Walk of the Week: Birnam Hill, Perthshire

Birnam Hill in Perthshire. Picture: Nick Drainey

Birnam Hill in Perthshire. Picture: Nick Drainey

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IN SHAKESPEARE’S Macbeth, the witches said the king would only be safe until Birnam Wood moved to Dunsinane.

Much blood and gore ensued, but the story still endures and the places mentioned do exist.

Birnam Hill is a great place to enjoy views of the Perthshire mountains, with the Grampians further off. The ascent is surprisingly steep and your lungs will know they have been on a hill walk. The once arduous slog near the top has been made slightly easier in recent years, however, thanks to some good work restoring paths.

DISTANCE 4 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED 1,150ft.

TIME 2.5 to 3.5 hours.

MAP OS Landranger 52.

PARK There is parking at Dunkeld and Birnam Railway Station, but it is for ScotRail customers. If not travelling by train, park in the centre of Birnam and walk to the station to start.

IN SUMMARY Go to the end of the station car park and follow some steps down. Go left at the bottom to pass under the railway line. Follow a path up to some cottages and turn left along a minor road, following a sign for the “Birnam Hill Path”. After passing some large houses the road turns into a track and passes through mixed woodland. As the track gains height and starts to pass through rhododendrons, take a path on the left, by a red waymarker. The path leads into a clearing, where you should ignore a path to the left and continue ahead, passing a bench.

The path rises then falls to reach a track. Go left by a marker post and follow the track for about 200 yards. At a wooden signpost, go up a path to the right and follow it through the trees. The path goes up and round to the right, climbing fairly steeply – go straight on at another signpost.

When the path levels out there is a diversion to the left which leads to the “Stair Bridge Viewpoint”. From here you get a good view over Perthshire; south-east lie the Sidlaws, which include Dunsinane.

Return to the main path and follow it uphill to reach a fence on the left. The route then goes right and drops down before rising to another marker post where you go left (really straight on), up a narrow grass path. At a wider path go left and follow it as it zigzags to steps, which lead to the tree-clad top of the hill. A muddy path leads through trees and heather to the cairn on the top of Birnam Hill, a promontory known as King’s Seat. At 1,325 feet, the views are extensive; south are the Lomond Hills of Fife and north-west is Schiehallion. To the north lie the Grampians.

Because of the steepness of the descent it is more pleasant to return the way you came, but to make a circular walk go past the cairn and down through the trees. After passing a large boulder on your right a view of Birnam opens up. From here the route is very steep all the way down to a T-junction of paths above the Inchewan Burn. Go right to reach the cottages near the start of the walk. From here the path to the left goes back under the railway line where you turn right to reach the car park.

REFRESH There is nothing at the start, but a good choice in Birnam.

WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA The Birnam Institute, in the town and near the station, includes the Beatrix Potter Museum and Garden – the author once lived on the other side of the Tay (www.birnaminstitute.com).

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