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HOME AT FIRST's

ADVENTURE

CENTRAL SCOTLAND

 WALKS IN ROB ROY COUNTRY

Photos © Home At First

 
LOOKING NORTHWEST ACROSS GLEN FINGLAS RESERVOIR

Rob Roy MacGregor may have rustled cattle through these hills.
 

 

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN APRIL, 2003.             EXPANDED IN 2010 & UPDATED IN 2014.

 

 

VOCABULARY LESSON
          Reivers, drovers, and black mail. High roads and low. Highlanders and King’s men. Lochs, burns, straths, and bens. This is the vocabulary lesson of the rustling route of
Rob Roy. And at the end of the day all this will be chased with a wee dram.
 
 

Hikes in Rob Roy Country: Scotland's Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park.
Map © Home At First

BLACK MAIL ON THE LOW ROAD
          Stealing cattle can’t be too easy. The beasts cry out, and have to be moved quickly to the slaughter or somehow disguised so their owners cannot recognize them. The most famous Scottish cattle rustler,
Balquhidder’s own Rob Roy MacGregor, had more than sheriffs’ posses to elude — he had to circumvent the hated King’s men, the redcoats of His Majesty’s Army. After all, it was the King’s cattle Rob Roy had the audacity to pilfer, and English monarchs never looked kindly on outlaw Highlanders reiving their black beasties.

 

Looking north from the pass through Glen Buckie. The trail traverses the flank of Ben Vane in the right foreground of the picture about 1/4 of the way up from (and parallel to) the stream (burn) in the bottom of the valley. Photo © Home At First.
Looking north from the pass through Glen Buckie. The trail traverses the flank of Ben Vane in the right foreground
of the picture about 1/4 of the way up from (and parallel to) the stream (burn) in the bottom of the valley.

Photo
© Home At First 

 

REDCOATS ON THE HIGH ROAD
          But Rob Roy MacGregor had an advantage over the foreign soldiers — he knew the territory so well that he could cross passes between the glens at night, and so he did. And, while the redcoats were hoisting tankards of ale down at the King’s House on the High Road to Callander, Rob Roy would be driving the King’s cattle due south from Balquhidder through Glen Buckie to Ballimore and across the low pass to Glen Finglas and its outlet at Brig o’ Turk.

 

THE HIGHLANDS AND THE LOWLANDS
          The broad open range of these near wilderness expanses would be ideal places to hide a heisted herd. It would be unlikely that the British Army of the early 18th century would forsake the comfort of the hearth to pursue bovine phantoms amid the wild Highland moors. Even though England and Scotland officially combined as the United Kingdom in 1707 and a Stuart — Queen Anne — sat on the throne, the Highlands were no safe place for the English Army. Not all Scots — and especially not all Highland Scots — were convinced that their fair land hadn’t been hijacked — blackmailed like the cattle they reived — by Lowland Protestant English-sympathizers. To many a Scot the question had not yet been settled. Indeed, their champion, James Francis Edward Stuart, The Old Pretender, was holding court in first France, then Italy awaiting the call to claim the thrones of England and of Scotland held by his father, his uncle, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather. No, the redcoats couldn’t have been too confident to walk the Highland hills at night.

 

HILL WALKING THE DROVERS' ROUTE
          But today staunch hill walkers have discovered the old drovers’ route to be

 

safe, easy and uncommonly beautiful, and an

At the point where the northbound Drovers' Route leaves the forestry road a sign points along a barely discernable trail towards Balquhidder. A compass can be very useful on this hike. Photo © Home At First.
At the point where the northbound
Drovers' Route leaves the forestry road
a sign points along a barely discernable
trail towards Balquhidder. A compass
can be very useful on this hike.

Photo
© Home At First

ideal combination of Scottish history and legend, which, like the veiled wonders of the misty glens themselves, tantalize hikers with images both real and imagined.
        Start by having someone drive you south through Strathyre on the A84 high road almost to Callander. At the hamlet of Kilmahog, turn right on the A821. Drive 5.4 miles to the village of Brig o’ Turk. Turn right at the sign for the school, and drive NW up the steep, rugged Glen Finglas Reservoir service road. The construction of this crescent-shaped Glen Finglas Reservoir lake drowned the old outlet of the Glen Finglas royal hunting forest that Rob Roy knew, and drew much criticism from conservationists and farmers. Regardless of

 

its environmental and economic impacts, the

Glen Finglas Reservoir is a beautiful wilderness lake.
          Follow the road even after it becomes a dirt farm lane, staying relatively close to the lakeshore. After about 3.5 miles the road paralleling above the lake's northeast shore intersects with a jeep track forestry road that leads steadily uphill to the north to an obvious pass between the ridges. A sign at this intersection points to Ballimore and Balquhidder. The walk home to Balquhidder begins here. Your driver is free to day-trip, shop in Callander, or, like the old Redcoats, spend the next 6 hours in the King’s House by the Balquhidder turn-off.

