Cataran Trail 5
Alyth to Blairgowrie (via the Den O’Alyth) 7 miles
My original plan had been to walk the “official” route over Alyth hill to Bridge of Cally and from there back to Blairgowrie, a walk of some 17 miles or so. I had even booked an extra night in Blairgowrie to allow for a later finish. In the end I decided to use the shorter and more direct alternative, A because I was knackered and couldn’t really face 17 miles and B because there were some family issues going on that I really should have been back home for (everything turned out fine).
What this meant was a leisurely start as there were no time pressures to get away, although I was still on the road by 9. Although the alternative route is way marked, it wasn’t particularly well signed, and with it not being marked on O.S. maps I had to do a little bit of guesswork.
Leaving the Den O’Alyth
In the end it was fairly simple – the Den o’Alyth was lovely, although busy with dog walkers. The trees were just beginning to show leaf and combined with the fine morning there was a lovely green tinge to the light filtering its way through the trees.
All to soon the woodland walk came to an end to be replaced by another road walk, climbing steadily from Bridge of Tully with views opening out behind me towards Alyth. The road turned sharp left and the trail continued straight on into a large forest plantation. There were way markers here, but these were for forest walks rather than the Cateran Trail. They did mark the correct trail though.
Most of the trees here were conifer plantation, with the occasional stand of broadleaf trees appearing. There were numerous clearings, in one of which I disturbed a Red Kite which took off as quickly as its rather ungainly flight would let it (too quick to get the camera out!).
A couple of large ponds had some bird life on them, a swan was swimming about in the distance. Then, on the path a Thrush was getting stuck into something (a worm possibly?). It wasn’t keen on moving as I approached, eventually flying up to a branch next to the path where it posed patiently for me to take a couple of photos. After moving on I turned round and it had returned to its meal on the ground.
Sun and Rain
There was forestry work going on here as well meaning that the path was diverted (although there didn’t seem to be any work going on as the forest was relatively silent). It looked as if most of the work was thinning rather than clear felling which will make the forest quite a pleasant place to walk through. There were a couple of places where the machines had crossed the path making things a little muddy, but on the whole it wasn’t too bad.
At one point there was a lovely moment with the sun shining through the trees reflecting the rain that was now falling steadily. The effect was quite beautiful.
Shortly after this the forest track ended with a Cateran Trail marker! This was the last leg as I turned on a minor road to Blairgowrie. Here there were good views over Glen Ericht and in the distance were the now familiar hills that had been in view after leaving Blairgowrie a few days ago. As I got closer to the town the trail even became visible on the other side of the Glen and I was able to trace the route from my vantage point.
Crossing the Ericht
Soon I was back in Blairgowrie and crossing the Ericht by the old mills to rejoin the riverside path that I had set out on 4 days before, to get to the finish. From there it was a short step to the Wetherspoons for a short celebration and lunch before the walk back to the car which had been left at my B&B.
Day Rating 9/10
Short but very enjoyable little walk with some good views and interesting wildlife. A nice enough alternative finish to the trail, although a little short. I suppose that if you wanted a longer day without walking the 17 miles one could walk to Bridge of Cally and get a bus/taxi back to Blairgowrie to avoid retracing your steps (would that be cheating?)
Overall Rating 45/50 (90%)
A superb trail that passed all my expectations with flying colours. It had everything – river walks, moorland, mountains, rolling countryside, wildlife and more. The route is constantly under development so I would expect improvements in the future as well. Trail walking in Scotland often ends up too reliant on roads, forest tracks and old railway beds but this had a really nice balance. The scenery was so varied and there were few places that became boring. That said there was the occasional section that became a bit of a trudge, but they can be forgiven.
This has been my 6th Scottish Trail and it beats the rest hands down – including the West Highland Way – it’s far quieter too. I have a suspicion that it will be difficult to better this in Scotland too. A super middle distance trail that has loads to offer!