DESPITE a winter that has seen some of the best snow for years on the high mountains and hills of Scotland, the number of walkers and climbers going up then was anecdotally lower than usual because of the ferocious weather that brought so much of the white stuff.
While much of it remains and high winds continue to sweep across the country, it is still possible to get up relatively high above the glens.
Auchnafree Hill, at a little over 2,500 feet, is a good place to head. Tracks provide most of the way up, meaning that route finding is easy even in poor weather (although the final section on the summit plateau needs care in mist and low cloud). It also provides a good viewing platform for the surrounding mountains of Highland Perthshire.
The way up leads along Loch Turret, a reservoir which lies in a deep glen with Ben Chonzie and Auchnafree Hill at the far end. The glen has been used as a water supply since the 19th century although the current dam was built in the 1960s.
DISTANCE 9∫ miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 1,800ft.
TIME 4∫ to 5∫ hours.
MAP OS Landranger 52.
PARK There is a Scottish Water car park next to Loch Turret’s dam. Leave the A85 just north of Crieff, following a sign for the Famous Grouse Experience. About a third of a mile past the distillery turn left at Hosh Farmhouse from where a single-track private road leads the three miles to the car park.
IN SUMMARY At the end of the single-track road is a fork – go right to pass a barrier and walk up to a water board building next to the Loch Turret dam. Cross a stile to the left of a gate and continue along the track, which bears right then goes left at a junction to begin following the entire length of the loch.
The track is undulating with one fairly steep section. After fording a second burn (with a small waterfall) ignore a track going up to the right and continue ahead. After a third burn you descend before rising to a junction (past the end of the loch). Go right here and begin the steepest part of the walk, up a track which climbs up the side of Auchnafree Hill. It is worth taking a few breathers along the way, not least because of the great views back down Loch Turret and across to Ben Chonzie.
Eventually you reach another junction, where you should go left, almost doubling back on yourself. After a few hundred yards the track becomes less distinct. At this point take a faint path/track going up to the right. Take care from this point in mist and low cloud. The route heads in a northerly direction to the summit, which is on the other side of a small plateau. Of the two cairns at the top, the less well-built one is the highest point.
Retrace your steps to the start, or take a diversion via tracks over Choinneachain Hill before descending through heather to reach the track near the Loch Turret dam.
REFRESH Crieff has a wide choice of restaurants, cafés and pubs.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA The Glenturret Distillery passed on the drive in is Scotland’s oldest. It has tours, tastings, a restaurant, bar and shop (www.thefamousgrouse.com). n