Bob Ellis is one of Eastern Perthshire’s most longstanding community leaders and one the founders of the Cateran Trail, we asked him a few questions about walking the Cateran Ecomuseum.
What do you think is so special about walking through the landscapes of the Cateran Ecomuseum?
Walking through the landscape of the Cateran Ecomuseum is special in so many ways. The walkers can lose themselves in their own imagination of what happened in the distant past. Also, what changes have and are going on as time goes by. It could be for instance the Cateran warriors themselves, herding their rustled cattle back to their own land or the farmers working throughout the year, working in the estate grounds in order to keep the owners happy as well as feeding their own families. There are also the many folklore stories, some of which have elements of truth in them but again you can let your imagination run riot.
If the land, the hills and the rivers could speak as you wander through the glens, they would be able to tell many stories of bygone days and you can read about some of these in local books and leaflets or you could have a wee natter with a local worthie in one of the local pubs.
One of the hidden gems we have here is the Cateran Trail isn’t it – what is it and what was your role in the creation of this?
One of the many gems within the Ecomuseum is of course the Cateran Trail. This recognised long distance trail is 64 miles in circumference as it is circular and not the usual linear route. The Trail passes through forests, estate land, edges of cropped fields, across moors and high passes and you will walk through fields of sheep and cattle. You have the chance to see many different species of birds of prey as well as the likes of grouse, woodpeckers, curlew and many other birds. Deer are abundant, especially at certain times of the year. You may catch a glimpse or indeed smell foxes, or watch the hares competing with each other in the month of March. Of course you the walker will have to endure the weather at certain times of the year especially during the winter, where you may not be able to walk from Enochdhu to the Spittal of Glenshee because of the depth of the snow.
All of the above and more, I have witnessed over the many years of the Trails existence, in fact as I write this blog, I have just realised that in September (2019) the Trail will be 20 years old.
Unfortunately though, due to a foot and mouth outbreak, the Trail had to be closed for around one year. My part in the Trail came from a meeting with Alan Dick over a couple of pints in my back garden, surrounded by maps. I immediately saw the potential in the Trail as far as tourism was concerned. I then walked the various sections (5) plotting the route over estate roads, wild areas and a few minor roads. Once this was done it was time to contact the 44 landowners to get permissions and agreements. I also contacted Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust and kind of badgered them into them seeing the potential to open up East Perthshire to walkers of all abilities from all over the world.
Scotland has this amazing ‘right to roam’ – as long as you do so responsibly – can you tell us a bit about the background to that and what is expected of walkers?
Scotland has a “Right to Roam” policy, which differs from the rest of the UK. Everyone has the right to be on most land and inland water providing they act responsibly. You can find out fully by logging onto www.outdooraccess-scotland.comwhether in the countryside for work or recreation, the key things are as follows:
- take personal responsibility for your own actions and act safely
- respect other people’s privacy and peace of mind
- and care for the environment
Some examples of all of the above, do not walk across crops, if a gate is shut, then close it behind you, keep your dog on a lead where animals are concerned, don’t leave litter.
Are there walks through the Cateran Ecomuseum that suit all ages and abilities?
Yes, the Ecomuseum website will be able to advise on this.
What are your three favourite walks in Cateran Country and why?
What are my three favourite walks? I could say the whole of the Cateran Trail, couldn’t I!
Number one has to be a 3 mile circular from Forter / Auchavan junction, up the Trail and round Auchentaple Loch and back. You can park at the bottom of hill and wind your way up following the Cateran Trail signs all the way. Once you reach the top where you turn right down to the woods, this is my very favourite spot looking down at the loch with the reflection of Mount Blair on the loch. Carry on down the Trail until the loch is just a short way from the Trail on the right. You cross a narrow burn at some stepping stones and walk along the dam edge, round to the fishing lodge and then rejoin the Trail a bit further along. You have the chance to see deer, buzzards, osprey, squirrels and many other birds or animals. This walk is a real family walk, with plenty views and folklore tales to amuse walkers of all ages.
Number two would be from Enochdhu to the Spittal of Glenshee, which is 6 miles, so you would need someone at the other end to bring you back or just turn round and walk back. This walk takes you to the highest part of the Trail at An Lairig, which is 650 metres high. You pass through a working farm, a young forest before walking through wild land, all signposted though. You will come to the Upper Lunch Hut, where you can rest at a table surrounded by benches, before a long slog up to An Lairig. On a clear sunny day you can pick out many munros before dropping down to the Spittal. This walk will be a bit of a challenge for some but very rewarding.
Number three would be Alyth Hill. There are 2 main tracks from Alyth, both way marked by the Cateran Trail signs. Once you are on the top, which is at a height of 295 metres, there are many great views to be had and also an abundance of other grassy tracks to walk on and explore, so you can easily lose yourself for a few hours. You can use Walks 3a and 3b for this ramble. There are heron on the two small lochans as well as many other birds and animals. In my younger days, with two friends of mine, we would run along all of the paths for an hour or two at different speeds. Fond, but distant memories.