My friend Graham mentioned that he was planning a holiday to Orkney, so I sent him some ideas of routes to get there, and what to see on the way. That then led – inevitably! – to them spending some time in Perthshire on the way back down. I met Graham and his wife Hazel at the Garry Bridge car park, just north of Pitlochry.
I was fashionably late, forgetting about the landslide on the A9, and so ignoring my own advice to Graham to miss out that bit! After the introductions, we set off west along Strathtummel for Queen’s View, where – after a large blue rinse contingent had posed for numerous photos – we got our first (of many) view of the mighty Schiehallion rising majestically above Loch Tummel.
Despite how good a view it is, I didn’t take a picture as I’ve taken so many here before. There are plenty in the Loch Tummel gallery though if you want to see what it’s like. Back into the car (which wasn’t as old, rickety or dirty as Graham kept saying it was) we headed along Strathtummel, along the side of Schiehallion and out beyond Kinloch Rannoch to the Clach a’ Mharsainte at the Macdonald Loch Rannoch hotel complex.
From their car park we were also awarded another great view of Schiehallion, this time from the pointy end. A short drive back to Kinloch Rannoch and we were at Clach na Boile where we commented on the fact that it sits down in the middle of the wide strath, immediately between 2 rocky crags – some significance or just a nice place to put a stone?
We then drove up the B-road that takes you to the car park at the bottom of Schiehallion, where we parked and walked part of the way up the new path to the Braes of Foss cup-marked rock. Probably not a patch on the rock art Graham and Hazel would see with Hob a couple of days later in Northumberland, but still impressive, although difficult to photograph.
Next stop was the picturesque village of Fortingall, where we parked at the church before walking to the 3 Fortingall stone circles, then back to the church to see the Fortingall churchyard cup-marked rock, and of course the huge and ancient yew tree.
We didn’t go over to look at Carn na Marbh as the hunger was starting to set in and we still had quite a way to go before lunch. A quick drive through Fortingall took us to the field by the bridge over the Lyon, jam-packed with archaeology – the Bridge of Lyon Standing Stones, The General’s Grave, and Bridge of Lyon Long Cairn.
A quick scoot down to Fearnan and we were travelling along the edge of Loch Tay to Kenmore, looking out towards the Crannog Centre.
We stopped in Kenmore to pick up some sandwiches, but unfortunately – being the end of the tourist season – puddings were in short supply and we had to settle for crisps. I was not amused! Not far along the road was the perfect picnic spot – Croftmoraig stone circle. While we were here two other sets of visitors came and went while we drank in the atmosphere, and the sunny weather Graham had brought down from Orkney with him.
Back on the road we went through Aberfeldy and up through Glen Cochill, pausing at the forest car park for another view of Schiehallion, this time showing how it dominates the horizon.
We turned off through Strathbraan for Dunkeld, and took the road over towards Blairgowrie so that Graham could experience travelling by car through a stone circle at Ardblair, something I found out later he’d always wanted to do! Then it was down through Carsie to the Cleaven Dyke where we stopped for a wander. I’ve passed so many times without stopping, and I have to say I was underwhelmed. I can appreciate how much effort goes into building a cursus, but this one at least just didn’t excite me as much as stones do.
Passing by the tallest hedge in the world at Meikleour, we headed down to Perth to take the road out to Fowlis Wester – “which way are we heading?” said Graham as we drove into the setting sun!. We didn’t have time to stop at the New Fowlis cairn or Crofthead Farm but we did stop to have a look at the replica cross-slab in the centre of the village (the church was locked) before heading up onto the moor to the circles at Braes of Fowlis. With the sun on it’s way down, it seemed that the two massive outliers would once have lined up with a notch in the distant hill where the sun would disappear over the horizon.
With the light fading fast, we just had enough time to head up the Sma’ Glen past the Giant’s Grave and stop at what is surely the biggest cist cover ever found, Clach Ossian. By now it was getting pretty dark, so we headed back up to the Garry Bridge car park and couldn’t go to the final two sites on the itinerary – Tigh na Ruaich and Faskally Cottages stone circles – but I have a feeling Graham and Hazel may well be back for more next year!