Highland Perthshire, Argyll & the Isles
This luxury hiking trip will take us to Perthshire, in the heart of Scotland, and to Argyll, on its western fringes. We will stay in small 4-star country house hotels, so you can relax in comfort after your day out walking.
Highland Perthshire is far from the sea, in Scottish terms. With its high mountains, long, deep glens and an abundance of trees, Highland Perthshire is a very distinctive part of Scotland, contrasting perfectly with the seaboard of Argyll. Perthshire was never a crofting county. It was deemed too rich, and lacked, at the time, the large, near-destitute rural population of the west. Instead, you will find rich estates and large farms, deer ‘forests’ and salmon rivers.
Many parts of Scotland, three centuries ago, were bare and open. Only in the 18th century did new forests really take root in Scotland - nowhere more so than here in Perthshire. Generations of the so-called ‘Planting’ Dukes of Atholl shaped much of the landscape seen today, especially around Dunkeld. Between 1738 and 1830, the family planted around 27 million conifers. As a result Perthshire is now known as 'Big Tree Country'. Not only is it the home of many tall trees, but the Fortingall Yew, believed to be 3,000 years old, is Europe's oldest living thing.
Argyll & the Isles
Argyll in the west Highlands has a long and broken coastline. The hinterland contains a landscape of gentle farmland and wide peat bog surrounded by hills, secret glens and hidden lochans. At the edge, where crofts (a form of smallholding) may still be found and lobster fishermen ply their trade, is a unique seascape, wild and exposed , dotted with islands large and small.
The hills of Argyll are more rugged than those of Perthshire, and the glens steeper and shorter, with rapid rivers and many waterfalls. The closer you get to the Atlantic coasts of Argyll, the more stunted and wind-sculpted the trees and woods become.
The first inhabitants of Scotland to be known by the name ‘Scots’ were the Gaelic-speaking Celts who colonised Argyll from the north of Ireland in the early centuries A.D. In Ireland, their kingdom was called Dalriada and the same name was applied to the part of Scotland that they occupied.
The modern name of ‘Argyll’, which long ago replaced Dalriada in normal use, actually comes from the Gaelic for ‘Land of the Gael’ - or possibly 'coastland' or 'heartland' of the Gael. During the late iron-age period that saw this Scots colonisation in the west, Perthshire was the land of the southern Picts, and, until Scotland was first unified under Kenneth McAlpin, the two groups were frequently at odds – indeed the Picts are known to have sacked the principal Scots fortress of Dunadd at least twice.
Wildlife reflects these differences between Perthshire and Argyll in many ways. There are larger herds of red deer and more birds of the mountainous sub-arctic, such as ptarmigan and snow bunting, on the Perthshire hills, whereas Argyll has numerous coastal animals, such as seals, and very many sea birds. Both areas have golden eagles and otters and much else besides.
We have chosen our walks and visits to showcase the differences between Perthshire and Argyll. We visit several quite unique sites, guaranteed to appeal to anyone possessing an active interest in history and the man-made and the natural world in general.
Many of these walks can still be fairly described as ‘off the beaten track’, and, where they are internationally renowned, we arrange things in such a way as to see them at their quietest and best. Wherever we go together, interest and variety in the weaving together of Scotland’s story will be your daily experience.
The programme will be subject to variables such as weather and the abilities of the group and changes may also be made to take account of lambing, deer stalking, etc. Any such alterations will always take into account the need to maintain the overall character of the holiday.
Saturday: Glasgow - Fortingall, Highland Perthshire
We will meet you in the city centre or at Glasgow International Airport in the afternoon. The journey will take us northwards via Stirling and through the Trossachs to Fortingall, near Aberfeldy.
Sunday: Loch Tay
We will spend today at the mouth of Loch Tay, where our first walk takes us deep into the gorge of the Acharn burn, with its spectacular falls. Popular with travellers since Victorian times, the Acharn falls are reached through the 'Hermit's Cave', an artificial, stone construction, planned in the 1760s by the 3rd Earl of Breadalbane to give the most dramatic approach possible. Judge for yourself whether or not he succeeded!
Our next stop is the Scottish Crannog Centre, an authentic reconstruction of an early iron-age loch-dwelling in Loch Tay. This re-creation is based on excavation evidence from the 2600-year-old site of 'Oakbank Crannog', one of 18 preserved in Loch Tay.
