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HOME AT FIRST's

ADVENTURE

CENTRAL SCOTLAND

 WALKS IN ROB ROY COUNTRY

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN JANUARY, 2005.  EXPANDED IN 2010 & UPDATED IN 2014.    Photos Home At First

CLIMBING KIRKTON GLEN ABOVE BALQUHIDDER (above): Old Rob Roy MacGregor knew this path. Doubtless he walked it with his boys as they moved from grazing range to grazing range 300 years ago. Likely, the MacGregors moved cattle along this trail. Some of the cattle probably belonged to the MacGregors. Some — called "blackmail" — probably did not. You can hear the echoes of those times in the rush of the wind at the pass, and in the rushing streams that plunge down both sides of the mountain.

 

 

PART ONE
 

 

Loch Voil and the Braes of Balquhidder, Central Scotland. Photo Mike Mullen  Home At First.
LOCH VOIL & THE BRAES O' BALQUHIDDER
Photo Mike Mullen Home At First

          From the broad, long, open valley to the north called Glen Dochart the path leads up across ever-steeper meadows to a saddle pass between peaks on a ridgeline. These peaks separate the Glen Dochart from the narrow box canyon valley to the south, called Balquhidder Glen. The floor of Balquhidder Glen holds two relatively shallow lochs, Loch Voil and Loch Doune. (A third loch, which appears to the east of Loch Voil after periods of heavy rain, is known locally as "Loch Occasional".)

 

 

          The mountains that separate Balquhidder Glen from Glen Dochart are known as the Braes o’ Balquhidder. Their beauty has inspired poets and dreamers, and at least one cattle-thieving Highlander turned Scottish legend. Rob Roy MacGregor lived the last peaceful years of his life in Balquhidder Glen. When he died, he was buried in the churchyard at the Balquhidder Kirk. His wife, Mary, and two of his sons lie buried next to Rob Roy. Our walk to Glen Dochart begins at the Balquhidder Kirk, and follows a steep side valley called the Kirkton Glen to pass in the Braes ‘o Balquhidder. Along the way you may see what the poet Robert Tannahill saw that caused him to write the poem "The Braes o' Balquhidder" just a few years after Rob Roy MacGregor was laid to rest at Balquhidder churchyard in 1735.

Rob Roy's grave, Balquhidder churchyard. Rob Roy's walk ended here. Yours begins here. Photo  Home At First.
ROB ROY'S GRAVE,
BALQUIDDER CHURCHYARD
Photo Home At First

   
   

 

The Braes o' Balquhidder
 

 

 

Let us go, lassie, go
   Tae the braes o’ Balquhidder
Whar the blaeberries grow
  'Mang the bonnie Hielan’ heather
Whar the deer and the rae
  Lichtly bounding tegither
Sport the lang simmer day
  On the braes o' Balquhidder

When the rude wintry win’
  Idly raves roun' oor dwellin’
And the roar o’ the linn
  On the nicht breeze is swellin’
So merrily we’ll sing
  As the storm rattles o'er us
Till the dear shielin’ ring
  Wi’ the licht liltin’ chorus

I will twin thee a bow’r
  By the clear siller fountain
And I'll cover it o'er
  Wi’ the flooers o’ the mountain
I will range through the wilds
  And the deep glens sae dreary
And return wi’ their spoils
  Tae the bow’r o’ my dearie

Noo the simmer’s in prime
  Wi’ the flooers richly bloomin’
Wi’ the wild mountain thyme
  A’ the moorlan’s perfumin’
Tae oor dear native scenes
  Let us journey tegither
Whar glad innocence reigns
  'Mang the braes o’ Balquhidder

 

 

                                                       Robert Tannahill

 

 
 
   

FROM BALQUHIDDER UP KIRKTON GLEN
         This hike from Balquhidder leads uphill from Rob Roy's grave via Kirkton Glen to a pass in the mountains called the Braes o' Balquhidder. It is a walk for anyone who considers himself a hiker or even just good walker. The climb is steady, but not hand-over-hand steep. The scenery is ever changing and often glorious. And you can elect to return to Balquhidder or descend into the next valley north for a full, interesting day in the Highlands.
         Begin at the Balquhidder Church. Take the track behind the church, which parallels the burn (stream) north and uphill through the forest.
         Proceed into the forest of fir and larch on the wide track recently opened up by forestry digging. Initially the road is fairly steep, but it levels out after five minutes or so. The path becomes a jeep road that parallels the burn (stream) that keeps to the left (west) of the track. The stream defines this inclined valley as the Kirkton Glen.
         There is a fork at about the ten-minute mark. At the fork continue straight ahead for about twenty minutes. Here the jeep road takes a sharp right-hand turn (east). On the left you will see a signpost reading "Glen Dochart" pointing uphill (north) through the forest, keeping parallel with the burn. Take that path through the trees to your left. This section of the hike is quite steep but lasts only 5-8 minutes. Do not give up; what you find at the top is worth it.

Kirkton Glen from Balquhidder Kirk. Photo Mike Mullen.
THE CLIMB BEGINS AT
BALQUHIDDER KIRK
Photo Home At First

   

 Hikers in Kirkton Glen above Balquhidder. Photo courtesy Greg Elwell.
HIKERS IN KIRKTON GLEN
ABOVE BALQUHIDDER
Photo Home At First

        The path comes quickly out of the trees after about 8 minutes’ climb into the open meadows above. Follow the zigzag path towards the fence and stile about 50 yards in front of you. You may be huffing and puffing by now, but make your way at least as far as the stile and stop and turn around.
        Looking south you have a glorious view of the Trossachs mountains spread out below you. You can see forever, or so it seems. In truth, you can see as far as Stirling on a clear day.

 

LEARN ABOUT HOME AT FIRST TRAVEL TO SCOTLAND.

Day-hiking in Balquhidder Glen and throughout the National Park
is possible from HOME AT FIRSTs lodgings in
CENTRAL SCOTLAND.

A full menu of walks (rated from 1 star to 5 stars) is listed among dozens of
activities suggested in HOME AT FIRSTs "SCOTLAND ACTIVITY GUIDE
provided exclusively to HOME AT FIRST guests to Scotland.

FOR MORE HIKING & BIKING ADVENTURES IN CENTRAL SCOTLAND, SEE:

CLIMBING BEN LAWERS

WALKS IN ROB ROY COUNTRY 1

WALKS IN ROB ROY COUNTRY 2

HIKING ACROSS THE BRAES o' BALQUHIDDER

THE DEVIL'S STAIRCASE (WEST HIGHLAND WAY)

CYCLING IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS CALLANDER TO KILLIN.

YOUR DREAM TRIP BEGINS BY CONTACTING
HOME AT FIRST