, this route is well sign-posted but take care to descend in the right direction. Once heading downhill it’s a gentle walk through woodland, steep in places, with a mixture of pine and broadleaf trees.
- For the fitter, this is also a popular spot for mountain bikers, strong legs required!
- After your walk, the many tearooms and pubs of Dunkeld are a welcome sight. Birnam has the Birnam Arts Centre: a combination of café, library and arts space with a Beatrix Potter Exhibition and Garden.
- Although the creator of ‘Peter Rabbit’ is associated more with England’s Lake District, she spent many summers near Birnam as a child while her father fished for salmon. It was here that her interest in the natural world grew and where she began painting.
TIP: The Arts Centre does good lunches.
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Bealach na Searmoin
Footbridge over river Garry. Photo Credit: Visit Scotland
Pitlochry is a bustling town with a distillery, theatre, botanical gardens, and again great walking. My favourite here is the Bealach na Searmoin. Bealach is a low point between two hills and searmoin is Gaelic for sermon – it’s the old route taken by the Minister on a Sunday to reach his parishioners.
- Beginning in woodland, this route quickly reaches the open hillside. From here it’s possible to go for the summit of the hill dominating the town (Ben Vrackie, 841m) or follow the path through the bealach and then gently downhill.
- The hillside path descends through fields and under the main road to the village of Killiecrankie (yes, there really is such a wonderfully-named place).
- A short flight of steps to the River Garry brings you again into woodland, this time some magnificent old beech trees, a real treat at any time of year! The riverside path returns you to Pitlochry.
The Birks of Aberfeldy
Birk is an old Scots word for birch, but this walk only has a few. They crowd the riverbank with many other species. If the name of this walk sounds familiar, it’s because Rabbie Burns (Robert Burns), Scotland’s national poet, wrote The Birks o’ Aberfeldy nearby. There’s a statue of him at the beginning of the walk.
- The paths here are good; well constructed and maintained. It’s a popular afternoon walk with the local folk of the market town of Aberfeldy and visitors alike.
- A snaking path with twists and turns leads higher up the riverside until a waterfall is reached. A bridge provides a good vantage point and the path turns yet again, heading back on the opposite side of the river.
- Another engaging walk that’s lovely in the autumn as the leaves change, but also of interest at any time of year. The rhododendrons are Spring’s offering along with a good collection of trees.
- The rich habitat provides a home to water-loving birds such as grey wagtails and dippers. People of all ages enjoy a good riverside walk and this one’s highly recommended.
Auchnafree Hill with Ben Chonzie
These two hills offer a natural horseshoe circuit on open moorland, typical of some of the Perthshire hills. The usual approach is up a narrow road with large potholes – to be avoided if you have a small car.
- However, an alternative route starting further east up Glen Almond gives a less hazardous approach with easy walking for the first few miles. A short diversion across a field leads to a shoulder of Auchnafree Hill.
- Here, there lies a natural rock formation of three large boulders leaning against each other known as Druid’s Cave with a tiny stream running between them. It was thought to be a place of power in times long past.
- A short, steady climb leads to open hillside. From here on the walking is easy underfoot, good for enjoying the wide views. From the summit, it’s possible to return by the same way or if you’ve lots of energy left, the summit of the higher Ben Chonzie is within reach.
- I’ve seen Golden Eagles near here and there were several Red Kites in the area when I last visited.
Ben Lawers itself is a prominent landmark, a mountain standing almost in the centre of southern Scotland but this walk takes in it’s three closest neighbouring peaks to the east.
- If you are looking for a route for fit, hardy hillwalkers – this is it!
- Starting from the Lawers Hotel on the shore of Loch Tay, this hike leads up through woodland to moorland above.
- Hikers usually do this route anti-clockwise for two reasons: the hills to the east are hard to reach by road and so are best done earlier in the day while your legs have enough energy. Also, the east face of one of the mountains called An Stuc is steep, with lots of loose rock and a short section of scrambling. The steepness means it’s easier to see where you’re going heading up instead of down.
- This is a long walk over rough ground, but the views are wonderful, whether north to the hills in the next glen, west to further mountains, and southwards to Loch Tay (a large freshwater loch). Tucked in, close to the mountains, is the small Lochan nan Cat, only seen from this vantage point.
- A lochan is a small loch, while cat is the only word that’s the same in both Gaelic and English. From the mountain-side, it does look like the outline of a sitting cat. Trout live in the small burn (stream) that flows into Loch Tay.
- Ben Lawers itself is known to have the largest variety of alpine plants in Scotland, so spring and summer are ideal times to visit. Autumn is good as well because the heather is in bloom giving a gentle purple glow to the mountainsides.
- The nearby town of Killin is always of interest, being the traditional burial place of the chiefs of Clan MacNab.
Come and see Ben Lawers and the surrounding area on our Luxury Adventure – Edinburgh to Highland Perthshire trip. I keep returning to this area as it’s variety means there’s always so much on offer.
Visit Perthshire this Summer
We run a luxury self drive adventure in Edinburgh and Highland Perthshire. We kick this off by visiting Edinburgh Castle to give you a taste for Scottish history and culture. Then when you reach Perthshire you have the chance to actually live like a King as you enjoy staying in the stunning Fonab Castle.
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