Friday, 21 February 2014

Knock Of Crieff. Milquhanzie Hill. Laggan Hill.Famous Grouse.Lady's walk. Crieff and Monzie.

 This is one from a couple of weeks back. A sunny day dawned but one with a bitter cold wind at higher levels. The forecast suggested that the highest peaks would be prone to spindrift and arctic like conditions so a lower level alternative seemed like a better option for this sunshine enthusiast.
I had a cunning plan to weave three shorter hill walks of modest height into a longer one of great variety and interest in an area I had passed through many times but never walked around. Crieff. This is the well known main street, above.

                                        ALL PHOTOS CAN BE VIEWED FULL SCREEN
Today it's a fairly prosperous and busy town on the northern edge of the fertile and lush Strathearn and sits at a crossroads of central Highland and eastern highland mountain districts. It has certainly enjoyed a colourful history over the years and was once notorious as a savage and unruly frontier town where only the bold arrived and stayed for any length of time.
The first of the great mountain strongholds start just north of Crieff :- The Lochearn group, The Ben Lawers Range, The Kinloch Rannoch peaks and the Atholl/ Beinn a Ghlo group rise in rocky waves surrounding the town  in a semi circle with various glens, ancient pathways and drove roads all heading towards it. This made it a wealthy place and a gateway in former times, as for hundreds of years it was where the highland clans did business with the lowlands.
Crieff started out as a livestock/cattle town where highlanders brought their surplus half wild black cattle to market hoping for a good price. It also attracted dodgy dealers, cattle and horse thieves, murderers, wanted men and groups and clans with bad blood between them with old scores to settle. The gallows and hanging trees around the town did brisk business back then and the sight of a row of swinging corpses helped subdue anyone else thinking of causing trouble.
 This might also explain why most of the town of Crieff was burnt to the ground during the early 1700s by returning highlanders after the thwarted Jacobite rebellion--- and was just saved from suffering a similar fate at the last minute during the 1745 rebellion. They obviously liked the sight of the town burning to a cinder so they must have harboured a strong grudge against it back then. Or maybe it was the price they received for their cattle at the market.
Now it's a prosperous looking place filled with affluent homes, holiday accommodation, guesthouses and hotels centred around its colourful history, the surrounding scenery of Perthshire, and the Famous Grouse distillery at nearby Glenturret. As its situated across several rolling ridges it's a pretty place to look at. The Hydro can be seen in the photo above. Large building- centre top. In many aspects it's similar to Bearsden, Newton Mearns, Bridge of Weir and Kilmacolm with its visual weave of large houses and woodland setting climbing on or over a ridge- districts I also like... both for photography, period architecture and interesting walks, as the lanes, back streets, gardens and mansions are usually stunning- particularly in spring and summer.
The walk starts just above Crieff Hydro in a layby under the Knock. From here various paths run up
to the summit and a good view is had over a large chunk of Perthshire.( The Big Tree Country.) It was just Ron and I on this outing but we did see several dog walkers and a few mums with expensive, go anywhere, large tyre prams jogging past.( that's how I know its posh here as only posh mums jog around country lanes with mountain bike tyre prams. It's been a familiar sight in the Home Counties parks and certain London suburbs for many years whenever I've been visiting Kent and Surrey.)
Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor was brought up in Crieff and attended Morrison's Academy before finding fame in Hollywood .Likewise fellow actor Denis Lawson (who is his uncle and also attended Morrison's Academy as a Crieff local) with a huge back catalogue of film and TV credits over many decades to his name- so it's obviously in the blood.
Soon views opened up over the surrounding uplands which had a fair dump of snow on them. It looked freezing over on the heights but we were fine down here at 278 metres. Out of the wind it felt like a spring day with 8 hours of unbroken sunshine.
Milquhanzie Hill, at 350 metres, looked an inviting small peak to bag as well so we headed for that next via the Shaggie Burn and Monzie castle. This is still a private residence but guided tours at certain times can be arranged. It's an impressive building.

