Walk of the week: Loch of the Lowes, Dunkeld

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Within the next few weeks birdwatchers will be waiting to see if the Loch of the Lowes, above Dunkeld in Perthshire, will see the return of an amazing osprey.

Known as Lady, the bird is thought to be around 24 years old; ancient in osprey terms. In August she left the loch after a scare when many thought she was about to breathe - or flap - her last, and headed off on a 3,000-mile migration to west Africa.

Now all eyes in the hides run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust are waiting to see if she will make it back. The achievement would be fantastic and will no doubt become big news if it happens.

Amid the excitement, frenzy and (potential) major media coverage, you can enjoy a lovely walk to the Loch of the Lowes visitor centre, crossing rolling countryside below hills and through deciduous woodland.

Once at the loch it is worth paying the admission fee for the visitor centre (adults 4, children 50p, concessions 3 and families 7.50) if only to see great crested grebes, goldeneye ducks and coots. If Lady the osprey is there, you will know because the car park will be overflowing; which makes it all the better to arrive on foot.

DISTANCE 5 miles.


TIME 2 to 3 hours.

MAP OS Landranger 52 or 53.

PARK From the A9, follow the A923 through Dunkeld. Just before the edge of the town park in Atholl Street car park, on the left.

IN SUMMARY Leave the car park and turn left along the A923 to walk out of Dunkeld. Go right at a junction to continue following the A923, uphill. After a couple of hundred yards go left at a red post box, up a track signed for the Cally car park.

After about a quarter of a mile you reach a junction at the entrance to the car park where you go right, following a sign for the Loch of the Lowes along a track. (You can start the walk at the Cally car park but the route described avoids an uphill section at the end.)

When the track has gone round to the left go right, following an arrow on a marker post. Go almost immediately right again, down a grass track through trees. When the track gets close to a public road take a path going up to the left. This goes through birch trees then down to the road, which you cross and turn right. Follow a short path to duckboards and then the access road for Dunkeld & Birnam Golf Club, where you go left.

The access road crosses a fairway - take care and stop for golfers - then reaches a car park. At the far right hand corner of the car park follow a sign for the Loch of the Lowes down a path, through a small wooden kissing gate and across fields. On reaching a farm track go right and follow it down then up to the left.

At a junction of signed track go left to reach a kissing gate then drop down to a road. Cross over and turn left to follow a new path in trees by the side of the road. After a quarter of a mile you reach the Loch of the Lowes car park, and visitor centre beyond.

Return back along the path, re-cross the road and retrace your steps to the junction of tracks where you go left, following a sign for Dunkeld.

This track leads to a wooden kissing gate then drops down to a wider track, where you go right. The track drops down to a farm access road where you go right to reach a minor public road, where you go right again. This leads to the centre of Dunkeld. Go right along Atholl Street to return to the car park.

REFRESH On the banks of the River Tay, the Taybank is a great place to head for refreshment. It is known for its stovies and live music.

WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA The Loch of the Lowes can keep you occupied for hours, especially if the ospreys are at home.

Otherwise, across the river from Dunkeld, the Birnam Institute (www.birnaminstitute.com) has an excellent exhibition to Beatrix Potter who once lived here, by the Tay. It includes children's activities such as dressing up and drawing.

In Dunkeld, the 14th-century cathedral (www.dunkeldcathedral.org.uk) enjoys a picturesque riverbank setting and is worth a visit.

This article was first published in Scotland On Sunday, 20 March, 2011