Over the town of Pitlochry stands the hill known as Craigower, a short but steep climb through woodland to the site of an ancient beacon from where you can enjoy fine Highland views.
When my train pulled into Pitlochry, I couldn’t believe my luck – instead of the forecast sleet and rain, it was a dry and bright evening. But dark clouds were on the horizon. Thinking on my feet, I grabbed my list of places to see over the weekend and cobbled a little something together, then set off as fast as my legs would carry me. I made it to the summit of Craigower just before the weather changed; the views were well worth it, and made for a perfect introduction to this pretty little Perthshire town.
Distance: 4 ¾ miles
Time: 2 hours
Start and Finish: Atholl Road, Pitlochry (NN 93770 58250)
Access: Pitlochry is well served by trains and buses.
Starting on Pitlochry’s main street, head west until you reach a junction on the right onto Larchwood Road. Beside the turning sits an old white building known as Sunnybrae Cottage, one of the oldest buildings in the town. This is a fine example of a highland home, and once served as an inn and public house. At the time of writing, it has come under the care of Historic Environment Scotland and is in the process of being renovated to provide visitors with a glimpse of Highland life in the 18thcentury.
Continue up Larchwood Road, climbing uphill and navigating a series of bends where the road joins the road signed for the golf course. At a fork in the road, enjoy the view of Craigower over the small loch known as The Cuilc, then bear right. Follow the road along the Lochside – see if you can spot the peak of the famous Ben Vrackie further ahead – then, at the end of the loch, turn left and leave the road to head into the trees.
The path here leads through a gate and onto Pitlochry’s golf course. Continue straight here, following a small burn and taking care of flying golf balls, to arrive at the fence opposite. Turn left and follow the fence along the edge of the golf course. When a sturdy track crosses your path, bear left for a short distance along the track, then turn right to follow it towards a small house beside the forest ahead.
The driveway to the house itself is private, but a path leads off to the left here to skirt along the edge of the course once again. As you continue along this stretch of the walk, Pitlochry can be seen on your left in all its splendour. Continue to follow the path after it meets a wall and you will soon enter the woods.
At a forestry track, bear left to cross the small burn, then turn right to leave the track on a signed pathway through the trees. We’ll rejoin the track later to return to this point on our journey back to Pitlochry. Here in the woods, the National Trust have overseen the creation of a Hibernaculum – a series of chambers buried underground where animals, namely lizards, slow worms and adders, can hibernate during the winter months while still having access to foraging in the woods during the summer.
The path climbs steeply to the summit of Craigower. The hill is thought to have once housed a great beacon, used to communicate over long distances between the glens. As you approach the top of the hill, it soon becomes apparent why. On your left stands the mountain of Schiehallion, and with views along Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch, it is said that on a particularly clear day you can see as far as Glencoe almost 50 miles away.
Descend the steps on the opposite side of the summit to return into the woods again. You’ll soon arrive back on the forestry track met earlier. Follow this past two masts, and continue downhill. You will eventually arrive back at the point you first encountered the track before ascending to the summit; from here, it is simply a case of retracing your steps back through the woodland on your left and around the golf course to return to Pitlochry.