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Day 3 - St Fillans to Balquhidder



Summary

Distance

19.2km (12 miles)

Total ascent

250m (800ft)

Time

6-7 hours

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Two disused railway lines are use by this route: the east-west Lochearnhead, St Fillans and Comrie Railway, which was completed in 1905 and linked to the south-north Callander and Oban Railway, which had been completed in 1880. Both proved uneconomic and they were closed in 1951 and 1965 respectively. Many of the bridges and other infrastructure are still in place.

This walk takes you from land once held by Clan Neish (and later acquired by the Drummonds) to Balquhidder Glen, home of the MacLarens and MacGregor clans. It is fairly easy going on level ground, especially on the second half, which has been upgraded to be part of the National Cycle Network. The first part along Loch Earn currently has some awkward bits, but Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park have plans to improve the route by 2017.

Tell us about your Rings of Breadalbane.

Highlights

  • Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park was Scotland’s first National Park, established in 2002 and covering 720 square miles of mountains, glens and lochs. This day’s walk and the next, Balquhidder to Killin, lie within the park.
  • Loch Earn, the source of the River Earn, is a freshwater loch about 10.5km (6.5 miles) long. It is popular for trout fishing, sailing and other water sports.
  • Glentarken Bridge, opened in 2014, is a new bailey bridge constructed to span a 30m (110ft) wide gorge where the old railway viaduct had been demolished.
  • Edinample Castle, a whitewashed tower house, can be seen across the loch on the approach to Lochearnhead. It was built by ‘Black’ Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy in 1584.
  • Druidsfield, Lochearnhead where in a field below the route there are cup-marked stones and possible a chambered cairn, site of what was known locally as the ‘Druid’s Circle’.
  • National Cycle Network Route 7 runs from Sunderland to Inverness. The section between Glasgow and Inverness, called Lochs and Glens North, runs through two National Parks.

Essential Info

Section no.

3

Section name

St Fillans to Balquhidder

Start

St Fillans, road junction on west side of Four Seasons Hotel: NN690244

Finish

Balquhidder, road sign for Rob Roy’s Grave: NN536208

Grade

Easy: mainly level with a few short climbs; the first part has some minor obstructions that need to be negotiated the second part uses a waymarked walk/cycle path.

Distance

19.2km (12 miles)

Total ascent

250m (800ft)

Highest point

150m (500ft)

Time

6-7 hours

Terrain

Two disused railway lines, one with varying surfaces, the other made up as a walk/cycle path, finishing with 2 miles of minor road. Mix of woodland and elevated views over fields, hills and loch.

Variations

The route can be split in two at Lochearnhead. It can also be shortend by finishing at Mhor 84 (on maps as the Kingshouse Hotel).

Driving to the start

St Fillans is on the A85 6 miles west of Comrie. There is a large layby on the loch side of the road, just beyond the Four Seasons Hotel.

Public transport

St Fillans is on bus service 15A from Comrie, which originates in Perth and comes via Crieff as service 15. Lochearnhead is on bus service C60 (Callander to Killin), which also stops 2 miles from the finish on the A84 near the Kingshouse Hotel (now called Mhor 84).


The Ring of Breadalbane Explorer Bus stops at St Fillans and Lochearhead from 1st June to 19th October on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays.

Refreshments

One shop and three hotels in St Fillans; a shop and two hotels in Lochearnhead; Golden Larches restaurant and Mhor 84 hotel near Balquhidder Station; The Library Tearoom (currently closed) at Balquhidder.

1st Leg

Start at: NN690244 by Four seasons

Take the tarmac lane behind the bus stop, which leads diagonally uphill to the left, away from the hotel. Pass St Fillans Power Station, built into a rock cavern, and some houses. At a junction, bend right uphill to a bridge over the disused railway line. Go down a steep little gap on the near side of the bridge to join the track bed, turning left along it and immediately going through a hurdle gate under the bridge.

You will now follow the disused line all the way to Lochearnhead, albeit with some short diversions around obstructions. In places where it is less used, weeds and saplings are growing up on the line. Initially the railway goes through a small cutting, which is a bit wet and muddy. However, as elsewhere, it is possible to pick a reasonably dry line to one side or other.

Running through mixed woodland, there is the occasional glimpse through tall oak trees to Loch Earn below. Cross several concrete parapet bridges over side streams cascading down the steep hillside. Above one longer bridge there is an attractive waterfall above.

A forest road joins the line from above, continues along it for a stretch then bends sharply left downhill. Keep straight on past a brick shed. Beyond a metal gate under a bridge, the path has been improved and you soon cross the new Glentarken Bridge. Go though another gate on the far side and past a bench with a view over the gorge.

2nd Leg

Start at: NN670248 Glentarken Bridge

Continue through a cutting then go straight over a track running downhill (from Glen Tarken). Now the track is grassy and runs through an oak wood where bluebells flower in May. Go through a stock gate and later a high gate in a deer fence, where you enter Derry Wood. The wood was felled some years ago and now has vigorous regeneration of alder, birch and other trees – including on the track!

Once you join a forest road, the going is easier with a hard surface underfoot. Where the track slopes down to a junction, turn right uphill (left goes down to the road). Keep on past a turning circle, back on the level. Beyond a bridge exit Derry Wood by a high metal gate.

