Great winter walks must have one main attribute to make them special – crisp, clear weather. Ice can be dealt with, as can snow, but low cloud and falling rain can make the dankest of days even darker.
So it was with a spring in the step, albeit a little spring as it was icy underfoot, that Balquhidder was left behind with the promise of a wonderful viewpoint.
Creag an Tuirc was the ancient meeting place of the Clan MacLaren and a fine cairn marks the spot. What really catches the eye, however, is the impressive view down Loch Voil, framed by steep-sided mountains.
When the temperature doesn’t rise above freezing you might think staying indoors is the best option. However, when the sun is out it can make the world magical, with twinkling ice crystals clinging to everything from the slenderest blade of grass to the largest lochs.
Balquhidder is probably best known for one of its sons. Rob Roy is famous, or infamous, far beyond Scotland and the outlaw’s mortal remains are buried in the kirkyard. Judging by some of the coins, ribbons and flowers left there, it appears to be a sort of pilgrimage for some to visit it. For others, however, it is simply an interesting diversion at the end of one of the best short walks in Scotland.
DISTANCE 2 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 400ft.
TIME 1 to 2 hours.
MAP OS Landranger 51.
PARKING Follow a minor road from the A84 just north of Strathyre for a couple of miles to reach Balquhidder. There is parking at the parish church, on the right, but for this walk go a little further to reach Balquhidder Hall – there is a discretionary donation asked for in order to park; place money through the letterbox of the hall.
IN SUMMARY Follow a track that begins at the bottom of the parking area. After only about 30 yards bear right at a junction but don’t cross an old stone bridge. Instead, go left, up a path which starts to the left of a set of wooden gates with ‘Kirkton Bridge’ written on them.
The path leads to a footbridge over the Kirkton Burn. On the other side of the bridge go right, then turn left at a sign for Kirkton Glen. On reaching a track go left to follow it up past a Forestry Commission sign for Kirkton Glen. After climbing up fairly steeply look for a couple of marker posts and go right, up a path. The path bears right and, frustratingly, loses a little height before swinging left and going through a small gate.
Keep going up, across a small footbridge at one point, until you reach the large stone cairn on top of Creag an Tuirc.
Leave the top the same way but after only about 30 yards go right at a fork to reach a small wooden gate, which you go through. On the other side follow a track down to the left. This leads to the main Kirkton Glen track, where you go can go right to extend the walk. The track leads up to Lochan an Eireannaich and you can also go even further to Glen Dochart for a long, linear walk. For this route, go left to follow the track back down to the Forestry Commission sign for Kirkton Glen. Go left here to follow a track past Balquhidder Parish Church, where you can visit the grave of Rob Roy. Continue to the road and turn right to walk through the village back to the start of the walk.
REFRESHMENTS The Monachyle Mhor Hotel is just a few miles further down the road from the car park and is widely acknowledged as one of the best in the whole of the southern Highlands, so is well worth a visit for a spot of luxury. Otherwise, try the Library Tea Room in Balquhidder.
WHILE IN THE AREA In winter this part of Scotland really is all about the outdoors. However, for some built heritage and a slice of Monty Python there is nowhere better nearby than Doune Castle, eight miles south of Callander on the A84. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed there but it is impressive in its own right.