The afternoon is reserved for a circuit on Kenmore Hill with spectacular views across Loch Tay to the Ben Lawers range, the unmistakable cone of Schiehallion and towards the Cairngorms. Kenmore Hill has been planted with Scots pine and other native trees to allow the recovery and expansion of the remnant Caledonian Forest. The area is home to black grouse, but we will need to be lucky to see these elusive birds, whose numbers have long been in decline. Their recovery is one of the aims of encouraging native forest to re-establish itself.
5.5 miles/9 km, 1150ft/350m of ascent
Monday: Castle Menzies and Black Wood of Rannoch
Before heading northwards to Loch Rannoch, we will walk in Weem Wood and visit Castle Menzies, the seat of the Menzies Clan. Prince Charles Edward Stuart - 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' - stayed here for 2 nights in 1746 on his way to the north, where, not long afterwards, his army was defeated by the forces of the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden.
We will spend the rest of the day alongside Loch Rannoch, passing, en route, Schiehallion, the fairy hill – a mountain so isolated, symmetrical in outline and uniform in its geology that it was used by an 18th century Astronomer Royal to calculate the mass of the Earth. Our walk lies beneath and to the west of Schiehallion, at the eastern edge of the Black Wood of Rannoch, an important remnant of ancient Caledonian Forest. Our path will take us through mixed woodland and past a stand of ancient Scots pine, with fine views of the loch and to the hills beyond.
6 miles/9.5 km, 820ft/250m of ascent
Tuesday: Journey to Argyll, Glen Coe
Westwards, today, to Argyll, where we will stay for the rest of the week. Our route first takes us through Glen Lyon before crossing back to Loch Tay near to its mid-point. High above the loch, at the Ben Lawers car park, we’ll take time out for a walk along the nature trail, set among remarkable arctic and alpine flora.
Our journey continues along the side of Loch Tay to Killin, then through Glen Dochart, up across Rannoch Moor and ultimately into wild Glen Coe. Although everyone has heard of Glen Coe, and may suspect a ‘tourist trap’, the reality always has the power to inspire, no matter how many previous visits one has made. We will take a short walk to Signal Rock, at the heart of the lower glen, before a well-deserved pint (or whatever you prefer to drink) in the Clachaig Inn - a haunt of cattle drovers down the centuries until railways and steamers killed the trade. Our final stretch to Oban, our base for the rest of the week, takes us alongside, first, Loch Leven and then Loch Linnhe, passing close to the site of the killing of Campbell of Glenure, for which James Stewart was hanged near Ballachulish and around which Robert Louis Stevenson built the tension in his novel ‘Kidnapped’.
Wednesday: Isle of Kerrera and whisky-tasting
The Isle of Kerrera is set across the mouth of Oban Bay, acting as a natural breakwater for this important west coast harbour. Although it is close to the bustling tourist centre of Oban, Kerrera is a world apart. The island has only 40 residents and cars are banned except for those owned by the inhabitants.
A historically and geologically fascinating island, Kerrera gives a new and more interesting view as we round each successive turn of the coast. A highlight is the sudden appearance of Gylen Castle against the backdrop of the Firth of Lorn and the mountainous Isle of Mull.
After returning to our hotel, there will be a whisky-tasting session where you will be introduced to the history of whisky and the different regions in which it is produced. There will be a single malt whisky from each of the 4 major producing regions to sample.
6 miles/10km and 330ft/100m of ascent
Thursday: Kilmartin Glen
Southwards today to Kilmartin Glen with its prehistoric and early historic monuments. Kilmartin House Museum, our first stop, sets out the story of the glen down the ages with an inspired combination of imagination and clarity. Our walk takes us along a good cross-section of Kilmartin’s prehistoric and early historic monuments - a stone circle, burial cairns and iron-age forts and sculpted stones.
Dunadd was the capital hill fort of the Scots – Iron Age Celtic colonists from the Irish kingdom of Dalriada - from at least the 6th century to the 8th, and probably longer. No visitor to this area with any feel for the history in a landscape should miss it. A short walk and a little climb to the top of the hill reward you with the opportunity to place your feet in the carved print where Kings of Scots may well have placed theirs on being crowned.
