It was eight years ago that sometime blog-commenter here 'Vlad', told me of a great local walk. He recommended taking the track up a hill called Craig a Barns, which begins near the large sawmill just behind Dunkeld. I know it was that long ago, because I carried a very tiny Boris up there along with a thermos of warmed baby-milk! Yesterday I spent much of the day regretting that I had left it eight years without paying the place a well-deserved return visit.
If you have ever sped up the A9 on your way from Perth, perhaps looking forward to a day amongst the shapely hills of the far North-West, or turning left at Dalwhinnie for the West Coast, or disregarding the speed limit in your haste to ascend the Cairngorm plateau, you may have missed Craig a Barns. Next time you are braving the main road, look across to the North - as the A9 bears right at Dunkeld and curves around to cross the Tay. There in the corner with a view Northwards towards Pitlochry and Eastward back across the village is the steep sided, tree-covered Craig a Barns. It's an ancient hill-fort site, and it's easy to see why an iron age general would want to sit on top of its domineering slopes, and utilise its commanding view of the strath below.
We were not there for military reasons, however (having said that, my sons' predilection for pine-cone bombardment does make gaining the higher ground a very sensible option). I was going to have all three kids for the day, my wife was working, and the weather was fantastic - and then I remembered Vlad's recommendation from so long ago. We managed a circular walk, up from the sawmill, under the caves and cliffs, round the the smaller summit and back past the beautiful lochan directly underneath it. This is a place with almost magical qualities, perfectly still, fish jumping, frogs leaping, and ducks following humans around the paths. We could have stopped here for hours, but time was pressing and we had to get back down the road as swimming lessons were awaiting!
A day with the kids, in lovely weather and gorgeous surroundings. Aren't school holidays great!?