Travel 2022: Getting away from it all on the Cateran Trail

It is fair to say that the Caterans were not very nice people. The marauding bunch of cattle thieves went around the country between the Middle Ages and the 17th Century, terrorising everyone unfortunate enough to have come across their path – particularly in the glens between Blairgowrie and the Spittal of Glenshee.

The Cateran Trail is a 100 km circular walk starting at Blairgowrie. This photograph was token close to Spittal of Glenshee in the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland.

Nowadays, the word Cateran has more tranquil connotations, as it is mostly associated with a 64-mile (103km) walking trail through Highland Perthshire and the Angus glens.

The route does follow the way taken by some of the ne’er-do-wells of old, but the idea is to have a wonderful walk through some majestic scenery.

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The trail makes a huge loop across the wonderful landscapes and can be embarked upon from any point. It is usually completed in five sections – whether consecutively or on occasional days here and there.

Cateran Trail - River Ericht, Blairgowrie

Ancient tracks and old drovers roads take you across a invigorating mix of farmland, forests and moors and the route is clearly waymarked thanks to the Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust. Most people hit the trail in the fruit-picking capital of Perthshire, Blairgowrie, and stroll along the River Ericht.

Pause at Cargill’s Leap, a point where the gorge narrows to form a deep chasm filled with rocks. One Donald Cargill, Presbyterian minister and Covenanter, is said to have escaped troops by jumping across the River Ericht at this spot. Rolling hillsides lead on to the lovely hamlet of Bridge of Cally before Kirkmichael provides a resting spot.

From Kirkmichael to Spittal of Glenshee is only 8.5 miles in length, but the going gets strenuous over high ground. The views, however, are stunning and the sight of craggy mountains will give plenty of reasons to stop – keep a look out for red deer and perhaps even a golden eagle.

Spittal of Glenshee is a remote spot but waking up there and continuing over rough mountainsides gives a real feel of escape and being “in the middle of nowhere”. Glen Isla is a contrast, and then the farmland returns, giving a more bucolic feel before Kirkton of Glenisla is reached.

The village of Alyth is the destination of the fourth part of the walk – but not before you gain height, and more superb views, then walk down between wee hills to the town. At the end of the day, make a detour to the tree-lined Den of Alyth.

If you are doing the route on consecutive days you will be feeling “the burn” as you make your way up the Hill of Alyth and down to Bridge of Cally. But when you return to Blairgowrie the sense of achievement, and enjoyment, will be immense.

Find out more about the route.

- This article first appeared in the spring edition of Scotsman Travel.

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