The sun was burning bright in a brilliant blue sky as I left Dundee this morning, heading west towards Loch Earn. The further west I went, the more glorious the weather got, the sun picking out the individual hills on the horizon. I parked the car in a layby beside the loch, just beyond the village of St Fillans, and walked back through the village to the footbridge over the River Earn.
Over the footbridge I turned left and followed the path then the minor road along the edge of the river before turning onto the track that cuts across St Fillans golf course to Wester Dundurn. It was another Dundurn I was on my way to though, the fort on St Fillan’s Hill, rising majestically above the golf course.
The fort is approached by way of a road to a sewage works, passing the ruins of St Fillan’s Church.
The road stops at the sewage works – thankfully there wasn’t much of a smell – so then it was across a muddy field before fording a wide, shallow burn on the way to the base of the hill. A gate gives access through a fence around the hill, after which the climb starts.
You can see why Dundurn was chosen as the site of a fort, as it rises steeply from the flat ground around it making it easy to defend. The slopes are littered with stones that are from the fort’s walls, which have now tumbled from their original position on the flat summit.
After scrambling up between these stones and the volcanic rock that formed this naturally-defendable position I reached the wide flat summit, which struck me as being much larger than I imagined after viewing Dundurn from the road. The views from the top are absolutely breathtaking, and provide great views over three major mountain passes, showing how strategically-important the fort was.
I stopped up here for my lunch, sitting on the rocky outcrop at the west end, legs dangling, enjoying the view towards Loch Earn, the only noise being babbling of the River Earn far below. The only noise that is until some goats appeared on the lower terrace.
On any other day coming across a wild goat would have been fairly unusual, but I would see far stranger animals later in the day. After spending half an hour at the top of Dundurn I began the scramble back down the slopes, and retraced my steps back to the car. I drove the short distance to Comrie and parked by the school, then walked round the corner to the United Free Church.
Behind the church is a mound called Tom na Chessaig (the hill of Kessog ) which is supposed to have been the site of a stone circle. It’s not much to look at now, overgrown and hemmed in by the church and houses, but originally it would have been in a stunning location, close to the banks of the River Earn with views up and down Strathearn.
Then it was back to the car again, this time heading south over the River Earn and past the West Cowden Farm standing stone to the Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre. The rough track up was frozen and unforgiving, but it’s well worth the effort, because at the top – as well as all kinds of animals – is a large standing stone.
Back in the car I continued on the short distance to Craigneich Farm where there is a complex of fantastic ancient monuments. I parked carefully at the entrance to a field, making sure I didn’t block it, but as it happened the farmer’s wife came past on a quad bike driven by her grandson and said to park in the farm drive to be safe since they were about to take some hay bales in to the cows in that field. So I moved the car 100m and walked back to the first in this series of stones, Dunruchan F.
I set off up the track and through a large thicket of gorse, and emerged on the edge of a moor with a one standing stone visible in front of me (Dunruchan B), and another off to my left.
I decided to keep heading up as I knew there were several others further on, and would come back to the outlier on the way back down. After a few hundred more metres traipsing through the heather, I came to another stone, Dunruchan C, a massive stone leaning at a sharp angle.
I could see the next stone, Dunruchan D, over the crest of another ridge. It turned out to be another large stone, again leaning at an angle.
It’s near neighbour, Dunruchan E, was smaller and more rounded.
I made my way back down to Dunruchan C and cut across into the next field to go and see the outlier, Dunruchan A. It can be quite difficult to judge the height of stones from a distance with nothing much to compare them to, and this was proved to be spectacularly true the closer I got. This stone is absolutely huge, measuring 3.45m in height.
The views from up on the moor were fantastic, and as the sun started to go down behind the hills around Glen Artney it bathed the whole area in a soft light.
With the light fading, I made my way back down off the moor, past the cows that were busy eating, to the car, and drove home with a fiery sky in my mirrors.