Last week the unexpected happened. The sun shone all over Scotland for an entire weekend. After a trumpet fanfare and a ticker tape parade to celebrate, we bundled into the car and headed to Glen Quaich in Perthshire for a jaunt round Loch Freuchie.
Arriving in the tiny village of Amulree where our walk was to begin the usual bickering about the correct route to take ensued – the footpath to Loch Tay or the old road to Loch Tay? Ten minutes of bickering later we were on our way along the footpath to Loch Tay.
What a day it was – clear blue skies, no breeze, unseasonably mild weather and the glorious colour palate of Highland Perthshire to enjoy. An absolute visual feast, especially when the snow-capped mountains of the nearby Sma’ Glen crept into view.
The wee white dug was in his element swaggering along the path like he owned the place. He looked on bemused at the sheep roaming freely around him. We’ve always reckoned that he sees them as giant Westies. He’s spent lots of time around sheep, travelling to some of Scotland’s remotest places since he was a puppy. He always stops to observe them quietly, before heading on his merry way.
He was more alarmed than bemused when we came across some Pheasants squawking loudly as they ran headlong into a wire fence, trying to get to the other side! Clearly Pheasants have the same intellectual capacity as the Wood Pigeon. I’d always assumed that they were the most unrivalled stupid bird on the planet.
Not long into our walk a pretty white cottage with a solitary tree standing next to it came into view. A puff of smoke floated out of the chimney and into the breeze free sky. Our peace was soon shattered. BOOM – Yikes, was that a gun shot?! Nah, don’t be silly it’s probably just the chimney popping we agreed. Is that even a thing?! BOOM. Our pace increased as no sign of movement or life could be seen around said remote, and now not so romantic and idyllic white cottage. BOOM – we practically ran off down the path. In my over active imagination the stuff of horror movies was unfolding inside that now sinister little cottage.
After what seemed like a safe distance (out of gun range), we relaxed back into our walk. A frozen Loch Freuchie stretched out to our left, heather-clad hills to our right and bright, blue skies overhead.
I’d been drawn to the walk after reading about the Perthshire Clearances in this area. I was on the hunt for clearance ruins. I didn’t have to look hard to find them. The Lochside was littered with the ruins of settlements now long gone.
I always find the sight of these ruined villages really poignant. They’re beautiful and hauntingly sad at the same time. I’d love to be able to travel back to see them as they once were – full of life and activity, a hub of hard graft. Where did their occupants end up? Were they brutally chased off the land, their cottages set alight by ruthless land owners or did they leave of their own accord after struggling to eke out an existence in a rapidly changing land?
I later discovered that there’s a settlement called Amulree in Perth, Ontario so it seems more that feasible that at least some of these Loch Freuchie villagers ended up calling Canada home.
As we reached the end of the footpath we turned off to the left to reach the old road to Loch Tay, so we could begin our return journey back towards Amulree. It seems that this was to be a day of scary things coming in threes. Remember shotgun cottage earlier? BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, well this time it was the Wee White Dug’s turn to feel more than a tad nervous.
We neared a farmhouse and not one, not two,but three farm dogs were there snarling and snapping at him like the hounds of hell. Luckily, for the boy they were all chained up, but they looked more than willing to risk strangulation if there was even the slightest glimmer of hope that they could reach him. Probably thinking “Who does that stupid wee townie dug think he is, swaggering through our neighbourhood wearing a silly, red hiking jacket?”
Loch Freuchie has a pretty little crannog in it which can be seen in the photo above. For anyone wondering what on earth a crannog is then I can answer that. It’s a small man-made island found on a loch. They’re usually the site of ancient dwellings known as Crannogs, which were built on these man made islands, making them safe and easy to defend.
This Crannog has a legend attached which thankfully we saw no proof of to verify its authenticity. Long ago the crannog is said to have been inhabited by a dragon. Keen to win the heart of the fair maiden Maidh, the gallant young Fraoch snuck onto the island and evaded the sleeping dragon to gather Maidh some rowan berries. On his triumphant return the selfish Maidh was not content with the berries and demanded the entire Rowan tree. Off Fraoch snuck back into the island and uprooted the tree. He wasn’t so fortunate this time round and the dragon awoke. A mortal battle ensued and poor Fraoch had his limbs torn off by the angry dragon. It’s said Maidh found him dead at the side of the loch beside a slain dragon.
We finished our loop of the loch back at Amulree on just over 20,000 steps which is roughly 10 miles or 20 if you have wee dug legs. It’s a walk I’d thoroughly recommend despite the gunshots, snarling three-headed, hell hounds and the risk of dragon attack. It was a box ticker for us due to the stunning scenery, history and wildlife – we saw pheasants, geese, black grouse, birds of prey circling high in the sky and lots of Casper’s wooly sheep cousins. The Wee White Dug spotted some black and white birds he though might have been puffins. We praised him on his good guess, but secretly we were trying hard not to laugh. Whoever heard of Perthshire puffins?!
Back home, boots off, tired feet rested and the boy sleeping off his admirable walking effort we toasted another excellent day out with some bubbles and planned our Sunday escape from the city.
Until next time ………..