A short walk reveals a rocky haven for bandits and clansmen hiding from the prying eyes of the law — join me on the hunt for MacGregor’s Cave.
Distance: 2 ½ miles.
Start and Finish: Small parking area at Lassintullich Forest (NN 70140 57745), near Kinloch Rannoch.
Access: No public transport.
From the parking area, turn right and follow the road to Crossmount. Go through the gateway on your left and follow the path downhill to the impressive Crossmount House. The path passes to the left of the house, passing some derelict outer buildings as it descends towards the side of the Dunalastair Water, a manmade reservoir that forms part of the Tummel Hydroelectric Scheme and is reputed to be one of the best trout fishing areas in all of Scotland.
Follow the track along the water until you reach the cottage. The path bends to the right just before the cottage itself, then passes through a tall deer gate and follows the fence at the edge of a field. From here you have fine views of Schiehallion, the Fairy Hill, a must-visit for any aspiring Munro bagger in the area.
The path continues to a picturesque gorge through which flows a small burn which has its source in the nearby Lochan an Dàim. A fallen tree blocked my path here, but as I ducked underneath between its branches really felt like I was off on an adventure!
At the end of the gorge the path drops down to cross the burn via a series of stepping stones before rising once more. After it bends away to leave the gorge behind, you will soon arrive at MacGregor’s Cave.
The cave — actually more of a rocky cleft in the cliffside — is reputedly the site where the men of Clan MacGregor would hide out from the law, a frequent occurrence in the Highlands. The clan was outlawed in 1603 along with all those who bore its name. Those who didn’t change their name or flee the country were hunted like animals. Legend has it that a trio of MacGregors were chased to the cave by pursuing Redcoats and leapt from the nearby outcrop overlooking the river. Some think they jumped to the safety of the water below, while others say it was to a swift end on the rocks below lest they be captured and punished for their crimes.
Modern day MacGregor’s need have no fear, however — the ban was repealed in 1774. The cave owes its current look to the burgeoning Victorian tourist industry, which saw its conversion into a splendid summer house with majestic views to the west towards Loch Rannoch.
Across the water lies Dunalastair House. This was a 19th Century mansion, originally known as Mount Alexander – the present name is a Gaelicisation of this. After being used as a school for Polish refugees in the 1950s, it was left derelict and has slowly deteriorated into the ruinous state it is today.
Return is by the same route.