 

THROUGH GLEN FINGLAS
          Walkers start with a steady uphill north on the forestry road that leads away from the escarpment on the northeast side of the Glen Finglas Reservoir into the open Highlands.

NORTH TO THE PASS
        Continue up this ramp, turning occasionally to enjoy the changing views of Glen Finglas and its man-made lake. Near the pass, the jeep track becomes steep, and serpentines to gain altitude. A sign near the pass indicates the faint trail

Nearing the pass between Glen Finglas and Glen Buckie. Photo © Home At First.
Looking north at the pass between
Glen Finglas and Glen Buckie.

Photo
© Home At First

leading north (away from the jeep track) to Balquhidder.

 

ON BEN VANE'S SHOULDER
          When you reach the pass, so that you can see to the north and the south, look for the signed ("Balquhidder") footpath that diverges due north from the jeep track (while the jeep road swings west — left) towards the distant mountains. This path descends at first sharply through the heather and bracken into broad Glen Buckie, looking not unlike Colorado/Wyoming/Montana ranch country on the Continental Divide of North America. Stay with the path, which follows an ever-growing burn below and to the left of the path, which hugs the flank of imposing Ben Vane ("white hill"), the bald knob of a dominant mountain on your right.

 

The cattle gate above Ballimore at the northern exit of the trail from Glen Buckie. Note the green direction sign on the gate. Photo © Home At First.
The cattle gate above Ballimore at the
northern exit of the trail from Glen Buckie.
Note the green direction sign on the gate.

Photo © Home At First

GLEN BUCKIE & BALLIMORE
          Eventually the path and the stream bend northeast (clockwise) around Ben Vane, and comes to the fields of the large farm at Ballimore — 5 miles from the start of the walk above Glen Finglas Reservoir. Here you find the northern trailhead of the route at the end of the road from Balquhidder marked with a sign proclaiming: "Footpath to Brig o’ Turk via Glen Finglas, 8 miles."

TO LOCH VOIL & BALQUHIDDER
          Now, unless your driver has agreed to meet

 

you here (there's a convenient parking area for

hikers' vehicles at this trailhead) after 3 hours of walking to Ballimore, you have another 1.5 hours back to Balquhidder, following the gravel, then paved road along the burn past farms and through forests due north to the River Balvaig bridge to Balquhidder at the turn for Stronvar Farm at Loch Voil.
 


Trail's end at Balquhidder by Loch Voil, with trail sign pointing south for Ballimore and Brig o' Turk.

 

 

IF YOU GO –

ON THIS HIKE IN THE HIGHLANDS

NECESSITIES
        The walk is not difficult (we rate it a 3½ on a scale of 5), but it is long and can become confusing in fog and mist. Bring a good map: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map "The Trossachs" Sheet 365 covers the territory in detail. Be sure to bring a compass and stout hill-walking shoes, as well as raingear. Bring a companion, and be sure to tell someone of your specific plans. Especially useful in an emergency are a cell phone and a GPS. And, because the walk requires 3-8 hours (depending upon where you start and finish), take along a picnic lunch and something to drink.

PLEASANTRIES
        Speaking of drink, a wee dram of something warm awaits you at the Rob Roy Pub at the King’s House 3 miles east of Balquhidder village. Don’t talk to anyone you may find there wearing a red coat.
 

 

 LEARN ABOUT HOME AT FIRST TRAVEL TO SCOTLAND.

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

A full menu of walks is listed among dozens of activities suggested
in HOME AT FIRST’s "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

• RAMBLING ROB ROY'S RUSTLING ROUTE

• THE DEVIL'S STAIRCASE (WEST HIGHLAND WAY)

• CYCLING IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS — CALLANDER TO KILLIN.

YOUR DREAM TRIP BEGINS BY CONTACTING
— HOME AT FIRST —