Scottish walks: Lochearnhead to Kingshouse… and back

At the top end of Laggan Road. Picture: Robin Howie
At the top end of Laggan Road. Picture: Robin Howie
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Apart from the Craggan Road access from Lochearnhead, this week’s walk, from Lochearnhead to Kingshouse and back, follows part of National Cycle Network Route 7; a section also utilised by the Rob Roy Way, the 79-mile long distance route from Drymen to Pitlochry.

In addition, the most spectacular albeit short distance across the Kendrum Burn follows the track bed of the old Balquhidder Station to Perth railway line.

The entire route on Tarmac path, offering a low level and sheltered walk, was ideal on my day of rain, sleet and wind. Ironically, given that Lochearnhead, situated at the foot of Glen Ogle, is renowned as a water sports centre, full waterproof gear was donned prior to departure. The short leg stretch, overall only two to three hours and of little ascent, was extended with refreshments at the mid-point, the MHOR 84 café and restaurant at Kingshouse, at the junction of the A84 with the road leading west to Balquhidder.

Map Ordnance Survey map 51, Loch Tay & Glen Dochart

Distance 6 miles

Height A gentle 100m

Terrain Tarmac path

Start point Lochearnhead village shop

Time 2 to 3 hours

Nearest village Lochearnhead

Refreshment spot MHOR 84 café and restaurant, Kingshouse

From the Village Shop in Lochearnhead (Ceann Loch Eireann – head of the loch of the Irish), walk on the pavement to the speed de-restriction sign at the southern end of the village. On the loch side of the road is a sign pointing to the right – access to National Cycle Network Route 7, Strathyre 8 miles. Turn right and head uphill on Craggan Road.

Pass on the left St Angus’s Episcopal Church, built in 1888 originally as a private chapel. Giving good views back to Loch Earn, the easy gradient leads to a bridge over the old Caledonian Railway line from Perth which had been extended to Balquhidder Station as late as 1904. This final section, closed in 1951, had seen less than 50 years of commercial activity. Slant down to the left by a concrete path to reach the old track bed, now with a Tarmac path for walkers and cyclists.

A triple sign gives directions. Back the way is Lochearnhead ½ mile; to the south the track bed, then a new path, leads to Balquhidder (village) 4 miles, and to Strathyre, curiously still 8 miles distant; and to the right, under the bridge and then uphill, a path leads to the glorious multi-arched viaducts and cuttings of the old Callander to Oban railway through Glen Ogle…arguably the most impressive section of railway construction in Scotland.

Heading south, a steady but gentle gradient, latterly on a high embankment, leads to the multi-arched, 100ft high and difficult to photograph, Kendrum (or Edinchip) Viaduct that spans the Kendrum Burn. Built in 1905, the 82ft long central steel girder was replaced in 1997 by a tubular-steel bowstring pedestrian/cyclist span. The replacement was financed by funds raised in memory of Nigel Hester, organist and music teacher, who was tragically killed whilst cycling on the A9. With no central span stone parapets, it is an airy crossing.

On the far side of the bridge the track bed, where it once crossed the A84, is no more, but the new path continues on the west side of the busy road and adjacent to the Kendrum Burn ravine. Later the path curves westwards, winding, weaving and undulating its way through charming woodland and well away from the road. Further south the path may be briefly closed to allow construction traffic for the Kendrum Hydro project to cross. This Kendrum Burn project is planned to be operational by December 2016 – meantime your patience will be appreciated.

The path, now by a lovely moss-covered dyke, goes close by the hidden but heard A84 and so to the Balquhidder road. Turn left under the A84 for Kingshouse and that mid-walk break at MHOR 84.

Return to the Balquhidder road and the Tarmac path and sign, only three miles back to Lochearnhead.