Now pass an area of sheep pasture around Derry farm, with fine views over Loch Earn to Ben Vorlich, the Munro on the south side. Beyond, you cross over a cascading burn and enter Ardveich Wood. Although planted higher up with conifers, the land below the line and immediately above, where power lines run in parallel, is lovely deciduous woodland.

Beyond a metal hurdle gate, pass above a house surrounded by rhododendrons and go through a damp cutting. You may now find sheep on the line. At the end of the wood, a track joins from below. Walk ahead, though another hurdle gate to pass below Ardveich House, where the track diverges from the overgrown railway line.

At a triangle, where the main track runs up towards the house and another descends from it, keep along the left fork until you meet the descending track. Rather than go downhill on this drive, which passes under the railway line beside Beich Burn, almost immediately scramble up to the left, through vegetation and over piles of gravel, to regain the railway line and cross the high arched bridge over Beich Burn.

3rd Leg

Start at: NN616244 Beich Bridge

At the far end of Beich Bridge, go through a wooden pedestrian gate and continue on an elevated grassy track with fine views over the sheep pasture to either side. The bridge over the drive to Glenbeich Lodge is missing, so you soon need to take an earth path diagonally downhill to the left. Go through a gate and turn right through the gap then go left through a metal gate. Follow a track to a second gate then continue ahead until you can rejoin the line on your left (this bypasses a section of overgrown line and another missing bridge).

The line is well used by vehicles for a short stretch, until you go through another metal gate, after which it is grassy. The track bypasses another missing bridge with a loop to the right.

The next obstruction is where private woodland, surrounded by a high deer fence, impinges on the disused railway line. Just before it, go over a stile on the right, beside a padlocked gate, and turn left along the outer edge of the fence enclosing the line. Cross another stile by the next gate then continue through a pasture field beside the deer fence enclosing the old railway. Beyond a ruined stone wall, a grassy way leads back down onto the disused line.

The view now extends across the loch to Glen Ample. Soon pass above the first houses of Lochearnhead and go through a metal hurdle gate. Join a hard track that rises up from the left and go under an arch. Where the track bends left to Earnknowe self catering cottages, the line ahead is blocked by a barn built in a cutting. Bypass it going through a small wooden gate on the left embankment and following a small earth path that drops back onto the line beyond the barn.

Just beyond, join a hard track coming down from a bungalow above and keep ahead on the level. You can see Glen Ample castle across Loch Earn. Pass sheep pens and many more houses below the track. Eventually, it bends left off the old railway. Turn left at a T-junction and walk downhill to Auchraw Terrace. Go right along it then left at another junction to join the A85 road beside the village hall.

Turn right and immediately cross a bridge over Ogle Burn. Cross the road when safe to do so. At the junction with the A84, turn left and, when clear, cross over to the pavement on the other side, soon reaching Lochearnhead Village Shop.

4th Leg

Start at: NN588237 Lochearnhead Shop

Walk south along the pavement from the shop, with a view to the head of the loch on the left. Near the end of the village, just before the Episcopal Church, turn right at a blue sign for National Cycle Network route 7, which you now follow to the Balquhidder road. Walk uphill on the road, passing above a field with Druidical remains. Before an old railway bridge, go left through a gate and down a ramp to the line then keep left along it.

The surfaced path soon crosses high above Kendrum Burn by a fine modern bridge that replaces a missing section of railway viaduct. Now tarmac, the path dips down parallel to the A84. Go through a gap and across the entrance to Edinchip Estate, continuing straight ahead.

Reverting to a smooth surface of fine whin dust, the path now meanders to through a tussocky birch wood, crossing several small streams by wooden bridges. Where the path meets the disused Callander and Oban Railway coming down from Glen Ogle, turn left along the track (there is a high gate on the right).

In front of a house, turn right along a tarmac lane then soon turn right again onto a path. This is just before Balquhidder Station, where the two railways converged. Cross a cattle grid with a pedestian gate beside it onto more open ground. The path rises up to join the course of the Old Military Road and meanders around knolls.

Beyond another cattle grid reenter woodland, passing a path to the left to Balquhidder Station, where there is a campsite. Continue through coniferous woodland, coming closer to the road. By a National Cycle Network post, meet the Balquhidder road (Mhor A84 and the road junction with the A84 is to the left).

5th Leg

Start at: NN563203 Turn R onto road

Turn right along the road for two miles of tarmac walking into Balquhidder village. The minor road is relatively quiet. It is safest to walk on the right hand side, facing the oncoming traffic, but to cross over where there are bends with poor visibility, as cars tend to come tight around them.

The road crosses the marshy strath the rises up to run past the scattered cottages and houses of Auchtubh. Pass the locked gates on the left of the MacGregor Murray Mausoleum, which dates from about 1820 and was built for the family who had Edinchip House.

Continue with fine views to the south across Balquhidder Glen and to the surrounding hills. As you near the Balquhidder, Loch Voil comes into sight ahead and you can see left up Glen Buckie towards Benvane and Ben Ledi. This leg ends at the start of the little village, at the sign for Rob Roy’s Grave. There is a small parking area on the right, in front of the church.

Profile

19.2 km, n/a

The map below is intended for guidance only. You will need a compass and OS Explorers 365 & 368 or OS Landranger 51. You can zoom in and move the map around to see the route in more detail.
Click here to see a full screen Ordnance Survey map of the route


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