Thursday, May 15, 2008

Scotland in the Spring: Glen Tilt

Most people who leave the A9 to go into Blair Atholl head for the historic Blair Castle, or are heading for the House of Bruar - that monstrous retail complex dumped incongruously in the Highland landscape. A better choice than either of those two options is to take the narrow road adjacent to the bridge over the River Tilt, and up to Old Blair to the car park which grants access to Glen Tilt. It's where I went, with my bike this morning. Atholl estates used to allow vehicular access up the glen, but they have reversed this policy, helping this long and beautiful glen to retain its wild and remote feel - a feeling that grows in intensity with every charming mile of progress made. Spring in the Highlands is wonderful. In the bright sunshine, Glen Tilt today was alive with nature, bursting out into the the Spring sunshine - the shackles of winter having been loosened so much over the last few days. A cacophony of bird-song filled the woodland air around Gilberts's Bridge, while red squirrels darted across the road, dangerously close to my front wheel. Vivid psychedelic butterflies, danced in the sunshine with all the joy of their random flitterings, and spring lambs ran and sprung and assaulted their mothers for milk. Further up the Glen a huge Buzzard soared, patrolling his domain, while the trees below echoed to the steady cooeing of the first cuckoo I have heard this Spring. Pine cones are strewn around the track, now with the warmth and dryness, all starting to open to present their seed back to the soil. Further down in the forest it is warm too, the rich carpet of pine needles is steadily heating and giving off a tasty pungent aroma

Glen Tilt is a classic Scottish glacial trench, with a flat base and steep sides - mercilessly carved through the landscape by the giant ice sheets, millions of years ago. Along the ice-formed sections of the glen, the river Tilt fans out, meandering across the flat valley-bottom, appearing to be heating the whole glen with its dazzling array of rippled reflected sunbeams. At the end of the last ice age, a huge loch formed in-front of the retreating ice, and overflowed through the glens to the south. Where such fluvio-glacial activity has left its mark, the River Tilt now rushes and crashes through steep gorges, over rocks and below towering river-cliffs.


And then I got a puncture and in disgust dumped my bike in the hedge and went on up the Glen on foot, realising that it was going to be a far longer day out than initially envisaged! Sadly time pressures then meant that I was unable to continue to the North of the glen to see the Falls of Tarf.


The lower slopes of Beinn a Ghlo, reflected in a puddle, still blocking the path.




Stripes in the heather - evidence of burning.



Peat, drying and cracking in the heat - at 800m on the way up Carn a Chlamain

13 comments:

Endlessly restless said...

Fantastic set of photos - I particularly like the Beinn a Ghlo.

Are you going back for the bike - or is it a disposable one?

lynn said...

ohhhhh geography teacher heaven.....u shaped valley, misfit stream, fluvio-glacial features, waterfalls and hanging valleys and a beautiful set of photos......

How long did it take to walk out of the glen?

That Hideous Man said...

Well the whole walk was 19miles/29km, of which I managed to cycle about 2m - and the whole thing took about 7.5 hrs. So it was about a three hour walkout.

My Geography 'A-level' wasn't wasted!

lynn said...

ah-hah, Mr Hideous, you hail from England-shire (building a picture in my mind now. Or rather an accent. Guessing you speak like Doonhamer Geordie!!)

A level Geography ....I imagine you spotted some erratics in the valley then :-)

Have a good weekend!

doonhamer geordie said...

I'll have you know that I hail from Scotland-shire, being a true doonhamer, currently exiled in England-shire... and speak in no way like THM (not that there's anything wrong with an England-shire accent!)

doonhamer geordie said...

Top piccies, btw!
Oh, for a day in the hills...

That Hideous Man said...

Actually as all Scotsmen are aware, in common with all Englishmen I speak like Bertie Wooster

lynn said...

oooh Doonhamer, you sounded pretty anglicised to me when I met you on CHRISTMAS DAY!! (I still can't believe I have met a real live person "off the computer")

Come back home to Scottieland and we'll soon rid you of your sassenach accent....

:-)

That Hideous Man said...

On the other hand I was asked by a taxi driver in all seriousness recently, if I was from Edinburgh!

I was surprised because I didn't think my estuary-English had faded at all, despite being up here for 17 years!

Lins Honeyman said...

You speak like Bertie Wooster, THM?

"Electricity's all very well, Jeeves - but will it replace the bicycle?"

Simon said...

That looks absolutely fantastic! What a great place!

doonhamer geordie said...

Well, the doonhamer accent always was one of the softer in all Scotland-shire... No plans to return from exile at the moment, though I'm close enough to escape across the wall, should it become necessary!

;0)

His Girl Friday said...

been a bit busy lately, so I'm sorry I missed out on the above chatter!! Quite informative, I must say!! :D