Making the most of blue skies
Last week the unexpected happened – the sun shone throughout Scotland for two whole days. We seized the opportunity to spend time outdoors and bundled into the car. We were bound for Glen Quaich in Perthshire to hike the Loch Freuchie circuit.
Arriving in the tiny village of Amulree to start our walk, the usual bickering about which 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.
The wee white dug was in his element, strutting along the path like he owned it and looking on bemused at free roaming sheep. We reckon 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. (We always keep him on a lead around them).
He seemed more surprised than bemused when we came across some pheasants, squawking loudly as they ran headlong into a wire fence, trying to get to break through it to the other side. Pheasants don’t appear to possess a survival instinct and can frequently be seen dicing with death at Scotland’s roadsides.
Gunshots ring out
Not long into our walk, a solitary white cottage came into view – a puff of smoke floating out of the chimney. It looked idyllic. Our peace was soon shattered. BANG – was that a gun shot? Nah – probably just the chimney popping. Is that even a thing? BANG. Our pace quickened. No signs of life could be seen around the cottage. Suddenly it didn’t seem quite so idyllic. BANG – in my over active imagination a horror movie was unfolding inside the now creepy wee 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 covered hills to our right and blue skies overhead.
Poignant ruins of a long gone settlement
I’d been drawn to this particular walk after reading about the Perthshire Clearances. I was on the hunt for clearance ruins and I found them. The remains of cottages, were scattered along the edge of the loch.
I always find abandoned villages poignant, sad places, but there’s a haunting beautiful to them too. I’d love to travel back in time to see them as they once were – full of life and a hub of hard graft. Where did their occupants end up? Were they 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 a living in a rapidly changing country?
There’s a settlement in Perth, Ontario called Amulree, so it possible some of Loch Freuchie’s villagers ended up calling Canada home.
The hounds of hell
As we reached the end of the footpath, we turned off it and onto the old road to Loch Tay. We’d be following it back to Amulree for the return leg of our walk.
Nearing a farmhouse, we were greeted by three snarling dogs. Luckily, they were chained up. They appeared to be willing to risk strangulation to reach the boy. Knowing he was safely out of reach, he strutted past them like Archie.
Dragons on the Loch Freuchie circuit
Loch Freuchie has a crannog on it which can be seen in the photo above. A crannog is a small man-made island found on a loch. The islands once had Iron Age dwellings on them, known as crannogs. Living on a loch made perfect sense, as it made the house easy to defend and didn’t take up valuable space on land needed for farming.
The crannog on Loch Freuchie has a legend attached to it. It’s said a dragon once inhabited the island. Fraoch, a local lad, was in love with a young maiden called Maidh. Keen to win her hand, he snuck onto the island, past the sleeping dragon and gathered some rowan berries for the object of his desire. Maidh wasn’t impressed. The selfish besom wanted the whole rowan tree, not a handful of berries. So, off crept Fraoch, back to the island to uproot the tree. This time his luck ran out. He woke the dragon and a mortal battle ensued. Poor Fraoch had his limbs torn off by the angry dragon. It’s said Maidh found him dead by the side of the loch, a slain dragon at his side.
Loch Freuchie Circuit – the verdict
We finished the Loch Freuchie circuit back at Amulree, with 20,000 steps in the bank. It’d been a lovely, scenic walk, despite gunshots, snarling hounds and the risk of encountering dragons. We spotted lots of wildlife too, including pheasants, geese, grouse, buzzards and Casper’s wooly sheep cousins.
Back home – boots off, tired feet rested and the boy sleeping off his walking effort, we began planning our next escape from the city.
Until next time …