Tuesday August 18 dawned a bit dull, and the forecast was for rain.
This may be why there was quite a poor turn-out for the Dunkeld walk.
Only 22 walkers turned up and of these, 12 did the shorter walk while 10 took the longer way.
Starting point for the long walk was the Cally car-park, which is on the outskirts of Dunkeld, off the A923 road to Blairgowrie and up a very bumpy forest track on the left. The route we followed is the Atholl Woods circular: it is very well sign-posted, with yellow arrows to help keep you on the right track. We started by heading back out out of the car-park, towards the entrance track and followed the signs for Atholl Woods – Mill Dam, thus choosing the anti-clockwise version of the circuit.
Most of the way until lunch-time was a steady but gentle climb. We passed Cally Loch which was a bit away but seemed to have little water in it. We also passed a field of fallow deer, and one of them was white. Could it have been a young one or was it an albino? I favour the latter option as there was only the one white one as far as we could see. There were still quite a few wild flowers along the way; they always brighten up a path! Deer hoof-prints could be seen on the ground at various points but that is perhaps unsurprising in woods such as these.
We ate our lunch at the side of Mill Dam, with some very tame ducks watching ..... and waiting hopefully; there was a swan in the distance and it showed up just as we were leaving. After lunch the way was mostly downhill, and at one point we very nearly took the wrong path: we wanted to continue straight ahead but had to take a sharp left turn. As we made the turn, we noticed a “sign” on a tree, “To Dunkeld”, with an arrow and a smiley face! Soon we were walking almost parallel to the A9 and the old road and could hear the traffic in the distance.
Our route took us on to this old road (part of General Wade’s military road). We kept to the verge until we reached Polney Loch where we veered left and followed the edge of the loch. This was a very pretty little loch with lots of water lily leaves – and a moorhen. Soon we were climbing past the Polney sawmill, back to the car-park, completing about 7 miles. Despite our initial worries about the weather, it remained reasonably dry – we didn’t get soaked!
The group of twelve who chose the shorter walk started in the middle of Dunkeld, walked along the main street, across the bridge over the Tay (built by Thomas Telford) and into Birnam. They walked along what would have been the old A9 road to the Beatrix Potter garden and had lunch there.
Crossing the road, they went along the riverside path, past two large sycamore trees with plaques on them, then came to the Birnam Oak – a huge tree over 300 years old – which was sometimes used as a gallows for hangings. Some of the walkers went into the base of the tree which is now hollow. They continued along a path by the River Braan then took the Fiddler’s path back to the main street where they turned left into the High Street. Here they visited the Ell Shop and the NTS buildings, then walked through the Cathedral grounds, passing a memorial to the Cameron Highlanders who fought at Culloden. It sounded a most interesting walk!
The next walk will be on Tuesday, September 1, around Tarland, starting from the car-park in the Square. As usual, the minibus will leave the Burgh Buildings in Laurencekirk at 10 am.