Up to 5 miles/8km and little ascent
Friday: Isle of Mull and Isle of Ulva
We will take the ferry from Oban to Craignure, on the Isle of Mull, and then drive through the spectacular scenery of central Mull to Ulva Ferry. Ulva, ancient home of the Clan MacQuarrie, is privately owned.
Formerly home to 600 people, many of whom made their living from the collection and exportation of kelp, Ulva was the scene of harsh clearances in the 19th century. Today there are only 16 residents, who share their island with golden eagles, buzzards, otters, seals and lots of other wildlife.
Mature mixed woodland and parkland, around the big house near the ferry, give way to the wilder west end of the island. The south shore leads to a tangle of little islands and bays lined with basalt columns.
The grandparents of the explorer and missionary David Livingstone once lived on Ulva and our walk will take us up to Livingstone’s Cave and Croft. In the cave, archaeologists found flint artefacts and fragments of human bone which can be dated back as far as 5650 BC.
After our walk on Ulva we will travel back to the mainland.
5 miles/8km and 500ft/150m of ascent
Saturday: Argyll - Glasgow
We will drive, via the Pass of Brander, back to Glasgow.
Click on the picture to enlarge.
This walking tour is an excellent introduction to hiking in Scotland for people with good basic fitness. The holiday combines walking with visits to places of interest. Daily distances won't exceed 6 miles/10km plus varying amounts of ascent, and we don't expect to hike for longer than 4 hours (plus stops). Most of the hiking will be on paths, tracks or quiet roads, although the surfaces can be wet and rough. There will be some steep sections along the way, but no climbs greater than 1200 feet/365m, even in total.
If you're still not sure whether or not you can cope after you've read this along with the details of the week's programme, please get in touch to discuss it further.
You will need to bring boots with a good tread that provide adequate ankle support, warm clothing, waterproofs (top and over-trousers) and a rucksack big enough for your spare clothes, a packed lunch and whatever else you normally like to have with you (binoculars, a camera, etc.).
Boots are especially important. They don't have to be particularly heavy, but wearing ultra lightweight ones may mean your feet get wet and trainers definitely aren't adequate nor, on some of the rougher and steeper going, however short it may be, are they safe. Trekking poles can be very useful, especially for anyone with knee problems.
We will stay in small 4-star country house hotels that have a reputation for care and for excellent Scottish food, so you can relax in comfort after your day out walking. Evening meals will be in the hotels and are included in the price.
Higland Perthshire: Fortingall Hotel
We will stay for the first 3 nights in Fortingall Hotel, near Aberfeldy. It nestles in the middle of the historic Arts and Crafts village of Fortingall, itself hugging the contours of the hill at the foot of beautiful Glen Lyon in Highland Perthshire. The hotel’s Victorian heritage can be recognised through its calm, muted colours and by the use of tweed in the furnishings. This décor is carefully paired with modern bathroom fixtures and fittings , making a stay at Fortingall Hotel comfortable, relaxing and hospitable.
It has been awarded two AA rosettes for its award-winning, imaginative cuisine using locally-sourced produce, and the beautiful public rooms are adorned with an array of fascinating antiques and artwork. All-in-all, the perfect place to dine and then to unwind in front of a log fire.
Argyll: Knipoch Hotel
Knipoch Hotel, just south of Oban, will be our base in Argyll. This charming, four star country house hotel on the shores of Loch Feochan, is owned and run by three generations of the Craig family.
The house is situated on the ancient burial route of Scottish Kings from Scone Palace to the Isle of Iona. The oldest part of the house dates back to the 15th century. It was the site of the assassination of Campbell of Cawdor in 1592.
The hotel serves tasty local produce including their home smoked salmon for which it has received various awards. The hotel has a superb selection of malt whiskies dating back to 1936.
|Description||8 days (Saturday to Saturday), accommodation in Perthshire (3 nights) and Argyll (4 nights) in carefully selected 4-star country house hotels.|
|Walking||An attractive, well-thought-out walking programme; no more than 6 miles/10km in a day, and mostly on paths or tracks - though paths may be wet and/or rough in places. An equally attractive programme of visits to places of interest complement the walks.|
|PA61||23-30 July 2016||£1595||Luxury country house hotel accommodation, all meals included.
Single room: £295 extra
|PA62||10-17 September 2016|
|Groups of 4 or more can book other dates, please ask.|
The price includes:
and most especially
For general information and booking, please click here.