Scotland’s modest size doesn’t stop it from claiming top honours in the beauty department. Cameron McNeish has been called "Scotland’s most authoritative and well-known walker” and refers to his motherland as a “well-formed” gem – making us daydream about statuesque and shapely hills draped in all colours, and glens sparkling with crystal clear streams that drain into dramatic lochs. Cameron is the cultured walker and creative engine behind Scottish Walks – a quarterly magazine that was first published six years ago and has since become a mini-bible for diehard hillwalkers and anyone curious about Scotland’s heritage of the outdoors.
Fortunately, our daydreaming is based on reality. In this winter’s edition, Cameron illustrates two behemoth adventures not recommended for the faint-hearted. The Road to the Isles and Beinn Dearg walks test your tenacity but will reward the brave of heart with journeys that meander off the beaten track. If you’d like to harvest Cameron’s knowledge and wisdom straight from the horse’s mouth, you can get a free digital copy of the magazine from www.scottishwalks.com. Print versions are available from around 3000 independent retailers all over the country and cost just £1.50 – perfect for building a trusty collection of the best Scottish walks.
Choose Your First Steps Wisely
Don’t let the benign name of Perthshire fool you – these walks are intense, each lasting between 7 to 10 hours, and traverse some rough terrain in the quest for the “transcendental mountain experience”. Perthshire offers boundless territory for beginner and intermediate exploration. In fact, an extended stay in our hinterland can be beneficial for you to anchor yourself in this different atmospheric space.
Our discounted winter breaks are the perfect complement to such an expedition. With up to 25% off our accommodation packages, you can book any number of nights and benefit from full use of our indoor pool, sauna and gym, dinner in celebrity chef Nick Nairn’s The Kailyard, unlimited breakfast, free parking and a lazy checkout at noon. DoubleTree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro has the best of both worlds – did you know that we're situated just outside the bustling city of Stirling and also on the edge of the Highlands?
Mould Your Mission from Blair Atholl
A mere hour's drive away, ticking off Blair Atholl from your sightseeing list is essential. The small Highland village is home to a famous castle which hosted the most recent siege in British history (during the time of the last Jacobite Rebellion in 1746). Blair Castle is now one of Scotland’s foremost stately homes and still as impressive as its legacy, housing a trove of Highland artefacts and other rare relics.
The village is also worth a stroll; its compact size and nestled position in the hills will provide a safe base for you to depart from and return to. Heading off from Old Blair, Cameron’s route takes you up the private road to Glen Banvie. The path leads up to the eastern side of Allt an t-Seapail to a bothy adjacent to Allt Sheicheachan.
Seek Some Shelter in Remote Bliss
The playfully named bothies are a staple part of Highland culture in Scotland and pay homage to the many hillwalkers and farm workers who might have needed shelter from the battering of the elements in the remoteness of the country. While stripped of any facilities and comforts, bothies can – quite literally – save a life in dire mountain conditions. Maintained by volunteers of the Mountain Bothy Association, bothies are far from nurturing nests but can enhance your experience and provide a pit stop from where to regather strength in the midpoint of a demanding walk.
When you pass the bothy, you’ll cross a stream and follow the boggy footpath to Bruar Lodge. Once you go past the Lodge, a path climbs Allt Beinn Losgarnaich to a bealach just west of Beinn Dearg. You should head east then south to reach the trig point and the summit. Beinn Dearg’s singular characters stems from its wild, lonely presence that’s unlike any other Munro.
To head back, descend from the south-south-west ridge and continue to Meall Dubh nan Dearcag. Here you’ll find a path that zigzags down to the burn, ending at the bothy once more. You’ll then be able to return to Blair Atholl via the initial route.
Walking Closer to Home
If you're lacking Cameron's nerve to venture far out into the outskirts of Perthshire, don't fret. The best Scottish walks can also be initiated from Dunblane. Here are the routes we especially recommend:
The stunning location of Holmehill is down to the dun (hilltop fortress) of St Blane, a Celtic missionary who founded Dunblane in 602AD. Roe deer, bats and a multitude of bird species roam its bonny area.
Home to a well house from 1828 for transients in need of water when stopping at Dunblane, this place is famed for its network of paths and teeming wildlife.
Enjoy the sights of the Memorial Park, Bleaching Green and "Faerie Bridge" in a relaxed stroll down both sides of the river, where you might spot herons, dippers and goosanders.
Ducks and swans abound in this centre of tranquility, adorned with mature trees and a wonderful pond managed by local volunteers.
- Knockmafuddy and Hydro grounds
Parkland and woods collide to create a haven just north of our hotel. Spend hours in secluded bliss, admiring the acres of varied woodland.
Don't Forget the Natural Ingredients to Walking Success
As Cameron will agree, all great walks need a hefty supply of fuel and a solid nutritional foundation to begin. The most important meal of the day for a hillwalker is, without a doubt, breakfast. DoubleTree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro spares no lavishes in having you eat like a prince with our unlimited breakfast containing all the yummies and goodies you need for a day in the Perthshire hills.
If you’re into great food (and you’ll surely be chasing it after this rather gruelling feat), resident chef Nick Nairn will be on hand to please your taste buds further. A long-haul workout like hillwalking deserves to be topped off with a dinner to remember, and with dishes like the Scrabster halibut and fresh Scottish salmon fillet, you won’t want to walk out of our territory anytime soon.
Here’s to a healthy 2018 filled with amazing walks and food. Book your stay for the new year today!