Walking Report: Killicrankie to Pitlochry

Yesterday we decided to go for a walk from Killiecrankie to Pitlochry and back. There are a few different routes you can take for this walk, to make it a circular walk, but we chose to repeat a large part of the walk simply because we find it more scenic.  Now, there’s probably a small mountain of interesting things that happened on the walk, which I’ll completely forget to mention, so I’ll pass over to Janie from time to time to give her take of the walk! 🙂  Well it is a joint blog 😉  So Grahame’s factual blog style is in blue and my more relaxed style is in purple – hope it all makes sense! 🙂

The route we took is shown below.

The walk started at Killiecrankie Visitor Centre, which is closed over the winter months (Re-opens 1st April 2011), so as a result, there were only two other cars parked there. I actually prefer that… I’m definitely one who prefers a quieter walk (although he doesn’t always get it with me along!).

The walk starts going down a steep slope, till it’s almost on a level with the River Garry.  It is worth mentioning that although the path is very passable, my shorter legs had a bit more work to do than Grahame’s on the stairs – some of them are quite high!  The walk runs parallel with a rather impressive viaduct (see below) for a little while, before carrying on.

It doesn’t take long until you come to a green painted bridge. Crossing over the bridge will take you to the Linn of Tummel whilst carrying straight on will take you to Pitlochry (our route). I did, however, manage to get a photo of the Garry from the bridge, before we continued on. If you are of a nervous disposition when crossing bridges, cross this one quickly.  It vibrates with every step, even though it is very secure!

It’s just a shame we didn’t take the walk three weeks earlier, while the autumn leaves were still there and in full colour! Oh well… we’ll know for next year!

The walk carries on beside the Garry for quite a while. The path is in pretty good condition, and is relatively level. Obviously we were walking through all of the fallen leaves, it being the time of year for it, and I did manage to catch my foot on a few buried roots and rocks.  That won’t be such an issue during other seasons, but do take a bit of care.  There are a few ascents and descents, but they’re pretty short and of no real concern. While we were walking along here, we could see large fish (I assume Salmon or Sea Trout) swimming in the shallows. I’m impressed at how clear the water was! We also heard Jays in the trees on several occasions.

Its worth keeping half an eye out when walking this area for wildlife. I think I saw pretty much all the common Tit species, as well as Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Wren and Blackbird. On the return journey, we also saw Great Spotted Woodpecker.  It was a fun little break in the walk actually 🙂  We heard the piercing call first of all, but couldn’t see the bird itself – but after a few minutes of scanning the trees, Grahame spotted it and pointed it out to me just as it took to the sky 🙂

Eventually, the River Garry is joined by the River Tummel at a hydro plant. From here, the water widens to become Loch Faskally. Having recently watched ‘Making Scotland’s Landscape’ (at time of writing, only 13 days left to view on iPlayer) On the BBC, I was keen to see this with new eyes, as I definitely have a better understanding of how we, as people, have changed the landscape to suit ourselves, and Loch Faskally is a rather good example of this.  As Grahame mentioned earlier, the scenery would have been spectacular a couple of weeks ago with all the trees you can see below burnished in red and gold.  I do have to say, though, that the dignified peace and tranquility of the place yesterday was equally breathtaking.  We both took panorama shots of the loch and surrounding area – a little oasis just off the side of the A9 to Inverness 🙂

The viewpoint shown below (with Janie on it) was made from stone taken from the Old Bridge of Clunie. When Pitlochry Dam was built, the area was flooded and the bridge was no longer viable.

Just after this point, again, you have the option to cross over a bridge to the other side. The bridge is shown below.

Apparently, this bridge (the footbridge) was the first bridge built of an Aluminium Alloy in Scotland. Once again, we did not cross the bridge and instead carried on.

It didn’t take us long at this point to arrive in Pitlochry itself. We’d deliberately timed it so that we’d arrive at lunch time, so off we went to our favourite lunching spot in the town, The Old Mill Inn. A couple of (really tasty!) Aberdeen Angus burgers later, and we were ready to set off on the return leg!  At £10 each, the cost can be quite high for lunch really, but you get the 8oz burger, bacon and cheese on a massive bun, and salad, oinion rings and chips on the side!  I am not generally a burger fan, but we have been coming here for about 5 years now, and we never seem to choose anything else, even with other great options on the menu! 😉  Very recommended!

To add a little variety to the walk, we went down and across Pitlochry Dam itself, with the view being as spectacular as it always is.

Janie was determined that we would go and take a look at the Fish Ladder from the observation room, despite my protests that it would be closed, so off we went down to the observation room and… it was closed. Now we had to walk all the way back up those steps for no reason! One of these days she’ll listen to me…  As if! 😉  To be fair to Grahame, he had suggested it MIGHT be closed – but there are only 20 or so steps (ok 40 if you go up and down) and it is worth a look when it is open! 😉  There is a counter for the fish that have passed through the fish ladder at Pitlochry for the year and it was sitting at 4,449 which isn’t too shabby really!  And I’m amazed that Grahame hasn’t mentioned that this particular location has given rise to my favourite curse of all time 😉  I mean, how can you go through a town that has “Dam and Fish Ladder” signposted every few streets, and not adopt it as a curse! 😉

The path continues round the far side of the dam, and up a hill (which was exceptionally challenging on a full stomach!), to walk next to the A9 for a short while before returning to the Aluminium bridge, which we crossed to return along the same route back to Killiecrankie.  Be warned – there are more of those high steps here!

Yet again, we stopped at the little viewpoint, as the view from here is just stunning.

The return trip was relatively uneventful. I did, however, see my first Goldeneye of the year just after taking the above photo, which was a nice sight. As ducks go, they don’t get much more impressive than a Drake Goldeneye!  He was very beautiful (if you can say that about a drake!), however, my highlight was seeing a female tufted duck rise out of the crystal clear water after doing a spot of diving.  It was fantastic to be able to watch the little trail of bubbles become the vague outline of a duck paddling furiously for the surface about a foot below, before breaking the water with a very graceful bobbing 🙂  Perfect! 🙂

My GPS told me that the total distance was just over 11.5 miles. Janie’s said just over 13 miles. Either way, it was a decent length walk, and we’d probably estimate 3-4 hours to complete for most people.  As Grahame said earlier, it was very quiet in the car-park when we left, and we only really encountered perhaps 5 other groups of people (of 3 or less in the group) along the way.  It is notable, then, that we actually bumped into two of Grahame’s friends from a local conservation volunteering group on the return leg!  When I say local, I mean local to us at our home location, rather than local to Pitlochry!  It just goes to show that even though the distance to a walk can sometimes be a determining factor for whether you attempt it or not – it might just still be worth the petrol to get there because its a little hidden gem! 🙂  This is definitely one of those walks!

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