From here we followed a minor road back to the A822 then climbed up the side of Milquhanzie Hill which proved to be an excellent viewpoint.
A view of it from the Knock above Kate Mc Nieven's Craig. I found out after I got home and looked it up ---why it got its name. Her sad and brutal tale here. Reminds me of "The Crucible"
Ron climbing up to the summit.
Getting closer now.
A view back towards The Knock- Laggan Hill just visible behind The Knock. We would go on to climb this as well. It turned out to be a long day.
 On the way back we took minor roads  leading past The Ibert and Monzie which is a small but beautiful hamlet with its waterwheel, tumbling Shaggie Burn and ancient Packhorse bridge.
 The landscape around here is dotted with numerous standing stones, cairns, circles, forts, earthworks and  antiquities dating from Roman and  Pictish times. Also visible all along this minor road past Mains of Callander are what appear to be drumlins or eskers or at least some type of large glacial moraine deposits.
These low mounds of earth appear all along this shallow glen. This is a view looking back at The Knock. Sheep enjoying the day long sunshine as much as we were.
More wave like mounds of earth rising in height. Very unusual and interesting scenery throughout this walk- most of it could also be done on a bike using the network of minor roads.... or a large all terrain tyre pram. Wonder if anyone has written a pram guide yet to adventurous exploring? Why should new mummies be left out of any adventure I say!  :o)
Next came a visit to the Glenturret Distillery. Reputedly Scotland's oldest and home of the Famous Grouse. It is the most visited distillery in Scotland which I was unaware of until now.
The distillery. Beyond this point it's tour guide only territory. The path down to the burn and back towards Crieff exits left here.
After paying a visit to this huge sculpture of the grouse we took said path down the side of the Turret Burn which led us into Crieff at Dalverk, where we then cut down towards Laggan Hill via the main public park.
Like everything else in Crieff it sits on a slope but this only adds to its attractions as its a lovely green oasis that makes the most of its steep setting, woods, tumbling stream and meadow area.
At the end of the park we found this helpful info board which recommended Lady Mary's Walk, a pleasant riverside ramble  beside the swollen and impressive River Earn which is still lined with large beech trees.
In Victorian and Edwardian times this was a popular outing for the elegant upper classes to be seen strolling along here and it's still popular today with local dog walkers, weekend ramblers and family groups. We however, had a hill to do and the numerous ups and downs were taking a severe toll on our legs. It seemed a long, long way to Laggan hill along that riverside path and each step took us further from the car.
Eventually we topped out on the summit and were rewarded with a view of the sun going down behind Crieff. We still had a descent back down into civilization then a punishing re-climb back up past Morrison's Academy and the hydro again. It was almost a ridge too far.You need to be fit to live in Crieff.  Closer view of the Hydro below. It's an impressive building when water torture and a Spartan approach to heath and fitness encouraged folk to sample its delights from the inside of  a cold water jet room. Today's guests get pampering weekends, golf, horse riding, fishing and whisky tasting treats instead as a "treat them mean- keep them keen" policy fails to attract many votes nowadays.
By this point we were absolutely dead on our feet. Every step back uphill was an effort and we reached the car just as darkness fell over the layby. It's a long time since we've been so shattered after a walk. Maybe two hills would have been a better option as adding the third was really tough.
A great walk- good company in Ron- and bags of interest throughout. Cant ask for better.


Carol said...

Well I'm sure you need to be fit to live and Crieff and decide to do ALL the surrounding hills in one walk! ;-)

When I did Ben Chonzie, I slept up at the Glen Turret dam afterwards - bloody hell, it was cold up at that heights. I was a bit worried when a load of hoodies turned up late evening but they weren't any trouble...

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Always see loads of blue hares on the slopes of Ben Chonzie. Maybe that's the reason why they are blue and running around so much :o)
Another nature mystery solved!

Kay G. said...

"Almost a ridge too far"... HA! That is so funny!
What a great post, and what a walk! I don't blame you one bit for being tired, but man, it looks like it was so WORTH IT!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
We enjoyed it but the last hill was a killer. Great scenery though in a new area for exploring
and it's not often I can say that so close to the central belt of Scotland.

The Glebe Blog said...

There was a forty year gap between my visits to Crieff and even then I learned little about the area.
The Highland Games as a teenager brings back memories of a completely different terrain to Fife, I loved what to me at that time was the highlands with all the mighty peaks and lochs I got to see.
It was a completely different town (and me)around the turn of the century. Again I never stayed long enough.
My late aunt researching some ancestry thought we might have been trading sheep from the borders for cattle from up this way with the reivers in the 1700's, but I've never got into ancestry so I don't know if there's any truth in it.
Once again you've come up with brilliant photo's Bob. The Loch Earn mountains look brilliant, Monzie Castle looks like a Scottish castle, not like some of the pseudo buildings you pay a fortune to get in.
I'd like to know how the Shaggie burn got it's name. I seem to remember a barrack room ditty about the Shaggie Falls, but I can't really remember it, falls and balls were mentioned but there's no sign of it on the internet.
I should treat myself to a hydro weekend sometime, sounds like just what I need.
Nice post Bob

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim,
I enjoyed the walk and also enjoyed learning about the history later. I'm learning even more as I type this. The Shaggie burn has its own website but I still cant find out how it got its name.You might like Guthrie Trapp videos( Nashville country guitar playing)which are on it for some reason. From over 2000 feet high in the mountains the Shaggie Burn falls 1800 feet in 6 miles before it joins the Turrent. Monzie falls are supposed to be nice. Monzie Castle was painted by Turner I believe.
Adding a link on the blog for poor Kate Mc Niven, one of the last girls to be burned in the area just because she was an outsider. Many parts of the world are still like that although thankfully we have moved on in some ways.